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Gerties Tale, A Friday Story

by Mike Rooth

Gertie, as has been mentioned, is Bloody Nora's friend of many yearsstanding.Gert was,i n fact, the first Land Rover I ever drove. At the time, Pat knew I was looking for a Rover and asked me one day at the yard whether I'd ever driven one. A question which, somewhat shamefacedly I had to answer in the negative. Whereupon she fished Gert's keys out of her pocket and said "Take it for a run round the industrial estate". At which the DA remarked "Not only have you made his day, Pat, but I suppose we'll *have* to have one now". Which wasn't actually the problem as it turned out, finding one to buy *was*. At that time Gert was a substantially original S111 88" diesel hardtop, with side windows, factory fitted. She was also one of the very few light grey one's I've ever seen. I remember being a little dubious at her lack of acceleration, and surprised at the light steering. I had thought that the things would steer like a prewar lorry, but in fact Gert was very light on h!er feet, which fact nearly had her in the canal! That yard was accessed via a lane which ran parallel to the canal on one side, and a ten foot drainage ditch on the other. Her engine sy, but in fact was an extremely quiet diesel when under load. Some time after this, after I'd bought Nora, then painted Marine Blue, where there was actually any paint left, where there wasn't she was Bronze Green, Pat's daughter became engaged to an RAOC sergeant. This worthy proceeded to slag Gert off as being noisy. Quite how he reached this conclusion I've never known, since the army at that time used the 2.25 petrol engine, never the diesel. He kindly offered to take Gert to camp, to be given the once over by the REME contingent. On the way down, driving Gert to the limit of her capabilities there came to pass a loud BANG, and Gert expired. So she arrived at camp on the back of a lorry, one red-faced sergeant in attendance. At which camp she languished, alone and unloved for weeks. It transpired she had shattered a piston, perhaps the first known example of Nigel's Disease, since Nora had done precisely that some time previously (or rather she had dropped a valve,which amounts to substantially the same thing) and Gert had to t!ow her home. Now it so happened that Nora had her first outing after her rebuild at the same time as the sergeant had a spot of leave,and was present at the yard. During the subsequent conversation he remarked "Pistons are damned expensive aren't they". "Oh I wouldn't say that "I replied. "They damned well are" he said, "A hundred and twenty quid each, I've got the bill here to prove it". He was a big bloke,so I didn't argue, but went away pondering on hundred and twenty quid pistons, and how deep the gold plating was on such things. The story came out later. The REME sergeant, having been chivvied unmercifully to get his corporate digit extracted with regard to Gert, who was haunting the motor pool car park, had eventually roused himself to remove the head. He removed the offending piston, and, the army not using diesels at that time, as I remarked, had wandered off, piston in greasy fingers, to see the local franchised dealer. Only to be told by those w engine was no longer manufactured,and pistons weren't available! I thought this distinctly odd, just having had Nora re-bored (engine in situ) and having, as a consequence fitted four new pistons, as you do. Apparently the REME sergeant had got quite persuasive, and had waxed eloquent upon the subject, and the dealer had obtained, at the aforementioned price, item, pistons, two and a quarter diesels for! the use of, one. Hum. And humm again. Then the penny dropped. He had gone with the original piston, the *original* piston mark you, fitted at Lode Lane, and demanded a direct replacement. As in one factory piston. A quick whizz through the 11A manual will inform the dimmest of the company here assembled that such items are, and never have been, available. Something to do with the height of the gudgeon pin (sorry, *wrist* pin) in replacement pistons. The factory fitted pistons marked "L" on the crown, but all replacements were marked "H" (Or vice-versa, I don't exactly remember, advancing age, you know). So the dealer had HAD ONE MADE. And consulting a colleague who is into vintage cars (specifically at this time a 1925 Vauxhall 30/98) this was indeed the price you would have to pay for a specially made piston. All stood revealed. The blind leading the lame, as they say. Then Gert re-appeared. Poor Gert. Not content with doing a bodge job on the engine, the army, as is their wont with stationery objects, had painted her. (They'd presumably tried saluting her but it made no difference, so this was the only other option open to them). Fine you may remark, how kind, what a bunch of true gentlemen. Well, as Wellington remarked "I don't know what they do to the enemy, but by God, they frighten me". They had painted her ANTI MISSILE GREY. All over. Wheels to roof. Bumper to rear cross member inclusive. Anti radar paint.Gert effectively disappeared at dusk, and you couldn't see her in the dark at all! Mind you,it *did* give rise to speculation on the effect of this novel coloulice radar trap, but Pat was *not* a happy camper, and neither was the REME sergeant when the other sergeant got hold of him. The best of it was that Gerts original paintwork was perfectly all right. Which is how it came to pass, in fairly short order, that Gert be!came NATO Green,with a white roof, and black wheels. All, however,was not well. Pat reported a strange clattering at times, and a week later Gert expired again. This time, a local farmer,and Land Rover enthusiast lifted the head to reveal...dropped valves. And a written off engine. Gert went back to the army. She stayed with the army for months, until Pat got mightily irritated with them, whereupon Gert returned, no longer a diesel. And what's more, the petrol engine has a British Leyland logo cast into the head. Ugh! Whereupon Gert failed the MoT. And had to have a new half chassis, new springs (the army hadn't bothered swapping the diesel front springs for petrol ones) and sundry other expensive little things done, including someone trying (and not quite succeeding) to sort out the rat's nest of wiring left over from the "conversion". By now Nora was also NATO Green, but chance dictated that a quantity of Deep Bronze Green paint became...ah...available, and so Nora reverted to full civvy spec about the bodywork. Subsequently Pat became rather exercised about the fact that Gert never looked really *clean*. Personally I thought that was a Land Rover's lot from birth, whatever the colour, but I admit that the matt NATO Green *was* drab. The army's method is simpler. After an exercise,*all* vehicles are steam cleaned and then re-painted. Main Battle Tanks must have as much paint as armour. So, having a quantity of paint left over I offered to give her a coat of paint. If, that is, Pat wanted a green Land Rover. She wanted red. So, OK, you buy the paint, I'll put it on. Nothing happened. Until one day she said she *liked* the colour Nora was. Upshot of this was Gert sitting up my drive (and Ben knows how narrow *tha coat of shiny Deep Bronze Green, inside and out. Which is why Bloody Nora and Gert are virtually identical in respect of colour, including the headlight surrounds in black. Gert, however, is green up to roof level, owing to the army ministrations years before She'!s just passed her MOT again, and had a certain hesitation about the engine cured, and her side window replaced. This fell out owing to the habit Pat's dogs got into of chewing the rubber surround. Fortunately it fell *inwards*, but Gert was a very draughty ride for a month or two until some kind soul took pity on her and put the window back. When (or if) the weather gets reasonable, I will undertake to repaint the roof in Limestone (of which I have.. er.. a supply) and the wheels, four of which are black, and one Limestone. Pat confidently expects her to run indefinitely. Indeed, after the money that has been spent on her in recent years, she's *got* to. I reckon she will, too. Cheers Uncle Mike

(OK,now stop wittering,Kenner:-))

Reprinted from the OVLR Newsletter, February 1997
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