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She Passed!!

I spent a frustrating day working on the van last Sunday, trying to get Cibil the campervan running in time for Monday’s impending MOT. I attempted to change the tank fuel filter which meant draining all of the fuel out first. When I tried to undo the retaining nut which holds the filter in-place it was too solidly resistant to cooperate with its liberation. Unable to heat up the nut with a blow touch (for obvious reasons) I resorted to plan B. This was just to replace the fuel line and inline filters. I also replaced the HT leads, and dizzy cap as planned.

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I tried to start the van and she refused to churp into life. It had been raining for most of the day and I was soaked. Later on friend Chris arrived. A fresh pair of eyes, some mechanical logic and intelligence is always welcome. He spotted that there was a loose earth on the Dizzy and a loose jet in the carb. After this the van fired into life. With a slight adjustment to the timing she appeared to be running fine. It was dark by this point so we decided not to test it.

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I played about with the van on Monday morning then, with some trepidation, I drove her to the MOT station.

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Thankfully, she passed with just a few minor advisories! The mechanic even remarked that she sounded like she was running very well…… I think the van heard this because she promptly cut out….. By this time I had the MOT slip printed out and in my hand. She restarted and I drove off. Ten yards from the test centre she backfired which sounded like a shot gun! 200 yards later she cut out again.

I eventually managed to restart her and limped her home. She’s now road legal but still needs further investigation.

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campervan, cars, classic cars, VW, vw camper

Naughty Campervan

I have not had the chance to use my campervan since November (four months ago). This always  brings problems when it comes to springtime. For some reason she (Sybil the campervan) is always reluctant to start a new season. This year doesn’t she seam to want to leave the parish boundary. I have booked her in for a MOT at a test center seven miles from my house on two separate occasions, and both times she’s broken down after less than a mile! The road from our village to the main road is called Huffley Lane. It twists. turns, goes up and down so much that my nephews call it ‘The Rollercoaster Road’. Along the two mile stretch of road there’s a car crash most months , Not the best place to brake down, especially at 8,00 in the morning!

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Sybil at work on a cold November morning.

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The last time that I used her she ran perfectly. I drove her to work for a while whilst my other car was in the garage, with no problems. But now her winter break seams to of caused a running issue. She starts and runs well, but as soon as we’re on the open road, she cuts out. It could only be a block in the fuel, no spark when required or no compression. I hope that I can discount a lack of compression because it was running fine before the winter and does run fine for a while.

This weekend I intend to….

  • Fit a new petrol tank filter,
  • Fit new petrol line
  • New in-line filter,
  • New spark plugs,
  • New HT leads
  • New fuel pump
  • Replace the electronic dizzy and cap
  • Time it with a timing strobe
  • Clean the jets in the carb.

Fingers crossed for Monday’s MOT!!

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campervan, cars, classic cars, Uncategorized, VW, vw camper

Dubfreeze Show 2o17

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Dubfreeze is a VW show in Staffordshire. A large proportion of the stands are for air-cooled bugs and campers although there is a natural progression towards water-cooled stuff as the years go on. Here is some highlights from this year’s show.

There was the usual collection of trade stands and spare parts in the autojumble.

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This bug stood out as being the best in show in my opinion.

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Dubfreeze always signals the start of the season…. Next show Bustypes…

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cars, classic cars, History, longstone, motoring and cars, renault

A luxurious future?

A friend of mine was telling me about his new car. It’s a brand new small Renault Twingo. ‘Its just a cheap basic run-around’ he told me.  Then he listed some of the technology that comes with his new car. Automatic headlights, Automatic wipers, Electronic Brake Assist, Park Assist, DAB, Electric Windows…. This list started to make me think about two things; Firstly, how reliable is this technology going to be in 10 yrs time (when I am likely to be driving a 2016 plate car). And secondly, do we really want all these extras?

