End of the road for an old friend?

Today has been a day of highs and lows, both emotionally and actually!

The day started with a horribly early alarm. My destination was 2CV specialist Pete Sparrow in Hereford – about 70 miles away. The reason? Well, Elly has had some play in her offside kingpin for ooh, about two years now. It was time to get it sorted. This is much easier for a specialist with lots of fancy tools.

Things didn’t start well. I hadn’t even travelled a mile before I had problems selecting gears. The selector was spinning around on top of the gearbox. Ugh! I bravely battled on for another couple of miles but had to admit defeat, stopping at a friend’s house to borrow some tools. The fix took no time to apply and I was soon on my way, treated to sights like this.

Elan Valley 2CV

Elly and some epic Elan Valley views

It was quite treacherous though, with several icy sections that needed careful navigation. In places, the cleared drifts were taller than the car. Once through the Elan Valley, things were rather less snowy and I could maintain a good pace. Even with my unscheduled stop, I was still pretty much on time.

It was soon confirmed that both kingpin and suspension arm were worn. Replacement of the entire arm was the best cure, but I was disappointed as I have made serious efforts to improve the greasing schedule. Clearly I still need to be better! Then we found a show-stopper.

2cv floor rot

Oh bother! Crusty floor

Mr MOT man was sure to have his doubt about this ‘ventilation hole.’ I knew the floor had some rot in it, but this was far worse than I’d reckoned on. Note also that the sills, outrigger, shock absorber and even the bolts on the suspension arm (and the arm itself) are rusty. Last year really has taken its toll on the 2CV, though I share some responsibility. I really need to up my game when it comes to anti-corrosion protection too. Bother.

That meant that a new plan was needed. The MOT runs out on the 15th April, today being the 3rd. There was little point taking Elly home with such major work needed. The decision was made for me to go home in a borrowed car, while Elly was fettled sufficiently to pass another MOT.

Now for a massive high. The car I got to drive home in? A Citroen Ami 6 berline! I’m very lucky. In my job as a classic car journalist, I have driven some incredible cars, including a Jaguar XJ6 that once belonged to Sir William Lyons the Jaguar founder, two Citroen SMs (always a pleasure), Bentley Turbos, a 440bhp Lola T70 replica and a 1930s Rolls-Royce 20/25. Dream cars for sure, but the Ami 6 is on another planet. I’ve long wished to own one but apart from driving one very low example around a very bumpy field, I’d somehow never had the pleasure. Today was the day that it all changed. I was going to meet my hero.

Citroen Ami 6 berline low

Citroen Ami 6. Beautiful and ugly at the same time

Isn’t it just fabulous? I adore its utterly bonkers look, and so did many French people. For a time during the 1960s, this was the best-selling car in France, eclipsing the 2CV on which it was based. This one has a fair few engine tweaks, and boasts a later disc-brake gearbox, but that does little to detract from the character of this little saloon.

The driving experience is one I’ll get around to describing another time, but let’s just say that I’ve rarely grinned so much in my life. The 70 miles home just weren’t enough really. I don’t want to give it back!

This jubilation was sadly short-lived as the Ami’s owner had bad news for me. My 2CV was in very poor condition and in his view was simply not worth restoring. To do so, would be a nightmare due to all the repair (and bodgery) work that has taken place over the years. My neglect really had brought me to a very difficult decision. She’ll get through another MOT – hopefully – but it seems that Elly faces a very bleak future. After 13 years and more than 100,000 miles together, I don’t really want to say goodbye, but I might just have to.

The decision remains what to do about the 2CV restoration project. As the bodyshell has had far less repair work, it might be far better to restore that instead. As for what happens to Elly’s running gear, who knows. The next year is going to be filled with some very tough decisions.

Citroen 2cv repair

Could it be the end for Elly the Dolly?

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