Weight Watchers…

One of the projects I wanted to make a start on over the holidays was to remove the beaver tail end off the Bedford.  While it is probably useful for loading a small tractor onto the tray, it’s of no benefit to me.  Additionally, by removing the tail and reducing the overall length of the truck to 5.5 metres, I save $20 each way on the barge.

I pulled out the plasma cutter, marked a line and got to work.  

The plasma cutter is great on sheet metal up to about 12mm but for anything thicker I was going to need to use the angle grinder.  There are two thick chassis beams running down the middle of the tray so I needed to cut access holes in the plate so that I could get the angle grinder into them.

Once I’d cut all the thin steel and plate I took the truck to the island dump.  This way I could cut through the chassis beams and simply drop it at the dump.   I propped the tail up with a hi lift jack and got to work with the grinder.

Once I was through it was simply a matter of pulling the jack out.  All that is left to do is grind everything flush, get some paint onto it and hook up some new lights.

I spent some time grinding the last of the steel down, gave it a coat of cold gal and fitted up the lights temporarily.  It’s a pretty rough  job but this old truck is going to be a work truck and unfortunately I don’t have as much time as I’d like to spend on it.

Next up will be to fit a nice bit of hardwood along the back and finish off bolting down the deck.

Xmas finally…

So the holidays are finally here and I’ve been looking forward to having a couple of weeks to get some work done on the island.  I was also looking forward to taking the little Compac out for a sail.

Despite having a list of jobs to get done, I put the boat in the water and took off for a day sail to Peel Island.

So here I am at the tiller.  The quick photo makes me look like I’m not having a great time, but I certainly was.

The weather was ideal.  A little overcast and a decent breeze from the East.  It was a gentle and easy sail straight across the sandbanks over to Peel Island.

After just a couple of hours I had anchored up in about one metre of water.  A shallow draft means there is no need for a tender.

After about an hour in the anchorage and a swim I took off back home to the island.  The wind had turned more Southerly and increased to about 15 knots.  It wasn’t looking pretty.  I took the shot below during a lull in the breeze.

There were storm clouds rolling in across the bay and at one point land was no longer visible.  I put a reef in the sail about half way across the bay and it was a classic case of, “if you are thinking about putting a reef in the sail, then it’s probably too late”.   Fortunately the little Compac is a very sturdy and stiff boat.  At only 16 feet, it sails exceptionally well and is incredibly dry.

The tide had also gone out so there was no sailing across the sandbanks.  The trip home was quite a bit longer but it was great to be out on the water again.

I’ve found a few things that I need to do to improve the Compac.  The helm is extremely loose and I’ve since tightened the rudder bolts.  This should make quite a difference when trying to tend sheets and sails as the little boat wants to immediately run off course.

There was also quite a bit of weather helm.  I’m not sure if adjusting the rake forward will make much improvement since there isn’t much flexibility in the rig.  Perhaps a bigger headsail will improve things.

All in all, I’m loving the little Compac.  It sails at 4-5 knots easily and the shallow draft is a great advantage for sailing on the bay.


I’m slowly making progress toward another transition in my life.  That will be from working and living in the city to moving to the island permanently. I don’t have as much time as I’d like or need to get the things done but it’s surprising how productive you can be when you just put your head down and get to the task at hand.  

My weekends for the past few months have consisted of leaving the city at 6am on Saturday mornings and running around loading up my ute or more recently the old Bedford.  Then off to the island to work.  Then Sunday evenings it’s back to the mainland, tired, dirty and ready for another week in the city.

One job that is taking priority right now is to build a good sized workshop/shed.  I previously had these shipping containers as a workshop onsite but I want to have a roof over the top of them that will give me storage underneath and also be high enough to have a mezanine level.  

The engineering requirements to mount such a big roof on the containers are huge.  At each corner of the containers there must be 1.5 tonne of anchor ballast in the form of footings.  That means the holes for each footing are 2 meters deep by 600mm in diameter.  It seems like overkill, but that’s what I’m told I have to have.  Here is one of the holes.

When I first had the containers delivered onsite I located them East to West.  Now that I’ve had time to consider their placement, I’m spinning them around North to South.   I considered moving them by using logs as rollers but I heard there was a crane visiting the island for a building project and hijacked it for a while.  By using the crane it save me a lot of effort and placed them precisely over the footings.  

