By Mike Peake
Do you remember me saying that Poppy had a slight misfire when pulling away from the petrol pump at the NEC? I had deliberately run her low due to the NEC rules of having next to no petrol in the tanks of display cars. I’d put the small misfire down to being really lucky and running out of petrol as I pulled up to the pump and taking a little while for the newly topped up fuel to get to the carb, especially as she got me home without any further trouble. However, I was wrong.
Poppy proved the wrongness of my diagnosis on the morning of the Pride of Longbridge (POL) show. I’d promised to go up to support Gar Cole with setting up our group pitch, so 6 am found me sat in Poppy on the drive fruitlessly turning the engine over on the key. The new starter motor was going like the clappers but Poppy refused to fire up. Time to lift the bonnet and try to look like I know what I’m doing for all the cross neighbours looking out their windows having been woken up ridiculously early on a Saturday morning.
The inline fuel filter was suspiciously empty so I deduced that I had run out of fuel. I thought this odd as I’ve never done that before but dashed off to the local Esso for a can and a gallon of their ridiculously priced finest. (I’d lent my fuel can to my father in law so had to buy a new one.) The gallon was quickly dispensed into Poppy and I was back in the driver’s seat cranking away and annoying the neighbours again. She still wouldn’t start even after I remembered that Heralds have a reserve and switching to that.
The fuel filter was still suspiciously empty, so I wondered if the feed line was blocked and decided to suck it and see. Perhaps I should have blown it to see but I didn’t think of that until I had a mouth full of petrol dribbling down my chin onto my shirt, but at least I now knew the line wasn’t blocked and was pretty sure my fuel pump had let me down and it was time for plan B.
So back into the house for a quick change of shirt and a mouthwash gargle to get rid of the taste of petrol and It was time to decide which modern to take. Mrs FB was still in bed so it was incredibly tempting to steal her car as it is such great fun to drive. I thought it would even be worth the lynching from fellow show goers if I turned up to POL in a BMW Mini. However, the thought of Mrs FB’s reaction if I took the Mini without permission convinced me to take my Honda CR-V.
I was now very late, so appreciated the CR-V’s mile munching abilities right up to the point that it turned into the “Drive of Shame” in the queue to get in. A promise is a promise though and I’d promised Gar I’d be there, so turning up my collar and slipping down in the driver’s seat so I could only just see over the wheel I tried to sneak in as anonymously as possible.
This was made difficult by marshals trying to turn me away and the official photographer laughing while he tried to take my picture on the way in. However, I eventually arrived at our pitch which was mostly set up without my help, and I was looking forward to basking in the sympathy of my classic car comrades.
I should have known better of course as they made me park in the naughty corner hiding behind a large tree and any sympathy was quickly overwhelmed as my comrades made full use of the opportunity to give me a thorough ribbing about turning up to POL of all shows in a 1 year old Honda. The situation wasn’t improved when my comrades found out that I had left my “award winning Lemon Drizzle cake” on the back seat of Poppy back home in Royal Wootton Basset!
Fortunately, other members had remembered cake, so the day wasn’t a complete disaster and was spent very pleasantly. Highlight of the show for me was the Brooks brothers Humber. I think it suited me perfectly as I looked so regal sitting in the back, but for some reason, they wouldn’t chauffer me home.
I arrived home early evening and wasted no time at all in cracking open the Merlot before wasting no time at all starting my search for a new fuel pump.
All the big 3 supplied them so went for the cheapest. It arrived on Tuesday and I was fitting it on Friday afternoon. It didn’t fit. When I directly compared it to the one I’d taken off the engine, the wiggly waggly thingy that sticks into the engine was a very different shape and profile.
I said some rude words and went indoors, where Mrs FB said some even ruder words and sent me back outside. Apparently, I was wafting a very strong smell of petrol everywhere I went, so I was made to take off my petrol soaked clothing and sent straight upstairs to the bath. I wasn’t even allowed to delay long enough to make a G&T to take with me!
Sometime later, smelling somewhat sweeter and a G&T in hand, I was surfing the web looking for help. Who’d have thought that a little fuel pump could cause so much trouble? It seemed that everyone had a tale to tell about new fuel pumps currently on sale and no 2 were the same. Some didn’t fit at all, some ran at too high a flow and flooded the carbs. Others needed spacers to get them to work and some wouldn’t even work with spacers. Some even said that they fitted perfectly and worked a treat straight from the box! (actually, I only found one of these.)
I took some photos of the old and new pumps side by side so you could clearly see the different profiles of the wiggly waggly thingy and sent them by email to the supplier asking them why their pump wouldn’t fit? I also posted my SOS in several Facebook groups including ours.
You didn’t disappoint and soon my notification counter was catching fire with the numbers of replies from everyone wanting to impart the experiences with modern versions of our fuel pump. These were many and varied and I was getting even more confused rather than being helped. That was until I saw a post from our very own Gandalf of classic cars and nominee for the lifetime achievement award himself. Yes, Lord John Simpson had replied to this mere mortal in despair. He said “Fit a spacer”.
When I had recovered from the shock that a man of Lord Simpsons stature and fame in our field thought that I was worthy of a reply, I immediately ordered a spacer and some longer bolts to replace the current studs. They arrived. I fitted them. It worked!
I was so pleased that I immediately went for a 20 mile test drive around the green lanes of north Wiltshire grinning with that feeling of achievement.
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