Elly goes to France: Part Trois

After landing back in the UK, the truth was that we we still had plenty of miles to cover. We’d clocked up around 300 miles getting to Dover, then another 200 in France itself. We still had another 300 odd miles to go. I couldn’t waste the opportunity of being in the South East, so our drive home would involved a couple of business meetings. The first was with this rather special Jaguar Mk1 for an upcoming feature in Classic Jaguar magazine. A thoroughly fascinating visit, and one which should make for a very interesting feature.

Elly seems somewhat daunted by this race-prepped Jaguar Mk1 – yes those are Lister colours.

Again, we broke up the journey home with an overnight stay in Sussex. I managed to distract my train-obsessed nephew enough for him to help me check over the car (oil level fine, lights all working).

All ok! The thumbs-up of approval.

In truth, all really was pretty much ok. There had been a build up of some sort of substance on the windscreen, either fumes from a leaky head joint or mist from a mild oil leak. Nothing I could do about these things now other than push on home.

I had another quick meeting with another editor in Shoreham, which meant when we finally started heading home, we were dangerously close to the south coast. I say dangerously, because we have previous experience of the horrors of the south coast – we’ve never been to Bournemouth again since experiencing absolute traffic chaos there (in the 2CV) in 2008. Sure enough, the roads were somewhat sticky, this being a bank holiday week. It seemed to take forever to reach a decent, open stretch of road. In fact, the A419 from Swindon to Cirencester was about the first time we managed to settle down to a cruise. Even then, there was still the horror of Air Balloon roundabout, where some old lady in a Honda Jazz was amusingly unfriendly at a traffic merge. The plus side of the 2CV is that I could simply  turn the engine off going downhill, as the brakes, brake lights and steering all work without it being on.

There was the usual frantic blat around Gloucester before the roads became rural once more. We had one stop for tea and cake, getting our foot through the door just before the restaurant closed at this garden centre.

Thanks Trioscape! Just in time for much-needed tea and cake.

Then it was the final push home, which had very little in the way of peril or jeopardy, unless you include my cornering style. I must have been pushing a bit as my unflappable wife actually made comment. Sure enough, the car that had been tailgating me uphill decided to hang back by some distance…

I’m surprised I had the energy for such antics, as hooning a 2CV is hard work. My shoulders and arms were certainly starting to ache, as were my fingers. Clearly, driving cars with power assisted steering has made me rather soft.

Eventually, we did make it home of course. I expressed some satisfaction with that – 900 miles in five days and no breakdowns. Others wondered what the fuss was about, and I guess that’s fair comment. I had no doubts the car would reach its next 3000-mile service interval, so what does it matter if some of those miles were done quite quickly, and in a different country?

But, I guess it was proof that Elly is functioning pretty much correctly again after a major rebuild, and that’s always nice. Sure, there’s a fair snagging list from the trip, but most of these minor gremlins existed before we set off. The kingpins do have a bit of play in them, the rear wheel bearings do seem to be a little noisy, the handbrake really does need adjusting properly (I think I’ve managed to make it worse in fact) and noise really is still an issue! I’m not sure what we can do about wind noise, which is a large part of it – especially when you need the windows open for ventilation!

Nonetheless, I was pleased to have encountered so few issues on so major a trip. Now, when’s the next adventure?

Elly back home again, after 900 miles in five days.


The first long run

Today, I needed to be in Nuneaton, near Coventry, for work-related reasons. I spent yesterday agonising about which car to take – this can often be a problem when you have four vehicles. I even resorted to asking the good people of Twitter. These sensible folk democratically picked the ZX as the vehicle to take. I was surprised.

I very nearly did their bidding too. In fact, I opened my front door with the ZX keys in my hand, and very nearly stepped through. But then, this happened.

Morning Elly! Fancy a drive?

Morning Elly! Fancy a drive?

