Midweek Motoring Meander

Caffeine & Machine, Morgans and Diddly Squat Farmshop.

We spent 3 days last week touring round the countryside south of Birmingham. We had tickets to a tour of the Morgan factory at Malvern and to make the journey worthwhile we decided on a couple of other stops.

The first day saw us at Caffeine and Machine just south of Stratford Upon Avon. In their words they are a ”Coffee house, licensed bar and restaurant, boutique b&b, and living art gallery, C&M is designed very simply as a place to go, a destination if you appreciate moving things.”

Caffeine and Machine
Petrol Head Heaven

Although it was quiet when we visited I think it would be an excellent day out when there are events on. The pizza I had for lunch was superb!

We stayed at a hotel near Kidderminster and the next day saw us going to Malvern to visit Morgan Cars.

The tour is around 2 hours and is an extremely interesting and absorbing time. We also enjoyed an excellent afternoon tea. As a day out I would recommend it.

We also saw some early production cars, the Super 3. This is a new version of the 3 wheeler with a 1.5 ltr Ford 3 cylinder engine. This engine replaces the Vee twin motorbike engine, apparently it could not conform with current emission regulations.

Super 3 - Hairy and Lairy.

The cars we saw were being released to the press. The tour guide said that soon it would be possible to hire one for the day; yes please! Despite the small engine it promises to be hairy and lairy.

Our third day saw us venturing to Chipping Norton, the home of Diddly Squat Farm.

Now to be honest I was a little disappointed, the shop was really small and crowded, of course. The ‘Big View’ cafe would be quite pleasant on a warm day but I think it could lose its appeal in a blustery wet weather. It didn’t deter the crowds of Clarkson groupies though (me included).

So we bought some Clarkson Sausage, case of Hawkstone beer, an empty milk bottle and 3 tea towels. Almost £70. The chap on the till informed us that as they could only sell ‘local’ produce and the tea towels were not local then we should buy a potato and get the towels free! Genius.

Boozy cat
8 out of 10 cats…

The beer’s not bad though!

Engine Optimisation

In the early 1960’s my mother ran a very nice Mercedes 230SL, one of the very first in the area and it may have been the foundation of my interest in cars.

Mercedes 230SL

It had a 2.3 litre straight 6 cylinder engine with Bosch mechanical fuel injection, one of the very early production cars to have injection rather than carburettors. The W113 model range was also one of the first to have separate heating controls for passenger and driver. Radial tyres and crumple zones front and rear made for an advanced vehicle for the 60’s

The car was very well engineered and was a joy to drive but every couple of months (according to Mother) it would start to misbehave slightly, reluctant to start, the occasional misfire and not revving smoothly. Of course the local Mercedes garage was always quick to respond, sending a mechanic to sort out the issue and leaving a large bill in return.

After several of these episodes (and bills too) the mechanic confided to mother that the problem was the fuel injection system ‘gumming’ up. This was because the car was only used for short trips. His preferred solution was to drive to the nearby A1 and thrash the car in 2nd gear for about 10 miles, a callout job he enjoyed!

DPF’s – A modern problem.

These days a different problem afflicts modern engines, particularly diesels, the DPF – Diesel Particulate Filter.

DPF - Diesel Particulate Filter

A DPF is a filter that captures and stores exhaust soot (some refer to them as soot traps) in order to reduce emissions from diesel cars.

But because they only have a finite capacity, this trapped soot periodically has to be emptied or ‘burned off’ to regenerate the DPF.

This regeneration process cleanly burns off the excess soot deposited in the filter, reducing the harmful exhaust emission and helps to prevent the tell-tale black smoke you used to see from diesel vehicles, particularly when accelerating.

I have recently been a passenger in a small diesel van that was used for very short journeys and it seemed to have a permanent warning light.

“DPF Full – Please take an extended drive”

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose….

Tooling Around in an Alpina B10 V8

Some years ago I owned a 5 Series BMW, a ’98 Sea Green 535i E39 model, and it was the first Beemer I had. I have written elsewhere that BMWs have never really been for me, I had a rather underwhelming 1 Series and also a 2013 520 estate, a barge in sheep’s clothing. Don’t misunderstand, I think that the offerings from the Bayerische Motoren Werke AG are generally excellent, some are among the finest examples of automobiles on offer over the last 50 years. BMW Alpina especially so.

BMW 635CSi
Achingly beautiful BMW 635CSi

There have been some mingers (looking at you Chris Bangle), vehicles hit with the ugly stick, but also there have been some achingly beautiful cars. The 635CSI E24 model springs to mind and is on my list of Lottery win cars. I was also a fan of the 2002Tii from 1971 and that is also on the ‘list’.

Bangle BMW
Bangle’s ugly Beemer

Filial impoverishment has brought an E39 5 Series BMW Alpina B10 V8 to my drive and I have been using it whilst my C43 has been commandeered by son no. 2. He bought the BMW Alpina in immaculate condition and ran it as a daily but a knackered differential required replacement and therefore paternal wallet intervention. Plus Ça change…. A brand new part was sourced from Germany (£1500!), a friendly garage fitted it and we were ready to go.

