By Mike Peake
Wayhay! The good news is that despite the temptation of G&T in a sunny garden, Friday afternoon found me getting sweaty at the lockup - my alternator conversion is complete and my little red warning light is glowing no more!
The bad news is that the new coil didn’t solve the “missing under load” issue Poppy has been having. As I’ve already changed everything else on the ignition side, I am led to conclude that we may have fallen victim to the poor quality of modern condensers.
Several people have recommended the “Distributor Doctor” and a quick look at their website gave quite interesting reading. Apparently they have done significant testing of these “cheap modern condensers” and found them seriously wanting. They only have 1 to 1.5 meters of internal winding and very poor bonding. The original Lucas spec was for 3m of winding. Distributor Doctor manufacture to the original Lucas spec and don’t cut corners. Or so their blurb says.
Well, this and the recommendations by others has convinced me to give them a go. I am sure that they will be considerably more expensive than the competition but if they work and last, it will represent a saving in the long run. If this doesn’t work, Poppy will go electronic! (I have not been paid by DD to say any of this. Which is disappointing!)
Poppy has been fully apprised of the situation and has reluctantly agreed to wait for even more new parts.
I was due to help Gar with Nelson on Saturday so I went home and packed the CR-V with everything I thought I would need. This included my Father-in-Law’s prized socket set which is on permanent loan, a torque wrench that I won as a prize for star letter in Practical Classics. A set of ramps that I was given by the friend that I helped build Anita’s Mini 26 years ago (he vowed never to work on cars again after that), a mechanics creeper given to me by a neighbour who was clearing out his garage to move (I have yet to use it), axle stands and a trolley jack that I actually bought myself - and of course my Po suit.
I set off for Gar’s at 7 o’clock Saturday morning and arrived at a very presentable 8.45AM. I parked on his drive and changed into my boiler suit/Po costume, unloaded my ramps and creeper all before Gar came out to say hello but he promised me he wasn’t asleep.
We then discussed our respective roles in the project. It was decided that I was chief bumbling fool and Gar would be the apprentice bumbling fool. Nelson was then driven out onto the drive and up on the ramps where we made a discovery. Nelson is somewhat higher than poppy and I was able to fit comfortably underneath without getting wedged, even on the creeper. The oil was drained and sump and spark plugs removed all without any bumbling or drama, so we had a celebratory cup of tea.
I was soon back under the car and needed to position the crank so I could get to the cap bolts. We tried doing this by flicking the key on the starter but the engine turned over too fast and we were getting nowhere. The crank shaft pulley nut was too big for any spanners we had and there was no room to get my new super socket on, so Gar got out a pair of grips that he must have won in a Christmas cracker. After considerable fiddling and twisting we eventually got the crank so I could work on pistons 1 and 4.
It was about now that I discovered a couple of disadvantages of the Mechanics creeper. Whilst turning onto my side to better positing myself, I fell off the creeper, tipping it up and sending all the sump bolts that were carefully stored in the tray across Gar’s front garden. Deciding to find the sump bolts later, I got back on the creeper which was actually remarkably comfy with its padding and head rest.
The socket was fitted to a cap bolt and pressure applied. Nothing happened. I repositioned my grip and applied significantly more pressure. This had zero effect on the bolt but me, now being on wheels, shot out from under the car and crashed into an inconveniently thorny bush.
Bad words were said, the creeper was kicked and verbally abused and discarded to the side of the drive.
I went back under without the creeper and soon had the 1st set of shells out. They were showing significant wear with plenty of copper visible.
The new shells, which had been soaking in oil, were then fitted and the cap bolts torqued to 45lb ft as instructed by Mr Haynes. I don’t know about you, but I do become slightly paranoid when working on someone else’s car, therefore I double-checked that it was all fitted correctly. Then I triple checked, quadruple checked and if I could remember the term for checking a fifth time, I did that too. All looked good so I moved onto piston 4 and repeated the process along with my quality inspection regime.
With the big ends of pistons 1 and 4 done, we had a celebratory cup of tea.
I was soon back under the car and we needed to reposition the crank again so I could get to pistons 2 and 3. Gar’s hands hadn’t recovered from his last attempt at squeezing them between the block and the radiator, so we had another go on the starter motor and got very lucky. I could get to the cap bolts. I did notice that the engine was slightly slower than last time but didn’t think anything of it. The remaining shells were fitted and torqued up and checked repeatedly. Everything was rosy so we had a celebratory cup of tea.
I was fed up of the view from under the car so I sent the apprentice bumbling fool under to remove the old sump gasket from the block. This turned out to be a bit of a pain of a job. Several implements were tried from a flat head screwdriver to a Stanley knife before settling on a wood chisel. Whilst Gar was swearing at the old gasket, I refitted the spark plugs. Then I relieved Gar under the car and continued swearing at the old gasket but we eventually had it all removed and the new gasket and leak free sump was in place.
We were both really rather pleased with ourselves and made comments like “that’s going to be a short blog” along with plenty of congratulatory back slapping. Before having a celebratory cup of tea though, we decided that we would fire Nelson up. So Gar got in and turned the Key. Nothing happened except I was starting to panic. Maybe the battery is a bit flat we thought so tried again with Gar’s booster pack. That didn’t work either. So we tried turning the engine by hand but that effort failed too.
The engine was properly stuck and would not turn over at all. We were a little dejected. Foolishly, Gus Brooks had said to phone him if we needed any advice. So, with bottom lips a trembling but resisting full blown tears we placed a call to the all-knowing Super Enthusiast Man.
“You pair of blithering idiots! “ he said. “You should have tried turning it over BEFORE you put it back together!” Gar and I shared a sheepish look. “Well unless the shells you’ve used are oversize, you must have pinched something together or done it wrong somehow. Whatever the case, you’re going to have to strip it down again!”
We thanked Gus for his advice and waited until we’d hung up before breaking down in tears on each other’s shoulders. When we’d pulled ourselves together, we had a bit of a think about our Guru’s words of wisdom. Because of my paranoid quality regime, I was fairly sure I had put them in correctly. Gar got the e-Bay listing out and checked that he had actually ordered standard shells. He had. The listing said “Standard size Heavy Duty”. However, it was eBay. He may have been fobbed off.
Thinking back about the job, I recalled that the engine had turned over slower after completing the first two pistons and was seized fully after the remaining two were done. This gradual tightening would suggest that the shells were slightly over size. I ran my theory past Gar and he agreed but did add, “Unless you messed up on all of them!” Well I had to accept that, given my history, this was a distinct possibility but I am confident I did them properly. (I reserve the right to retract that statement when we take it apart again.)
So, Did we knuckle down and take it apart again to see what the problem was? No. We went to the Pub! We’ll have another look when shells from a respected Triumph dealership turn up.
To be continued…
by Mike Peake
Wouldn’t you know it! As soon as we get back from South Wales, the weather turns into the best summer since 1976 and I can’t enjoy it properly because Poppy is having a strop!
Well 3 strops to be precise. 1st, she isn’t charging despite new brushes in the dynamo and a new voltage regulator/control box. 2nd, she’s missing under load again despite the points, condenser, leads, cap and plug change, and 3rd, I have two crankshaft pulley nuts roaming the roadside wilds.
I know, I know. “Easy 5 minute jobs” I hear you greasy-knuckled folk say! Well not to an incompetent bumbling fool with work commitments, a business trip away and a family that insisted I spend some, what they called “quality time” with them. Oh and lead time on parts and then the lead-time on parts that I didn’t realise I needed and forgot to order.
Well my new crank shaft pulley nut was the 1st to arrive along with my 2nd hand 1 & 7/16” socket from flea bay. (Boy! It’s a bigun! As the actr…ahem well never mind). This was when I discovered my 1st problem. The square hole for the socket drive was really, really big. Bigger than the biggest drive I had. So I resorted to a tape measure and it turned out that I needed a 3/4” drive and I only had ½”, ¼” and 3/8”. I briefly flirted with ordering an expensive ¾” ratchet drive, but as this is the only job I would use it for, I opted for an adaptor, again off flea bay. However, Poppy had been outside on my drive in the sun for a whole week and her paint was fading faster than my will to live when forced to watch this powder puff ball World Cup. So I risked the trip to the lock up with the nut just hand tightened and I’m pleased to say it made it.
Next to arrive was the adaptor and my new coil so I was back at the lockup with all the tools I would need and incredibly, the right ones for the job! 1st job would be to secure the crank shaft pulley nut. The socket and adapter were fitted together and placed onto the nut. This was when I spotted the 2nd problem. There wasn’t room for my ratchet. The radiator and the chassis cross-member were in the way.
I was just starting to get grumpy and think that maybe I’d have to buy that expensive ¾” ratchet, when I spotted the gap between the cross-member and radiator. I couldn’t be that lucky could I? Well actually, and unbelievably, I was. The extension fitted through and slotted straight into the adaptor and I was tightening away like mad. Except I wasn’t. The engine was turning and not the nut. So, I put it in 1st gear and tried again. The engine turned over and the car moved backwards. So, I chocked the back wheels and I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as I am that t he crank shaft pulley nut is now fully tightened.
