Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 Summary

2013 was at last a year of adventures.

That's not to say that there was no maintenance, or that there isn't more to do, in fact more was planned by now and I have the parts at home, but some work things came up which means I've had to postpone the installations until 2014

So what have we done

In January I was finally able to confirm that Katy had been an active ambulance on active duty in relation to Op Hanwood when we discovered a picture in a book of her parked in Bosnia

In February she let us down on our first trip for the year which was up to the Yorkshire Dales, but I'm glad to say that was the last time she let us down in 2013 (well almost)

By March it was time for another MOT and this year as well as the track rod ends that were advised last year it was the brakes that failed and needes some work, but Steve soon sorted it for me and I have to say the braking has been much better since, so it clearly needed doing

By this time I had committed us to going to the Alps so we needed to get some miles in to increase our confidence in her running so in April we headed off with the SWLRC and made our way to Pembrokeshire where we had some walks and some Land Rover themed fun. We were really glad of Katy as those in tents did complain about the cold.

Off again in May we went to the South Coast to Beer to see an old friend of ours who lives down there for the summer in her palacial caravan, and we had wonderful fun on the narrow lanes of the Jurassic coast. We also met a kindred soul who absolutely loved Katy, and then we made it to the Pencoed Show, but so did the clouds and rain so we all packed up and came home again. 

By June I was starting to really get into the swing of preparation and I sourced an awning through gumtree which fitted (just about) on the back to give us some much needed extra room and a means of keeping the door open in hot or wet weather, and we hosted a wonderful visitor Noel from the New Zealand Land Rover Enthusiasts who joined the club on our inaugural Cardiff to Langorse Road Run I'm not sure Katy actually wanted to do the trip as she let us down and it was only the purchase of an instant start charger from Halfords that saved the day, we arrived in time for the big set-off and had a wonderful day

July was to be the big month, but I started it badly. I had good intentions, get her serviced early so there was time to shake down any issues and then take her for some runs to make sure the battery was now in good shape. The trouble was on my first run after the service there was a small red car that stopped in traffic and I wasn't quick enough so I rear ended it. Net damage to Katy was just a bent bumper as you can see below

Net damage to the Vauxhall - write off.

I didn't blog this at the time as it was inappropriate, but now things are settled I can say thank goodness all that was truly hurt was my pride and my insurance premiums.

So then it was the Alps trip.

This was to be an important milestone. I wanted to be able to say we had done done over-landing and I wanted to do it without a major breakdown if possible. After some running repairs following the bump, we got enough confidence to set off. Our first aim was Dover. If we made it beyond the ferry and broke down we were at least on foreign soil and would just holiday where we landed.

The run down was faultless and we even made time to be put on an earlier ferry which was superb. Day 2 which was the first of August was probably the hardest days driving I have ever experienced. it was into a strong headwind and we were making about 5 MPH better than the large lorries and passing them was hell as the buffeting was really bad, but with such a long journey we felt we had to keep pushing. The day ended with at the wonderful camp-site at Camping Grappe d’Ore at Meursault

Day 3 and Day 4 were driving again, and we finally arrived in Italy quite exhausted and ready for a rest, but of course that was not to be as the very next morning we were on our way from Salbertrand to Mt Jafferau for our first day's green lane driving in the Alps. 

The experience was almost indescribably wonderful as we set off in trepidation and ended the day in success having achieved everything we had wanted to in terms of proving to ourselves that we could do this type of overland style driving. 

From then on everything was a bonus and we had wonderful fun on the following days, going from Mt Jafferau to Argentiera the next day and then from Argentiera to Gran Bosco via a wonderful high level track on the third day. Every day we faced another challenge and every day we overcame it and our confidence in Katy and ourselves grew. 

The second part of the week was to take us to our highest point, but unfortunately the weather was not to be so nice and we found ourselves dealing with snow fog & rain and being forced to take a lower route as we went from there back down again and over into France to Lac du Monte.

Our Last day was to take us on a wonderful high level route and back again as we wended our way back from France into Italy and to our final night at the Grand Bosco campsite

As we made our way back though the Alps into France and then we made a personal pilgrimage to the Thiepval memorial to see my relatives's commemoration on the memorial. It's an incredible place and if you are ever in the area I would encourage you to visit to understand the scale of the horror that took place.

