Sunday, 4 December 2011

A tight fit.

The finishing touches have now been made to the Land Rover 101, so that it can transport one Jeep in the back and the second on a trailer behind. The recently fitted AlliSport intercooler has improved performance of the 300 Tdi engine by about 15% and with the Willy’s in the back we made serene progress down the M1 this week.

Loading and unloading time is in the region of 2 hours from start to finish, but once the Jeep is in, the wheels come off and the 101 canvas roof just fits over the load. It’s tight!

This is the combination that will transport both Jeeps to Southampton next March to begin their journey to Egypt with shipping company Grimaldi.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Second Jeep Training weekend.

Our second Jeep training weekend in The Peak District enjoyed remarkably pleasant weather - a bonus when camping! This month we were joined by our American Expedition Members, representing the prestigious, U.S. based, Explorers Club. Jason Paterniti, Alistair Calvert, who is actually very English, and Bob Attwater, along with their pal, Paul Warren and Bob’s wife, Susan, mastered the delicate art of double declutching and how to drive the myriad trails around Derbyshire. (Zoom in!) The Sahara will be very different of course, but it was heralded as a very successful weekend and everyone felt more at home in the Jeeps at the end of it. We covered exactly the same route as it September, but this time without any mechanical problems. With the Expedition now looking to be fully manned it is time to finalise shipping arrangements, logistics and the small details that need to be established to make the Easter 2012 trip a success.
The event also raised £200 for Help for Heroes, making the total raised so far £500.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Jeep Driving Weekend September 2011

After months of preparation the first of our two Jeep Driving Weekends finally happened this weekend. We were blessed with good chunks of sunny weather interspersed with the odd shower, but that did not dampen spirits.
We welcomed Karl-Gunnar Noren, from Sweden, James Platt from Rippon and Steve Riley from Harrowgate who were entertained and guided by myself, John Carroll, Matt Savage and guide, Kieran Johnson. On hand to help were Will Savage and Dr. Charlie Hubert. Saturday was spent mastering the noble art of double declutching on a part road, part track around the Matt Savage Estate. Unfortunately a fault in the steering box put the Ford GPW out of action for Sunday’s Green Laning day, but the Willy’s did us all proud covering over 70 miles in the day with a mixture of drivers.
As we stopped for lunch at The Waterloo Inn am email from The States revealed we were being ‘virtually’ stalked by Jason Paterniti. ‘At the moment you appear to be on the A6 near Priestcliffe.’
Proof that the Spot location finder was doing it’s stuff.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Route research

Purely in the interests of research (!) 4x4 Peak District Guide, Kieran Johnson, who runs Free Spirit, and myself, took the Willy’s around the proposed route for our September Jeep shakedown last week. Not only was the 80 mile round trip of Derbyshire great fun, but it proved that a 68 year old Jeep is the match for most types of terrain we are likely to encounter, both on our planned Jeepery weekend in September and, ultimately, in Egypt over Easter 2012. Soft sand was a little short in supply in Derbyshire, but we had rocks, bumps, ruts and fast stretches over smooth tracks. Thanks to the nifty little Spot locator you can see roughly where we went. I say ‘roughly’ because it sends a location every 10 minutes, so the route looks a little hard to follow. All will be clearer in the desert, where it will represent an accurate description of our route The Willy’s held up very well and throughout the day I covered just over 230 miles, including fast Motorway driving (55 mph ish) and about 40 miles of off road. There are, inevitably, a few small snagging jobs to do on the Willy’s, but nothing serious and it performed admirably throughout.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Peak District Shakedown.

We are planning a major shakedown of both Jeeps over the weekend of 17th and 18th September. It is vital to assess an accurate idea of the petrol likely to be used on our 1200 mile Desert Expedition next Easter. It will be impossible for our logistics team to carry enough fuel for all the vehicles involved, so prior to the Expedition they will be running a fuel dump of full Jerry Cans somewhere down in the Desert, marked by a GPS Waypoint. The Peak District green laning weekend will cover about 100 miles of mixed driving - tracks and road, fully loaded with three people per Jeep (and a back-up Series 1 Land Rover!). Priority for the six available places will go to those who have signed up for the trip, but there may be a spare seat or two. Register an interest via the 'Contact' button on our web site. We shall incorporate a lunch stop at the famous Waterloo Inn.
The photographs are courtesy of Keiran Johnson who has considerable experience running Green Lane tours of the Peak District and will be acting as our guide in September. Keiran and I will recce the route sometime in August and the next Blog should report on that trip.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Flies in the teeth.

Will, my other son, and I, had a screen off blast south to a Steam Fair on Sunday. Great how 45 mph feels like 100 mph without wind protection. That's it!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Progress with the hardware.

