The day I tried to drive to Shitefest

Firstly, I apologise for the language, but I’m a member of the excellent Autoshite forum and so it seemed natural to call our now annual gathering Shitefest. The forum is dedicated to old cars, but with the twist that we love cars that are often seen as undesirable and usually deeply unfashionable. Some like driving cars that look like wrecks (subtly different to Rat Look, where cars are MADE to look like wrecks), others cherish their unloved cars with a dedication that can only be admired. I hope I fall somewhere between the two…

Anyway, the net result of all this is that a very excited me spent AGES last week preparing the Discovery for its trip up north. Levels had been checked, a specialist had given it the once over and I’d carefully loaded it up with everything I’d need. I leapt aboard and began my 160-mile journey to North Yorkshire. That journey ended after just three miles. The Discovery made a horrific clattering noise, a wheel locked up and I found myself stopped at the side of the road. The locked wheel was on a wet white line, so thankfully things didn’t get very exciting. I jumped out, expecting to see differential teeth or bits of propshaft littering the road. Nothing. Odd.

I jumped back in, took the handbrake off and marvelled at a car parked on a hill that wouldn’t roll. I selected reverse and gave it a bit of welly and it did go backwards. It then rolled forward again, but making a rather horrible grinding noise. Still, it was better than not moving at all so having dismissed the idea of limping on another 157 miles, I meekly drove back home at a steady 20mph. It would have to be the Golf as it was raining quite heavily and the 2CV is about as watertight as tissue paper.

No careful packing here, I just hurled everything out of the Disco and into the Golf. The Golf was low on fuel, but hopefully not any other vital fluids. I had recently carried out a service, so the oil was probably ok, and had topped up the coolant after replacing the heater bypass valve. I raced northwards as quickly as a plague of sodding camper vans would let me, which wasn’t really as quickly as I’d hoped. I’d thoroughly missed my traffic window and Newtown was its usual snarled up, hideous self. That’s ok, as the cooling fan was cutting in as required. But then the entire car started shaking as the fan cut in for a second time. I’ve known it’s been a bit iffy for a while, but naturally it chose an important country-crossing journey to REALLY play up. My solution was to put the heater blower on full. I was now far too hot, but the car, importantly, wasn’t. Rain prevented me opening windows too readily.

Then I hit resurfacing works on the A458 approaching Welshpool. This seems to happen with depressing regularity. Thankfully, the five-minute stop allowed me to turn the engine off completely to avoid overheating. Oswestry, Wrexham and Chester were circumnavigated and after two hours, I found myself on actual motorway at long last. It was now just after 5pm though, and traffic was heavy. That meant more heater action and my new regime on sighting multiple brake lights up ahead was check mirror, slow down, put heater on, downshift as required, increasing heater blower speed if speed reduced too much.

That was bearable until I reached the M6. Here, it was very stop-start, which unfortunately is just how the Golf’s engine decided to behave. If I let the revs drop below 1500rpm, even in gear, it cut out. This was not much fun, as my new regime on sighting multiple brake lights ahead was check mirror, slow down, put heater on, try and downshift while also braking and blipping the throttle without crashing into any other vehicles due to trying to operate three pedals at once. I may have cried, but due to having the heater on full blast, any tears would have evaporated very quickly.

After twenty minutes of this, I was getting cramp in my legs and wishing I’d come in the 2CV after all. Happily, after another longer stretch of clear motorway, normal service was resumed. I can only assume that the very soggy leg up to the M6 had caused damp to play havoc with the spark plugs and HT leads, both of which I know are far from perfect (but have remained on the To Do list while I try and earn money rather than spend it all on cars).

North Yorkshire. Finally! What a day

North Yorkshire. Finally! What a day

Was the event worth the stress of getting there? Find out in the next installment. Here’s a clue…

Ian (left) trying to play it cool in the back of a Frontera

Ian (left) trying to play it cool in the back of a Frontera

Disco: Greenlaning woes and wheels

It has taken several months, but I’ve finally finished refurbing the Discovery’s steel wheels. I’m very happy with the results.

Disco wheels

Looking good on refurbed wheels

Actually, the work itself only took a few hours, though it’s a job that requires a huge amount of waiting. I rubbed the wheels down – with a wire brush initially, then sandpaper. I then applied two coats of brushed zinc-rich primer, to hopefully keep the rust at bay, before spraying two coats of silver wheel paint followed by two coats of clear lacquer. I then waited a few days for the paint to harden before getting them refitted. Sadly, the loss of sunshine meant the paint was still a little soft. I’m hoping it’ll be ok.

