The (big) little engine that could…

You can all relax, we have our tow vehicle back!!

Almost two weeks to the day it was unceremoniously dumped on the doorstop of our unsuspecting mechanic, Mud Bug is back up and running. And you couldn’t find a more relieved husband if you tried 😉

A huge shout out to Cameron from Billabong Offroad Services who went above and beyond to get our Landcruiser back on the road, working weekends and welding and fabricating parts to fit the new motor.

For those of you who may have missed the news, the Mud Bug chucked a wobbly and decided it couldn’t go any further without some serious attention, attention in the form of a new (secondhand) engine. Costly attention.

The old motor before it was removed from the car.
Brandon’s old motor sitting outside the car.
Hmmm – shouldn’t there be something in there? I doubt the car would get too far like this…

We bought a Jap import engine, a ‘crate engine’, reflecting the fact it was imported over from Japan in a crate after it was taken out of a similar vehicle over there. Japan’s stricter emission laws mean engines get cycled through much faster than here, creating a lucrative import market for poor sods like us to shop with. So we found what we hoped was a good engine (upgrading to a turbo!), paid the big bucks and had it delivered to Cam. Then we waited.

new engine1
The new ‘crate engine’
new engine2
Shiny bits in the new engine 🙂

The Landcruiser was due for some other big ticket service items (which we had already saved up for, thankfully) so in addition to the new motor, we ended up with a new clutch, new brake shoes for the handbrake (it might actually work now!?), a new 3 inch stainless steel exhaust to better suit the new turbo engine, a new radiator, a new thrush bearing (don’t ask me) in the gearbox and a full engine lubrication.

We arrived on Tuesday afternoon to pick up the car and we were full of anxiety and excitement. Brandon had been on edge for a while, understandably anxious about how it was all going to work out. When you buy a crate engine like we did, you rarely get the chance to actually hear it running and you know very little about the internal workings of the engine. It’s a little risky but you have to trust the people you buy it from. In our case, while these people were largely unknown to us, we met them and saw their workshop and discussed all manner of engine-related things with them and their professionalism reassured us somewhat. But when you are looking at an engine sitting outside a car on the ground without any of the vital components attached that are needed to make it actually turn over… well, it is a bit of a gamble. So I know Brandon had a lot on his mind when we went to collect the car .

I was surprised when we turned into the mechanic’s street that the Mud Bug looked exactly the same, all the dust and dents were still there. I think I partly expected her to be on the mechanical equivalent of a set of crutches after all that had happened to her since we last saw her. But there she was, sitting out the front ready for us to bring her home. Cam spent some time going over all the work he had done, explaining the new bits to Brandon, pointing out things here and there. Throughout all of this I kept thinking “but what does it sound like?” because for me, that was really the main thing I expected to notice, at least from a distance. Brandon’s old engine had extractors on it and it was rather ‘beefy’ sounding (helped along by the fact that he, by his own admission, would drive the car quite hard). The only other turbo engine I’d had much opportunity to listen to was Brandon’s father’s 100 series Landcruiser turbo diesel and I’ve always considered that engine to sound quite gentle and soft. So I was incredibly keen for this chit chat to be over with and for Brandon to get in and fire up the new engine. While I was a bundle of excitement and easily distracted, Brandon was calm and intent on listening to Cameron. I was Odie, he was Garfield 😉 Given he will be driving the car more than me, I guess that’s probably a good thing 😉


Here is the new motor in its new home


The new bright red clutch looks a little out of place amongst all that dirt and dust


New EGT monitor


We also had an EGT monitor gauge thingy installed – Exhaust Gas Temperature. This is something to do with the turbo engine and the fact that our exhaust gases now may heat up a little bit as we don’t yet have an intercooler. We need to monitor the temperature of the exhaust to make sure we don’t overheat. Or something like that… ? (maybe Brandon should be writing these posts? Haha) Unfortunately Cam has installed the gauge in a place that we would normally have had covered with a homemade cup-holder/centre console system but we can live with that. Brandon has been talking about making up something more effective to house the small Waeco fridge we bought to use as a centre console so we will just have to work around this new configuration.

I’m attracted to shiny things, so one thing I did notice was the new exhaust. The turbo motor requires a bigger exhaust so we had a 3 inch system installed. You can now see it running down from the motor, past the front wheel arch and out the back. Mmmm… shiny 🙂


Shiny new exhaust running from the engine bay, under the chassis and along to the back

Shiny tip 🙂

Finally the time came to start up the engine and guess what? It started! And oh boy – does the new engine sound nice 🙂 It actually has a deeper note than I was expecting but the little tick of the turbo in the background is unmistakable. It was such a joy to see Brandon drive off down the street, knowing that we were once again on our way with our adventure and ready to face the next challenge (hopefully not car-related) that comes our way 🙂

However, the first thing we need to work on is getting Brandon used to his new clutch!! Bahahahahaha….

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