Project OMG: Cosmetics and rot control

It’s a Saturday, and it’s not actually raining, so I finally had a chance to do some rust-proofing and cosmetic improvements on the Omega. First job was to reverse it up my ramps and get underneath with a wire brush and some rust converter. Vactan is my converter of choice. It’s bloomin’ good stuff, and dries to a nice, black finish that can be overpainted or waxed. There was a soft spot midway along the offside sill, which thankfully was still solid. I rubbed it back and dabbed on the Vactan. I also rubbed at surface rust in various locations around the rear axle. Reassuringly solid back here. With that done, I could apply wax – Bilt Hamber’s Dynax UB (Under Body) in this case. It’s very easy to apply, coming nicely out of the can even on a cool day.

Bilt Hamber’s excellent underbody wax.

The rear brake pipes and tow bar were also treated to a dose as surface rust was present on both. I think I may have found where the diesel smell is coming from too – there’s a small pipe that I suspect is the return, though it could be the main feed pipe for all I know. It’s just slightly damp. I will investigate that one further.

With waxing done, I set about applying Autoglym’s Bumper and Trim gel to the rear bumper. It had faded pretty badly, as you can see in this shot.

Yup, you can spot the difference.

I’ll admit that I’m lazy. I could have revived the plastics with boiled linseed oil (I don’t have any) or an airgun (don’t have one), but this stuff works well. These potions never seem to last that long, but the Autoglym stuff seems better than some Meguiar’s stuff I have, which fades again within a couple of weeks. The Autoglym stuff is also much easier to spell. I also applied it to the rear lights, though I haven’t yet done the trims on the tailgate itself. They don’t seem to have faded much at all, perhaps because they’re vertical rather than horizontal?

Looking good!

The end result is a car which certainly looks better, and which hopefully won’t rot away too readily. I’m now seeking some rear seals for the diff, to cure a minor leak (£21 each from Vauxhall, eep!), and I really need to get my hands on new brake discs and pads and probably flush the brake lines. It really doesn’t stop as well as it should. It does stop, and is MOT legal, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, especially given how little engine braking you get (ie none, because the gearbox has a built-in freewheel function).

It’s coming along though. The main issue is that other cars on the fleet also need some TLC.

Nippa: 3rd MOT

It isn’t very often that I own a car long enough for it to have three MOT tests, but the Perodua Nippa is one such vehicle! I bought it with short test almost exactly two years ago. It passed needing only a steering rack gaiter, though I did replace the tyres too, as a couple were low on tread (Nankang winter tyres. Very good).

The second year, it needed only wiper blades, though it did struggle a bit with emissions. That was because the temperature sender on the engine was duff. Replacing that sorted it out and made the temperature gauge read accurately for the first time.

Still, I approach each MOT with some trepidation. Especially as I knew the exhaust is far from brilliant. I’d already had one hole welded up in previous years (ahead of the test, that’s planning), but I’ve had to get busy with the aluminium tape again since. Remarkably, despite being applied a few weeks ago, the tape held sufficiently for another pass!

MOT pass! On a lovely day.

The news wasn’t all good, though. When I called to ask for a progress report, the garage ominously said “we’ll talk to you when you come down.” So, we jumped in the 2CV (roof back, naturally) and headed down to collect the Nippa.

We needn’t have worried too much. The exhaust barely scraped through, which we expected. Rather annoyingly, though, there was a nail in the sidewall of one of the tyres. BOTHER! Those lovely Nankangs have done fewer than 8000 miles. The rears have barely any wear on them. We were kindly given an advisory for that, but the lads made it clear we had to make that a priority to sort out. So, I’ve dug the original, 17-year old spare out of the boot and pulled off the damaged tyre. Here it is.

DOH! Nail has ruined this tyre.

Very frustrating. That one has been relegated to the spare. Remarkably, it is still holding air! Of course, we now have a car with three winter tyres and one summer tyre, but that’ll have to do for now. Ideally, I need to track down another Nankang winter tyre, but it doesn’t really seem the time of year to be doing that.

