Holden Colorado 1 Year On


It was a big move to shift from the much loved HJ61 Landcruiser to the Holden Colorado, but after the transmission died on our last big trip north and we began planning a trip to Tassie I realised that the cruiser might not be my ‘forever’ car.

After much research and pondering I settled on the Colorado – a 2015 model with 7000ks on the clock and being sold by a young bloke who just ‘wanted out’. He had done some mods – a $3K stereo (wasted on me), some big Cooper max’s, snorkle and tint. It was a good looking beast and a real bargain.

I drove a few different dual cabs and I liked the drive of the Amarok the best, but I couldn’t beat the deal I was going to get on the Colorado – especially as it came with a 5 year warranty and 3 years of free servicing.

So how has it been now that we are 37000ks in?

Well… I don’t think its a car you ‘fall in love with’ like the old cruiser, but it has been a really good beast. I have since added a brake controller, reversing camera, roof racks, side steps, nudge bar and lights, canopy and seat covers to make it a bit more suited to my needs.

It rates highest in its class for power and torque and it doesn’t miss a beat here. It has heaps of grunt, tows well and accelerates nicely. There is a little turbo lag but not heaps. We tow 2 1/2 tonnes of caravan and it has no trouble at all. You certainly know the van is there, but its never been a struggle.

The fuel economy is not as good as the specs – not by a long way – but then I rarely drive it at 80km/hr around a flat track with no wind… I drive it loaded up in the rear every day and often with a trailer. Without a trailer we are looking at 11.8 around town and with a trailer around 13. With the caravan I can tow it down Lord Forrest Freeway at 90kph and get 15-16 on a good day… or if we have to smash into the wind while doing 100kph on the way back from an up north trip it might get 20-21… ouch. I did get 8.5-9 when I first had it and drove it like a granny on the freeway, but who does that every day?!…

After driving a car made in 1987 things like ‘auto off’ headlights, bluetooth and all manner of warning lights are quite a hit. The best thing is the comfortable seats – made moreso by the addition of sheepskin covers – meaning driving never gets old. Adding a canopy to the rear was also a smart move. It dramatically increases the storage space and means working from the back is so much easier. The original tonneau cover was always going to be a stretch,.

What’s not to like?

It gets a bit rattly when you wind it up and that engine noise could do with a bit of refining. The Coopers look great but they do kick up some road noise (gotta rotate them every 10k to prolong their life and stop the chunking out). The sound system is great but Pandora loses connection often which is a PIA, but none of these are major things.

The best bits?

I love the steering wheel controls for audio and cruise control and the driving position is great. There is heaps of rear leg room for the kids and power to really take off is awesome.

I haven’t decided yet whether I will give it another 50K and then change it up or whether I will try and hold onto it for a while. I do 30-35K a year so it could rack up the ks pretty fast.

Would I buy another one?

Probably – although I reckon the dual cabs are all pretty similar, so I would just look for the best deal and go with that.



Installing Polyair Bags on HJ61 Landcruiser

* Make sure you read the update at the end of this as well as the post…

Towing a fairly heavy trailer every day I have noticed the saggy butt on my old cruiser and decided it was time to do something about it.

I had some poly-airs on my previous GQ Patrol and they did a good job of regulating the levels when loaded up, so at $275 on eBay I figured there wasn’t much to lose.

Installing looked pretty simple and bar a few annoying inconveniences wasn’t too bad. For those who also find the Poly-air ‘instructions’ close to useless here’s what we did with some pics.

I began on my own but a mate offered to help and skin his knuckles on the difficult to access screws so I gladly accepted 🙂

To be fair the instructions point you in the right direction but just don’t answer the tricky questions.

So to get rolling we jacked it up, (did one side at a time) stuck an axel stand under and got cracking. The instructions suggest you may be able to use a bump stop, but we found it was positioned too far back to allow the bottom bracket to be fitted.