It now looks far, far better than it did when I bought it. Here’s a reminder.


As she arrived. Shonky

As she arrived. Shonky

To recap, the front bumper has been painted, the sill steps removed (as they were entirely rotten) and the wheels refurbed and then fitted with new, narrower rubber. The tyres are now correct for what early Discos wore as standard – 205/80 R16s. It came on 235/70 R16s which were optional. I prefer the look of thinner rubber and reckon there are advantages in mud and snow too.

I’m very pleased with how this car is coming along and will be using it this weekend for a lengthy trip to North Yorkshire, for a car meet and to explore some greenlanes up that way. I fear that the future of greenlaning is far from secure, with the news breaking just today that The Roych greenlane in the Peak District now has a Traffic Regulation Order on it, banning the use of mechanical vehicles. No doubt ramblers will be overjoyed at the news, but I’m deeply saddened. When you consider the amount of greenlanes you can drive versus the number of footpaths, there is a massive difference. It is very, very easy to find hundreds if not thousands of footpaths that go nowhere near a greenlane. I fear this is just the start of the end for greenlaning, which I find desperately sad. Sadly, I fear it’s a hobby ruined by a few idiots and as more lanes close, heavier traffic will develop on the remainder until those are lost to us as well. The countryside should be for all. There’s still enough of it out there! The people complaining don’t seem so ready to call for actual, metalled roads to be closed – the ones they use to access the countryside. A bit of toleration goes a long way and after all, I quite like to enjoy the countryside on foot, not just behind the wheel of a 4×4.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Disco performs on a long trip and shall report back next week.

Disco demonstrates abilities

Found time this morning to stop tinkering with cars and actually drive one for a bit. Took the Land Rover up to a favourite greenlane that I’ve not yet tackled in it.

As you can see, that long travel suspension is marvellous stuff for loping over rocks. As you can hear, there really is a lot of play in the transfer box.

Hope you all have an enjoyable Bank Holiday weekend!

Discovery gets to prove itself

I got the Discovery back today, after it went away for a new timing belt – needing a new water pump, thermostat and radiator in addition. It’s been very frustrating owning a car for almost a month, which I’ve barely driven. Therefore, attempting to shrug off a cold, I decided I had to get back out for a spell of greenlaning.

I had missed it. I love the countryside and like to use different methods to access it. Walking is great, but so is tackling the terrain in a 4×4. Mind you, I stuck to largely easy lanes today – some of which I’ve tackled in the 2CV. I wanted to get a feel for the Discovery before tackling anything severe.

Discovery proves capable in the rough stuff

Discovery proves capable in the rough stuff

The lanes of Nant-y-Moch proved ideal. They’re not far from my house and apart from one or two tricky sections – which I didn’t venture near this trip – they’re very accessible. A soft-roader wouldn’t struggle to be honest. Another reason for keeping the difficulty level low is that I was heading out on my own. I let my wife know roughly how long it should take, but you can’t guarantee mobile reception when you’re out in the wilds, and should mechanical trauma or an accident halt my progress, I could be a long way from rescue.

I do like solo laning though. Heading out in big groups can be seen as very anti-social by others who love the countryside, though this is often without justification. Sadly you do get some groups who love chucking enough gear onto their 4x4s to survive a rainforest expedition, and I’ve seen plenty who love revving engines and deliberately getting stuck. There’s no need for that. If you want to play silly buggers, go and do it at a Pay and Play site.

Anyway. Now I was finally away from sealed surfaces, how did the Discovery fare? Pretty good. The low ratio gears worked, and they are much lower than my previous Budget 4×4 – the Ford Maverick. This gives much better control on descents and over rocky ground. Being a diesel helps too. I only engaged the diff lock briefly for one tricky climb, but it seemed to do its thing. It took a while to disengage though – I suspect it hasn’t had a lot of use. The diff lock is on the centre differential, which allows the front and rear axles to travel at independent speeds – essential for on-road use, but not always great when off-road.

The main difference compared to the Maverick is the suspension. With long-travel coil springs all-round (rather than just on the back of the Maverick, which uses torsion bars up front) and simple beam axles, the Discovery is far better equipped straight out of the box. Yes, it can feel a bit clumsy on the road, but I like that. A 4×4 should feel like an off-roader in my view! It still handles well and it really is a tribute to the cleverness of Spen King, the man behind the Range Rover of 1970 – and therefore the platform underneath the Discovery of 1989.

