It’s fair to say the car hasn’t been the cheapest thing to run, where thoughts of selling up were dancing in the horizons of my mind. They often do when faced with expenditure. Why? I wished to change the big-end bearings.
But why? That is pretty simple really. The way I see it, two things can finish off an M3, well, make keeping the car unviable:
1) A boot floor cracked badly enough to warrant a new Rear Axle Carrier Panel (RACP); About £5k no matter where you go
2) The Rod Bearings; If these go and the crank is marked/scored there is a question mark over whether the crankshaft can be saved; They are tuftrided from the factory and it is said generally reground cranks aren’t as strong as original items. A shame as a new crank is over £2k from BMW, and even the S54 engines are £3k secondhand! That is before fitting!
Yes, head gaskets, VANOS & SMG pumps can go, but generally, the expense is much smaller and easier to spot without generally writing the car off. In those cases, cheaper and potentially longer lasting solutions have been found too in the case of the VANOS & SMG gubbins.
With that in mind I dropped the car off to Autobahn in Halesowen.
Given that Rob was known to colleagues of mine in addition to him racing E46 M3s I figured the car would be in safe hands.
All was going well! I dropped the car off on a Saturday, and then went to the Restoration show at the NEC. That was until Tuesday. I had a phonecall to say that one of my rod bearing bolts was being stubborn.
It was fair to say that I was slightly anxious at this point! But how would it all go? Would this really be a big stalling point?
Sophocles once said, “there is nothing more demoralising than money”. He was almost right. It was the lack of it! This was certainly the case with the MGB! It was 2006 and I had received the unfortunate news that my painter had died. This was unfortunate for many people and it affected me personally as well as his friends and family! Why does it seem to be the good guys that are taken?
This left me with a bit of a predicament regarding the car. I had a car that was almost finished on the bodywork but still requiring alot of legwork to finish! I mean, how bad could it be?
The truth was quite bad! One painter with a very variable reputation offered to take the car on, but they wanted £1000. For my dad and I it was about our limit to commit to! We then had recommended faces come over. That was a predictable outcome; they all took one look at it and replied “it will cost you £2,000 and whatever else we find along the way”; they wanted an open chequebook for the car! For both me and my dad this fee seemed extortionate! There was no way that we could commit to that!
To put it bluntly, we had a car that seemed like a lepar to most painters and with the costs to match something perceived as untouchable! With this in mind the car went under a tarpaulin for probably the best part of 6 months and the project stagnated completely.
Of course, with something seeming as doomed for eternity procrastination kicks in, and boy did it kick it hard with the MG? This is a theme that has run in many a retro owner’s blood, with me being no exception!
What did I do in that time? Quite alot, just not anything really related to the MG. OK, not directly? Part of it involved me going to Spain with a few mates in a £260 Volvo, messing around on the said Volvo, and tinkering with my then new daily of a Focus 1.6, in particular its audio system!
If you need to console yourself with a procrastinator I am all ears! Don’t, however, expect any productivity to come at the end of it! It’s all good and well procrastinating with a black cloud over your project like a rash! Of course, the uninitiated people of restoring would often laugh and joke about the lack of progress my car was making. Were they helping me however? Most didn’t, probably because deep down they knew I faced a big task. That was to either give a half decent bodyshop an open chequebook to completing the Sebring conversion or for me to get off the sofa and actually crack on with the task. Time would tell however.
Seeing as I was still in my first year of University and hardly rolling in cash I decided to embark upon embracing all aspects of the car! For a first time restorer you really do pick things up thick and fast! I did however have help! Come Spring 2007 and progress was being made with the bodywork, much to the dismay of my neighbours! The weekends were progressing nicely however:
It’s funny really! Sometimes to make progress you do have to do it yourself!
By the time the summer of 2007 had arrived it was looking a more complete, albeit very brown! It wasn the finish or brown that I envisaged either! But when you are working to an impossible budget, compromises have to be made!
In this case, it was sticking to the car’s Russet Brown! I originally planning to go with more of a modern chocolate brown as used on the R56 Minis. However, yes, that little matter call a budget would me I’d stick to the brown! Over the course of the summer of 2007 my painter friend and I kept on chipping over the available weekends it seemed we were doing alot but acheiving very little! He was paid of course for a bit of the work he did!