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The first trick is to drill the holes in the chassis rail. Not too hard but tricky access. Make sure you drill 1/4 inch holes for those bigarse self tappers though because I managed to shear one off first time around and no one carries them. I ended up using a smaller gauge self tapper to do the job and hopefully it will be ok.

The screws go in slowly… Before you fix it in place be sure to connect the air hose as it would be hard afterwards.

The bottom bolts were a concern because they splayed somewhat when seated on the leaf spring but we managed to tighten them up and eliminate most of the angle once the bracket was fitted. They supply you with two brackets, but don’t tell you what the other one is for… I threw it out as it didn’t seem to be needed.

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Once the nuts on the bottom are tightened up (be sure to insert the small horizontal bracket before doing so) you are good to run the hose – pretty easy. I ran mine to the back bumper and drilled a couple of holes there for the valves.

We inflated them briefly to make sure they were running the minimum of 5PSI, but didn’t realise how quickly they went up. I checked the pressure and it was 50… oops… The max is 30 so we quickly let some out.

We ground off the ends of the bolts to tidy it up and then did the same on the other side

IMG_6888 (1)I’ve set it around 18PSI and it sits level but I’ll be experimenting for a bit to see what works best. Definitely a firmer ride and should be well worth it.

It only took 2 1/2 hours so isn’t a big job. But as I said, the instructions are pretty dodgy in places so hopefully this will help you if you get stuck.



Ok – so we did this and had a few brackets left over. I had emailed Polyair and the mob I bought these off to clarify instructions as the ones that came with the kit were pretty average.

It turns out there aren’t supposed to be any brackets left over… So began the task of figuring out what I had got wrong. It turns out the other bracket is intended to sit under the poly air spring and on the top of the leaf spring

















Its a bit hard to see it in this post, but essentially it connects to the circular plate under the spring and then is joined to the bottom bracket by the bolts. Its a much better setup now and feels a lot more secure. It also explains why the bolts splayed like they did… They were never supposed to sit like that in the first place. Polyair could do with sending a photo of the finished set up out with their instructions as I’d be guessing I’m not the only one who has found it puzzling. Anyway problem solved.


Stop Ya Bastard

I love that Aussie car product you can buy called ‘Start Ya Bastard’ for cars that won’t start when they should, but today I had the opposite problem – the Cruiser wouldn’t shut down… So if you also happen to have an HJ61 Landcruiser and you can’t get it to stop then this may be the post you are looking for.

I was a little confused because I took it in yesterday for a new radiator and the problem only occurred after that. I drove it home, turned it off, took the key out and she just kept running. It began by just running on for a few seconds before shutting down so fortunately I was aware of it and didn’t get stuck out and about with a car that I couldn’t stop. But tonight it just decided to keep running and running and running…

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I discovered how to shut it down manually by activating the diaphragm – just push the rod towards the front the of the car (see the arrow on the diagram) and it stops. But this is supposed to be activated by a vacuum and clearly that wasn’t happening. I could do it mechanically but it wasn’t working as it should have been – and all hoses were intact…

I tracked the hose back to the device that has the red square around it but then got stuck. I didn’t know what it was and didn’t want to bugger something up.

But don’t you love google and forums?! When my dad wanted to teach me about cars at 17 I just wanted to go surfing, so I didn’t take anything in and now I am playing catch up. But fortunately a google search revealed others had encountered this problem too. I began reading at 8 o’clock and at 9 I was out there in the shed with a spotlight trying to get it back up and running.

So the vacuum switch valve (vsv) is the one in the square that activates the vacuum that shuts the car down. It is held on by one small 12ml bolt. I pulled it off cleaned it and blew it out, put it back on and all worked well in several tests. I am guessing some crap in the valve may have been the issue.

The forums showed that these valves are expensive – about $170 to buy from Toyota – if you can get them… but if you can’t you can get the same valve on Corollas manufactured in the early 80s and they are a dime a dozen around wreckers.