I also fitted the new coil but couldn’t test it as I hadn’t sorted out my charging issues.
Oliver Truewhisstle purists, look away now. OK, I tried, I really did. I replaced the brushes in the dynamo and a couple of hundred miles later the charging light came back on so I replaced the control box. That didn’t cure it either, so I decided to convert to an alternator. Sorry about that but as I now run halogen headlights and a 12v socket for all sorts of charging and I’ve spent hours with a multi-meter but I’m still none the wiser as to what the fault could be, I’m cutting my losses and feel that the alternator is the way to go.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a brand new Lucas alternator by a very good and generous friend ”in the trade” and it is very gratefully received. So I set about the task. The dynamo was removed and I was going to use the pulley and fan from that on the alternator. However, the gods were not smiling on me at that moment as 1. I couldn’t get the nut undone and 2. They wouldn’t have fitted anyway as the shaft on the dynamo was much thinner than the one on the alternator. I found the correct parts on Amazon and ordered them but another weekend of glorious weather passed and my car still wasn’t fixed.
While I was waiting for my new parts I had a look at the new wiring requirements. The interweb advised that I needed to join the warning light wire to the thinner of the 2 wires coming of the alternator, connect all the wires that had brown in them together and disconnect the earth entirely.
The warning light and earth were sorted very quickly but the biggest problem was going to be joining all the other wires together. Well the blogger I was reading had just twisted all the wires together and covered the ends in solder and insulation tape. A perfectly adequate and functional fix but looked a bit, well, untidy. Fortunately though, James Paddocks have published the fitting instructions on the page for their alternator conversion kit and the solution they were proposing seemed much tidier.
By joining 2 of the connections on the control box together, it magically becomes a connection box. So it was time to get out my trusty soldering iron that had been my Granddad's . (The bus Inspector not the driver.) This soldering iron is older than me and possibly older than my Dad but it has served me well through all my physics and electronics club days at school and had even helped me repair the voice box in my eldest daughters Woody doll.
However, it would appear that the piece of solid copper mains wire that I was using and the metal of the connectors acted as a much bigger heat sink than anything my trusty iron and I had attempted before. The job was done and the multi-meter confirmed that the connection was good but they are 2 of the ugliest solder joints I have ever produced and I’m really quite ashamed of them.
It’s a good job they will be well hidden when the box is back in the car. I could have splashed out on a beefier iron and got a neater finish, but it would have felt as if I was being unfaithful. I did briefly consider getting the blowtorch that I use for plumbing but decided that the plastic housing may not have coped. As I said though, job done but i'm not showing you a photo. Doing it this way should also make it a bit easier to fit a fuse box in the very near future.
My new pulley wheel and fan arrived along with a couple of spacers so I set about putting them together. Easy job eh? Yes, I thought so too. The problem started with this little tiny “D” shaped key thing that you are supposed to balance in the slot of the alternator shaft which is supposed to then lock all the spacers fan a pulley wheel via a slot cut into them. Well it turns out that this tiny “D” shaped key thingy, whilst looking and feeling like metal, is actual a new super bouncy material developed by NASAl. I discovered this fact when I dropped it. It took me a good half hour to find it across the other side of the room to where I’d dropped it.
Attempt 2 was then made. Key was balanced, 1st spacer slotted onto shaft and key. Fan slotted off shaft and key. Pulley wheel … knocked the key out. After another half hour of searching, the reason the pulley wheel dislodged the key was discovered. The slot in the pulley wheel for the key was too small! Many rude words were said and doubt was cast on the quality of modern parts.
I considered sending it back to the vendor with a strongly worded letter. However, I reckoned it could be sorted with a couple of minutes fettling with a needle file. If only I had one. … My father in law had one so I took it round there and watched him sort it with a couple of minutes fettling with a needle file. Another couple of minutes and it was all assembled and ready to be fitted to the car.
By now it was about 11am on Sunday morning and 30 degrees so I had a decision to make. Do I spend an hour at the lockup getting sweaty or do I sit under the umbrella in the garden with a large G&T?
I’ll do it one evening this week. I promise. I’ve got to because, now don’t laugh, I’m spending next Saturday helping Gar rebuild Nelson’s bottom end! What could possibly go wrong? I know. Even after reading my blogs he still wants me to help!
Keen to read more?
By Mike Peake.
Relaxing and peaceful countryside?? Don’t you believe it!! I was woken up at 4.30am by a nest of birds screeching and chirping just outside my bedroom window. They were shortly joined by a cockerel crowing his heart out followed by horses going down the road and tractors firing up! However, I was in a soft comfy and warm bed so it was much easier to doze than on a partially deflated airbed until the alarm went off.
After a wonderful and large full English - sorry - full Welsh breakfast, it was time to head off to meet the rest of the tourists. As I half expected, Poppy didn’t have enough electric left to turn the starter, so Brian produced a set of jump leads that would make even Liam jealous. They were huge and I’m sure he could use them to jump start an aircraft carrier. Anyway, they did the job and we set off. Gar led followed by me, Brian and Eric. Optimistically, I had my roof down.
It was during this trip that Gar made his first bid for the title of “Bumbling Incompetent Fool of the weekend”. He swore blind his sat nav steered him wrong and took us down a tiny narrow lane despite the two big dead end signs either side. Now you could argue that he immediately lost the title because we all followed him down a tiny narrow lane despite the two big dead end signs either side. However, we only did this in order to laugh at him when he came to the inevitable abrupt halt.
We didn’t laugh for long though as 1) I was getting very wet as it was now raining and 2) we couldn’t turn around as the lane was tiny and narrow. Having put my roof back up (which is so easy now it’s mended) the 500-yard reverse back up the tiny narrow lane was accomplished without incident. Well I say without incident but Gar backed Nelson into a ditch and Poppy took out the plastic barriers surrounding some road works, but apart from that it was without incident.
A short time later, 2 Englishmen, a Scotsman and an Irishman drove into a Welsh rugby club. They were perfectly safe though as disappointingly, Thomas and Emily were the only ones there. Oh. I don’t mean it was disappointing that Thomas and Emily were there. I meant it was disappointing that no other cars had turned up…. I’ll shut up now… (And yes, I do know that technically, Brian isn’t Irish and Gar is a bit Welsh but just go with it for the sake of the joke eh?)
Gar had planned a fantastic route through some stunning scenery and extremely challenging roads. It was somewhat more challenging for me as all the electricity in Poppy had now fallen out so I had no lights, indicators, or more importantly today, windscreen wipers. On the plus side though, my ignition warning light had gone out too.
If we hadn’t known we were in Wales the weather proved we were. We had that particularly unique wet, Welsh misty rain that seems to be wetter than any other rain in the world. Needless to say without wipers, I was really struggling on some of those mountain roads. I was still having lots fun though and so was everyone else.
As I’ve said, Gar had planned a scenic route with fantastic views so I thought I’d share some with you.
This is the view from Dowlais Top,
This is the view from the mountain top near Cwm Bargoed on the gloriously named Bogey Road.
This view was so spectacular that Gar parked us all up to take a photo of the cars with the stunning mountain backdrop. Gar was the only one daft enough to get out of his car and brave the elements.
This was my view whilst waiting for Gar to do his David Bailey.
The problem was that this wasn’t a lay-by but a passing place and traffic was building behind us including what we thought was a Police van but turned out to be an ambulance. We hurried on.
Brian was behind me in his rather lovely Triumph 2000 saloon and seemed to be taunting me with his working electrics and running all 4 headlights and the two spots on the front of his car. I was pinned to my dash by the glare and blinded by the beams refracting the rain drops on my windscreen, which wasn’t helping my visibility. He turned them off as we travelled down the A472 toward Nelson though. Or so I thought. However my attention was taken by a 2.8 MK2 Granada barrelling past us at quite a lick, but as he passed Gar, Thomas threw the car into the lay-by that he almost missed.
We all pulled in behind him and as I got out of my car, I was accosted by Brian who started beating me about the head with his Zimmer frame and shouting, “You’re a blooming Jinx you are!!” You see it would appear that Triumph electrical gremlins are highly contagious. Brian hadn’t turned his lights off but had lost all electrics too, after seeing smoke pouring from the switch on the steering column.
Whilst I’ll admit that seeing an ex prop forward being beaten up by Old Father Time may have been amusing to some, I was saved from this particular humiliation by Thomas and his bid for the title of “Incompetent Bumbling Fool of the weekend”.
“I’m overheating, I’m overheating and it’s blown my radiator cap off!” he wailed in despair. I bet it’s having to drive so slowly behind you lot!” he accused before stomping off back to his steaming Granada leaving us all somewhat bemused. Brian had also stomped off and was playing with fuses and taking apart his steering column.
Young Thomas then returned looking rather sheepish and clutching something tightly in his hand. It was the radiator cap which he’d found resting on the inner wing under the bonnet. He was still trying to claim it had “blown off” but we all knew that he hadn’t put it back on after checking his coolant levels. Whilst future events would preclude Thomas from holding the title of “Incompetent Bumbling Fool of the weekend” he will now forever be addressed as “You stupid boy” in the best Captain Mainwaring impression you can muster.
