Welcome to David and Janet Ribbans blog

We live in Adelaide, South Australia and enjoy travel in the Australian outback in our Oka 4WD motorhome, hence the blog title.

To quickly locate any of our more than 80 travel and technical articles, use the drop down menus below or scroll down the lists in the right hand sidebar. But please read the disclaimer first, we've tried to be accurate and current but things can change...
You can also visit the official Oka 4WD website here.

Pandora Web Archive

We're now honoured to have our blogs archived
on the National Library of Australia's Pandora Web Archive.
Bookmark this link to the archived version in case anything ever goes wrong with Google, or I accidentally hit "Delete All" in a fit of pique. The drop down menus above might not work in the archived version but everything else should...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Snake in Well 46 on the Canning Stock Route

As we moved down the Canning Stock Route (CSR) in 2007, we started getting warning messages on the bush telegraph about a snake in Well 46.

We knew that Well 46 was one of the few wells with potable water in it, so we grew a little apprehensive as we approached.

The bush telegraph works surprisingly well in many outback locations as well as the CSR and usually involves hand written notes and messages placed in glass jars or tins, or Texta messages on white-boards, located near visitors books or obvious sign posts at key locations. We met almost no one on the CSR so this method of communications is valuable.

[Some of the messages go back many years and form a good historical log of the area. A good example of this is the visitors book at Veevers Meteorite Crater, off the Gary Highway, which still has hand written notes from 1975 in it, by the people who discovered the crater (see Gary Highway)].

We first heard of the snake in Well 46 from this anxious note left at Well 49 a couple of months earlier.

To make matters worse, this snake (a king brown and potentially deadly), had apparently been caught by the tail in the heavy hinged covers of the well, put in place to prevent animals falling in and polluting the water. The story goes that some previous visitors had opened a cover on the well, saw the snake slithering in or out and dropped the cover in panic, catching the snake's tail between the halves of the covers.

Later visitors, concerned about leaving the snake in that situation (ants were eating its trapped tail), tentatively lifted one cover and released the snake which fell into the water, with about 200 mm of squashed tail.

So it was quite likely to be a bit angry and aggressive.

[Note: The Canning Stock Route is a very lonely place and very remote from any medical assistance, so snake bite is something to be avoided at all costs. Well 46 is at least 250 km (and a couple of days hard drive north at 15-20 km/h) over difficult sand dunes from the nearest help at Billiluna, plus another 200 km or so to the nearest hospital at Halls Creek. You would probably not survive a severe snake bite in that time. Your best bet would be an RFDS emergency call on your HF radio or Sat phone for a doctor with a polyvalent antivenin to be waiting at Billiluna airstrip.

If a similar event happened further south, there is an airstrip and potential help at Kunawaritji near Well 33, at Parnngurr in the Rudall River National Park and further south still, at Granite Peak Station.

Even these places are very remote from major towns or medical facilities and it would be very wise to know First Aid for snake bite before venturing this far away from help. Take a copy of one of these with you: Snake Bite First Aid 1, or Snake Bite Identification and Management, Snake Bite Treatmentand for good measure one of these: CPR Chart. If these sites fail, Google Snake Bite Treatment for Australian snake bite sites.

For more detailed info on snake bite treatment refer to the Discussion Notes here.

So we approached the well carefully...

...just in case...
... and now there appears to be 2 snakes, according to this note.
So instead of opening the covers by hand, I carefully threaded a rope through the handles and opened the cover remotely...
... and yes, there was one snake (maybe 2), curled up under the timber frame, above the water line.
It seemed to be quiet and undisturbed and we still needed some water so we gently lowered the bucket into the water and pulled it up.
The snake didn't move as we repeated this noisy exercise (it's a very heavy bucket) a few times, until we had what we needed.
Pumping water out of the bucket.

However, there was other wildlife around too.
As we watched a beautiful goanna slid out from under the frame to sun itself. It watched us as we took its photo.

A beautiful sand goanna, probably Varanus gouldii.