I wasted valuable minutes grabbing spares, ‘useful’ stuff and tools and headed out into the gloom. I’m sorry to report that leaving the house at 7:40am is rather a shock for me. I waved at the school bus as I departed the village, opting for the Elan Valley Mountain Road for a proper hoon session.

By the time I reached Ludlow, my sat nav was revealing the bad news that I was going to be six minutes late arriving in Nuneaton. Earlier, I had been seven minutes late, but had managed to make up a minute – not easy in a 2CV, but good fun nonetheless. Then it all went wrong. The slog between Ludlow and Droitwich saw me stuck behind the same two trucks for pretty much the whole way. I was not impressed. I lost a full 15 minutes behind this pair. It was time to call ahead and admit I was going to be late.

On the M42, this milestone occurred, with the photo definitely taken by the passenger.

602! For the third time in her life.

602! For the third time in her life.

My celebration was short lived though as, just out of shot, the fuel gauge was looking rather scarily low. In a 2CV, there’s low, and then there’s “doing a weave doesn’t move the needle” low. It was in that category. Bother!

So, I zipped off the motorway at Monkspath near Solihull, where I knew there was a Tesco with far more reasonable prices than most motorway services. I got 22 litres into the 25 litre tank, so it was a good job I stopped.

About 30 miles later, I arrived at Martin Robey Engineering Group in Nuneaton, where there was much gawping at heavy industry. Oh, and a photo opportunity of rather lighter engineering.

The ideal car for a quick 120-mile drive to the West Midlands?

The ideal car for a quick 120-mile drive to the West Midlands?

It had been a lovely drive, despite frustrating trucks. Elly was absolutely flying, though I’m not sure why. She dealt with the big hill on the M6 almost as if it wasn’t there. I even overtook stuff! We hit a sat nav 71mph at one point, and she felt very comfortable. My ears were comfortable too, though only because I’d remembered to pack my 3M ear filters. These are like plugs, but reduce rather than block noise. They take a good 50db off, which makes a big difference, yet still allows you to hear sirens and worrying car noises. Thankfully, there were not many of either.

With the engineering drooling completed, it was time for the journey home. This time, I’d be simply using the M6 and M54 to get home as quickly as possible. Again, Elly seemed very happy to zip alomg at the legal limit, which varied from 50-70 along the M6. The only real problem is traffic bunching. When it all slows down, then speeds up, a poor 2CV can be left in the lurch, unable to match the turbo-aided torque of pretty much every other vehicle out there.

Still, before too long, we had returned to Wales.

Almost home.

Almost home.

After this pause, purely for artistic effect, I pushed on home. The only incident was when I cut a corner slightly, and caught the cats eyes while on a fair degree of hoon. The car skipped alarmingly across the road, towards a rather solid looking crash barrier. We managed to avoid it, but it has left me thinking there’s work to do on the suspension. The front shock absorbers are certainly not fresh – I bought a set in about 2004 I think – and the rears are Monroes, which do not seem to work well in this application. There is also the MOT advisory regarding both kingpins to consider, though I’ve not had kingpins cause this handling foible before (they can rattle when cornering, which feels more alarming than it is. These don’t do that yet).

Oh, and one more tiny problem. As I went to turn into my driveway, the offside front indicator decided it didn’t want to work anymore, which I suspect is either a duff bulb or the fault of my wiring. Overall, that’s been a pretty decent shakedown run. I’m glad I swallowed the brave pill and went for it! After all, I’ve put some serious effort into getting this car back on the road. It’s about time she covered some miles!

Project Elly: The End!

EDIT – now with video! Scroll down

No, don’t worry. Not The End of Elly, I’m just formally closing Project Elly. She is back on the road and, she appears to be reliable again. Hoorah! Time to step away from the project and steer her back into regular use.

I eagerly awaited the postman this morning, because I knew he’d have goodies for me – or rather, Elly.

Hello Mr Postman! What have you got for me?

Hello Mr Postman! What have you got for me?

