Dyane: The zero budget project

I’ve been massively busy with work, community bus stuff and trying to keep the Dyane working for longer than five minutes. It has been a frustrating week or two. I’ll try to recap without getting too waffly.

Intermotor condensers are rubbish. This one lasted barely 5 miles.

Intermotor condensers are rubbish. This one lasted barely 5 miles.

Ever since I collected the Dyane, it’s had an occasional tendency to ‘lose’ tickover. It starts chugging and struggling and makes town driving nightmarish. The first thing to do was to pinch the known good coil from the 2CV. This made no difference. I then set about replacing fuel lines – I could see that the front ones had degraded really quite badly, and suspected the same might be true on the section above the fuel tank. You have to drop the tank to replace this.

This led to a rare moment on this project. I actually had to buy something. There’s no point fitting second hand fuel pipes. A few quid later, I had some new pipe. The front pipework was no bother, and I took the opportunity to fit an in-line filter. Dropping the tank was a right pain, as the underside was caked in mud. A lot of this went in my eyes. Even more went in my hair and beard.

All the old pipe was degrading, but I doubt it was actually enough to cause any running issues. Sure enough, no difference. So, I set about changing the points and condenser. I have loads of old ones. I was planning to take the Dyane to Cholmondeley Castle, but ran out of time. I’d got stuck because using a timing light to set the static ignition timing, the light wouldn’t go out!

While I was away, a friend gave me a fresh set of points and a condenser. These were Intermotor items and the condenser failed after just a few miles. I had to push the car home. Thankfully not far! When refitting an old condenser, I discovered that the connection to the point box was really not very good. That was why I couldn’t get the timing light to go out. I fitted the old condenser, tweaked that connector and reset the ignition timing. Result! She runs beautifully again.

This project is brought to you by almost no budget at all.

This project is brought to you by almost no budget at all.

Throughout this project, I have been raiding my poor 2CV and my parts stash for components. There’s a simple reason for that. I have no budget! I cannot simply throw money at the car, something I think some people struggle to comprehend. “Just fit electronic ignition,” they say – ignoring the fact that buying one would cost me £139 plus delivery. I am therefore hugely grateful to the chap in 2CVGB who sent me a Boyer-Brandsen points-assisted ignition box. I have a similar set-up on the 2CV and it is BRILLIANT. These systems do away with the need for troublesome condensers, and also reduce the voltage going through the points. That means they can last tens of thousands of miles – as the ones in my 2CV have. But you get better starting and cleaner running, just as you do with expensive electronic ignition. I can’t wait to fit it. Until then, I’ll have to keep a spare condenser and tools close to hand.

Having no budget does force you to be resourceful but it is also quite rewarding. I have done LOADS of work to gently improve the Dyane, but it has cost me almost nothing. I even had service items and oil on the shelf (bought in bulk for cost savings). When you live a low-income lifestyle, the luxury of just replacing stuff with new doesn’t exist. It’s a mindset that more people should explore. Naturally, I would prefer to have fitted four brand new dampers, but the truth is that the car now drives much better with just one dodgy old one replaced by a better one stolen from my 2CV. The wheels and tyres were pinched from the 2CV. Low budget doesn’t mean a total disregard for personal safety – the tyres on the Dyane still had tread, but were obviously perished.

For now, the Dyane remains a fixer-upper on the cheap. I think I might like it all the more because of that.

Dyane: A greenlane, more issues

I spent yesterday trying to get to the bottom of the Dyane’s occasional poor running. Sometimes it’ll idle very nicely. Sometimes it’ll idle not at all. I’m having to employ a lot of heel and toe – using all three pedals at once. This is bothersome.

What I actually ended up doing was splitting the carburettor, then somehow dislodging the floats so that when I tried starting the engine, it filled one cylinder with petrol.

Floats in the wrong place. ie my hand.

You can probably see the issue here. With the carburettor rebuilt, I then had to remove the spark plugs as so much petrol had flooded in that the engine would not turn. The pretty, potentially-explosive fountain thankfully was not ignited. I’d cleaned out all of the jets while the carb was in bits, but this seems to have made no difference. More work to do.

