Project OMG: Caper woes

This collection caper has rather hit the buffers then. I do need to address the diesel leak, because it left this stain while waiting for the test. 

Though the snapped rear spring is also a good reason to seek assistance. 

Not ideal. I found a couple of garages, but both were too busy. I have now found one a little further away, so I’m hoping they can at least get started on fixing it this afternoon. There will be a break in proceedings though, as they’re busy until at least half three. 

To be honest, this problem wasn’t entirely unexpected. I packed clothes for another night away…

More news as I have it!

Project OMG: MOT

We’re at the MOT station!

The test is ongoing as I type, but she’s already failed on exhaust, which I knew about, and a snapped rear spring, which I did not. The diesel leak really kicked off on the ramp too, so it’s a fail. Now to plan what to do about it!

Honda S-MX: Bedding in

As related in the previous post, I had headed to Plymouth to collect my new Honda S-MX. Having got the headlights working, I could settle in for a 60-mile drive, and get a feel for my new steed. What is the S-MX like to drive?

Oddly different. In terms of looks, it’s like a shrunken Volkswagen Transporter, and it feels similar to drive too. You have a nice, upright driving position and always feel like you’re driving a big box.
The column gear selector is not very VW-like I’ll grant you, and it’s not very pleasant to use either. It really is a case of stick it in D4 and leave it there. Snicking around the ratios is annoyingly difficult and best ignored.

A nice place to sit.

That’s ok though, as it’s a pretty nice gearbox. It is perhaps a bit over eager to kick down, but changes are smooth. It does initially slip a bit on downshifts, and the torque converter lock up doesn’t seem to function. I’m hoping fluid changes will improve both issues.

Gear selector a bit clunky and rubbish. 

Thankfully, even with the lack of lock-up, the engine is smoothly doing 3250rpm at 70mph, so doesn’t seem overly stressed. 

The steering is very light, to the point that I think something may be wrong. I wonder if it is meant to get heavier at speed and isn’t.  

It makes it very easy to drive, but it does feel a little nervous at speed. It also inspires zero confidence when cornering, not helped by mismatched tyres and, I suspect, poor wheel alignment.

The brakes are good though, and the ride pretty refined. It loses composure over uneven terrain, but I reckon it rides better than my Rover 600 did. The suspension is typical Honda double wishbone up front, but an unusual trailing arm multi link set up at the rear, which is unique to the S-MX and, I think, the Stepwgn, which is an annoyingly named long wheelbase version.

Being a big, boxy thing, there is a fair dose of wind and road noise at speed, but it isn’t sufficient to ruin the listening experience when tuned in to Radio 3. Pretty good then.

Back to the story. I reached Cornwall, found a quiet lay by near St Agnes and got ready to test bed mode! 

Wherever I park my car, that’s my home.

Luxurious eh? To be honest, like every car with seats that convert to a bed since at least the Austin Maxi, it isn’t exactly ideal. It is a bed with contours that most beds do not have. Despite this, I got a reasonable night’s kip. I avoided steamy windows by cracking open each opening window (there are three). Normally, this could allow rain to sneak in, but the S-MX has wind deflectors to keep the rain out. Which turned out to be fortuitous. 

It took mere moments to get packed up and on my way, though mist ruined any chance of the nice view I had hoped to wake to. Now, I needed to get near Redruth for the entire reason for the Cornish adventure. A friend of mine with a garage had offered his services at a very good rate. It was time to treat my new steed to a bit of love. It would turn out to be a long time since anyone else had…

Bromyard Speed Festival

I must apologise for the lack of posts recently, and for taking three days to get my next video edited. I’m currently very busy writing for Classic Car Buyer as well as editing the first issue of Classic Jaguar magazine. Life is frantic. Which is nice.

But on Sunday, I was fortunate enough to visit the first Bromyard Speed Festival, and it really didn’t disappoint. There were some great cars in action, as well as one very interesting mobility scooter, and a running appearance by Malcolm Campbell’s Bluebird land speed record car. Wow.

You can watch the video here.

Project 2CV: Body delivery video

As reported in my previous post, the 2CV’s body is now up in Yorkshire. Here’s some footage of the journey itself.

Remarkably, the Elly restoration fund stands at £1826 now! That’s following a healthy contribution from myself. Your funds have not been spent on getting my trailer fixed, nor on transport costs. The total will only be used directly for stuff Elly needs – mostly bodywork then. I have had to keep away from Ebay!