I wasn’t disappointed. My ECAS 2CV Parts order had arrived!

Cor! A lovely, new, resin-filled coil.

Cor! A lovely, new, resin-filled coil.

I had to pay attention fitting it, as it seems it’s imperative that the positive and negative connections are the right way around. This differs from the normal coil. In fact, it’s actually sensible to swap the connections every now and then to even up wear on the spark plugs due to the wasted spark system the 2CV employs (in short, no distributor, so it sparks on both cylinders twice during the four-stroke cycle).

With it fitted, and with the ignition now being back on the points-assisted Velleman kit, she fired very promptly into life. Brilliant! Naturally, I ignored my substantial work load and went for a drive. At last! I could drive along with the engine firing cleanly, even after pulling over and letting her tickover for a while as I took photos. There was no spluttering, no misfiring. Phew!

Finally, she is finished and healthy!

Finally, she is finished and healthy!

Of course, there’s not really any such thing as finished. The grey wheels look wrong – they should be white. I also need to get the rear seat fitted, and sort out some sound proofing as she’s LOUD. The grey felt on the interior body sides needs purchasing and fitting, the gearbox oil needs replacing, the reverse light also needs to actually be fitted and I’d like to sort out an interior light. Then there’s the rear wings that need painting, and the side stripes that need recreating (I’m pondering options here – I still fancy a bit of an art project). Oh, and the hatchback kit. That needs fitting, but I also need to get a hinge made up to complete it first.

But, she’s very much back, and that makes me very happy. A lot of people have donated funds, parts, advice and support during this project. I can’t thank you enough. Alan at Citwins turned a complete wreck of a 2CV body into what you see here, with the frightening number of replacement panels needed funded directly by your contributions. That was over £1100. If there’s anything I’ve learnt during this project, it is that the 2CV is supported SUPERBLY well when it comes to parts. We are very, very lucky.

As am I. I’m able to drive my 2CV again. For that, I’m truly grateful.

Thank you!

Thank you!


Project Elly: Cured? Not entirely, no

Suspicion for Elly the 2CV’s misfire was being laid at the condenser by me, and at the pointed ends of the coil(s) by others. I certainly didn’t consider either of my coils likely to be reliable. I think one is off the Dyane I owned last year and certainly ancient. I suspect my only good coil went with the Dyane when it was sold…

But, I was eager to get Elly at least back onto points-assisted ignition, as that’d be a good baseline. So, I grabbed my broken Velleman unit and drove a few miles to my mate Dave’s house.

A successful drive! Hoorah!

A successful drive! Hoorah!

She made it with just one misfire, though she didn’t feel entirely happy. Still, as far as recent journeys go, this one was pretty good! That’s Dave’s 306 in the background. He’s currently doing a rear axle swap. He has not been lucky with the weather…

Dave got his multimeter out instead, and quickly diagnosed a faulty transistor. I’m not surprised. I suspect I got a connection wrong at some point, which it didn’t like. Dave’s a handy person to know though, because, not only is he good with electronics, but he also employs Velleman units on various of his motor vehicles – including an Austin A35 van and a Freight-Rover camper. One of his many units was raided for a transistor. It was soldered into place, and I returned home a happy chappy. I owe Dave a beer. That’s a cheap fix, and certainly much cheaper than the £135 I’d have to pay for a full electronic ignition.

I went straight to the garage when I got home, and quickly set about fitting the kit. This involved making up some new sections of wire. I didn’t want to cut off existing connections, because it’s always handy to be able to go back to basic points and condenser if required. It didn’t take long to fit, and I thought I might as well carry out a rather late service while I was at it. I didn’t want to do it before now, as I wanted  the old oil to circulate properly before I dropped it out.

