Road signs sometimes tell you a great deal about the country they inhabit and its people.
This one brings back memories of Mum "navigating" from the front passenger seat back in the day ... apart from the apologising part, of course. Based on a Bristol sign.
And some more in no particular order ...
by Paul Sweeney.
It is our pleasure to present these video clips filmed by Garry "Gus" Brooks and John Ticehurst during the Peaks tour - its available below to view and download if you wish to keep a copy. Obviously, everyone there thoroughly enjoyed the tour - special thanks are due to Gar Cole and Phil Allin for taking on the not inconsiderable job of organising the tour - very well done, chaps!
To view the video, click the 'Play' button above. To download it to keep, click here.
by 'Er Indoors
Eddie was driving down the road and a met a car coming the other way. Although there was room to pass easily, Eddie forced the oncoming car to slow down and wound down his window and shouted 'Pig'.
The other driver looked in his rear view mirror and swore at Eddie.
Then his car hit the pig.
Gar, Mike and the guys are busy at the NEC, Birmingham manning our club stand which is getting lots of visitors. A full account will be published in due course but for now we are posting photos and video from the event to give you a taste of what's happening.
by Paul Sweeney
I had been enjoying a catch up with my business partner Lesley at a local cafe and we were walking out to our cars when we saw a chap looking at Lesley's MX-5. After a short friendly talk, he casually mentioned, "I have an old Rover".
Antennae twitching, I leapt in: "What model? Where is it?" I asked eagerly, half expecting him to say it was something from the 1990s. Turned out "it" was parked nearby and before I knew it, the chap (his name was Steven) tossed me the keys and invited me to go and take a look. Well, it would be rude not to - and here's what I found ....
Steve's "Old Rover" turned out to be a 1974 P6 3500. I sat inside - the first time I'd ever been inside a P6 - and it wasn't bad, not at all bad. After a minute, Steve came out of the building to join me and explained he'd owned the car for about two years and had done quite a bit of work on it, including swapping the gearbox for a Toyota Supra box. A glance under the bonnet revealed a gleaming labour of love with numerous obviously new parts:
Steve told me he owned the cafe I had been sitting at, and being in need of additional capital to invest in the business, he had reluctantly decided to sell the Rover - its currently offered for sale on TradeMe with an asking price of NZ$7000. If you ask me, well worth further investigation by anyone looking for a P6 - although I admit personally the gearbox swap would put me off. I like 'em as Rover intended - but that's just my personal preference.
How many people do you know who would throw you a bunch of keys like that having just met you? Anyhow the point is, Steve hadnt heard of our club before, so I'm hoping he is now reading this - welcome to the club, Steve and good luck with the car!
Although secretly I can't help hoping he finds some other way to raise the capital he needs and holds on to his lovely old Rover. I've a sneaky feeling that if he finds a buyer, he will live to regret it.
by Paul Sweeney
Since its formation on 1 February 2014, our group has grown and now has 10,000 members – that’s quite a milestone! It’s difficult to picture so many people, but even so we are far from the biggest Facebook group dedicated to British motors – and to be honest, that was never our aim.
Being a group Admin is of course an unpaid role – so why do we do it? Why do we give up hefty chunks of our precious leisure time for what can at times be a thankless task? It’s certainly not because we have nothing else to do!
Our motivation is that all of us shared the same desire – to create a little corner of this interweb thingy where we could enjoy looking at old cars, talking about old cars and learning new stuff about them - without having to run the gauntlet of trolls, oafs, buffoons, marketing men or rude potty mouthed types that we wouldn’t otherwise choose to spend our leisure time with. There appeared to be no existing ‘all marque’ British forums out there that had managed to be oaf-less, so we set about making it happen for ourselves.
Our aims do mean we are sometimes accused of various things by those who cross swords with us – I have personally been called many uncomplimentary names, but trolls are mere lightweights in the personal insults Department when compared to my lovely ex-wife - she could have been an Olympic Insults Champion! But I digress ...we were accused of having no sense of humour, too … some used to call us, “The Fun Police” which really couldn’t be further from the truth, but it was said many times.
