Green

Goodbye to (the Insides of) the Machine

Inside of the BoxIt seems fitting that an ambulance would be built with the mumblings of Charles Darwin dancing in the back of the designers’ minds. After all, it takes an incredibly evolved vehicle to be able to sustain life that’s on the brink of death while transporting it. Maybe it’s from the vein of Darwin’s words that Friedrich Nietzsche derived his quote “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.” If not, then perhaps the quote could trace its origins back to the story of the Phoenix.

According to folklore, the Phoenix was a beautiful immortal bird who spent her days happily singing songs until she became old, tired, and weak. The Phoenix didn’t want to continue living this way, so she made the long journey back to her home and rested on top of a palm tree. Shortly after landing, the Phoenix loudly sang a song to the sun asking for it to make her young and strong once more. The sun immediately shone down with all its might directly onto the Phoenix, causing her to burn brightly.

Once the flames died down, all that was left of the Phoenix was a pile of ashes. From those ashes the Phoenix began to form and rise again. This time she rose with renewed grace, strength, and power. The Phoenix had new life and began to sing her beautiful melodies once more. She was brought to the brink of death and emerged stronger.

Pandora’s Box is much like the Phoenix. She’s tired and weak, and yearns to sing a different tune. She returned to an area, just a short drive from where she was originally born, to be born again. She needs to be completely broken down and ripped apart.  We’ll then carefully craft her to make sure she’s strong enough to enjoy her new life delivering melodies to the world.

Can't make this stuff up. That's a nomadic evangelical electrician who sells solar panels from a van.

Can’t make this stuff up. That’s a nomadic evangelical electrician who sells solar panels from a van.

It’s time for her to evolve, but this time she’ll be equipped with the power of the sun — not destroyed by it. Solar panels can be pricy, so the hunt for the perfect panel was not something we would take lightly. A Craigslist ad sent to me by Austin Kelley proved to be a great start. Two weeks later, I found myself buying our panel from a nomadic evangelical electrician who was hocking them from an I-40 truck stop about an hour away from the shop. Sadly, the panel wouldn’t fit in my car.  The guy drove about 45 minutes back towards the shop before he dropped the panel off with me at another I-40 truck stop. I had to wait about half an hour for a ride. It was easy to pass the time though. I made direct eye contact for as long as possible with anyone pumping gas. My goal was to confuse them more than anything. Was I a bum with a solar panel? Was I trying to sell it? Was I looking to kill someone? Was I hitchhiking and expecting someone to let me take my five-foot-tall panel along for the ride? Well, that one was partially true.

Once we got the solar panel, it was time to start focusing on other items. Thanks to your generous support, bunk sheets have arrived, batteries were located, comforters are being hunted down and most of the critical interior components have been ordered or pledged to the cause. I’m keeping the parts list up to date with what we need, so please check back frequently if you’re interested in donating or sponsoring. Every little bit helps!

Next, it was time to turn her into the ashes from which our lovely Pandora will soon rise. Removing the shelving from the rear passenger side was simple. The driver’s side, however, pitted us against Pandora in a Darwinist style battle.

We planned to remove each piece very carefully.

We planned to remove each piece very carefully.

We started with screwdrivers and a plan to repurpose as much of the wood as possible. Once we removed the screws, we upgraded to claw hammers to remove as many of the nails as possible. Then, we learned the 1.5 inch thick plywood boards were glued together, making the shelving components three inches thick. We traded our small hammers for crowbars and sledge hammers. It was only at that point Pandora began to crack.  Sledge hammers made way for saws.  Finally, the testosterone laden youth and rage from our team of three proved to be too much for her.

We knew there was transmission wear when we got her, but Trevor was able to diagnosis the extent of the damage. First gear is basically gone. (We have a video describing the transmission issues. I couldn’t get it to post on YouTube, but if enough people really want to see it, I’ll try to load it again.)

