The old Land-Rover at Swansea, with my long-suffering friend Chris in the passenger seat. Behind the vehicle is Barry, the 4th member of our team. He’s trying to push the Land-Rover, which is bogged. The tyres were let down to about 16psi or so for sand driving, but they still provided little traction. To be fair though, they also provided little traction on a proper road, because they were completely bald.
At any rate, a good time was had by all on the dunes, and I learned quite a lot about sand driving – how to always stop on a firm surface, how to keep the speed up to avoid bogging down, etc. But the day was getting quite hot, (as were our two cars) so we decided to set off back to Sydney. Now, there were a couple of issues with the ‘Rover that I should mention. Firstly, it was ex-Army. So it had no heater, and very rudimentary cooling – two flyscreened vents below the windscreen provided just enough breeze to be ineffective. There was no firewall insulation, and the exhaust ran down under the passenger’s floor, and beneath the built-in toolbox below the passenger’s seat.
At the time I was very mindful of punctures with those big 7.50″x16″ tyres, so I kept a couple of cans of instant puncture repair in that underseat toolbox.
So, there we were, roaring along the highway, vents and windows wide open, trying to keep cool. On one downhill stretch we were at about 100km/hr – as fast as the ‘Rover would go – when there was the most godawful bang, a mighty cloud of steam burst from beneath the passenger’s seat, and Chris (and his seat) took off like a rather startled Space Shuttle. Luckily, one of the few safety items in the Land-Rover was seatbelts; so at least Chris stopped before hitting the roof.
We couldn’t pull over – traffic was too heavy and the road was too narrow – so I checked that Chris was ok and that the motor and brakes still worked, and kept going. Until a few km further on, when a car pulled alongside with a lady in the passenger seat laughing fit to bust. “You dropped something”, she yelled, as they cruised on past.
At the first safe spot, we pulled over. The bottom of the welded and riveted toolbox had been blown to bits, and the rest of the seat base bulged like a tin of bad sardines. The puncture repair cans were nowhere to be seen, and the jack was also gone. All that remained was the smouldering remnant of my polypropylene tow-rope, draped merrily over the muffler and leaving little blue droplets on the ground. There was nothing we could do. So we climbed back in and went home. It took months to find and remove all the liquid rubber from the inside of the ‘Rover, and Chris spent the trip home picking bits of rubber off his jeans. And that was the last time I ever took a pressurised container for granted.