Monday, May 30, 2005

First Big Road Trip

Team Mongolian Job (GREEN)'s panda is about to make its longest journey so far. I'm just setting off to get a lift 250 miles down to Yorkshire to pick the car up and bring it back to Scotland. Will the car make it? Who knows! If everything goes to plan I wont be back until 3am. If anything goes wrong, I wont be back by 7am to cook breakfast for 45 people! Will let you all know!

20,000 stops.

The white panda has developed a new hobby. It likes to stop and rest now, and does so every 800 metres or so. Its some kind of electrical fault, which basically results in the car stopping very completely and very suddenly. I broke down fully 9 times on my way home from work on Friday, and a further 11 times trying to get the car somewhere near our garage later that evening. Its a concerning development, and on my reckoning will mean that we actually have to stop, open the bonnet and let things cool down a full 20,000 times in order to complete the trip.

On one of the breakdowns (at the top of a hill on a roundabout) - a policeman helpfully pulled up alongside me and asked if I'd broken down. Incredibly intuitive. Was it the stationary car, hazard lights and bonnet up that gave it away? I informed him that I hadn't really broken down, and that the panda was resting and would be fine again in a few minutes. Indeed it was, and I managed to get at least 200m past the island before it happened again.

After a week of the panda running really well, its all ended in tears again. And the little blighter is abandoned on a sidestreet somewhere...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Three Colours Panda

Team Mongolian Job is now up to it's full strength. James and Mark from Team Panda have joined us. Seems the mate who gave them the idea and was taking another car, has decided not to go this year. I dunno, seems some people are very good at talking the talk, but not necessarily driving the drive. Anyway, we're more than happy to have Green team joining us. They're both from up north, which not only expands our fan base geographically, but they also have plenty of experience of surviving in harsh extremes of climate and understanding people with very strange accents.
Welcome aboard guys.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Team Mongolian Job (GREEN) - Intro

Team Mongolian Job (GREEN) consists of Mark from Yorkshire and James from Scotland. Many thanks to the other guys from Team Mongolian Job for offering us a spot on their team.

Our car is a 1992 Fiat Panda CLX. I think it fits into the rules for the Mongol Rally perfectly, with its 999cc engine and its rusty doors it certainly is underpowered and considered by most people to be rubbish! The car is taxed and MOT until the end of August which fits in great. Insurance has been aquired for less than 200 pounds, so we are about set. The car seems to run OK, considering it was only £150 from ebay.

Mark has driven over a thousand miles in it with no problems. He has flushed and changed the coolant and the car now seems to keep its coolant in, rather than spit it on the floor - something must have been blocked. He also changed the oil and filter. Things still to do include plugs, leads, dizzy cap, etc (all usual routine servicing items). The gearbox leaks oil quite alarmingly so may have to get that fixed or just keep topping it up.

I myself have only driven around 50 miles in the car so far. All I noticed is that the gears crunch quite a bit if you arent careful and you have to press the (un-servo assisted) brakes extremely hard to stop but I know this is pretty normal as I used to drive bangers all the time.

I will upload a picture as soon as I work out how!!!


Ebay Bargains!

I have been doing well on ebay recently aquiring parts for the trip.I managed to secure a full roof rack, with side bars, etc. for £0.99 - Bargain or what!

Spot lights are more hard to come by cheap but my persistance has paid off - managed to get 4 for around £20 brand new.

Also been looking at the interior lighting seems we will be living in the car for 3 weeks. Got some lovely interior 12V strip lights for next to nothing.

Oh and a set of genuine Fiat Panda front brake pads - £4.

My best purchase was the most recent. We wont be needing jerry cans, I bought a brand new genuine Fiat fuel tank for £10, which I am going to mount in the boot and box in. 500 miles range in a panda - BONUS!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Time for a bit of Celebrity

In order to bring in a bit of much needed exposure for our cause we decided to get in contact with our local Labour MP Gisela Stuart. Gisela was more than happy to help, and even gave us some pretty useful press contacts.

"Richard, Ben, Chris and Dave are taking on this amazing challenge so that some of the world's poorest people have the chance of a better future.
"They are a credit to the community and I urge everybody to give this venture their support. I certainly wouldn't have driven my old Fiat Panda across the desert!"

Gisela Stuart, Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston.

Monday, May 23, 2005

General Update

The car is still sat on a side street in Yorkshire. I need to go and pick it up as I have been collecting all sorts of junk from ebay for the past month or so to fit to the car - roofrack, extra lights, etc.

It also looks like we have found a scrap car for free, so am hopefully going to get lots of spare bits of it.

Have had my vaccinations for the trip - was simple and painless enough. Mark says he is not going to have them, but I know he will.

Visas - we have started to look in to the mindfield of visas. Not only are they complicated to get but seem to cost a small fortune as well. We will hopefully progress with this over the next week or so.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Avo Performance Suspension

Thanks today also go to AVO Performance Suspension. Nigel at Avo kindly responded to our plea for help by offering to supply us with a set of adjustable rear shocks, to replace the flaccid efforts we already had in place. He offered us a custom made set, with adjustable damping rates, so that we could modify the springy-ness of our ride en route, thus providing comfort on both autobahn and through Kazakh potholes.

