Sunday, July 31, 2005

Dover

Then followed a leisurely drive down to dover, a fish and chip dinner and onto the ferry. It was delayed and so we didn't arrive in france til gone midnight. As i'm typing this - we've started a manic sprint across europe - hopefully culminating in a successful arrival in prague by tea time! Sounds bonkers, and on reflection it probably is. We should hit brussels in half an hour or so.

We're off!

We are officially off. The day began with free english breakfast in a hyde park hotel and then with a short drive to the start. There ensued chaotic scenes as forty mad pairs of travellers congregated in hyde park. Massive thanks to my family and friends for such an awesome send off. Taking the biscuit had to be my sister and here family who managed to turn up by suprise and produce an enormous banner saying 'ghengis can't but panda's can'. Class.

Friday, July 29, 2005

-1 day and the cars broke already

While James is away, I "mini panda" will be keeping you all updated.

James tells me that the car has already broken down, earlier this morning the water pump failed en-route to London. Talk about getting off to a good start. All fixed now though, so fingers crossed, next stop mongolia.

We're going to be out of the office for a while

That's it. The last day at work for over a month. We've just been doing a bit of last minute packing and admin, and we're now all set so we're going to head off down to London. Would like to say a quick thank-you to all our sponsors, we've raised thousands for a couple of very worthwhile charities. It's not too late to donate, the justgiving accounts are open till the 1st of september (I think). Hopefully we'll be able to keep you updated through this news page, with some fancy hi tech trickery including a mobile phone and Alison.

Bye all. See you in a month or so.

Translation service

Team mongolian Job thanks Maria Krüger for her translation service. We asked for a page of explanation about the rally and the charities to be translated from English into Russian - so that we would have something to show to local people who are quizzical about our silly, sticker-covered car.

The translation was done overnight. Thanks very much.

Sunny days

It seems we needn't have any worries about getting cold on the trip. Uzbekistan at night is currently warmer than our British daytimes, literally. And as furnace season approaches - the temperatures are creeping manacingly over 40 degrees C in Central Asia.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Bedfare

Sleep and cleanliness are two things that we can't expect a whole lot of once we set off - so we really hoped we could bank on a good night's kip and a wash on Friday night. Sadly, a leaving party in Wandsworth on Friday night left us facing the distinct possibility of a torrid night's sleep on a mate's floor in London. Thanks to Bedfare though, this is no longer the case. Goodbye "friend's floor" - "Hello 4* accomodation" at Hyde Park. Sarah Green, the MD of Bedfare has a background in farming and so was only too willing to help us raise money for Send a Cow. Thanks so much. Its going to be the best/only night's sleep we have for a month.

Directcarparts.co.uk

Fuel is a problem for our trip. Not only is it hard to find and hard to buy, but even if we manage that, it is apparently pretty crappy quality once we get past Russia. 'RON' is the measure of octane, and in the UK we enjoy a bog standard of 95 RON - and 97 if you're prepared to pay a few extra pence for the priviledge. However, once we reach the sunny climbs of Kazakhstan, it falls to just 72, and down to 68 in Mongolia. Running our car on that will be like trying to get drunk on Kaliber. In stepped directcarparts, who kindly offered a shed load of octane booster - which will effectively give us additional RON. They've given us enough for 3,000 miles - which should help the final third of the journey - when things get bad. Its like a poor man's turbo, and should see us roar past 30mph to the finish. Nice one Simon.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Analox

We've received invaluable cash sponsorship from Analox, one of those rare companies that has built up a successful innovative business from carefully focused research. It is in the application of this research that Analox excels. Analox is a world leader in the design and manufacture of gas sensors and analysers. Thanks to Vicky Brown and all the staff at Analox for their kind sponsorship - helping to raise funds for Save the Children.

Vision Car Audio

4 weeks rolling along, day and night, with an old cassette player in the car. I don't think so. Thanks to Noreen at Vision Car Audio - we cannow enjoy endless hours of high quality CD and MP3 entertainment. Vision Car Audio kindly supplied us with a state of the art unit, which will help us while away the hours on our trip. Thanks so much - we will appreciate the diversion!

Besafebeseen

Thanks so much to Jim at Besafebeseen who has custom made us some reflective seat belt pads, carrying our team logo. His company are committed to encouraging in-car safety by adding novelty and fun to the wearing of seat belts. Its a serious matter, and by combining safety with fun, Jim and his business are doing really good work. Thanks so much for all the effort you put into helping us - we hope that our journey can help publicise your cause.

