The M3 Makes it to Benidorm!

 

It was fair to say that I was lovely Valencia! Like a lot of Spain you find it hard to leave the great places ; the chilled atmosphere, great food and friendly people certainly do not help here! However, the next leg would leave me with a good reason to leave!

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Not a car you much of at all!  We came across this old Sierra just outside Valencia.  It was good to see it being used!

Leaving Valencia was like most other Spainish cities. Plenty of motorways with lots of heat. However, I never remember the speed limits changing quite so frequently as they did as I was experiencing on this trip! I guess its one way the Spanish could break up the monotony of motorway driving! Not that you really need it in an M3!

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I had the car, I had the shades and the weather.  What more do you need?

However I soon saw another reason to keep myself awake. That was to turn off the A7 onto the CV790 heading towards Costa Blanca, or rather, Benidorm. This road soon renewed our vigour from a driver’s perspective. I can’t say that my passenger shared my enthusiasm on some of the bends where I enjoyed myself! It was a little like the Italian job pilot scene, albeit without the snow and the Lamborghini! I was loving many of the tight bends I was contending with but also the changing camber of the corners, even if they did catch me out on a few occasions! It’s times like these that you learn more about driving as well as about your car behaves itself!


Before we knew it we had arrived into the outskirts of Benidorm, ready to have a good night’s sleep, a few beers as what most people do on a holiday, relax! That said I did bring along another passenger for the trip, in the form of a bird that I unintentionally hit!

At this point the M3 would prove it’s worth as a practical car once again! With my friend’s car being strictly a two seater it was the car of choice whenever we left the house. Not a bad way to travel in the Spanish sun you could say! Naturally we spent most of the time just chilling out rather than driving!

Before we knew it we would be well rested and travelling back to the UK.  As always the M3 munched up the miles with ease as we cruised back doing a 2 night stop.  This involved going through the Pyrenees and many single cross country roads as well as towns, which broke up the scenery nicely initially.  It was also strange going through a tunnel where there was a 15 degrees temperature drop in comparison to outside!

It was fair to say that this trip have been epic!  So right on so many levels, yet with a lot of trepidation! It was a shame to be back home, but in another, also quite a relief given the baggage an E46 M3 comes with.  All in, the trip was superb and the car proved itself as a European tourer that can master many trades.  Here is to the next road trip of many!

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From Bulls to Valencia!

With me coming into Valencia things seemed different immediately. From travelling on the Spanish motorways with barely any traffic we suddenly saw many more cars around us! The cruise control would not be all that useful now! But at least I was in the right car for the job.

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When it came to parking the car up however you could tell the car was hot. The temp gauge was stuck smack bang in the middle of the gauge and the viscous fan was fully locked up. Yup, it was warm alright.  But at least the car could have a well deserved rest for a few days; it even had a companion in the form of a friend’s E89 Z4 30i sDrive. It’s just as well as I had heard on the grapevine that Valencia is not what you would call car friendly. But for once that didn’t matter.

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The accommodation was spot on for the break. In the heart of the city with it only being a stone’s throw away from the main square it certainly felt like we were living the high life! Gorgeous buildings with a chilled atmosphere and variety? This is the place! Oh, and a bit of sunshine to go with it.

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But I had to be honest. Valencia is no place for a car. With that in mind a friend suggested that we store our cars at Valencia Airport while we were there. After seeing the many webs of one way streets in Valencia this seemed like a good shout in hindsight.

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Without the cars at least you can enjoy a beer in the sun.  Happy Days!

But a lack of cars between us would not spoil the fun, oh no! After all, a lot of the a places to visit in Valencia were accessible by foot. However, they were even more accessible by bike! It’s almost like Valencia is built for bike travel ; it’s matrix of cycle lanes make it a breeze to go around on bike ; I could have been there all day! The UK could learn a thing or two here in the quest to harmonise and reduce traffic. Make no mistake, I love my cars, but I also hate traffic jams and waiting!

With that in mind we were just lapping up the scenery. However, the day would come that we would have to leave Valencia. This would not be without sampling part of the Formula 1 track first. After all, when in Rome, even if it was on bike!

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Yup, my companions on the trip were loving it on Valencia’s street circuit!

The next leg of the trip would be interesting. Partly because it was very familiar territory to use. But also partly because we had a surprise in store as well.

