Back in 1935, Charles Garrett built a carburetor that allowed a standard car engine to run on water.

The patents were immediately bought by the fuel companies and put on the shelf next to the Pogue carburetor and the Oglemobile.

I wonder what they’re going to do about these fellows making fuel from water using solar power?


The manual says that you should tighten the oil filter sealing cap to 25 Nm.

But of course the previous fellow who worked on the car was some type of gorilla.


So find an appropriately sized pipe clamp, tighten it around the cap…


And whack the shit (technical term) out of it.

This will hopefully be easier next time, because I’ve taken over servicing Tanya’s Golf.


Look, I get it.  It’s probably OK to not replace your dust and pollen filter every 30 000 kilometers as called for by the maintenance schedule. In not-so-dusty environments you can probably stretch it to 60, maybe even 100 000 kilometers.

You can’t, however, stretch it to “never”.

R100 and Tanya’s car gets fresh air again instead of effectively being stuck in “recirculation” because of a very dirty filter.


Today, seventeen years ago, we re-entered South Africa from Lesotho as part of the 50th Anniversary Tour of South Africa. All through 1996/1997 I’d been frantically putting a Land-Rover together, with much accelerated effort towards the end (if it wasn’t for the last moment I’d never get anything done).

With help from my brother, we ended up getting the Rand-Lover through roadworthy at the end of February 1998, and Elmari and I left on the trip on the 6th of March. It was a bit… frantic.

Since then, this mysterious package has been kicking ’round the back of the Rand-Lover.

Look, it’s wrapped in period-authentic newspaper.

But what can it be?

Look! It’s the trim…

…that goes on the back doors, here.

The intention was to fit these somewhere on the trip. A lot of things did get fitted, but the trim did not make the list.

Yesterday, Eskom blessed us with some more electricity rationing. There’s a round ‘tuit for me! Yay!

I used these captive nuts and M5 machine screws.

And there you go (actually it was a lot more finicky than it looks).

The colour mismatch is 17 years’ worth of fade on the door. Not too bad, actually.

I decided to leave the nearside door for another 17 yea… nah, kidding, I did both.


Is there an echo here?

The one in front was my brother’s car, when he decided to sell it I persuaded my boss to buy it for me. Nice car. Leather interior, just over 300 000 km on the odo. Goes not unlike the proverbial raped ape.

The one at the back belonged to a friend of my brother’s, when she decided to sell it I pounced. Cloth interior (which Tanya prefers), about 380 000 km on the odo, and for some reason doesn’t haul ass as nicely as my one does.

Both are 1.9 TDI, chassis numbers differ by about a thousand or so. They get around eighteen kilos on the litre, or a thousand kilos on a tank, whichever way you slice it that’s pretty damn good.

When I bought #2 I took it down to Barons in Claremont, got them to do the 5 gazillion point check. Mostly because I wanted to make sure the timing belt is OK but you know, it’s a good thing to get an expert under the hood, make sure there are no latent problems.

Yea right.

Fast forward a couple of months and Tanya complains that some dinky little car carrying four farmers and a pig passed her going up Constantia hill, and could I please Do Something.

So I googled it. And then I had a look.

Hmmm. That doesn’t look kosher. Lemme zoom in  a bit.

That’s what almost 400 000 km’s worth of wear and tear looks like. All the vacuum is escaping, leaving nothing for the N75 boost control solenoid, which means you’re now driving a non-turbo diesel.

So new pipe was acquired (from Nesco) and installed and things are back they way they were. Not great, but adequate.

I sure hope they paid more attention to the state of the timing belt.


We don’t often get really cold weather. The first cold front of this winter was the exception.

I used some isopropyl alcohol to defrost Tanya’s windscreen, my car I just started up, turned the demister to full, and let it idle for ten minutes.

I also saw some frost on the grass next to the M3 in Tokai.

This is about as bad as it gets in Cape Town, temperature wise. That’s why we like it here :-)


Change is a constant.  For the young, without a frame of reference, change is the normal state and is readily accepted as such — whatever is new is inherently better than whatever is old — new things and new ideas, at least new to youth, are quickly adopted by the young as their reality. But after we’ve lived for a time — once we’ve established a frame of reference — we begin to see that many changes are not new things but merely old things wearing a new coat of paint — someone keeps stirring the pot, the same old potatoes come to the top and sink again. Old potatoes are always “New!” or “Improved!” according to the people who sell them, and eagerly gobbled up by the kiddies because of it.

In time, we come to realize another constant in our lives is people trying to sell us old potatoes. Discovering we’ve been duped often leaves us bitter. When we reach that point we begin to view new things — and all forms of change — with suspicion. We cleave to what we know. What was shining and new and instantly embraced in our youth becomes the good, old-fashioned stuff of middle-age. It is our security blanket, a bulletproof vest against the missiles of a changing world. It is also the seed from which grows the tree of ignorance.

The wiser course is to test new things against our store of experience, adopting what is good, discarding what is bad but always with tolerance. Some bad things will always be wildly popular among our youth simply because they lack the frame of reference defining those particular evils. Merely telling them something is bad does little good — it lumps us with the sellers of old potatoes. There are some lessons each generation must learn on their own, a Rite of Passage between childish play and adult responsibility. Each generation must eat its share of old potatoes.

— Bob Hoover, 1939 – 2010

This is the second time I had to change a headlight on Tanya’s Opel Meriva. I learned this trick the first time:

Yup, remove the headlight cluster. Two 8mm bolts at the top, and one underneath.

Then, it’s easy to undo the clips and change the light(s).

It’s not so clear on the picture, but the arrow marked “Haut/Up” should point towards the engine to install the cover (which you have to do after putting the cluster back in). For the bottom one, up is up. For the top one, not so much.

Clickey for more.

A colleague told me they’d be doing a run today, so we went off to Kalk Bay for breakfast (Waffles. With ice cream. And ice cream coffee. My poor sinuses) to watch them come past.

A brace of Model Ts

They couldn’t have chosen a nicer day for their drive (through Muizenberg and Kalk Bay via Cape Point to Scarborough for lunch).

1901 Benz Ideal, co-piloted by my colleague Harvey.

Wolseley. Number plate says “1905” but this website* calls it a 1902.

They tell me this is the only remaining 1905 De Dietrich. Gorgeous big four cylinder engine which barely ticks over at Muizenberg / Fish Hoek Main Road speed.

The only known surviving Nordenfelt car, a 1907 model. Nordenfelt is better known for its multiple-barrel machine gun,  a predecessor of the Maxim.

* Evil website. They have a 1971 Citroen Safari for sale. Don’t tell my father. Hell, don’t tell me, I’m sorely tempted. Oh, and a 1961 Mercedes Ponton. Don’t tell my brother.

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