I’ve had to wait patiently for this collection caper, but finally, the day arrived! It was hard to plan for the day, as I wasn’t entirely sure when the paperwork would allow collection.
You see, the problem is that despite many changes to the vehicle tax system, it’s still not possible to tax a car you don’t yet own. The logbook had been lost in the mists of time for the Dyane, so I would have to wait for the logbook to arrive in my name before I could tax it. Or would I?
The DVLA kindly sent me a letter suggesting that the logbook would be processed on 17th August. I phoned on the 18th, and they were able to confirm that yes, the logbook had been processed. The Dyane was now in my name. Even better, I could tax it with them over the phone, so I didn’t have to wait for the logbook to physically arrive with my name on it. Brilliant!
A neighbour just happened to be driving to south Wales, and that proved very handy. Getting from here to Wiltshire by train is a bit of a nightmare. Seven hours or more. Getting a lift to pretty Abergavenny meant a total trip duration of five hours. That’s more like it! The first train took me to Newport.
Now, I’m not the biggest fan of rail transport, but I have to admit that I do like it as part of a car collection trip. You get to sit and watch the world go by, while that anticipation gently builds. Plus, you sometimes get to ride on trains like this!
If my research is to be believed, this particular Intercity 125, or Classic 43, was built in 1982 – so it’s not quite as old as I am. This was the first time I’d been on one since I was a child and while the scream of its Paxman Valenta V12 engine is long gone, the MTU engine fitted during a refurbishment is undeniably smooth. This is still an exceedingly fast diesel locomotive and while the four miles of the Severn Tunnel did hurt my ears, it was a very pleasurable journey to Swindon. The next train was utter rubbish though. Swings and roundabouts!
I now found myself in sunny Warminster, where the train station is ideally situated right next to a scrapyard.
Gary Dicks of 2CV Imports was waiting for me in a Suzuki Wagon R. Gary has been working to get the Dyane road legal, though I hasten to point out that for a road-going Dyane, this one was very cheap! Which explains why the journey home was not without incident. I have no complaints.
Anyway, tea was consumed, cats were discussed (yes, cats rather than cars) and I was soon on my way. This was my first drive on the road in my new Dyane, and the first Dyane I’ve owned since 2002. I think. Well, ok. There was another Dyane, but it was horribly rotten and I never actually drove it! Back on topic, it was fuel time.
The bonding process began in earnest now, as she dumped a load of super unleaded down my leg. How grateful is that?! It seems in the few months that I haven’t been 2CV-ing, I forgot that you have to ease off the pressure as the tank nears being full, or fuel tends to shoot out all over the place. Oops. I treated her to super unleaded for the simple reason that the last time she was on the road, she would probably have been drinking four star. I decided higher octane might be beneficial.
As we departed Warminster, I gently increased the speed. After so long off the road, it seemed kinder to take things gently. That said, I suspected the car had remained in regular use, as it seemed to run so sweetly. I was not wrong. The previous owner rang me while I was stopped for food on the way back and explained that the Dyane had been used as a shooting hack on a farm in Montgomeryshire! It had only been laid up for a few years, some of those in a barn. More on that another time.
As the roads got twistier, the tired state of the dampers became more apparent. Unsurprising, as they’re at least 20 years old I suspect, if not older. It therefore feels a bit precarious and unpredictable in the bends – grippy still, but prone to sudden pitch and yaw that is unsettling even to a seasoned 2CVer.
Bradford-upon-Avon proved stressful, which is a shame. It was the home of Dr Alex Moulton, who developed rubber cone, hydrolastic and hydragas suspension for BMC/BL. The link? He was a compulsive Citroen owner. His bicycle company is still based in Bradford-upon-Avon.
Not that I got to enjoy that fact very much, as the Dyane was struggling to idle. In fact, she cut out several times, and several more times, I just managed to catch her with a blip of throttle to narrowly avoid more starter motor use. Fortunately, the pedals are beautifully set for heel-and-toe, which is good. I was having to operate all three pedals at once! A very useful skill.
After 20 miles, I pulled over to give the car a quick checkover before we hit the motorway, and to have a quick drink. Given the lumpy idle, I turned the engine off. This was a mistake as after my short break, she wouldn’t restart. ARSE!
Fortunately, I’m not one to panic. What’s the main reason for a 2CV refusing to hot start? Yes, a weak coil. Certainly, this one was very hot. I left the bonnet up, stretched my legs and a few minutes later, she purred into life. Phew.
Annoyingly, I went straight from this layby into another sodding traffic jam – pure coil-killing conditions and further three-pedal driving was required. That thankfully didn’t last too long, and I sound found myself racing down the sliproad to the M4.
This was a nervous moment. I’d already discovered that the engine was pinking under heavy load and that coil was causing concern too. I was taking to the motorway in a car that required a certain amount of nursing. I needn’t have worried. She was soon sailing along very comfortably at an indicated 70mph, highlighting the main difference between Dyane and 2CV. No doors flapping, far less wind noise and more space for the driver. This was actually quite pleasant!
Then it was on to the M5 up to Gloucester, then onto the A40 towards Ross-on-Wye. As we enjoyed the traffic-free A road conditions, with much hooning, I can to concede that the car seemed to be running very nicely now. The tickover had come back and she felt a lot happier. Could this be because she used to live near Ross-on-Wye? Did she think she was going home?
She wasn’t. We continued on our way to Hereford, where there was a longer-than-planned stop for food and a rest at a pub that was having problems with its clever till system. My food order got lost. At least this gave longer for the coil to cool…
When I finally got back to the car, I decided it might be an idea to check the oil level. It’s a good job I did, as it was right at the lower end of acceptability. Fortunately, I’d left some oil in the car from when I nipped down to tinker with the Dyane the previous week. Nice, expensive synthetic stuff too. So, it was a bit dismaying to notice that this nice, expensive oil was leaking out all over the engine. I suspect several minor leaks, but it’s certainly enough for the car to mark its territory. Given the crap service, I can’t say I feel too bad about the Dyane marking this particular car park!
So, onwards I drove, being blinded by the setting sun. It was quite pretty though to be fair.
We’d now covered over 100 miles, but there was still a long way to go! I’d discovered the lack of heater tubes as the temperature dropped, but at least I could close the dash vents. The climb over the Elan Valley mountain road was tricky, as I had to keep dropping a gear to avoid pinking. It tends to happen when the engine is under maximum load, so the trick is to drop a gear, so you end up with lots of revs, but less load on the engine. Noisy work, but we made it.
172 miles covered, in a car last on the road in 1995, that has a 602cc engine developing 33bhp. We averaged 34mph and the journey home took about the same time as the train. I can’t really be anything other than pleased.