So there you have it. She stops now which is good because come Friday next week we are off to Karajini for a week and out of internet range.

Thanks to those who took the time to put it on the forums – just thought I’d return the favour to anyone searching for this problem.

If you need to access a manual for the 12HT then Tim has kindly uploaded one here and it is section EM34 you need to refer to.

I Mighta Nailed It

carBy the end of our winter holiday up north I had begun to doubt my love for the GU Patrol that I had purchased back in January…

Let’s be honest – it was a tenuous relationship at best but the abysmal fuel economy we got on holidays meant I had to really re-think things. To get 19L/100km when towing is pretty bad for a late model diesel car and even when the camper was off the back I was still getting 15l/100 at best. Ouch…

It had been a bit of a disappointment in that regard and while it was a smooth ride and a good car my heart just wasn’t in it.

You know that’s the case when you find yourself surfing Gumtree and Carsales looking for the car you really want… I still had a saved search for an HJ61 Landcruiser with the 12HT Turbo motor and I would get sent ‘new arrivals’ every week or so. There is plenty of junk out there and plenty of high km rubbish, but I was hoping that I just might score a gem if I waited long enough and jumped quick enough.

My friend Stuart tells me that “women wear clothes and men ‘wear’ cars”. I felt like I was wearing something that didn’t fit me well at all. To change the metaphor – if my car were a house it would have a been a newly built two storey project home – nice, clean, practical and somewhat boring. But I wanted a car a bit more like our house – a little quirky, a bit of character and more interesting.

I realise 60 series Cruisers are not a thing of beauty to everyone, but they happen to be a car I love the appearance of and the feel of. And the direct injection diesel motor is a beast to drive too. So I waited… and tried to love the Patrol…

Then one day I saw it.

A one owner HJ61 with just 270000ks on the clock and in immaculate condition. I rang the owner, chatted with him, sussed out his best price and then announced to Danelle that I was going to buy this car. I had found what I had been looking for… even if it was in Canberra and I was going to buy it without seeing it.

She said ‘ok’. Truth be told she even got excited for me…

My mate Russell took a look and a drive and gave it a green light. So I sent the 12k over for a 1987 car, hoping I wasn’t going to regret it. I had it transported over for another $1200 (cheaper than flying and driving back I calculated) and after 10 days it arrived.

And its been a winner.  I actually don’t like to change cars often simply for the cost of change over, but I just couldn’t find the right one for the 9 months previous. I sold the old GQ that had been my baby to buy the first 60 Series but it was a bit of a mishmash and then the Patrol was a fuel guzzler.

I actually calculated that the saving in fuel alone with this car is approx $2300 PA over the Patrol, so although I took a hit on selling it this one will eventually catch me up.

We did our first run down south with the camper over the weekend and it went superbly. The car had heaps of power, the air con was cold, the seats were comfortable and at 12L/100 it didn’t cost the earth either.

So far I’ve rigged it up with:

– a new stereo – the factory tape deck just wasn’t going to cut it

– a set of HIDs

– a brake controller – which I seem to have wired incorrectly

– some seat covers

Still to come is a reversing camera – great for hitching up the trailer. Also remote central locking. While it has central locking from the front door it is one of the things I’d like to change. It will get tinted shortly, have a transmission cooler installed and then I’ll look at some other stuff, like an EGT gauge. The trickiest thing to install have been cup holders and I still haven’t solved that one adequately…

But I’m hoping you will see the Cruiser on the road for a while now and maybe even a long time to come.







The Other 4bies

This is purely for my own entertainment and a little bit of reminiscing.

Up until we came to Butler I hadn’t got into 4wding at all. I was more a sports car kinda guy… yeah… I’d be thinking that too.