Or, I could go greenlaning instead. Guess which option I went for!

Dyane off-road Greenlaning Dyane in the hills of mid-Wales

Yes, greenlaning. That is, seeing “Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles” and going for it anyway. The Land Rover is our neighbours, who were joining us as we went Vulcan spotting. Sadly, we failed as the Vulcan was actually running late. This particularly scenic part of mid-Wales lacks any phone signal, so we had no idea. This was the first time I’d tried this Byway – checked on an OS Map and then with local greenlaner types. You’d struggle in a modern, but the Dyane lapped it up. Must do the whole lane at some point.

Having failed at plane spotting, we turned around and headed home. When I got there, I found this:


Ah. The fuel line really shouldn’t be on the ground.

Not good. The fuel line must have got snagged on some long grass and had been pulled away from the chassis. Thankfully, there’s a short metal section near the front, which was so firmly bonded to the rubber either side that the pipe had not come away entirely. Just enough to cause a minor leak. I like this car. It seems to refuse to die.

I’ll replace the front pipework and will include an in-line filter. I’ll also find a better way to secure the fuel line further back. I’m prone to explore greenlanes. I need a better solution! It may be that this isn’t helping with the poor running. We’ll see.

One thing I must say though. I may have to fast-forward my art project plans for this car. Some have told me I should keep it as it is, and I do see the appeal in that – it appeals to my lazy side. However, the biggest problem with this car is that EVERYONE jokes that they can’t see it when I post photos. It was slightly amusing the first time but every time? Really?!

I’m going to have to get creative all the sooner I think.

Dyane: Actually working! Sort of

Unsurprisingly for a vehicle that was last taxed in 1995, the Dyane is proving rather a project. Having successfully got it home (somehow), the tinkering began in earnest. I began work last week, but then had to dash off to Anglesey for the 2CV 24-hour race – what an epic adventure that was. I’d hoped to go in the Dyane, but realised about halfway through Wednesday that this wasn’t an option.

After getting back home, I could return to the fettling. Monday saw me achieve a great deal. The ignition timing was set, the alternator wiring was repaired and the wiper linkage replaced. That’s one MOT advisory dealt with right there. Sadly, doing all this just after the 24-hour race was rather a mistake, and Tuesday was mainly spent in a great deal of pain, feeling absolutely awful.

Yesterday, I got the Dyane back together again. The exhaust was blowing, but I needed lunch, needed to go shopping first and the Dyane was going to take me whether it wanted to or not!

Out on the open road!

Out on the open road!

I did attempt the drive with the roof back, but didn’t even make it off the driveway before it began to rain. Roof back on. Then it REALLY pelted it down! Fortunately, the speedy little wipers were up to the challenge. Thank goodness I’d changed that linkage.

Around town, the stiff clutch and occasional lack of idle proved annoying. I don’t think there’s much I can do about the former, but I will try getting some lube into the cable in case that’s the fault. The idle is likely to be gunk in the carburettor. I’ll have to get the jets out for a clean, and perhaps take the top of the carburettor off to check whether there is muck in the float chambers. I must also fit an in-line filter.

On returning home, complete with new bolts that don’t fit the clamp I was hoping to use (go me!), I discovered that the crossbox to swan neck joint was completely loose. No wonder it was noisy! If you imagine the sort of hideous noise a Harley Davidson makes, it was like that but (if you can believe such a thing) even worse. Accessing that clamp on a Dyane is a right pain, but I found that reasonable access was on offer if I removed the nearside front wheel. So, while doing that, a good time to put grease in the kingpins eh?

The pin refused to take grease. Probably because old, hard grease was clogging everything up. So, now I had to get a blowtorch to gently warm the kingpin housing. I removed the grease nipple and watched a hideous stream of manky old grease ease out. Then I could finally get fresh grease in.

And that’s what this car is like. One job inevitably turns into several jobs, and every job seems to throw up issues of some kind! This is what happens with cars that have been off the road for some time. At least it’s giving me plenty to write about!