All in all that trip was a wonderful experience and I've gained an immense amount from it

Since then things have been quieter

By the end of August we were able to join our friends of the South Wales Land Rover Club on the stand at the Eastnor Land Rover Show where we were able to source a new bumper to replace the one I bent in July. It was also an opportunity to see the great granddaddy of all land Rovers HUE 166

In September we went to the Hidden Earth Caving conference and we were spotted by our Friend Pete who did this wonderful drawing for us, and we also went to the Tredegar show in November we used her as a camper van again whilst visiting friends

Since then things have been really quiet which is disappointing. I have done some leak proofing which so far has not been 100% successful so more work is needed.

Inspired by the Alps Trip I have loads of new equipment ready to fit to Katy, but some other things have got in the way of actually doing that fitting. If you are interested in new lighting, rear view cameras, CB and more then please come back again in 2014 when it will all get fitted

In the mean time I've been adding a few things to this website with the Refurb log getting an update, a Technical page to keep the major rebuild items in one place, and last, but not least a History of Land Rover Ambulances which I am starting to research when I get time.

There is still a proposed respray to be done some time when I've got all the mechanical stuff sorted out.

Until then I hope that anyone dropping in to read this stuff is still finding it interesting

In 2014 I'll be 52 and she'll be 26 so that is 1/2 my age.

Happy New Year


Saturday, 23 November 2013


Last year SWLRC had a day out to the home of Land Rover, Solihull.

This year we decided to go to the Design and Engineering centre at Gaydon which is also the home of the Heritage Motor Museum

I had worried that this day out would not be half as interesting and fun as the Solihill trip, but my fears were unfounded because this was a wonderful day out.

The 1/2 day tour stated with a look at the the (in)famous DC-100 and included a visit to the 3D cave where we saw models at all sorts of angles and it's certainly a lot easier to maintain a car in virtual reality than in real life

After that the competitor tear down area where other cars are taken apart to see how they work and see if there are any innovative new ideas that can give "inspiration"

Then onto the rapid prototyping area where 3D printers are used to generate realistic parts for mocking up cars.

but the highlight of the day had to be the sessions on the proving ground. The first stop was the breaking straights where we took a 2.7 ton Discovery up to about 120 miles per hour and then threw the anchors on in emergency stop mode. I have to say it was impressive how short the stopping distance was. The ABS system did a great job of making us feel like we were stopping safely even if a few of us felt a bit of terror on the way.

Then, after a trip into the old conning tower, we headed off onto the main track and had the  into the Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) allowed us to survive some full throttle cornering safely

And finally into the off road area where we sampled some rough road driving

All whilst looking out at the many prototype Land Rovers 

Unfortunately  we were not permitted to film or photograph any of the above, so all my pictures are from the heritage museum which included HUE166 which we saw at Eastnor

Here we are arriving back with Tim and Chris the nutters drivers who belted us around the tracks at well over a ton, both very knowledgeable about Land Rovers and their development and really nice hosts for the day

The original Tombraider Land Rover (sorry no Lara Croft / Angelina Jolie in sight)

Judge Dredd Taxi (no Sly in sight thank goodness)

Post Skyfall remains

And finally presentation of our club plaque to John Bishop – Heritage Motor Centre Clubs & Groups Co-ordinator and from our brief chat a real Land Rover fan. He said that many more events were planned for the museum and we really do look forward to going back

In addition to the stuff above the Heritage museum had the first and last Mini's and the last one was exactly the same trip as Rhian's (with the exception her's has the webasto Roof) which was fun.