But one day my father in law left his cruiser with us for a while and I decided it was time to give this 4wding thing a go. So I hopped in and took it down the tracks north of Jindalee and onto the beach, where it promptly got bogged. Not all that surprising seeing as I was figuring it out on the run. There was a fairly ugly internal panic going on as I realised I was on the beach alone and out of phone range… with someone else’s car. Ooops

I got out and started to dig it out and then remembered something about letting the tyres down. Once I dropped the pressures I was away, and headed straight home. I didn’t want my next move to be bogging it below the high tide line.

After that drive I decided it was time to ‘get one of them’. As you do… Nothing like a bit of adrenalin to get you inspired.


So I began to look around at the bottom end of the market and found an old 1981 Landcruiser on LPG and bought it for $4500.00. It was a 4 speed, with way too much rust, but it was unstoppable. It was the kinda car that didn’t matter if it copped a few dents, or if the kids played on the bonnet…

We took that car everywhere and it certainly was the goods when it came to the dunes or anything off road. Its great when you can smash a car and just not care!

On the road the 4 speed was just a bit annoying once you got to 100kph and the fumes that made their way into the cab from the exhaust were at times a bit overpowering. The only time it really gave us grief was on the way back from Busso in Dec 2004 and the crankshaft pulley and harmonic balancer fell off. The engine bay was covered in oil and we had to get towed home. You can read about that saga here and here and here and finally here

We eventually decided to retire it after a couple of years and a local kid bought it. It became legend of the Butler neighbourhood until it was stolen from him and never seen again. So Big Blue is out there somewhere but we don’t know where.


After Big Blue – (which could have been called big red based on the amount of rust in her) – I decided to look for another cruiser but free of rust and picked up a stunning old 1985 Cruiser with no rust and just 185ks ks for just $5K.  This was a beautiful car but with the old 3F motor on LPG but there were days you wondered if it could get up a decent hill. It wasn’t going to be our round Oz car, and while it was comfortable and spacious  I just couldn’t see us towing a camper around Oz in it. Bummer because it was an awesome old car.

From here it was onto Big Red the 1996 Patrol and that was a beast. She lasted us 5 years and a round Oz adventure and wsa a brilliant car.

Of course I have already mused on the latest cars here.








When Boys Play

I took these photos today while we were at Scarborough Beach with the Christian Surfers crew.

It was another day of sizable swell down at Scarborough and it was bigger than most of the micro-groms could manage. Sam dipped his board in the water then turned to me and shook his head… ‘nah Dad… too big’

I kinda knew it, but hoped he might have at least got hammered a couple of times before deciding to bale. His cousin managed to paddle right out the back earlier only to get ‘stuck’ there before being cleaned up and washed in.

With the surf a bit big for the boys today they just congregated in the shore break and played. Boys – many of whom don’t know each other at all, joined together and jumped waves, got smashed by them, laughed together and splashed together and had fun – lots of fun – as only boys can. It really was a beautiful sight.

I was standing chatting with Travis when I noticed how much fun they were having. The laughter, the fact they had been bobbing around for over an hour, the smiles on the faces all said ‘we are having a good time!’

Its great to see kids play so I said to Trav – ‘excuse me a moment’ as I quickly snapped some pics – pics that will forever speak of joy and fun and the good things in life that come when boys get together and do what boys do.

Failure, Success & Perspective

How we started the conference from Epic Fail Pastors Conference on Vimeo.

This is a longish post provoked by the clip above – a starter for the ‘Epic Fail Conference’ last year.

I was reflecting this morning that after 47 years of life I have had a fair old mix of failures, successes, failures that some would consider successes and successes that some would consider failures.

So much depends on perspective and the ability to learn.

One of the most pivotal experiences of my life (as young as I was) was ‘failing’ the 11+ exam when we lived in Belfast. Essentially this was a test to see if you were a smart kid or a dumb one and as a result you would either go to ‘grammar school’ and then uni or a ‘tech college’ where you would learn a trade. I have a lousy memory, but I do remember that when the numbers were counted I finished on the wrong side of the ledger and was bound for life as a tradie rather than someone with a university qualification.