Other issues I know are on the horizon are a clattering CV joint (only occasionally), a possible sticky front brake (nearside) and I need to see if the engine is still losing oil. I’ve replaced the crankcase breather in the hope this’ll encourage oil to stay inside. I’m just over a week away from a long trip to the Cholmondeley Castle classic show, so need to keep tinkering away!

Dyane: All is not well.

When you buy a seriously cheap Dyane, that was parked up on a farm for many years, you can expect one or two problems. That’s fine. I didn’t pay ‘perfect’ money. In fact, I barely paid any money in Dyane terms. I have no quibbles. But, I do have quite the To Do list.

I removed the sleeping Perodua from the garage and into the rain this morning, and inserted the Dyane. I let it dry off while I consumed breakfast. Then I gave the engine bay a proper look-over. The sort of look-over I should have done before driving it 172 miles really. Oh well.

Talking over an odd noise it was making under light throttle left someone suggesting I should check the intake side of things. It didn’t take long to find a problem!

2CV Dyane intake manifold leak

Oooh! That isn’t helping. The bolt has gone completely.

A missing bolt. The other one this side was finger tight. Naturally, the thing to do here would be to insert another bolt. The cylinder heads are aluminium, and it’s terrifyingly easy to strip the threads. Is that what had happened here? I couldn’t get a new bolt to start, so decided the best course of action would be to remove the manifold and see what’s what.

After dismantling the exhaust system and removing the alternator, things looked like this.

Engine bay

Under this soup of misplaced parts is an engine.

As it happens, this was all a bit unnecessary. I ran a bolt into the thread with the manifold removed, and it seemed to go in nicely. Only one thing for it – put it all back and bolt it down. Success! All the bolts torqued up (the setting is very low) nicely. I didn’t have quite so much luck reconnecting the exhaust system though – new clamps may help there as the old ones are a bit tired. It’s always a fiddly faff. I shall try again when freshly enthused. I did check the valve clearances though, and opened up the inlets to the recommended 0.25mm. The exhausts were already at the ideal 0.30mm.

Problem Two was pinking. Now, the inlet leak could have been responsible, but I suspected that the ignition timing was off. No problem. Quickly get the fan off to check the state of the points and the gap, then time it up. Only the fan didn’t want to come off. I was forced to faff about removing the front panel to gain better access. Eventually, after much clouting of my drift, the fan came off its taper.

Naked Dyane

Rusty bolts hindered front panel removal.

Once the fan was off, I was horrified to discover some serious impediments to the cooling system. It looked like a plastic bag had got sucked in at some point, with remnants seriously hampering air flow over the cooling fins of the nearside cylinder head. Worse, some bits were blocking the oil cooler. Worse still, behind that, the oil cooler looked like this!

EEK! That's seriously mucky.

EEK! That’s seriously mucky.

That’s not good at all. Aircooled engines tend to rely on the oil itself being cooled. I was starting to wonder just how this poor little car had got me home. A major intake leak and much-hampered cooling. The best way to clean the fragile cooler is by using compressed air, blowing from the engine side. I had no compressed air, so went for a different strategy. Gently brushing degreaser over all the muck, then squirting water through from behind with a hose. Very, very messy, but it did the job and I only mildly soaked myself.

The second part of this was to refit the fan and start the engine. That really did blow the muck out! In fact, given how much water I’d pushed down towards the points box, I was amazed that it ran at all. When I opened up the points box, it actually had quite a bit of water in it…

The ignition timing was way out – several teeth too advanced. Again, how it got me home without holing a piston I don’t know, but clearly I had successfully driven around the issue, as described last time. You should never just let an engine pink. It will end badly (modern cars have knock sensors to avoid this happening).

I created a new timing mark, though I need to revisit the setting next time I’m tinkering. With unleaded fuel creating a hotter burn, the experts reckon it’s wise to retard the ignition timing by one tooth. That’s ok as I ran out of time today and simply downed tools once I’d reset the timing.

Engine-wise, I also still need to see why the idle is lumpy and unsettled. The spark plugs are new, so it shouldn’t be them. It could be the mixture perhaps, as it seems to idle nicely when on choke. I did try unblocking the carburettor jets with the ‘hand on top of carb at revs’ trick but it didn’t make a difference. As they traditionally say at such times, TO BE CONTINUED.