I should be able to give the pot another boost as the Honda Prelude has now been sold. As I suggest in the video, the Dyane may be the next victim of the fleet cull. It’s job was to fill in while the 2CV was off the road. Now the project is underway, far sooner than I anticipated, then I’m afraid the Dyane is going to have to make way. For a start, I need my garage back so I can crack on with chassis fettling ahead of the body’s return. Though, I’m pleased to report that the galvanised finish seems to have lasted very well, with no signs of rot.

If you think £1826 is a great deal of money, you’d be right. But, restoring cars is an expensive business, and I can see all that (and more ) disappearing very easily. Elly will need new wheels and tyres, and that’s £356 gone straight away. I’m looking forward to the next stage though. Stay tuned!

Up she goes! Ready for some sorting out.

Up she goes! Ready for some sorting out.

Project 2CV: Splitting up!

Getting the trailer sorted meant that Project 2CV could move on a step. Yes, it was time to separate chassis and body! This is always a huge moment, and I was feeling a certain amount of nostalgia. It is now 13.5 years since I did this job, on this car, the previous time.


Unbolted body, ready to lift off.

Now I must say, I definitely married the right woman, as Rachel was full of enthusiasm for this bit. With just two of us, it wouldn’t be easy, but we managed it. I reckon I’d lose to Rachel in an arm wrestle, and her muscle was certainly appreciated.

Of course, the body didn’t actually fit on the trailer, because I never measure things, but with the tailgate removed, all is well. Not like I’ll be rolling it off is it?

2cv body

The body is ready to be shipped off.

It was hard work, but we got there! It’s not like we had to be careful to avoid damaging it after all. I will be strapping it down before I set off. Don’t worry.

Now I had a rolling chassis to deal with, and wanting my garage back for the Dyane, we decided to return the chassis to a local friend’s garage – where the 2CV had been hibernating since last summer. I did consider driving it there…

Hoon? Maybe not

Hoon? Maybe not

…but decided for trusty wife power. We bolted the rear bumper back on for this. Rachel is sadly not unaccustomed to this position, on account of the number of times I’ve got stuck in mud, off-road or in snow.

Manual labour. I did push as well. Honest.

Manual labour. I did push as well. Honest.

So, the 2CV is in pieces, now spread out over several locations. On Monday, I’ll be driving up to Bradford to visit Citwins, where Alan Rogers can size things up, suck his teeth and tell me what the damage will be. That 2CV fund is going to vanish very quickly! We both reckon it’ll need over £1000 of panels, but your money is making that a realistic prospect. I’ve added a bit into the fund myself, which currently stands at just over £1700. It’s ruddy marvellous that quite so much is available for 2CVs!

That concludes this update. Progress has been pleasingly swift and I thank all those who’ve contributed for making it happen. Enthusiasm is high once again!

stuck 2cv

With wife power, anything is possible! Almost. We did need a Land Rover…

Automatic for the people

I’m surprised to learn that I’m increasingly fond of automatic gearboxes. Which is good given that my Honda Prelude has one. I’ll concede that driving my manual Citroen XM through some of the less pleasant, and busiest parts of Britain recently has further highlighted the benefits of two-pedal motoring.

Automatic gearbox not the smoothest, but easy on fuel.

Honda automatic gearbox not the smoothest, but easy on fuel.

It’s not like I’ve ever been anti-auto in the past, it’s just that I firmly believed that an auto should be mated to a nice, enormous engine. Something like the Rover P6B V8, Mercedes-Benz W124 300E and Alfa Romeo 164 Lusso that have joined my fleet in the past. I’ve always thought that four-cylinder engines have no business being mated to an auto, but I think I was wrong. It depends entirely on the engine and gearbox.

And it must be said, there are some shockingly awful gearboxes out there. Automated manuals tend to be pretty dreadful, and the original Smart still stands out as one of the worse. I would definitely have bought one of them if only they had been built with a proper gearbox. Automated manuals are too often unable to be as good as either a full manual or auto.

Mind you, some full autos are pretty bad. I never got on with the one fitted to an E39 BMW I drove some years ago – far, far too eager to kickdown. All of the sodding time. Whereas the one fitted to a Saab 9-5 I had the mispleasure of covering great distance in was just utterly stupid. It had an uncanny knack of being in the wrong gear, at the wrong time. It would then suddenly panic and kickdown. Twice. By which time all the turbo boost had gone and you were left sitting on a roundabout, moving forward with all the haste of a committee meeting. You know, the ones where everyone falls out. That’s exactly what it feels like. Hopeless.