I hadn’t realised before that exam that I wasn’t smart. I honestly hadn’t thought much about it, but at that point it was made clear to me. Then shortly after that exam we moved to Australia. After 3 months living in Nollamara which was a small slice of hell for a fat, freckled Irish kid we moved to Innaloo (yep – its a real suburb name and I’ve heard all the jokes…) and I went to North Innaloo Primary School.

I remember immediately getting slotted into the ‘lower academic stream’ class, which based on my immediate history was probably where I belonged. I was in that class for all of about 2 hours. What became apparent very quickly was that I was far more advanced in my education than my Aussie mates. The simple and very uninspiring reason for this was that we started school in Ireland 2 years younger than in Oz so I had done a lot of the work that Aussie kids were just starting on. I managed to knock off an hour of long division work in just 10 minutes and then 30 minutes later I found myself being relocated to the ‘smart class’.

Me?… Smart?…

You’re kiddin me right?

But I discovered that compared to those around me I was now above average academically. What happened over that year was that I began to believe I was actually a smart kid… and I finished up as runner up dux of the school.

Had I been back in Ireland chances are I would have been believing a different story about myself and living out of that. The interesting thing is that I wasn’t stupid – but I likely would have believed that about myself because ‘men in white coats’ told me so.

That was a formative experience and one that gave me courage for the future. In early high school I probably wagged as much school as I attended and consequently got caught up to academically. I was still pretty capable and had grown in confidence, but wasn’t quite the ‘superboy’ I once felt I was. Now I was just the ratbag kid who was constantly in trouble. I could still get decent grades with minimal effort so my energies went into other more important activities like basketball and surfing.

At the end of year 12 I bombed on the TEE and scraped into Phsy Ed at UWA with the lowest entrance score of all 120 of us. I know because we compared results on the Phys Eder’s orientation camp (now there’s another story…) and I was bottom of the pile. This time it was sheer determination that got me thru. After 1 year there were 60 of us left and at the end of the course 30 and I was a mid level performer. I had made it and even scored a job as a teacher down in the little country town of Wagin.

Since then life has its fair share of successes and failures. To be fair the next 15 years were fairly full of successes. I did well at teaching, did well at ministry, got offered some pretty cool jobs, managed to get chosen for some roles I would never have imagined myself in and generally felt fairly invincible and able to take on anything. I see that same indomitable self belief in 30 somethings now and smile. I remember that feeling – or should I say that illusion?…

If its true that we learn more from our failures than our successes then the last 10 years have been my education – and I’m sure I’m not done yet. Living with an illusion of invincibility is wonderful until someone sticks a pin in the bubble and you realise that reality is quite different.

I left my team leader role at Lesmurdie Baptist to begin Upstream with a sense of being someone who would ‘show the world’ what decent church planting looked like. My reasoning was that if I could succeed there (Lesmurdie), then I could succeed somewhere else and who could possibly stuff up a church plant in a new suburb?

Yeah, well if you’ve been a long time reader then you’d know that things didn’t go to plan at all. It was a really hard road and it didn’t turn out anything like I imagined or hoped it would. It was humbling and at times even humiliating not to achieve what I thought I could. My vision of success wasn’t in blessing and serving a community and seeing God’s kingdom come. It was in growing and expanding a church (albeit of a different kind to the norm) that would do some good things but that would ultimately make me look pretty good.

I won’t bore you with the ins and outs of that journey as there is plenty in the archives to do that… but fair to say that in my personal failure there was some amazing learning.

I need to add that what we did with Upstream wasn’t a failure in the sense of it not being valuable. (Danelle always reminds me of this.) It was a brilliant time and there was much good to come from it. But in terms of what I personally set out to achieve – it was a big ‘F’.