This being a Land Rover Blog I Can't really go around just including pictures of random Mini's so here's Rhian's with a large bit of Katy in the foreground

It's well worth a visit if you are in the area and from the look of the planned expansion to display another 250 cars it's will be even better next year

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Inspiration in the Rain

I tried working outside this morning, but it was awful. There's a storm forecast in the UK. It's said to be one of the works in about 30 years, but who believes's the Met office

So I'm spending some time looking things up on the internet and I thought that some of the people who drop in here may find some of the sites I look at from time to time useful as an inspiration

These are people in the 127 group who have made some wonderful trips and updates to their vehicles

John and Jean's wonderful Locomotors 127 has one of the nicest looking interiors I have seen

John and Edith Diggles adventures in "Liberator" give me something to look forward to doing when I get close to retirement and have more time

Joe and Jeanette seem to have loads of wonderful adventures in their well put together "Soletraveller" 

Ash and Gill in their well traveled Florence (and Joe)

Have fun reading :-)

p.s. I've bought loads of new toys to fit to Katy so when I get some decent weather there is lots to say

Monday, 30 September 2013

Lights, Camera, Action

By the end of our Alps Trip we had identified a number of upgrades that were needed
  1. A CB had been useful and fun travelling in convoy
  2. We'd had headlights problems and spots/fogs would be useful extra's
  3. We wanted more charging points in the front and back and had learned about differences in USB performance
  4. The fridge fitting had caused some problems with lights and battery discharge, and we were not happy with it's performance
All of this means a good sort out of the electrics so I made an arrangement to get an Auto Electrician to give me some advice and I've now been on a shopping spree and I've now got a whole bunch of new parts in the front room ready to fit.
I would put some pictures of all of that, but we went away for the weekend and we were "spotted" by an artist friend of ours so I thought I would give you his quick rendition of us parked up and enjoying ourselves instead

I think his scribbly style of his field sketches fits the dilapidated state of Katy's paintwork very well


Lastly the South Wales Land Rover club was featured in Land Rover Owner this month. We even got a mention which is not entirely surprising as I wrote the article

Monday, 26 August 2013

Eastnor 2013

We were full of ideas of things we wanted to do following the Alps trip so we headed to Eastnor with anticipation of finding loads of toys to buy and some parts to resolve some of the things that have been needing sorting out for some time (and one bent bumper which is a more recent addition)

We found a new bumper, but not the other items we were looking for. I did find this very important part that is factory fitted to all new Land Rovers so it was good to see a large pile of them available for those who need a replacement

Katy as usual took her place on the club stand and attracted a lot of attention from people and we had a lot of visitors wanting to look over her insides and her undergarments (suspension) as there are quite a number of people out there who are either working on or thinking about a similar venture

One thing we were really happy to see was Katy's Great Great Grandpa Huey. HUE 166 is the first series 1 Land Rover and held in great reverence by all enthusiasts and this is probably the most sought after seating position in all Land Rover circles. Sadly it was out of bounds, but nice to take a look at it anyway.

 Here's HUE166 in it's full glory

And here it is in the open air as it should be seen

Our club did a line up in the centre ring, including us 

and one of our members won a prize for his efforts in the twist off competition and for his enthusiasm for Land Rovers which shone through... Well Done Ryan

Back at home today I've stripped and painted the new bumper and the bull bars ready for refitting when the paint has dried

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Alps 2013 The Movie

During our wonderful holiday Through France and up the Italian alps Rhian was filming scenes for me. I've now had time to download it all and edit into a video which is offered here for your entertainment

It starts with an introduction about our trip through France and the rest is the over landing scenes from about 4:25 in if you just want to get to Land Rover's off tarmac.

Alpine Overlanding 2013 from Andy Kendall on Vimeo.

Sorry it's only SD resolution I only have a basic Vimeo account so am limited on the file sizes I can upload. if you want to see an HD copy please get in touch. 

I would love to know what people think of it so please do leave a comment here or on Vimeo so I can learn more about what I'm doing well and what I need to think about working harder on for future video's

Monday, 12 August 2013

Quiet Thoughts and home

Our last stop in France was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a while and I felt that Katy, as an ambulance who has seen active service should visit as well it was the Thiepval Memorial in the Somme area.

The Thiepval Memorial is to the 72,191 missing British and South African men who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918 with no known grave.

My personal reason for wanting to visit was to see the inscription on the memorial to one of my ancestors Sergeant William Allison Barnett 

He was one of three brothers who went to war, one survived unscathed, one was taken prisoner and William was the unlucky one. he was recommended for the medal just 2 days before he was killed in action.