While it was draining, I removed the cooling fan so I could disconnect the condenser. I was happy to discover that I could slot in a screwdriver to do this without having to remove the points box that it bolts to. That means I didn’t have to disturb the ignition timing. The fan was refitted, and then I discovered that I didn’t have any engine oil of the correct grade, so had a hasty trip into town in the ZX before the shops shut. Charlies sells Comma 10w40 semi-synth for £12.49 for five litres. That’d do nicely.

This'll probably be ok.

This’ll probably be ok.

Once back home, I put on a new oil filter, new air filter (the old one had been choked by engine oil thanks to the old breather – now replaced) and fitted new spark plugs. She fired very merrily into life, just like how I remember – almost running before you’ve hit the starter. I jumped in to go for a test drive, but only one headlamp was working. I’d disturbed the wiring earlier, so had a bit of fault-finding to do. Then, I noticed that the wipers were rather slow. Yup, I’d forgotten to hook the alternator belt onto the fan when refitting it. DOH!

So, back off with the fan grille and the fan, hook the belt on and refit everything. Now I could finally have a test drive! She went very nicely indeed. I was very happy.

Yay! A successful test drive! Sort of...

Yay! A successful test drive! Sort of…

My joy was short lived. On the way home, the wipers went all slow again. With no tools, I could only push gently on home, but I knew what had happened. The fan must have fallen off. I obviously hadn’t tightened up the bolt sufficiently in all that frantic rushing. There’s a lesson here somewhere…

I gently pushed on, glad of the new 20mph speed limit in parts of the village, and turned the engine off entirely as soon as I was able. That’s the good thing about a 2CV. You don’t need a running engine to power things like steering and brakes. No problem!

Sure enough, the fan was not rotating. I refitted it, making sure it was actually tight this time, and then she wouldn’t restart. I assumed she was too hot, but there was not so much as a splutter. A quick check suggested there was indeed a spark at the plugs, but no joy.

An unhappy, and hot 2CV.

An unhappy, and hot 2CV.

Usually, if you try and start a 2CV and it doesn’t fire, you see petrol seep out of the bottom of the carburettor (it’s designed to do this, but can alarm people!). I could see nothing. I suspected a bit of vapour lock going on, so left her to cool down a bit longer. Then, she did fire into life at last! Phew.

The she started chugging like she had done during the MOT, so I changed the coil again. All is now well, but it’s very obvious that a new coil will have to be purchased. I’ll be on the phone to ECAS 2CV Parts in the morning, to order a resin-filled one. These look exactly the same, but the resin should do a better job of keeping it cool than the old oil-filled items.

Maybe then I’ll have a reliable 2CV again! We’re definitely getting there. For now, this project will go a bit quiet. There’s an MG GS arriving next week for review, and an issue of Classic Jaguar to get nailed together. Do let me know your thoughts on progress so far though – leave a comment below and don’t forget to Follow the HubNut blog if you like. Then you’ll get an alert every time I post something new. I’m reviewing my use of Facebook at the moment, so HubNut is the one place you’ll definitely get the latest news! Thanks, as ever, for your support.

Project Elly: Spluttering encore

This morning, I got up surprisingly early (for a Saturday) and headed back to the garage once more. I’d left Elly in a state of undress the night before (this line is especially for Sean Lyon) having utterly failed to get the ignition timing to behave as it should. Setting it bang on the manufacturers mark resulted in an engine that would not start.

I recalled having issues with this points box in the Dyane, so I removed it, grabbed Elly’s original points box, and fitted a new condenser to it, then reinstalled it. The ignition timing was reset as per the mark, and she fired very sweetly into life. Result!

Now that she’s road legal, I was able to indulge in a test drive. Certainly, on the four miles to the nearest petrol station, she felt like a car transformed. She was pulling much more cleanly than yesterday, with no hint of misfiring or spluttering. 18 litres of unleaded were poured into the tank, her first fill for almost two years, and I set off to do a full lap of the A44 and A4120 back home.