A long day up at Matt’s workshop near Matlock achieved a lot yesterday. The Willy’s MB received a new Solex Carburettor, which rectified the tick-over problem, but did get rather hot on the thrash up the M1 so I think it will need a refurbished radiator to cope with the intense heat of the Sahara next Easter. It is, however, fine for now and ran well on the journey back, cruising at an easy 50 mph. The Land Rover 101 had most of the attention though. Wooden decking and a supporting framework of timber made it possible, and safe, to transport the Willy’s within the body of the 101. We finished lashing the Jeep down at about 6.30 and did a successful test run back to Matt’s house 8 miles away. The final version of this prototype configuration will have some high density rubber under the brakes to protect the cast iron drums and with the spare wheel and jerry can removed the canvas roof will fit back on leaving just a little bump for the steering wheel. Work also started on fabricating a pair of ramps to return the Willy’s to the ground in the absence of a four poster ramp. The plan is to haul both Jeeps - the Willy’s in the back of the 101 and the Ford on a trailer behind, to Venice, to catch the ferry to Alexandria next March.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Another Brief Encounter.

Jason Paterniti emailed us to say he would be in the U.K. briefly for his pal, Al’s wedding this month - Was I about?

Jason is down as a ‘cert.’ for the trip and is an enthusiastic member of the U.S. based Explorers Club. and is President and Chairman of the charity, Global Exploration & Oceanographic Society. His travels have taken him far and wide around the Globe and it is something of a relief that he has experienced Desert Travel at it’s most basic. During a very rushed hour and a pot of tea we discussed the details of our trip, fine tuned a few aspects and parted knowing we have many shared interests.

‘See you in Cairo’ was the parting cry as Jason went to get changed for Al’s Stag night and I zoomed of the Le Mans on my Cagiva Elefant!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Brief Encounter

It gave us great pleasure to entertain Karl-Gunnar Norén last night. K-G had been in the U.K. researching LRDG material in the Churchill College Archive, Cambridge, for his forthcoming book on the subject. He kindly presented me with his other two WW2 related books on Tobruk and El-Alamein both well illustrated and written in perfect Swedish!

I chose to collect Karl from Market Harborough Station in the Ford GP and return via some of the pretty villages in South Leicestershire. In common with most passengers new to Jeep travel he instinctively reached for a seat belt, then realised there were none, so just hung on. Back at base we discussed the Expedition at length and with considerable enthusiasm, with the result that he is a ‘definite’. In common with the rest of us involved in this expedition, he enjoys desert travel and feels that first hand contact with the myriad artefacts still scattered around the Sahara will add greatly to his understanding of the conditions endured by the LRDG

The evening ended in a bit of a panic as we realised he had missed his planned train to London, but if we hurried, could make to 20.50. For this return journey the Willy’s MB offered slightly more speed so we belted down the A6 at 55 mph, K-G hanging on to his hat and made it to the Station for 20.49. We both then ran up the steps and he just made it onto the train as it pulled out at 20.50. Phew! As I type this he should be on a plane back to Stockholm.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

A rare find.

I found this last week on a trip around Georgia last week (former USSR one!) Maybe a pre war style desert trip one day? Bagnold used similar on his pioneering trips between the Wars that have inspired so many of us. I think it’s a Model A Ford truck, but I could be wrong. It had no engine, sadly, but I guess any old engine could be adapted to fit.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Celebrity status

John Carroll borrowed the Willys this month for a feature he’s helping with in Land Rover Owner International Magazine and Practical Classics. The feature will pitch 4x4s from three different decades together and, naturally, the Jeep was compared with a Series 1 Land Rover. Interesting how the Land Rover dwarfs the Jeep, but it is a later Series 1, not an original 80 inch. The Land Rover that owed so much to the Jeep in design.

John pitched up here the evening before and we went and enjoyed an hour of pure Jeep talk over a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord bitter. Early the next morning he was off. We put the screen up, but there is no roof so John wrapped up warm for his 100 mile round trip to Peterborough and back.

Thanks to John for the location pictures and for wearing the right outfit for my photo.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Nice pair!

This week saw the final stage of the second Jeep’s restoration. The 1943 Willy’s MB is now finished and registered with the rather splendid registration number, 635 YUD. (Plates not yet fitted!) I took the Ford Jeep up to Matt’s place in Matlock to collect it and took the opportunity of leaving the Ford behind for a new coat of paint. It has been finished a couple of years now and we made the mistake of using a matt finish sand yellow. This has absorbed moisture and caused some surface rust. This will be cleaned off and a couple of fresh coats of 15% gloss applied for that eggshell finish that should repel water. This paint came from The Paint Man - a chap who really knows his paint and also owns an LRDG Replica Jeep, based on a Hotchkiss. Purists may argue that we have placed the condenser can a bit far back, but the LRDG did not have to worry about headlamp efficiency and an annual MOT test - plus, we think it looks a bit neater set back into the grille a couple of inches.