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I have had  ‘modern’ cars in the past, a  Golf 115 PD and a Ford Mondeo 130 TDCI . By the time I brought them they were about 9 years old with a high mileages. They both went like stink with good fuel economy, but they both went wrong alarmingly frequently. One had a habit of cutting out on the fast lane of the motorway, and the other used to go into ‘limp mode’ and use tons of water. I took both cars to a number of garages, but no one could get to the bottom of these issues. Even the water problem did not appear to be anything obvious like the head gasket. Sensors were thought to be the root cause of most the problems, but no one knew which sensors! This has left me with major suspicions regarding any car built after 2002. This is when cars appear start to become riddled with sensors and ‘fly by wire’ controls. If cars are full of computers and micro switches then there is the opportunity for manufactures to program in obsolesces into the their products. This makes me think that if manufactures cheat fuel emissions tests, who knows what ethics underlie any company’s drive for economic sustainable growth?  Even components such as electric windows could have a built in shelf life.vehicle-sensors

The first car to have electric windows was a Packard 180 built in America in 1940. This soon became a popular addition to American cars but did not filter down to the ‘Top of the Range’ British Leyland cars until the late 70’s. Britain’s idea of luxury motoring was Walnut trim, leather seats and Axminster carpets. ‘If it wasn’t found an a Mayfair Gentlemen’s club, then it had no place in a car’. That was fine, whilst  due to the lack of real competition, Britain was the largest producer of cars in the Common Wealth. But once we joined the common market in 1975 and trade restrictions were lifted from countries that only a few decades earlier were WW2 enemies, the new competition offered a fresh perspective on what a normal car could be. German cars had unrivaled build quality, Japanese cars had the audacity to start on cold mornings and all but the most basic models had electric windows and central locking as standard . Suddenly the novelty of gadgets seamed very appealing and  a bit of wood stuck to the dash with an engine from a 1950’s Morris Minor didn’t seem enough!

40packard180club-048      Packard 180

My friends cheap Renault raises alarm bells for me. A company that once curated the Renault 4, the car for the people that provided everything required to transport people and goods around rural france, now has automatic headlights on its cheapest car!

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I believe that there is now a new emerging market for a basic car that is designed to last. Now Britain is in danger of ostracising itself from the rest of the EU we now need a new market sector to utilize once more. We can’t do cheep (South Korea do that), we can’t do executive (the Germans do that) we can’t do flamboyant (the Americans have that one). But we could do basic and well engineered. We know what brakes, it doesn’t have to be cheap if it’s well conceived.  Billionaire Jim Ratcliffe plans to start manufacturing a rugged off-road car in the style of Land Rover’s discontinued Defender. I hope that this could be the start if a new/old way of thinking. We should be planning make a rugged family car, with the minimum of electronics and gizmos. A car with a 30 year life expectancy. This is thought to be financially unsustainable, but the world is a big place and there is the scope to sell a lot of cars to a lot of emerging markets.

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I’m not suggesting that we live in an totalitarian dictatorship, where we only have one choice of vehicle for the masses, but it would be good to have the option of a car that was designed to do 300,000 miles. A passive sensor system could also be used, one that just informs the driver of a problem with a pacific component and does not confuse the car’s ECU in the process. It is very environmentally damaging to produce a new car with only marginally better fuel economy, that only lasts ten years then scrap and reproduce a new car !  Dougal Cawley, owner of Longstone Tyres once jokingly said ‘we all know that a panda dies every time a new car is made’. Although this statement is not entirely true, the sentiment remains.

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campervan, classic cars, History, Uncategorized, VW, vw camper

Cars and the Fossil Record

As most palaeontologists will tell you, we don’t have a complete fossil record of the natural world. There appears to be gaps in the full spectrum of plants and animals that are thought to of existed . This could explain more about evolution and diversity of the natural world. These gaps would help to link all elements of the living world together, but without the fossilized evidence this is just an educated guess. Some people use this to bolster their claims of the existence of an overarching deity, a sentient being with a master plan of the direction of life itself. Others can perceive that in order for a plant or animal to become fossilised, they must die within the perfect conditions for fossilisation to take place. This means that a plant or animal that spent most of it’s life in exposed, dry or upland conditions would not have the same probability of getting covered in the protecting sedimentary debris of those in marshy or coastal areas. Therefore we are not fully aware of the biodiversity of periods of time such as the Jurassic age, we only know what elements of this looked like.

