My Videos. Top Three for March

I know March isn’t quite over yet, but here’s the three top videos on my channel over the previous 28 days.

Number Three: Winter Range Issues.

This is the terrifying trip I undertook in a Volkswagen e-UP! when I wanted to test its winter range. Just about enough to get to the nearest rapid charger, but only just! This is a new entry at the top of my popular video tree and with only 1700 views, has taken a while to find its feet. It suggests interest in Electric Cars is growing. Rightly so.

Number Two: Land Rover Discovery

Remarkably, this video has now had well over 24,000 views! It has always been one of the top two videos, so its second place is no surprise at all. I still miss that car, despite its many flaws. Clearly, I’m not the only fan of the early Discovery.

Number One: Citroen XM V6

This one is no great surprise either. In fact, it has historically played second fiddle only to the Discovery, so it’s nice that it’s on top for once! In fact, so popular is the XM video that it has now overtaken my BX on/off road test video, with over 16,000 views. Proof that there’s lots of Citroen love out there. Excellent.

In terms of overall stats, the Disco is top of the list, followed by the XM and BX. You can see the full list in order of preference right here. More videos will be on their way in the coming weeks!

Retro Japanese: The Roadtrip! Video

One of the most entertaining features to prepare for Retro Japanese magazine was our roadtrip feature – which occupies a full eight pages of the first issue. I joined forces with the Classic Car Buyer boys and we assembled our Japanese classics. Chris Hope, editor of CCB, sadly had to substitute the Kelsey Media pool car for his rather rusty Toyota MR2 – the plus side being that said pool car is a 1999 Subaru Impreza WRX! The other cars were my 1992 Honda Prelude, a 2003 Honda S2000 roadster, a 1994 Suzuki Cappuccino and a 1987 Isuzu Piazza. I enjoyed them all, so here’s a sneaky preview of what they were like.

But which one did I like most? Ah, well, you’ll have to get your hands on a copy of Retro Japanese to find out. You’ll also find the full story of our trip to Rockingham Motor Speedway, Prodrive and Silverstone Circuit. Sometimes, work days really are very enjoyable! Apart from all of the getting lost…



Project 2CV: Memories

I can’t do much with Project 2CV at the moment – Monday is the next time anything will happen. I thought I’d give a bit more background to what I’ve got up to with this car. We’ve had far too many adventures to list here, but this is some of what we’ve done together.

Let’s start in 2004. I was working for NFU Mutual at the time, being paid far too much money for what amounted to little more than admin. Welcome to the expensive world of IT. My daily commute took me from the delightful village of Byfield, Northants to Stratford-upon-Avon, and NFU Mutual’s large office building. The job paid well enough for us to buy a new front door. But how to transport it?

2CV door through roof

Elly hard at work, transporting a door back in 2004.

It must be said, this commute route was an absolute joy. I barely saw any traffic, and could cover the 25 miles to work in just over 30 minutes on a good day. That’s an average speed of 45mph. In a 2CV with 29bhp! I was hurtling through some very pretty scenery, with plenty of bends to contend with, and arriving at work very happy indeed. To put that into perspective, I’d previously been living in Birmingham, commuting from one side to the other and taking 45 minutes to travel just 12 miles. The scenery was definitely not as good either.

There were other adventures too, such as driving to France, Belgium and Scotland in 2005. That was my first overseas foray in the 2CV, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was also the first time I’d taken a 2CV to Scotland for at least seven years. The reason for Scotland was the thoroughly epic (and muddy) World Meeting of 2CV Friends in Kelso, Scottish borders. An exhausting but thrilling few days, though at one point, the need for dryness and warmth was so strong that we went and stayed in a B&B for the night…

Elly lends scale to the Glastonbury dance tent - 2CV World Meeting 2005.

Elly lends scale to the Glastonbury dance tent – 2CV World Meeting 2005.

A few years later, after the second part of the restoration, Elly the 2CV got to drive right around the perimeter of Scotland as part of the Eight Ball Rally – well, all around the mainland GB in fact. By now, I was working as a writer for Classic Car Weekly, and living in Cambridgeshire. Turns out 2CVs are absolutely ideal for the bumpy roads of The Fens. I was still enjoying my commute.

Pretty far north in 2008

Pretty far north in 2008

2010 was the big adventure though, and I’ve talked about it before because it still excites me to look back at it. Taking the 2CV to Switzerland remains one of my most favourite adventures. It was certainly a lot more comfortable and enjoyable than taking an H van to Sweden in 2007 – the most annoying aspect of which was not taking Elly to Sweden and Norway when I had the opportunity.

Saas Fee 2CV

Elly rests in the most scenic multi-storey car park in the world. Saas-Fee in Switzerland.