The downside to this visit was that we left a partially filled bucket of water on the well while we had lunch. Sadly, within 10 minutes, several finches had gone down to the water to drink and fell in and six had drowned. We managed to revive one of them.

Finches risking their lives for a drink.
We wrote a note on the white board requesting other visitors NOT to leave water in buckets for finches since they seem incapable of getting out, even if a log is left in the bucket for them to crawl up. It's better to pour water down the cattle troughs for them, where it will remain shallow.

Gulvida Soak, Well 50 on the CSR

At the top end of the Canning Stock Route, near Well 50 is a small but interesting gorge on an unnamed water course (Gulvida Creek?), but what is probably a remote branch of the Sturt Creek.

A short walk along the a creek leads to Gulvida Soak, a well hidden but important water hole in a cave at the back of a small gorge.

[Note Gulvida is variously spelled as "Culvida", "Guldiva" or "Culdiva". "Gulvida" is used on official Geoscience Australia NatMaps while Hema/WestPrint use "Culvida", the others appear to be wrong.]

Travels in this area, and maybe Gulvida Soak on the Sturt Creek, were described by Michael Terry in his book Across unknown Australia, published in 1925. Terry and companion Richard "Dick" Yockney had run out of benzine and nearly died of thirst when they stumbled upon a soak which saved their lives. It was in a creek very remiscent of, and in the same general area, as the Gulvida Soak creek, about 47 km (30 miles) west of Lake Gregory.

At a time when there were no roads, Terry was one of the first people to cross Australia by motor vehicle, and the book describes his travels from Winton to Broome in 1923. Prior to Terry's travels, all major outback journeys had been by camel train or on horseback.


Michael Terry and his 1923 transport...


... and our 2007 equivalent.

An interesting summary of Michael Terry's travels, by Ron and Viv Moon, can be found here, and a Wikipedia entry here.



Our GPS track (in blue) to Gulvida Gorge.

To access the gorge you need to drive about 4 km south west from Well 50 along a fairly obvious track to the top of the creek, scramble down and walk along the dry winding creek bed for about 1 km.

The Gulvida Soak marked on the maps is presumably an ephemeral water hole/billabong in the creek bed, not the gorge and cave we went to, which is further on.


Looking back at the "car park" on the top of the creek.

It's a good idea to keep a mental picture of where your car is when setting out on a walk in a remote area, to orient your self for the return. Or take a GPS with you. And if you're in groups, hand-held CB radios are valuable.

A 1 km walk along a dry creek bed along leads to small gorge off to the left (south) of the creek which contains a hidden and well protected water hole. On the walls of the gorge are aboriginal carvings which demonstrate the importance of this water supply to the aboriginal people.


The gorge is just around the corner on the left...


... behind the bush.



The gorge is quite easy to find, since its opening will be advertised by clouds of noisy zebra finches as they fly in and out of the cave and rest in the surrounding bushes.


At the back of the gorge, almost invisible in the bright sunlight, is a cave with a deep water pool in the darkened interior.



Depending on the seasons, there may also be small soaks in the creek bed, presumably dug out by kangaroos, which will also buzz with zebra finches.



But the most interesting part of the gorge is the gallery of aboriginal carvings on the gorge wall.






Then it's a pleasant walk back to the car. It's hot and we took plenty of water, but we are not wearing fly-hats so there can't have been too many pesky creatures about either.



And finally, here is a video of Gulvida Gorge taken by Michael Olsen in 2009, when there was plenty of water in the creek, unlike our visit in 2007 when it was bone dry.

Gulvida Soak near Well 50 - Canning Stock Route from Michael Olsen on Vimeo.

Michael has posted several other interesting videos here. Thank you Michael, I would thank you personally but I don't have your contact details. If you read this please leave a message by clicking the mail icon below.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Secret Airbase Revealed - Corunna Downs

Some of the more interesting aspects of travel in the north of Australia are the frequent encounters with WW11 sites and memorabilia which have made an indelible impression on the history and landscape of that part of the country. One story that captured my imagination many years ago was that of a secret airbase that was never discovered by the enemy and whose whereabouts, or even existence, were not disclosed until after the war.