Over the last few weeks Sam, John and I have discussed revised dates for the LRDG Expedition, postponed due to the unsettled nature of North African politics right now. We are pleased to announce our LRDG trip through the vastness of the Western desert will now be Easter 2012. this should give all the displaced North Africans a chance to find their way home and leave the Desert available for adventure.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

A good read.

In light of the chaos and mayhem in North Africa we have taken the regrettable decision to postpone our Expedition to Egypt. Rather than risk ourselves and all the vehicles it seems sensible to delay until maybe later these year, or early next year. This will give Egypt a chance to elect a Government and, hopefully, stem the flow of fleeing exiles from Libya. In the meantime we shall work hard to reduce costs in an attempt to make the trip more affordable and research more sights with the help of this excellent book that arrived this week.

Incident at Jebel Sherif, by Kuno Gross, Roberto Chiarvetto and Brendan O’Carroll is the definitive book on the Long Range Desert Group and a must for all those interested in the subject. It is informative, based on the exhaustive travels of the authors and historical reports from those brave men who fought with the LRDG. The book is well illustrated with current colour photographs and original black & white pictures taken at the time, supplemented with copies of old documents.

I shall enjoy reading it as North Africa settles down to some kind of status quo.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Inspector Gadget.

Having found the Fort, but been unable to photograph it without permission from ‘the top’ our next goal was to find the hanger that had been attacked so successfully on January 11th 1941. Pat Clayton and his party headed east towards the Airfield - little more that a cleared stretch of sand. They found the hanger with three Ghibli aircraft inside, but encountered some opposition from the Italians guarding the area, losing two of their own men. The French Colonel, d'Ornano and a member of T Patrol. We hoped to be more lucky! I am again grateful to Dr Martin Sterry for spending time searching both the 1958 Aerial Photograph and the contemporary Google Earth images to locate, what he thought, looked like 50m x 20m structure ‘with well defined edges’. Martin supplied a waypoint and we headed for it, turning south off the tarmac and out into open farmland. The hanger was soon visible, but surrounded by high hedges and looked harder to access than it had been in 1941. We stopped and asked a farmer how to get into it and he replied ‘Ahhh The old Italian Airfield?’. We had found it and here are a selection of pictures, the new ones showing it as it is today and the old B&W from Bill Kennedy-Shaw’s excellent 1945 book, ‘LRDG’. Just visible on the B&W are the two windows set high in the west facing (towards the town) wall.

It was an emotive experience to stand on the very spot, exactly 70 years on - to the hour! We hope to have many similar high points on the Easter trip to Egypt. One place still available!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Podcast info.

Fresh as a daisy after a 2000 mile haul back from Libya in my Land Rover, I presented a Podcast via Overland Live, administered in UK by the veritable Martin Solms in London. This relatively new means of communication allows the use of ‘meeting’ software to allow like minder people to broadcast their stories of Overland Travel to an International audience. It can also be watched retrospectively as a recorded item. Click here!

If you would like to watch/hear me talk about my recent trip to Libya and the motives behind the LRDG Expedition this Easter, please go to this link - You would be well advised to skip the first 10 minutes as we had a few ‘tekkies’.

The real Murzuq Fort attacked by the LRDG

As you enter Murzuq from the Sebha Road, as the LRDG did exactly 70 years ago, on January 11th., the ‘Fort’ is to the west of the town - A Medieval construction in pretty good condition and something of a tourist attraction. (featured in an earlier Blog) A hand painted sign proclaims ‘Fort - Murzuq’ so it would be a fair assumption that this was the fort the LRDG attacked on that victorious day in 1941. But standing there in the square it didn’t add up. It all the references I have read, nothing is mentioned of a Mosque, yet it dominates the central square. Also, in Bill Kennedy-Shaw’s book LRDG, he says the road led straight to the Fort. This road took in several turns! Within our team of Archaeologists we are lucky to have Dr. Martin Sterry. Martin’s specialist subject is the analysis of ariel photography in search of Archaeological sites and, by chance, he had a 1958 ariel photograph of Murzuq. On it can clearly be seen the old sand track into town, leading to another fort. This second fort is a more likely candidate, as it is still a military establishment today, meaning I was unable to get permission to photograph even the exterior, which may have shown a bit of original damage. I did, however, grab a shot as we drove along the very approach road the LRDG must have driven along as they ‘managed a good shot at the tower’. It is also far closer to the Airfield - something else mentioned in other reports.

So I present to you, probably for the first time, pictures of the Fort the LRDG attacked on January 11th, 1941.

Hope I don’t get a knock on the door from giving away any secrets!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Mappa Mundi

As our departure date draws ever nearer we are proud to display a magnificent map created by Louise Limb. It embraces all the exciting aspects of our planned trip. The history, the adventure, desert themes and those all important LRDG wrecks.
More soon on my visit to Murzuq and some new material relating to the famous LRDG raid in 1941.

Think I'll order eight Tee-shirts with this map on!