As we excited the excitingly-named Lovesgrove roundabout, I detected a misfire. Just the once, but definitely there. This was joined by further misfires as we snaked our way towards Aberystwyth. At Llanbadarn Fawr, things got pretty nasty. As I went to pull away at a mini roundabout, she began firing on one cylinder, threatening to conk out (in a manner that suggested she would not then restart). This felt familiar! Somehow, I coaxed her through the pair of mini roundabouts, and across the Morrisons roundabout. I headed into the car park to find a quiet spot to investigate.

Here we go again...

Here we go again…

I did have a spare coil with me, so I fitted that. All initially seemed well. Problem solved? At first, she seemed fine, but within a mile, a gentle misfire had crept back in. As we began the climb up the A4120, she began to miss more and more, occasionally backfiring for good measure. Backfiring? Ok. That made it feel more like condenser failure, as did the fact that it was far worse at lower engine speeds. I kept the revs up and struggled on, pausing in Pisgah to let things cool down.

She did make it back home, but conked out as soon as I pulled up. Left alone for a while, she was then fine and has been returned to the garage. Now, I’m pondering my next move. £165 on a new 123 electronic ignition unit and a resin-filled coil would probably improve things no end, but I also wonder about reviving my Velleman points-assisted ignition. I’ve got a press car coming on test next week, so there’s no rush to get Elly fixed. I am keen to get to the bottom of this quandary though. The good news is that, when not misfiring, she feels really good to drive. It is so nice to be back behind the wheel of this much-loved car. Thanks to all who made this possible. I just wish we could have a finer celebration of the fact that Elly is back! There will be opportunities this year – she’ll be at the NEC Restoration Show in March, and the Coventry Motofest in June. Fun times, they are a-coming!

Project Elly: The Finale! Sort of…

On Wednesday 4th January 2017, a major milestone was achieved. Elly the 2CV was finished! Well, close enough. It was the point that I declared her ready to face an MOT – which was duly booked, for the 6th, or today in other words.

Elly begins her third iteration. She's like Doctor Who.

Elly begins her third generation. She’s like Doctor Who.

The offside rear wing was sourced from my friend Joey, and is a proper, steel one. I will repaint it to match the front wing at some point. Honest. Also, Elly currently lacks the Dolly side stripes. I have some arty plans for those. Bear with me. All very fitting in a way, because, nine years ago, Elly’s first regeneration had been completed, and we drove her to Aberystwyth as part of the celebrations, also lacking side stripes. So, she is used to marking her rebirth on the scenic streets of Ceredigion.

15th January 2006, and a reborn Elly gets touched by a randy stranger.

15th January 2006, and a reborn Elly gets touched by a randy stranger.

Odd to think that the above photo was taken in the car park of what is now our local supermarket! Obviously, we had no idea that we’d be living here four and a half years later.

Anyway, I obviously woke up this morning full of excitement. That excitement took a battering, due to the combined efforts of the Welsh weather (very, very Welsh today, ie wet) and Elly having a battery low on charge. It hasn’t yet been charged for long enough to be entirely healthy. I’m hoping it recovers… I roped in my tiny jump back, and life was restored. To the MOT centre!

The drive there was joyous, even in the rain. Water poured down the dashboard (perhaps I should have used sealant on the vent flap) just like old times. I was glad I chose to wear waterproof boots. Crazy lean angles were acheived, and the brakes given a hard time to scrub them up ready for the brake rollers. There was the delicious smell of hot engine parts covered in greasy fingerprints. Yum. However, the MOT station was reached with no trouble.

Eep! Almost time!

Eep! Almost time!

I had to wait a bit, which did nothing to my nerves, while a Suzuki had an oil change. With that done, it was Elly’s turn. She started nicely, and I was waved onto the ramp. The tester logged her details onto the computer, checked the seats and seatbelt security, started the engine (again, first time) and checked the operation of various lamps. I was pleased that every single one behaved. As he got out to carry out further checks, she began to sound like she was bogging down. I gave the throttle a blip, which killed the engine entirely. Oh well. You don’t need the engine running to check the underside. I risked headlamps with no engine long enough to adjust the headlamps on while I had access to a beam pattern thingy machine.

