You Must Learn to Shoot Your Own Dog

This was one of my father’s favourite sayings, by which he meant you must stand on your own two feet and fetch for yourself. Never delegate responsibility to someone else.  So, for 40 years I have been fixing my own cars. For example I have been rebuilding a sequence of Subarus since circa 1978 – there are over twenty of them in the family or in the paddocks here! Collectively we have 8 of them registered and probably a similar number registerable including many vintage vehicles.

The average capital cost per kilometre of vehicles we have owned as a family over the last 40 years has been less than 1 cent per kilometre. If you compare that to your own vehicular wastrelness, you will see that we have saved a lot of money whilst at the same time building a lot of self-confidence and independence.

This is our 1996 Land Rover Defender (tray model) – a better car than which has never been built, nor will it ever wear out, as its body is rust-proof, and all the spare parts for every Land Rover are readily available (cheaply) from the 1948 model on. Also this 2500cc 300 TDI engine is a wonderful, economical simple diesel engine.

Everything about the vehicle is simple mechanics. It can all be taken apart with a spanner and reassembled on the other side of an impassable ravine if necessary – this has actually been done! We also own the matching 1995 Discovery which is the comfort model of the same car. Models with this engine run from approximately 1995-99. They should be sought after and cherished – especially if you have worked out that the cars they make today are no good – and are unfixable.

We have two of each – the last I bought cost me A$500 last year for a car that is pretty much roadworthy and has driven less than 300,000 kilometres on an engine which should last for a million! It is dark blue which is a colour I don’t specially like, but a gallon of green paint will easily change all that – if it bothers me, or I ever need to register it! It is seeing srevice around the farm as a fencing car at the moment – and as a playhouse for Milo!

I was (above) ‘cherishing’ the old wagon by installing a new alternator. The original one ‘s output had fallen to 11.8 volts, so I had battery (and wiper) problems. It is probably possible to fix it, but a lot of unsoldering and soldering would be needed to get at the internal voltage regulator. Besides the replacement was only A$205 from eg Alan at Hobart and will probably last us another twenty years! Mind you I haven’t thrown the old one out – a fault I have. Need to build some more sheds for all this stuff. I am actually in the middle of one right now.

On Alan’s website you can even see the price you will pay for practically every part you will ever need, and he gives great service. I doubt there is any question about Land Rovers he doesn’t know the answer to! While I was at it I replaced the (two) radiator filler plugs. One has  a sensor on it which runs the Enginesaver device which prevents you ever ‘killing’ your engine. You really should fit one to your car.

So it is not just that we have been self-sufficient in food (as I wrote about here: and that we also built our own house (with our own hands – even the bricks!), but we also do our own car maintenance, make our own clothes, preserves…all sorts of things. We long since learned to ‘shoot our own dog’. So should you!

PS: My dad was not so good at literally shooting his own dog, nor am I. I can remember (as a child) when his old harrier hound, Felix was becoming decrepit, messy about the house, very stiff and sore – as old dogs get – he used to head off betimes with his shotgun and the dog meaning to put him down. Instead he would come back with a hare he had shot off him for our supper. Time and again. Until that fateful day when the old dog could hunt no more. And did not return. It was a very cold sombre meal around the kitchen table that night, let me tell you. None of we children dared breathe a word before we all quietly scuttled off to bed.

Here he is on the old Chev truck circa 1955 shortly before his death. He used normally to ride on the running board.

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