All that’s left to do now is jack the containers up, fill the holes with concrete and steel and construct the roof.

I have also been busy working on the garden and landscaping. 

Below is a picture of the rear of the property.  The piles of soil are from the container footings.  After spreading it to make a nice level pad it was time to put some turf down.

The turf is money well spent.  Not only does it smother any weeds, it instantly transforms the area.

The property is a pretty big area to maintain and each weekend I’m mowing, blowing leaves, chain sawing and generally working in the garden.  This is me on a typical weekend.

And of course the supervisor is never far away.

Generally on a Sunday afternoon I put Cutty in the truck and we go down to the island swimming area to cool off.

I think another few months of this will start to see some real progress.


This weekend is going to be a busy one.  I’m heading off to the island again to try to make some progress at High-Water.

As Christmas is rapidly approaching I’m trying to get as much done over the next 3 weekends.  On the way over to the island I picked up 2 pallets of turf and a cubic metre of topsoil together with about 40 plants.  

One of the great things about an old truck like the Bedford is its simplicity and durability.  There is about 3 tonne sitting on the back tray and the old girl just chugs along like it’s not there.  The cost of having large items delivered to the island can add up quickly and Betty will pay for herself many times over in the coming years.  

 Now I have to go and lay this turf. 

On the road…

I’ve figured out a design for the back tray and the next step will be to cut off the beaver tail to shorten the overall length to just under 5.5 meters. I’m considering a canvas canopy similar to this.

In the interim old Betty has been working every weekend transporting gear to and from the  island.  I had a load of green waste and logs that needed dumping at the tip.  The hydraulic tipper is useful for this.

The next trip to the island it will be loaded with turf and gravel.  

But it’s not all work for this old girl.  I drove the truck down to the local cafe for a coffee.

Cool down Betty…

Cold gal treatment to the tray complete and now I have to figure out a design for an extendable tray, side boards and tailgate.  I’m thinking about making a solid frame of rhs then fixing some timber slats to it.  Those side boards will be hinged so that they drop down and can be used to make a bench.

The water pump was leaking badly.  This old TJ has the early 214 cubic inch engine which is a dead simple long stroke straight six.  It doesn’t seem to run hot and is under stressed by design.  Fortunately, even with a bad leak in the cooling system it never overheated.

The old truck had been sitting for so long that mud wasps had made nests in all kinds of spaces.  They were in the engine and all around the body.   Here is the old water pump ready for a rebuild kit.

Water pump finished and here it is fitted back into the old girl. The engine is running beautifully now after a little tune up.  I’m extremely happy with the way the truck is running.  It just chugs along and I think it will be good for a long while yet.  

The gearbox is a bit clunky and the synchro has gone from second gear.  It’s definitely not worth rebuilding at this stage so I might look into some gearbox additives like Nulon which might extend its life and make changes smoother.

I’ll spend my evenings this week working on that tray design.

TLC for Bedford Betty…

The brakes are finally sorted with the rear wheel cylinders having been resleeved.  They’re now all painted in shiny silver, looking pretty and reinstalled.

The master cylinder is an unusual setup and hopefully I’ll get some more life out of it before it needs rebuilding.  The most common problem with old trucks which have been sitting around idle for years are brakes and seals.  Many of the other issues sort themselves out once they begin to get some use.  The brake pedal was taking a while to come back up after being depressed.  After a bit of use, it’s working perfectly.  When I first collected the truck, the tyres had a terrible flat spot.  I thought there was something seriously wrong but after a while the tyres rounded out again. 

I suppose no girl likes being neglected.

While I was under the truck I thought I’d give old Betty’s nipples some attention.  (That is so wrong!)

Fortunately the original owner maintained the old truck quite well.  Everything underneath has a heavy coating of paint and/or grease.  All of the suspension shackles are the greasable type and function well.  Interestingly these old trucks didn’t come with rear shock absorbers, so it’s a bouncy ride when there is no load on the tray.

Next on the list was the drive shaft universal joints.  Again, these appear to have been greased well.  I pumped a bit more new grease through the nipples and checked for wear.  Looking at the gauge of steel in the chassis and the riveting, the old saying that, “they don’t build them like they used to” came to mind.  I’ve been under modern trucks and they are like tin cans compared to trucks built 50 years ago.  