In this time the engine still hadn’t been fired up since 2002, the battery was truly dead by now, where even Unipart’s lifetime warranty couldn’t save it; some of you will remember the Samson batteries warranty out there! I also cut my teeth into the welding aspect of this car! And sure enough with the crappy MIG gas canisters from Halfords, it wasn’t pretty! Ah. the joys of fixing a car on a shoestring! Somehow, my perseverance did eventually pay off!
It’s rough, but it’s there!
Check out the door fitment! Or lack of!
It finally has some booty again.
I finally had something that began to look like a car at least! Being in a cash strapped situation after graduating from university in 2008 and looking around for jobs during a recession I had a bit of a brainwave! Get a donor car! That way, that will have all of the parts that I need to complete things!
And this would be it!
Yup, I got my hands on a very sorry looking, but complete MOT failure of a 1973 MGB GT during Christmas 2008! Surely with all of its spare parts it would provide all of the pieces of the puzzle! After all, it was £400 for an automotive wreck! Well, yes it would, but simply not in a manner that anyone expected.
For the first time ever with the MGB project it looked like I was finally making progress! I finally had a plan, a tangible one at that, my painter was keen and being local to him, communication could be kept much better between the pair of us! He had been given £400s worth of Smith & Deakin’s finest panels. But as you know from the previous post that was not the case!
Since we’d be salvaging the original wings as a base for the arches to be grafted on my painter and I agreed on that! However, he’d need some wheels quickly so as to know how to mount the arches but also deal with the inner items!
With that in mind, I tried searching and search for a cheap set of 8J wide wheels in around 14 or 15″ diameter. Given that the MGB has a PCD of 4 x 114.3mm such wheels are not common now even with banding taking off! You can imagine what my situation was like in 2005! It was poor! I really did not want to spend a fortune on wheels. But sometimes you have to swallow your pride and just go with it!
As a result I ended up buying a set of genuine 8J x 15″ Minilites with steel inserts and the magical ET0 offset (i.e no offset for the dish) for the sum of £540! Wow, that did hurt at the time! Or so I thought it did! But then I needed some tyres. Again, I’d search, search and search even more to find fruitless results secondhand due to me wanting an uncommon size. It was either going to be 215/60R15, 225/50R15 or 225/55R15s! In the end I went for the 225/55 in Kumho Ecsta 711 flavour ; This added on another £240 onto the bill which to be fair was quite reasonable!
With that done there was nothing left for me to do except pop into the painter’s a few times and see how things were going! Now that I had the parts these bits progressed very well suddenly!
Firstly, the wings were offered up. Next, the car was cut up for it to accept the wings. Would this please most MGB owners? Somehow I doubt it. But when the result was looking to be finally taking shape I could not really care what they thought! Finally this car looked like it may one day see the road again!
What he had done was fillet out the inner wheel arches towards the wings and then have that as a strengthener. However, having a fibreglass to metal join is never an easy task to undertake: just ask any Ford Racing Puma owner about that! That is why the car had a bit of filler on it so as to disguise the join!
One day it really did look like it was a car again! It was great news for me, the painter, and all involved! The car was now only weeks away from seeing paint thankfully!
The panel gaps were spot on, any visual sign that the wings and arches were two different materials looked like they would be gone once the car to paint and all was looking superb. However, it was not to be.
I remember being at university at the time when I got a phonecall from the painter’s solicitors. The news was something I never thought I would expect, and something I really didn’t take in for some time! After all, the painter soon became a friend of mine and was a great pillar of the community, to both the Sikhs in Leamington Spa as well as many of the VW folk! I say was as he had passed away! It has been said that 2 pack paint doesn’t do painters any good and this was a stark reminder that the paint fumes were not a force to reckoned with! Unlike radiation it may have had a smell and taste. The fumes however were invisible and deadly even with precautions taken!
Why stop the project again? But also, why take one of the good guys away in his 50s? That’s no way for such a bloke like him to go! With that in mind I got the car out of the shop ASAP for his family’s sake and yet again I had the car back on the driveway, but not as expected. I almost lost the vision for the car again, but worse still I had lost a friend! Just what would be the thing to do now? Would the project stall again or would it be kickstarted once more?
