I just had an adventure…not one that turned out the way I had wanted it to.
Sheesh, if I don’t stop beginning these blogs off with the latest vehicle I’ve purchased you might think that I’m indecisive or something. Yes, I bought another vehicle and I have yet again changed my plans, but I’ll get to that later. I suppose I should start from the beginning then, so here it is, the beginning of my journey with the Leyland DAF T244.
Roughly two months ago I was in Red Deer, Alberta with Alison. We were driving back to Alison’s sister’s house and as we passed through a roundabout I noticed a military truck sitting in a used car lot. It’s not often that you see ex-military vehicles sitting in used car lots, especially in Canada. I’m like every little boy out there, when I see a military convoy driving down highway I get all excited and start rubber-necking hard, so it was no surprise that I was immediately interested in what I saw in that used car lot. I was so intrigued by the idea of an ex-military vehicle in a used car lot that I immediately went and did a little research when we finished our drive back. It was shortly after that I was reading the used cars lots ad and my eyes were bugging out of my skull.
Perhaps I’ve mentioned in previous blogs my journey of indecision with vehicle options and perhaps you might remember mentioning how I had looked at a Dodge 2500 with a Cummins 5.9L turbo diesel and possibly swapping a 12 valve into a vehicle. I identified fairly early in my search for the perfect mobile living vehicle that I wanted a diesel and 4x4 capability and I had thought extensively about swapping the famed Cummins 12 valve into a variety of different vehicles before doing away with idea because I wasn’t interested in all the work of doing a swap. Having to do away with the Cummins swap idea was kind of too bad because it’s a legendary motor known by many for going well past a million kilometers with little else than basic maintenance. Well, you may have guessed by now why my eyes were so wide while I was reading the ad for the DAF, yes, the old military truck is equipped with a Cummins 12 valve. I drove back to the used car lot with Alison that night to take a closer look at the truck. I was instantly in love. The truck is a cab over flatdeck transport truck with significant ground clearance, four wheel drive, high and low range, locking diffs and big interior space in the cab. We left the truck that night but my brain would not let me not think about it. When I left Red Deer that weekend I stopped by the lot for some more pictures.
Lets fast forward to two weeks later. I’ve put out some feelers and done a little more research. After going looking for problems with these trucks I have found very few problems and nothing that isn’t easily fixed. The Leyland DAF trucks have been decommissioned by the British military since 2004 (06?) and are now used extensively as expedition trucks in the UK and EU. The British military had brought a hand full of the trucks over to their training facility in Suffield, Alberta and that’s where Canada’s supply of Leyland DAF’s had come from. After looking around I only found two for sale, but when I was contacted by another Canadian DAF owner a new opportunity arose and in my home town of Abbotsford, BC no less. Before driving back to my parents place for an early Christmas I had the opportunity to test drive the DAF in Red Deer which further confirmed that I really really really really wanted one.
I’m going to make a long story short. I met with the owner of not one, but two DAF’s in Abbotsford, BC when I was back there for Christmas. What he had was one restored and one un-restored. I said that if I could sell my van (Norton) that I would buy the un-restored DAF which was considerably less expensive than the one I had found in Red Deer. Due to the fact that the owner wanted to begin stripping down and restoring the DAF that I was interested in he gave me an ultimatum, I had to tell him whether or not I could buy it by Dec 31, 2018. A couple weeks later, Norton went to his new owner on Dec 28, 2018. I called up the DAF owner in BC immediately after and then sent him a deposit.
Another two weeks later and I was flying to BC to go pick up the truck, this is when my little misadventure began. Insurance, registration and payment for the new-to-me 1990 Leyland DAF went well and smooth, and I was driving away from the yard not long after landing in Abbotsford. I had told my parents I would take them for a ride when i arrived at their place. I decided to take my new truck up Sumas mountain for its first little romp under new ownership. After bouncing around for an hour my brother met us at the lower parking lot at the Sumas mtn entrance and I took my brother up for a quick ride as well.