Anyone who has read one of Zebidee’s wonderfully zany and surreal posts, Mike's hilarious blogs featuring his alter ego Fatbloke and Poppy the 'Harold', Gar's shared public agonies and eventual victory as he struggled valiantly with Princess OKI - and plenty more I can't recall right now - will know that whilst we are serious and determined when we need to be, we are also keen to have a laugh as often as we possibly can while doing this. After all, if you can’t laugh or at least raise a smile when indulging yourself in a hobby, why bother?
So where am I leading with all this? Just to say one thing really; I’m sure most of you appreciate the Admin team’s efforts and in return we want to thank you all. Thank you for sharing with us your cars, your memories, your knowledge, your experience and most of all your wit, your warmth and your humanity.
We have achieved what we weren’t even sure was possible when we started out on this road – we have created an online community to enjoy and be proud of. Long may it last.
Your Admin team
So who are we, these 10,000? Initially, group membership was overwhelmingly British chaps of the warm beer, flat cap and whippet variety but increasingly our members now include men, women and children of all ages from every continent on the planet and from all walks of life. Around 25% of you do not live in Britain and that figure is growing every day.
Some are wealthy and privileged, others are unfortunately struggling with hardship or disability and ill-health. Most of us fall somewhere in between, but we all share a passion for old motors and that is what binds us all together.
There are numerous ‘regulars’ in the group who recognised early on what we were trying to build and have helped us enormously, so we want to say a special thank you to them; you know who you are.
Finally, a very big and heartfelt thank you from me to my loyal shipmates in the Admin team: Edwin, Steve, Mike, Gar, Zebidee and last but not least John Simpson, the group's founder. The team does a fantastic job keeping everything running just the way we like it. I’m sure the members appreciate what you all contribute to the group as much as I do; take a bow, guys.
So whoever and wherever you are - please keep enjoying the group, tell your friends about it and hopefully you will feel as proud of it as we are. That’s the reason we do it.
by Paul Sweeney
The Montego was in almost every way an improvement over the Maestro - so I was happy. Caravanning holidays ensued and the 1.6 engine pulled reasonably well, considering there were five of us plus luggage.
And so to "That Holiday". I suspect most of you will have had one particularly bad holiday that becomes the stuff of family legend, endlessly retold and enhanced over the years; this was ours. In fact there was another one that was even worse now I think about it, but that one doesn't fit my "Buying Used Cars" theme so I'll 'park' that story for now (see what I did there?)
What follows is to the best of my recollection a true account of what happened - without elaboration or exaggeration. This story really doesn't need any of that, frankly.
We had agreed to go on a week's caravanning holiday to a campsite somewhere in Devon with the in-laws. In this case that meant the sister of SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and her young family. They would tow their caravan and we would tow ours.
On arrival, we parked cosily in adjoining pitches at the Haven campsite and very quickly learned that SWMBO's sister shouted a lot. Very loudly .. at her husband, her kids ..at the world in general, apparently. We could clearly hear what she was yelling even when we were inside our caravan with the door and windows firmly closed. We decided long before the end of the very first day that this joint holiday had not been such a great idea after all.
We woke early the next morning and as usual I was first up and out of the caravan. We had an awning on the side of the van and I had often found the zippers on the doorways a bit fiddly, but this time I just couldn't unzip the damn things, no matter how hard I tried. The awning was very similar to the image below with doors at both ends of the long side. Neither door would unzip.
Eventually - driven mainly by a now-urgent need to go to the toilet block across the camp site - I had to clamber out of one of the caravan windows. If you've ever tried to do that, you will know its not easy!
Incidentally, we did have a chemical toilet inside, but SWMBO flat refused anyone permission to use that. Her less-than-poetic explanation, "I'm not sitting here stewing in the stench of your f*cking p*ss" still rings in my ears when I think back. Such a sweet-natured woman.