In 1942, an airbase was built in the north west of WA, beyond range of enemy aircraft, and intended as a strike base against Japanese occupation forces in Indonesia and Borneo. The Japanese suspected the existence of a base due to the frequent raids launched from that area, but although they searched for it many times, they never found it. Distance, and the clever use of camouflage helped maintain its secrets.

However it did exist, and it was used successfully from May 1943 to 1945 by RAAF No 25 Squadron and the USAF's 380th Air Wing, both equipped with B-24 Liberator heavy bombers. In fact the airbase still exists today and although abandoned since 1945, sufficient relics remain to make a visit to the area a very interesting historical diversion.

The picturesque road from Marble Bar to Corunna Downs

Its exact location is no longer a secret and the airbase can be found about 36 km due south of Marble Bar on Corunna Downs Station. It's reasonably accessible if you have a good map and a GPS.

Take the Corunna Downs Road (also called Salgash Road) south from of Marble Bar for about 30 kms until a turning on the right, marked by an oil drum, about 500 m past the Camel Creek crossing. Follow this track for about 750 m and turn left, just over another small creek. It's then a further 6 kms along a fairly straight track to the airfield.

If you miss the first turn you will end up at Corunna Downs homestead.

The tracks are dry weather roads and are navigable by 2WD vehicles, although 4WD's are preferable.

The Corunna Downs airbase from Ironstone Hill

On our first visit in 2002, without the benefit of a GPS we actually reached the airfield perimeter road without realising where we were, and turned back assuming we had missed it completely. We surmised, correctly, that the secret airbase was going to retain its secrets a bit longer.

On our second trip in 2007, forearmed with better knowledge and equipment, we located the airfield quite easily and spent 2 days there soaking up the atmosphere and fossicking amongst the rusting memorabilia.

A good way to get your bearings before actually going there is to visit the airbase on Google Earth at 21°25'53.79"S, 119°46'56.73"E, where all its features can be clearly seen.

A visit to the Comet Gold Mine just outside Marble Bar will also provide useful background information on the airfield from their displays of maps, photos and descriptions of the installations.
The main runway at Corunna Downs

Although the airbase is on Corunna Downs station, on 10th April 2007, the Corunna Downs Airbase was granted a permanent entry on the Register of Heritage Places, maintained by the Heritage Council of WA (Ref 2).

The entry reads in part "Corunna Downs Wartime Airbase is a rare example in Western Australia of a strategic Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base established specifically as a heavy bomber base and is significant as a reminder of the way of life for the forces personnel who were based there".

The airfield is quite extensive, comprising 2 main runways of 7000 ft and 5000 ft plus 20 aircraft revetments and several km of taxi ways. A 3rd 6000 ft runway was planned but never built. These features are still in remarkably good condition today and although the buildings have all been removed, there are a large number of concrete plinths, supply dumps and earthworks to explore, forage through, or wonder about.

Strange relics of the airbase
There are piles of bomb holders, arming spinners, ammunition clips and many other items the purpose of which is a mystery.

Bomb spinners
When foraging amongst the strange metal objects left behind, you might come across live ammunition. We didn't, but others have, and it should be left well alone as after 65 years, live rounds could be unstable and dangerous. Also be on the look out for snakes and scorpions which apparently tormented the troops stationed there.

Ammo clips by the gazillion
Bomb clamps
And when you're all foraged out, the surrounding scenery of rolling green hills and creek lines is quite spectacular. It's worth camping there for a night to become immersed in the feeling for what wartime in the outback must have been like. It was so hot in summer that showers were banned from 9 am to 9 pm because the water was scolding hot and they were plagued by biting march flies.