Whilst we were waiting for “Stupid Boy’s” Granada to cool so we could top up the escaped coolant and FIT THE RADIATOR CAP, Brian traced his electrical gremlins and discovered bodgery by the previous owner. The spots were badly wired in, causing the High beam/Horn/indicator switch to melt spectacularly and blow the fuse which also operated the wipers. As this was due to his taunting me all morning with all his working lights, I must admit to sniggering slightly.
We also noticed at this point, that Eric’s Ambassador had developed a bit of a list to port. Apparently though, that was due to hitting a big pothole and knocking some gas out of the funky elastic suspension or something. However, its ability to proceed was unaffected. This left only Gar’s Morris Nelson completely trouble free when we limped into the Llanfabon Inn car park.
The Llanfabon Inn is a lovely, quaint hillside pub still very much in the 20th century and must be one of the last bastions of the “cash only” economy. It was cozy and dry and the beer was good. The pub had a long family history with Gar too and he regaled us with his childhood memories whilst we supped our pints.
We were running a bit late now, the weather was still horrible and we were all hungry for the buffet snack that Mrs Pike was preparing for us back at Maesteg Celtic Rugby Club. (That is Rhiannon Jenkins, Stupid Boy’s Mum) so after another jump start for Poppy, we decided to cut out the photo stop at Castle Coch (excuse me? - Ed) and take the direct route back to the club.
The buffet was superb and copious and enjoyed by everyone. A very pleasant afternoon was spent reminiscing about the day’s adventures and trying not to be put off by the cheers and whoops of a bar full of Welshmen thoroughly enjoying watching the South Africans beat the English at Rugby.
Despite the Gremlins and the weather, we all had a really great time but boy did we miss Super Enthusiast Man and we wish him a VERY speedy recovery.
We retired for the evening as we were all very much looking forward to the weekend’s main event, the South Wales Charity Classic Car Show, organised by the Jenkins Family in aid of the Stroke Association.
I made the most of my “not camping” facilities and filled Poppy back up with electric overnight.
Sunday, if it was at all possible, dawned even wetter than Saturday. Despite this we had a trouble free trip to the rugby club. Well I say trouble free .... both Poppy and Nelson’s engines started missing and Brian still had no lights or wipers, but at least I did now and we didn’t get lost this time.
We arrived safely and set up on the car park. Over the next hour or so the car park gradually filled with interesting vehicles while we hid under the Jenkins gazebo and they ran around like lunatics organising the placement of vehicles, selling raffle tickets and getting very, very wet. Despite the weather, the event was very well supported with over 60 vehicles taking part and a wide variety it was too.
You can see the full selection over on the galleries section of the website (click here to see - Ed) but I will list a few of my stand out cars of the show.
This modified Reliant Robin was the wackiest I think. Must be a hoot to drive and I could definitely have used that gun to clear the jams on Friday.
My favourite non Brit was the Toyota Celica. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these in the flesh and it looked great in its seventies-tastic purple and metal flake paint.
My personal favourite of the show though was this beautiful Morris 8. It looked stunning in it’s black over blue livery and the original interior looked perfect. Apparently, all it required was copious amounts of leather feed and a little bit of die on the faded bits. I am certainly developing a taste for pre-war cars even if they do all look the same to me.(sorry)
Unfortunately, the rain was unrelenting and it was decided to bring the awards and raffle forward before too many people left.
Furthest Travelled went to our very own mad man Eric Dalton for his epic 900 mile round trip from the wilds of Scotland
Best tractor award went to this rather fine David Brown.
People’s choice was won fairly and squarely by this beautiful Humber Sceptre.
And finally, best car in show was won by this gorgeous Rover P5B.
Eventually it was just us left in the car park and it was time to say our farewells. Eric and I were heading home and Gar and Brian back to the “not camping”.
We set off. Poppy was still missing under load but when I got to the M4 I was able to push up to 60 where it cleared. The weather was appalling but I had a tank full of fuel and a battery full of electric, I was confident. I was confident for approximately 2 miles right up until a loud thunk and a rattle under the car.
Well this time I didn’t put it down to a kicked up stone. I was pretty sure something big had fallen off so pulled to the hard shoulder and Eric pulled in with me. A quick inspection revealed that I am indeed the king of bumbling incompetent fools the world over and jobs would be so much easier with the right tools. You see, my brand new crank pulley nut had decided that it too would make a bid for freedom and is now roaming wild on the side of the M4 near Bridgend.
The AA was called and because I was in a hazardous place assured me I was a priority case. Eric insisted on waiting with me until rescue arrived despite his upcoming epic journey through a principality and two kingdoms. So we sat in his warm car and he fed me cake and I looked online for a 1 & 7/16 socket until help arrived.
I wasn’t the only one that failed to proceed though. Our only remaining fault-free car of the tour needed the assistance of the recovery man too. I leave Gar to fill you in on that though as the diagnosis is still outstanding at the time of writing. But the engine didn’t sound well after putting in a modern oil having left all his 20/50 on a rugby club car park.
As you can see, my recovery truck was much bigger and more impressive than Gar’s.
See what happens when you leave us alone Super Enthusiast Man? Here’s the list of faults developed over the weekend. We all agreed to save them up for you to fix.
1 Listing Ambassador.
1 steaming Granada.
2 Triumphs with dodgy Electrics.
1 Triumph missing nuts.
1 Noisy Triumph engine in a Morris Minor.
We all made it safely home though, albeit with help for two of us and we all had a fantastic weekend.
Big thanks to our loveable Fat Controller Gar for organising the tour on Saturday.
Massive thanks too for the Jenkins Family, for all their hard work and dedication in setting up the Sunday and for the hospitality shown to us all weekend.
Adrian ‘is that a fence?’ Jenkins
Rhiannon ‘Mrs Pike’ Jenkins
Thomas ‘you stupid boy’ Jenkins
Shannon ‘Slugger’ Jenkins
I have never felt so welcome in Wales. Thank you all so much and I can’t wait for next year. Hopefully the weather will be kinder.
PS if you were unable to make it but would like to show your appreciation for all the hard work, Thomas and the Jenkins Family put in, you can still make a donation to the Stroke Association by following this link to Shannon's“Just Giving” page.
Shannon has set this up just for us, so please be as generous as you can. It’s a very worthy cause.
By Mike Peake
My new control box arrived and I was at my lockup like a shot and had it fitted in no time at all. One of the nice things about working on Poppy at the lock up is that people walk past and want to chat about the car and what I’m doing to it and today was no exception.
A young couple with a baby approached and were very enthusiastic about the car. Particularly the young lady who introduced herself as Mel. She wanted to know all about it. How easy to run as an everyday car, who could work on it and how fed up she was with her boring modern car. Well if Poppy was for sale I think Mel would have bought her there and then, but chat over and off they went to continue their walk and I went back to working on Poppy.
Jump leads to the Honda and Poppy fired up. Frustratingly, the ignition light was still glowing. I guess it wasn’t the control box then. I left the car running and attached to the Honda, while I pulled up the diagnostic procedure on my phone, but while I was looking at this, the cut out cut in and the light went out. “Woohoo! Its fixed” I thought and went for a spin to charge up the battery. As I was driving down the High Street, I saw Mel and her family again and they were flagging me down so I stopped to a chorus of “Oh Wow! You fixed it. That’s great! Can I have a ride?” from Mel, Well not wanting to disappoint my public, I took Mel for a ride round Bassett. She didn’t stop talking the whole way and really seemed to enjoy the experience. I also convinced her to join the group because I’m smooth like that.
After I dropped Mel back with her family, I went for a proper blast in the countryside, …Errr… I mean proving run. It all went smoothly apart from a brief thunk and rattle under the car which I put down to a kicked up stone, the ignition warning light came back on and Poppy developed a slight intermittent misfire. Needless to say then, I was a little bit grumpy when I got back to the lockup. Especially so, when the “kicked up stone” turned out to be the crank shaft pulley nut making a bid for freedom.
The next 4 hours were spent prodding and poking with the multi-meter and swearing … a lot. Despite this and my best efforts to look as competent with a multi-meter as Super Enthusiast Man and Lord Simpson did, I had no success whatsoever in chasing any electrickery back into the car or indeed, finding out why it all fell out in the 1st place. I’m ashamed to say that I gave up and vowed to convert to an alternator. In order to have some sense of achievement after a day spent on the car, I serviced the ignition side which cured the misfire and fitted the replacement nearside door mirror which was broken about a year ago when a Fatbloke tried to squeeze between the car and the garage wall.
Another pleasant hour was spent with Mrs FB driving very slowly up and down a certain stretch of road in the Honda, whilst I looked for my freedom-seeking crank shaft pulley nut but it had made a clean getaway so I will have to buy a new one.
