Sunday, 29 November 2009

Manifolds and the Missionary Position!



"A stretched Willys delivers your load!" Manufacturer's motto.

'Love me, love my jeep,' I desperately told my wife, Cat.

But now after five years I'm quite resigned to selling it.

And I have a very good four doored reason for sale!


This is to tell the world that I’m putting an important literary artifact up for sale.

When it’s a Cadillac once owned by Elvis Presley, the auction prices go sky high. And that’s despite the fact Elvis never sang about his cars and he had hundreds of them and gave them away as presents.

I’m now selling my beloved jeep and it’s sure to go quickly as it too has had a brush with fame. As an important member of our Thai family, it has three chapters all to itself in, “MY THAI GIRL AND I’, the book about ‘how I found a new life in Thailand’.

In the chapters, ‘Love Me, Love My Jeep’ and ‘The Black Jeep of the Family’ I tell the entranced reader how my own obsessive jeep syndrome and the mai pen rai attitude of local mechanics placed a severe strain on our marriage. ‘Not Crossing Borders’ is how my love affair was rekindled when I had a new four speed gear box fitted… my love for the jeep that is.

And in ‘The Jeep Strikes Back’ I tell the story of how when carrying a ton or two of illicit timber at dead of night, the prop shaft fell into the road with a crash leaving me with a serious conundrum… either to flee the scene, abandoning the jeep and my marriage, or to keep pushing and risk twenty years in a Thai jail.

This chapter ends with the comment that despite all the problems it’s given me, I’ll never sell my jeep, but that, “after this book’s published, I’ll never be able to sell it anyway”. Not true though for many reasons!

Coupled with its special place in literature, the practical side for buyers is that the extensive restoration work done on a vehicle has never before been so thoroughly and publicly documented. The lucky buyer will receive a bundle of bills for work done amounting to sixty or seventy thousand baht… and of course a valuable signed copy of the book.

The problem though selling an old jeep round here in Surin is that no Thai farmer will buy it except for peanuts as it’s really a toy for an eccentric farang, and there are very few of these nearby. In Pattaya or Chiang Mai, it would sell very fast. Here it’s more difficult.

Annoyingly, I have sold the jeep once already, just that the buyer never actually gave me the money. He was very, very keen to buy it, as would be any discerning petrol-head, and he couldn’t wait to come up here to Isaan and collect it. But he kept making veiled references to needing it for work and getting the agreement of his partner abroad, which had me a little perplexed. I suggested it mightn’t be the most practical vehicle for daily business use but this only strengthened our mutual trust and regard.

We thus continued our extensive email exchanges in which he asked for more photos, and I told him the engine and gearbox were from a Nissan Turbo Diesel, that all the clutch and brake systems were modern Japanese, that rarely had we gone beyond our local market town for spares and that in the course of four years’ daily use I’d replaced and overhauled almost all the moving parts of the damned thing except the air con and the door hinges because it doesn’t have any.

I told him it’s got some new tires, a new battery, radiator core, shocks, rear diff, universal joint and that there’s a nice little compass and temperature gauge that tells you which way you’re pointing and why you’re feeling so damned hot. My distant buyer was pleasant and positive and we became good email friends.

Clearly he was smitten by the jeep, a price was agreed sight unseen and we kept in close contact literally for months. Until one day I received an email in which he admitted the purchase was not entirely in his control because it wasn’t his own money he was spending.

He was, he said, a missionary!

All my doubts about the jeep’s suitability as a serious workhorse were now dispelled. Clearly this was an ideal car for a missionary. It would make him highly visible to his flock. It would be like a donkey doing God’s work, the self-mortifying, ‘sack cloth and ashes’ equivalent of comfortable modern transport. There could be no manifold sins and wickedness here… no mia noi would ever be seen dead in this car!

Furthermore, I’ll admit that on my journeys in the jeep I’ve sometimes prayed. For him the power of prayer would surely get him there and if not, he’d have the chance to meet and perhaps convert the many souls he’d asked to push him home.

He’d also told me that he was very happy to work on the mechanics of the car himself, so I could imagine him up to his elbows in its innards, sorely tested and trying not to blaspheme in the name of the Lord. And he would often find himself lying on his back underneath it… in what I might call ‘the missionary position’.