Wartime relics now covered by spinifex
Working in the heat, dust and flies of outback Australia must have been very difficult for the crews stationed there, particularly for the American forces, a long way from home, fighting an unseen enemy, in a desolate and lonely part of a foreign country. I sometimes think we don't fully appreciate what the American forces did in the defence of Australia.

[A stark reminder of the realities of war is the site of a crashed Liberator near Mandorah on the Cox Peninsular, west of Darwin, in which 6 young American airmen tragically died in a training exercise defending our northern approaches. That site is also well worth a visit for a sober reflection on their contribution to our safety].

Imagining the wartime pilots about to take off
The main runway at Corunna Downs is 7000 ft (2.13 km) long, and was necessary to allow heavily loaded bombers to take off safely (although not easily) in the high temperatures of the region. In an article entitled "Why is a Runway 7000 Ft Long?", Ron Alcock describes a scary take off from Corunna Downs in 1945 in a Liberator carrying 8 x 250 lb bombs plus 6000 lbs of additional fuel (its maximum load) for a long distance raid.

"At 119 m.p.h., the end of the bitumen runway disappeared under the nose, so did the laterite over-run, so did some of the spinifex country before (with great relief) we were airborne". Later he says "Forty paces beyond the runway’s end plus the 100 yard over-run, we found a recently mangled ‘yacca stick’ clump and my wandering mind visualized what a fiery crater there could have been, just past that yacca". "So there was a perfectly good reason for a runway being 7000 feet long".

If you park in one of the aircraft revetments it's easy to image the wartime scene with aircraft coming and going and men sweating over bombs, ammunition boxes and ground equipment. You can almost hear the rumble of aircraft lumbering into the skies on their missions, some of which were regrettably only one way.

70+ years on, despite advances in transport and communications, Corunna Downs is still in a very remote part of the country although it's now much easier to access. And along the way we found Marble Bar and the rolling hills of the surrounding countryside to be surprisingly pleasant and attractive, and not at all like the images conjured up by its reputation as Australia's hottest town.

So even if you are not enamoured of wartime stories, and you find WW11 installations a bit boring, just think of the conditions those men and women endured and why they were there, and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Our Oka Specifications

It occurred to me that we had never provided the specifications for our Oka motorhome on our blog, so here they are:

Our 4WD motorhome was built on a 1994 14 seat XT model Oka bus body, formerly used as a tour bus in Western Australia. It had spent most of its time touring the Kimberly area and had clocked up half a million kms. Fortunately many of the major mechanical components had been replaced or repaired during its working life so we could focus most of our time building the motorhome aspects. The only major mechanical work we had to do was on the springs and suspension.

During 2004 we removed the seats, built a raised roof and fitted it out with all the domestic facilities for 2 people, with the aim of obtaining full self-sufficiency for remote travel for up to 2 weeks at a time.

Construction Progress Photos

For detailed photos of the construction process for the raised roof and internal fit-out visit our photo site here, and select the topic of interest from the sub-album list on the right.


The roof being raised for fitting...


...and lowered on to the Oka.


Just the support beams to remove...


...and the roof fitting is complete. Now for the internal fit out.

Building a motorhome is much like building a house, except smaller and sturdier. There are plumbing, electrical, gas and water supplies to install; sleeping, cooking, showering, toileting, lighting, security and entertainment facilities to provide; storage is needed for food, utensils, tools, spares, clothes, personal effects and outdoor furniture. The design also had to take account of the weather, provision of ventilation, heating, cooling and solar protection and all under severe vehicle shock and vibration conditions plus weight, legal and road safety constraints. It's actually a very challenging but interesting task.

There were to-do lists, budgets, computer layouts, photos, equipment drawings, space, weight and power calculations. Ideas came from caravan shows, web sites, motorhome manufacturers brochures and previous users blogs (like this one). Equipments came from a variety of caravan and electrical suppliers, raw materials from aluminium and steels suppliers, mechanical and electrical components from marine suppliers (very useful, there is a lot of commonality between boating and motorhome requirements) and hardware stores. It took a long time to collect what was needed at a realistic price and often the design was adapted to match what was available. There were the inevitable back-tracks after some ideas didn’t work out in practice and a few things I would do differently next time.