Oh, and the lads were pretty clear that a new exhaust is needed. Worryingly, the diagrams for the ones on Ebay don’t seem to match what’s on the car…

Still, this remains a very cheap car to buy (£300) and run (55mpg, barely anything needed other than basic servicing). Just a shame that rot is starting to nibble at all of the edges…

The problem with car programmes

For some time, car programmes have been leaving me a bit cold. Car SOS I quite like, as it usually has a good level of detail, but it’s still a bit ‘soft’ overall. That’s because to make a telly programme, you need a decent audience. You need people other than car people to watch it or advertisers get a bit miffed. Or TV bosses. Maybe both.

Audiences can be hard to please.

Audiences can be hard to please.

Which is where the internet comes in. There, you can find videos that are utter geek fests. These are videos made 100% for car fans. There is no need to tailor the content to please non-car people. They can afford to specialise. Indeed, their very appeal comes from that unashamed, super-detailed look at what they’re doing. Often, these ‘programmes’ seem to be put together with the most mild of planning too. What you see is pretty much what happened. The more I see scripted stuff like Top Gear adventures, the more bored I become.

Of course, there’s a reason for the scripting. If you don’t schedule in some failures or adventures, then there’s a danger you might end up with a very boring show. That happens to things like Roadkill, where some episodes feel rather short of content. I don’t mind that. It makes it feel genuine. After all, I’ve tried shooting videos of trips away, and then binned the results, because nothing interesting happened! Funnily enough, if you jump in a car and drive it somewhere, the chances are that everything will be fine. This doesn’t make good telly. So, ‘hilarious’ antics must be planned and created, with camera angles carefully calculated to capture the ‘problems’ that occur. I find this all very tedious.

What I’m getting around to is that I didn’t like new, new, new Top Gear very much. It wasn’t painful, or unpleasant, but nor did it really grab my attention. What I didn’t like about it was pretty much what I’ve disliked about Top Gear for many, many years. I don’t like scripted antics. It was way back in 2010 when Top Gear had a camping challenge. A CX got destroyed in it, but that wasn’t my main complaint. No, it was that every ‘disaster’ was signalled almost with a ‘Disaster Coming’ caption every time. I just didn’t find it funny. It’s where I really began to realise just how little reality was involved in the programme.

To be fair, it’s not like I’m an expert, so I’m not really sure what the point of yet another discussion about Top Gear is. So, I’m going to end there and go to bed, because I don’t have advertisers to keep happy, and I’m tired. There isn’t always a happy ending. Or even a planned one.

Project OMG: Put to work

I guess most normal people wouldn’t recommission a car that has been off the road for 18 months, then immediately put it into use for a critical series of business meetings. That’s what I did though, and thankfully, I have not lived to regret it!

Sight-seeing in Bucks.

Sight-seeing in Bucks.

The above photo was taken in Buckinghamshire. By this stage, I’d spent two days at Race Retro. The Sunday was spent driving down to see my mate Chris so I could play with some of his old clunkers. Hopefully there will be videos forthcoming on that. Just don’t ask me when!

Monday saw me up at Silverstone Circuit ahead of a Retro Japanese photoshoot. I can now say that the Omega has done a lap of Silverstone! Well, the perimeter road anyway…

Estates, and coupes, compared.

Estates, and coupes, compared.

It was amusing to get a pair of BMW-powered estates together. Both R-reg, both with that distinctive BMW six-pot sound. The Omega wins for load space, but the BMW’s interior is far nicer. I prefer the Omega’s wipers. I can’t wait to see BMW-owner Chris Frosin‘s photos from this shoot. They’ll be in the issue of Retro Japanese on sale 24th March.

Then, for a spot of something different, the Omega took me to Didcot and the Figaro Shop for more piccies. A greater contrast of Nissans would be harder to find. Hours earlier, I’d been struggling for traction in a fearsome 300ZX Z32 twin turbo. The Figaro is also a Nissan, and also has a turbocharger. It’s tiny though! There will be a Figaro Buying Guide in the next issue of Retro Japanese though, because I believe in variety. I’ve actually blogged about my dislike of the Nissan Figaro before. Here’s the thing though. They are still one of the most fantastic looking little cars every produced. I really did enjoy soaking up the details of the rather special interior. As a piece of design, they’re fabulous, even if the driving dynamics aren’t exactly thrilling. That’s ok. My Honda S-MX deals with bends in much the same way as I deal with my tax returns. It isn’t pretty, but the job gets done. I still like it. Much more than tax returns.