Well the group’s Maesteg tour and show was approaching and as it was a charity show in aid of the Stroke Association and organised by our youngest active member, Thomas Jenkins, 17, I decided that I’m going anyway despite my charging issue. The battery was off the car and being filled with electric at home ready for the trip and there will be lots of people there to bump start me should I need it (but they are Brian, Gar and Eric … I’ll take jump leads!). Therefore, Friday afternoon had me refitting the battery and a new crank shaft pulley nut before heading down to Welsh Wales. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a big enough socket or spanner so I did the best I could with a dodgy Stillson wrench I found. I promised myself that the correct sized socket will be ordered.
There was to be no slumming it in a tent for me this weekend. Gar had booked me into a proper B&B! I have to say, it’s a lot easier to go away like this when all you have to pack is an overnight bag. Poppy felt so much lighter to drive too without all my camping gear!
Now I had another decision to make. Boring M4 and take less than 2 hours and only 91 miles or avoid the motorway which the satnav says will take nearly 4 hours and will be nearly 130 miles? Well it was a bit later than I would have liked having fitted the battery and crank shaft pulley nut and not wanting to waste merlot time, I opted for the M4. This was a stupid decision. It turns out that a popular combo band called the Rolling Stones were playing in Cardiff. I entered the motorway at the west Swindon junction to stationary traffic and didn’t get above 20MPH until after the last Cardiff junction. I arrived at the B&B 4 hours after I set off, very tired and hungry but the weather had stayed dry and I had the roof down the whole way.
The rest of the chaps had already left for a local Pub so I made a quick call to Gar to find out which one. Gar said that he was “sending a car” for me. Well the car turned out to be Adrian in his very fine 1989 Jaguar XJ6 manual.
Let me tell you that after 4 hours in a Herald, It was absolute bliss to sink into those soft leather seats. I was whisked along feeling like a Gangster overlord. I just wish I’d bought my camel hair coat, sovereign rings and big cigar. Anyway, the journey to the pub was completed safely without hitting any more fences so well done Adrian!
A very nice evening was had and we all learned a couple of valuable lessons.
Evening entertainment over, it was time to head back to our “not camping” gentlemen’s abode for a relaxing sleep in the peaceful Welsh countryside.
To be continued…
PS if you were unable to make it but would like to show your appreciation for all the hard work, Thomas and the Jenkins Family put in, you can still make a donation to the Stroke Association by following this link to Shannon's“Just Giving” page.
Shannon has set this up just for us, so please be as generous as you can. It’s a very worthy cause.
By Mike Peake
My daughter recently purchased a 2013 ice blue Mini One convertible and it set me thinking about when we bought Mrs FB’s first car which was also a blue Mini. This one was of the British Leyland variety with the 1000cc engine and from 1975. I thought I’d share these thoughts with you.
1988. I’m 19, fit and handsome. Anita is 18 and incredibly beautiful. Sophie wasn’t even a twinkle in our eyes. It was the middle of winter.
2018. I’m 49, fat and balding. Anita Isn’t 18 anymore but is still incredibly beautiful. (Yeah, I know but give me a break! She might read this!) Sophie is 22 and incredibly beautiful. It was late spring.
1988 Anita needed a car to get her from the Nurses home to the hospital in London as we didn’t want her walking late at night before or after shifts.
2018 .It is my eldest daughters turn to buy her 1st car for commuting to work and because she wants to.
1988. Anita decided she wanted a Mini. She’d never driven one but decided she really liked them and it would be ideal for zooming in and out and around London and she’d look really cool, and it had to be blue.
2018. Sophie decided she wanted a Mini (yes, the BMW one). She’d never driven one but decided she really liked them and it would be ideal for zooming in and out and around Swindon and she’d look really cool, and it had to be ice blue.
1988. Budget extremely limited as paying rent and living in London on a student Nurse wage. In fact, our 1st Pram cost more than we spent on this car.
2018. Budget not quite so limited as living with Mum and Dad and able to put almost entire salary into saving up for a car.
1988. Scoured classified advertisements in local paper and Autotrader when they came out on Thursdays.
2018. Set notifications on eBay to notify me when a car that matches my criteria is listed. Ask Local Mini dealership about a car on the forecourt. It was already sold but said he’d let us know if another came in.
1988. Find an ad in the paper for a car that sounded great and was really cheap. Call the number in the ad which rings out as answering machines weren’t in common use and the phone would have been tethered to the wall so couldn’t be taken into the toilet. Finally get through and arrange to view that very evening.
2018. Dean from Mini dealership calls to say he’s just taken in the perfect car as a PX so we arrange to view that very evening.
1988. The address given was on the roughest dodgiest housing estate in Swindon, but the directions were simple. “It’s the only one in the street not on bricks.”
2018 Met my daughter outside the posh main entrance to the dealership under a mini bolted to the wall. So I guess you could say “it was up on bricks”?
1988 It was dark and pouring with rain, but the car looked ok (in the dark). We rang the doorbell. Anita wasn’t insured so the vendor took us to the car park in front of the local row of shops for us to test drive. Here we were able to establish that it moved and stopped. He then drove us back to his house.
2018 It was a pleasant evening and still bright daylight and we were able to have a good look round the car. It was spotless and everything seemed to be in excellent working order. It was however too late to go for a test drive as it was nearly closing time at the dealership.
1988 When we pulled up back at his house, his girlfriend came out and announced that someone was on the phone about the car. Whilst he was inside on the phone we decided to have the car as it was likely to go quickly. Yes, we fell for one of the oldest tricks in the book. We handed over the agreed amount and I drove the car back to the future in-laws house. I discovered on the way that it pulled to the left and there was a rubbing noise on full left lock. It had 2 months MOT and Tax though.
We were arranging the test drive for Saturday morning when Dean announced that unless we paid a fully refundable deposit, he couldn’t guarantee the car would be there. Sophie decided that she wanted the car and told the salesman this which rather undermined any negotiating position. However I did get the upcoming service and brake fluid change thrown in along with a tank of fuel.
The Next day, Anita’s Dad decided he would get the car inspected by a local garage he trusted. He then promptly spent another £300 on welding and repairing steering. Oh and the car caught fire on the ramp but they managed to put it out and repair the cause. (Dads are great aren’t they?)
We all test drove the car and came back with big grins on our faces. The deal was done and we arranged to pick the car up the following week to give the garage time to do the service and valet the car.
We got the car back and with insurance arranged, Anita got her 1st proper drive on the road. She hated it at first as it was so different to drive than the brand new Vauxhall Nova she’d learnt on. However she soon fell in love with its handling and practicality and what was intended as a town car purely for the commute from digs to Hospital soon became a motorway car too and was going back and forward from Swindon to London for her days off. This 1975 Mini 1000, KNT 735P gave great service for 3 years until the floor fell off and it became the spares car for the one I helped build as a wedding present.
The day came to pick up the mini and it was sunny and warm. The salesman ran Sophie through all the controls and paired her phone. The roof was lowered and off she went immediately in love with the car. 2 weeks later, we still haven’t managed to prise her out of the driver’s seat or get the grin from her face. I’m also pretty sure this car will provide many, many years of service and I really hope the floor doesn’t fall off.
Somethings are definitely better now than then and I think the "new" Mini is definitely a classic in the making. .... But I do miss that old Mini.
By Mike Peake.
The scenery couldn’t have contrasted more with our last tour if it tried. I don’t think I have ever been anywhere so devoid of hills. I have no idea how the hill start on the driving test is done round here but as Lady Sandra pointed out, the sky is big.
Let me start by introducing the cars and crews that set off on the tour.
Our 1st stop was Coningsby airfield, home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, where we parked up at the viewing spot to look at the Spitfire parked on the apron. We were also lucky enough to be there when the DC3 Dakota taxied out and took off. It even did a few fly pasts for us before setting off with a waggle of its wings, for an air show somewhere in the country.
Of course no group meet would be complete without trying to squeeze fat blokes into small cars and this time Gar and I had to shoehorn ourselves into Tosh’s inaccurately named Austin Big 7 for the amusement of all. (It’s really not nice to laugh at the fat blokes you know! Oh…actually… I see your point!)
The next leg had us winding through some picturesque Lincolnshire villages before ending up at the Kinema in the Woods. This quaint, very old fashioned cinema still had the old fashioned organ that came out of the floor at the start of the old silent films and I would love to have had the time to stop and maybe watch some classic Laurel and Hardy.
However, our head count of cars came up short by 3. Missing were Malc and Les in their Pristine 26K-miles-from-new Austin Cambridge, Kevin and Sheila in their candy pink mobile disco Reliant Rialto and Ash and Thomas in their Mini Scamp. The Scamp pulled in a short while later with the news that Kevin’s enthusiasm had got the better of him and he failed to notice the huge Cambridge had stopped in front of him. Fortunately, no one was physically hurt but the mental scars resulting from having pride and joys damaged will stay with everyone concerned. Kevin will now be fitting proximity activated inflatable crash bags to the front of his pink marvel and on future tours will be forced to set off 5 minutes before everyone else.
Drama over, Lord Simpson of Boston announced that there was an outdoor big screen showing of the Dam Busters movie that evening and this was where you could buy tickets. So we did, like a shot.