The design aspects took several months, acquiring the components and equipments several more, and the building phase spread over about 9 months, although it never really ends. We are still doing mobile home improvements 5 years later.

It took us over a year to do the conversion and get on the road, working pretty much full time on it (retirement is a wonderful thing), and cost about $20,000 (in 2004/5), excluding the vehicle and mechanical work. We’ve spent another $10,000 on it since then in further upgrades.

Overall we are pretty happy with how things turned out and the whole package has proved quite useable after 150,000 km and 30 on-road months of travel experiences.


Our Oka on the Sandy Blight Junction Road

The key features of our Oka are summarised below.

Domestic Arrangements

Sleeping, showering, cooking and dining facilities for 2 people.

  • 4 for dinner is technically possible although a bit squeezy. On our travels usually involve warmer parts of the country so that cooking and eating al fresco is the norm, or at least the eating bit, but we also have an external cooker and BBQ plate.


David, Tim and Brenda (Oka friends from Ocean Shores) and Janet. It was a freezing night at Ormiston Gorge so we ate dinner inside.

  • Dometic 3 way 120 L fridge/freezer with:
    • Auxiliary thermally controlled fans to aid air flow over condenser fins.
    • Internal LED lighting controlled by magnetic reed switch on the door.
    • Internal fan to circulate cooling air, thermostatically controlled but stops when the door is opened. Fan is switched off at night, but lights continue to operate.
  • Smev 3 burner cooker with oven.
  • External Wok cooker/BBQ for al fresco cooking, connected via external gas connection.
  • Sink/drainer with Flickmaster H/C tap and separate tap for filtered drinking water.
  • 0.5 Micron drinking water filter.
  • Full size shower with hand basin.
    • Towel/clothes drying rack over shower when not in use.
    • The shower alcove is also used during the day to store laundry equipment, window shades, wine casks and a covered milk crate (makes a great seat, stool, steps, carrying frame).


Shower walls are made of lightweight Aquatile sheeting. Pantry baskets fit between shower and fridge on the same frame.

Water and Gas Supplies

  • 100 L stainless steel under-chassis water tank and 150 L (100 L + 50 L) internal flexible water tanks.
  • 40 L hot water tank heated from engine coolant circulating though built-in heat exchanger (see this article).


Water heater fitted under the kitchen unit during construction.

  • Dual under-floor pressure pumps (because they are noisy) for separate drinking and domestic systems.
    • Change over valves to allow either or both pumps or tanks to be used for either purpose.
  • Bilge pump for filling tanks from buckets or water sources.
  • Dual 4.5kg gas bottles plus 3kg reserve bottle under rear bull bar.
    • Manual change over regulator, accessible via a floor hatch, so we know exactly when they run out (this used to be automatic but we didn't always know the gas level until both bottles were empty).


The cockpit of our Oka, at dawn, overlooking Roebuck Bay in Broome.

Navigation and Communications

  • Moving map computer navigation system based on:
    • MacBook laptop computer in passenger-side dashboard enclosure (MacBook operates in a closed lid configuration driving a larger external display).
    • Wireless connection to backup MacMini computer in solid aluminium frame mounted behind the drivers seat.
      • 17 inch LCD display (mounted on engine cover).
      • External 1.5 Tb back-up hard drive.
      • USB TV module.
      • USB connection to digital camera.
      • 50 W per channel audio output to speaker system, with automatic change over from car radio.
    • Laptop running Oziexplorer (under VirtualBox and XP), with DVI cable to LCD display, and networked to Mac Mini.
    • USB GPS module connected to laptop.
    • Garmin eTrex Venture GPS (with re-radiating antenna) for redundancy and to take on walks.
    • NextG phone with external antenna, usable as USB modem for Internet and email access.
    • Laptop and/or LCD display is removable to the rear, or outside, to watch TV, DVD's and photos.
    • Spare USB keyboard and mouse.
    • 12 v dc-dc power supplies for all computer systems.
    • Spare PC laptop.


