By Mike Peake
Roger had excelled himself this weekend. A fantastic day of driving on the Saturday and the Osborne House Classic Car show on the Sunday. However, with the weather being so wet, there was some doubt as to whether they would want their perfectly manicured lawns chewed up. So we were waiting to hear if it was cancelled.
My alarm went off stupidly early for a morning after a night of jollity, but did I actually have to get up? I filtered out the man using a jack hammer inside my head and listened carefully. I could hear Gar snoring blissfully, so I didn’t have to get up yet. I snoozed my alarm. 30 minutes later I heard Gar’s alarm go off. There was some snuffling, a couple of beeps and then The Norfolk Beast was in full flow next door and I could safely assume a cancellation and rest my weary head a bit longer.
Some amount of time later, I was roused by the smell of cooking bacon which immediately dispelled any residue “tiredness” I may have felt from the night before. In no time at all I was up showered and dressed and sat round the table with Andy and Gar, ready for another one of Old Uncle John’s cracking fry ups.
As it was still raining we relaxed in our van drinking coffee and chatting comfortably when we noticed that it was brightening up somewhat. With that, the caravan door burst open and there stood Super Enthusiast Man!
“Have you run out of petrol again?” said John, rather bravely I thought. (You see, SEM Ran out of petrol on the way down on Friday.) But no. Having already fixed the brake lights on the Rover that we didn’t know were broken, he wanted to “have at” the lights and fuel pump on John’s MGB GT.
The light switch was dismantled and no apparent faults found so reassembled. The lights then worked perfectly so it was on to the fuel pump. The MG was started and ran perfectly. So, it would appear that the mere presence of SEM can scare recalcitrant components into order. (Even if it can’t keep enough fuel in the tank.)
It had actually stopped raining. Yes really. Not only that but the sun came out and we all had a case of itchy accelerator feet so we decided to go to Ryde as that was one of the very few towns on the island that didn’t feature on Rogers spectacular tour yesterday. Yes, “We got a ticket to Ryde, and we don’t care.” (sorry. I’ll get my coat…)
We set off through the green lanes of the island which looked even better when not shrouded in mist and rain.
It wasn’t long before we were on the seafront in Ryde and as we stood admiring our cars and watching the hovercraft, I thought it might be time to get out Mrs FB’s legendary sausage plait. However Mrs FB had been as busy as I was in the run up, so we outsourced the project to Mrs FB’s Mum, who came up trumps and did us proud.
I have to say, the seagulls were more polite about grabbing the sausage plait than my fellow humans and it wasn’t long before the fights broke out. It was Bernard who got the best of it though as he waded through the group with haymakers swinging left and right. The sausage plait was gone in a flash but this time I’d made sure I had my piece before I told anyone else.
It took a short while to recover from the sausage plait and Bernard’s berserker interlude, (it’s extraordinary the lengths an OAP will go to for sausage plait, purple Quality Street or cake) but then we found out that we could drive along the pier. Well who could resist that? We even had a coffee at the end whilst watching the hovercraft and hand-me-down London Transport tube trains from the 60s that run on the island.
Photo opportunities abounded on the pier and we made the most of them. We even positioned Gus half way along to snap us as we drove past. I’m sure you’ll all agree, he did a good job. Do SEM’s talents know no bounds? (except remembering to put fuel in the Rover, obviously.)
As is usual for our tour, we have to laugh at the 2 fat blokes in a small car and Poppy was the smallest car this time, so Gar joined me in Poppy. The sun was out and it was now a lovely day, so we decided to revisit Military Road. Poppy was leading the convoy.
Once out of Ryde, the coastal road was fantastic. Lots of twisty, turny, uppy, downy stuff and great views. Gar and I were having fun with the roof down and I got a bit carried away with myself. Despite having the smallest engine in the convoy and carrying the 2 fattest blokes in the convoy, the convoy may have got left behind … just a little bit. Gar was urging me to slow down for them to catch up by beating me about the head with his cap so I slowed … reluctantly. She’s a plucky girl is Poppy.
Once we reached Military Road, we had a bit of a swap around. The Brooks ended up with Poppy and I was left to pilot the P4. Well it couldn’t have been more different to Phil’s P5. It still oozed charm and grandeur out of every pore but the driving style was much more upright and sedate than the P5. The P4 is a pipe and slippers gentleman’s car through and through. So is the P5 - however, in the P5 I got the feeling that if you swapped the pipe, slippers and panama hat for a cigar, sovereign rings and a camel hair coat, Big Rov could be a bit of a bounder and a cad if he wanted to.
I thoroughly enjoyed the P4 and the upright style gave the impression that you were looking down on the other Plebs. I even got to the end of my stint in the P4 without running out of petrol which was a bit of a bonus not enjoyed by everyone.
Gus was using the unrestricted views from Poppy to take plenty of action photos and display his acrobatic skills.
We found another couple of parking spots along the way with great views across the coast and stopped to make the most of them.
In one of the stops we came across this Mk3 Cavalier which made me feel very old. You see, my very first brand new company car was a burgundy 1.7TD Cavalier Mk3 hatch back (M573 MTF) and I have very fond memories of that car as it is the only one I’ve had written off.
What made me feel very old is that I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these on the road and that a car that I had new, is now considered to be a “classic” and is 25 years old! It was very good to see such a lovely example and we had a good chat with the owner. (I think I convinced him to join our Pre Mil group.)
