Living off-grid in the UK


When I hear that term I tend to picture two extremes; Ted Kaczynski and Christopher McCandless on one end of the spectrum and well-funded hipsters who build forty thousand dollar cabins where they spend the weekend when it’s not too cold.

For the past week I’ve been watching a series of videos produced by a chap who goes by the pseudonym of Max Ironthumper. Max made a couple dozen videos showing how he restored an old Land Rover (11a). I’ve been addicted to Land Rover porn for the last six months and was immediately hooked by Max’s laid back style and can-do attitude. (Two attributes I admire and covet)

While poking around on Max’s YouTube channel I came across this video (above) in which he talks about how and why he lives off the grid. There’s nothing evangelical about Max’s reasons for how he lives, just an honest account of how he does it. I don’t know if Max lives alone. In one of the restoration videos he mentioned a partner and we get a few glimpses of his dog, his cat, and his chickens.

From a technical perspective, this video is especially effective. For 20 minutes Max speaks extemporaneously with only a few notes. That’s really hard to do but Max has the gift. He’s not afraid to let you see him pause, to think and reflect on something he said or is about to say. I’m making Max sound more philosophical than he probably is. And there’s plenty of technical stuff in this video for the DIY crowd.

I’d be willing to fly across an ocean for the chance to hang out with Max in his shop for a day (and ride in one of his Land Rovers).

PS: If you liked this video, I recommend Project Awesome.

The truck as performance art

It’s been a few weeks since I got my first look at what I’ve started thinking of as “the Eldon truck.” It’s sitting outside the garage of a local mechanic who one day hopes to find the time to bring it back to life. In a bizarre example of cosmic coincidence, it’s the same year (’79) and model (Series III) as my Land Rover. While I’ve yet to get my hands on my truck, I have been allowed to poke around inside the Eldon truck.

The the owner of the truck (now deceased) reportedly bought it new in 1979 and wasn’t bashful about “enhancing” it over the years, the flyswatter and fan being to of my favorite mods.

As a general rule I tend to be clutter-averse. I like things tidy. But sitting in the driver’s seat of this old truck, it’s hard not to get a sense of performance art. There’s a Rube Goldberg Machine quality to all his little tweaks.

In the photo above, note the Mystery Knob. I don’t think this was merely decorative. It had some purpose but the old man took that with him when he went.

My truck will arrive in pristine condition. Seems unlikely I’ll live long enough to give it the character of this beauty. I’ll do my best.

Dashboards

As automobiles got smarter and smarter, dashboards got more complex. My MINI dash can show stuff I still haven’t discovered, six years in. Better to have that kind of data than not (I guess), but I rarely look at most of it. Really old cars didn’t tell you much. So you had to be looking under the hood (And everywhere else, I suppose) with some regularity. But I found this simplicity refreshing. Hard to see in this photos because the museum was pretty stingy with the lighting.

Originally, the word dashboard applied to a barrier of wood or leather fixed at the front of a horse-drawn carriage or sleigh to protect the driver from mud or other debris “dashed up” (thrown up) by the horses’ hooves. (Wikipedia)

1947 Hudson Pickup

1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II

1932 DeSoto CSC Roadster

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Auto World Museum

I’ve been driving past the Auto World Museum (Fulton, MO) for years. Just wasn’t interested in old cars. Spent a couple of hours there yesterday with my friend Henry and it was pretty amazing. Way more interesting than the automotive museum I visited in San Diego earlier this year. I’m still trying to ID some of the cars (more photos) but will take notes on my next visit.