The Moving Map display shows our position in the Great Victorian Desert.

  • HF radio (VKS 737 network, call sign Mobile 2484)
    • 9 m SuperRod antenna (see here).
    • Modified to receive ABC/BBC shortwave stations and 40M Amateur band stations.
  • 2 hand held CB's for convoy travel and remote walks.
    • Modified to use external roof mounted CB antenna for extra range.
  • 406Mhz EPIRB.
  • Reversing camera with 9 inch display.
    • Auxiliary input for separate side-facing camera.
  • 4 channel Tuner/CD system (speakers switched automatically between computer audio or tuner outputs).

Electrics and Lighting

  • Bosch 120 amp alternator plus:
    • Sterling smart alternator regulator.
    • Improved alternator belt tensioner, with adjusting nuts on a tapped rod.
  • 3 batteries for starter, domestic and computer systems, each fitted with isolators.
    • 3rd battery housed in new frame on LHS behind and below the passenger seat, where LH air filter would be housed, accessible though an external hatch.
    • Battery switches to enable all 3 batteries to be manually switched in parallel when necessary.
    • Supercharge Gold MF95D31R (760 CCA) starter battery
    • 2 x Supercharge MRV70 (105 AH, 760 CCA) Allrounder (Starting and Deep Cycle) house batteries
  • 10 x 20w solar panels (see this article) fitted over the cab and along the roof charging 3 batteries plus:
    • Charge controller to select any or all batteries to charge.
    • Manual or automatic function so it can be switched off when necessary or when the engine (ie the alternator) is running.
    • Charge voltage and curent display in rear cabin.

[200 w of solar panels (typically 160 w or 11-12 amps charge current is the maximum available) enables larger capacity house batteries to be used and maybe a larger inverter for a bread maker or similar. We also have  a 120 amp alternator and a smart alternator regulator, plus a water heater that heats from the engine water so we really don't need much more than this. Running the engine for 15 mins every couple of days heats the water and tops up all three batteries. In between times, up to 12 amps from our solar panels will keep the essential electrics going (eg computers, lights, pumps, fans, HF radio)].


 5 x 20 watt solar panels across the front. Another 5 x 20 watt panels are fitted along the roof.

  • Electrical power monitor displays for all 3 batteries.
  • LED lighting around the living area and roof lights, replacing previous flouro and halogen lights.
  • Cordless drill charger converted to charge from solar panels (since they need around 20v to charge a 14-15v battery).
  • External 12 v socket to power pumps, lights, tools etc.
  • 300 watt pure sine wave inverter.
    • We can run all computers and small domestic appliances from the inverter if necessary.
    • Used to drive the modified evaporative air conditioner in the rear (its ac fan motor was retained since it was a waterproof design and would have been difficult to convert to 12 v).
  • Dashboard alarm panel for:
    • Lights left on.
    • Steps left down.
    • Low water level in main tank.
    • Roof vent left open.
  • Water tank level monitors with low level alarm.
  • Automatic fridge dc cut off switch on low battery voltage. The fridge dc supply can also be temporarily switched off from the dashboard via a remote relay, to reduce battery load while driving (eg when refuelling or during comfort/photo stops, but should be automatic, run from the alternator).
  • Fridge/Freezer temperature monitors with over-temperature and "gas flame out" alarms.
  • Automatic fridge lights and air circulation fan.
  • Roof vent fan and internal oscillating fans, all speed controlled.
  • Quiet window fans (computer fans with speed control) for night time air circulation.
  • Smoke alarm with inhibitor:
    • Can be turned off during cooking and automatically turns back on after 20 minutes, unless extended.
  • Light-sensitive step and porch lights.
  • Remote controlled external super-bright LED camping lights.
  • Rear under-seat heater and circulation pump to suck heat from a hot engine block or hot water tank (only used in Tassie).
  • Diesel pump to transfer fuel between tanks or from Jerry cans.
  • Rechargeable torch with SLA battery and 8 super-bright LEDs.