Thus ensued the rear damper adventure. Two trips to Northampton (home of Silverstone for that 'racing karma') to drop off and collect the treasured dampers proved not quite enough, as the individual nature of our Panda proved to be a tad awkward.

Nigel at Avo happily made the further mods required, and with a touch further modification from Ben and the grinder, the dampers were ready to grace the rally Panda.

Here you can see the before and after shot of the rear dampers. The lads at AVO did mention that our old dampers did look like they'd already been to Mongolia. They were officially shot.

Now, happy in their new home, the AVO shocks grace the underside of the Panda.

And since the shocks can't be seen from eye level - we've made sure they don't go unnoticed, with the careful placement of stickers. Thanks a million AVO - we look forward to bouncing over that rugged terrain now.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Hartleige - Industrial & Garage Equipment

There were jubilant scenes at Team Mongolian Job yesterday as we took delivery of an array of expedition supplies. The kind donors were Hartle IGE (who operate under the IGE - 'Industrial & Garage Equipment' brand). The MD, John Hartle, has to be one of the kindest guys around. Our begging letter asked for a donation of a Jerry-can or two, but John was insistent that he could contribute more and suggested we have a browse around the website and put together a more substantial list!

So, we then proceeded to do the online equivalent of a supermarket trolley run. Thanks to IGE, we now have all the Jerry-cans we could wish for, nozzles, a cig-lighter powered inspection light, foot pumps, spanners, wheel chocks and a selection of ratchets and wrenches.

So, if you have any garage equipment needs, check out their website and put a bit of business their way.

Thanks a million John and Hartle IGE.

Friday, May 13, 2005

And then there was...

Rich and I spent another night messing with the lighting of the Panda yesterday. The reason was the feeble headlamps that we may as well have switched for bicycle reflectors. These things weren't safe driving down my well lit street at night, they were going to be bloody useless when it came to bumping across a desert at night.
So with a lot of wiring, crimps and cable ties, we've uprated the existing lighting...

Normal beam

Full beam

Rally lights

But if we really want to start catching a few rabbits we know we're going to have to do a bit better. As soon as we can get hold of a set of 4 lights, go on donate them to us, we'll stick a row on the roof for the full effect.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Aaron Radiator Co Ltd

Just a quick post to thank some more sponsors. Aaron Radiator Co Ltd are the latest in an increasingly impressive line-up of cash and parts donors. Aaron Radiators, and the affable Gerald kindly supplied us with a free heater matrix (as our existing one seemed to spray coolant out of it) and also paid for the postage of our new shiny radiator which we fitted at the weekend (the old one leaked, needless to say).

Also thanks go to Piers and Jack Slater, Debbie, Tom and Elly, who all donated generously to the cause. It is massively appreciated guys. Also, our in-car advertising (sporting Team Mongolian Job banners in our 'real cars') finally paid off - as a car park attendant kindly offered money to the cause, straight out of the car park takings - that's the spirit. If anyone else wishes to defraud company funds into our charity accounts, please be our guest.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Round Up

We haven't posted in a bit so I thought I'd check in, and let you know that we haven't disappeared. Over the past couple of weeks, we've actually got quite a bit done. Our fundraising has gone ahead leaps and bounds. We spent the whole day at The White Horse last weekend raising money by raffling Villa shirts. Many thanks to Gary Shaw, Villa legend, and quite possibly the most gracious man in the world. More shirts have been raffled during the week, mainly thanks to Alan at work. He's sold tickets to people who can't stand Aston Villa, and to some who can't even stand football. We will also be handing out Villa shirts to needy people (and possibly angry policemen) on our way to Mongolia.
We've also had a few donations, check our sponsors page. From now on, anyone who donates get's a star in the Hall of Fame.
As far as the car goes, we've taken the rear windows out, removed the rear shock absorbers, improved the roof rack, and replaced the radiator. Amazing. We are so close to having a car that doesn't leak anymore. In a weeks time, we may even have a car that moves under it's own power again.
I've also made my first electrical mod. We can now switch the radiator fan on from the inside of the car. I know, amazing isn't it? Ok, so it's not really, but it has paved the way for more electrical mods. The plan is to deck the inside out in glowing switches, like the inside of a shuttle. Trust me, it will look great.
We're also starting to think about visas and paperwork. It's all a bit worrying. For example, to get through Russia we need a double entry visa, so we can get in and out twice. Then we have to get a double entry one for Kazakhstan. A single entry will do for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, but there is one small problem here. The border between these two countries is closed at the moment. Seems Uzbekistan is none to happy about the recent pro-democratic coup that has gone on recently. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has this to say about Uzbekistan, "Parliamentary elections passed off peacefully on 26 December 2004. Opposition parties were refused registration to field candidates." That goes some way to explain why they may not be too keen on their neighbours drive for democracy. Anyway, if we can't cross the border then we have to go back to Kazakhstan. We could go to Kyrgyzstan from there, but then we need a triple entry visa for Kazakhstan. I'm going to stop talking about Visas now, because my heads starting to throb again.