Discovery contemplates the view

Discovery contemplates the view

It isn’t just the ability that impresses though. I find the Discovery a great vehicle to sit in. I love the blue Conran-penned interior and the high driving position. It’s better than the Range Rover, because there’s more headroom. They may share a body structure, but the Range Rover always left me feeling like I’d been squashed against the ceiling. The interior is far, far better than that of my similarly aged Range Rover too. More cohesive and less rattly. Which one was the premium product again?

With the laning itch scratched, I can now focus on further improvements. A full service needs to happen, including fresh oil for the engine, gearbox, transfer box and both axles. That’ll keep me busy for a bit! So far, I’ve spent about £250 on the new purchase, so it stands me at £700. Still cheap motoring so far…


Disco enhancing

I still daren’t drive the Discovery, though the timing belt kit has now arrived and should be getting fitted next week. It will be very nice to be able to drive my new car again.

Instead, I’ve been carrying out further improvements. The boot floor has been treated to a coat of Rustoleum and the interior has been refitted. It’s a lot nicer in there now and smells much less of cigarette smoke and dog. Then I started getting all cosmetic. I told myself that the shabby looks didn’t matter, because I was going to use it for green laning and possibly for Pay-and-Play sessions and/or trialing. Then I made the mistake of parking it outside my office/dining room window. The faded grey plastics and rusty front bumper – ‘improved’ with aluminium tape – were starting to really annoy me.

Ugh. Unsightly and unpleasant.

Ugh. Unsightly and unpleasant.

So, it was out with the Rustoleum once more, to give the metal part of the bumper a good coat of fresh paint. Then I rooted about in the garage until I found my Meguiar’s Vinyl and Plastic cleaner. It’s good stuff, working even though the plastic container got smashed ages ago. I also tidied up the front and rear wiper arms while I was at it. The results have been impressive.

That's better! It's cleaned up nicely.

That’s better! It’s cleaned up nicely.

I’m thrilled with the difference. Ultimately, that bumper still needs replacing – I simply painted over the aluminium tape which masks the missing metal beneath – but it’ll do just dandy for now. It’s taken years off the car. Of course, it still has a whopping great dent in the back corner, so it won’t be winning any shows just yet – probably because I’d never enter a vehicle for one anyway. It does at least look a little more cared for.

Incidentally, I’m really not sure how Land Rover avoided a lawsuit with Ford when you consider how the Discovery seems to have taken the nose of a facelifted Mk2 Transit van. In actual fact, the headlamps come from the Leyland-Daf 200/400 van range, so there’s more than just one commercial light fact.

Land Rover Transit

Land Rover Discovery in a former life

In other fleet news, the 2CV is awaiting a front brake overhaul, the BX has had a brake fettling session and is busy covering tourists in soot (I suspect a boost problem with the turbo) and the Mercedes is remaining resolutely unsold. The Green 2CV will be off to a new home later in the month – I really do need to get this fleet back under control. How I’m ruing my words earlier in the year when I confidently predicted that I wouldn’t buy as many cars this year. Oh well! Perhaps now things will settle down – or is that too dangerous a statement to make?



Disco frustration

No, this isn’t a post about failing to be like John Travolta, nor about discovering that my Discovery is a heap of rubbish. No, the frustration stems from the fact that I dare not drive it! However, I would also like to officially relaunch Project Budget 4×4 – my attempts to prove that 4x4s need not be expensive to buy and own.

Disco three door with steel wheels

It’s great! But I can’t drive it…

Back to why I’m frustrated. Just driving the Discovery home was risky, as I’ve absolutely no idea when the timing belt was last replaced. The people selling the car certainly didn’t have a clue, though they did helpfully tell me that it looked to be in good condition – this belt that you can’t see without dismantling the front of the engine…

In short, the timing or cambelt transmits power from the crankshaft to the camshaft. The crankshaft is turned by the pistons as the engine fires, the camshaft opens and closes the valves at the right point. So, what’s so bad about a timing belt failing? The not insignificant problem caused by the fact that on most engines, the pistons and valves move in the same space. They overlap, but the way the timing works means that they’re never in the same space at the same time. Unless the timing is massively out – like if the belt has snapped or something…

If the pistons come up and smash into the valves, there’s going to be damage. It varies from engine to engine, but there’s a very good chance that a large number of valves will be bent and therefore useless, and you might have damage to the cylinder head as well. So, it needs replacing – and pretty darned soon.