From Oxon, I hurtled along the A361 to Byfield, and more kindly friends who put me up for the night. Rachel and I lived in Byfield for several years. It was very pleasant to return. Then, this morning, the Omega took me to a Bentley specialist (as in pre-Rolls-Royce era – fabulous), then a Rolls/Bentley breakers – sadly pouring rain meant I didn’t get any photos of the Omega during these visits. It is a working car after all. This is what it’s meant to do.

Then, I could finally point the Omega back towards Wales. It munched the miles up merrily, hitting 42mpg on the computer at one point. I suspect I’m some way from that, as I can still smell diesel. There may be another leak. I really am starting to like it though. Sure, backache set in at one point, but I then realised that I’d been at the wheel for over three hours straight – not sensible really! Sure, the column stalks feel horrible (they do in the Honda too) and the seats are rather too firm, but the Omega is joyous simplicity to drive. Just want you want in a mile-muncher.

There are things to sort out, as you’d expect. I think new discs and pads (at least at the front) will be necessary. The lack of use has not been kind to the old ones, and there’s a definite judder – not to mention that braking performance is not the sharpest. I also need to address the rear diff leak, which may also give an opportunity to investigate the diesel leak. Then there’s the rust-proofing I promised to do, and I need to give the poor thing a wash. It’s absolutely filthy! Oh, and that bloody alarm…

On the whole though, I think I’m becoming fond of my new steed.

The hard-working Omega at Silverstone.

The hard-working Omega at Silverstone. Deserves a wash.


Videos – they may be sporadic

I guess that writing about cars is an art form of sorts, though it never really feels like it. It’s just something I do. Making videos feels a lot more like art. Artists labour and strive, look at what they’ve achieved, consider that it is all complete rubbish, get upset, try again, give it up as a bad job and go and do something else, then have another go when the passion returns.

The inlet manifold is successfully removed.

An artist, last week.

Well, that’s very much the creative process I go through with my videos. It’s why some take an absolute age to appear, while some never appear at all…

I’ve already got two Omega videos sitting there unfinished, while I attempt to judge their worth. At the moment, that judgement isn’t particularly kind, so they get published, or they may not. Work’s about to get in the way, so at least I’ve got some enforced thinking time. Maybe I’ll view them more kindly after stepping away from the edit suite for a while.

I’ve also still got a video on the MG GS that needs assembling and editing, and another on the Nissan Qashqai. I’m not very happy with that one either, and I filmed that back in November. I’m also aware that I could do with a better laptop. This one is getting on for eight years old now, and it’s not really cut out for editing high-definition videos. The fan reaches revolutions I wasn’t sure were possible. Normally, it wafts gently, like a Rolls-Royce, but video editing can leave it revving harder than a Honda S800. I think “surely, this isn’t possible?” It’s a bit like hearing your dad singing Mariah Carey. Disturbing. Sorry dad.

Anyway, my point is, videos will be forthcoming, but not to any set schedule. Thank you for all positive feedback over the years. As my 400,000th view approaches, I really must think of a nice way to mark it. For those who haven’t fallen asleep yet, you can find all of my many videos here. Tesla Model S, Mitsubishi Pajero Junior, electric Volkswagen Beetle, BMW-engined 2CV, Peugeot J7, Jaguar XJS, a load of buses, a caravan, Nissan Skyline, Perodua Nippa, Volkswagen e-Up! – off-road. Who else has got variety like that? No-one sensible, that’s for sure.

Travel planning – what a faff

The fleet has had a pretty quiet day today, other than me discovering that yes, the Omega’s battery is flat again. I’ve ordered a new one. I hope it isn’t just a drain. I probably should have checked that. I don’t think it is though…

So, another day driving the laptop only, as I gathered tasty motors for Japfest in April, wrote features for Classic Car Buyer and Retro Japanese and tried to plan the far end of the week – which is approaching rapidly.