Tests. They can get you stressed, anxious and even at times depressed. Looking back, it seemed like my MGB was just one massive test. After all it began looking like a simple project but after one setback or another beyond my control it seemed like it was a project that was deemed to fail going by my tribulations from the previous MGB blogs. This however looked set to change once I dropped the car off to the bodyshop of my first choice from all those years ago. Since then I had used him for a few cars for minor panelwork and strangely I even bought a 1970 VW Beetle off him which gave its own challenges. The “grass is always greener” strategy also entered my mind with me buying a horrorshow of an MG Midget with its share of problems. But I had to do something with the wreck of my MGB, and so I got in touch with Sagoo, the first painter I asked to work on the ‘B. It was fair to say that he was a known entity ; if there was a chance of getting the car done this was it!.
The brief like all things started off simple. Restore it back to original. After all, we had a tailgate, a set of rear quarters, a pair of wings and valances to boot. However, with having a blank canvas and seeing magazines written by people who modify cars would soon change this. From tinkering with cars to mildly pepping them up I was about to throw myself into the deep end, more than I would realise.
This would start from me picking up a copy of the RPM magazine, which has now morphed into Practical Performance Car Magazine (PPC).
I shall look into whether I can get my hands on a copy of it but in short, the magazine outlined how you could build an MGB Sebring V8 for £4,000! OK, £4,000 bought you a few nice cars back in 2004 but all of the same, an American derived V8 in a quintessentially British everyman car. Throw some big wings into the mix and some fat wheels and all should be well! Sounds easy eh? In short, it wasn’t. What I didn’t prepare myself for was the frankly shocking fitment of the wings from Smith & Deakin ; I wondered if Stevie Wonder had created the moulds for the wings! They were miles and miles off from fitting right. I struggled to put them on myself and Sagoo the painter dug his heels in here when it became apparent at just how much work faced us. Of course, I felt he was sandbagging a little.
Remember that internet forums were only just beginning to kick off at this stage and information only came from car clubs and even then only those who tried to fit the parts on. I was very much on my own as was strangely my painter.
What we decided to do was go along to the MG Car Club show at Silverstone to see other MGs. In short, we noticed that any MGB with fibreglass wings had compromises made in terms of how it fitted the car. Some cars had the wings catching the doors so as to fit, others were just as shoddy as ours, while others were pin straight.
Why were some pin straight? The others had grafted the arches on from the Sebring wing kits onto an existing wing. This of course presented me with the first of many hurdles with the Sebring conversion. I had to source a set of Chrome bumper wings. Truthfully, the secondhand rubber bumper wings had been questionably repaired and were not really suitable. When new wings were £225 each new this was a hard pill to swallow; suddently the £4,000 budget was looking threatened of snowballing up! But like all events you make some great friends. Somehow, I got a set of wings and an Ivor Searle 1500 engine for my MG Midget for £100! Yes, that figure is correct! Sometimes, going to shows can really open up an avenue of people more than you realise and it’s one reason why we should all support the right events.
With that said there was only one thing left to do ; let my painter get on with it and put my feet up. But as we all know, it’s never that simple.
You know how the tale goes. You find the right person, they come recommended, and so you send it to them. Within a few months your car comes back. In some ways I wish I could tell you that! But we are all too wise to know that dealing with classic cars is like being in a fairy tale world.
I left the last blog on this car with me handing over the keys to a bloke in Coventry in 2002. Over the months my dad kept calling up the bloke . He would often say “yeah, the second coat of primer is on”. To cut a long story short this saga lasted a few years! Why? There were many things going on away from the car. In that time businesses were sold, people lost jobs, other classic cars were bought and sold, people got jobs again, other people went to university, we somehow got a sheddy MkII Astra as a courtesy car to drive around in while the MG was being repaired; yes really! Yes, it was a little convoluted at times.
The MGB GT being at the bodyshop for all that time sat like a beacon of hope even though we hadn’t seen the car for two years! In 2004 my nagging with my father had come to an end. He decided to call the garage who were the custodians of the MGB. We were simply told “Come on down to us”. It sounded ominous to say the least. After all, it’s not like I had been ridiculed for this car not being roadworthy and taking seemingly an eternity to fix.
When we went to the garage the owner appeared to have disappeared, with only the foreman left to run the place! I saw no MGB there either! And so off we went on a convoy to see the MGB. I was looking forward to seeing the car semi-complete. What I would see however would shock me to the core.
