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STAGHOUND ARMOURED CAR.
Some may think that working in a military museum would be a dream come true. Funding and facilities to make most MV enthusiasts think they have it made.
Well that is not 100% correct. We actually do have restraints to work to, and they can become as frustrating as private ownership of said vehicles. Such is the story of the Staghound Armoured Car coming back to life at Bandiana Jan 02.
To start with if any one has seen the Stag at Bandiana (Bandi) you have to be fairly impressed. It is clean, straight and relatively complete. Some internal fittings have been removed but overall it is a great start. Especially since it has never been restored. What you see is as it was removed from service back in the late 1960s.
I had inspected the Stag and thought for a project, it was fantastic but at the time the curator had no interest in getting it going, so for a while my hands were tied. It was not until it had to be removed from the museum floor to rearrange some exhibits that we got the go ahead. But it was only to be worked on for the duration that the exhibits were off the floor. The other requirement was to get it going at NO COST to the museum
Stag in carpark (something you donít see everyday)
Once in the workshop, the first thing was to at least see if we could get any power up. Easily said if it had battery cables. This is where we found the curator had years earlier painted all cabling white to make it look neater and tidier. Once located as far as humanly possible under the turret basket, they were retrieved and hooked up to two new batteries. A day or two with a multi meter had us powered up and eager to go.
With the electricals sorted all was looking promising. With fluids flushed and replaced it even turned over. Great.
It was here that some of the young Craftsmen working with me started to learn a new vocabulary as we tackled the next obstacle, the electric fuel pump. Once removed it was discovered to have rusted through and was now just a pile of dust. As luck would have it there was another Stag used as a gate guard nearby, and most of the original fuel pump was still intact. Another day down and one fuel pump was fabricated from the two.
For the first time since 1979, with new fuel, timing done, plugs, points etc the left engine actually started within minutes. Oil pressure was a bit on the low side, but still acceptable. The right was not so obliging....
At this time the boss decided that we could keep it out for longer to finish it as it was now decided it would hit the streets for the Australia Day Parade on Jan 26. Also the parade in Corowa the following day plus the Albury Airshow the following month.
With the approval given, on we plodded. The direction given, it will be finished, at no cost and now with a deadline. Talk about adapt, improvise and overcome. We sourced repair parts, replacement items and a couple of not so much as original but hidden at the bottom of the engine compartment they canít be seen so who cares parts as well.
Then came the big day for the test-drive. Being a military museum on military property under military law the next headaches started. What military licence codes are required for an obsolete out of service vehicle that is not grouped into anything the military currently owns??
Answer, there isnít one. So now what?? Well eventually some one agreed that a qualified person could train others to drive it providing that they had an equivalent civilian code to start with. There really arenít many Stag drivers left out there.
Eventually we trained a crew up and hit the test track. The end result, a handful of Crafties and a crusty old Warrant Officer were suitably impressed with the big beast. Although access into the driverís compartment was interesting at times if the driver was rather large.
Come Australia Day in Albury, the Stag made its debut to an enthusiastic crowd. A few old timers came up and told stories of their days driving Stags and it was interesting to note that there were only positive remarks. Reliability, cross country ability, etc. It seemed they got it right in 1943 with the Stag. Just a pity about the size of the gun. Apparently size does matter!!
Stag in Corowa engine bay open we just found the mess
If only the next day was to prove as successful.
Albury to Corowa, not far, 53kms thatís all. I was riding in a series IIa Land Rover fitted with a 106 recoilless rifle. At the scheduled halt at Howlong (only 28km down the road) it was noted that the Stag was falling back and a large plume of smoke was following. Overall not a good sign. I returned to where it had now stopped on the side of the road and the Crafties were now elbow deep in the engine bay. I happened to comment on their idea of rust proofing with reference to the amount of oil over the left engine. It was decided to continue on to Corowa on the one engine and assess the overall damage on arrival.
The run into Corowa was otherwise uneventful, there was no more smoke, (the left engine was switched off) and it still pulled harder than a cart horse heading home.
Offending Hole In Block
On completion of the street parade it was parked with the other vehicles and any work would be done once it had cooled. Once cool enough to climb into the engine bay, a hole was found in the side of the block big enough to put your whole fist in. Apparently the oil pump decided that it had had enough. So much for repairs at no cost.
One thing about military planning, we took a wrecker and trailer with us. Howís that for luck. We took it with the hope that it would not be needed. Ha!!!!!
On return to Bandi that evening, it was parked and walked away from. I suppose what can you say, the old girl is 60. Come the next week planning started for the Albury Airshow. Two weeks and counting. The boys took the engine out, I went looking.
Luck was again on our side. Although I would rather it be with the lotto. An engine was located in the next shed coupled to a Centurion transmission training aid. The engine had 13.5 hours on the clock. It almost looked too pretty to use. NOT!
Sweat, interesting language, frustration, skinned knuckles and fantastic dedication and loyalty by the boys got it in running and balanced with one day to spare.
Albury Airshow 2002 Stag, Saracen and LARC V
The end result is it made it to the Airshow and will be displayed at Avalon in the New Year. It is believed that our old girl is one of the few remaining Stags in Australia that still goes and is actually roadworthy. Although it can only be driven on the roads in a convoy with escorts but hey, I get to drive it on the streets so there. The main team and the boys to thank, CFN Nathan Flanagan, CFN Martin Fittkau, CFN Jeff Hills and CFN ďBuckĒ Buchan.
To sum it up, its 12 ton of very ugly steel that is expensive to run, hard to get in and out of, parts are increasingly harder to get and it uses so much road. But then it is so smooth to drive and has so much character you canít believe. You gotta love it.
My thanks to Ian.
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