Stage 8 - Monday 21 July 2008 - Day 87
By Dick and Pip Smith
Jul 21, 2008, 15:08

Readers will know that Dick has spent a lot of time in trying to improve the aviation regulations.  It looks as if he is needed for motor vehicle registrations!


We have now driven the vehicle through twelve other countries with no real problems.  For example, when we drove from Alaska to Canada, the customs and immigration person only glanced at our passports.  Even when the vehicle was driven off the ship in the UK there was not the slightest problem.  When driving from Norway to Sweden, a quick glance at the passports was all that was required.


What about Australia?  We found that to bring the vehicle into Australia we would not only require a Carnet, but we were also required to guarantee that customs duty and GST would be paid on the entire cost of the vehicle.  This was because the Earthroamer was registered in the USA.  The only thing we could do was to raise a letter of credit for $250,000, being the full cost of the vehicle.  This LC was raised in Canada and cost USD $7,252.19.


We found it amazing that we could drive through twelve other countries where customs understood that we were unlikely to sell the vehicle in that country – but in Australia, no way.


That was just the start of the debacle.  We found that we needed a special (in effect) “registration” for moving the vehicle in Western Australia.  However by using a special permit, the bureaucrats would allow the Earthroamer to be driven from the wharf to a place where the vehicle could be inspected and modified.


Fortunately, Cres James (in our office at Terrey Hills) found a company called ‘F Trucks’ which specialises in importing, servicing, and modifying the Ford F250 and F350 series of motor vehicles.


What a godsend!  The new owner, Norman Dodos (who is an engineer) greatly assisted us.  He arranged for the vehicle to be picked up at the wharf and taken to his premises using his trade plates.  This removed the requirement for the special permit (mentioned above) which could have taken days. 


When the inspector from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure arrived, it was obvious that there would be problems.  The vehicle had driven three-quarters of the way around the world – it obviously wouldn’t be safe to drive in Australia!


Remember that Australia designed the Lightburn Zeta (one of the worst vehicles ever made in the world – built by a concrete mixer company), whereas the Americans have designed things like Cadillacs, the Space Shuttle and the Boeing 747.


The inspector, being very diligent, noticed that the tyres protruded a few millimetres more than the already US approved guard extensions.  This would never do for Australia, so he ordered that the front guards had to be extended with a special flare (see photo) – and the indicator lights must be changed from red to amber.

Norman Dodos, owner of F Trucks in Perth showing Dick the extra wheel flares that he had to attach to the Earthroamer

Red tail lights and indicators are OK for the rest of the world but the indicators had to be changed to amber just for Australia!!



In the 32,116 kilometres we have driven around the world, people were able to work out that if a red light was blinking on one side of the vehicle, we were going to turn in that direction.  It appears Australians are not quite that bright so a red flashing indicator would never do and we would require amber flashers.  This meant the wiring would no longer work, so we had to extend a lead between the front and rear of the vehicle to enable the blinkers to operate as the inspector required.  In total, the modifications took two days and cost over $1,000. 


Norm agreed to go to the registry office to get the special documentation required for the vehicle.  He spent hours there.  For a start, they wanted a copy of my passport – even though I am an Australian citizen driving in Australia.  Luckily he found a photocopy of my passport in the paperwork, but that was insufficient – it would need to be endorsed by a JP.  When Norm rang our office, Cres (who happens to be a Justice of the Peace) signed a copy of the passport and faxed it over.


That was still no good.  I (Dick), as the registered owner of the vehicle, needed to have a residential address in Western Australia.  Yes, the special registration only applied to those living outside Western Australia, but a residential address was required within Western Australia! 


It appears that the lady on the computer was willing, but she could not move to the next screen.  Norm rang our office and we suggested that he used his own address. So I am now Richard Harold Smith of a certain street in Winthrop, Western Australia – and the computer was happy.


After paying $209, the certificate was finally issued.  It says, “Imported vehicle – exempted from Australian design rules and from the fitment of compliance plates.”  Why then did we have to modify the vehicle?  I also wonder if the inspector noted that the vehicle was left hand drive.  It is a wonder he didn’t say, “Not only do you have to widen the mudguards and change the indicator lights to amber, but you will also have to convert it to right hand drive to drive across Australia.”


Note too that in the USA, the vehicle’s country of manufacture, anyone with a car licence can drive the Earthroamer.  This is not so in Australia.  I had to complete a truck driving course to be issued with light rigid truck licence to drive the vehicle here.


Anyway, everything was completed. 


We flew from Sydney to Perth and picked up the vehicle at 5.30 pm Perth time.  We then drove to the local Woolworths supermarket and stocked up with food.  We refuelled with 144 litres of good diesel at AUD $1.87 per litre.

Dick saw a face on this shop that looked familiar

Pip did a big food shop at a familiar Woolworths store - it was great to know the products


We are now parked in a truck stop at the Upper Swan River, having driven about 20 km out of the town to get going tomorrow morning.  Pip’s really happy because she’s just had a really good Aussie hamburger for dinner – even with beetroot!


Just opposite our location is a strange looking building with two antennas pointing to the sky.  Whatever could it be?  Dick wandered over to have a look.  It was actually the Outer Marker for the Instrument Landing System for runway 36 at the Pearce RAAF aerodrome.  So at least we know where we are!


We have also borrowed a beautiful little GPS from Hema Maps, which not only shows the Aussie Roads, but also many of the Hema Maps, hopefully with the outback tracks accurately represented.


Last week Dick travelled to Perth for a couple of days to work on the Earthroamer. The heater is now working beautifully, the new shock absorbers are in, the vehicle has had a grease and oil change, the leak in the hot water system has been fixed with a new fitting, and even the high and low altitude pumps and fuel pipes for the diesel supply to the heaters have been fixed.  The Japanese batteries purchased in Ulaan Baatar seem to be holding up well, and the TV even works on Aussie stations.  Wow, what could be better?


It is great to be driving in Australia.  We are hoping that we are going to be able to get across the country without too many problems. 


Total today 42 kms  32,158 kms since Anchorage, Alaska.


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