Dyane: The Collection Story

I’ve had to wait patiently for this collection caper, but finally, the day arrived! It was hard to plan for the day, as I wasn’t entirely sure when the paperwork would allow collection.

You see, the problem is that despite many changes to the vehicle tax system, it’s still not possible to tax a car you don’t yet own. The logbook had been lost in the mists of time for the Dyane, so I would have to wait for the logbook to arrive in my name before I could tax it. Or would I?

The DVLA kindly sent me a letter suggesting that the logbook would be processed on 17th August. I phoned on the 18th, and they were able to confirm that yes, the logbook had been processed. The Dyane was now in my name. Even better, I could tax it with them over the phone, so I didn’t have to wait for the logbook to physically arrive with my name on it. Brilliant!

A neighbour just happened to be driving to south Wales, and that proved very handy. Getting from here to Wiltshire by train is a bit of a nightmare. Seven hours or more. Getting a lift to pretty Abergavenny meant a total trip duration of five hours. That’s more like it! The first train took me to Newport.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of rail transport, but I have to admit that I do like it as part of a car collection trip. You get to sit and watch the world go by, while that anticipation gently builds. Plus, you sometimes get to ride on trains like this!


A classic train, still in extensive frontline use.

If my research is to be believed, this particular Intercity 125, or Classic 43, was built in 1982 – so it’s not quite as old as I am. This was the first time I’d been on one since I was a child and while the scream of its Paxman Valenta V12 engine is long gone, the MTU engine fitted during a refurbishment is undeniably smooth. This is still an exceedingly fast diesel locomotive and while the four miles of the Severn Tunnel did hurt my ears, it was a very pleasurable journey to Swindon. The next train was utter rubbish though. Swings and roundabouts!

I now found myself in sunny Warminster, where the train station is ideally situated right next to a scrapyard.

Glamorous Warminster, and my little 'taxi.'

Glamorous Warminster, and my little ‘taxi.’

Gary Dicks of 2CV Imports was waiting for me in a Suzuki Wagon R. Gary has been working to get the Dyane road legal, though I hasten to point out that for a road-going Dyane, this one was very cheap! Which explains why the journey home was not without incident. I have no complaints.

Anyway, tea was consumed, cats were discussed (yes, cats rather than cars) and I was soon on my way. This was my first drive on the road in my new Dyane, and the first Dyane I’ve owned since 2002. I think. Well, ok. There was another Dyane, but it was horribly rotten and I never actually drove it! Back on topic, it was fuel time.

Citroen Dyane

The ‘can you see it’ gags have begun. First fill-up!

The bonding process began in earnest now, as she dumped a load of super unleaded down my leg. How grateful is that?! It seems in the few months that I haven’t been 2CV-ing, I forgot that you have to ease off the pressure as the tank nears being full, or fuel tends to shoot out all over the place. Oops. I treated her to super unleaded for the simple reason that the last time she was on the road, she would probably have been drinking four star. I decided higher octane might be beneficial.

As we departed Warminster, I gently increased the speed. After so long off the road, it seemed kinder to take things gently. That said, I suspected the car had remained in regular use, as it seemed to run so sweetly. I was not wrong. The previous owner rang me while I was stopped for food on the way back and explained that the Dyane had been used as a shooting hack on a farm in Montgomeryshire! It had only been laid up for a few years, some of those in a barn. More on that another time.

As the roads got twistier, the tired state of the dampers became more apparent. Unsurprising, as they’re at least 20 years old I suspect, if not older. It therefore feels a bit precarious and unpredictable in the bends – grippy still, but prone to sudden pitch and yaw that is unsettling even to a seasoned 2CVer.

Bradford-upon-Avon proved stressful, which is a shame. It was the home of Dr Alex Moulton, who developed rubber cone, hydrolastic and hydragas suspension for BMC/BL. The link? He was a compulsive Citroen owner. His bicycle company is still based in Bradford-upon-Avon.

