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Peter Bowle Evans

This story was originally written for pilots familiar with the Mt. 7 flying site at Golden, British Columbia, Canada. To appreciate the piece, all you really need to know is that the access road has enjoyed a certain reputation. Think of sliding backwards down an incline steep enough for the vehicle to flip end over end (it happened), being buried to the differentials in mud with a bush 4 x4 (happened to me) or almost anything else to do with driving that you would NOT want to happen while going flying - we could probably challenge you to come up with one that did not happen on our road!

This guy phones up one day. "I am going to spend two or three months in Golden this summer to go flying, and I have my family with me. What sort of car do I need to get to launch?"

"TRUCK", I reply.

"I have heard something about four wheel drive. Does it have to be a four wheel drive car?"

"FOUR WHEEL DRIVE TRUCK".

"Truck?"

"TRUCK - FOUR WHEEL DRIVE". "

"Wouldn't a truck be more expensive than a car?"

"YES".

"But...."

"Do you want to get up there or not? Then when it comes time to leave, do you want to have  anything left to sell or could you be prepared to just write it off?"

"What?#S!S?"  

There then followed a detailed description and discussion of the Mt 7 road, followed by an equally detailed discussion of the  genealogy of the world's 4x4's, going into some of the finer mechanical components and their respective merits, demerits, initial costs and replacement costs and associated agonies. As there is no end  to this subject, it went on until my wife hollered at me to stop talking about that HG rubbish because breakfast is on the table - and who am I to argue that? I was also accused of being negative, which  may have been true.  

To better appreciate my point of view, it may help to understand that I am someone who, in the name and pursuit of HG, has replaced:
a transfer case,
a motor (2 depending how you count the first),
rear ends (4) [see Addendum #2],
a transmission (2 depending how you count the one in my wife's truck - yes, that was a pretty heavy day),
radiators (2),
and where at one time or another, if not  continuously, tires, exhaust systems, mufflers, ball joints, U-joints, and brake systems (individual components or complete systems), have been standard fare like going for lunch.

It is not for nothing that I did investigate the costs of an aerotug. In fact, if I had gone for a sailplane flight before ever picking up a HG, I just might have stayed there on the basis of the Mt 7 road alone. My efforts to get this road upgraded are, I have to confess, not entirely altruistic. It would simply translate to vastly reduced vehicle maintenance costs for me.  

Now, to put this in another perspective, and be more positive and encouraging, if you are only coming out on some weekends, or coming for the odd week, much of the above will - hopefully - not be  mandatory. Indeed, PG have got rental cars up there in extended dry spells. We have seen 2-WD vans up there, although only briefly. They then went to Kamloops or the like, where the suddenly very  tired automatic transmission was able to skim them along the highway.

You see, if there is anything not quite right with your vehicle, and you can not put your finger on what it is, a maximum of three (3) trips - or attempted trips - up our Mt 7 road will render the  condition unmistakably obvious. I am sorry, I was trying to be positive. Even the light duty flash trucks - the ones that are called trucks but are really not much more that cars with light truck bodies on  them - with things like plastic drive line components in them, will get you up there for occasional trips.

Oh dear, now that I think about it, one friend bought a new one of those, and, well, I suppose we would have to say he had made more than occasional trips - but at least the towing and general retrieval  costs from the last switchback were covered under his warranty.

Another pilot, sensing another major coming on for the third time, traded up in the nick of time. Know this: the dealers do not know these things. When they got stuck with the cost on this one - under  the warranty of the next owner - it was a complete surprise to them.

As a bit of an aside, when I was at Willy Muller's doing an instructors clinic one fall, we all had to give a talk demonstrating teaching principles we had learned. Some of you will be familiar with this. We got to choose our own subject. Mine was about vehicles, and was called something like 'Survival mechanics for the HG pilot'. The whole thing was also supposed to be fun, so my pitch included  some more novel ways of acquiring the money to pay for it all. The subject as a whole, though, was and still is extremely relevant.  

OK, enough BS and inverse bragging. So, what is the ideal Mt 7 HG/PG vehicle? Here is my completely biased, self centered, know-it-all, I-told-you-so definition:  
 

The Ideal Mt 7 PG/HG Vehicle

North American or equivalent in size and guts
Heavy half ton
Four wheel drive
Standard transmission
High / low range transfer case
Locking hubs (that is for the unlocking on the highway)
V-8
Large radiator
All terrain tires

TRUCK

Everything in maximum mechanical condition, that has very recently been licensed 
and insured for at least six months, (this will cover the flying season)

Owned by someone who has set up an open ended account at
one of Golden's reputable truck repair shops 

(a list of these can be supplied upon request - there are some good ones)

And who has recently died while on holiday somewhere on the far side of the world. 

Addendum #1 - Body Style
Do not be mislead by body style. Some trucks come disguised as other things. They are usually ones that come with a pick-up body and an alternate. Indeed, some of these  are among the better ones, and many of you already drive them.

Addendum #2 - Posi Rear Ends

Know what happens when you so smartly make it up there in 2WD with a posi-track rear end? All the clutches in it - did you know posi rear ends had clutches in them? - work like fury. If you do this  with any regularity, and/or if the rear end is anything but brand new or rebuilt yesterday (and that means rebuilt, where they have actually done it all, not just said they had done it) and not just a "good  used one" either - these clutches wear off the friction pads, then wear the plates, then the plates start to disintegrate, the pieces fall into the ring gears and for that matter all the gears in there, and tear the  gears to bits. Now you really need a new rear end. My personal attempt at all this was to the Forest Service. Supply me with any decent 4x4 truck, along with a maintenance contract and a driver (no sense in not doing this right) and I will sign anything you want promising never to bother you about the Mt 7 road ever again. To date, they have not bitten. You know, in the long run, this would be cheaper for them!  
 

Words of widom: the catch is NOT to get a car
disguised as a truck...

Peter Bowle-Evans Golden, 04 November 1998  

EPILOGUE

For anyone contemplating a visit here, relax. Things have changed since I first wrote this little story. Sadly almost, the Forest Service have hugely up graded the worst stretches of this road, so that in  good weather at least, 2 WD will get you there, though best not to be too low slung - there are still some water bars toward the top. We used to say that when we went flying, we always had an
adventure, though not necessarily in the air. Perhaps now not so many of them will be on the road.  

PBE 04 March 2000 Read more articles by Peter Bowle-Evans

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