When the day grew old and we descended down the mountain I was driving down the road and came around a blind corner to a construction crew working on a telephone pole, I was a little spooked and hit the brakes a little hard and then truck promptly died. We rolled to a stop just short of the work crew and when I went to start the truck up it wouldn’t start, the battery was dead. I called the previous owner and told him what had happened, he had assured me that he wanted me taking home a good vehicle so he was quick to hop in his truck and meet us where we were to assess the problem. Another long story short, the alternator was dead. By the next morning we had a new alternator in the truck and I was on my way. As a drove down the highway towards Hope, BC I had begun to notice large clouds of smoke as I reached higher RPM’s (the truck maxes out a 90km/h and is revving at roughly 2400 rpm at that point). I knew the truck had been sitting for quite some time so I assumed that it was simply burning a little less efficiently as the injectors cleaned.
When I reached Merritt, BC I met up with my new friend Matt who had been the one who steered me in the direction of my new truck. I parked by Matt’s truck and shut off the truck and went for food. When I returned to the DAF and proceeded to start the truck it again wouldn’t start. Matt being an electrician by trade had his tester with him and we quickly determined that I had another dying/dead alternator. For whatever reason we decided to press on in hopes that we could make it somewhere further down the road before dark. We made it as far as Kamloops, BC before my batteries ran out of juice and I had no lights. We decided to we would stay the night in Kamloops and return to Abbotsford the next day. As we drove through the city of Kamloops to get to the hotel we had chosen I was pulled over by the police and told I had no lights. Luckily I was, at that point, about 50 meters from the hotel parking lot and I was allowed to park for the night without any tickets incurred.
In the morning we charged the DAF’s batteries one by one using Matt’s truck and were off to the races in short order. Unfortunately our success didn’t last long. Although I had been told it wasn’t necessary to pass the weigh stations with this truck because it was a private vehicle I had been passing through scales so that the CVSE could see I had no load on, well, the West-bound Kamloops weight station had their pass-through lane closed off so I had to actually weigh the truck and then I was pulled in for a papers inspection. One thing led to the next and we found out that my batteries were already dead and I had no lights. Although we could charge the batteries with Matt’s truck so that we could drive for up to an hour, I was still given a ticket for having in-operable lights. Great. Luckily we weren’t deemed “out of service” and were allowed to go on our way back to Abbotsford.
This tale would have ended in short order had it not been for what Matt and I had begun to notice during our drive to Kamloops and back. As my follow driver, Matt had been keeping a close following distance behind me and was subsequently being showered in motor oil. We had noticed this first just outside of Kamloops and it became fairly apparent that it wasn’t normal for the truck to be bleeding this much oil. It’s common for some oil to come out the crank case breather at high rpm on the 12 valves; however, this much oil was a bit of a concern. After repeated windshield cleanings we decided to get an oil catch made up so that Matt could actually see out of his windshield. Despite the its anti-rust properties, the oil on the windshield, headlights and front end of Matt’s truck wasn’t so great. We stopped in again at Merritt and fashioned up an oil catch and then drove back to Abbotsford. When we arrived back at the yard we found the oil catch to be spilling over. The drive from Merritt to Abbotsford is a little over 200km’s. It’s a good thing I had topped up the oil.
So, now I am home in Alberta again, sans truck. Matt was a straight up champ and drove me the 1400km back to Vermilion, otherwise I would have spent money I didn’t want to spend on a plane ticket that I didn’t really want to buy. I have made the decision to purchase the other truck that has been restored and driven instead of attempting the restoration of the initial DAF I had purchased. I will hopefully pick up the truck near the end of February when I return from my trip to California. All this was unfortunate, but I had a lot of fun. Driving the DAF is a great experience and I’m still looking forward to many great adventures, hiccups and snags always happen, you just have to roll with it and figure out solutions. As of yet I have no information concerning what is actually wrong with the motor and electrical system of the DAF i drove to Kamloops and back but I’m sure to find out soon enough.
BIG shout out to Matt for all his help this past weekend, I would have been up shit creek without a paddle had he not been around to help out. Huzzah for shared interests and legendary Canadian kindness. Matt, yer a legend mate!