The car was not at all how I pictured it. Previously solid areas of the car that I knew were solid had been subject to a trigger happy shotblaster. Worse still it had patches in places that would really throw a spanner in the works. Inside patch welding on a floorpan anyone? Another patch slapped onto rust on a window aperture? The car looked like an abandoned shell without any running gear. Everything of the car was all in boxes. Not in any real order but it was just there. Would I even have all of the fixings there? I guess at least the good running gear was present right?
This unfortunately left us with a problem. Here we had an MGB that we had sunk roughly £2,000 into ; bear in mind a good rubber bumper MGB was around £3,000 back then. It looked like all we were left with was a running and rolling MGB shell ready for the scrap heap. What looked like an ideal father and son project was now looking like its future was bleak.
At that moment in time we didn’t know what to do. It couldn’t be driven in that state and it was clearly going to take alot to get it right again. It’s amazing how £600 cars start out isn’t it? Scrapping the entire car was something I suggested. My dad vehemently went against that idea; I was 18 at the time. I don’t think he truly estimated the scale of the work ahead of us. Maybe it would have been the wise idea ultimately despite the pain. But that is not the point of such projects.
We had some quality time in and on the car. And we hate to lose. It would also be a shame to have a project dissappear purely due to one person. Did I mention that I really hate losing?
Is there a moral to this story? Yes. Always check up on the progress on the car in the flesh. Yes the guy may appear trustworthy, and he may be saying all of the right things. But people lie, pinch things from cars and generally don’t care about you. I hope that no one else has the above happen to them.
With weeks to go for the car to be dropped off to us its fate would be decided.
With the end of the holiday coming up we knew the drill. Wake up, clean up, followed by your typical continental breakfast before starting on the final leg. Oh, and admiring the receptionist while you are at it. The routine will sound familiar to many of you. Of course, it would have been nice if this was the case. It would be a case of being so close but so far.
Before we left however, I did come across this rarity! You have to love the old Renaults:
But there was no time to waste. We had to get a move on! The train would not wait for us after all!
After travelling over 900 miles in the superb Citroen the stress of being dormant for so long was beginning to show. Yup, that clonking from the driveshafts off load was showing no signs of getting quieter. Although the car was actually fine at motorway speeds on the smooth French toll roads. If you ask me you wonder if the car didn’t want to leave France! After all, this example had been imported to the UK in 2012 with it now being back on home soil. However, it didn’t stop the car getting plenty of attention.
It certainly was getting a lot of attention in France! At petrol stations the car was a superstar. If people were not looking at it they were videoing the car! I was only hoping to go on a wine trip in an old French car, not to feel like some Z-list celebrity! However, one bloke did admire our car quite a bit. A Belgian. It’s fair to say that we admired his motor too. Seeing as it was a Jaguar Mk2 it’s not hard to see why. With some great modifications made including better brakes and larger wheels it was lovely to admire the car. With him speaking a little bit of English and us a little bit of French we somehow managed to chat for ages and ages. I guess old cars do that, they have their own language! It certainly was a great time!
But we were not foolish. With the car begging not to be coasted the return journey was going to be interesting. Somehow we managed to make the boat back to the UK. Hurrah, we could relax.
Upon leaving Felixstowe and heading onto the M20 all was looking well. We could keep the speed up to motorway speeds and the traffic was minimal. Unsurprisingly this would all change as soon as we hit the M25, heading towards the Dartford tunnel. The traffic went from being minimal to being surrounded by slow cars everywhere! It’s not an ideal situation in a car that you can’t coast in. With the car knocking more than Katie Price’s assets on a binge fuelled night it was getting tense. We attempted to coast the car but as we failed more and more to do it in the traffic the knocking simply got worse and worse. Eventually we were driving so erratically that motorists behind us must have hated us.
Despite stopping at two services the traffic showed no signs of slowing down. The car decided it would protest even more. Pulling into South Mimms we heard a metallic banging sound followed by the wheel trim overtaking us. As soon as it hit the kerb we heard a gong! While the car was trying to humour us we were far from impressed. The car was having enough, we were having enough and at this point an RAC truck was not yet an option ; with the traffic we would have been waiting hours for the truck to arrive. Not what you want after a drive from Cambrai.
As the knocking got worse I soon had visions of us ending up in the Herts Tribune, with imagery of the wheel falling off and us going under a truck. Going past Daventry things got worse on the A-roads. The interior of the car got very hot, ideal in a car without a temperature gauge. What’s more, it looked like the Chinese Voltage regulator was having enough with the voltage slow dropping closer and closer to 12V.
