After enduring Wes’s tap, tap, tappet dancing, Alice needs some relief

Bedford Trilogy Part Six: Valvewhacker

The Piddens Bedford, miles from anywhere.

Don’t say a word.


Don’t say a word.

What are you on about, Wes? And why is the truck making a noise like a Krakatoan jackhammer?


Don’t shh me! What’s happening?

Be very, very quiet.


Clock everything you see.


Little things could matter later.

Stop it!

At the start of the end of history-y!

What do you mean?

Steely Dan: Godwhacker. (Leers enigmatically, steps down from the cab, rummages behind seat for toolbox then disappears under the bonnet)

Wes! Oh, here we go!

Do you remember when motor vehicles could be fixed at the roadside? No need for tilt trays and marathon conversations with call centres in Mumbai?

When Wes Piddens was a youngster, Second Cousin Bob from Dubbo would occasionally swing by (from Dubbo) for a visit in his mammoth green V8 Dodge Phoenix. That car had an alarming posture. The front end pointed skywards while the back end almost kissed the ground. It gave the impression of Robert Crumb’s Keep on Truckin’ dude – only truckin’ in reverse.

Dodge Phoenix 1961. Photo by GTHO,

Wes was intrigued.

Back end’s sittin’ pretty low, Second Cousin Bob from Dubbo.

True enough, Second Cousin Wes from Baryulgil.

How come?

Come and have a perv. (Wait. Don’t cancel me: this was a completely benign expression, back in the day. It meant, cast your eye over this, if you will)

Bob swung open the gargantuan boot lid to reveal pretty much every tool and spare part in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ya never know what you might need, Wesso.

Wes took these words to heart. From that moment on, his pockets were crammed with tools, and his overloaded bicycles, billycarts and even horses took on that reverse Keep On Truckin’ look.

Robert Crumb’s Keep on Truckin’ is available as a print from

Wes had an old Beetle while he was at uni.

It lost a back wheel on a long corner. Wes didn’t notice any difference in the handling until the road straightened and the car slumped onto its side. He then also noticed the wheel barrelling down the road and banging into a Mercedes.

Oh, here we go!

The well-dressed Mercedean marched the escaped wheel all the way back to the Beetle, and placed it at Wes’s feet.

Your wheel, I take it?

Yep, thanks.

Right you are. Crisp pseudo salute and departure.

Well, how about that?

The point being (besides not to write off all Mercedes drivers) that Wes had a jack, a spanner, a spare nut and a bit of wire, meaning he was able to get the Beetle back together and mobile within 10 minutes. Nowadays that nut would come with a sensor and require a special tool currently on a six-month back order.

Wes! What’s happening now?

Shhh! Don’t move! Don’t say a word. The battery’s flat, and if that motor stops we’ll never get it going again.

Haven’t you got a spare one?


Well, can’t you make one?


So why is it so noisy and lumpy?

Thinking noises

Why, indeed, was it so chuggy and lumpy? About to explode? Bits of piston banging around in there? Plenty of oil on the dipstick. Radiator not boiling over.

OK. So now I’ll give you mechanical types a couple of minutes to troubleshoot. Remember, you can’t stop the engine. And, no, it’s not a brown snake in the air cleaner – that was on a different day.

Hmm, I wonder.

Acting on pure inspiration, Wes pulled a spanner from his well-stocked toolbox and attacked the rocker cover.

…‘there’s no escape, from the Rajahs of Erase…’

With the cover removed, the rocking, rattling vitals were revealed and oil was freed to spit left, right and overboard.


Wes spotted a rocker arm sitting skew-whiff and out of contact with a valve.

‘Get back, Son, and give a man some whackin’ space!’

He whacked the arm sideways, reinstating the tappet, and the motor immediately started purring like a half-decent Bedford again.

It’s smooth, Wes. Is it fixed?

Yes it is, Mam. Tappet-Whacker’s on the case! Nyuk Nyuk!

Underway but five minutes, Alice announced, No, it’s no good. Pull over. I’m busting.

Wes obliged.

Bush wee, or longer?

He switched off the engine.

To save fuel.


A lesson to us all


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