 

Spain and Racetracks? Are You Sure?

It is fair to say that I was dreading the leg from Calais to Pamplona. It was a 10 hour drive with stops allowed for with almost 600 miles to cover in a day! All to be done in a car with a reputation for not being mega reliable, and high performance one at that getting on for 14 years old! You can imagine my relief that it made it down! Then again you always worry more when it is your own car.

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The descent into Pamplona was stunning!  A far cry from monotonous French routes

It was then time to explore Pamplona, and what a city it is! Famed for the questionable bullfighting as well as Ernest Hemmingway residing there during the 1920s. Yup, there was plenty to see, but we decided to try something different first, something carcentric. But in Spain? How? This one was simple. We took a 40 minute trip out in the M3 from the great city of Pamplona to Circuito de Navarra.

Experiencing the atmosphere at a clubman level in Spain was very interesting. Interesting enough for me to say that it was fantastic. Sure, there were pit girls and the usual stuff at the bike event but there was more. There were loads of people present to watch the entry level series where the youth would prove their worth by their skill level, not necessarily by what the bikes could do. The bar was rammed with people ordering Jamon bocadillos. Beers, soft drinks and the odd coffee were being ordered too, all being sold at reasonable prices! There was no overpriced bar here, just loads of people having a great time and watching the racing their mates and loved ones.

It was strange how the entry level events were more fun to watch than the bigger Super 1000s. There were more chances being taken and more rawness present during the racing! If there is an event on here it is well worth the visit.

After this day however we decided to chill out in the city itself. The second day was mostly spent looking at Café Iruna, a lovely café that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent, as well as a bar in the same square, again another one of Hemingway’s haunts.

From then on thanks to some local Spanish company we ended spending quite a bit of the day indulging in many canas and quite a lot of tapas! From mussels to strangely fried eggs it was all lovely,

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The Pamplona Bullring.  A place of alot of controversy ; it was confusing being there!

The day would come however that we would move onto our second destination, Valencia. In comparison to driving down to Pamplona this trip was quite a bit shorter! It was however as hot as Bordeaux the closer we got to Spain. At one point it did go hotter, 35 degrees centigrade to exact! The car’s viscous fan fully locked up on a number of occasions on the way down once the temperature went north 30.

However, Valencia does not have a reputation of being kind on traffic. I had heard from a few sources that Valencia could be a pain to drive in! How would we cope?  By the looks of it some cars were forlorn already at Valencia Airport!  Our fingers would be crossed.

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The M3 Does Spain!

From where I last was with the the old girl it was fair to say that it was busy redeeming itself. For the next 3 months it was nice where the car had been spend free for once. It was 3 months in come August when I would broke this rule. Why? I needed cupholders and an SMG relay. While the relay could be justified what about the former item? This was easy ; I was going to drive the M3 down to Spain for a bit of a trip.

Given their reputation these days for many things going wrong I was apprehensive about doing so. Thoughts about the head gasket, SMG pump, VANOS and bottom end issues all went through my head. I had taken £200 shitters previously across Europe so why worry so much about this trip? I guess when it is your pride and joy that has cost you a few quid to maintain this feeling is quite normal.

Since the car had a service during the oil cooler saga only months before I left I knew it would be a case of checking the car over. Before I knew it there was little else to do but fit the new cupholders. While there was a mixup with the colour of the cupholders being delivered to me Cotswold BMW to their credit bent over backwards to get me out of this jam.

 

I did not hesitate to fit the grey cupholders and to pack my tools and spares for the trip. Little did I know the time for me to leave the UK for Spain would creep up very quickly! But at least the car was a joy to drive down, with me having some great company in the form of a good friend for the trip. Leaving at 6pm on a Thursday night however would hamper how much progress we made in France that day, especially when the Eurotunnel had a delay on of an hour until we actually would get onto the boat. With that in mind we made ourselves comfortable and attempted to sleep on the train and while waiting for the train with limited success.

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Back again at Folkstone!  Some say I live there!

Once in France and the time now being past 12AM we decided to call it a night and stopped off just outside Calais to rest and hit the road the next day.