By some miracle we arrived back home. A feeling of relief, joy and accomplishment all culminated into banter towards the car, towards us and towards future trips with such brilliant planning. When we got back we soon had an idea of why the car was getting so hot. The answer stared us in the face when we opened the bonnet:
Yup, those belts were destroyed! But let’s be honest, the breakdown was part of the trip! It made it different, it made it tense. Dare I say it the trip was possibly a bit more fun! It’s something to talk about down the pub after all!
You have to love a bit of a cliffhanger eh? There are you folk eagerly awaiting the presence of wine and wine fields! What have I been delivering? Pictures of drunk folk in France as well as a questionable Citroen! But I guess as they say “Whatever floats your boat” But wait no more. There is some wine involved I am glad to say. Vinyards too!
For the final leg of the trip we made it to Beaune, Burgundy. In this quiet French town we had an Ace up our sleeve ; to book a wine tasting session on a bike! Were we initially aprehensive? You bet! OK. Most of us were. I was secretly looking forward to it. After all I love biking and I like the odd tipple now and again ;).
And so we hit the bikes, provided as part of the wine tour. This shot is of one of the wine enclosures in the region of Burgundy. With a relaxed and banter loving French wine tour guide we lapped up the information he gave us. I never thought I would know so much about wine! The trick to getting a good bottle of wine besides looking at the punt of the bottle? See if it originates from a town or an enclosure. But most of all, use your taste.
It was joyous going around the vinyards. So lovely that a friend of mine soon forgot he was a Brit and started acting like a Frenchman!
Although it must be said at least he was cheerier than me! I was pleased to be there, despite my facial expressions!
Before we knew it we had cycled quite a few miles, looked at quite a few vine stalks and crossed over some busy roads! It was then time to relax. What better scenery to relax in Burgundy other than the sacred wine fields?
With the rest period in place it was finally time to cheer to some lovely white wine and to simply lap up the fantastic surroundings.
It’s fair to say that I choose my place to drink carefully, even with inquisitive Americans about the shop. But I must say they were great company for the wine tour! But where was my glass. And my comrades glasses? Fear not, we all have a glass eventually!
But there was no time like the present. After a quick taste of some OKish “Application” wine we went on and hit the road. Or rather the cycle path. The next bit I did not get any photos of. What the next path entailed was stopping at a winery. My God the wine was good there and cheap! Why can’t we get that stuff at similar prices over here? If I knew I’d probably have started selling the stuff over here! So good was the stuff that we all ended up bringing back a couple of bottles of Pinot Noir and a ‘Ville’ wine ; A Pommard for those wondering what bottle of Red I returned from France with.
It was fair to say that the car was doing great! Not so fast! The next day we drove from Beaune to Cambrai. Even with no AC we were loving sitting in the old Citroen with the engine lapping up the miles with ease and the suspension absorbing every little bump. Even a whiff of petrol now and again could not break that illusion! That would all change when we came off the motorway when we decided to visit Laon, where the superb Laon Historique event is held (http://www.circuit-historique-laon.com/en/). It seemed the car however was not too keen to go to Laon, or should I say to not leave France again.
Yup, as soon as I pulled off the motorway I heard clunk clunk clunk coming from the offside wheel while coasting. Going slower and thus coasting more seemed to make it worse! Bad enough for me to consider left foot braking while I wasn’t on the accelerator! With the noise and feeling of it getting no there was nothing for it except to pull over.
With this in mind we let the car rest for a bit and gingerly pushed onto Cambrai. It was time for a well earned beer but also to see how we would make it back to the UK.
A few of you have been wondering where all of the vinyards have been. It has to be said that considering this was meant to be a wine tour there were not many vinyards until we hit Burgundy. Then we were surrounded by them for as far as the eye could see. But something else would also come to surround us for a few hours.
It would be the wonderful Chateau de Sauvigny-Les Beaune ; more can be found out above this place from their website (https://www.chateau-savigny.com). Upon first going through the gates it looked like an old and slightly collapsing Chateau with a few statues around the place. This perception would soon go as we went towards the back of the place.
Yup, there were planes about. Quite admiral things too. However, there were more than just a few out. The plane section was almost like a plane graveyard! There were so many old planes to see!