Mystery spacesavers

There's a really kind supplier out there somewhere who sent us some excellent in-car space saving organisers. We don't even know who they are as the box only contained the goods, no delivery note - just a nice box of free goodies. I can only thank you! The problem was that I sent a few emails to companies requesting help - and one of them came up with the goods. Is it you? If so let me know and we'll give you the publicity you deserve!

speeding.co.uk

Thanks to Mal at speeding.co.uk who kindly donated a box of goodies including crucial air fresheners, drinks holders and furry steering wheel covers. They provide all sorts of car styling and accessories and are a must-visit site for your car accessorising needs.

Spares HQ

Thanks to Spares HQ, who have sent through some useful spares to help us survive en route. These include coolant caps, a clutch cable and spare thermostat. Thanks guys - you're a really big help.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Mobile Update Testing

We're trying to set up facilities to be able to update the website via mobile phone. This is my first test - to see if I can email information to the site using the phone. Of course there's no assurance that this will work once we're abroad....

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Semma4Direct

Having watched documentaries about the Central Asian pleasures of eating sheep's heads and the testicles of anything that moves, and having created a schedule that prevents us from stopping for more than twelve seconds at a time - we decided to pursue providers of army rations for sponsorship.
Within 60 seconds of sending a begging email, my phone rang - it was Semma4Direct, responding in true military fashion. One discussion later and it was agreed that they'd provide us each with 10 days worth of food - so that we can remain alive whilst we cross the deserts.

Each pack (and we're getting 20) contains:

2 main meals, 1 pudding, 1 soup, 1 pate, 1 pack of oatmeal blocks, 2 biscuits, 2 bars of choccy, 1 pack of sweets, 1 orange drink, chewing gum, wipes, weatherproof matches, water purifying tablets, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and more.

We're going to eat like kings. Thanks a million to Alan and Nicky at Semma4Direct.

Driftgate 2000

Ben has spent the past 24 hours in a glorious spaghetti or wiring installing our latest fabulous upgrade - a high power - low loss X-split charger! This nifty device enables us to run not 1, but 2 batteries - facilitating us having one battery to power the essentials, such as starter motor and main headlights, and the other battery to operate as a special 'fun' battery, powering auxilary lights, stereo, DVD player, kettle and the like. The thinking behind this is that if we both crash out with the telly on - we'll at least be able to start the engine in the morning. Special thanks have to go out to John Lowe at Driftgate - who not only donated the unit to our cause, but has also been on hand to offer support and advice on the fitting of it. John is a rotarian, who has done fundraising for one of the charities earlier in the year, and so was only to willing to help.
Check out the range of devices that Driftgate produce, at http://www.dg2k.co.uk/

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Go Outdoors

So, you find yourself sitting in a pub one lunchtime, sitting across the road from a giant 'outdoor supplies' warehouse, idly wondering how on earth you're going to cook food whilst on the road.

Two pints and various brain-cog turns later and the idea dawns. Contact supplier, ask nicely for stove for trip and subsequent donation to charity. A few hours later, and its het presto. Thanks a million to Simon at Go Outdoors - who has donated a very smart duel-fuel stove and a bunch of T-shirts too. We can run it with traditional fuel or from unleaded petrol, which will be really handy once we get into remote areas.
Thanks to 'Go Outdoors', Coventry Branch.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Wiltshire - special stage 1

Still far from complete, TMJ-B thought it about time to follow TMJ-W's lead and test out our Panda. No better way to spend a rainy summer's afternoon than testing out the abilities of the car - as well as our own.

On the slippery slopes of the Wilthshire downs, provided by the Head family (who also made extremely generous charitable donations - our thanks go out to them), the 2-wheeled pulling power of the Panda not only met, but exceeded our expectations. With grit and determination it battled itself over the worst wiltshire could throw at it ( steep grassy hills and plent of potholes).

One of our primary concerns had always been the lack of 4x4. However, with a spot of ingenuity and a co-driver perched on the wing (added pressure), we discovered that 2WD and a reverse gear is all that's required!!

Also amazingly our article in the Salisbury Journal has pulled in £200 today alone! £100 from an anonymous doner as well as a very generous donation from Greg at 'Absolute Safety'. Understandably he only wants to be associated with us upon our safe return. Again, great thanks go to them both :)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Fame in Salisbury

Finally some news coverage in the Salisbury Journal - the height of media recognition. Sadly Dave wasn't around at the time of the interview, so wherever it says 'Chris', read 'Chris and Dave'. I realised that this is the first occasion that I have ever been referred to as a 'man'- this scares me a little bit and makes me feel by no means comfortable; it coaxes the readers into thinking that I'm mature enough for the rally.