This day would be testing. We would be driving from Boulogne-Sur-Mer to Pamplona, Spain. In a day. Yup, it was not going to be a short hop. With that in mind we jumped into the car and hit the autoroute. The M3 did come into its own here

Despite it being 14 years old and with a few miles on the clock it literally cruised all of the way down through France. 4 hours felt more like 2 and even the weather was cheering up for us. This would all change when he hit Bordeaux at 4pm that day.   Going through the hot traffic you could hear the car’s fan operating at maximum speed as the heat went up to 33 degrees centigrade. The car by this point had been running for 7 hours with us only stopping for lunch and fuel. Before 5PM with the car crawling around Bordeaux a few warning lights came on! It was running cool (albeit the oil temps going to over 100 degrees centigrade) and generally fine however. With this in mind I decided to stop off and let the car cool off for ½ an hour and let the traffic die down. Oh, and treat myself to an ice cream.

 

With that done it was then time to hit the road again with our next stop being Pamplona. After Bordeaux however this leg would drag on a little. However, we made it to Pamplona for 9:30 to meet up with our friend who had been there for quite some time. Not a bad time to get there really!

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Taken outside Muguiro

After having a beer and a small meal we all knew it was time to get to bed and to see what sights Pamplona had to offer. The truth is it was more than I was expecting!

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It is Hemingway town remember folks!

It’s time for Destination Nurburgring 17. In the Right Car.

Events. They can be funny old things. When you book the events 6 months prior to go and spend the remainder of the time preparing for them they seem so far away. Little do you know the event you have booked has crept up on you like a warm kitten and it’s your time to shine. Only then do things seem to slow down.

It was no different for me here.   After previously being invited to one of Darren Langeveld’s superb Destination Nurburgring (DN) events a few of us decided to go along to one! Here we would see what makes his events so different to a Terroristsfah., I mean, Touristfahten (TF) event.

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They say the sun shines on the righteous.  It’s a shame it didn’t that day.

What was so different about about a DN event? Quite a lot.  A lot of it is down to being briefed in a great and understandable way before hitting the track. As is less traffic and the emphasis of having good etiquette on track. Oh and free breakdown recovery should the worst happen, even if the expense of crashing is still present, albeit far less so. This was just as well as the meeting up for the driver’s briefing a day before had one word being said quite a bit. Rain.

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Yup, it was a wet one!

For a few track days rain can make or break the event. In a 340BHP rear wheel drive car it did not sound like a great combination. But I did at least have experience of driving wet track days previously and refreshed my memory by looking at a few known YouTube video guides including Rent-RSR’s mistakes, and Dale Lomas’ driving the ‘ring in the wet with a RWD car; The only wet track day I had done was at Oulton Park. Didn’t someone say fail to prepare and prepare to fail?

With that in mind it was time to hit the 13.5 mile circuit. With it being dry for a part of the morning I went around relatively calmly, trying to get a feel for the car in the dry. I looked forward to seeing what it would do in the dry after a few laps. Before I knew it there was drizzle present. This would soon turn into a very wet track and have me being a little fearful of crashing!

Another perk to a DN event is getting tuition by following an instructor in their car in with walkie talkies to communicate with. At least I would be prepared for the conditions.   With a few laps of tuition my fear of the track slowly began to ebb away with caution present. The chap gave me some great pointers and certainly helped me in getting to grips with the track. Every time I go to the Nurburgring I always learn more and more and notice more things about the track. This tuition certainly helped there! Enough for my lap timer in my glove box to claim that I did 10:29 BTG lap by following him. In Auto mode (D4) for the SMG owners wondering; Yup I admit I wasn’t taking chances. Quite a step up from my 12 minute laps when I was bothered to check the lap times after going out!

It was then time to see what a proper driver could do in the wet. Who? None other than Nigel Pinder with his superb Pinderwagon. While on the face of it this car may look like it has crashed through Halfords and the Demon Tweeks catalogue it is actually the result of 10 years blood, sweat, tears and cash culminating into one fantastic package:

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If you can grab a lap with anyone at the ‘ring make a B-Line for this man.  Nigel Pinder is great behind the wheel.

Want to know more? You can here: http://pinderwagen.com/

With him taking me out for a lap it was a real experience. Here was a car with no driver aids and full wet track tyres I would not have been anywhere near as brave as him in the wet! Man this guy was quick in the wet! It seemed that we were overtaking everything! M3s? Not a problem. 991 GT3s? Eaten alive! This car was a seriously good contender! In the dry he puts down a mid 7:30 to around 7:50 depending on traffic. In the wet? 9:30. My rather slow time didn’t seem too terrible after than (I was more in the 12s for the rest of it!). But seeing how smooth he was in the car was an absolute joy! If you get an opportunity to have a ride out in the car you really should! It’s a testament to Nigel and his immense skills behind the wheel!

