Oh the shame!

On the little twisty lane between Pateley Bridge and Ramsgill, nice weather, no rush and TBH* was driving her VW Touareg at a steady pace back from Scarhouse reservoir.  Now the Touareg is a very nice car, could be one of the best we have ever had as a family car; comfortable, fast, reasonably economical and very well equipped.

Suddenly out of the blue, a rather old Citroen 2CV hurtled past and disappeared in to the distance.

A 2CV!  Oh the shame!


Citroen 2CV: 26bhp
VW Touareg: 260bhp

* TBH The Better Half

A Speeding Ticket?

Once upon a time, in the 90’s, I had a proper job.  I was employed to install, configure and train users on an advanced telecom system, a job I always enjoyed and that involved a lot of travel.  960_estateMy chariot of choice was a Volvo 960 Estate.  This one had a straight 6 petrol engine of 3.0L and was purchased for for £5000 with 45,000 miles on the clock.  It was a superb car, roomy, automatic, comfortable and very well equipped for the day; it even had climate control instead of just air con, usually found on only the top end of the market.  I kept it for about 18 months and sold it for £3500 with 120,000 miles.  In all that time apart from routine servicing, the only fault was a broken headlight bulb.  A testament to how good Volvos used to be.

One time I was doing some training for a large company in Swindon, and unusually I was accompanied by another trainer, a very pretty and sparkly Irish lady by the name of Grainne.  We finished fairly early in the afternoon and we both had to be back at our head office in Uxbridge, I just had to drop of some equipment and then turn left to head up north and home.  Grainne said that she wasn’t sure of the correct turn off from the M4 for Uxbridge and I said that she could follow me, however I had to finish off a couple of jobs so I would catch her up on the M4 and then I would lead the way.

I set off around 10 minutes after Grainne and with some prodigious use of the right pedal I soon came up behind her on a quiet, lightly trafficked M4.  She was driving along at around 60mph in the middle lane, very few other cars around.  I pulled in behind her and flashed my lights.  No response.  I flashed again, slightly closer and for longer.  No response.  I pulled alongside, blew the horn repeatedly and waved madly across the carriageway.  No response.  Grainne just blithely sailed on, looking straight ahead, seemingly unaware of anything around her.  I dropped back and blew the horn and flashed the lights again.  No response.  I pulled in front, put the hazard warning lights on, flashed my brake lights (whilst trying to maintain a safe distance) and waved through the rear window.  I then pulled to the left, slowed a little to allow her to draw alongside, and repeated the horn and mad waving.  No response.  The woman was in a trance.

Bollox!  Find your own way to Uxbridge!  I set off away from her at some lick and soon she was not even a speck in the rear view mirror.  The motorway was quiet and the Volvo was pushing along at around a ton, I would soon be at Uxbridge and then the long journey home.

When I saw him I think it was already too late.  In the distance on one of those ‘Police’ mounds there was a traffic cop in a jam sandwich and he was leaning out the window and pointing a speed detector at me.  He turned to the front and set off at speed down from the mound to join the carriageway just as I was approaching.  If I’d had my wits about me I could have slammed on the brakes, pulled in to the hard shoulder and left him to travel up the motorway, but as I’ve never had any wits anywhere near my person I slowed down to the legal limit passed him further down the road and he then pulled in behind me and gave me the full blaze of blue.

Whilst the policeman was dressing me down and writing up a ticket, I glanced up and saw Grainne passing by, in the middle lane, staring straight ahead and utterly uninterested in the blue flashing lights on the hard shoulder.  I never saw her again, and I never found out if she had made it to Uxbridge.

NORCs to you all

NORCs to you all

That’s Northern Off Road Club.

It is curious how focused ones mind becomes in moments of great stress or fear.  The moment that is the subject of this missive is when I was upside down in a rotating modified Land Rover awaiting the inevitable crunch and pain of a hard landing that was just moments away.  The actual thought was along the lines of “what the chuff am I doing here?”

Some while previously I had agreed to buy a short wheel base Land Rover that had been used in ‘comp safari’, a form of racing against a clock on a tortuous cross country circuit.  I had been a spectator of one of these events some weeks earlier and it had fired in me a desire to compete in motorsport, and this seemed to be a slightly cheaper way.  This particular vehicle was a well used example, but in quite good condition and equipped with an Alfa Romeo 1.9 OHC engine, a four speed box from a Land Rover fire engine and two Jaguar LSDs (Limited Slip Differentials).  As part of the arrangement the seller agreed to drive the first circuit with me as co-driver and after that I was on my own!

Now as a spectator, the cars didn’t seem to travel too fast, lots of noise and mud and dust, but due to the extreme track surfaces and holes and ditches progress seemed to be fairly restrained.  The start was controlled by a set of traffic lights that looked as though they had been ‘borrowed’ from some nearby council roadworks, we were strapped in, helmeted and ready to go.  The lights turned green.

We took off like a startled rabbit towards the woods just yards away, a sharp right turn along a deeply rutted track and the car side swiping against the trees as we sped along at what was seemingly an insane speed for the conditions.  Out of the woods and the track opened up into a space about 50 yards wide and several hundred yards long, into top gear and bouncing along this open part of a disused quarry.  I glanced at the vendor, he was wrestling with the wheel, trying to keep a straight course but just along the left side there was a huge rock and no matter what inputs were made to the steering, we were headed towards it at maximum velocity.

