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The Girling Ghost Revealed!

by Michel Bertrand

Michel Bertrand writes on his "neverbrake/everbraking" Rudolph: "I bought Rudolph, my 1963 109 PU, in 1990 in Kingsbury, in the Townships, near Sherbrooke. I towed it to Montreal, where I used to live. Many more tows, bruised knuckles, and years went by before it was back on the road. When I had it certified, it still had the original brake master cylinder, but had new lines, wheel cylinders and brake shoes. I must say here that to be able to bleed the thing, I went through more than 8 liters of brake fluid. Hey, I just couldn't get better than two-pump brakes! Then, for the first time, the Girling Ghost showed his presence. For those who don't know, the Girling Ghost is a close cousin of Lucas, Prince of Darkness. He makes hydraulic brakes and clutches in Land Rovers do weird, supernatural things. For instance, the Girling Ghost will make a bubble of air appear in your braking system, making it ineffective. He has done many tricks to me since Rudolph was adopted. As I said, I used to have two-pump brakes. Then, one morning, they were only one-pump brakes, just like any normal car. I was amazed.

I then drove the beast to Sherbrooke the same summer, 1994. Then, with the help of a good friend, I've decided to install a dual braking system. I had a spare one kicking around and I thought it was a good idea. So there it goes: Cut the wing, install a new junction and a few brake lines, bleed the thing, and voilà! Dual braking system. Everything went great for about 4 months. Then, in the spring, the Girling Ghost made his second appearance. The master cylinder started to leak. Every day, I could see the fluid level going down but I couldn't trace the leak. Brake lines, junctions, reservoir, cylinders, all was as dry as it could get. So I simply kept on adding brake fluid, wondering where did all that brake fluid go. I had also noticed that the exhaust was a little bit to white (a real smoke screen) and had that funny smell. Also, the engine, sometimes, was losing power. Oh, well, must be the carb, I thought, being inexperimented. Then one day, the engine would start but die soon after. Fiddling under the bonnet, I realized that the brake servo was filled with brake fluid! The brake fluid was leaking from a faulty seal in the master. Oh well, I just need a kit, then. On with the kit.

All went well for about a month before the third appearance of the Girling Ghost. One sunny day, when I was parked on a slide slope, the master decided to leak, again. But, this time, it was the seal between the reservoir and the master that was faulty. Of course, the brake fluid dripped and dripped on the wing, causing some damage to the lower sill, stripping the brand new paintjob. I was happy. I then ordered a new master cylinder, the correct one, for a 109, which took several months to arrive. Meanwhile, I was adding brake fluid almost everyday. In the last days of this master cylinder, I was adding brakefluid twice a day! Needing brakes and still waiting for the new master to arrive, I had to replace it with another used one I had. The transplant went well.

Now, the Girling Ghost appeared for the fourth time. Instead of installing air bubbles or making a leak, it actually added brake fluid by itself. I had realllllly good brakes. In fact, they were sticking. I had a permanent parking brake on all four wheels. Of course, I only realized that in the entrance of the University's campus. I had an appointment that I couldn't miss and the truck wasn't able to move. So I rushed inside, told my professor that I had a little problem with my Land Rover (They are used to it now) and rushed back to Rudolph. Of course, with the help of the Girling Ghost, the brakes weren't sticking anymore. Later, I realized that I could drive about 3 km until the vehicle wouldn't move. If I had to drive more than that, I had to stop the vehicle (wasn't really hard) get out, pop the hood, get the 7/16 spanner and loosen up the fittings to allow brake fluid to come out. I had to put some air bubbles into the system to allow it to work! It happened a few times, includind on one of the main streets where it stalled on a light slope. Of course, when I was loosening the fittings, I had forgotten to engage the gearbox and the vehicle started to move. I had to run next to it in order to hop in and shift it into a gear. Bruce Willis' stunts are wimpy compared to this!

Anyway, finally, the new master came in, and I installed it happily. But, in order to have the thing working properly, I had to bleed the thing. Again, the Girling Ghost appeared and welded a bleeding nipple to the cylinder. Of course, while trying to unscrew the nipple, it sheared off. Out comes the drum, the brake shoes, and the cylinder. And to make the things worst, I broke a screw-extractor while trying to remove the half-bleeding nipple stuck in the cylinder. Oh well, in comes another cylinder and a new nipple. Finally, on the 5th of March, I have finally bled the system and all seems to work fine. But now, the Girling Ghost is in the Carb, and the beast won't start. Time for a new chapter..."

Reprinted from the Ottawa Valley Land Rovers newsletter, March, 1996



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