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Instruction with an SLS?  You get that with a DN event ;).

Driving the wet ‘ring (silence now folks!) was interesting. I was very glad that I had new Michelins all round with the suspension and gearbox improvements in place; the car felt at home! That said I was a lot more cautious and seemed like I used my indicator quite a bit to let others overtake! I even had the track all to myself on one lap as others started to go home!

 

By the end of the day I actually did begin to overtake a few others and was having a good time behind the wheel while not going idiotic! Although Darren did claim that I wasn’t trying hard enough! The cheek!

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With the DN being held the same day as my birthday I decided to go and celebrate with a meal and a few beers in Adenau. With a hazy head it was time to go to sleep for the 5AM start the next day. The only thing? I wouldn’t be leaving at 5AM!

I woke up in my humble abode at 7am, two hours later than I should have, giving me 2 hours less to get to the Eurotunnel!  It’s a good thing that Haus Sonja in Adenau provided a great night’s sleep and at a great price.

I had to be at the Eurotunnel by 12:25 the latest. A bit of a tall order when Google Maps tells you it will be a 5 hour trip!

With the car stuffed full of my gear it was time to set off:

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But with a 1/3 tank of fuel in a tired state I was never going to make it to Calais on time! With than in mind I made a dash to the Aral. While meaning to pickup some 98 I ended up filling up with 102 RON! Whoops! I guess it is only money!

However, I took an executive decision to not stop. With a 2 litre bottle of water and a bag of Haribo sweet and sours I was set! This would be a bit of a test of man and machine!
Going through Germany wasn’t too bad at all! The roads while being very wet were clear. From doing a steady 75MPH on the motorways I soon easied my speed up. All I will say is that when I had the cruise control set it was set to less than 100MPH. Sure, the contraflows, traffic etc. slowed me down but they would anywhere in the world in busy areas! With me getting closer and closer to Brussels I could see the traffic building up and up! However, the car soldiered on relentlously, running surprisingly smoothly.

What did annoy me at times much to the amusement of the proper ‘box fans was the SMG’s auto shifting in auto mode. Say you were going up a hill on the motorway. I’d put my foot down and it would go to 5th when I wanted to stay in 6th. I initially found this annoying. Right until I put it back into manual and found my mistake ; the engine doesn’t really want to do much at 50MPH in 6th while climbing a hill on the Autobahn to overtake a few people. Yup, it was careless throttle action and user error in my sleep deprived state.

But when I got my head around that I found the car as a package an absolute joy to bring back to Blightly. I was eventually toggling in auto for the roadworks and reverting to manual elsewhere, a perfect combo and certainly a quick and relatively relaxing drive. Yes if I had a more careful foot I wouldn’t have needed to but I guess we as humans are flawed things.

The car was wonderful. It proved that as a complete package it did have elements of a GT car about it! And what a soundtrack to come back home in! By some miracle I managed to get back to the Eurotunnel in Calais for 11:55! Not bad for rush hour at all! I did not even feel tired! I did however need the toilet, badly!

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Yup, the ‘ring and the return trip really had me bonding with the car more! It seemed that my hard graft on the car had been worth it! The rear end being planted gave me the ability to put my foot down as did the Michelin’s performance in the wet passing trucks where the spray thrown off them could have you barely seeing where you were going! Yup, maybe that expenditure was worth it after all. It wasn’t even that taxing on the fuel count!

How untaxing? If the trip computers are to be believed:

-The M3 did 28MPG ; it did drop on the laps but rose again ; it averaged 29MPG on the trp when I did the calculations on pen and paper! That includes it doing 15MPG on track ; it was wet remember.
-The Clio 220 Trophy EDC did 31.3MPG ; No I am not joking and that was with him doing a sedate 75 all the way back ; he left before me remember
-The Clio 172 Cup however unsurprisingly was ahead of the M3 but surprisingly ahead of the 220! 38MPG! Man I miss those figures for the power!

It seems then that after this trip the M3 certainly had earned its respect from we as well as proving itself very well! Damn, I guess I was getting a little smitten with the old girl!

