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OKA NT Building Diary Part 4


At OKA the cabin is fitted permanently to the chassis. But there is still a long way to driving it ....

The customs agent has been very successful, customs has agreed to "cabin".
But now quarantine has no time and we loose 3 working days.
We will only get the back-section out and to OKA on Friday, February 10th.

The plan is to have quarantine inspecting the back-section at 9 am. This can take up to 4 hours.
So the Alu-Star crew will show up at 12:30 to get all ready.
At 1 pm a truck should arrive, the back-section loaded to it and the back-section delivered to OKA.
At 3 pm a crane will be ready at OKA to unload the back-section.

Ruedi and Susi arrive at the logistics a bit early (still very Swiss ...) and prepare all.
We wait, and wait, and wait ...
At 9:30 am Susi checks with the office, if we missed something.
Quarantine is called and we find out that the officer that was supposed to check our goods has not shown up for work.
They will try to organise another one, which is not easy on such short notice and on a Friday.
But we are lucky and at 10 the officer appears. He seems to be the boss of the other officer.
He is very polite and excuses the delay.
He checks a few things like the chain of the bicycle, the soles of the shoes, the shovel where the blade is fixed to the handle, etc.
He is happy with the findings and after only 20 minutes clears all good.
What a luck! We are thrilled.

At 1 pm the crew from Alu-Star have prepared all for the transport to OKA.
We wait, and wait, and wait ...

Shortly before 2 pm the truck and the large fork-lift arrive.

Because of all the tubes sticking out underneath the back-section Alex again crawls on the floor to ensure nothing is squashed accidentally.

All goes well and the back-section is fixed on the truck and driven away.

The truck, the crane and we arrive at OKA at the same time.

Because the work on our chassis has not been finished yet an empty chassis has been rolled out so the back-section can be rolled into the factory.

First the roof tent and the supporting rails need to be removed.

Then the crane gently moves the back-section onto the chassis.

The tyres need a bit more pumping to cope with the weight of the still fully loaded back-section ....

Allan pushes the chassis and the back-section into the factory with the fork-lift. The door is just wide and high enough.

We are all very happy that we have managed all because in the evening Thomas Kreutziger, the third man from Alu-Star, arrives from Africa.
( click here to view his home page )
Now the Alu-Star is complete and ready to get the job done.
We will only be able to assist a bit, Ruedi being the "go-for" and Susi by doing the shopping and cooking.

On Saturday work really start.

First the back-section is unloaded completely and all stored in "our" office.

Then the back-section is removed from the chassis and lifted on to stands thus making working underneath possible.

Next is to remove the frame that was used to fix the back-section in the container.
The plan is to use the frame to fit the back-section on to the chassis.
Because the vehicle was not available to Alu-Star in Germany they had to build the frame according to plans delivered by OKA.

To check the frame it is placed on the chassis.
We are all very happy to see that it fits perfectly.

Many things will have to be connected between the back-section and the chassis (e.g. hydraulic tubes, water pipes, power cables, the escape door, air conditioning, etc.).
Because the chassis is not ready we can not place the back-section on the chassis to check if all fits.
One of the important tasks now is to check all measurements.
This task is difficult as one has to consider all aspects to the parts that will have to be fitted together
e.g. the electrical stair
- it is fixed to the back-section just below the shower tray
- the tray has 4 water outlets, one in each corner
- underneath the tray the supporting frame goes through
- underneath the frame there are some cables, tubes, etc.
- on the chassis, below the frame there is a diesel tank
It takes a lot of 3D-vision to be able to fit all this together in ones imagination and then decide if the measurements are correct to be able to continue the work until we finally can mount the back-section onto the chassis.

A solution to be able to lift the spare wheels onto the wheel carrier needs to be developed.
Each wheel will weigh at least 77 kg, depending on the rims we choose.
It is decided to build a crane and use a chain block to lift all into place.

The frame is ready to be brought to the galvaniser.
It weighs 190 kg and everybody is required to assist with the loading it onto the ute.

Alex starts work on the electrical system and Murphy strikes again ...
As Alex drills a whole into the floor of the back-section to install a plug suddenly lots of yellow-greenish liquid runs out of the floor.
This can only be the liquid used in the floor heating ... looks like a leak somewhere, but where and why?
Alex and Thomas inspect all and come to the conclusion that after the floor heating had been checked for tightness somebody must have drilled into one of the tubes in the floor.
Alex is completely stressed as it is very hard to find a leak like this. There must be a few hundred wholes in the floor where the furniture has been screwed to the floor.
He remembers that when he fitted the batteries he had felt something when drilling and stopped.
So the batteries are removed and the floor opened. No whole is found ....
Next to be checked is the bench. Once the linoleum has been removed they find the damage.
A pipe has a tiny whole from a drill as expected.
After the pipe is soldered the system is set under pressure. All is tight again.
Those 2 days must have been some of the worst ones in Alex's working life.