Sure, a few of them, well, many of them needed a like of paint but it was great to see so many about! But truth be told we could have spent all day admiring the aircraft. It was time to see the meat and potatoes of this place ; the cars. You could see any car than you liked, as long as it was a Fiat.
Yup, there were a few archetypal Fiat 500s present. But it was not just about the smaller stuff. A lot more Italian metal was present with quite a few cars having some racing heritage about them. Some of the Italian cars I did not know even existed!
Will you just look at that carpet? Sure it was worn, well used and looking a little threadbare. But I really wanted to take a piece of that back! I mean, that would look superb in your house! But it was not to be. As always it was great to see some engines in the mix. In this case unsurprisingly the well renowned Fiat Twin-Cam amongst some of the more specialist exhibits:
However, there was another element to which it seemed the Chateau’s owner was drawn to; Motorbikes. How many? Loads! If you thought you saw enough planes the number of bikes overshadowed both of them!
I will be honest, I have not been the biggest biker fan but I can appreciate decent bits of machinery. And wow, it’s great see the development of the motorbike as time went on by.
But in the searing heat I had spent more than enough time in this outbuilding. Or rather my friends had in the 30+ degrees Celsius temperatures. With than in mind it was time to head over to the dilapidated, but charming Chateau itself. What a picture. What a masterpiece:
But then it was time to venture into the castle. There were a few rooms downstairs showing where the maids were and where people wined and dined. It was great to see all of this, and to imagine what life might have been like back all those years ago:
However, it was then time to look elsewhere. As great as the brickwork was it was time to head upstairs to many more bikes and and to several modern aeroplanes. The very same you would see in the airports for promoting the airlines:
One of the bikes which caught my attention was this Wankel engined marvel. In many ways you think a Wankel engine would have been the right combination for a bike. After all, they are lightweight and have a high specific output if you go with the weight figure. It’s fair to say that this idea did not take off
That said it was enjoyable walking around the place. Not all of the stuff was gleaming either. Amongst the abundance of shiny metal there was plenty of metal requiring a bit of love. But the tired old stuff did also have a tale of its own. A tale of what it was subjected. It had history embedded into bodywork. It had take the worst of what France could throw and it and still just about live to tell the tale. You have to love patina.
Yup, I was smitten with this place! But there was no time like the present. As great as the scenery was we were best to follow the title of Queen “This Show Must Go On”. So in the wonderful DS we left this wonderful place.
Well, I say wonderful DS, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. It did after all have a way of making itself known by smell. How? By spitting fuel out of the breather. So what if you brimmed the tank to the top? A splash came out of the vent pipe. But surely it would be fine if you took a right hand corner? You wish! The smell of choice what would be L’eau de Sans-Plomb, of the 98 octane flavour. Somehow despite this the old girl still managed to get 24MPG. Yes. A 70s car with troublesome injection system and leaking all over the shop still managed 24MPG. You can’t really complain eh?
So what would be the next step? That’s easy. More vineyards! What do they say? Onwards and upwards.
I left the tale with my friends and I staying in Reims. Honestly? There is not alot to report. Out we went for a meal and a couple of glasses of wine. After a couple of glasses along with a few more and a few more beers the night became quite a long one! Somehow I do remember getting back to the hotel. The next morning however would prove to be interesting. While I was not too hungover for reasons unknown my friends were in a horrendous state! All I shall say is that it is the good job that the DS has bench seats up front!
That said I could not think of a comfier way to relax during midday in Reims! But there was no time for napping! After grabbing a few snacks and drinks it was time to venture into the rest of Reims. The first thing to mark off the list was a bit of cathedral spotting. Sad I know but somebody has to do it. It’s also a nice way to pass the time on by. However, like all cathedrals it was decorated with scaffolding. What on earth is it with the eternal scaffolding in place? Sure, I know they are larger buildings but could there not be one day when they are free of the dreaded poles and clamps?
That said, the reason we had come to Reims was not just because of a cathedral. Oh no. It was a place we picked as a break for the Citroen. The old girl would now have a chance to put its legs up after its longest journey in 3 years. While the car put its legs up we could check out the great Museé de Reims Automobile, a stone’s throw away from the city centre. However, we would need a rest in the museum as well ; it was like a greenhouse inside there. It did not however spoil us from looking at a few rare French fancies.