Bentley knob

Bentley do a rather good automatic transmission, even with this gaudy knob.

But a good auto, that’s worth holding on to. The Honda seems to be one of those, and I recently discovered that the Toyota Supra MkIV’s automatic gearbox is ASTONISHINGLY good. Mercedes-Benz used to be pretty good at them too. Both my W123 300D (very slow) and W124 300E (very quick) had delightfully smooth transmissions. M-B knew what they were doing. It’s why Porsche pinched the slushbox for their 928. In fact, both the 928s I’ve driven had the two-pedal option, and it didn’t stop me loving them. Then there are Jaguar’s with the J-gate transmission – a lovely bit of design that makes it easy to slip into a more manual mode of gear selection. I would have a Jaguar X300 like a shot if I could live with the horrendous thirst.

I enjoyed the three-speed unit in my Citroen CX too. Like the Rover P6, it just aimed to get into third as soon as possible, and wafted along on a sea of torque. Most un-BMW-like. Fantastic.

Sure, you do lose some of the sharpness of controlling gears yourself, but having done a fair bit of two-pedal hooning of late, I’ve really got to like it. It must be said, I’m getting good economy in the Prelude too. The last tank (the second of my ownership) delivered 30mpg, and that includes a couple of hours of driving in a very brisk manner. So, 34mpg when I drive carefully (at motorway-ish speeds) and 30mpg if I’m pushing on a bit? I bet my wife could get 40mpg out of it.

The only thing I don’t really like is the creep. It has its uses, but I don’t like the feeling of having to fight that power with the brakes. It seems pretty wasteful. Which is why overall, I probably still prefer electric when it comes to two-pedal driving. After all, as a Tesla rep told me, “it’s like the best automatic gearbox in the world.” She was right. You can’t beat the smoothness of electric power, and you don’t have to ‘fight’ the creep even if your EV has that functionality.

I s’pose this is a roundabout way of saying that I am starting to think about the XM’s replacement. I’m in no rush, as it still rates as one of the best cars I’ve ever owned by some distance, but the four pedals, heavy clutch and clunky gearchange are certainly not aspects I could ever miss and, a bit like with the CX, I think I’d actually be happy to have owned just one XM and leave it at that.

So, any recommendations for good autos? Must have good suspension! That’s why the Prelude will not be replacing the XM any time soon.

Dry Days and damp cars..

I’m not the only one having problems with dreadful cars! Includes Citroen CX Prestige content.


After 40 days and nights of rain, we have finally had a dry day here in sunny Scotland. A balmy 2.5 degrees in the sun meant ideal conditions for working on cars. At the house I had 3 of the fleet available for the tinkering – this is the story of how their respective days went.

Octavia Tdi

The Octavia is still drawing air into the fuel lines, despite several filter and o-ring changes. The MOT on it expires in 3 days time, so it shall shortly be on its way to be recycled. At the very least it would need :

rear brakes,

4 dampers,

front arms

and an exhaust

to get an MOT. Add to that the frustration of the air in fuel shenanigans (which now include just randomly cutting out) and its fate was sealed.

I cannot say a thing against it – less than a week’s…

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Crazy Volvo Capers: Part One

Facebook can be a right pain in the arse. If it’s not people sharing stuff that reveals a worrying insight into who they really are, it’s politics, photos of bloody food and rather too much excitement about annual events of a Christ-related theme. Once upon a time.

Also, you can score a free Volvo if you’re in the right groups. I happen to be in one such group and when someone offered up a free, MOTd Volvo 740 estate, there was a clamour to own such a straight-lined beauty. Things went worryingly quiet for a while, but as I headed to the NEC Classic Motor Show, the owner asked me if I wanted it. YES! Though I couldn’t really collect it that weekend. Arrangements were made to collect it at the end of the month, and I then spent three days at the NEC. Was it pure coincidence that the 2CVGB stand, where I inevitably end up gravitating towards at shows was surrounded by both the Volvo Owners Club and the Volvo Enthuiasts Club or was this fate having a laugh?

The Volvo was located in St Albans. This coincided with my wife needing to be in Leicestershire for the weekend. Not entirely convenient, but a combined trip might just work. Then another friend scored another Volvo on Facebook, though he had to pay an entire £160 for his. Location? Pembrokeshire, on the very west coast of Wales. His location? Essex. Right on the east coast. I stupidly put two and two together and offered to bring his Volvo a little closer to him. This was at some considerable expense on my part, in dignity and comfort if not financially (I ended up £1 up on his £50 offer to cover expenses once you factor in fuel and bus fare).

