Firstly, I apologise for the language, but I’m a member of the excellent Autoshite forum and so it seemed natural to call our now annual gathering Shitefest. The forum is dedicated to old cars, but with the twist that we love cars that are often seen as undesirable and usually deeply unfashionable. Some like driving cars that look like wrecks (subtly different to Rat Look, where cars are MADE to look like wrecks), others cherish their unloved cars with a dedication that can only be admired. I hope I fall somewhere between the two…
Anyway, the net result of all this is that a very excited me spent AGES last week preparing the Discovery for its trip up north. Levels had been checked, a specialist had given it the once over and I’d carefully loaded it up with everything I’d need. I leapt aboard and began my 160-mile journey to North Yorkshire. That journey ended after just three miles. The Discovery made a horrific clattering noise, a wheel locked up and I found myself stopped at the side of the road. The locked wheel was on a wet white line, so thankfully things didn’t get very exciting. I jumped out, expecting to see differential teeth or bits of propshaft littering the road. Nothing. Odd.
I jumped back in, took the handbrake off and marvelled at a car parked on a hill that wouldn’t roll. I selected reverse and gave it a bit of welly and it did go backwards. It then rolled forward again, but making a rather horrible grinding noise. Still, it was better than not moving at all so having dismissed the idea of limping on another 157 miles, I meekly drove back home at a steady 20mph. It would have to be the Golf as it was raining quite heavily and the 2CV is about as watertight as tissue paper.
No careful packing here, I just hurled everything out of the Disco and into the Golf. The Golf was low on fuel, but hopefully not any other vital fluids. I had recently carried out a service, so the oil was probably ok, and had topped up the coolant after replacing the heater bypass valve. I raced northwards as quickly as a plague of sodding camper vans would let me, which wasn’t really as quickly as I’d hoped. I’d thoroughly missed my traffic window and Newtown was its usual snarled up, hideous self. That’s ok, as the cooling fan was cutting in as required. But then the entire car started shaking as the fan cut in for a second time. I’ve known it’s been a bit iffy for a while, but naturally it chose an important country-crossing journey to REALLY play up. My solution was to put the heater blower on full. I was now far too hot, but the car, importantly, wasn’t. Rain prevented me opening windows too readily.
Then I hit resurfacing works on the A458 approaching Welshpool. This seems to happen with depressing regularity. Thankfully, the five-minute stop allowed me to turn the engine off completely to avoid overheating. Oswestry, Wrexham and Chester were circumnavigated and after two hours, I found myself on actual motorway at long last. It was now just after 5pm though, and traffic was heavy. That meant more heater action and my new regime on sighting multiple brake lights up ahead was check mirror, slow down, put heater on, downshift as required, increasing heater blower speed if speed reduced too much.
That was bearable until I reached the M6. Here, it was very stop-start, which unfortunately is just how the Golf’s engine decided to behave. If I let the revs drop below 1500rpm, even in gear, it cut out. This was not much fun, as my new regime on sighting multiple brake lights ahead was check mirror, slow down, put heater on, try and downshift while also braking and blipping the throttle without crashing into any other vehicles due to trying to operate three pedals at once. I may have cried, but due to having the heater on full blast, any tears would have evaporated very quickly.
After twenty minutes of this, I was getting cramp in my legs and wishing I’d come in the 2CV after all. Happily, after another longer stretch of clear motorway, normal service was resumed. I can only assume that the very soggy leg up to the M6 had caused damp to play havoc with the spark plugs and HT leads, both of which I know are far from perfect (but have remained on the To Do list while I try and earn money rather than spend it all on cars).
Was the event worth the stress of getting there? Find out in the next installment. Here’s a clue…