Even as we pulled up we gathered interest from visitors who understood what she was and I was really happy to be able to tell them that she had been saving lives in Croatia and she saved even more in Rwanda when she did active duty.

There is a new visitor centre and I was amazed when they printed a summary of information of Uncle Bill as he was known in our family.

The spotless nature of the war graves in France is testament to the work of the CWGC and to the people of France who maintain them in this way in partnership with them

What I had never known until I read the exhibition was that he had been killed on the first day that British Tanks had been used in action and that this day was a major offensive for the British Army.

No wonder he was lost somewhere in combat that day it must have been horrible

Thiepval is one of those places that everyone responsible for sending people to war should go.

Imagine if we sent every politician to sit and think for a day on the possible consequences

After that we needed something nice to end the day and so we stopped at a local store to pick-up some fresh produce for tea and settled down to our last night in France

Up early the next morning and some shopping on the way and then another uneventful day on the road and we were finally home by the evening of the 14th

So the trip in summary

  • We met some really fabulous people, especially the Alpine rovers crew, Mike, Mike and Mandy 
  • A major achievement for all of us and a set of memories to treasure
  • About 50 hours driving in total across 2 weeks 
  • No significant breakdowns 
  • A lot of learning so we do it better and easier next time
  • A sense of capability that will remain with us whenever we venture off-road in Katy again
  • Some fun with some very nice people, and stories to tell  

Some Stats 

  • 2020 miles round trip
  • 481 Litres / 105 gallons of diesel
  • 19.3 mpg on the runs and 19.4 on the mountain days (which did include road work)
  • Total cost in Diesel £655 approx. I haven't taken into account all the exchange rates and charges

To end This Adventure...

I've often been asked if we've taken Katy on any adventures and I feel I can now look people in the eye and say


She's been over the Alps and I don't mean on the Tarmac, I mean up and down mountain tracks and it won't be the last adventure we have. Just watch this space.

Heading home in the Mountains and Onwards

Saturday. It had been a wonderful time, but it was time to say goodbye to the team we had spent the last week with and head off again on our own.

The De Frejus Tunnel had been a nightmare on the way here and we would have to face the 13 km (8.1 mi) going uphill this time so we were keen to hear about alternatives.

Mandy recommended the route through Briancon to Grenoble as being one worth considering for the views if nothing else. We had plenty of time for the route home so we decided that a gentle start would be good to calm our nerves from all the driving we'd been doing, I mean, roads have got to be simple after all the things we'd taken on. 

We waved goodbye to the Chris, Gillian, Mandy and the Mikes and set off up the valley from the camp site and up to the French border just past Claviere. From there a right towards Briancon where we stopped for a browse around the antiques market that was open. Rhian decided she had enough old things with Katy and me so we headed off again.

From Briancon the roads heads up through the Col du Lautaret (2058 m.) past some wonderful peaks with hanging glaciers. It just cried out to be admired in the sunshine so we stopped for a coffee and relaxed in the sun.

I didn't climb up I used a long lens


Here we stopped and took a picture of the third member of our crew, Cosgrove, who had come along to give us moral support at critical moments.

He'd hidden away a bit because of the marauding hounds (actually they were well behaved, but he may have been too tempting)

From there down to Grenoble was down, down, deeper and down until we levelled off nearer the status quo of sea level. 

With the route we had taken it was nice to have an early stop so we headed just north and selected a campsite from the Sat Nav and settled down for a nice meal and bottle of wine.  

The next day was Sunday and we planned for a long drive. In retrospect this was a wonderful idea because the number of lorries on the road was much reduced, which reduced the amount of overtaking we had to do and made for a much nicer drive. With no bad headwinds we were able to get to our cruising speed of about 65 and stay there for miles on end

We'd decided to visit the Royal Palace of Fontainebleau on our way home as it was somewhere Rhian had always hoped to visit so we picked a camp site just south of there in the Fontainebleau forest which was really nice and a good place to spend a quite night

Apart from the nice door and library the Palace did not live up to expectations as it was expensive, noisy, busy and frankly could have done with a good clean so we were soon on our way again north to our last planned stop of the trip... 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Day 6 on the mountains Lac du Mont Cenis to Gran Bosco

A cold morning after another rainy night, but the day did look better so We started with a brief trip over the reservoir at the end of the lake to get some breakfast at one of the excellent cafes overlooking the reservoir,

Expresso & Croque-monsieur was welcome after a cold evening / night and  and then up into France for a look-see/shopping trip.

