I have always been an advocate of food vans. The Beast is nothing less than the third member of the Jabberwocky, and he’s an important part of the business. I’ve always been very open about how much food vans can – and do – break down, but most conversations seem to end in me convincing someone to buy one. Sometimes, though, the food van problems will escalate beyond what I would consider normal wear and tear and bulge into a stressful pot of grumbling mechanical failure.
Here is today’s dilemma, neatly packaged into a single blog post so that others can easily come to terms with the problems you will face as a food van owner.
Last year the Beast got a new engine. New to him, at least. It was fitted shortly after the first one died, and really was very necessary. At the time we had several quotes, one of which was excruciatingly high but would have involved a new, reconditioned engine with a nice long warranty. Hindsight is staring enviously at that one now.
That engine, number 3 by our reckoning, was smoky but otherwise functional. It got us through the season with only minimal breakdowns and was only really an issue in heavy footfall areas where people were understandably narked about the sheer volume of black, choking ambiance each time we started. As the off-season crept in we accordingly started to make enquiries into new engines and people who could fit them. Once found we paired them together and hoped for the best.
Three weeks and a fair amount of driving to and from Leicester later and the van was back. The engine, once it eventually arrived, was not the gleaming MOT pass we had been promised. It was rusty hunk of junk that had been cut out of the previous LT, left to rot in the rain and then shipped to us, rainwater and all. Our mechanic had done his best but the smoke was, if anything, worse than before.
Our stubborn food van still managed to limp home, wrecking the environment a little more as it chugged back to Leamington. The off-season was over; we had to put the Beast back into action. He managed a few weeks of work, with progressively more and more smoke and less and less reliability. Eventually, on the way home from Digbeth on Friday, just as we reached the long descent into Warwick on the M40, he had had enough. There was a rumble, a pop and a cab full of smoke and steam. The Beast was done for the night.
Once again the AA, whose services I would unhesitatingly recommend for anyone considering an unreliable food van, rescued us. We made it home, and are now faced with the painful choice of repair or replace. This time it’s not the engine that’s the subject of our musings. It’s the whole van.
Sentimentality and prior summer commitments are the only things between the Food Van Problem and the scrap heap right now. I hope we can find a way to get the Beast back on the road again, but it’s going to be expensive, long and by no means fail safe. Suddenly the gazebo doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, shame we could never get another picture with a Dalek. Until the following day.
A huge than you to Flo & Pip at Leamington LAMP for being stupendously understanding when we said we wouldn’t be able to get to their wedding in a van, and had to gazebo it up instead. Plus they had a dalek. There is still awesomeness out there somewhere, sometimes it just needs a push to get it moving.