The evenings at the house are filled with talking and fun.

Middle of February the major welding work is finished and Manfred goes back home to Germany.

The bolt-together-rims arrive. But Murphy strikes again!
On close inspection by Linden and Arthur they realise that the way the rims are built the valves are to close to the break pads.
The rims are sent back ....

The frame is back from the galvaniser and is checked again on the chassis. After a few whacks it is back in shape and fits perfectly.
But as OKA is still working on the cabin the frame is removed again.

Finally OKA has reached the point where the motor is started the first time.
All goes well and the chassis driven onto the lift for the hydraulics to be finished.
Also the doors are now ready to be mounted.

Arthur promises that we will have the chassis by the end of the week to put the back-section on.
This is just in time because Alex is due to fly back to Germany the following Monday.

A few days later the cabin is placed permanently on the chassis.
Alex decides to temporarily put the frame on the chassis and to push the chassis under the back-section to check if all really fits.
And Murphy strikes again but this time in the Alu-Star team.
2 of the 4 water outlets of the shower tray are 2 cm off and exit exactly above the frame that has been modified recently to carry the hydraulic stair.
The frame needs to be altered even though it had been galvanised already.
Well, this is the difference between theory and reality ....

Susi has established herself in the office and is finishing the mozzie-screens.
Also some work on the blinds is done to stop them from dangling around when driving.

The back-section needs to be painted in the front as it will be joined there with the chassis and the colour has to match the one of the OKA.
Also the fly screen-door and the interior of the window covers need to be sprayed.
All has to be covered with paper and masking tape which is a huge task that has to be done with painstaking accuracy.
That day the temperature reached 40 C in Perth.
We stopped counting the water bottles we drink on that day ...

After the spay painting the frame is fitted permanently to the back-section.
Sika is added between the frame and the floor of the back-section and then all is screwed together.

The work on the stairs continues. As the stairs are lowered around the diesel tank the functionality can only be fully tested once the back-section is fitted on the chassis.

More and more work has to be delayed because we are waiting for the chassis.

On Wednesday, February 22, finally the day of the first test drive arrives.
Linden and Arthur agree that "she drives beautifully".
Arthur takes the chassis to the weighbridge.
The weight is 3,54 t which is at least 250 kg more than expected.
But as it already has many of our extras mounted it is hard to tell, if we will have a problem with the weight or not.

But they also realise that the OKA has a problem with the electronics.
This means that they have to take it apart again.
For us these news come as a shock.
It means that we will not be able to fit the back-section to the chassis before Alex flies back.
As he cannot delay his return any further this means that we only have Thomas left to do all the work.

In addition Ruedi and Susi must be in Queensland by April 1st for the 80th birthday of Susi's father.
With this extra delay it will not be possible to drive over there.
OKA agrees to pay for flights.

Franticly the work is continued to get as much as possible done before Alex leaves.
But the list of work left to Thomas is long and contains many things that Alex was flown to Australia for.
Thomas and Ruedi get the theoretical background for it and will have to do the work on their own.

On Monday Alex flies back home to Germany. He feels very sad to leave his "baby" in such an unfinished state.

Thomas and Ruedi continue on their own.
The mozzie-screen for the hatches are built.

Finally on Friday, March 3rd, the chassis is ready.
Slave wheels have been mounted to make it easier to slide the chassis under the back-section.

The back-section is lifted by the crane in the front.
In the back Don is ready on the forklift should the need arise to push.

Slowly Linden drives the chassis backwards under the back-section.
This is the first time back-section, frame and chassis are checked against each other.

Amazingly it fits together. Even the emergency escape door into the cabin is in the correct position.
Not bad if one considers that all required wholes and supports where just calculated and not drilled on the real object.

The chassis is rolled forward and some insulation placed between the back-section and the cabin.

Now the chassis is pushed back into position and the fork-lift lowers the back-section.

The back of the chassis is just a bit off. Thomas pushes it over and now the screws fit.
Everybody helps. Even Arthur, the CEO of OKA, crawls around underneath the vehicle ....

On the other side again the screws will just not fit.
Linden applies the same tactics as Thomas before .. and it works!

The supporting straps are removed and the back-section complete lowered onto the chassis.
Sika is smeared in between everywhere before the back-section is joined with the cabin and screwed on to the chassis.
This will make it very solid but from now on it will be very difficult to separate it again.

The OKA looks very balanced and all like to looks of the back-section on the chassis.
Pleased the OKA crew goes home for the weekend.

For us it is time to party.
Together with Hanna and Drews, friends from Thomas, visiting from Germany, we have a feast at "Han's".

Now we can start fitting all the parts that have been prepared.

The spare-wheel carrier is mounted.
On the crane used to lift the wheels a reversing camera is mounted.