The next - thankfully uneventful - leg had us winding through some picturesque potholes and broken roads to the Petwood Hotel.
The Petwood is a beautiful Tudor-looking hotel and was also the off-duty home of the officers of the RAF 617 "Dam Busters" Squadron during the war. It is packed with memorabilia, including the remains of one of the famous bouncing bomb prototypes. After visiting Derwent dam on our last tour, it was great to carry on the theme on this tour and I was getting even more excited about the film that evening.
We stopped here for a very nice lunch in the perfectly manicured grounds. It was the perfect experience of how the posh folks like Lord and Lady Simpson live every day. The airborne theme was also continued as other posh types took off in their helicopter from the hotel grounds.
The final stop of the day was at the Thorpe Camp Visitor centre. It is charming little museum largely centred around 617 Squadrons wartime adventures but also into the Cold War with the Lightning and Bloodhound SAM outside. Apologies to all those I bored to death with my commentary.
It had been a great day with some lovely driving and fascinating stops and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, but it was time to head back to the camp for tea and chat before going to the film. Anita was with Gar in the 80 year old Austin Big 7 and Howard was leading the small convoy of cars that were returning via the fuel stop.
Howard was driving his lovely Ford Popular but his after-market indicators weren’t working and he was using hand signals very effectively. It was all going well and a couple of right hand turns had been successfully navigated. It was when we came to a left turn that it all fell apart.
Howard executed the perfect “I am turning left” hand signal. However Gar and Anita interpreted this signal as “I’ve decided to go this way but you pass me and lead the convoy the wrong way as you have no idea where you’re going” - which they did. I did know what Howard's signal meant so we stopped at the side of the road trying to phone them to point out their error.
After the petrol station, it was time for a bit of a change around. Gar wanted to have a drive of Poppy so I found myself in the privileged position of driving Tosh’s Big 7 with Anita by my side. Here I was being allowed to drive someone else’s 80 year old car and Anita and I had HUGE grins on our faces. It was so much fun. OK, it wasn’t by any means quick and the brakes were merely “adequate” when compared to more modern systems. When you turned the steering wheel, it was no more than a suggestion that the car may follow if and when it felt like it but all that helped in forming the car’s character and charm. We loved it.
When we got back to the site, we stood around chatting about the great day and the cars. If I thought the mickey-taking about my boot lid was over, I was sadly mistaken. Lord Simpson wanted in on the act and gave me a book called Paint Craft to much hilarity in the group.
Actually, it looks a jolly useful book and I shall study it fully. Thanks, John!
Gus fired up the BBQ and us plebs gathered around to cook a variety of dead animals. Lord and Lady Simpson of Boston however, settled down to a 5 course meal with Lady Sandra’s Lady in Waiting, Bridget and John’s Batman Howard in attendance.
The rest of us looked on longingly and it paid off. Lady Simpson took pity on us plebs and shared a stunning, multi-layered, amoretto soaked, cream and raspberry gateau that she had knocked up in the caravan earlier that evening.
The gateau was quickly demolished and it was time to head back to Petwood House where the outdoor screening was to take place. Stuffing five fatblokes, Mrs FB, Bella the dog and all the required deckchairs into Gars Zafira was a bit of a challenge, but we made it.
Although I must have seen the Dam Busters hundreds of times and almost know it off by heart, it was a fantastic experience to see it on the big screen at such an appropriate venue. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Yes we may have frozen to within an inch of our lives but it was fantastic and a great evening with great people.
Sunday morning started out clear and warm and stayed lovely nearly all day. Our cars were moved over to the show field and were soon joined by plenty of other cars including our ageing hippy renegade Ford sub-section (you know who you are!). A great day was had sitting in the sun and chatting with old and new friends. It was particularly good to see BL Dan and his good lady again.
Cars of note for me were Carl Dennis’s Austin Princess 3.0l Farina. It was probably the biggest car at the show.
John and Elaine Fisher’s Crayford convertible Mini was probably the smallest car in the show. They share my love of these little cars but have taken it to the next level. They have rather a lot of Mini and Mini-derived cars and they kept going home to bring another one of their collection.
Speaking of Mini-derived cars, Ash Lakey and his son Thomas were certainly enjoying their Scamp. Seeing 5 year old Thomas sat on his Dad’s lap and confidently steering it around the site brought back lots of memories of me doing the same with my Dad and my daughters.
Another of my favourites was Dean Berresford’s lovely 1989 XJS. It was the 3.6l straight six FHC. I love this car and would seriously consider adding one to my collection one day. I actually prefer the straight six to the vaunted V12. In my opinion, it is much more usable with 30mpg and with only 6 cylinders. It is much less scary to a bumbling, incompetent home mechanic like me. I also love those “flying buttresses” coming off the back window. Again, in my opinion, much better looking than the convertibles. Looking through e-Bay, it would appear this car is becoming quite rare now so that Lotto win seriously needs to hurry up.
Finally, this gorgeous Riley owned by Barry Holden. Mainly because it just looked beautiful but also because it was experiencing boot lid difficulties. Barry was doing the sensible thing though. He’d sent it off to someone that knew what they were doing.
The show drew to a close and many sad farewells were said. Having sat in one place all day, Anita and I had a bit of wanderlust though and fancied a jolly jaunt. Skegness wasn’t far so why not pop along and get a bit of seaside, we thought?
Lady Sandra did warn us that it was a bit like Blackpool but we’ve never been there either. The drive there was very pleasant despite the ominous clouds in front of us but we made it and stayed dry. Well, Skeggy was umm, an experience. We’ll leave it at that. We did have some of the nicest fish and chips though and we spotted a Mini and Poppy started again despite not charging all weekend. Unfortunately, it started to rain as we were leaving so I manually flicked on the contact so the battery could charge and I could use lights and wipers.
This happy situation didn’t last long as we started to smell something getting really, really hot in a burning plastic electrical way. Needless to say, I stopped and switched the regulator back off and continued with our drive back to base camp peering round the rain drops.
We had a jolly nice evening though and I only had to put up with Anita moaning about sleeping on the floor in a tent for one more night.
Bank Holiday Monday morning now and, unbelievably, it was still warm and sunny. As we had drunk all the Merlot, OK, I’ll rephrase that. As I had drunk all the Merlot, we were able to get everything back into Poppy and all tucked in without having to put the roof up. We were set for a lovely drive home. We said our goodbyes to the remaining campers, Howard and Bridget and Lord and Lady Simpson, during which we had the singular honour to be invited back to the Simpsons stately pile for a spot of lunch. An invitation that we sadly had to decline as we had a slightly poorly Poppy and if we did have to rely on the AA, we wanted to have a sporting chance of arriving home at some time on the Monday.
Thank you for the kind offer though. Maybe next time?
Car loaded goodbyes said; it was time to leave so I turned the key on Poppy. She turned over VERY sluggishly but just as John set off to get his booster pack, Poppy fired up and we were off.
Despite the ignition light, we had a very pleasant ride home. The way the deck chairs were packed also acted as a very passable wind deflector, making us even comfier and allowing us to go all the way home without having to put the roof back up because Anita’s hair was "tired”.
OK, we did need a bump start in the McDonalds car park at Towcester, but I had parked facing down a slight hill and a kind gent offered to help Anita push, so all was good. (What? Anita had the option to be in the driver’s seat but she chose to push! Honest!) It was at this point that we also realised that all our electrickery had finally run out so we had to resort to hand signals.
After Howards brave attempt at signalling a left turn, I realised that he and I were probably the only ones that knew proper hand signals and if other classic car drivers like Gar didn’t know them, what hope did I have surrounded by muggles in their moderns? So I made Mrs FB stick her arm out for the left turns.
We finally made it home after 474 miles under mostly our own steam. The car was unpacked and one more bump start from my eldest daughter this time, Poppy was snuggled up in her lock up and we could put our feet up with a nice cup of tea.
This just leaves me to say a huge thank you to Sandra and John for organising such a great weekend and I’m looking forward to next year already. Thanks also to everyone who joined in and created a fun time and I really Hope Malc and Les Shaw haven’t been put off joining us in the future.
Finally, Anita and I would like to announce our very favouritist car of the weekend. Of course it is Tosh and Gus Brook’s Austin Big 7. I really loved this 80 year old original and unrestored car and a big thank you to the brothers for their generosity in allowing us all to clamber in and around, drive and just enjoy this wonderful piece of history.
Well my new voltage regulator is ordered so I expect you will hear from me soon. Also, our next event in the Welsh Wales valleys is happening soon, so check out our events section both here on the website and on our Facebook page.
See you soon.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
By Mike Peake
I’m still on a high from our Peaks tour, maybe because it took me so long to write the blogs, but now it’s time to get my head around our next event which was the group tour around Lincolnshire on Saturday followed by our meet in the show field at the Boston Bubble Car Museum on Sunday.
There was a lot of "Will she, won’t she?" from Mrs FB, not helped by my bumbling incompetence and double-booking myself. A friend of a friend’s daughter was in need of prom transport and I didn’t connect the dates before I said yes. Therefore Friday afternoon had me making Poppy and myself presentable instead of packing for the weekend.