Play was detected in both kingpins, which is pretty much standard fare. There’s always play, but it wasn’t alarming, so they became advisory items.

The test begins, the engine fails...

The test begins, the engine fails…

With the ramp checks complete, the lads pushed me outside where I was able to bump start the reluctant engine. It just wasn’t going to go on the key. She fired into life and was able to perform the brake tests to the required standard, but then she conked out before the emissions test. Out she was pushed again! I brought her back in, the probe went up the exhaust, a pass was achieved, and then she conked out yet again. Jeepers.

I paid, received my lovely new certificate (a joy to behold), pushed her back outside myself, bump started her myself (there’s a handy hill outside the test centre) and drove back home, slightly nervously. The air cleaner blew out on the steep hill back to my village. I could see it was going to be one of those days. I pulled over, screwed it back in and continued.

As I reached my village, I decided that maybe a full tank of fresh fuel was a good idea. So, instead of turning left towards my house, I turned right. She conked out immediately. I was starting to think that she’d become too fond of her cosy garage! This ‘driving in the rain and then being poked at’ business clearly wasn’t on.

Happily, I was pointing downhill, so I let the speed build up and attempted a bump start. She merrily trundled down the hill, in gear, with no firing at all. Ok. This was becoming an issue. Eventually, just before I ran out of gravity, she caught. Hoorah! I decided to spin the car around in a handy junction and limp home. That manoeuvre was not completed. Drat.

Elly chooses a pleasant place to stop at least.

Elly chooses a pleasant place to stop at least.

This wasn’t going to plan at all, so I called home. Rachel kindly agreed to try and find a spare coil in the messy world of my garage and bring it down to the hotel, which is about quarter of a mile from our house. She turned up at the same time as some German tourists, who were most curious. One leaned over to watch me fit the new coil. This did the trick. Ignition! We closed the bonnet, tried not to run over any tourists and drove home.

So, Elly is now sat back in the garage once more. I have a few theories about what is wrong.

  1. The ignition timing may not be spot on. I retarded it by a tooth, as I thought that’s what I’d historically had to do to avoid pinking (modern fuels burn hotter and pinking can be an issue). Thinking about it, that was the Dyane that had the pinking issue, as it has higher compression pistons and hasn’t been rejetted for modern fuels. I’m pretty sure Elly has actually. My fail. She’s too retarded.
  2. Coils. Old coils overheat and stop generating a good spark. I’ve have three coils of mixed age and condition, and I know nothing about any of them! One failed during pre-test preparations, so maybe I should actually buy a good one.
  3. Spark plugs. These weren’t changed as I didn’t think I had any. As it happens, I do! I found them last night but didn’t have time to fit them before the test.

However, having got home at last, I then had to dash out to a business meeting. That took up three hours of my afternoon, and I was shattered after a lengthy drive home in the dark and the rain (at least I was in the Honda, so my feet stayed dry). The thought of getting up tomorrow, servicing the 2CV and then driving it to Yorkshire (only to drive even further north on Sunday before then driving back home) does not fill me with joyous anticipation.

Which means I’ve abandoned my plan to take part in Raid Tan Hill, organised by 2CVGB local group Les Hiboux. It’s nine years since Elly last did this event, and I did think it’d be a nice way to celebrate her return to the road. It still would be, if I had confidence in Elly’s reliability. I don’t though, so I think I’ll stay at home, treat her to a full service (I’ve found my oil filters as well!) and perhaps have a less-pressured trip out locally instead. I can drive where I like in my 2CV now she’s road legal again! There are other ways to celebrate this wonderful achievement, so stay tuned!

A soggy, road-legal Elly awaits some much-needed fettling.

A soggy, road-legal Elly awaits some much-needed fettling.