Sometimes you have to admire the method in one’s madness! That is to buy a non-roadworthy car, get it roadworthy, all while trying to deal with a restoration become more of a body conversion! But there was method to my madness for 2 key reasons. The first was I was now using the Chromie as temporary daily transport, after selling my then Peugeot 306 GTi-6 after deeming that too pricey to run; funny really! It also helped my motivation in tackling the massive project the Sebring had now become! Another reason? Thanks to seeing a complete car I now had a vague idea of where the fixings went, as opposed to being sent the ‘right’ screws, only to find out they were wrong, and seeing what the restorers had broken when I first got the car back; the bolts went back into boxes without any marking which really cut my work out!
The first thing to do with the Sebring was to refit the Britax sunroof. Because all of the screws were now just an assortment this made life tricky for reaffixing the canvas lid. I only had one screw left! After trying my local screws place they didn’t know either; the threads weren’t the best on this! Eventually, I got hold of a Britax roof specialist who saved me a lot of trouble by sending out the right nuts. Now I had a car that was closer to being watertight!
It was however never going to be watertight with the door I acquired years ago! Everyone said it was down to the wing fitment, despite the previous door fitting perfectly. In the end I would source another door as a result of much fettling with the poor door. With the original item bolted up and the reskinned item removed I now had a door that looked like it belonged to the Sebring! Except it was Pageant Blue!
I also took the opportunity to replace my shot bootlid for the much more solid item, and treated it to new seals all round. With the windscreen fitted in thanks to some parachute cord and helpful friends it was look great for the car! It was time to celebrate! This I did by buying a tired Moto-Lita steering wheel and polishing it until it looked sound once more. Fitted in the car it finally started to show more promise!
This would admittedly slow a little when I checked the brake pipe to Spax damper conversion clearance on full lock. Finding the supplied Spax damper brake pipes in my assortment would soon cure this issue, where I also took the opportunity to change the rear flexible hose to a braided item, so as to compliment the front end.
But all good things would soon come to a stop. Over a year after I started working on the Sebring again the upper arm decided the remains of the bolt would become at one with the arm! This really was a pain! I resorted to heat, whacking it with hammers and punches to no avail. My sister remembers the hammering sounds! Eventually it would take a lot of heat and a puller to remove the remains of the bolt! Hallelujah! Finally the car was on all 4 weeks again!
Another issue I had put off was the welding on the car. With my welding supplies from Halfords and an overly dark fixed darkness welding mask it didn’t start well at all! I could not get a consistent feed from the welder! Annoying! Thankfully, a retro rider by the name of Grunty would come down, condemn my welding equipment as rubbish, have me fix my old welding gear before he would begin! Suddenly the car became very solid!
Now I had other issues. The car wanted tuning up badly! The issue was the ignition advance was stuck at 10 degrees throughout the rev range! To add insult to injury it wasn’t moving freely in the engine either for adjustment or removal! With some brute force I soon had the dizzy removed. A short while later, and the car was running well once more. Or so I thought
It was then time to put the car through an MOT. Despite it randomly now puffing out blue smoke and not seeing an MOT for over 10 years how would it all go?
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!
So, here is to the next trip!