The roof rack is also mounted.
James needs to give Ruedi a bit of a hand with the crane. It is tricky ...

Then it is time to paint the back-section.

This time the truck needs to be driven into the spray-painting chambers.
The truck is 3,08 m high, the door is 3,20 m high ... it just fits.

Again all has to be covered with plastic, paper and sticky tape.

Ruedi has to sand all areas that will be painted so the new paint sticks.
Because of the dust we have to work with dust-masks.
It is very hot and sticky in the chamber ... small facial sauna ....

Then Jason comes in and after 3 hours all is painted and exhausted we can also go home.

The next morning the paint is dry and the wrappings are removed.
The truck looks very nice and neat.

The wheels are mounted on to the carrier to check its functionality.
It works!

Arthur wants Ruedi to drive the OKA as often as possible to test it.
To ensure that the truck is covered by OKA's insurance Ruedi is employed by OKA as "test driver".
Now all is legal.

After the first trip to the house and back we see that a liquid is dripping to the floor underneath the truck.
Is it liquid from the floor heating or hydraulics oil or what?
The OKA is cleaned and some cardboard placed between the gearboxes.
The next day we see that the liquid comes out of the bell house and seems to be oil from the gear box.
Also we realise that the air is lost from the system in just a few hours.
We agree with OKA that these things are left for the time being so Thomas can finish his work undisturbed.
Once he is gone the vehicle will be passed on to the OKA-crew so they can fix all in peace and quiet.

After all the wholes between the cabin and the back-section have been drilled and all cables laid the batteries are placed in the truck again.
As each of them weights 80 kg they are placed with the fork-lift.

Now the truck is ready to be taken to the weighbridge.
Ruedi and Arthur leave.
When they come back, Ruedi is a bit pale ... the truck weighs 6,4 t and we have not loaded it yet.
This means that we are at least 600 kg above the weight that we expected it to be and also way above the 6,5 t that OKA specifies in their brochures and gives warranties for .
Now we really have a problem!

Many ideas are discussed like removing the spare wheel carrier, uplifting the truck, adding extra leaves to the springs (extra weight again!), etc.
Arthur comes up with a list of specialist to do the uplifting.
We contact one of them and he agrees to uplift it to 7,2 t.
So we continue with the work and get all finished.

In the meantime the noise test is due. It is the last test the truck has to pass before it is road compliant.
The rules have changed and are much stricter now.
But Arthur and Linden are confident that they will pass as the new Cummings engine is so much quieter than the old Perkins diesel used to be.
But they fail! Regulations say that it can be max. 81 db and they had 86, which is almost double the noise.
OKA and the manufacturer of the muffler start working on a solution.

We have done our thinking regarding the weight and decided that the spare wheel carrier will have to go.
Should there be enough time before Thomas flies back to Africa end of March it will be done by Thomas.
Otherwise Ade, one of OKA's employees will assist us in his free time.

There is still lots to be built and fitted and it is very hectic.
Also major tasks like getting the floor-heating and the water system tested and going have to be done.
We just manage the major things but time flies and there is no time left to remove the wheel carrier.

Thomas leaves and now it is just us left.
For the first time since we left Switzerland on January 15th we have a few moments to take a breath and think what we have to do next.
There is still the whole electrical installation in the cabin left to be done, also the cabinets in the back-section need to be finished and of course all equipments has to be loaded.
So we decide to take a bit of a break, travel to Queensland for the birthday of Susi's father and brother and after that tackle the work again.
The truck is left for OKA to work on their muffler and other things.

After our break we find out that the OKA is still at the muffler place and will stay there for the rest of the week.
So we stay at the house and start sieving through our brochures and books. We have to find a system on how to track information so we can retrieve it all easily when we travel through that area.
There is so much to be read about Australia!

The week before Easter the OKA is back and Ruedi continues working on the electrical installation.
Susi is loading the cabinets.
Goal is to have the OKA loaded with all the equipment that we want to take along after Easter so we can weigh it again and have the pure facts on the total weight.

A new noise test is scheduled for Thursday before Easter but has to be shifted to Tuesday after Easter.

On Tuesday morning we take the OKA to the weighbridge.
7,46 t .... hmmmmm ..... a bit heavy.
Now the last hopes that we can keep the nice wheel carrier are definitely gone.

We take the truck to OKA and pass it on to Linden for the noise test.
The noise test is started and Murphy strikes again: the machine breaks!

What a day! We should have staid in bed!
We are all so frustrated but there is not much we can do.
Arthur gets the machine fixed and the next noise test is scheduled for Wednesday.

And this time the test is passed with 80.6 db!
Beautiful! We are all so pleased.
The last papers are submitted to Canberra and now the long wait for the compliance plates begins.
It can take between 2 and 8 weeks ... knowing our luck we expect 8 weeks ...