Kayley and Oliver are a lovely young couple who seemed almost as smitten with Poppy as my family are. I had strict instructions on when and where to be. I arrived slightly early and was ready for the family photoshoot where Oliver’s extended family all oohed and ahhed over Poppy until Kayley arrived looking lovely and they all oohed and ahhed over her.
Despite spending two hours on her hair and makeup and my warnings that it can be “quite blowy” in the back of a Herald with the roof down, Kayley insisted on leaving the roof down, and the 12 miles to the venue was covered sedately in an effort not to completely destroy the “do”.
We made it with all our hair intact and then sat in the queue for the red carpet entrance. There were loads of interesting Promenader delivery vehicles but nearly all too new for our groups. Being a rural area, lots of the kids turned up in tractors which whilst agricultural, actually cost a lot more than the Ferraris, Bentleys and Mustangs that were also delivering young people. One tractor was pulling a trailer with a half dozen girls in their Prom finery, sat on hay bales. My personal favourite though was this old fire engine. Emily (my youngest) had a ride on this at her prom too.
For every time Oliver would point out some flash, expensive modern Ferrari or Mustang etc, Kayley would always say, “ I prefer our ride” or” this one is much nicer”, which was lovely for me to hear. One girl in a modern Bentley Continental even shouted out that Kayley “looked so cute in that car”. Apparently this girl was one of the “It” girls and had never spoken to Kayley before.
45 minutes after joining the queue, I was starting to get a little concerned as Poppy was running really hot, but we were close to the drop-off point, so I just sat there and prayed to the gods of Proms and old cars that we would get the kids to the red carpet without embarrassment . We did. I jumped out and held the door open and the seat up in such a good chauffer manner that even Paul Mattinson would have been jealous. The kids got out and had a professional pic taken with the car. At last I could set off at a decent speed and Poppy quickly returned to normal operating temperature.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a privilege to be part of such a lovely couple of kids special evening and I really hope they enjoyed themselves and felt special in my car. Oliver’s Mum sent me the following message along with some of the photos above which made it even more worthwhile for me.
“Thank you so much for yesterday, you really did make Oliver and Kayley’s day. It was very kind of you to take them and we greatly appreciate it. Kathryn.”
Prom duties complete and feeling that I might actually be a nice bloke, I went home via the chippy for some fish and chips and it was time for the giant game of Tetris. Mrs FB had decided that she would grace us with her presence on this event. So, all the camping equipment, plus all the luxuries that Anita would require like clothes, had to be packed into Poppy. I did have the added space of my boot rack that I’d fitted to hide my painting disaster. However, we were still rather full and couldn’t have the roof down or everything would have blown off the back seat.
Now, I was planning on either driving all the way up and pitching the tent at midnight in the forecast rain or setting off ridiculously early on Saturday morning, but no. I had Anita with me and she had done the sensible thing and booked a Travelodge at Thrapstone about two thirds of the way. A very heavily loaded Poppy arrived at about 11.30 PM in time for a nice cuppa and a good sleep... after we had to unpack everything to find the overnight bag.
Saturday morning, and after unpacking everything to get the overnight bag back in the car we set off. We hadn’t got far though before I realised that my ignition light was still on and we pulled over in a layby to see if I could figure out why.
Well, the new brushes were still in place and seemed ok so I suspected the voltage regulator. Because of the limited space available and the fact that Mrs FB was attending, I only had room to pack the absolute essentials and I’d decided that my multi-meter wasn’t essential, so I couldn’t confirm my suspicions. I decided that I would press on and get as close to the Bubble Car Museum as I could, safe in the knowledge that if I broke down and was close enough, Super Enthusiast Man would sense my distress and come to my rescue. It wasn’t necessary though because plucky little Poppy made it all the way there.
We pulled up on the site and took Poppy's roof down, whereupon all the stuff packed in there immediately exploded all over the ground. Offers of tea and coffee abounded from our fellow Enthusiasts. Anita accepted Lady Simpson’s offer of tea and I accepted the very “below stairs” offer of coffee from Tosh Brooks. This meant I had to cope with 2 drinks, but I managed somehow.
As I had (rather rudely) refused all help from the Snowdonia veterans, my tent went up perfectly. And yes, unbelievably, it was the same tent I had at Snowdon.
Anita was left to pack everything that had exploded out of Poppy into our perfectly erected tent while I opened the bonnet on Poppy and pretended to look for my charging fault. My ruse worked and like bees to honey, Lord Simpson and Super Enthusiast Man were instantly at my side along with most of the men on the campsite. I told them of my ignition light and that I’d only just fitted new brushes and stood back.
It would appear that no one else thought a multi-meter was essential either, as the only one we had was Howard’s which looked like it came with a Happy Meal. Well the two experts prodded and probed and hummed and hawed before pronouncing that my voltage regulator had had it. Disappointingly, they didn’t have a spare about their personages and Howard had surrounded Bridget’s 1200 Herald with sand bags, barbed wire and machine guns to prevent me pilfering hers. SEM and LSB did tell me how to manually close the relay and get a charge though.
Well, with nothing to be done with Poppy without a new regulator, it was time to set off on our gentle pootle around Lincolnshire.
To be Continued…
By Mike Peake.
It had been a long day of challenging and fun driving and we’d all loved every minute of it. We were all back at base camp now, putting on our glad rags and making ourselves look beautiful for our evening meal to celebrate a great day and my upcoming 50th birthday. 28 of us set off to the Druids Inn with Anita carrying an intriguing package which turned out to be a fabulous birthday cake she’d made for me. (Unfortunately, I had to share it though.)
Most of us were eventually served a rather lovely dinner but I think the pub had bitten off more than it could chew with such a large party. It took a long time to serve us all, leading to some having finished before others were even served and the final meals out really weren’t up to standard. Unfortunately, it was Windy Woodward, Tosh Brooks and Liam White that were last to be served. Windy and Tosh got the bad meals but they are shy and retiring types and didn’t want to cause a fuss (Ahem).
Liam on the other hand was getting hangrier and hangrier. Spotting the warning signs of an imminent Liam explosion, we shouted at the staff that they needed to serve the roasted vegetable and chicken as soon as they could. Unfortunately, they only heard the vegetable bit and bought out a side plate of vegetables. Realising that it would be extremely life-limiting for the server to attempt to give this plate to our devout and hungry carnivore, Nick’s current carer Jo, ushered them back into the kitchen and returned with the correct order.
It was a shame and I hope it didn’t spoil the evening too much for anyone, but maybe we are just getting a bit too big to expect a pub to cope. On the plus side, my meal was excellent. I really enjoyed it and none of us was laughing at our 3 hungry desperadoes at all… honest!
Everyone except Liam had finished eating. Cake candles were lit, Happy birthday sung and cake cut and eaten. It was time for the awards that I wanted to give out to people I felt deserved them. It was just rosettes though so don’t get thinking I splashed out.
The final award was the “brave boy” award for not blubbing too much when his multi award winning Zephyr didn’t win at our Coventry meet and didn’t win here either. Yes, Windy Woodward is a very brave boy.
Awards done but I wasn’t allowed to sit down. Gar was stood next to me with an extremely well bubble-wrapped parcel saying lots of very nice things about me of all people, before presenting me with the parcel. It took me a while to fight through all the layers, but I eventually revealed the gift and was really quite taken aback. It was an oil painting of one of my favourite pictures ever taken of Poppy with me and my young daughters feeding the ducks at South Cerney Lakes in the background.
I really hope I was able to get over to everyone just how pleased and touched I was at the thought that went into choosing and commissioning such a gift and the generosity of those who contributed.
I was, and still am, somewhat overwhelmed by it all, but a huge and heartfelt thank you to all involved. I will cherish it. Of course I am also quite overwhelmed at the thought that this means some of you do actually quite like me. I thought you just put up with me for the award winning lemon drizzle cake.
We all returned to base camp where we blatantly ignored the “Silence after 10.30 PM” signs plastered all over the site and continued the party. The camp fire was lit, much beer and wine was consumed and the hilarity continued.
Paul Cheetham won the game to see how many marsh mallows you can fit in your mouth (a quite surprising amount it turned out). However, Tosh should get a large credit for this win as it was him that stuffed them all in there.
The award for “who could create the best cave painting using Kurt as a stencil” went to Tosh who chose to use the medium of “squirty cream”. However, Kurt should get a large credit for this win as it was him squirting the can of squirty cream into Tosh’s mouth until he choked.
Eventually, we all made our way to our beds so we would be fresh and ready in the morning.
Sunday dawned bright, sunny and warm. No. Really it did! I know, on an EBMV event too. It must be because it was Phil’s tour and not Gar’s. Anyway it was warm. You get the picture, and some changes were rung. We lost Chris Ball and his MGB, Kevin and Sheila’s support Volvo, Rob Shalcross and his Tempest and Chris Baker and his TR7. However we gained a couple of aging hippies in the form of Richie Moore in his gloriously crusty MK1 Granada and Ian Wright in his gloriously shiny MK2 Granada.