Not that I got to enjoy that fact very much, as the Dyane was struggling to idle. In fact, she cut out several times, and several more times, I just managed to catch her with a blip of throttle to narrowly avoid more starter motor use. Fortunately, the pedals are beautifully set for heel-and-toe, which is good. I was having to operate all three pedals at once! A very useful skill.

After 20 miles, I pulled over to give the car a quick checkover before we hit the motorway, and to have a quick drink. Given the lumpy idle, I turned the engine off. This was a mistake as after my short break, she wouldn’t restart. ARSE!

Bother! 20 miles in and progress is halted.

Bother! 20 miles in and progress is halted.

Fortunately, I’m not one to panic. What’s the main reason for a 2CV refusing to hot start? Yes, a weak coil. Certainly, this one was very hot. I left the bonnet up, stretched my legs and a few minutes later, she purred into life. Phew.

Annoyingly, I went straight from this layby into another sodding traffic jam – pure coil-killing conditions and further three-pedal driving was required. That thankfully didn’t last too long, and I sound found myself racing down the sliproad to the M4.

This was a nervous moment. I’d already discovered that the engine was pinking under heavy load and that coil was causing concern too. I was taking to the motorway in a car that required a certain amount of nursing. I needn’t have worried. She was soon sailing along very comfortably at an indicated 70mph, highlighting the main difference between Dyane and 2CV. No doors flapping, far less wind noise and more space for the driver. This was actually quite pleasant!

Then it was on to the M5 up to Gloucester, then onto the A40 towards Ross-on-Wye. As we enjoyed the traffic-free A road conditions, with much hooning, I can to concede that the car seemed to be running very nicely now. The tickover had come back and she felt a lot happier. Could this be because she used to live near Ross-on-Wye? Did she think she was going home?

She wasn’t. We continued on our way to Hereford, where there was a longer-than-planned stop for food and a rest at a pub that was having problems with its clever till system. My food order got lost. At least this gave longer for the coil to cool…

This camouflage is not much use in a car park.

This camouflage is not much use in a car park.

When I finally got back to the car, I decided it might be an idea to check the oil level. It’s a good job I did, as it was right at the lower end of acceptability. Fortunately, I’d left some oil in the car from when I nipped down to tinker with the Dyane the previous week. Nice, expensive synthetic stuff too. So, it was a bit dismaying to notice that this nice, expensive oil was leaking out all over the engine. I suspect several minor leaks, but it’s certainly enough for the car to mark its territory. Given the crap service, I can’t say I feel too bad about the Dyane marking this particular car park!

So, onwards I drove, being blinded by the setting sun. It was quite pretty though to be fair.

A beautiful evening for a long drive.

A beautiful evening for a long drive.

We’d now covered over 100 miles, but there was still a long way to go! I’d discovered the lack of heater tubes as the temperature dropped, but at least I could close the dash vents. The climb over the Elan Valley mountain road was tricky, as I had to keep dropping a gear to avoid pinking. It tends to happen when the engine is under maximum load, so the trick is to drop a gear, so you end up with lots of revs, but less load on the engine. Noisy work, but we made it.

Home! 172 miles covered.

Home! 172 miles covered.

172 miles covered, in a car last on the road in 1995, that has a 602cc engine developing 33bhp. We averaged 34mph and the journey home took about the same time as the train. I can’t really be anything other than pleased.

XM and Dyane news

Yesterday, I drove over 300 miles to Wiltshire and back. The XM shrugged off this trek, as it so often does and even though the boot was full of wheels, tyres and bits of Dyane.

Our plan was to get the Dyane in something approaching a decent enough state to pass an MOT. This we largely achieved, though I had to leave before things had been concluded.

The Dyane, not yet quite ready for an MOT.

The Dyane, not yet quite ready for an MOT.

The indicators were particularly annoying as aside from a couple of small bulbs needing replacement, the lighting was otherwise fine. The indicator units are a bit rubbish though, so we had to raid a parts stash to find decent replacements – and invoke a little bodgery to gain the desirable flashing.

Wheels and tyres from my 2CV were fitted, as the tyres on the car were horribly perished. A couple of driveshaft gaiters were replaced, the brake system completed and bled and I could actually have my first drive of my new car. Woo-hoo! The engine sounds beautiful, so it has been treated to some fresh oil and a new filter. We even chucked in a pair of new plugs. I reckon the valve clearances are probably a touch tight, but it’s running well now, so I’ll leave well alone.

