3500 miles in 17 days. In a 2CV.

One of the best things I’ve ever been involved with was a 2CVGB event called The Eight Ball Rally. It was a navigational scatter rally organised by an intensive care nurse with barely any relevant experience. It would see a gang of 2CVers cover 3500 miles in 17 days driving around the mainland UK in a figure of eight, searching for clues as we went.

It sounded like a bloomin’ good adventure, so Rachel and I packed the 2CV and headed for Leicestershire for the start. A sleepless night outside a very noisy pub then followed, before we dragged ourselves out of bed, packed up and headed for the first overnight halt in North Yorkshire. Over the next fortnight, we averaged over 200 miles a day. The route took us up to the North East of England, then across the border into Edinburgh, across the Forth and all the way up to John O’Groats.

John O'Groats by 2CV

John O’Groats by 2CV

The scenery was astonishing and as we were clue hunting as we went (trying to find eight clues a day), we saw little motorway. At Aviemore, we awoke to a light covering of snow – it being late April. We travelled across Scotland on tiny roads, with astonishing views of a sea that seemed almost tropical.

Stunning North Scotland views

Stunning North Scotland views

A 2CV is in its natural element up there. No motorways, not even much dual-width single carriageway to be honest. A really nice part of the event was meeting local 2CVers as we went. Being so far north, they don’t always find it easy to get to events, so for 2CVers to come to them was clearly appreciated! It is an incredibly remote part of the world. We could travel for hours and barely see another car. Because we were all travelling independently, we tended not to form groups. You could visit the clues in any order you wished, and we would take to trying to hide from other teams if we found ourselves near the same clues at the same time! Every evening, we’d get together to share our adventures of each day, forming friendships as we did so.

We then came down the west coast, through Paisley – which was something of a contrast to what we’d seen for the previous few days – and then through the Lake District, tackling the fabled Hardknott Pass. I had to be a bit careful here as I new the brake pads were getting a bit low. Going up the hills wasn’t a problem though, despite the odd tourist conspiring to rob me of much-needed momentum!

Then we headed back to Leicestershire. From here, we began the second leg, heading to the South East of England, before cutting across to Cornwall and Land’s End.

Problems strike in the south

Problems strike in the south

Sadly, all was not good here. For a start, the traffic levels were alarming after a week in the North. Then the 2CV started to lose power on the M27. We decided to push on, though others were having trouble too – a Mehari suffering clutch linkage failure on a very busy road in Bournemouth. I knew there was a well regarded 2CV specialist in Cornwall, so we limped onwards. The problem was odd. Nothing too severe, but a definite loss of power. She didn’t cut out at any point but it was clear all was not well.

Graham at The 2CV Workshop remove the Harley Davidson coil and DG Ignition and put Elly back on standard points and coil. This certainly did the trick, though there was now no way of knowing which had been at fault. That didn’t matter at the time. We had an urgent appointment with Land’s End and it was well into the afternoon. We had a long way to go.

Elly began pinking not far into the journey, so I soon had to undertake roadside repairs. It wasn’t the first time she’d done it on this trip, but clearly the factory settings were not working. If I recall correctly, she was on about 150,000 miles at the time, on her original engine. A worn points cam made it difficult to get the timing spot-on for both cylinders. I retarded it slightly and all was well.

After reaching the end of the land, we headed northwards and into Wales. This seemed incredibly lush after the wilds of Scotland. Again, I wasn’t happy with the way Elly was running, but it was hard to complain too much after 3000 miles covered in a fortnight. More roadside tinkering took place.

Running repairs, fortunately not more than tinkering

Running repairs, fortunately not more than tinkering

Returning to Leicestershire once more, there was a right mixed bag of emotions to wade through. We’d made it and had enjoyed a great adventure, but now it was over. The cars had performed magnificently, showing just how hardy the 2CV really is. I was a little upset at the minor ignition faults we’d experienced, but otherwise the 2CV gamely covered 200 miles every day without complaint.

Sadly, Roz who organised the event would lose her battle against personal demons a couple of years later. She will be sadly missed. It takes a very special sort of a person to manage to organise an event on that scale, almost single-handedly. I know she spent many days hurtling all around the country in order to set the clues and it remains a fine memorial to her. It remains one of the best driving adventures I have ever undertaken, all without having to leave the UK. Don’t assume you have to head overseas for a driving challenge. The UK is actually big enough to provide plenty of excitement itself!




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