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What has this got to do with classic cars?……

Over the years I have attended many classic car shows. Wondering around I marvel at the gleaming automotive exhibits on show. 65% of the cars on display are usually  sports cars or luxury cruisers.  If you were to take this as a cross section of Britain’s automotive history you could easily conclude  that 1960’s and 70’s Britain was full of men in cravats and sporting jackets driving e type Jaguars and MG’s. You could think that very few people drove Austin A35’s and Morris 1100’s. But from memory and photographs I know this not to be true.

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In this typical 1970’s car park picture there are at least seven mini’s but also cars that are very rare now such as an austin farina of which there are only 68 on the UK roads. Three hillman avengers (of which there are 36 still on the road) and a number of austin 1100’s (of which there are now 346 on the road [the 1100 was one of the best selling cars of the 60’s in the UK]), the Triumph GT6 (876 left on the roads) and Jaguar 240/340 (1427 left) are clearly in the minority.

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Above is another photo of an English car park in 1974. It is peppered in the obligatory mini’s, escort’s and 1100’s with hardly any car that could be classed as sporting or exotic.

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1970’s shrewsbury

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Shrewsbury in 2017. Will any of these cars exist in 43 year time?

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This is what you typically see at classic car meets now.  This is nice, but it does rather misrepresent the era. Sometimes, without the protective embrace of a dry garage and the foresight of their owners, the once commonly  mundane can become the rarest and most interesting. .

The same ‘rose tinted’ views could be said for most cultural aspects of 60’s and 70’s .Britain. When talking to people who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s they will tell you that crime levels were nonexistent, the summers were warm and long and everyone was happy. We know this is not really the case. The Beatles, Stones and Kinks did not solely dominate the charts in the 60’s….  Frank  Ifield and Rolf Harris had hits too!  I believe that we have been very fortunate to have lived through a period of relative economic and civil stability over the last 30 years and therefore we have become disenfranchised from the real issues that are important in this world such as equality and peace. Society now feels hard done by because as humans we have a tendency to only remember the good things from our past. Therefore we need the Austin 1100 and Moskvich 412 to keep the automotive fossil records alive and to remind us how life really was. It’s ok that everyone is not driving a Porsche or an Aston Martin now. The mundane is as much part of normal life now as it was in the 60’s, only with aircon and electric windows!

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campervan, motoring and cars, VW, vw camper

A Colourful Past

Air-cooled VW culture is universal appealing. Over the years VW Campervans  have come to symbolise freedom, peace, surfing, hippies and good times. Camper T shirts are warn by people of all ages and economic status. Millions of bags, mugs and posters with VW campers on are sold every year. All this from a commercial vehicle that was born out of the rubble of  Nazi Germany, and was based on a car commissioned my Hitler!  This has got to be the best re branding exercise ever.

As vans started to get older and more affordable it became a cultural statement  for the baby boomer generation to paint their vans in vivid colours. People adorned their vans in flowers and ban the bomb symbols as an act of rebellion. A very powerful way of informing the establishment that ‘the times were a’changin’. All types of vehicles we used, but early  VW’s were relatively reliable and lasted the longest. Therefore people have become to associate them with the whole movement.

art_bus A 60’s van

I’m one of millions of people that have been drawn into T2  (VW van) ownership. My Stepbrother owned several campers before I got mine.  He had tales of being helped out by friendly villagers whist stranded in Mexico, exploring Sweden and driving to Spain in campers. All of this sounded really exciting and I was soon sucked into the world of the VW Camper.

The cheapest and most practical way to get a VW campervan was, and still is to buy a T25. (Known as a Vanagon or T3 in other parts of the world) In my opinion these vans are not the most stylish, but they are practical with a good range of engines. The only van I could afford was a 2,0 air-cooled panel van. This cost me £450,  but I did have to do a lot of engine work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The van was peppered in rust so I gave it a quick coat of white paint.

