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Who is BillaVista?

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So just who is this 4x4 nut called BillaVista (and what the heck kind of name is that anyway?)

Real Name: Bill Ansell

Born: Jan 17 1969, England, U. K.

Lived: England, Wales, Libya, Cayman Islands, Canada

Resides: Bourque St, Limoges, Ontario, CANADA

Works: J3 Arms Control Verification, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA

I grew-up in England and Wales in the United Kingdom. My life-long fascination with 4x4s and off road began in the Welsh mountains in the late 70s, bouncing around in the back of Dad's 1966 Series IIA SWB Land Rover we called Efel after the first three letters on her number plate (licence plate), EFL. She was dark forest green with a canvas soft-top. We went everywhere in that great little truck as a family, and were avid members of the Welsh Land Rover Club, expeditioning all over the Welsh mountains and countryside. Dad is a brilliant mechanical engineer, but in the early days we were not a wealthy family, and so he spent many hours fixing and tinkering with the Land Rover. As a boy I gleefully hung around handing him wrenches (spanners), learning colourful new words, and drinking in the following advice - "Use the right tool for the job"... often followed by the equally classic "Don't do as I do, do as I say!" Dad has a knack for fixing the unfixable and making do with whatever is at hand. I swear he can take a bolt, reduce it one size, and re-cut the threads using only a small hand file. That's the kind of fellow he is. That was the powerful beginning to a life-long love affair.

Since then I have owned, driven, and wrenched on many different 4x4s from a Land Rover in the Libyan desert, to a Nissan patrol in the Cayman Islands, to Jeep knock-offs in South America, and US Military Hummers.  At home in Canada my collection has included over the years my Toyota pickup truck, FS Ford Bronco, Jeep Cherokee XJ, and of course my latest 1-ton Rock Buggy "The Wolf".

I did most of my later formal schooling in Ontario, Canada, including a BSc from the University of Waterloo in General Science. When I graduated, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces as an Officer, and am now an Air Force Captain. I'm an Air Navigator, flying Sea King Maritime Helicopters. We fly the 40-year-old Sikorsky Sea King (H-3) Helicopter from the back of Canadian destroyers and frigates.  We do everything from mail delivery to search and rescue, to anti-shipping warfare....but our specialty is anti-submarine warfare!  That makes me, among other things a Tactical Navigator, Crew Commander, and I'm also a qualified instructor. In my present posting I am the Navigator Standards Officer at 406 Maritime Operational Training Squadron, located in Shearwater (near Halifax) Nova Scotia.

Here are some cool videos of what we do in Sea Kings (Bart Postma was a student at 406 Sqn a few years back):

Fire it up baby! A Bart Postma Production Super-cool Short clip - rockin' theme. 20 MB, 1:13
A Day on the Deathstar- A Bart Postma Production Operation "Apollo" 2002 - the boys out on patrol in the war against Terrorism - super cool video! 223 MB, 11:29
CH124 Sea King Older official vid - also contains cool footage. 72 MB, 7:02

I have been married to my beautiful and understanding wife, Laurie, since 1995. We have 2 awesome children, Mitchell and Jessica. Mitchell named my buggy "Wolf" after one of his favourite animals at the local wildlife park. He helped me paint it bright red and flat black, and adores going 'wheeling' with his Dad. Laurie "tolerates" my hobby, and the financial and time pressures it creates! When Jess is old enough - I may just have to build a 4 seater buggy! Next to my family and 4x4's, things I love most are tools, anything automotive (but especially American old cars and trucks, European sports cars and Japanese bikes), wildlife, SCUBA diving, camping, playing and coaching rugby, reading (mostly technical stuff) and of course the internet.

I got the online nick-name "BillaVista" from an online friend of mine, Beezil, at the North American XJ Association forums. It was a spoof on the internet search engine "Altavista", which he tagged me with because I always seemed to have a link for anything - and particularly 4x4 related tech info. One day I boasted in fun that I could find out anything on the internet, and Beezil threw down the challenge by asking, "OK, smart guy, how many giraffes are there at the Chicago Zoo?". As a lark, I looked up the Chicago Zoo, and lo and behold - they have a web site. It turned out the big news on their site was the building of a new addition to the animal enclosures, and how all the animals had been temporarily moved until completion. So I posted the answer - zero giraffes currently at the Chicago Zoo - along with the link. Ever since then, the name stuck!

The strength and popularity of my technical articles stems from an almost fanatical passion for details and accuracy, tremendous passion for the sport of 4x4 construction, modification, and driving, along with a knack for researching things, and a bit of a gift of the gab.

My own shop is a small 1-car garage in which the Wolf barely fits. It's cramped, cluttered, and freezing cold in the winter. I love to collect and fill it with all sorts of junk I think of as treasure (see this example!) I have a modest collection of tools including a large chest of hand tools, a compressor, small MIG welder, drill press, chop saw, and various grinders, saws, and other power tools - but no machine tools, no lathe or mills. I'm fairly decent with the wrench, but am not a professional welder, machinist, or one of those naturally gifted mechanics - that's how I'm able to understand the details from a guy with a PhD in metallurgy, but write an article with the level of detail and clear pics and descriptions that regular folks enjoy.

I hope that you enjoy my articles!

Here's the whole gang from about 1976. From R to L Dad in the driver's seat (right hand drive in the UK of course), Auntie Dora, My mum, My sister Lisa on the tailgate, Auntie Di between us kids, lil' ol' me (nice shirt!), Grandma Sylvia, and family friend Seif from Egypt.
One of the Welsh Land Rover Club rigs up to its lights in bog. This was the time we went on a Land Rover trail across the top of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, following the North Sea natural gas pipeline. At the point of the picture, 12 out of the 14 vehicles were stuck in the bog. Only EFL and one other were on hard ground, and we systematically worked to winch them out. It was a blast!
An awesome picture, Me and my sis in front of EFL, somewhere in the remote hills of Wales. No Sierra club in site ...those were the days!
Here's my work ride....
Here's the airport
Here's my "airport" and its friends ...somewhere in the South Atlantic I think

.....and here's my play ride! See more about The Wolf here and here.
My old, much loved, Jeep Cherokee XJ

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