Needless to say he never came up with the money, so now the jeep’s back on the market and I’m hoping someone, missionary or otherwise, will want to buy it.

‘It’s a good little bus. I’d stake my life on it.’ (A quote from a First Year contract case whose name I’ve forgotten as it was forty years ago.) And I’m sure the first to see will buy. Despite the jeep’s limitations, the right buyer will have lots of fun with it… as the actress almost certainly said to the sado-masochistic bishop!

I’m not sure if I’m cut out to be a salesman, but I do still love my jeep and it’s been a great car for posing in. Apart from taking unscheduled holidays, it’s done good service for us over several years. Having a much longer load base than the original Willys jeep, it has carried many tons of cement, sand and stone, pigs, a heavy spirit house and 100 kilo sacks of rice. Once returning from a funeral we had seventeen passengers on board, so it can be a really useful car on local runs. The key to enjoying it is having a good mechanic nearby or being one yourself. And if you have a wife and you want to keep her, she’ll have to be the tolerant kind.

When I first bought the jeep, the previous garage owner/enthusiast had just done a full body off restoration, fitting the new engine and other systems and the problem was that it hadn’t had a proper post-rebuild shake-down before he sold it to me. This coupled with a plague of mai pen rai mechanics meant quite a few tribulations, but I hope it’s now sorted just in time to sell, probably for about half what it’s cost me so far.

It’s never been raced or rallied, has had no elderly lady owners, and was never owned by Elvis Presley, though Lamyai, his biographer’s wife keeps asking about buying it. And there’s a genuine reason for sale. I’ve got a nice new Toyota Pickup which has made the jeep totally redundant.

In the first week of December I’ll be in Cambodia, going cross country from the Surin border to Angkor Wat, but I’ll be keen to field your enquiries at arhicks56@hotmail.com. The jeep is in our village in Surin province so you’ll have to come here to look at it there when I get back.

This isn’t a joke and I do want to sell it.

But I’ll be sad to see it go. Honest!


Andrew Hicks The “Thai Girl” Blog December 2009

4 comments:

Kent Davis said...

I first set foot on Soi Cowboy in June 1991. I saw many wondrous things there (!) but one still stands out in my mind. Parked directly in front of the Tilak bar was a fantastic olive green Willys jeep, caked with mud and bristling with gas cans, antennae and other gear.

What image could evoke Southeast Asian adventure more than that? Sgt. Rock, Col. Kurtz and Indiana Jones were probably inside the bar now, reliving their last brush with death and celebrating with spoils brought back from the jungle in their trusty jeep.

I envied them…as I envy the next owner of your fine machine.

Alas, ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ has carefully explained a more mundane vehicle is in my future. One better suited to taking children to school, dropping off laundry, transporting in-laws to the local temple and picking up sacks of fertilizer for the garden.

How much do you want for that Toyota? (-;

oddjob said...

Dear Sir ,

How I am in awe of your life in Thailand.I have been reading your blog for a few days now and am encouraged by the quality of your writing.
I am making preparations to come to Thailand,my intentions are for a stay for an extended period.
I am a stone restoration mason in San Francisco California and enjoyed your posts on the restoration of the various Wat's in
Cambodia.
Please if you could ,Do you know if it is possible to work or volunteer with the agencies doing this work?
I also was curious as to the sale of your Willy's
Thank you for any information you can provide

Sincerely
Paul Sullivan

Attractive said...

The tribe standard is very good continues to refuel
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Thai Girl said...

To answer the question, the jeep is now sold. The buyer found it by reading this blog so knew he was buying a famous and infamous jeep.

I suggested that as it had been standing for some years, he take it home on a truck as it was many hours drive away. Boldly a friend of his wife's drove it all the way and magnificently it made the journey to his home.

Next day the clutch and gears were seized, the problem I guess being a hydraulic leak. While there had been no puddles on my floor, repeated declutching probably proved to be too much for it.

The buyer enjoyed the jeep for at least two weeks and then sold it back to the dealer in Prakonchai Buriram I bought it from five long years ago.

Rather Buddhist really, as all things go full circle.

I guess it's now looking for a buyer again!

Andrew