Having attended to my basic needs, I returned to examine the reluctant zippers from the outside .. and found one of these attached to each zip:
What the hell was this? How did padlocks appear on our awning, and why? It took quite a while to explain to SWMBO what was going on and why she couldn't get outside. Not a patient woman at the best of times, least of all when Her Ladyship's bladder was full! Unsurprisingly it soon became "OK" to use the chemical toilet that had been very definitely declared Out of Bounds to me only minutes earlier - funny, that. But I digress.
The very helpful camp site manager eventually arrived with some tools and cut the locks off for us so the doors could be opened and everyone could escape.
Once I was able to examine the doorways, I found something else trapped in the groundsheet inside one of the entrances; it was a rough sketch. I wish I had kept the original but SWMBO destroyed it in a nuclear rage as soon as she clapped eyes on it. However, I remember it very well - I'm no artist, but here is my best effort to reproduce it for you.
Clearly the sketch was intended to represent me (I was tall and slim in those days) and SWMBO - who it must be said had a low centre of gravity. Gradually the realisation dawned that someone thought SWMBO was the shouty woman when in fact it was her sister in the next caravan!
SWMBO had a helluva hissy fit when she saw the sketch, and marched over to wave it angrily in her noisy sister's face. Naturally, her sister refused to acknowledge that she had ever shouted at anyone and very loudly proclaimed that it couldn't possibly be directed at her. I idly considered simply driving away with the kids while the two of them raged at one another, but tempting as the idea was, that would only have caused tiresome ructions later.
I admit I found all of this highly amusing .. but just who had locked us in our awning and left the artwork? As I looked around for clues, it dawned on me that a pitch a few feet from ours was empty. The previous night it had been occupied by a young couple. So, unable to tolerate the din any longer they had - it appeared - packed up during the night and left, having first exacted their revenge on our awning! By the way, if you are reading this and it was you - thanks! Its a fantastic memory and I'm very grateful.
For the remainder of that holiday, we avoided socialising with wifey's sister and just did our own thing. There was never again any talk of going on joint holidays, which was a blessing as far as I was concerned. Even SWMBO had no argument with that.
So back to cars - what about the Montego? I still liked it; it was comfortable and refined as a saloon car. However as a camping holiday vehicle I had to admit that it wasn't the most practical. When you go camping with children you have to take an enormous amount of stuff with you, and a saloon just doesn't cut it.
Buying it was a mistake - although for my money, the Montego ranked alongside or above the British competition of the time. But yes, an estate car would have been a more practical choice. Despite this, I simply resolved to learn from the experience - I would know better next time but in the meantime, I'd have to put up with it.
I'd owned the Montego for almost a year when I spotted some rust on the bright white paintwork. Not just any old rust, but rust bubbling through from underneath and between seams. This was not good. Not good at all. And so before long, my mind turned to changing the car again. But what car should be next?
It should be an estate car, I had already decided. And enough of these budget models - it would be better to buy a slighter older but better quality car that would last longer. And a bigger engine to handle towing the caravan. Probably not British, then.
What kind of car fit that brief? Find out next time!
by Paul Sweeney
So the Montego saloon just wasn't a great camping wagon. I needed more space, more power and superior build quality. I was tired of changing cars every five minutes. I wanted a car I would enjoy owning, feel proud of and want to keep. Was that too much to ask?
Those who have followed my sorry tales of car-related silliness and folly will recall that in the past I had spread my net far and wide when looking for used cars, but not this time. I lived in a pleasant village called Winterbourne on the outskirts of Bristol and as I was driving home one day, I noticed a car of interest parked outside the local used car dealership just half a mile from my house.
It wasn't British of course - and by now I was once more starting to believe that might be a good thing - but it was a fairly big estate car with a bigger engine than my Montego and a marque with a genuine reputation for quality.
Yes, it was a Volvo. A 240GL Estate to be precise, in a rather tasteful dark grey metallic that made the Volvo look really solid and classy. It was automatic, too - that appealed, as I'd never had an auto and was keen to try one. My Dad had a Volvo 144 saloon when I was a teen; he loved it and kept it for years - that was the experience I wanted.
