A mechanical life: Roothy gives us a glimpse Where it all started - on the verandah of the old homestead in the Flinders. Anthony Warry captured this photo of Roothy reflecting on a lifetime of playing with machines. Anthony Warry
ALL my life, since getting chucked off my first stock horse mustering at an early age, I've had a love for machinery.
There's nothing more satisfying than understanding how something works and feeling the joy of a machine that's well maintained. Like controlling the things, driving, riding, flying - whatever - there's a joy in being a part of something manmade. And there's another dimension too, hanging out with fellow machine heads.
That's what drives a lot of people in the four-wheel-drive world too. Feeling that mastery over a machine, setting up the right machine to do the job and then that incredible feeling of adventure that follows on from completing the job and getting home again too.
So here's a bit of a look at life, Roothy style. Then I'll go back to writing about nuts and bolts and welders. It's what I do!
First real job after coming in from the mines was testing bikes for Two Wheels magazine. I love anything with a motor but the chance to go do fast laps of the bush on big motored motorcycles was too good to ignore! New bikes rarely needed much beyond the odd puncture repair but crikey there was some great tackle ‘back in the day’.
I have trouble selling bikes which is why I’ve wound up with a collection of old dungers. My brother Nicko and I both bought 1984 Harleys during a spell making a few quid and by the mid '90s I’d modified this one for long-haul bush work. It did three laps of Australia including the Birdsville and Oodnadatta tracks twice just to prove you could fix anything with a rock and a chisel.
Like Milo if you keep the same machine long enough you wind up collecting heaps of parts that are usually good enough to go around again! That is the reason I like to keep machines for life. After the first 20 years you’ve pretty much nutted the things out.
One of my favourite modifications has been to make things as basic as possible because I reckon simple always wins. And I can fix simple! So the Harley copped points and coil instead of cdi trickery and an old S&S; carby that doesn't even run an accelerator pump. Trick was to get the tuning so tight it'd start with no effort barefoot. It usually does, though you'll see me on crutches sometimes too.
So it's machines at home and at work too. I love dropping in to my mates' workshops to see what's on the go. I dropped by Roo Systems and got to see Mark from British Off-Road's Land Rover comp truck being put through its paces on the dyno. It gave me a chance to see what he'd done to it too - wow, Mark's pretty serious about engineering! I love this stuff, even if it is old pommy crap.
I love hanging out with my mechanic mates because they're always good for a laugh and most have that tendency to live life on the line - maybe on the 9000rpm line! Note how we're all ducked down behind the dyno screen just in case Mark's Landy does the big pop. I couldn't believe how much power this thing makes - neither could the boys. We all bought Mark a beer after watching it hit full noise!
Pete loves it when I play tricks on him like plugging the wiring into the 240-volt socket. Don't you Pete? Pete? Come on mate, it's either that or admit to putting 'product' in your hair to make it stand up like that. Uncle Fester reckons you should keep that stuff in your pants - hang on, maybe that's not what he meant. John Rooth
Aaron's been doing most of the pre-trip work on Milo and he's still coming to terms with the sheer comfort of the old girl and how well it holds the road - or something. The only problem I had with his work was when he tried improving something by semi-automating it and I had to explain basic to him again. It must be hard having to dumb down to my Milo tyre level but he's handling it OK. I think. John Rooth
Back in the shed it's usually about playing trucks and bikes and new products. These are Opposite Lock's side steps, which add an incredible amount of body protection for very little money, yet they don't weigh a vehicle down. That's progress, but be warned, the tide has brought in a lot of cheap stuff that should be avoided too. If it don't fit easy, it's probably wrong.
See how despite the steps being so light I'm cleverly using a couple of stands to position them to make bolting them up a piece of cake? Makes you wonder what the hell I was thinking hoiking 100kg of BMW motor and box by deadlifting it using my chest across the frame as a fulcrum. Sometimes a bloke can be a total idiot. It's time to re-program the brain and take time out to think things through.
I've got heaps of mates down around the Mudflats area who love playing trucks and bikes too so whenever I get a minute I'll do a loop to catch up with the latest projects. Mikey and his dad work out of Mike Price Mechanical and after talking diff locks for ages they decided to go for the new eLockers after looking at everything on the market - and on my bench - real close! John Rooth
While Mikey's got a Patrol his dad - wiser, older, more sensible, experienced etc - has a Toyota of course. But no way was he letting the lad get a huge advantage like locking the diffs so he opted for a set of eLockers too. I hung around while they fitted them because it's all good knowledge and let's face it, these two trucks are probably the pick of the bunch for serious off-road work. John Rooth
Talking unreal product and the chance to play with cutting-edge stuff, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the new FrontRunner roof racks for the 76. This is a part of a South African range of off-road gear that's brilliantly engineered and in some cases a generation ahead of our local stuff. It slotted and bolted together so easily I barely had time for a beer.
So if I'm not playing trucks or hanging out with mechanics I'm usually out in the shed tinkering with the bikes. I bought this old BMW R60 40 years ago to ride to work. In 1976 I took it for my first trip up the Cape - a total mistake, I'd chased a girl to Cairns and when that fell to bits I figured I might as well follow the road north and see the Tip. Good thinking, except it was a dirt track.