I’ve booked the car in with a garage, because the job can be a mucky one and I’m very worried about further staining our already disgusting driveway – the BX’s various leaks allied to once owning a Mini have left it in a bit of a state. If I’m not careful, folk will be turning up wanting to frack my driveway…

There is also a requirement for tools I don’t own, and when you start adding up the price of things, farming the job out starts looking more sensible. Sadly I must wait for parts to arrive, so that leaves me with a Discovery I can’t drive. Not that I can’t meddle with it – the sun is shining, it’s on my driveway and the to do list is sizeable.

The first job was to clean up the interior. It was disgusting as the car had been used to ferry children, dogs and horse paraphernalia about the place. Scrubbing the seats, plastics and carpets with soapy water has improved things greatly, as has a session with Henry the vacuum cleaner. I then started getting a bit carried away and pulled out the rear carpet to find this.

Land Rover Discovery boot floor

Hardly surprising to find rot here, but it’s actually pretty solid! That is surprising…

Amazingly, there is metal there. It looks worse than it is really, thanks to bits of icky, rust-soaked foam. I scrubbed it down and gave it a coat of Rustoleum, so it looks alright now. The bigger problem is what to do with the boot floor. It was pretty wet, thanks to leaks from the rear alpine lights (at the sides of the roof) and possibly the rearmost side windows. There’s no point putting the mat back as it’ll just start trapping moisture again. Perhaps I’ll just leave it.

I also fiddled with the rear wiper, so it actually now clears the window – a bent arm and too-long wiper blade being the issues there. It’s all unimportant stuff really, but makes me feel better and gives me a chance to get a feel for the car. After all, I bought it, then disappeared off to a music festival for five days, so I’ve barely seen it since I got it home!

Looking much nicer inside after a good clean

Looking much nicer inside after a good clean

As you can see – my efforts have not been in vain. The interior has come along brilliantly. There is some damage to the driver’s seat, so I’ll leave the cover on it for now. The two front seats seem to have a bit of play in them too – they tilt forward in an unusual manner to allow access to the rear seat. An advisory on the most recently MOT.

I also inspected the damaged rear quarter more closely.

It's taken a beating

It’s taken a beating

I pulled off the gaffer tape and found some nasty damage. There’s nothing I can do about it so I set about covering it up with a combination of black gaffer tape and aluminium tape – which at least looks much nicer than the blue gaffer tape previously used! Ideally, it needs an entire rear side, but I can’t see that happening. The gaffer tape smooths over the sharp edges, and the aluminium tape hides a panel gap you can get your hand in!

Attempts to investigate a braking issue – it pulls to one side on heavy braking – were frustrated by the fact that I can’t find a suitable socket for the wheel nuts. I must own one as I managed to remove the Range Rover’s wheels. I wonder where it is?


Improving the quality – bye bye Maverick

After a bit of a buying splurge, I’m currently going through a major fleet reduction. Trying to live a reduced-income lifestyle was beginning to sit uncomfortably with owning five cars. It’s a bit like trying to lose weight while enjoying profiteroles for breakfast and take-away pizza for elevenses. I’m a hippy trying to reduce my impact on the world while driving around in fossil-fuel-munching CO2 monsters.

Ford Maverick suspension raise

It’s been fun, but the Maverick needs to move on

The thing is, I really am a hippy petrolhead, so it’s not like I’m going to abandon motoring. But I had to admit that the biggest problem with owning so many vehicles is that it becomes a challenge to keep on top of maintenance, especially with a somewhat meagre income. I have no complaints about the income – we made a decision to earn less and that means hard decisions often have to be made. It’s one reason we get to far fewer car events than we used to.

So, it was time for a cull. The Mini was axed some months ago, the Nissan Bluebird sold the other week and now a deal has been clinched on the Maverick. That leaves me with the new Citroen BX TXD Turbo and the 2CV as the sole working vehicles on the fleet. In theory, that should be plenty. After all, there are only two of us and one of us would rather not drive anyway. That’s not me just in case you were wondering.

Selling the Maverick was a tough decision. I’ve had to turn my back on the world of green laning, having made many friends along the way. But it isn’t the first time I’ve sold a 4×4, nor even the first time I’ve sold a 4×4 when the winter is about to set in!

I can now, in theory, focus on improving the quality of the two remaining cars. The BX is a long way from being fully sorted and is currently leaking various fluids in various quantities. I apologise to my friend Chas who’s driveway is no doubt quite well marked by my visiting him this weekend. My BX likes to mark its territory.

It will also hopefully see me use the 2CV much more. It’s been shamefully neglected this year.

Of course, the biggest challenge is ignoring Ebay and its searches of temptation. I think the general lack of funds should help here though!