We went over to OEC to keep an appointment with Simon Ward-Hastelow, Azalai Owner and Editor of Land Rover World magazine. As explained in earlier posts, Simon was the first to own a UK registered Azalai; although he went to France to get all of the work done to his 300 tdi 130 base vehicle (pre-OEC Azalai conversions). He was getting a bit of maintenance work undertaken, so it was mutually opportune to catch-up and explain a bit more detail about the Indlovu Trans-Africa Drive.
Well we chatted for a good few hours and explained our timings, the route, the ongoing but tempered frustration of build time (more later), the work of www.motivation.org.ukand the relevance of our adopting it as the Indlovu Drive’s charity of choice. We also explored some of the evolutionary path that OEC were taking in developing the Azalai product. Simon gave us a couple of top tips that you won’t find in the brochure too – both worth recording here:
When camped for the night, fully inflate the suspension bags (ie beyond the maximum pressure for road use) as this greatly reduces any tendency of the cabin to sway as the occupants move about inside.
Ahead of traversing any rougher terrain – disconnect the SOG unit from the toilet waste tank and bung the connector. Failure to do this can result in Sh1t being sloshed through the fan!
The upshot is that Land rover World magazine (LRW to it’s friends) would like to carry a feature on the planning and build, as well as a series of follow-up articles as the expedition progresses. Good news for us as it will help to raise the profile of the venture at a national level. It will also contribute to our objective of learning new skills as part of the project. Simon was particularly interested in Motivation.org.uk – so hopefully there will be some positive spin-off for their 20th anniversary ‘Wheels Out of Poverty’ campaign too.
Obviously we’ll be posting news of any publication dates here in the blog.
With regards to the build, little has happened to our Azalai over the last week, as OEC advised that they were going to put all of their resources into finishing one destined for Roger Young Land Rover in Saltash (the guys who did us so well on our base vehicle). The thinking being that ours could not be progressed too much further until the tail-lift adaptation was fitted. Clearing the RY Azalai would subsequently free up labour to then subsequently get ours finished quickly [post tail-lift fitting] .
It was clear that the OEC guys had been flat-out on the RY Azalai. It was due to go out that day and everyone was busy polishing and tweaking. However it was a bit disappointing to hear that our tail-lift had not yet gone off for fabricating. Paul (OEC) mitigated this by explaining that he was in consultation with the fabricators (and others) to see which parts could be made in 6mm steel, rather than a ‘default’ 10mm. Obviously this is an important consideration in keeping the additional weight to a minimum (as it will all detract from the payload).
Nonetheless, we have had over another week lapse and the completion date (as estimated by Harris) remains a month hence. I have blogged before that this slippage has a direct and adverse impact for some fundraising opportunities. We have stopped trying to predict a completion date with any certainty now – and OEC seem equally vague – although there is no doubt that it would suit them as much as us to see the build finished soonest!
Of course (and again as previously blogged) much of the additional time can be attributed to the adaptations and the development of improved design, features and component parts. We will be getting a better and more efficient Azalai than the one originally spec’d a year ago (for the same cost). That said, it would have been really useful to have had a realistic build time from the off. This would have helped us to then in turn reflect more accurate, detailed, proposals to potential backers etc. Even more seriously the extended time is a valid threat to having enough time and opportunity for ‘shake-down’ trips and training.