We had managed to contact Nick in his Jensen and he said he’d join us so we waited … and waited. Apparently, he managed to get lost on this tiny island. Our hunger was getting the better of us though, so we set off for the Bugle Inn in Brading and said we’d meet Nick and Jo there, if he could find it. (It sold beer so we were confident Nick would find it)
Newbie to our tours, Graham Adams took the helm in Poppy for this leg and to be fair, we made it to the pub with most of the gear box still in the car and I don’t really need those teeth anyway. He got the hang of it though and judging by the grin on his face, even started to enjoy himself.
I do find it a bit odd to be sat in Poppy’s passenger seat but not as odd as when I watch her drive away without me. That odd feeling is more than offset though because I will be driving something incredible. I’ve said this before a few times, but In my experience, this is one of the few places where owners of exotic and posh cars mingle happily with owners of the more battered and mundane without a hint of snobbery or envy. (well, ok. Maybe a bit of hidden envy.) Not only that, but everyone is more than happy, perhaps even eager, to allow other members a go in their pride and joy (although this isn’t compulsory and no one is offended if you can’t bear to let yours go.)
A nice meal was had with more good-natured banter and chat and soon it was time to head back to the caravans. I was given the great honour of the keys to Ian’s beautiful Zephyr. An honour that paled slightly when I realised that it came with 3 passengers so all my mistakes and misdemeanours would be under the critical gaze of Ian’s nearest and dearest eager to report back to the proud owner… AND, I have to say it. What a BLOODY STUPID place to put a gear stick!
It all started quite well. Ian gave me a brief instruction on the column change and warned me that it occasionally gets stuck in second and what to do about it. He neglected to tell me where reverse was but thank goodness I didn’t need it. Ian dived into Poppy’s driver’s seat and we set off after John in his MGB. We soon lost John in his MGB as he whizzed off but Ian’s wife, Sarah had sat nav on her phone and all was well with only the odd crunching of gears. All was well that is until I heard the words. “Oh. We need to turn left here” from Sarah. We weren’t going that fast so an emergency left turn was made without any words about more warning required passing my lips.
The problem was, I was now faced with a very steep hill with all momentum gone and still in top gear. Precious moments were wasted while I fumbled about searching for the gearstick where it would be in a proper car before remembering it was in a BLOODY STUPID place. It was too late though. I was now stuck on a very steep hill with an ineffectual hand brake and I was starting to panic. I couldn’t get the gear stick to move but in my panic I thought mayby it had selected 1st and tried to pull away with plenty of revs. However, I was slipping backwards to the smell of burning clutch plates. My “audience” was no help either and actually seemed to be enjoying my display of utter bumbling incompetence.
Fortunately, Ian was right behind us and having dealt with Poppy’s ineffectual hand brake, came to the rescue. He patiently selected 1st gear for me and normal service was resumed for the rest of the trip with only the odd crunch from the gearbox and the lingering smell of very hot friction plates. (I’m really sorry Ian)
After this baptism of fire with my 1st experience of a column change, I settled down and started to enjoy the experience. Ian’s car is stunning inside and out and evokes the spirit of the rockin’ fifties with every USA influenced bit of bling and fins and curves. I fully expected my hair to grow into a DA and my lip to curl like Elvis. I loved it. Especially knowing that I should never be allowed near the car again.
I felt even more guilty when I remembered that I’d left the hood down, it was now dark and Ian was wearing nothing more than his club T shirt. (Of course he had his trousers on too! Honestly! What are you lot like?!)
Once again, we all piled into the Brooks' van for one of the funniest evenings I can remember. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time and by the end of the evening my face and sides ached. “What was so funny?” I hear you ask. Well I can’t tell you. This is a family site and what goes on tour stays on tour. I guess you’ll just have to join us at future events.
The next morning was our final chance for one of old Uncle John’s superb breakfasts and we made the most of it. He even sprung for 2 eggs!
It was time to pack up the cars, say sad farewells and head for the various ferries. We’d left plenty of time to get to ours. Or so we thought, but we were to discover that Newport has a rush hour at 8.30 on a Monday morning. Who’d have thought?
Once through the heavy traffic, Gar engaged Mach 1 again and we scraped into check-in with seconds to spare.
We made our way to the back of the boat and bade a tearful cheerio to the island that had made us so welcome. Clutching our passports, we made ready for our return to Olde Englande and the 21st century.
Being so close, it would have been rude not to visit Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and his small car collection. So, Gus and Tosh, Gar and I did just that and spent a very pleasant morning supping tea with his Lordship while he showed us his cars.
So, after a fantastic weekend and nearly 400 miles in a 48 year old car, Poppy safely deposited me home to Royal Wootton Bassett.
Thank you all, for staying with me over these 3 parts and I hope I have managed to convey just how much fun we had despite a soggy Saturday. Hopefully you have enjoyed reading about our exploits and you have been inspired to join in our adventures next time. Keep a close eye on the events section and sign up to our newsletter to find out where and when.
Once again, a massive thank you to Roger Spaven and his friends from the island for a great tour and an even better welcome.
Thanks also to my fellow tourists new and old for the belly laughs and great time. I really hope that our 1st time tourists enjoyed it too and will join us again in the future. We certainly enjoyed your company and cars.
See you all again soon.
Fatbloke and Poppy.
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