Then Came the Return, Back to England

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!

So, here is to the next trip!

Another Step into France : The French Wine Tour Continued

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.  Open Garage Sessions (75 of 106)

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!

 

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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:

 

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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!

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Further Into the Wine Region! Avec une DS!

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!

 

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It is fair to say that Reims took its toll

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?

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A Cathedral!

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!

Citroen French Wine Tour (8 of 34)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.

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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.

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But eventually we could come to what we came looking for.  Vinyards.  Yup, we were finally in Burgundy.

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It’s time for Progress with the Wine Tour! Real Progress!

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!

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Just Ignore the Wings!  It’s all fine!

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!

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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.

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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!

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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How to Get a Car Ready for a French Wine Tour!

I left the blog last time with a few hints as to what the Citroen needed in order to get it ready.  On paper at the start it looked easy.  Very much like a political party’s manifesto.  Back in 2014 it looked like all the car would need would be:

  • The handbrake sorting ; the springs were fitted incorrectly and the pads close to being fully worn
  • Suspension leaks sorting ; the car would lower itself quite quickly before and left a trail of LHM wherever it was parked!
  • Seatbelts fitting ; The static belts up front would go to make room for period themed inertia reel items.  Furthermore rear seatbelts would be fitted
  • Change the tyres ; It had 15 year old Vredesteins all round ; it wanted the correct but expensive Michelin XVS tyres on it ; the tyres designed for the car by Michelin.
  • Sort out the chromework.  In particular the interior door handles, and the Pallas spec boot hinges ; these were badly pitted with the former having zero chrome left on them.

It sounds easy eh?  With a car that looks this good on the floor you would think it would be:

 

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As the tinkerer and restorer of us know, even if the car does quite a few miles without the aforementioned issues life is not quite as easy as you think, especially when it is put into practice.

Remember the wonderful D-Jetronic system I mentioned?  With things being moved around and wiring only the French have the ability of understanding after being left the keys to the wine celler it was a source of mant headaches.  This ranged from the ECU (yes, it does have one!) not powering up or staying on the entire time!

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Yup, for reasons unknown to man the French decided to colour the connectors and not the wires?  Why?  Maybe they ran out of the coloured wires.  But maybe it is a hint to simply how cash strapped Citroen were during the development of the DS yet somehow keeping the dream of something out of the ordinary alive. Even getting a battery that did not short itself out on the battery clamp was a mission!

If only that had been the only issue.  The suspension would require more work.  Manydifferent spheres were fitted to the DS over its life.  This car however seemed to have spheres from all sorts of Citroens on it!  This would be yet more time and money put towards the correct parts. At least with a new steering rack, spheres, regulator and pipes fitted the car would stand a chance of performing well.

 

 

But this old Citroen had a bigger issue hiding beneath its skirt, or should I say the underseal.  Rust.

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Yup, beneath the carpets and underseal the car was not a pretty sight at all, despite being for the best part solid as the rear inner wing/chassis rail and rear panel shots show.  Worse still, the front wings after soda blasting looked more like they belonged in the team rooms rather than the car.  Some painstaking reconstructive surgery would soon have them being good once again along with a new panel and other metalwork carried out in 2017:

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Oooh, look, a new rear panel!

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In the words of a Magpie, SHINY!!!

With the Citroen slowly becoming less rotten it certainly looked like it was getting there.  OK, maybe that is an exxageration but you have to look at the positives at times!

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After a lick of paint once the suspension parts were replaced it was all beginning to come together:

 

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With the wings back in place, the boot tidied up and the wings back from the paintshop all was beginning to look well for now. With the Michelins now on the car and the tinwork being correctly painted what could possibly stop this resto?

Even the lights were working well!  The DS had its iconic eyes back.  Eyes so wonderful that they have been the trademark of the DS.  Not even them looking a little like Dame Edna’s glasses after she has had a hit of acid with the turning lights cannot shake their beauty.

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However, not even the darkness could hide the shoddiness of the paintjob on the wings. And man they were bad.  I guess when you are attempting to ready a car weeks before it hits a 1200 mile roadtrip compromises have to be made:

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Before we knew it it was a day before the 1200 mile trip.  How many road tests had the car had?  A few.  Up and down a dual carriageway nearby.  What could possibly go wrong?

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