I inspected the car closely, by now after years of running old British motors I had become almost obsessed with finding rust or signs of it. Nothing! This was more like it. A test drive revealed a rather old-fashioned but good quality interior that offered a cavernous load space; this would be fantastic for family camping trips. As for the ride, it was stately rather than sporty, but I didn't mind that one bit.
I did a deal and the Volvo was mine. I remember to this day washing and pampering it on the drive, then standing back and thinking how smart it looked. It felt solid, too. Rugged and able to withstand the inevitable rigours of family life. "If it's built for Sweden, surely it can survive Winterbourne", I thought to myself.
The first weekend away with the Volvo soon arrived - and joy of joys, we had more space for stuff! Naturally SWMBO (She who Must Be Obeyed) and the kids simply brought more with them, so we actually ended up with less free space than we'd had in the Montego .. typical! Fuel consumption when towing the caravan was eye-wateringly poor - but then, we didnt go away every weekend, so what the heck. "Chasing economy above all else is what led you to the cars you've had before this one", I told myself wisely (or so I thought, anyway!).
That first camping trip with the Volvo was considerably better than my last story's 'Padlocked Awning' experience. We arrived fairly comfortably and calmly in North Devon somewhere near the little coastal village of Combe Martin. SWMBO quickly identified a good pitch on the camp site and we set everything up smoothly and without drama.
Another family arrived around an hour after us so having finished, I sat comfortably and not a little smugly on a folding chair with a drink, watching them setting up. The guy had spread his awning out flat on the ground beside the caravan and crawled inside to erect it using the telescopic poles.
His little boy - around 5 years old, I'd guess - was wandering around nearby and picked up the wooden mallet his Dad had carefully laid on the grass ready to hammer the pegs in. He walked about, swinging the mallet and pretending to hit things like he'd seen his Dad doing, the way small children do.
While he was doing this, his Dad's outline could be seen inside the awning, moving around. The lad watched for a moment, then when the shape (which was his Dad's head) came close enough, he casually hefted the mallet and swung it, delivering a hefty 'wallop' onto the shape in the canvas. He'd hit his Dad hard on the head! There was a blood-curdling and indecipherable yell from within the acreage of canvas, then much flapping and swearing as the guy frantically tried to get out from under the canvas - presumably to get at the lad.
The boy suddenly realised what he had done and began wailing so loudly his mother came running to console him. Amusingly, she asked him in that 'special' idiot voice some people reserve for young children and puppies, "Awww did you hit Daddy on the head? Silly Daddy hiding under the awning, isn't he?"
By this time, "Daddy" had managed to free himself and screamed at her, "What the hell do you mean, 'Silly Daddy', you stupid wench? That little **** just walloped me on the head with a f*cking mallet!"
I had to admit, it was wonderful to witness someone else's misfortune; discretely I retired to a safe distance where I felt free to cackle without revealing to the poor chap that I had watched the whole painful thing unfold. It wasn't easy to avoid grinning like a fool when he politely greeted me later that day.
All was well. Now our camping trips were almost bearable - the Dream Team combination of a more suitable car AND the absence of the ghastly in-laws made caravanning seem almost bearable.
Almost - but not quite. I still never managed to enjoy:
In the final analysis, I could sum it all up as, "Why am I paying to endure this discomfort when I could have stayed in my relatively spacious home among all the things I enjoy?"
So if you have ever asked me about camping, you might now understand why I may have seemed somewhat less than enthusiastic.
It all came to a head on one particularly long trip home from Cornwall. As usual, the best weather of the week was reserved for that moment when we were finally packed and ready to begin the long trek home to Bristol from St Ives.
Around half way home, I stopped at a petrol station to refuel the aircraft carrier (Volvo). I misjudged the pump position, driving forward slightly too far, so engaged reverse in order to move back a foot or so. A hideous grinding sound came from the gearbox and I fairly quickly established that only forward gears could now be selected.
I later found out it was a known problem that towing caused the Volvo auto box to overheat, resulting in damage when selecting reverse. A gearbox cooling device was available to cure the problem, but that information came too late for me.