After we moved to Wales in 2010, circumstances dictated an end to such adventures and Elly’s annual mileage dropped to 3000, or even lower. It had been typically 5000-10,000 a year. I think the amount of time she then spent parked up, not being used has only made the rot issue worse. I work from home, so can go several days without driving a car at all. Then, when I do go for a drive, I generally have a choice of shambolic vehicles to pick. The mileage did start going up a bit after we sold our Mini, as the 2CV became the default choice of vehicle for Rachel – she doesn’t like fancy gadgets like power steering and electric windows. The 2CV is perfect. Leaving the 2CV sitting around in the soggy Welsh climate really wasn’t doing it any favours though.

Not that we haven’t had fun since moving here! After all, there are greenlanes to explore…

Elly takes to the greelanes of Wales in 2011.

Elly takes to the greenlanes of Wales in 2011 – on this very day five years ago in fact.

In fact, you can watch a video of that adventure below. We’ve certainly had some fun together over the years. I’m looking forward to many more.

Retro Japanese magazine – on sale now!

Yes, the day is here at last. Retro Japanese magazine is now available to buy. I find this massively exciting. Putting the title together was a simply joyous experience, thanks to my combined love of Japanese tin and the retro era – typically 1980s and 1990s.

Sure, there’s some content featuring cars prior to this, such as the test drive of a Honda Civic Mk1 Hondamatic, but generally, the title focusses on the cars I remember very clearly from my childhood. Which is a reminder that when it comes to classic cars, nostalgia is one of the key reasons to get involved.

These are a few of my favourite things.

Retro Japanese magazine is on sale right now! Video below.

Now, look at the front cover, and you might assume there’s a focus on sporty stuff. That emphatically isn’t the case though, I’ve simply picked the cover stars that I think are most iconic. The content of the magazine itself is rather more varied. In the pages of Retro Japanese magazine, you’ll find Nissan Bluebirds, Toyota Carina Es, Honda Accords battling for space with such variedbeasts as the Isuzu Piazza and VehiCROSS, Nissan Patrol, Honda NSX and Subaru Impreza.

I even managed to find a picture of a Nissan EBRO van, remember those? It came courtesy of SpottedLaurel on FlickR. He’s got over 11,000 photos if you fancy losing yourself for a few hours.

Ye gads! A Nissan Ebro Trade!

Ye gads! A Nissan Ebro Trade!

It was a right walk through memory lane for me, and all the more enjoyable because of that fact. As well as editing, I did a whole heap of writing and research and found it thoroughly fascinating, even if it isn’t always the easiest research topic. When it came to writing about Nissan’s Spanish operations, even Nissan’s own websites seemed to contradict themselves! That was part of a feature called Far East Invasion, where I looked at how Japan brought its efficient production techniques to Britain and wider Europe.

There’s also a super guide on the Mazda MX-5, which looks at buying, deciphering the baffling range of Mk1 and Mk2 options, and then tells you how to modify your steed if you so wish. Supercharging looks fun for a start.

Anyway, thanks to Kelsey Media for this opportunity, and thanks to those who helped along the way. I hope you enjoy the magazine – please do let me know what you think. Finally, here’s a video  of the cover stars in action. Best day at work ever?

Videos: More on the way!

I’ve got plenty of videos in production at the moment, but getting them from raw “as shot” state to uploaded to YouTube takes plenty of time. In the queue at the moment are a Vlog from the M5 in the XM, NSX vs Skyline vs Supra to link to Retro Japanese magazine, and me behind the wheel of several Japanese classics for the same title – includes a Subaru Impreza in a tunnel. The noise is just fabulous.

Insight rear

Videos like this one take a long time to upload.

One of the problems is that my ancient laptop simply takes a goodly while to process videos. The poor thing’s fan screams like a 2CV when I’m video editing. It really isn’t quite up to it. Problem is, I can forget trying to do anything else when it’s in edit mode, so I can only do video editing when I don’t need the laptop for other things – like actual paid work. This week, things are further complicated by me being out of the office all day yesterday (a very interesting visit to Jaguar Land Rover) and a good chunk of today (community bus duty, taking elderly passengers for a lunch at a seaside hotel). I’m on a different bus tomorrow for the weekly bus service from the village to town. This allows me to make the point that the Volkswagen Crafter really was a monumental leap over the LT. One feels like a big car, the other feels like a small truck. From the 1960s.

I digress. Once the video has actually been created, it then has to upload to YouTube. My upload speed is 252kbps, on a good day. Superfast Broadband has yet to reach this corner of mid-Wales. Annoyingly, it has reached two villages either side! No, I’m not going to go for a drive just to upload a video more quickly.

I’m going to set one video uploading right now. Stay tuned to  my channel to see what it is when it finally reaches the internet in several hours’ time!

Product Test: Pocket-size jump pack

These things have been intriguing me for a while now. How can such a tiny battery start a hefty car engine? So, with German Classics magazine completed and some actual money in my bank account, I went on that there Ebay and purchased one of these jump packs for just £31.75. It was time for a proper review to test exactly what it could do.

Can this unbranded pack really start a car?

Can this unbranded pack really start a car?

