OVER the past few issues of 4X4 Australia I’ve detailed some of the work that’s gone into fixing up Milo, following 20 or so years of travel on some of the worst tracks in the country.
It takes a particular kind of time frame and mindset to constantly repair an old truck. In recent years Milo copped what was needed to get back on the track, but it has rarely been more than patch-up jobs. Mechanically she kept going, but almost every other part started deteriorating quicker than prawns left in the sun.
I’d bought a half-way-decent ’83 Troopy with the intention of replacing Milo’s body, but after fish-plating almost every part of the chassis in the last decade I figured the chassis would need swapping out, too.
This raised the question: when is the original truck no longer original? While both Milo’s body and chassis have suffered severely the truck itself is essentially ‘the old girl’ I built a couple of decades ago and, after the last bout of repairs, I reckon she’s fine for road travel. Milo’s also safer than most of her generation thanks to upgraded brakes, steering and suspension, which is all as good as it gets.
What bothers me is that I know what I’ve done to both body and chassis, from the point of view of repairs and taking it over too many tracks. Watching the body split all the way from firewall to floorpan was an interesting experience, especially when you could see the road through the crack. That was metal fatigue, so even after reinforcing it with a strip of 1mm steel it’s just a matter of time before it splits again. Similarly there’s no more fresh steel around the door frames to reinforce; it’s all reinforcement already.
You’ve already seen how my lads and I repaired the crucial front panel by building a dummy one from angle iron. That’s working well, but it can’t make up for the twisting effect the last few years of belting around with a weakened panel did. Yep, that’s the ultimate cost of modification isn’t it? When the lads suggested bunging in an intercooler I knew there’d be a price to pay.
Parts of the chassis have been repaired over the decades, too, but by replacing both body and chassis it was starting to look like a new truck with the same name. And there’s a part of my heart devoted to old Milo. After all, we’ve shared the past 20 years and been to some incredible places. I’ve lived in the old girl for months at a time – you get connected!
So after grappling with my conscience, and following some thought-provoking beers, I realised the best bet would be to leave old Milo as she is and build a new truck for the harder tracks. Enter Milo 2; although, it’s debatable whether the name or the colour will remain the same. If you’ve got an opinion on that I’d love to hear it.
Right, having decided a ‘new’ truck was the answer, I had to get real about who’d be doing the work. I barely get enough time for running repairs these days, and the sheer effort required to get a project finished in the time frame meant a fair bit of outsourcing. But while some workshops can handle basic tuning and simple upgrades, it takes a special sort of shop to build a truck successfully from the ground up.
I started looking for the right skills and tools to do the job. Ideally it’d be part of a network of businesses that are used to working together, so I could get some rust-proofing, glass work and the myriad other things involved in a full rebuild done in the most time-effective manner possible.
Then there’s the technical and legal aspects involved in registering a modified vehicle, something only a handful of specialists understand. Plus it had to be a workshop I could trust to do the job required, while allowing me plenty of input along the way.
Not an easy combination until my mate Simon suggested having a yarn with the lads at Sunshine Coast Opposite Lock. Yes, they’re based in Caloundra, almost 100km from the Mudflats, but they ticked absolutely every box I had, and then some.
OL Sunny Coast is operated by the Flannigan family, and I knew old Ron’s pedigree on the spanners went back some 50 years since building up mechanical businesses in Victoria. His sons Nick and Andrew are both trained mechanics and total 4WD nuts, too. They build and drive Nissans, but I figured they deserved a taste of Toyota quality.
So Simon had a yarn with his mate Nick Ball who manages the shop. Nick’s another off-road nut with a lifetime of experience in the industry and, crucially, the expertise to source the right parts. I went up to take a look at the last competition truck Nick Flannigan built with help from his brother Andrew and the crew. A week later, the decision was made: Milo 2 went on their trailer and now I commute up the coast on a regular basis.
To get the old ’83 on the trailer we had to haul her up with the original Milo’s winch – it was very fitting. It was a tad embarrassing that Nick brought his Nissan down to tow the trailer, but I’m getting over that.
If you’ve ever wanted to build a truck from the ground up, I’ve got a few yarns you might enjoy.