We were almost ready to go but were still waiting for Andy Perman and Liam White who were too posh to camp with us and were staying in a local hotel. It was no surprise at all that Last Minute Liam was late but it was unlike Andy. We were just starting to worry when Andy pulled in looking worried. He got out of his VDP and came up to me. I said “What’s wrong Andy? Tell me? Has Liam broken down in his P6? His fuel line has broken away from his carburettor? Oh No. I’ll get Super Enthusiast Man at once. (Oh my gods! It’s turning into an episode of Lassie!)
The Brooks camper shook, the rear doors burst open. There stood Super Enthusiast Man in all his Glory! No, not that glory. Euww! I mean in his boiler suit, cape, flat cap and Y-fronts over the top! Anyway, with a mighty bound he was in the VDP and off to rescue Liam. The rest of us were left sniggering as it couldn’t happen to a better bloke after all the micky taking he’d done (or was that just me?)
As we have come to expect, Super Enthusiast Man and Liam in a running P6 were soon back at the site and we were ready to head off. We set off to Buxton for the fuel stop of the day, where Liam broke down again, spilling petrol all over the forecourt and needed Super Enthusiast man to work his magic again. (No, I mustn’t laugh. Stop it!)
Liam was soon up and running again and we all set off in a full convoy of 15 cars. Driving through Buxton and other populated areas in a large convoy of classic cars is a lot of fun. It makes a real impact that 2 or 3 cars don’t achieve. Muggles actually stop what they’re doing to watch, smile, point, wave and take pictures. It is great to watch everyone’s reaction as you drive past. Personally, I much prefer driving like this. It really is great fun.
After Buxton, Phil soon had us back on some fantastic fun and challenging roads again and we had a great drive to our 1st stop of the day. The Dam on the Errwood Reservoir. It was beautiful looking out across the water at the scenery. (Oh my gods! It’s just struck me! I was looking at scenery, taking pictures of scenery and appreciating scenery! That’s something my Mum and Dad did! It’s official! I am actually… OLD!)
The rest of the leg to Allgreave was equally beautiful and the roads were fantastic. The Cat and Fiddle road was awesome as the scenery changed from rugged hills to open barren moorland.
After Allgreave we wound our way up to Flash. At 1518 ft, this is the highest village in the country and offered great views as we stopped for a cup of tea. A really nice MGA was also stopped there and of course we all had to have a chat to the owner before watching him drive off. Gus also got told off by the pub land lady for parking Henry in her front garden.
Suitably refreshed, we all headed off again for our lunch stop in Hartington. I was just behind Big Rov at the front of the convoy and Anita was reading out the notes on this leg of the tour to me. She had just got to the bit about how the junction with the B5043 comes out of nowhere and is really easy to miss when Phil pulled us all over and got out of his car and back into C3P0. ”We’ve missed the junction with B5053” he said. “It appeared out of nowhere and we’ve driven straight past it.”
Turning 15 classic cars around on a single track road isn’t the easiest of exercises but we all managed it with minimal mutterings about bumbling fools who can’t even follow their own directions. In no time at all we were back on course for our lunch stop in the lovely village of Hartington and the Charles Cotton Pub. The landlord had cleared the apron in front of the pub and wanted us to park here so he could take promo photos. We wouldn’t all fit and those at the back of the convoy had to make do with the car park out the back. We also met up with Dave Aikman and his MK3 Cortina.
Another lovely lunch of sandwiches and chips was served before we all descended on the famous cheese shop and cleaned them out before heading off on the leg to Tissington via the much anticipated Wetton Tunnel.
I have to admit, we all turned into little boys playing with toy cars only bigger as we queued up to go through one at a time. Photographers, drone operators and sound engineers were positioned at the other end of the tunnel and we were ready to go. Nick and the Jensen went through first and the sound was incredible. No one else came close to matching. It was huge fun though.
Anita was a bit bemused by the whole thing as we sat waiting and watching those in front of us roar through with big grins on their faces. “I just don’t see what the appeal is” she said. Then it was our turn. There we were at the tunnel entrance revving Poppy’s engine and waiting for Phil to finish his run.
Then we were off, accelerating hard and making as much noise we could. With the roof down we could really hear that plucky little four pot reverberating off the tunnel walls. As we shot out the end of the tunnel for our picture, I looked over to see that Anita had a matching big grin on her face too. “Ok, That was fun” she allowed.
It wasn’t all fun and games though. After we went through Gar was approached by a local chap walking his dog who immediately started berating him. “Have some regard for the locals” he shouted at a bemused Gar. “We get this all the time and you lot look old enough to know better!” Then just as Gar was trying to pacify the chap by assuring him that in fact we were mature and weren’t creating too much noise or fuss, Liam wheelspun away with his V8 screaming and shouting “WOOHOO” out the window. The chap just looked at Gar and said “I’m calling the Police” before storming off.
Gar then tried to herd everyone else through as quickly as possible before the police arrived but they were all intent on having their fun and Nick insisted on another run in the Jensen. Eventually though, we did clear the area and despite Liam briefly scaring us with the siren facility on a bull horn that he produced from somewhere, we avoided the Rozzers for the rest of the tour. (Who the hell thought it was a good idea to give Liam a bull horn??)
The rest of the tour passed in a haze of happiness that was periodically broken by Liam shouting rude comments through his bull horn. Even this didn’t spoil the fun though. Far too soon, we were back at base camp and people were packing up, saying their goodbyes and leaving. Everyone was saying what a great time they’d had and I have to agree that this was the group’s best event so far, and this time, I really don’t think we can better it.
So I know that I say this on behalf of everyone on tour. Huge, massive thanks with squirty cream an cherries on top to Phil C3P0 and Lorraine Allin for setting all this up. We all really appreciate the effort and hard work you put into this and assure you it was worth it. I think I can say with certainty that we WILL be back so you better start planning the next one.
Monday morning saw us taking a leisurely drive home with Anita towing the caravan via a more direct and less stressful route following Poppy and me. I even took her for a romantic lunch in the car park of the M42 services. After a total of 519 trouble free miles we pulled up at home.
I would like to thank all who attended and made this such a great weekend. I hope that those of you who joined us for the 1st time enjoyed as much as we all did and that you felt welcome and want to come again. I for one had the time of my life.
Boston next although it might have already happened before I get around to publishing this. So, I’ll see you soon with more tall tales of a bank holiday weekend.
By Mike Peake
We were all up bright and early Saturday morning, lined up ready to go. We were joined at the campsite by Rob Shalcross and his son Luke in their Tempest kit car based on a Reliant Fox. (Yes, I’d never heard of it before and had to ask too.) It is a great looking car though and for a little 850cc engine, it went like a rocket! Mind you, I’m not sure it was your regular unleaded that was being burnt. There was a definite whiff of “Speedway” about the exhaust when I was trying to follow him.
Phil was acting a bit like a worried C3P0 trying to chivvy everyone along as he was concerned we’d be late for our lunch stop, but there were photos that needed to be taken and drone footage to be shot and we all had to stop and laugh at Gus in his get up!
You can see from the drone footage of us leaving the campsite that I was laughing so much, I nearly fell off the road.
We finally left the campsite only 3 minutes after C3P0 Allin’s final deadline of 10AM. It would appear that he wasn’t quite mollified though, as he set off in Big Rov at quite a lick with us all trying to hang on to his coat tails on our 1st leg to the glamorous setting of Sainsbury’s Petrol station. It would appear that Big Rov only has 2 speeds. Broken and 100mph!
We all managed to cling on though and those brave enough to look away from the road and the passengers that didn’t have their eyes shut were able to catch glimpses of the stunning countryside as it flashed by. We all made it through and were joined by Chris Baker in his rather nice TR7 FHC.
16 classic cars filled up with fuel before we let Nick “When’s the next petrol stop” Arthur drain their bunkers for his Jensen.
The next leg was to Edensor via Chatsworth house where Phil “C3P0” Allin assured us that there was a great spot to plant a photographer so that he would be able to get good shots of the cars as they passed with the epic view of the house in the background. To this end, we all pulled over to let Phil shoot ahead with our 2 nominated intrepid photographers, Paul Cheetham and Andy Gardner who had been so unfortunate as to forget to bring their classic cars to a classic car tour.
17 classic cars pulled over on the side of the road does generate some attention from the Muggles. There were lots of smiles, wows and phone snaps taken as they drove by. There was one grumpy woman in a silver 4x4 that shouted “BLOODY OLD CARS!” out her window as she drove by, but we think we spotted a sticker in her back window saying “My other car is a Blue MGB GT” so it was probably that woman from the steam fair last year.
As you can see, the photos taken there were fantastic. However, either they didn’t get the brief or Chatsworth House was just too small for them to notice. Great shots though Guys! Well done.
Shortly after the photo shoots we had a couple of “panics”. My panic first though. We’d just driven over a cattle grid when Poppy started making an horrendous “grinding, rattling clicking” noise that was very loud and alarming. It was so alarming that I immediately pulled to the side and leapt out of the car to investigate whilst other enthusiasts swarmed to my rescue and to laugh at a Fatbloke crawling around on the floor.