The next stop was one of the most impressive forts on the trip. Good drive back towards our list nights campsite, and then Mike, Chris, Rhian and I went for a stiff walk up the hill whilst German Mike went to check what would be our last green lane of the trip for suitability as the guys were aware of some rocks that needed to be climbed over.

Fort de Variselle was truly stunning with multiple levels and rooms to explore once you had navigated the drawbridge which was some very flimsy looking beams in my opinion.

On our return German Mike had returned and declared that the trip was probably ok for Chris and Gillian, but we were simply not going to make it over the rocks on the track without removing some of Katy’s underside.

So the party was split and we headed off with Mike and Mandy. Once they had been spotted as having made it past the obstacle we went to do the old Roman road they call Jurassic from the other end to meet the rest of the team for lunch. A real cracking route and a real highlight of the trip even if we only did part of it, and took more video on that run than pictures so you will need to wait for the video if you want to see more of it than I have here

We stopped on the way back for a couple of pictures

and whilst we did Mandy located some really nice wild strawberries

Then back through Susa and up the hill where we passed a personal milestone for Katy 150,000 miles on the clock. As I've noted before this mileage may not be real and she may well have done about 50,000 miles less than this figure

We then went to Fort Excilles on the way back to the campsite as it was on-route and enjoyed the lifts up rather than the long walk up the old roadway, It’s probably best if I don’t mention who locked who into the loo or the castle.. The guilty know who they are.

A few pictures of some obscure parts of the castle

Like many old buildings the lime mortar was being redeposited

One thing they had done really well was these shadow graphics. this one showed the Alpini's practicing rope work on the mountains

And this one their emblem, the Eagles soaring

Back then to campsite where the formal bit ended and we enjoyed a meal with the group and shared thoughts and experiences.

So what more have we learned in summary
  1. We can do it – a total of about 216 Km / 134 Miles on green lanes with no serious issues
  2. Travelling with people who know the capabilities of people and vehicles was really useful. Mandy related how the Mikes take a close look at people on day 1 and decide from there what they are capable of. They were impressed with how well Katy coped and I take that as a compliment on the work and upgrade we've done, because she would not have made this in the state we got her 
  3. Picking a tour company based on how much you trust them to look after you is important. I’d got a head-start because I’d talked to Mandy on the Land Rover Addict and Land Rover Scene forums. 
  4. We have things we want to do to improve Katy, but we need to take German Mike’s advice seriously “only add things that add value, knowledge of how to cope & fix things is more useful than any gadget”. I think he was approving when I said my most important things on board were a toolkit and a Defender Haynes manual
  5. We really need to look into fridges again. Chris and Mandy both gave us advice on compressor fridges and I’ll take a look into that again
  6. German Mike offered advice on the relay problem I had identified and agreed that this really did look like it was allowing current to flow even when the ignition was supposed to be off. A typical Land Rover fault apparently is the ignition switch allows some current through (post trip review has identified that there is definitely something wrong with this as the switched feed is permanently live and causing battery drain) - Need to add multi-meter to the going away kit list
  7. The only negative was we had in the week was 2 camp fire nights washed out – nothing anyone could have done, and not enough to spoil what had been a fantastic adventure 
Damage / Problems so far
  1. None


We had some more adventures and saw some more scenery on the way home through France which I'll add, but this was the end of our mountain adventures so I would like to thank 
  1. Mandy, Mike and Mike from Alpine Rovers for looking after us and all the positive comments and advice
  2. Chris and Gillian for being good company along the way and their good advice
  3. Rhian for putting up with me and taking many of the pictures and all the video which I still have to cut into something watchable
  4. Steve Walford back in Cardiff for the work he put in to help me get Katy ready for this first adventure
  5. John. Toby and all the other people who used to own Katy, but let her move on to us so we could have these adventures
  6. All the people who dropped by to marvel at the strange apparition that is Katy as we wended our way back and fore 

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