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She was only the blacksmith's daughter, but she knew my nuts had a left hand thread

All Rights Reserved © 1997 Duncan R Fry



Here's a question for all you road warriors out there. When was the first time that you learned that the wheels on the left hand side of the truck are held on with wheel nuts that have a left hand thread on them? Well, if you're at all like me it would have been the time when you had to change your first flat tyre.

I had borrowed Colin and David Park's old Bedford J1 truck to do a gig in Mount Gambier with Sweet Pain, and they were supplying someone to help - Gordon, the world's laziest roadie. I'd worked with him before - not a bad guy, but very hard to track down when load out time came around. I couldn't use my own truck because the trusty engine in it had shit itself the night before, grinding and shuddering to a halt in the wilds of Cranbourne, on the outskirts of Melbourne.

The old Bedford was not the sort of truck that you'd normally choose for a long haul like to the Mount and back, but it did have two major points in its favour: one, it was available; and two, it had just had an engine rebuild so there was every chance of it keeping going for 800 kilometres.

Apart from that, though, it was a thought provoking vehicle to drive. To those unfamiliar with the model, if I just mention the name '1960's Myers Van' (Grace Bros in NSW, early UPS van in the USA) then that should easily bring it to mind. Rounded fibreglass body, single rear wheels, and the most flexible chassis that anyone ever put on four wheels, (and I'm including early Mustang convertibles in that). Turning any kind of corner required a great deal of planning, as indeed did just keeping it going in a straight line. Turn the wheel one way and the front end would twitch slightly and start to veer in the opposite direction. Then just when you thought it was about time to start moving back to the correct side of the road, it would suddenly move back over there by itself and head for the gutter, whereupon the whole process would start again. At least it kept you awake!

Parking it required the arm muscles of a team of sumo wrestlers, and with a full load of PA, lights and stage gear on board was well nigh impossible. You had to aim it towards the load-in door, stop as close as you could, and then start unloading from wherever you were. Only when it was empty was there any chance of steering it to a parking space.

And as for brakes - don't even think about them. Certainly the designers hadn't!

Passengers originally travelled in the lap of luxury on an upside down milk crate, sumptuously padded in leftover gaffer tape. But one night, as if by magic, a pub chair found its way into the cab. Four sawn off legs later, and truly this was now travelling in the grand manner! You just had to make sure you were holding onto the dash when starting off, otherwise you'd tip over backwards and end up sprawled up against the back doors!

It had one other little quirk that endeared itself to you. You had to unload it to fill it with petrol! Laugh if you must, but it's true. For some unknown reason the body builders had placed the fuel filler cap under a little trapdoor in the middle of the rear floor area! Honestly, you couldn't think of a worse place for it to be if you sat down and thought about it for a week.

On the positive side, though, you could put together a pretty mean car stereo in the thing. There was an opening between the cab and the back, and if you set up a couple of 4560's and a horn in this opening, it was a relatively simple job to run a lead to them from the cassette player! Even just 10 watts from the old Pioneer modular system was enough to pin the ears back. So on a steady diet of Monty Python, ZZ Top and Pink Floyd, Gordon the world's laziest roadie and I wended our merry way to the Mount.

The Bedford all fuelled up and rarin' to go. After many years at the cutting edge of the live sound industry, it ended its days in retirement as a henhouse on a chicken farm!

The trip over there went fine, but coming back it seemed to me that the truck was wallowing somewhat more than usual, and becoming ever more reluctant to return to an even keel after a turn. So, I stopped and got out to have a look at things. Sure enough, the passenger side rear tyre was flat.

So, out with the spare, which luckily was full of air. I laid it down in front of the flat tyre, and slowly drove the truck up on to it. This was an old rally driver's trick - it lets you get the jack underneath much easier, and you don't have to pump it as much to get it to the right height.

Then we got the wheel brace out and tried to loosen the nuts. They wouldn't budge. No matter how we pulled on it, the nuts were locked on tight.

"It's no good, we need some more leverage," I said, so in desperation we took an 8 foot long lighting bar from the back of the truck, slipped it over the wheel brace, and both swung on it.


The wheel nut didn't move, but the wheelbrace snapped in half!

"Shit, what are we going to do now?" asked Gordon.

I straightened my shoulders. It was time for some positive thinking.

"Fucked if I know," I replied.

We sat down on the side of the road and contemplated our position.

After about 20 minutes, a farmer pulled up.

"Havin' a bit of trouble, eh, lads?" he enquired.

We explained our predicament to him, and showed him the two halves of the wheelbrace.

"Ah, no problems, fellers. I'll just go and weld it for you!"

OK, thanks, we chorused. After all, what choice did we have? He picked up the pieces and drove off. In less than five minutes he was back.

"There you go lads. I've just done a quick job but it should do the trick.

I looked at it. It had been cleaned, beautifully welded and ground smooth so well that it was impossible to see the weld line.

"Jeez, thanks mate," I said, a little lost for words (Can this be true, Dunk? Ed)

"Here, I'll give you a hand, he said kneeling down in the dirt. "Course, you know that left hand truck wheels have left hand threads, don't you," he continued as he slipped the wheelbrace over the first nut. With a single left hand twist it spun off. Ditto for the other four!

We stood there open mouthed. Left hand threads! Who would have thought it? Only a Chrysler owner, that's for sure. If only I'd bought the Dodge sooner!

In less than no time we had the spare wheel on, thanked our benefactor profusely, and were on our way back home.

It's a lesson I never forgot.


Oh, the old Bedford had one other little foible. The back doors didn't always close properly. It must have had something to do with all the body flexing. Late one night Col and Dave Park were coming back from a gig, and somehow or other the doors worked their way open. I guess the twelve mic stands strewn behind them down the East Gippsland highway may have given some poor driver a bit of a surprise that night, but nowhere near as much as the runaway spare wheel barrelling down the road towards him would have done!


This story first appeared in Connections magazine

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