So therefore the opportunity to tool around in this icon is a joy, it is so smooth and relaxed. It gets quite a few admiring glances from those who recognise it for the classic it is and the burble of the V8 more than compensates for its desire for lashings of the best petrol.

Alpina B10
Alpina B10 V8

Based on the fabulous 540i (and similar to the 535i that I had previously) Alpina have created a trans continental cruiser, one could drive from here to the South of France and arrive relaxed and ready for that all important appearance at Cannes. The changes are not conspicuous and a casual observer would be hard pressed to spot the differences, Alpina’s ethos is more about improving a cars road abilities and less about raw power. The engine capacity is increased from 4.4 litres to 4.6 with a power increase from 286 bhp to 347 bhp, the interior has one or tweaks including double glazing and the suspension is also fettled.

The Alpina wheels are worth a mention, if you look carefully you may notice that there is no valve with which to inflate the tyres. The centre cap tilts to reveal both the wheel nuts and also the tyre valve which is then inflated through one of the spokes, aesthetically sublime. 

Alpina Wheel
Alpina Wheel

However, the 57 year Alpina relationship with BMW is now over, the Bovensiepen family selling to BMW entirely. The end of an era?

All Weather Tyres

The Merc is currently equipped with ‘All Weather’ tyres, or if you’re foreign, tires. If you are one of those philistines that regard tyres as simply black circles then I urge you to read The Intercooler, available as an app. That small patch of rubber on each corner of your pride and joy is what keeps you on the road, delivers communication from the asphalt, squeezes the water out to prevent aqua planing and yet is soft enough to grip the surface under hard braking or cornering.

Around September 2019 after a couple of months of ownership I decided that the distinctly underwhelming and overworn tyres needed replacing. Graham at Oatlands Tyres of Harrogate suggested Vredestein Quatrac all weathers. I toyed with the idea of getting a set of wheels for the tyres so that I could run both summer and winter tyres, an idea that was dashed on the rocks of fiscal reality. Graham assured me that these tyres were more than adequate and indeed after over 30,000 miles on the rears they have fulfilled that promise. Moreover they have proved their worth in adverse weather.

They can be fairly noisy on motorways, the section on the M1 link road with a concrete surface renders Radio 4 inaudible, but generally I am very happy with them.  The fronts have been replaced because of punctures and potholes, sadly with plenty of wear left, but the rears could last another 10k. However Vredestein Quatrac tyres prove their worth!


44mpg from the Vredesteins!

The Tale of the Trevor

The sorry tale of a TVR

I once bought a TVR, it was a rather special one, a 420 SE AC and it went like stink.  It was, as usual, an impulse purchase and was mainly the fault of a friend, a local garage proprietor, who persuaded me to buy one when I showed him a magazine article about how fast it was going to be.  He knew Peter Wheeler, the then owner of TVR, and arranged for me to purchase one of the early cars.  Of course I paid too much, don’t I always when it comes to cars?

Crikey it was fast, and loud and bloody awful on a long journey.  At the time I believe it was the fastest production car available, an incredible amount of bang per buck.  It was however very badly built, the term Jerry Built would not do the workmanship justice.  The wipers failed in their primary purpose, the windscreen washers had all the power of a geriatrics bladder, the heater just didn’t and I don’t think the horn ever worked. It did look pretty though

Of more pressing concern was the engine management electrics.  They were fastened to a hatch in the nearside footwell, mounted on a rectangular piece of thin, sharp metal held in place above the passenger’s legs by a couple of catches.  Under hard acceleration the catches would open and the entire caboodle would fall onto the legs of  the passenger with the sharp edge threatening to lacerate the shins.

But it was chuffing quick; the noise of the cross plane V8 under load was awesome and the ability to thrash it down a winding country lane just intoxicating. For the first service the car was returned to Blackpool and I took the opportunity to apprise Mr Wheeler of some of the vehicle’s shortcomings. He listened to me in his office, wreathed in a cloud of cigarette smoke, paused to light another from the stub of the old one and then told me to eff off; I’d bought the car and it was tough. Great customer service I thought.

The car was left at Blackpool for a couple of days for some remedial work as well as its service and I received a phone call from a magazine, Performance Car. They were in Blackpool for an article on TVR and they asked if they could borrow mine for some photographs around the town. I was assured that the car would not leave town and would only be driven carefully so, after agreeing that I could have copies of the photos, I gave permission.

When I went to pick the car up a couple of days later it was buggered. The engine had started smoking a little, the rear tyres were well past their best and the diff seemed to have a slight whine. Mr Wheeler was noticeable by his absence and any calls to Performance Car were met with no knowledge of our agreement. When I later got a copy of the magazine there was what amounted to a full road test and through thrashing around the Lake District. I never even got the photos!

The time came a little while later to sell the car, it was a real ‘head turner’ and attracted small boys and petrol heads wherever it stopped. Should sell easily!

Meh! I advertised it far and wide at ever reducing prices and elicited zero interest until finally a dealer from Bristol offered a derisory £20K to which I reluctantly agreed. He arrived on the train at Harrogate, took a test drive and then proffered a bankers draft drawn against the Bank of Baroda. Never heard of them and this was long before the internet so anything Google was out of the question. I rang the number on the cheque and was assured by an earnest foreign sounding chap that the bank was indeed real and the account kosher.


Went like a bat out of hell!