You see, I first climbed aboard a friend’s Skoda Octavia, a now-rare early turbo diesel on a T-plate, and was merrily transported to town. Then began a three-hour bus journey to Haverfordwest. If you want a good example of why cars are so popular, a three-hour bus journey is a pretty good explanation. Sure, it was pretty good value at £6, but it was ridiculously slow and once the bus steamed up like buses always do, it wasn’t as if I could even enjoy the views.

A three-hour bus journey. Not pleasant.

A three-hour bus journey. Not pleasant.

Eventually, my spluttering, exhaust-manifold-blowing Wright-bodied VDL limped into Haverfordwest (late) and I could meet Volvo Number One. This was the £160 960 Turbo that my friend had purchased. He’d sent me electronic money which I had craftily turned into real paper stuff that morning. I think he did pretty well. It seemed nice!

Volvo Number One. Delivery service available.

Volvo Number One. Delivery service available.

The 960 is an evolution of the 740, with revised rear styling and the smoother nose of the 760 which, contrary to previous Volvo logic, didn’t necessarily mean it had six cylinders. (think about the 245 – 200 series, four cylinders and five doors so an estate. A 264 was a 200 series, V6 saloon). I liked that despite it dating from 1992, it had a four-speed manual overdrive transmission! Quite remarkable when mainstream manufacturers were removing overdrive from cars as early as the late 1960s. If you don’t know, an overdrive is like a second, electronically controlled gearbox that comes after the main gearbox – which restricts it to longitudinally mounted, rear-wheel drive cars for packaging reasons. On this Volvo, it only operates on fourth gear, but on some previous cars, you could actuate it on up to three gears to create seven ratios! Most manufactures just fitted five-speed gearboxes instead.

Anyway, paperwork was sorted out, money handed over and I then made my way to a petrol station. Here, I was both lucky and unlucky. I was lucky because I checked (as I always, always do) that my wallet was in my back pocket before putting fuel in the car. I was unlucky because it wasn’t there…

Forgive the language, but the word SHIT really is most appropriate in such circumstances, and it’s short, aggressive sound may have been uttered more than once at this juncture. I checked the car. I checked my bag. I checked my coat. It was in my back pocket when I got cash out that morning. It definitely wasn’t there now. I called the seller just in case it had gone missing there. Nothing. There may have been further utterings. I had spotted a Halifax branch in town so I made my way there hastily, cancelled my card (the good thing about having only one!) and was able to withdraw £50 after answering quite a few security questions. Of course, I had no ID on me as it was in my wallet…

I had serious concerns about whether £50 would be enough to get me and the Volvo to Hertfordshire, but opted to put £25 worth in for now. I decided to try and ignore turbo temptation in an attempt to get reasonable fuel economy on the 210-mile journey.

Once under way, I began to really like the car itself – apart from the clearly ancient wiper blades which juddered horribly. How do people live with such things? In Wales?! This wasn’t a BANG, POWER sort of a turbo. It just felt like a very torquey 2-litre. Very relaxing.

Cruising is very much what these Volvos are built for so I just settled back to enjoy the ride. By the time I reached Membury Services in Berkshire, the fuel I had put in had gone. Trying to guess how much more to put in was tricky – I had £25 left. I was well over halfway though and after checking my sat nav, I reckoned I needed just over two gallons – £18’s worth at motorway prices. Eek.

I took the A404M as instructed, but then my sat nav wanted to take the M40. I could see the M40. It wasn’t moving. As it happens, I got the horrendous roundabout wrong and ended up heading for High Wycombe anyway. But, I’d seen a red flicker from the dashboard as I’d pulled away on the roundabout. Worrying. As we crawled through High Wycombe, that light began to flicker more regularly. It was the oil pressure light. Not good at all. I quickly realised that sharp acceleration made it come on – that suggested a low oil level. We’d checked it before I set off, but clearly all was now not well. Oil is not cheap, especially from convenient places like petrol stations. I didn’t really have enough to afford even a small bottle. I had to push on, accelerating as gently as I could.

Two Volvos meet in the dark...

Two Volvos meet in the dark…

I got close to where Volvo Number Two was located and parked up. I’ve never been so pleased to turn an engine off! We would discover the next morning that indeed, the level was very low. It took a fair top up just to get a reading on the dipstick! That had been a close thing indeed.

The adventures were only just beginning though. For one night, I was effectively the owner of two Volvos. It was time to collect the one (in the dark) that would have my name on the V5, which is a tale for another time!