Furniture and Fittings

  • Slide out bed in the rear, with 6 inch latex foam mattress, which converts to a lounge seat during the day.


Slide out bed unit during construction.

  • Removable dining table stored under seat.
  • Pantry with slide out wire baskets.
  • Kitchen drawers with steel telescopic slides.
  • Locks on all drawers and cupboard doors to keep them shut.
    • Vibration has a way of opening even the most secure drawers.
  • Deep storage compartment over the cabin (the Black Hole) for light, bulky, seldom used items like engine belts, hoses, jumper leads, rope, cold weather clothing, awning and pop-up screen room.
  • Camping chairs and fold-up table stored under rear seat base.
  • Library for First Aid kit, sewing kit, DVDs, maps, magazines and, oh yes, lots of books.


Library (with a bespoke door painting by Janet) fitted behind the passenger seat next to the entry door.

  • Porta-Potti toilet (can be located in shower alcove or external pop-up toilet tent, also acts as a handy seat).
  • AIr conditioning:
    • Rear air conditioning redirected to front cabin (see later entry).
    • Small evaporative air conditioner for the rear cabin, modified by relocating the water tank to beneath the Oka and fitting an electronic water control system to minimise water usage (provides a 10 sec. shot of water every 2 minutes or so (adjustable) to keep the filter pads damp). Surplus water is captured in a plastic container beneath the Oka for reuse (also useful for hand washing). Air is drawn into the back of the filter pads from the front cabin.


 Small evaporative air conditioner fitted above the cab.

  • Pop-up 2m square screen room for insect-free relaxing.
  • Removable shade awning.
  • All windows have custom made reflective screens (using Aircell from Bunnings) to provide heat and light isolation.
  • Velcro-ed fly screens on all rear opening windows:
    • Secured with a single fixing screw so when they get torn off by branches we don't lose them.

Structural and Mechanical Modifications

  • Raised roof with overhead storage cupboards.
  • Tool box built into tailgate which also acts as a handy workbench.
  • Grey water tank for shower water (looks like a snake tank of the side of the Oka). Holds 25 L (about 2-3 days showering for 2 people) and includes a HepVO self-sealing backflow valve (see here), mounted horizontally, to prevent any unwanted smells.
  • Separate 10 L waste tank for sink. Needs to be bigger since we generate more waste water than expected, but we have no room yet for a larger tank.
  • Extra fuel tanks (300 L max, 2 x 105 L side tanks plus a rear 50 L plastic tank, plus 1 or 2 Jerry cans as required).
  • Extra water tanks (250 L total, 100 L stainless steel tank under chassis for shower and sink, plus 2 x flexible tanks for drinking water under the bed base, 1 x 100 L, 1 x 50L, plus there's always 40 L in the hot water tank if things got that desperate).
  • Air compressor based on air conditioner compressor, mounted on LH engine mount, plus 20 L tank and 2 air outlets.
  • Separate air hose and tyre inflator (kept inside so it's handy for frequent pressure changes).
  • Long handled spade, leveling wedges and air hose mounted on rear wheel carrier.
    • Water hoses stored inside rear wheel well.
  • Hi-Lift jack (60 inch, 1.5 m) mounted on front bull bar, with 2 plywood base plates kept in rear tool store.
  • Extra Hi-Lift jacking points fitted to the front and rear bull bars, (see here).
  • Double-acting 3 tonne screw jack and 2 x 3 tonne axle stands mounted in a frame below the rear RHS bull bar.
  • Mechanical spares housed in the compartment behind the tailgate, accessible from inside and outside.
  • New rear springs with additional 3rd leaf and rebuild front springs with additional 3rd leaf.
  • New spring bolt mounting plates on front of rear springs, with replaceable bushes and "unbreakable" 4140 spec steel bolts.
  • 20 mm suspension bolts fitted in all other places, and all steel suspension bushes replaced by urethane types (kit from Peter Wright).
  • Airbag suspension on all 4 springs, with individual in-cabin pressure controls and gauges.