Salisbury%20Journal%20Article.jpg

Aquired a lockable roof box from a skip the other day, complete with brackets and keys inside. It seemed an ideal substitute to a roof rack, which we were having trouble aquiring. We didn't think about the fact that the roofbox requires a roofrack to sit upon. Issue resolved with 8 holes drilled through the roof, and the box bolted squarely on. We're hoping it doesn't rain.

The Car is looking good and going well, despite deciding to test me on the journey home from Birmingham last week. Black smoke started billowing out from under the bonnet, for some reason (unknown) the drive belt started whining/slipping. I sprayed the belt with WD40 (doesn't help the slippage but protects the belt) and have nursed her home. Belt will soon be replaced. Getting the timing belt changed (precautionary) on Thursday so troubleshooting belt issues then.

Dave arrives today for final preparations. So excited now.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Wales Special Stage Two

Last weekend Rich and I decided it was time to put our little Rally car through a proper 4x4 shakedown. We went with Ross and Scott to a farm they know in Wales. Basically the farmer has discovered it's much more profitable to charge boy racers £20 a vehicle to tear it round his farm, than to raise sheep.
Ross and Scott where in a Ford Ranger pick-up so they were very well suited to the terrain. We were a bit more nervous particularly as we nearly gave up on the first track we went on. However, we soon got used to the Panda's 4x4 setup and what we could and couldn't get away. What followed was a day of throwing our little car up and down hills, over ruts, through puddles, across fields, through streams and into ditches. It's amazing what this little carcana do, we even managed to upstage my brother by getting through some bits he got stuck on. The whole day was amazing fun and I'd really recommend it to anyone, I think it may even be more fun in a car like ours because there is a bit more doubt over what you can and can't achieve. Between us we took hundreds of photos and a few videos which I've stuck in a gallery, which you can see by clicking here.
The car now looks amazing, it's covered in mud and looks very professional. It does rattle a bit more, but I guess that just in the spirit of the rally.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Toolfinder.co.uk

Alan from Toolfinder was so kind that he even delivered tools to us in person. He dropped in at Ben's factory to deliver some tools and a canvass toolbag, which we'll use amongst the team. This help is really invaluable and could make the difference between us making it and not. Thanks for the personal service. www.toolfinder.co.uk

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Toolstation.co.uk

Many thanks to Stephanie at Toolstation who kindly responded to our request for help. She arranged for us to be sent various tools, including a hammer for whacking things if they break and even threw in some goggles and masks, which could genuinely come in handy whilst reparing the Panda in a sandstorm! www.toolstation.co.uk

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tool-up.co.uk

The quest for practical bits and bobs received a real boost when Tool-up sent through a great big box full of bungee ropes and ratched straps. These fellas will keep the things we tie to the roof in place. Well either that or the roof will fall off together with the luggage. Either way, roof items and the roof itself will definitely remain together - and its a real boost that Tool-up have helped with this. Tool-up is the Online Tool Superstore, supplying tools and equipment for the DIY enthusiast or professional tradesman. Check out their website to see the huge range of tools that they sell.
www.tool-up.co.uk

Monday, July 11, 2005

Audible.co.uk

Well, well well. Any fears that our bodies and minds would waste away on our epic trip have been at least partly eased by the generosity of Audible. True, our bodies are probably destined for ruin, but Sheena at Audible has stepped in and donated a selection of audiobooks for us to listen to and keep mentally sane. Given the length of the journey, Bill Bryson's 'A short history of nearly everything' seemed appropriate. We've also got Lance Armstrong's biography 'Every Second Counts', Hornby's latest book 'A long way down' and a language guide, 'In-flight Russian' - which might come in handy!
Check out the www.audible.co.uk website, there's a great selection and the prices are really good too. Also, importantly, the downloads are fast and reliable and the quality is good. Thanks.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Jubilee Clips

We're into our final phase of preparations now. One of the most important jobs is collecting enough bits and bobs to fix the car in the event of breakdown. Given that we will be driving across the deserts in the height of summer, we've decided that coolant is fairly important. We therefore neeed to be able to fix any leaks very quickly. Suzanne at Jubilee Clips offered to help us out by sending us a box of their wormdrive clips. These will be essential is we have to join or patch any of the hoses in the engine bay.
The company really is called Jubilee CLips, because they invented them back in 1921. Thats the kind of invention that everyone dreams of, a clever little idea that will sell in the millions all over the world.
Anyway, Suzanne has also offered to include us in a press release, which should help drum up bit more publicity for the event and the charities we are suppporting. So, thanks a lot Suzanne and to everyone at Jubilee Clips.
For more info please check out our Sponsors page.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Official Becta launch

Well today is the day that the Panda makes it corporate launch at my company. Hopefully there will be a note on our intranet, and an announcement in meetings involving all 200 employees of the company. Added to that - I'm parking the car next to the front door of the building so it should be getting maximum exposure. Any Becta people reading this today - please feel inspired - read the 'charities' section and then wander the mouse to the right of the screen, click, and donate! Thanks a million.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Looking Good

I can hardly contain my excitement as the start of the rally aproaches. I have been working really hard on the car to get it looking good and installing a stereo, etc. the timing belt is been changed tomorrow as well as all the service items. Some pics of my work are below:

1. A load more graphics have been applied to the car for our sponsors. There are more arriving tommorow as well. Unfortunately we were unable to attach our flames to the bottom of the doors due to the doors been completely rotton!


