Council clean-up - What Do You Reckon? 434

By: Glenn Torrens

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fridge fridge

With his eyes always open, Glenn Torrens spies a ripper roadside find!

Wow, this only ever happens to someone else, I thought as I eagerly U-turned my brown VB Commodore wagon just down the road from my house. Cruising home from a Sunday morning coffee, I’d spied two Engel 12V camping fridges on the grass outside a house during the local council’s twice-yearly clean-up week. Many of us know that 1950s-to-1980s metal-bodied Eskies and riveted-cardboard suitcases are popular within our classic/cruiser car culture. You often see these strapped to the roof racks or tucked into the boots of everything from Bugs to Brocks. Kinda the same, these old green-with-beige painted Engel 12V fridges are a bit of a thing in the classic 4WD and caravan scene so these fridges were in the back of my Commodore wagon within seconds (with me thinking how lucky it was that I hadn’t driven my Mazda MX-5 that morning!) and in my garage within minutes.

When plugged in to 240V power – these Engels are 12V and 240V capable – both fridges made noise: one’s internal cooling element immediately began to get cold but the compressor stopped working in less than a minute and the other’s compressor ran continuously without chilling its cabinet. So, I did what any car nut would do: an engine transplant! I more-or-less pulled the motor from one and fitted it to the body of the other to build a working fridge. When doing so, I found the internals of both fridges were date-stamped 1986.

After building myself one good fridge from the two I’d found by the side of the road, I gave the second fridge cabinet to my mate Davo… another vintage Engel enthusiast.

As do older cars, my VL/XF-era Engel uses more juice than my later-model Engel (around 7A instead of 3A – so it runs a car battery flat in double-quick time!) but for the number of one-or-two-night weekend camping uses it will get, that won’t matter much. 

And in addition to being a classic 1980s fashion accessory, after another ‘late model’ fridge gave an error code and stopped working the night before a two-week journey with 4x4 Australia magazine, my gutter-find, compressor-swapped, original-paint, time-warp classic Engel fridge has kept the steak and beers cold on two central-Australia outback desert treks, too!

I’m one of those people who loves a good scrounge, whether it be through a country-town second-hand book or antique shop, a suburban garage sale or – especially – a car wrecking yard. My Classic Car Hunter series for Street Machine’s YouTube channel grew out of my enjoyment of this and I guess, as it is for anyone who plays with older cars and needs to find parts, it’s a ‘skill’ worth having.

But apart from scrounging my first car for free (that’s for another time) I’ve never been so lucky with my car parts hunting as I was that Sunday: finding two cool old 1980s Engels on the side of the road!

It’s my best find, ever!

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