I for one never realised a sporty Citroen BX was made. OK, we all know about the GTI, but what about this 4×4? It’s certainly one way to add alot of appeal to an 80s Citroen!
With its quad lights, bonnet bulge and quad driving lights up front complimented by the CX Prestige wheels it is certainly one way to imagine what a BX would look like on steriods. That said, there was enough French metal there for everyone. A CX Prestige had us all going weak at the knees as did the much coveted Renault Alpine A110. It was a truly great place to wonder about in.
Before we knew it 5pm had arrived, and we had to press on to our next destination, Villeferry. This very quite town is situated just outside of Dijon and until driving into it I would not have given it a second look.
But with such stunning scenery surrounding us in addition to the great roads leading up to it just had us lapping up the scenery with ease. The Citroen itself also proved to be the perfect car for such a trip.
That however was not all. We all enjoyed a superb dinner with what must be one of the best bits of scenery I have ever enjoyed while eating in addition to a truly superb steak. It literally fell apart in your knife and fork. The Pistonklause in Nurburg? Take note.
But even in a place as picturesque and remote as this there was still some old tin to admire. I managed to stumble across what only looked like an old wrecker’s yard. Where cars were laid to rest, maybe to provide spares for other cars or to be revived one day in the distant future. That said, there was still some unfamiliar tin present there.
After a great night’s sleep we noticed that there was a distinct lack of vinyards about. But with all of the scenery as well as passing the Source of the River Seine we were simply soaking up the scenery like a sponge.
But eventually we could come to what we came looking for. Vinyards. Yup, we were finally in Burgundy.
Before we knew it D-Day had arrived. After giving the car a wash the night prior to the big drive we had a couple of beers placing bets as to whether the car would even would make it to Dover before we retired to our beds. Just to prepare us for the trip we took plenty of LHM (about 5 litres worth!), some engine and gearbox oil, many many tools as well as ourselves and our baggage, obviously.
With an early start during the next morning we were surprised that it managed to make it to Watford Gap! With such a great outcome we decided to grab some breakfast. After all, we had pretty big sights in store for a car that had covered less than a 100 miles in 3 years! It’s about the small steps at times!
It’s fair to say that it at least looked the part! OK, the wings looked a little off colour and showed every single ripple with the filler now gone. I call it the Cellulite look. But there was no time to hang around. With a coffee drank and breakfast consumed it was time to crack on.
On the road the car seemed to be performing fine. The engine pulled very well, the suspension as a passenger seemed very comfortable and even the Chinese voltage regulator in place of the original points based setup held a constant 14 Volts! Maybe we were worrying too much!
This would be until we hit passport control at the Channel Tunnel. The car died without any warning. It’s fair to say it was not an ideal place to break down! The car tried to cough back into life but eventually it was fine. It was traced back to a faulty connection to the fuel pump relay! The old girl was showing us some promise! Without further ado there was nothing left to do short of boarding the train, as Ocean Colour Scene once said. OK, it was something like that.
With the sun out, the temperature being firmly in the high 20s and low 30s there was nothing else left to do but to hit the road and settle down to a 120km/h cruise down to our first destination. With the car looking like it would be fine it’s fair to say that we were all fairly content with the situation!
With that in mind we pushed on to our first destination with me taking the keys behind the wheel. So, how was it? The steering is certainly strange. Maybe there is an issue with this car but the steering refused to self centre at all. Do a tight right hander and the steering will stay there! However, the car just glid down the autoroutes effortlessly at 120 and 130km/h without a problem. The column gear change is a strange one to use but soon becomes OK to use after a bit of practice. The body roll is comical but it’s forgiven with its frankly untouchable ride quality ; not much seems to ride like a Citroen DS! It certainly felt like the right car for the trip!
But where would I stop the car? That’s easy. The one and only Reims!
There may not be much left but there is something certainly quite special about this place! The spirit of the place is still very much there. May that be a local putting his foot down hard past the pit garages if it’s not a tourist. There never appears to be a moment when there is no one about anyway!
While we were progressing nicely there were reminders still present that our car was an old girl and with the risk associated with it! This gorgeous Maserati illustrated that point. Unfortunately his ride back home was on a low loader.
With that in mind it was time to go to the hotel to retire and to give the car and us a rest. It was now a test to see if we or the car would crack first. After all, this was a wine tour.