Panda Side


2. Fitting the roofrack posed a bit of a problem. I thought I had done well buying one off ebay for 0.99 but when it came to fitting it was a different matter. The panda does not have a rain gutter to attach a roofrack. With the correct roofrack costing £160 I decided to modify the one I bought. I ground the brackets down and bolted the whole lot straight through the roof. It is definitely solid enough.



Roofrack


3. We installed some more lights front and rear to aid driving through the desolate places we are going to visit.



Panda Front


Roof Lights


Work Light

4. A decent interior light is a necessity - this one should help us find our tools in the dark.


Interior Light

5. A decent stereo was a must - this one plays MP3's so we can save weight on CD's!


Stereo

6. To save the main car bettery and the alternator every electrical item (except the engine and standard lights) are powered by our second battery through a split charge relay. This means we can use the stereo all the time and the lights, cigarette lighter, etc. I also added a set of auxillary switches to power the lights and to enable us to turn on the radiator cooling fan at will.


Switches


Battery

7. I removed the rear seats. The boot is now massive - plenty of room to get all our kit in.


Rear Seats

Allcam UK - World of portables

So - you have four weeks off work, the entire time to be spent sat in a space of 1.7 metres by 2 metres. What do you do. Get a DVD player of course! This was our thinking when contacting Allcam. Paul Zhu understood the predicament, and kindly volunteered to fill the dull hours in our journey by providing a brilliant in-car mini DVD player, to keep whoever isn't driving entertained.

See it below in all its glory. The DVD runs from the cigarette lighter, and thanks to our audio suppliers we can link it with the stereo to blare out our movies in surround sound.

Amazing

Take a look at Allcam's website www.allcam.biz - and find that great portable entertainment is actually quite affordable. Thanks guys - you've really helped out here.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Snugpak

Snugpak are the UKs biggest manufacturer of sleeping bags, rucksacks and camping supplies. So they were the obvious choice for us when it came to finding something we could sleep in other than the passenger seat. As soon as Darren heard about our trip he offered to equip us with a pair of very smart sleeping bags. We'd both like to say thanks a lot to Darren and everyone at Snugpak for your support. We were also so pleased with them that we instantly had to go outside and model them.





B & G Equipment Company

Massive thanks to Amy at B & G in the United States. She happily volunteered to send us an agricultural sprayer to use as a bodged shower. And what's more its in a dashing blue colour - as modelled by Ben below. Chances are that we'll offer this one to the blue panda team - since the colour matches their car.
All American sprayer

B & G supply a range of prest control products worldwide, check out their website here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

It's about time we posted something here. Well exams are over, partying is all but over and now the rally is taking centre stage (about time too). The car looks as it ever did, and other than a few cosmetics is hopefully going to stay that way; other than a set of spot lights and a spare wheel bolted to the roof.

The car achieved an epic 500 mile round trip last weekend and ran like a dream despite the exhaust not deciding to come with us as we left the roundabout, rolling into the middle carriageway and allowing the car to stretch her vocal chords (note to team mates - ear plugs are a neccessity). The 1000 miles was completed this week; all cobwebs are well and truelly blown away. I am satisfied that she is fit and healthy so now it is time for a for a well earned rest while we put together some underside protection (by means of a sump guard and some hosepipe) as well as some routine servicing (new time belt, brakes, plugs and cables etc).

The spare panda in the garage is becoming more and more skeletal as it gets packed up in boxes and placed in our boot, so far we have boxed up the distributor, some bulbs, the rear shocks and have plenty more to come... I am confident that it is fully possible to place a complete fiat panda in the boot of another - it's all about the way you stack your boxes.

Red Box Fire Control

The white Panda need no longer worry about what happens if we burst into flames during our blast through the desert. Thanks to Red Box fire control we now have the perfect solution - a big fat powdery fire extinguisher - to douse the flames and let us trudge on to Mongolia. Clive at Red Box was really kind in making this donation, and has certainly helped lay to rest a few fears amongst our families that we'd disappear in a puff of smoke. http://www.redboxfire.co.uk/