A lovely train, just like I'm not catching.

A lovely train, just like I’m not catching. Lovely pantograph wiper, V16 engine. YUM.

You see, I’m at the London Classic Car Show on Friday, which means the awful bother of having to get myself to London again. For half a nanosecond, I contemplated driving, and when the crying stopped, I sat with Google maps and tried to work out the most economical way to make it all happen. To aid with decision making, I went to the National Rail website. I’m not sure why I decided to see how much it cost to get from Coventry to London, but it was probably because I once ended up passing through Cov on a very fancy Chiltern train – I think it had a V16 engine. Anyway, I discovered that I could get to London from Coventry for just £6! DONE! Ignoring the fact that I had no other plans, I booked it.

Of course, it wont’ be a lovely V16-powered loco, it’s a London Midland train, which I think will probably be a commuter-class electric with hideous, green seats. At least they are quiet. It isn’t that quick, but I don’t really care for £6. I can get a nicer train on the way back on the Friday. I think.

The plan is to drive to Coventry, find somewhere to abandon the motor car (not decided which one yet) and enjoy not having to travel on an Arriva Train Wales rattlebox. AirBNB has found me somewhere to stay in London for all of £23, so we’ll see how that pans out too.

But, it’s all terribly frustrating really. Finding cheap railway tickets really is far too reliant on luck. There’s no magic ‘super cheap’ website. The Split Ticketing one I sometimes use wanted over £40 for the return journey, rather than the £22 I’m paying. So, you have far too many decisions when it comes to just picking which website to use, let alone then deciding which journey is best.

It really isn’t good enough, and is a stark reminder of why so many people just think ‘sod it’ and take the car instead. Only the horrors of London driving (and parking!) convinced me to seek an alternative solution.



Project OMG: More like Project Ugh

Shopping needed to be acquired, so I jumped into the Omega this morning, and discovered that the battery had not yet recovered from its previous death. This time, I decided to jump it with the Nippa. It did quite well given that the engine almost stalled when I connected the jump leads…

I wisely put the jump leads into the Omega and headed to the shops. While there, I paid the Sunday tax by grabbing a pair of wiper blades from Halfords, discovering that their easy flip-chart to find the correct blades had been replaced by computer touch screens. That don’t work…

Once a man finally managed to coax his own computer into giving up the useful info (I was by this stage wishing I’d just brought the old blades in with me, or looked up the info on my phone), I found that a pair of Bosch blades cost the same as Halfords own. Job done. £19.99 not too bad. Also grabbed some glass wipes, because I was seriously struggling with vision on the way in.

On returning to the car, I found this happy scene.

Kia Pride, H-reg Land Rover and my mighty Omega.

Kia Pride, H-reg Land Rover and my mighty Omega.

I went to do a bit more shopping, came back and discovered that the Omega still didn’t have enough juice to get it going again. Huge, heavy automatics do have their disadvantages.

Oh gawd. Dead again! Panda proved helpful.

Oh gawd. Dead again! Panda proved helpful.

Thankfully, the owner of that Panda was kind enough to give me a jump – I was glad I’d packed those leads. I decided to head off for an extended drive home, to hopefully get some charge into that poor battery. Not easy with headlamps, wipers and blowers all working hard, but it seemed to do the trick. It was as I was many miles from civilisation that I remembered I’d forgotten to buy lunch. Bother. That Kia Pride had obviously distracted me more than I’d thought.

About two minutes after I had that thought, the Omega started making an alarming noise under throttle. I was starting to wish I’d stayed in bed. I turned around, and decided the best idea was to drive home as quickly as possible before it broke down. It was pouring with rain, and I had no appetite to investigate.

It was quite an enjoyable hoon, and when I got home, the rain had eased enough for me to investigate. Forgetting about the tired bonnet struts of course. Ouch! It didn’t take long to spot the issue. The EGR valve clamp had come adrift. I clearly hadn’t tightened the 13mm-headed bolts sufficiently. Idiot.

I abandoned the Omega and jumped into the Honda to get lunch. I’m hoping this afternoon will be less problematic.