Well of course we hit it, just a glancing blow, but enough to cause the vehicle to somersault, arse over tit (which where we came in).  I know we turned over twice at least, my memory is a little vague, but I recall most vividly that the fire extinguisher between the seats came loose and seemed to just hang in mid air whilst we rotated around it.  The car hit the deck on all four wheels, there was dust and smoke all around us, the fire extinguisher obeyed the laws of gravity and hit me in the chest.  Silence.  I looked across at the vendor, expecting him to dazed, unconscious or dead; he reached out to the dashboard, pressed the starter motor, the silence was broken by the roar of an Alfa 1.9 and we were off!

I don’t remember much of the rest of the course, on our return I inspected the Land Rover but apart from a cracked windscreen little damage was visible.  The vendor agreed to replace the screen and the lusty little machine was mine.

Citroen Xantia

Among some of the many cars that I have owned was a Citroen Xantia. It was cheap second-hand, and it needed to be. Ghastly is the first word that springs to mind; followed by atrocious and awful.

Actually it was OK as cheap transport and fulfilled a need at the time, but with the hydro-pneumatic suspension it is the only car I have ever driven that made me feel car sick.

The brakes were suspect too. They worked OK most of the time but as they were hydro pneumatic just occasionally they seemed to not respond to an urgent push. The garage could find no fault, and it happened so rarely, but I am convinced that they were the cause of a minor bump I had at a mini roundabout. I was coming down a short steep hill to this roundabout, doing about 20mph when I realised that I had misjudged the route of a VW Polo already there. I shoved on the brakes and for a sickening moment nothing happened… I hit her just on the back wing, the merest tickle. There was no visible damage to my car, and the Polo suffered a slight dent in the wheel arch and considering the age and state of the rest of car, an almost invisible blemish.

Well the girl driver, aged around twenty four or five was hysterical, wailing and crying, demanding police presence and pleading with uninterested passer bys to incriminate me as a reckless speeding hooligan. The police did indeed show up and after taking a few details decided that the girl was emotionally incapable of driving her self home, but no notice of prosecution was given by them to either of us.

I got a call from the father some days later with an embellished story about my major accident, how his daughter was very distressed and that the Polo was written off. He wanted me to pay for a new one, I suggested our respective insurance companies if he believed the damage to be that bad, and so we reached a stalemate. In the end I told him to push off.

Range Rover Saga


Back in 1990 or there abouts I used to be a member of the Northern Off Road Club (NORC for short) and race a modified short wheel based Land Rover round a timed circuit.  It was great fun but a little pricey to compete competitively.

The Racer
The Racer

There were several classes and my vehicle was in the smallest engined class, up to 2 litres.  The engine was an Alfa 1.9 litre OHC, a sweet little thing, attached to a four speed box taken from a Land Rover fire engine and running through a couple of Jaguar diffs.  It was looked after by a great and talented mechanic, Richard, who could mend it no matter how much I could bend it!  Fozzy, my brother in law, was the co-pilot and race weekends were passed in a haze of petrol and beer.  Racing always was on a Sunday, boozing was always on a Saturday; I am sure I could have performed better without a perpetual race day hangover.

Anyway, the point of this story is about one of our journeys to a race meeting.  At the time I had a V8 petrol Range Rover and towed the vehicle on a large 4 wheeled trailer, complete with tools, spare wheels and parts.  The combined rig was quite weighty.  One busy bank holiday weekend we were on our way to a course and travelling along the A1 near Selby Fork and the car just suddenly decided to give up the ghost, all power lost and although the engine still ran, it would not rev and there was insufficient oomph to move the car and the trailer.  Fortunately we had stopped just near a lay by that had a cafe on it but we had to stop short by about 50 yards on the A1 nearside lane.  I called the RAC who said it would be over an hour before they could get to me.  Fozzy went to the cafe, bought a couple of teas and we sat in glorious sunshine on the back of the trailer to await rescue.  The traffic was horrendous, not helped by the Range Rover and trailer blocking one carriageway; it backed up as far as the eye could see.  Most cars that crawled by were shouting abuse at us, they seemed to think that we had deliberately stopped there for a cup of tea!
The chap who ran the cafe came down the carriageway to investigate, he had a diesel Sierra that he claimed could easily pull us off the road into the lay by and despite our reservations we agreed to let him have a go.  Because we were stopped short of the lay by he had to drive off in the opposite direction, turn around and come back towards us in the traffic; that took a little while.
So, we hitched the Range Rover with a very hefty rope to the back of the Sierra and this good Samaritan took up the slack with his car.  Then he let out the clutch and revved the nuts off, smoke billowed from the exhaust and soon after from the bonnet too.  Slowly, inch by inch the Range Rover, trailer, race vehicle, spare wheels, all the spare parts, tools and I started to move, but the noise from the Sierra was a cacophony of tortured metal, of an engine being stretched way beyond manufacturers specifications.  We made it of course and we thanked the man by buying further teas and waiting for the RAC, but I’m sure his car was jiggered.
The RAC chap duly arrived and after a bit of investigation discovered that the connection on the RR’s control unit had become detached.  How so?  Well in Land Rover’s wisdom they had put the unit under the passenger seat and Fozzy decided that he needed to move his seat back just enough to pull the cabling out and incapacitate the car….

Nice cup of tea though!