To be honest, I was fully expecting to see half the car dragging on the road but after a full 5 minutes laying on the ground searching fruitlessly, Liam piped up. “You know your number plate has fallen off don’t you? I was going to tell you earlier but I was laughing too much”. Yeah Thanks Liam! I was too relieved at the simplicity of the breakdown to beat him up though and I quickly removed the remaining screw and slung the number plate in the boot. The second panic? We realised no one had stopped to pick up our intrepid photographers, so Kevin was quickly despatched in his 1998 Volvo support vehicle to rectify this.
What with C3P0 still having “Light Speed” engaged on Big Rov”, my minor mishap and the abandoned photographers, the group had become split up. Fortunately, Phil’s rally notes were superb and Mrs FB was able to navigate us along the rest of the route with ease through the picturesque village of Edensor and to the car park near Grindleford where we were to stop and admire the view. Unfortunately, as the mini convoy I was leading arrived, the mini convoy that had managed to hang onto C3P0 was just leaving. So we filtered in with them for the 5 minute drive to the Yorkshire Bridge Inn for our lunch stop.
At this point C3P0 relaxed back into the easy going chap we all know and love and we all fully enjoyed the lunch of soup and sandwiches in our own private room that our Phil had arranged.
After lunch we all walked up to the nearby Ladybower Dam to admire the engineering marvel that is the overflow plug hole. Unfortunately, the water levels were too low for it to be flowing, but it was still an impressive site. The views of the countryside from the dam were also lovely. A relaxing few minutes was spent laughing at Liam’s antics as he tried to find the best position to take a group photo.
We left the pub at a much more relaxed pace and stayed in full convoy until our next stop at the famous Derwent Dam. We were between Liam’s P6 and Tosh’s Wolseley but they’d swapped drivers. As we were pulling into the car park after a 13 mile drive, Liam started shouting and gesticulating out of the Wolseley’s window. We thought he was just doing his Father Jack impression again so ignored him, but when we finally stopped, Liam leapt out of his car and retrieved his expensive iPad from the boot of the P6 where he’d left it before we left the Pub. Of course it was my fault though, as I hadn’t spotted it while following just behind for 13 miles. I guess I was still avoiding looking at boot lids.
Derwent Dam is every bit as impressive as I was expecting having seen it so often in one of my favourite films. As we were sitting at the bottom between the towers, it was easy to imagine the roar of low flying Lancasters overhead. It was actually quite poignant to be there so close to the 75th anniversary of the famous Dambuster raid of 1943 and I spared a thought for the 56 airmen that didn’t make it back and the 1600 civilians that died as a result. Well said, Fatbloke - Ed
Sorry. Got a bit deep there. Anyway, after a cheeky ice-cream for everyone, we set off for what was to be the most challenging and fun drive of the tour so far. The long steep climb to Mam Tor. It was fantastic and the scenery was breath taking. I haven’t enjoyed driving so much for a long time and I enjoy my driving. Everyone felt the same and as we got out of the cars at the car park at the top the comments that were on everyone’s lips were “Wow! That was Fantastic!”, Boy that was fun!”, “What a run!” and “Thanks Phil, that was awesome.” As well as all humming the tune to “Days like These”
After giving the cars and drivers a bit of a breather after the ascent, it was time for the 1 in 5 descent through the Winnats Pass. The first time you see the view at the entrance to the Pass really is an “Oh wow!” moment and it just gets better as you go down. It was at this point that Anita asked me why everyone was leaving such big gaps between the cars going down the steep hill? Maybe I should have thought about my reply before blurting out, “in case of brake failure” but it made for a very quiet descent and I could concentrate on enjoying the scenery.
The next stop was Phil’s favourite view of the Peak District. The car park of the Monsal Head Inn. Well OK, it was the view FROM the car park, and I have to say I agree with him. It was a beautiful sight. Very tranquil, relaxing and peaceful… until the busy bee buzz of Gus’s drone spoiled it all! But he got some great footage and supplied the entertainment with the panic displayed when he thought he’d lost it. It was also really good to see Paul Berman and his wife who had driven out to meet us and have a chat.
The last leg was supposed to be down to Caudwell Mill and back to base camp. Unfortunately it was getting a little late so it was decided to head back to the camp site and get our glad rags on in time for the evening meal at the Druids Inn.
To Be Continued…
By Mike Peake
They mentioned the boot lid! ... A lot!.
However it was all a jolly good jest and I’m over it now, so it didn’t stop me enjoying what was to be one of our best meets/tours to date.
It didn’t start too well for me though. Mrs FB had sportingly agreed to tow the caravan up despite only having done the odd short jaunt to Weston and such, so a 3 hour trip to the campsite near Matlock was a bit daunting. However, as the only alternative was my tent that I’m not sure has recovered from Snowdonia, the matter was settled.
Anita coped magnificently though, even when my sat nav had a melt down and decided the camp site was in Brassington and took us there via Middleton.
Now these are two picturesque villages nestled at the top of large mountains, along roads barely wider than the caravan and bordered by stone walls. Anita wasn’t happy and of course it was my fault that the sat nav was useless, but as I was in a separate car and there was no phone signal, I could only faintly hear the screams, shouts and swearing emanating from the Honda so felt I could safely ignore it. That is until it became evident that we needed to turn around. The only place we could do this was at a T-junction. Still on a very steep hill. Still on very narrow roads and still bordered by stone walls.
I got out of Poppy, and from a safe distance, informed Mrs FB of the situation. The scary glare of death directed my way encouraged me to maintain the safe distance but by shouting instructions like “left hand down” and “right hand down”, Anita had that van turned around like she’d been doing it all her life and I quite like the smell of burning clutch anyway. We eventually made it safely to the campsite by Thursday evening, where I was saved from being beaten to a pulp by the presence of witnesses. Tosh and Bella the dog already had the camper van pitched and were waiting patiently for us.
Gar and Phil Allin also arrived and we set about a strategy meeting for the upcoming tour which hardly involved any alcohol at all.
It was during this strategy meeting that we learned just how much effort Phil and Loraine had put into this trip. Tales of Phil scouting out the route earlier in year and being foiled by the conditions abounded. My favourites were when he was stuck at the top of Mam Tor in a blizzard and 10 feet of snow for a week with only his thermos and a cheese sandwich for company.
Then, when he was swept away by the ford at Tissington in full flood and ended up floating in the middle of a lake waiting to be rescued by the RNLI. AND, after all this, Phil and Loraine wrote and produced a fantastic booklet full of detailed instructions on our routes along with maps and notes on the interesting sights we would see along the way.
On Friday morning, we pitched the new super duper events shelter and as I was there to supervise, it went a lot better than the pitching of my tent at Snowdon. There was one moment when the wind got up while Tosh was trying to manipulate the canvas and he looked like Han Solo frozen in carbonite, but we got there in the end.
During the rest of the day, our terrific team of tourists gradually arrived so let me introduce them.
And of course Paul Cheetham and Andy Gardner, who both forgot to bring their cars.
While everyone was arriving we weren’t idle though. Super Enthusiast Man drove Poppy in order to compare to Henry which uses the same engine and running gear and just bodied differently and I drove Henry. They really are very different to drive though, even after Gus pointed out that my throttle cable was too long and I was only using half the travel on the throttle. This wasn’t embarrassing at all even if it had been like it since I’ve had the car…for 18 years! Nope. Not embarrassing at all. At least Gus fixed it for me though, even if he seemed to enjoy telling everyone about it.
Tosh was also busy. He was saving this bumbling incompetent fool’s marriage this time by replacing the hole I’d put in my caravan with a lovely locker door with Ian Woodward helping from the inside.
Jolly useful chaps these Brooks and a huge thanks to you both!
More car hopping was done and just as we were about to settle down for the evening, Gar tossed me the keys to Nelson. Well I didn’t need asking twice and eager to test out Gus’s workmanship, I jumped in. I have to say that as I sped away, wheels spinning across the field and leaving a “Back to the Future” trail of scorched grass behind me, I realised that Nelson actually had rather a lot more power than he did last time I drove him and I had quite a big grin on my face.
When I got back, an apron clad Gar was stirring up his souri… sootykaka… sukiouri… oh heck, it was Greek meatballs in a sauce with peppers and tomatoes and vegetables and stuff and pasta was boiling up in several caravans (I think you mean Soutzoukakia Mike. Ed) anyway, there was 24 litres of it and it was absolutely delicious. Gar could give Nigela a run for her money I tell you. He’d even done us strawberries and cream in brandy snap baskets for pud. He’s a star is our Gar.
After Gar had fed all 28 of us, Anita and I gave out the tour Hi Vis vests. Everyone looked very pleased and very smart in them too. And No. I don’t think we looked anything like council dustmen or a bunch of crims on community service as some of you have rudely suggested!
Much hilarity, fun and games continued into the night but eventually we all retired to our beds with our faces aching from laughter and our thoughts on the adventures to come.
To be continued…
Filter by Author
Filter by Month