It’s entirely unbranded and built in China – fast becoming the country to head to if you want cheap battery tech. It isn’t just a jump pack – there is a really powerful torch, and it comes with several different bundles of wires with which you can power everything from phones to laptops and even, as I discovered, a musical keyboard…

But obviously the key question is, can it start a car? You’ll have to check my video review to find out, but I tested the pack on an 847cc Perodua Nippa, a 1596cc Mazda 2 saloon and a 2088cc Citroen XM turbo diesel. Diesel engines are a challenge for any battery, as the engines use a compression ratio twice that of a petrol engine. They literally squeeze the air to the point that it gets hot enough to ignite the fuel without an external spark. They’re not very easy to turn therefore.

What truly amazes is not only how small these packs are, but how light. And that highlights exactly why electric vehicles (EV) have become viable at long last. My XM uses a huge, heavy lead-acid battery that requires serious effort to lift. If the Nissan LEAF and Tesla Model S used lead acid batteries, the packs would be simply enormous to get the same range. They’d probably have to tow another LEAF or Model S behind them packed full of batteries. I suspect performance would be impacted somewhat.

So these jump packs demonstrate just how far battery technology has come on. And now at such low price too! Sure, larger lead-acid battery packs may include air compressors to deal with a flat tyres, but those compressors (in my experience) usually break after very little time. So my mind is made up. The future is jump packs you can fit in your pocket. It’s the clearest sign yet of why the EV revolution has arrived in town.


My favourite videos of 2015

Excuse the self-promotion as I guide you through my favourite videos of 2015 – my favourite HubNut videos that is. 2015 was a year in which I really stepped up video production, so here are my personal highlights. This is my Top Five.

Number 5 – Nissan e-NV200 Combi

This was the first electric car that I tested long distance, and it has to be said it wasn’t exactly stress-free! Using the Ecotricity Electric Highway, I was able to drive from home in mid-Wales to Bideford in Devon. Choosing to do this in Winter, in a vehicle with a 60-mile range was the problem. This is also a review of the e-NV200 itself. A very useful vehicle but still blighted by good old range anxiety and an inefficient heater.

Number 4 – Perodua Nippa

This one joined the fleet in March, and has proved to be an ideal little runaround. This review was filmed not long after purchase and while it’s certainly a car built cheaply, it continues to run well. Listen to the road noise though!

Number 3 – My first Vlog

Vlogging appears to be a thing – video blogging – so I thought I’d have a go. This is where I began a series of (so far) ten videos. I aired some annoyances with the regime in Saudi Arabia – exacerbated by recent developments as I write – and I also talk about electric cars and the Citroen XM.

Number 2 – Honda Insight first generation

Insight rear

Testing the Honda Insight Mk1

It seems that I love every car that I drive, and I expected the Insight to be no exception. It didn’t quite do it for me, as you can see in this video. Still an appealing car, but not quite what I’d hoped for. It is proving to be a popular video though.

Number 1 – My 2CV and me

Picking one favourite is not easy. My XM V6 video continues to amass a huge number of views, and the Citroen Ami one was an absolute hoot to put together. But, my friend Keith Hicks helped me make a rather special tribute to my 2CV. I still don’t know what the future is for this car, but I’ve had many good adventures in it and I’ve loved every minute behind the wheel.

Thanks for watching. Once the weather improves, I hope to get cracking on some more videos. 2016 promises to be very exciting. Stay tuned!


XM: Brake caliper overhaul

Yesterday, I hoped to deal with a sticky brake caliper on the XM. Initial inspection revealed torn slider boots. The XM uses a single-pot caliper, with a single slider on which the caliper ‘floats.’ The best calipers simply have (at least) one piston per pad, either side of the disc. As on a 2CV, original Mini or Range Rover. These pistons push on the bad when you press the brake pedal, and braking occurs. The only thing that goes wrong is that the piston gets stuck in its bore due to corrosion, which leads to the brake sticking on – lots of heat, lots of wear and an accident if you don’t sort it out. The use of steel pistons (Mini/Range Rover) doesn’t help here. The alloy ones on my 2CV don’t corrode.

Here's the problem. Torn boot offers no protection for this slider.

Here’s the problem. Torn boot offers no protection for this slider.

Later floating designs cheapen the design by having only one piston. As well as pushing directly on one pad, the pushing power is transmitted by one or two sliders, so you get a gripping pressure on both pads – like your hand crushing a drinks can. Now there is more scope for problems, as these sliders can stick as well as the piston. Again, they can stick in such a way that the brake can’t release – as I once had on my Daihatsu Sirion – or they can stick in such a way that the brake application is uneven – as is the case with my XM right here. That’s because the seals that should protect the slider were torn, allowing muck to get in and damage the slider.

I ordered a new slider, because it seems you can’t order the boots separately. Besides, the old one was probably damaged. I also ordered new discs and pads as the uneven wear had caused one pad to wear very badly, and one side of the disc.

Sadly, I got sent the wrong slider, so this job is abandoned for now. I cleaned up the old slider as best I could, slapped it in red caliper grease, and reassembled. I’m not fitting the new discs and pads until I can fit a new slider. What a pain!

But if you’d like to see the work in action, here is my latest video.