Progress is being made, slowly but surely, one weekend at a time. We are determined to deliver this to J by the summer’s end. To quote Friedrich Nietzsche again, “without muSmashingsic, life would be a mistake.”

As always, thank you for listening.

Bo

 

 

 

 

We cut off a piece to make sure we weren't going to cut into any wires.

We cut off a piece to make sure we weren’t going to cut into any wires.

After we realized what we were up against, we had to be a little more aggressive.

After we realized what we were up against, we had to be a little more aggressive.

What it took to build her, wasn't enough to kill her.

What it takes to build her, wasn’t enough to kill her.

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The Inner Workings of Pandora’s Box

Just about every day I get a message from someone asking me for details on what we are doing. I’ve given just about everyone pretty detailed information and some insight into our plan. The most notable exceptions to this are J and Victor.

It’s amusing to me to keep these guys slightly on edge and waiting for updates. They’re used to it being the other way around. As they record their albums, people haunt the various HURT sites combing for updates and snippets of what’s to come. I’m sure it’s got to be a rewarding feeling for them to know that so many people care so much about something they put so much of themselves into when they are recording an album. Similarly, we are taking great pride in all the attention our build is getting and hopefully giving J and Victor a slight taste of the curiosity and eager anticipation we go through during the long waits between albums.

So what exactly is the plan anyway?

Honestly, a lot of what we have planned is going to depend on how much we’re able to get donated. So things will probably change over the course of this build depending on our budget and what’s sent to us.

The most critical aspect of this project is making sure this thing runs safely and runs well. Before we spend any of our resources on anything else, all mechanical issues must be resolved.

The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be any major issues with the engine. The bad news is that the transmission is showing signs of wear and, if at all possible, we plan to replace it. The four rear tires must be replaced (one of them is already blown). The heat and air need some work, and the ambulance is full of electrical issues. From what we’ve been able to discern at this point, it appears most of the electrical issues stem from a previous owner ripping out the inverter and trying to direct-wire all electrical systems to the battery. We are going to basically rip out ALL the wiring and start again.  Depending on time and budget we may not hook back up most of the lights and siren because they aren’t needed.

The next phase involves gutting most of the insides. Once it’s gutted and the mechanical issues have been addressed, Pandora’s Box will be taking a 2 ½ hour trip to Hot Wired Car Audio in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Hot Wired has agreed to donate several days worth of shop time and labor to the project. They will be installing the electrical, audio and video equipment that will be used for both entertainment purposes and as a functioning mobile recording studio. J has mentioned AC plug-ins are prized in the band world, so we plan to run AC outlets to each bunk to provide life support for their phones and laptops.

Once the wiring is complete, Pandora’s Box will make the trip back to Jackson to be fitted for bunks. Lorie Haynes did an amazing job on designing them. We plan to install three permanent bunks, one bunk that when folded down will form the back part of a couch, and two bunks on a locking slide system that can be removed for additional head room. Austin Kelly, whom I met through this blog, will be helping us out on this part.

Four Bunk Set up

This is a model of our four bunk set up, with bunks locked in travel mode.

Four Bunk Set Up Extended

Model of how the four bunks on the driver’s side will look when extended.

Pandora’s Box will be equipped with a kitchenette and a separate cooler so the guys aren’t forced to eat fried gas station and bar food.  We plan to install an auxiliary heat and air system that can be used for extended hours without the engine running so the guys can stay comfortable and not burn gas.

Speaking of not burning gas, sustainability for the guys has been a running theme on this blog and sustainable energy is both functional and practical for a project like this. We plan to make the necessary modifications to allow Pandora’s Box to use biodiesel. She’ll be equipped with an on-board filtration system to process used cooking oil and convert it to fuel. Even using this option only occasionally will drastically cut down their fuel cost. In addition, the battery array that will power the recording studio and auxiliary heat and air will be hooked up to roof-mounted solar panels as well as the main engine.

She’ll give them life support, and it never has to end.

As always, Thank You For Listening.

Bo