The novelty of having a plain white van soon wore off and I started to think about changing the colour.  It doesn’t show in the picture above, but I hadn’t managed to achieve the best quality paint job. This left me with a blank canvas and very little funds.

I started to think about the iconic ‘Flower power’ vans of the 60’s and 70’s.  My friends and I had a website called Nightmonkey, so that seamed like a good word to paint on the van! As the van was built in Wolfsburg, it seemed fun to write this in German. We therefore sprayed ‘Nacht der Affe’ down the side of the van. At the time these vans were only just accepted into the air-cooled VW world and were still widely commercially used, so it didn’t seem too much of a sacrilege to have a bit of fun with the paintwork.

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This was a laugh, but it wasn’t in the best taste so I toned it down (a bit!)

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By this time the van had adopted the name Veggie. Friends still ask after Veggie as if the van was also an old friend.

After a few years of ownership I was on a roll of bad taste spray jobs and I had my favourite band’s (The Levellers) logo sprayed on the van. This looked great for a while, but then started to peel.

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All of these incarnations cost very little.

After a couple of years of messing around with the van, I finally paid for a better spray job that was more befitting of an ageing vw.

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I loved the final red spray job. The van stood out, but now for the right reasons!

I sold Veggie for £1700 in 2012 to fund my bay window camper project which was always my goal. I saw ‘him’ a few years later on eBay  with a nice camper interior fitted for £4500. I sometimes wish i’d kept the van. But in order to explore other vehicles, sometimes you have to let a few go.

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classic cars, Triumph

How not to buy a classic car

The first car I have owned which could be classed as a classic was a Triumph Spitfire 1500 which I brought in 2003. When choosing a Triumph, I studied classic car magazines looking for ideas on the perfect starter classic. I decided to buy a Spitfire mainly because it has perfect sports car styling, it’s on a chassis so bodywork doesn’t have to be structurally faultless and most of all, they were cheap.

In the magazines, I saw that a garage called The Spitfire Graveyard had a good selection in stock. So, naively, my mate Matt and I and went off up to Sheffield with a pocket full of cash with the intention of buying a car.

We found the garage which was located in a lockup, down a side street, under a railway arch. Alarm bells should of sounded when the garage owner emerged from the site office (an old caravan) looking rather dishevelled. He was wearing an old suit that had distinctive kebab stains on the lapels, he smelt of booze and fags. We were told that we couldn’t have a test drive because he was still over the limit from the night before, but we could still have a look around.

The only car with a MOT within my price range was ALM604S. Inside the gloomy lockup, to the naively optimistic eye the car didn’t look too bad. It was taxed with a short MOT and ran well. I thought if it had a MOT then a years worth of decay would be easily fixed.

It was a cold and wet January afternoon. I had £620 burning a hole in my back pocket, so without too much inspection, I paid the man and drove back to Shropshire in the rapidly darkening winter gloom. Half way home the windscreen wipers stopped working and the hood started to leak. But I finally got there.

thumbnail_fullsizerender  The car, Matt and Yarna on the first night and the car in primer after months of welding.

 

After driving the car around for a week or so I took the car over to a friend who is a fantastically skilled welder fabricator. Kev was recovering from a nasty bike crash and was off work with a broken leg. Bored at home, so somehow he was persuaded have a look at the car.   As we both thought that the car only needed a small hole repaired he foolishly/kindly agreed to help for the day.

When we removed the carpets and took the seats out, the job revealed itself to be much bigger than we both initially thought. Kev bravely persevered with the project and over the course of several months he ended up replacing both of the floor pans and both of the sills plus other smaller panels Writing this now, I do have a overwhelming sense of guilt for asking a friend with a broken leg to do all this work, but we did have a great laugh doing the project. A lot of the time was spent drinking tea and chatting. Friends would pop by to say hello. I think we felt an equal sense of achievement and relief when we finished the panel work.

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Painted and on the road

Thanks to the heroic efforts of Kev, we finally got the spitfire MOT’d and back on the road. The reality of the ups and down’s of classic car ownership had started to reveal themselves. It wasn’t, however, going to put me off.

 

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