We finally arrived home, my mood dark as I contemplated the cost of an auto gearbox repair or replacement. My Dad's oft-uttered words of advice haunted me now: "Never buy an automatic, son - it's just more to go wrong". At that time, I wished I'd listened, Dad. I decided I would seek a trade-in deal and thereby avoid the repair.
Next time - another car comes into our lives and proves to be perfect for everyday use and an awesome towing vehicle, too; but I hadn't quite managed to put an end to the whole camping experience yet.
by Paul Sweeney
The sudden and violent demise of the MK2 Escort and subsequent arrival of the very welcome insurance monies meant I could seek out my next used car. I don't think I have mentioned that we now had a wolf pack of three small humans, so car space was at a premium and that had to be factored into my thinking.
In 1983 BL had launched the Austin Maestro, a new car to replace the Allegro (I'd had an Allegro as a second car during my Vauxhall period in Birmingham) and I decided to investigate as I really couldnt face the idea of another Cortina, and the MK2 Cavalier just didnt appeal to me.
"Which" magazine said this about the Maestro:
The Maestro was launched in March 1983. In its summing up of the new car the Consumers' Association, in the June edition of its Which?journal, described it as roomy, comfortable, and nice to drive, and said "If you are considering buying one now, our advice, based on our first impressions, is to go ahead". In January 1984, after testing the car, they concluded: "In comparison with opposition of a similar price and body size, the Maestro has a clear advantage on room for passengers, with few cars equalling it for comfort either in the front or back". They also considered it to be a serious rival to the higher-segment Vauxhall Cavalier and Ford Sierra, apart from its smaller boot space.
Like many of us at the time, I was of course fully aware of BL's troubles but desperately wanted them to succeed - so if they really had produced a decent car that suited my needs, I was definitely open to giving them a chance. I decided to find one for sale and see how it went.
The first Maestro I found on offer at the right price point was some distance away from my home in Bristol - at a small used car dealership in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Somebody kindly gave me a ride there and I inspected the Maestro. I was surprised by it's size; it was quite tall, wide and modern-looking. Inside, it was cavernous - a huge step up from the limited interior of the MK2 Escort - and it was also well appointed for its time and price point.
It was a 1600; 1.6L I think - in dark blue. I took it for a test drive and was very pleasantly surprised - compared to the Escort, the Maestro was comfortable, quiet and powerful. I really enjoyed throwing it around the country lanes of Somerset and when I returned to the dealer, a deal was soon done.
The dealer was a decent fellow in fact - when he heard my story of woe (the Escort being written off) he immediately offered me free use of his courtesy car for the few days he needed to prepare the Maestro for collection.
Naturally, I gratefully accepted and he disappeared for a short while to bring the courtesy car to me. After 10 minutes or so, he appeared driving the yellowest MK1 Fiesta I'd ever seen! It seemed to run OK, so I happily thanked him and drove it back to Bristol.
It was early Summer, and to begin with, I drove along with the driver's window open - but soon had a large bee in the car with me. I stopped and ushered it out (I'm not one for killing bees) and continued my journey - but very quickly had another bee joining me along with quite an assortment of other insects. Again, I stopped and cleared the car of wildlife, then closed the window before resuming my journey.
When I arrived home, my daughters came excitedly running out of the house to see "Daddy's new car" but soon ran screaming back inside when they were almost instantly surround by bees, wasps and various other bugs. Then it dawned on me - it was the car! The darn thing was such a bright yellow, the insects were seemingly mistaking it for a large flower - either it was the car or me and my money was on the car.
So it was with some relief a few days later that I returned the Fiesta to its owner and brought the Maestro home. All was well; the Maestro did exactly what it said on the tin and never let me down. Thanks BL - you did get it right sometimes, even if the haters won't admit it.
Next time - something catches my eye
by Paul Sweeney
With the Astra gone, I needed new transport - cue my next used car search! So what would it be? Something simple, cheap to run and suitable for carrying a young family. That felt suspiciously like my old selection criteria of, "dull, British and thoroughly normal" to me, which was a tad depressing.