Old Betty’s tray is actually a tipper.  It has a 3 tonne hydraulic ram which is operated from the cabin through the PTO on the gearbox.  It works well and is going to be useful for carrying garden and building supplies over to the island.

The old steel tray is quite rusty and bent due.  I don’t know what the original owner used the truck for but given that the tray has a beaver tail, I’m guessing it was used to transport a small excavator or a machine with tracks.  

My plan is to treat the tray with rust converter, then prime with a good cold gal and then give it a final coat of epoxy.  This will seal it completely.  After that I’ll do exactly what I did with my previous Bedford, which was to make a new deck consisting of 12mm Nycel board with 5mm checkerplate aluminum over the top.  I’ll run a seamless bead of sikaflex around the perimeter of the existing tray to stop any water ingress under the new deck.

Below is the old tray after an application of rust converter and a start with the cold gal.  I only ever use cold gal from a paint tin.  If you hold a spray can and a paint tin in each hand, you’ll notice the difference in weight due to the zinc content.  You’ll also notice how much you need to mix the paint tin to get the heavy sludge of zinc mixed.  The zinc content is so heavy that I needed to get a screw driver to move the heavy sludge.  

Next up is the water pump.

Stop and Go…

There is some progress being made with Betty’s brakes.  The drums are off and cylinders have been rebuilt with stainless sleeves.

Even though this truck is still much bigger than a regular car, everything is much smaller than the Big Red Bedford I had previously. While Big Red had 20″ wheels, this truck’s wheels are only 16″.   It’s still fun to work on, but bigger trucks are more fun.

There is still plenty of life in the shoes and everything looks pretty good.  

The bearings are still good.

There are 2 parts to the brake cylinders.  The external part you can see below is the shiny (steel brushed) cylinder (to the right of the photo) which is accessible from under the truck with the drums on.  The other part of the system is the internal cylinder which sits inside the drum.  It’s all sealed, greased and reassembled ready to pull Betty up when needed.

A rebuild kit has been ordered for the water pump and hopefully this old truck will be back on the road by the weekend.

Get ready Betty…

I finally had some spare time today to make a start on Betty.  

There is no serious rust in the truck apart from a few spots of surface rust.  I’ll get onto those in the coming weeks.

The engine looks a bit neglected but starts and runs.  I don’t think it’s running properly but I can’t be sure as I’m not familiar with these old 214 petrol bedford engines.  It seems like it’s not breathing properly or has sticky valves.  The water pump is buggered but there are no leaks or loud knocks.  I’m pretty happy so far.

I tracked down some original workshop manuals and also found that the consumables like filters are still readily available.  

The oil filter is the old paper cartridge type and was $24 at Repco.  The next time Repco has one of their 30% off sales I’ll buy a bunch of them.

Generally whenever I do an oil change I always run a flush through the engine, but being an old petrol engine sometimes that’s not always a great idea since it can dislodge a lot of junk into the engine and cause more issues. I’ll wait to see what the oil is like before I do anything.

After an oil change, I popped in a new set of plugs, checked the points and timing and wow, what a different engine.  What was disturbing was the amount of sludge in the bottom of the oil filter housing.  It looked like it had been a very long time since it was changed.  Hopefully it was just a case that the person who did the oil changes didn’t bother cleaning out the housing but did change filters (although I doubt it). If the old filter was blocked, it may have just bypassed it and gone straight into the engine.

The new oil definitely did something to wake up the engine because it has double the power and rev range.  All of the old plugs worked so I can only put it down to the oil change.  I’m guessing the oil was so sludgy that it was causing things to stick.

Now it was time to take a look at the gearbox.  The old girl shifts ok, but it feels like the synchros are on the way out.
I was a bit worried since gearboxes and diffs are usually neglected and if the engine had been neglected, then I’d put money on it the gearbox oil hadn’t been changed in a long time.

Not a good sign.  The oil was low and full of sparkles.

The crud around the gearbox isn’t a bad thing.  It’s a thick grease which has at least protected it from corrosion.  I’ll eventually get to stripping it all off and repainting it.

I let it drain for a while then flushed some fresh 80/90 hypoid gear oil through it.  The box to the left with the big black hose is a hydraulic pump attached to the PTO.  The truck has a hydraulic tipper tray which is really handy.  I will probably hook up a hydraulic winch at some point since the pump is there anyway.