After five hours, we’d achieved a lot – including loads of small jobs like fitting door check straps, replacing the fuel line and finding a way to secure the bonnet due to the hinge rotting away. I set off back home while the lads kept working, and they reckon she’s good to go! Hopefully the MOT man will agree on Thursday.

Huzzah! Will she pass an MOT?

Huzzah! Will she pass an MOT? Ignore the date stamp. Not my picture!

On the way home, the XM’s fidgety ride was starting to bother me quite a bit. Thankfully, I’d already ordered some rear spheres and a sphere tool, and they arrived while I was Dyane fettling. Today, I set about changing them.

The two main suspension spheres were a piece of cake. Suspension on high setting, crack each sphere off with the tool (gently assisted with a hammer) just to get them moving, then suspension on low, open the pressure regulator and remove the spheres by hand. Then I inserted the new seals, twisted on the new ones (like an oil filter, and hand tight is fine) and that part of the job was done.

Yuck! This is the state of one of the old suspension spheres. Mucky.

Yuck! This is the state of one of the old suspension spheres. Mucky.

Sadly, the centre sphere had other ideas. The spheres had valves on them, which suggests someone had the bright idea of fitting spheres that could be regassed. Sadly, this means they’d been sat there for an awfully long time! No matter what I tried, I could not get the centre sphere to shift. This is the key to the XM’s remarkable suspension. The centre sphere is used so three spheres give that wonderful, wafty feel as you drive along. Start hooning and the electronics lock out this centre sphere, which firms up the suspension. It’s what gives the XM such marvellous poise.

But there was no chance it was going to come undone, so I had to give up. Not even a chisel would shift it. I’ll have to let a specialist give it a whack at some point. Pleasingly though, the ride is already much improved. It was very bouncy and firm at the back, but it has now regained that magical Citroen float – even if it is still much firmer than a CX or DS. I’m well pleased.

Dirty Dyane: The mission is on

So, I have decided to purchase the camouflage Dyane as an interim project. I need an old car to tinker with, so I may as well make it one I like a great deal!

Yes! The Dyane runs. The project is started.

Yes! The Dyane runs. The project is started.

Now, you’ll have to wait for updates, because there are one or two things standing in the way of bringing this car home. Firstly, it has no MOT. It will require a little welding, and this will be sorted out very soon. Secondly, it has no paperwork, so can’t be taxed even when it does have MOT. So, I’ll have to wait for the V5C to be applied for. I’m hoping that this won’t take longer than a few weeks to sort out. Please hurry DVLA!

The current plan is to get the welding done and await the arrival of the V5C. Then, I will head over to Wiltshire with the master cylinder that’s currently missing on the Dyane. Fortunately, my spares stash included a working master cylinder. With that fitted, and the wheels and tyres from my 2CV, we can then put it in for an MOT, cross our fingers and hopefully, I can then drive it the 140 miles back home. As it hasn’t been road legal since 1995, this could indeed be quite an adventure. We may avoid motorways.

Longer term, I’ll need to do something about the rotten lower windscreen panel (2CVGB’s Spare Parts OrGanisation [SPOG] thankfully produces a replacement) and I suspect it’ll need some rot chasing out of the inner rear wings. Cosmetics? I care not a hoot. There are not enough hand-painted Citroens at 2CV meets these days, so it’ll be just like old times. I can’t wait.

Most importantly, it hopefully means that I can drive to the 2CV 24hr Race on Anglesey on August 22-23 where I’m assisting a team as pit crew. There is also a track day session on the Saturday. I think the Dyane needs to be there for that.

Would you attempt to drive 140 miles in this car?

Would you attempt to drive 140 miles in this car?

All-in-all, I’m very excited. Longer term, something will have to go on the fleet. The XM, Perodua and Dyane will all be battling to avoid eviction from the Classichub Fleet. There probably won’t be much progress to report until the paperwork is sorted, but stay tuned for flat-twin adventures!