Since then there have been a few other significant ‘F’s, some that have knocked us around a bit (again I won’t detail them all) but in the process of ‘effing’ I am conscious of becoming a much fuller human being. Some of the quotes in the clip above make much better sense to me now. Some of the struggles of others who find life hard make more sense to me now too.

I find myself somewhat less idealistic these days and at times barely optimistic. I understand some of the cynicism I used to see in older people who have ‘been there done that’an couldn’t get excited if their life depended on it.

And yet I do have a deep sense that some of our best adventures and our service to God are yet to come. Maybe they won’t end with my fame and glory as I once thought, but perhaps there is stuff of real consequence and significance to invest our lives in. I think so anyway…

Perhaps one of the most powerful learnings of the last phase of life has been that ‘I cannot make it happen/ I am not in control’ as I once thought I was. Its a pretty obvious one really. But in the wake of a number of successes its easy to see yourself as the common element. That learning about the limitations of my own abilities has at times caused me to be passive as I have thought ‘it doesn’t matter what I do – it isn’t going to make a difference’. That thought is a long way from the gung ho attitude of my early 30’s, and is obviously an unhealthy overreaction.

Lately I’ve been feeling like the ‘dust has been settling’ somewhat and that maybe there is a new challenge around the corner. I’m not sure what form that takes or even if I’m right about that, but I feel like I’m ready. There is so much in scripture & history about leaders who have had periods of darkness or failure which have served as some of their richest growth periods.

Then again I might just keep rolling in the same vein for many years to come, but I feel like I am doing so with a much healthier perspective and a much greater sense of hope. Paul’s words about having this treasure in jars of clay rings very true and now the ‘claylike’ nature of my being is less disturbing to me. Superman I am not. Of course everyone else knew that long ago – just took me a while to figure it out.

The Birdman Rally

Yesterday Sambo and I took a drive up to Yanchep so I could show him around and he could get a feel for the place. He has been a little apprehensive about the possible move so I thought if we went and had a bit of blokey fun then it might ease his anxiety.

So we jumped the fence and went for a walk along the controversial skybridge, headed up to the beach that is just by our doorstep and went for a swim, checked out the surf at The Spot and then drove up to Two Rocks to look at the remains of Atlantis Marine Park.

It was a beautiful morning, swimming with dolphins and generally having a lot of laughs. I even stopped in a quirky garage sale where a bloke was selling about $300.00 worth of reticulation cable for just $20.00 so that was a cool score.

While at the Two Rocks Marina I began to tell Sam the story of the old Birdman Rally that stopped in Perth sometimes in the late 70’s (much to my chagrin). In case you are too young to remember the Birdman Rally was a charity event that involved people launching themselves off a 10 m tower into the marina in a self designed and contructed flying machine. Most were feeble and hilarious, but the odd one did glide just enough to possibly constitute ‘flying’.

I was disappointed when it ended and often wondered what it would take to get it resurrected. (Probably a truckload of insurance money) I googled it and saw that there is a version happening now in Victoria, but its sad that such a fun and crazy event got lost. At least I loved it…

Here’s a pic of the original at Two Rocks. If anyone wants to resurrect it then let me know and I’ll lend a hand!

Apart from the Birdman Rally Yanchep was well known for Atlantis Marine Park, that also died a death due to lack of custom and ‘Grass Skiing’ an activity that involved what looked like skiing down a large grassy slope. Again (I’m guessing) the distance from customers meant it wasn’t a profitable business and it also shut down.

Here we are 20 years on and I’m curious to see what develops in the ‘far north’ as the rest of Perth expands to meet it.

Dad’s ‘Show Up’

Simon seems to be able describe our human state so very well.

He does it again .

In case you don’t click the link the summary is ‘Dad’s ‘showing up’ in your kids life is priceless and your absence will be noticed’.

I read this on a day when Sam has been particularly ‘avoidable’ and when I find my love and patience wearing a tad thin…

Thanks Simon.