Below is the drain pan.  It looks more like I’ve been panning for gold than changing oil. I’ve seen worse metal in gearbox oil but I’m hoping it’s just a build up over a very long time.

I filled the gearbox and all seems ok.  I may look at using a straight 80w oil next time to see if it makes any difference with shifting.  It will be interesting to see how much metal is in the oil when I change it next.

Now it was time to take a look at the diff.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that the old truck had absolutely no leaks.  Normally with a truck of this age the seals would have let go and the diff would be leaking or at least show some signs of seepage.  In light of what I’d just seen in the gearbox, I suddenly thought, what if there are no leaks because there is no oil in it?  I was pretty foolish not to have checked all this before driving it down the coast for 4 hours.  If I’d had more time on that day I would have checked the fluids, but I was just focussed on getting the brakes working and time just slipped away on me.

I unscrewed the filler plug on the diff housing and stuck my pinky in to see if I could touch any oil.  When my pinky came out clean, my heart sank.  I stuck a torch into the hole and still couldn’t see any oil.  I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been driving it home on a bone dry diff!  

I loosened the drain bolts, held my breath and thankfully oil began to flow.  What was more of a relief was that it didn’t look too horrible.  When I drained Big Red’s rear diff a few years ago, there was quite a bit of water left in it from a water crossing, so I was pretty happy with Betty’s diff.

I let all the diff oil drain then flushed it with some new gear oil.

I popped it back together and filled her up to the top of the filler hole.

I’ll run this oil for a little while and pull the diff hat off at the next service to see what’s going on in there.

After this bit of TLC I took the old girl out for a short run.  There are some exhaust leaks just after the headers join the main pipe.  I didn’t notice them before because the engine wouldn’t rev that much.

Next job is to remove the water pump and put a rebuild kit through it and send the brake cylinders off for resleeving.

After that I’m going to take to the back of the tray with the oxy and cut about half a metre off it.  So far it seems like she’s a good old truck.  Hopefully I don’t run into any major problems.

Deja vu…

I haven’t updated this site for a while now as I’ve been pre-occupied on my project at high-water.com.au.

You might recall in 2012 I bought an old Bedford truck which I intended to turn into an expedition camper.  I spent a lot of time and effort restoring the truck and finally after finishing that project I ended up selling it.  Fortunately I did ok out of the project and even turned a small profit.

Here is the old Bedford when I first bought it in December 2012.

And after it was finished below.

I was sad to see the Big Red truck go and since then I’ve struggled with the limitations of a regular dual cab utility as a means for transporting large items to the island.  I’ve even had to pay for trucks to deliver larger items.

So after weighing up my options recently I decided that I need a larger vehicle for transporting cargo to the island.  I’m not a fan of new vehicles with electronics and big price tags and I wanted something I could maintain myself.  I also didn’t want to spend a fortune and I wanted something smaller than Big Red.  The benefit of a smaller truck is that it isn’t limited by Heavy Vehicle legislation which requires annual inspections, extortionate registration fees and limitation as to where and how long it can be parked. 

I basically just want a truck that has enough space on the back to be able carry a couple of motorcycles, or larger building materials and landscaping products.  

Having had a good experience with my old Bedford, I decided to stick with the brand and found a 1968 Bedford TJ advertised a few hours drive north of Brisbane.  It ticked all my boxes and seemed like a good deal.  I called the seller and he told me it had no brakes, a buggered water pump and a few other issues but was an honest old truck.  

So I immediately packed a few essential tools, jumped on my bike and took off up the coast to have a look.  

Long story short and many hours later, I’d handed over $4000 for the truck, sorted the brakes, bought a ramp from an old trucking yard down the road from where the truck was and was driving home with my bike loaded on the back.

The water pump was leaking and I was traveling at 60kmh but I was happy with the truck and excited to get it home. 

Here is the TJ at a service station where I stopped to fill the radiator with water …..again.  The truck is nearly 50 years old and definitely looks better in the photo than it does in the flesh.

So it’s a case of deja vu.  Three years after the last Bedford project, I’m back at it and will have quite a project this Christmas removing rust, grinding rims, painting and loving every minute of it.

Stay tuned for more Betty Bedford updates.