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Project Ernie - Update

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Buying your dream car can be a dangerous activity, generally without the careful guidance & influence of your mates, you can go into the experience with Rose-Tinted goggles on and fall in love with a lemon.

Not saying I have purchased a complete lemon, but certainly a 50yr old fossilised piece of fruit that has rotted from the inside out. Seasoned readers of the blog and our social media pages would remember about a month ago I purchased this ancient dinosaur, my 1970 Land Rover Series 2A named Ernie.

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I purchased this piece of history out of Australia’s southwest, it hadn’t run in about 2 years and I decided to make the 168km pilgrimage back home in a completely untested vehicle. But hey, what's the worst that can happen?

The trip home in a nutshell was less than pleasant, I had an exposed gearbox spinning away at 3000 rpm spitting hot transmission oil at my feet, the scorching sun burning whatever was left of my skin, a steering wheel that contributed absolutely nothing to the direction of the vehicle and a radiator that had the cooling capacity of desk fan. BUT I made it!

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Up until now the plan for the Land Rover was take my time, enjoy its quirks and rebuild it where needed, it was going to be an easy stress-free way of ownership. Up until a good friend of mine asked for it to be his Wedding Photo car. An activity I am more than happy to assist with except for the fact that I have a cracked fuel tank and I wake up every morning to find an assortment of Ernie’s bodily fluids melting away my garage floor.

So 12 hours before the wedding, Features Editor Ash Westwood and Contributing Writer Andrew Cummins were conscripted against their will to help me get the Land Rover ready for its big day. The to do list all seemed rather easy, simple fuel tank swap and general clean.

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But holy shit was I wrong. Pulling the tank out it appeared to not only have a crack but even worse had a freakin hole in it! The only thing sealing this gaping chasm was the 50 year old paint. You could poke it with your finger and feel the ripples of fluid reverberate back against the 50 yr old seal. So not only was the tank swiss cheese but appeared to be full of mud. Draining the thing left everybody speechless as the contents poured out looking closer to diarrhea than Caltex's best grade 91 octane.

I find it genuinely amazing that I was even able to drive this thing home almost 200 km with the car running on what was essentially clay. So new tank went in and with it fresh new fuel. Whilst Andrew and I retreated to eat pizza and drink more beer, Ash worked away with a set of tin snips and a hand full of tek screws trying to install a mockery of a transmission tunnel.

Put simply, I couldn't watch. I wouldn't trust the man to walk with scissors let alone work a DIY Panel & Paint shop. But despite his rather relaxed approach to cutting away at the only  tranny panel it had, it was installed and prevented hot oil from cauterising my leg.

So after five hours of working away at the Landy’s rotted insides, the fuel system swap was complete. So did I make it to the wedding? Yes! I did, but unfortunately the Land Rover didn't. The carburettor, experiencing what it was like to drink clean fuel for the first time in 49 years, imploded in on itself about 15 minutes away from the wedding venue. Possibly a good thing, because it wouldn’t have got very far without giving the groomsmen third-degree burns.

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Ernie the Landy is the car that keeps on giving. I am yet to have a drive in it without sitting on the side of the road with the bonnet open cursing at gods of transport, but I suppose that’s what classic car ownership is all about…

Until next time.