On Thursday evening the spare wheel carrier is removed from the OKA.
What a shame to see such a nice peace of engineering go, but we can get rid of 108 kg in one go so it makes sense.

Ade tries his best with the angle grinder but has to get the oxy to attack Thomas's and Manfred's work.
It has been built to support years of off-roading with 2 x 90 kg of spear wheels on it .....

Ruedi helps but Ade thinks that Ruedi's "protective clothe" are not safe enough, so Ade finishes the job.

After an additional treatment with a heavy hammer the legs let go.
The original frame has been spared and after grinding off the last bits it looks like new.
A bit of paint will finish the job.

With all the equipment we have unloaded (especially some of the recovery gear as it is so heavy) the OKA is now down to 7,17 t.

For the uplift an external company modifies the truck with air springs that are added on top of the leave springs. The shock absorbers are also replaced with stronger types.
The modifications require official approval and an additional break test will have to be performed.

Since the OKA can only be driven with a dealer plate until the compliance plate is issued Ruedi is officially hired by OKA as a test driver.
We test the camper for one week around Kalbarri.

We test winch, sandanchor and sand-mats in the soft sand at the beach.
The sandanchor is large enough so the winch can pull the OKA out of the sand.
The sandmats do their job but should not be used under the front wheels as they get banged into the back-section's underbody when the OKA drives out of the bog.

One day later we get bogged unintentionally in a river bed but manage to get out of the soft sand by just lowering the tyre pressure and a bit of digging.
This is good too as we currently have smaller (285/70 R19.5) tyres on the truck. The final ones will be wider (305/70 R19.5) and will have Bead Locks fitted which allowes much lower tyre pressure.

The days after we go for a bit of a fun-ride together with a friend of ours in his Patrol. As we are not yet familiar with the width of the OKA we get off the track and get stuck in stinking wet black silt.
This timed we are much deeper dig in as the day before.
The silt is kind of slippery with no grip. Since the diff-lock on the front axle fails to engage, we have only the back axle working. The sand anchor is just dragged through the sand and disappears into the ground without being able to move the OKA.
We try with snatchstraps but have no success.
At the end we place the Patrol on top of the sandanchor and by using both, the OKAs and the Patrols winch, we manage to drag the OKA out of his bog.

Overall we can say that the truck rides well and life in the back-section is comfortable and pleasing. We are also happy with the recovery gear and feel comfortable using it.
We are very satisfied with the exception of the performance when driving in soft sand. The heavy weight of the fully laden camper will always be a handicap

One morning we find the OKA with some graffiti on the back wall. Luckily the paint is still wet and with a lot of elbow-grease and strong cleaning agents a few hours later it looks as good as new.

Back in Perth the rustproofing is done. The company doing it tells us that the airbags seem to be moving along the leave springs and that they are not in the original positions anymore.
Ruedi takes the OKA back to the suspension company and they change the setup.

After extensive investigation Ruedi finds the problem in the very complex underfloor heating. Some pipes are not connected in the correct sequence.
After some changes the heating works flawless.

By the end of June 2006 the compliance plate is still not issued. As in the meantime some rules have changed, additional tests have been ordered and OKA doesn't pass all of them in the first instance. As long as the compliance plate is missing, we can not do the additional break tests necessary to upgrade the truck to 7260 kg. Without completion of these tests we are unable to licence the truck and get a licence plate.
The continuous delays are bad news for us. We have to start our trip to Alice Springs latest on July 1st to be able to meet a Swiss couple there on time. We have planned to travel together during their holidays and we are supposed to bring them some equipment. We can by no means shift the date, its too late. Slowly we are getting very nervous.

As expected the OKA doesn't get licensed by Canberra in time, even though meanwhile all the tests have been completed. Depending when this will be completed they will then deliver the Camper either to Alice Springs, Broome or Darwin.

OKA organises a old Toyota Landcruiser (ex. Britz Bushcamper) for us so we can start our trip in time.
It is very cramped but will have to do for the time being.

Once the plates from Canberra have been received OKA finishes the break-testing. During the testing again one of the airsprings shifts, hits the muffler and blows up. OKA takes the truck back to the suspension place and has the bag fixed. The break-test is passed and OKA licenses the truck for us.

The truck dealer in Alice Springs organises the truck for the transport of the OKA but does not consider the height of the back-section, it should have been a low-loader. As organising a low-loader would lead to another delay of at least one week we change our plans one last time.

We drive from Alice Springs to Perth (2951 km) within 3 days, pick up the camper, reload all the equipment from the Landcruiser to the OKA, drive in 3 more days to Broome (2145 km) and continue our trip with our friends.



No liability for timeliness, integrity and correctness of this document is accepted.
Last updated: Thursday, 10.01.2019 3:30 PM

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