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.


Change is coming…

It will be of no surprise to anyone to learn that fleet changes are afoot. I have a reputation to maintain!

The obvious candidate for the chop is the Omega I’m afraid. I can’t explain why I find the Honda a much better car – it’s dynamically inferior in at least seven ways – but I do. This is the thing. Attraction doesn’t always make sense. I married a woman who loves vegetables and eating leaves.

The simple truth is that the Omega has failed to grab me. It’s ok. It does a job. Really quite well. But that isn’t enough. The Honda is a muse. I can write about it in one of my magazines. I can’t write about the Omega. It’s still a bit new, a bit bland for classic car titles (though it has appeared in Classic Car Buyer), and it certainly doesn’t fit the bill at sister title Performance Vauxhall either! I got out accelerated by a startled rabbit the other day.

Omegawd Force Ale

So, it’s up for sale, with that sale hopefully raising another £100 for the charity linked to the original owner.

In the meantime, I’m utterly failing to service the Nippa, utterly failing to prepare the 2CV for its upcoming trip to France and not doing a very good job of getting the Honda ready for Japfest – or even just sorting out the leaky tailgate. I think the bonding on the glass has broken down. Really, against this, the Omega stands no chance. It is some way down the pecking order.

Tiny car needs big love. Or at least some new oil and filters.

So, I guess the last thing I should do is go out and buy a ropey old car that needs work. Er, well. I haven’t actually bought anything yet, but let’s just say I have my eye on a few options…

Laptop fail, far too busy, new magazine!

Those are the main excuses for the lack of blog posts recently. My laptop failed, allowing me to test my disaster recovery plan – I’m glad I had one. I lost just one feature – and that was better at the second time of writing.

I’m up and running again, on a lovely, new sub-£400 laptop that is super quick, but which has far less storage capacity than the previous one. So, I don’t currently have access to my entire photo library, which has rather hampered bloggage etc. On top of that, I’m currently very, very busy putting the first issue of Rolls-Royce and Bentley Driver together. It’s been a lovely title to create, and as ever, I’ve thrown pretty much everything I have at it. I really don’t do half measures. Apart from my blog posts. And YouTube channel. They’re deliberately half-arsed…

Of course, I’m still editing Retro Japanese magazine, and Classic Jaguar – which is moving to six issues per year. This is why my head is spinning and why blog posts have only been notable by the lack thereof. I’m writing this one at the moment merely so I can clear my brain ready for the next round of proofing. To be honest, that’s what this Blog often is. An outpouring of my creative mind that isn’t burdened by deadlines or editorial expectation. It’s nice that some of you seem to like reading this stuff! Putting words together for a living is a strange business really. It’s something I can just do, but it’s also something I HAVE to do. HubNut is my relaxation area in many ways.

All of which boring nonsense doesn’t tell you a lot. I do have more videos on the way – another should be uploaded tonight all being well (internet issues have been hampering me too, just for good measure!). I’ve a lot to update you on regarding the fleet, so hopefully there will be more posts within a reasonable time frame.

In the meantime, have a picture from this new magazine. I think it’s going to be a corker. Rolls-Royce and 2CV Driver! EDIT – buy the new magazine, sadly without 2CV content, right here: http://shop.kelsey.co.uk/product/RRBDISSUE1/

New magazine! Rolls-Royce and 2CV Driver. No, hold on, that’s not right…

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.