The truck

At this point, I guess I should introduce you to my truck.


It (or, if you prefer, she) is a 1998 LDV Convoy 3.5t tipper van with a 2.5l Ford ‘banana’ engine. A brilliant basic power unit. No computer! So, easy to fix. 55mph top speed. Any faster, the engine is racing. A 6th. gear would help. Mind you, I’m pulling my home behind me, so there is no reason to go any faster. There was a time when I liked the feel of thoroughbred horses. At that time I had a Jaguar. I also had a little bit of money then, too!


That truck is possibly the best thing that emerged from three and a half years of arguably the worst three and a half years of my life! And I couldn’t wish for a better workhorse. On the journey out of Cornwall, across the moors, the Chilterns, the Mendips, through the gorges, across Salisbury Plain, through the New Forest and over the South Downs to where I am wintering, that truck never missed a beat. It was on the hills on narrow lanes where it really performed. Once I had gone all the way down to first gear, the engine proved it‘s worth. At that point, it was like being in a tractor. We just chugged up any hill regardless of incline or length. I‘m also mighty glad I serviced the brakes before heading out!


It was my mate Malcolm who put me onto this gem. He ‘phoned me one day asking if I wanted a tipper. He must have picked up on something, as I had been thinking that I needed a tipper. I was doing scrap metal at the time with a little French van. (That is another long story that will have to wait for another day). Well, when he mentioned the asking price, I said that it would have to be knackered.


We contacted the bloke selling it and arranged to have a look. I could not believe my eyes! He was asking for £450 for what was a 20yo truck that had no rust, a crew cab, a ‘banana’ engine, less than 100,000 miles on the clock and even a flashing light on the roof! I took it for a test drive. The starter motor was playing up and the rear axle was whining. With Malc’s typical Northern banter, we knocked matey down to £380! I got it home and booked it in for an M.o.T. without doing anything to it. Besides the fact that the wiper blades had perished in what turned out to be three years standing, basically, it failed on track rod ends! Nothing! I replaced the starter with a spare I happened to have and the axle sorted itself out once it had run in again after standing for so long. Bargain!


It wasn‘t long before that truck was earning it‘s keep.


Since I bought it, I have done a lot of work to it. I started by replacing the entire braking system, including replacing the springs in the rear brake drums and reconditioning the front callipers. Next came the prop. bearings. I managed to pick up a sizeable crack in the windscreen, so replaced that and renewed the rubber surround, (another easy job that has been made impossible by modern technology!). I then replaced and improved the fuel system. It had been fitted at the factory with crappy plastic fuel lines that easily split. I threw that away and fitted decent high grade rubber fuel hose. Also, I bypassed the lift pump as as it is a Ford engine designed to fit a Transit, the pump is impossible to get at due to the design of the engine bay of the Convoy. My mate, Pete the Mouth, came over with a little electric marine pump that does the job perfectly.


Then one day, as I was crawling along in heavy traffic going up Treluswell Hill, there was suddenly a very loud knocking noise from the engine. My immediate thought was, “Big ends“. I got a tow home via another mate, Woodchop, I think. I dropped the sump only to find that everything was in tact, which made no sense at all. After some scrutiny and a bit of tug and pull, I noticed something very odd; I could move the crankshaft! Or at least, a section of it! I removed one of the ends and discovered that the crankshaft had actually snapped!! I have never even heard of a thing like that happening!


So, it was off to see Malcolm Drew, a lovely bloke who owns a scrapyard on United Downs.


With a replacement engine now back home, I firstly gave it a full service; new belts, etc. Then, while I had the chance, fitted a new clutch. I then borrowed an engine hoist from Tom and fitted the engine. It took a while to get it started, but, as Malcolm said it was, it’s a good engine and it’s been faultless since. Oh, and I also got the injector pump serviced, thanks to Dave at Helston Diesels.


I’ve also replaced the passenger door (broken window winding mechanism - easier to replace whole door), both wing mirrors (deterioration of plastic and glass) and ignition barrel (lost keys!). I had to replace the speedo cable and speedometer at the same time after they were damaged by the rescue company at the time of the lost keys fiasco, (another story in itself). The rear axle has been serviced and the front axle replaced after a bearing collapsed and badly damaged the half-shaft.


I also had to do some re-routing of wiring. A break in the wire to the injector pump had to be bypassed. I now have a cut-out switch, which is quite handy, really. Also, the thermostat on the radiator has failed. The point of that thermostat is to tell the viscous fan when to kick in. I decided that I would prefer to be in control of that, so I re-wired the fan to a switch on the dashboard. It works brilliantly. Again, it came into it’s own on those long and steep hills. As I approached anything I regarded as hard-going, on went the fan. By the time I reached the summit of any hill, the engine was at the same temperature as it was before the ascent!


Now, of course, there is also a new bespoke expansion tank, thanks to Ben.


There’s still more to do as and when I can afford to. I need to fit a new/reconditioned steering box (nightmare job - any volunteers!?), power steering pump and then tidy up the body. All in between general maintenance, emergency repairs and M.o.T.s. I want to keep the truck for as long as possible. I’ve even thought of things I could do to improve it! Those ideas are all pie-in-the-sky at the moment, though.

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