Would it be another Cortina? No - that was just too tiresome to contemplate. It would have to be something else - but what? I decided - as time was not on my side - to be open-minded. Options were anything family car-sized from Ford, Vauxhall or BL - any of those would be considered. I still felt nervous about foreign cars after my Renault experience, so didn't consider them when poring over the classified ads (we are now 1986, so still very much pre-internet).
To maximise my chances, I decided to look at private sellers as well as dealers. The first car I went to view was a gold 4-door Ford Escort 1.3L - a private sale. Surprisingly given my previous experiences, the owner was completely normal and so was the car. In fact, it was absolutely ... errmm .. OK... and the price was reasonable, so I bought it without any hint of hilarity or strange behaviour. (Bet that surprised you!)
Driving the Escort was unremarkable but acceptable. I don't remember much about it really, except that it was competent - a good, sensible solution at the time. Did I like it or enjoy driving it? The truth is, I didn't care about it enough to even consider that - it was no more than a means of getting from A to B, and the best I could afford at the time. Other priorities took charge at this time of my life.
The only trip in the Escort that stands out in my memory (for reasons you will come to appreciate) was a day trip we took as a family sometime after our relocation back to Bristol.
My daughters were growing and like all small humans they loved animals, so we settled on a day trip to Longleat Safari Park, which was around 45 mins drive from home on the outskirts of Bristol.
We arrived safely and as you may know, the system at Longleat is that you drive around the animal enclosures in your own car. We did so and the small humans made all the right noises as we saw each type of animal - until we stopped in the monkey enclosure.
I must have been distracted, else I would have skipped the monkeys - but I didn't. The moment the car stopped, monkeys appeared from out of nowhere and leaped onto the Escort, clearly well aware that vinyl roofs were merely glued on and intent on ripping it off.
The children were by this time screaming in terror as the monkeys bounced around on the car, pulling on the vinyl roof, windscreen wipers, door mirrors and anything else they thought they could detach. It was like a madhouse inside the car - kids screaming and crying, wifey yelling at me over the noise to do something quickly - so I did.
I decided in a sudden indignant rage that those monkeys were NOT going to damage my car. What I did was to select 1st gear, rev the engine hard and execute a series of perfect learner driver-style kangaroo hops interspersed with 'ohmygodweareallgoingtodie' - force braking of steadily increasing violence until I had finally dislodged all the monkeys.
The moment we were clear of them, I raced toward the enclosure exit gates some 100 yards away which were already opening. Presumably the park rangers had been watching and were trying to help - and probably laughing themselves silly at our antics.
Seconds later we were out of there, and gradually wife and kids began to calm down. She didn't even criticise, which was something of a surprise. Thank God we didn't have a Reggie Perrin moment - if you remember that episode, his grandchild did, "Ploopy-plops" whilst navigating Longleat Safari Park.
The remainder of the visit was uneventful although I think we were all slightly shaken by the monkey experience and no longer in the mood to make the most of the trip. Little did we know, the worst was still to come.
After a time and an ice-cream or two, wifey and I agreed to make our way home and left the park to head home along the pleasant winding country roads of Wiltshire.
Unfortunately, no more than 5 miles from Longleat, we were hit head-on by another car whilst stationary. I had pulled over and stopped because I saw the other car approaching at high speed on my side of the road quite some time before it collided with the Escort. It was one of those moments when time seems to go into slow-motion - I watched almost impassively as the car approached, impact inevitable.
The small humans were asleep in their child seats in the back and were woken by the violent impact, but unharmed. Wifey and I were both able to get out of the car - also unharmed.
The Escort however had taken a very severe impact to the offside front. It definitely wasn't drivable and was almost certainly destined for the crusher - it was declared a total loss by my insurance company a few days later.
I suppose on reflection that is the closest I have come thus far to dying at the wheel. As it turned out, all it really meant was that yet again I now needed to source another used car.
But what would it be this time? You will have to wait for the next episode to find out!
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