Dual airbag controls and dual needle gauges mounted either side of the steering column.

Driving Modifications

  • Ralph shock absorbers (note: one leaked after 2 years and was replaced free by 4WD1.com).
  • Steering damper replaced by larger Tough Dog model (from 4WD1.com).
  • Strap fixings for UJ's on yokes replaced by U-bolts for increased strength and reliability.
  • Air intake redirected and extended forward to reduce the sucking noise.
  • 150mm x 2m PVC pipe across front bull bar to hold awning poles, aerials, rods, pipes etc.
  • Spare half spring leaf bolted under the chassis, above the spare wheel.
    • Can be used to temporarily replace broken spring eye. It bolts under the spring clamp and supports shackle plate.
  • Remote control power door locks, with external hidden switch (see this article). All doors are lockable and unlockable from inside, from any one door, or the remote control.
  • Power windows on driver and passenger doors (see this article).
  • Start lockout solid-state relay to prevent accidental engine starting from outside the vehicle while in gear, which also acts as vehicle immobiliser.
    • It disables the starter solenoid and fuel supply to the injector pump after the ignition is switched on, until an Enable button is pressed on the dashboard.
    • It also provides an emergency Engine Stop function by interrupting the dc supply to the injector pump fuel solenoid, until reset by the Enable button.

[I had a near disaster once when I accidentally started the engine in reverse gear while standing outside the drivers door. It started well, but fortunately I had just fixed the handbrake, which stalled the engine before it moved too far, otherwise the Oka would have gone though the garage wall and disappeared down a steep hill.]

  • Turbo timer, which keeps a very hot engine running for 30 seconds after the ignition is turned off, to allow the turbo bearings to cool down before their oil supply stops.
  • Rear engine-powered air-conditioning redirected to the front via overhead eyeball outlets.





  • Wiper delay system with 6 delay times and 1 or 2 cycles per wipe.
  • Travelling windscreen washer system.
  • All cabin surfaces sound/heat proofed using foam plastic sheeting (1cm thin roll-up camping mattresses) covered with WonderWall carpeting.
  • Soundproofing doubled up on engine cover panels using self-adhesive acoustic foam panels from Whitworths (see here).
  • Lever action hand throttle (see here).
  • 4.5 m fibreglass sand flag pole. Base mounted on front bull bar.

Safety, Maintenance and Recovery:

Weight in touring trim:

  • 5.4 tonnes (from weigh-bridge in Katherine, with one person plus tanks half full).

Engine Number:

  • AB 80483 U 728121 A, where:
    • "AB" means a Perkins Phaser 1004-4T (4 Cylinder, 4 Litre Turbocharged) engine type
    • 80483 is the build number
    • "U" means built in the UK
    • 728121 is the serial number
    • "A" is the year of manufacture (1995,  which means our engine is not the original since our Oka is a 1994 model)
  • Refer Perkins Engine Numbering Chart for additional code information

VIN Number:

  • 6N 544 B3 M4 RA 080148
    • The critical number is the "148" on the end which is the build sequence number (approx 430 Oka's were built in several configurations),
    • "B3" means a 14 seat bus with a rear hatch,
    • "RA" means built in 1994 in Perth.
  • Refer to this chart for an explanation of the Oka VIN numbering sequence.


Oka VIN Number Explanation

Future Modifications:

  • Step mounted on front bull bar (to reach windscreen).

Wiper and washer for rear window.

3rd wiper arm for passenger side windscreen.

“Handbrake Left-On” reminder. (Yes, it’s been done a couple of times and  I need an audible alarm. The lamp on the dashboard doesn’t work anyway).

Reclining lounge chairs (I wish).

If you’d like to contact us or would like more information on our motorhome please email us at dandjribbans at gmail dot com and leave a message.