2003

Forthcoming Events:

As and when: Investigate the clonk from the front suspension of Bee. On Bee's pre MOT check (she passed again) I noticed some heavy scaling on one of the reinforcing panels close to the right-hand rear spring front hanger. A long way from perforation I'd say, but worthy of further investigation at the end of the season. October 3rd-6th - V8 Register Cornish Tour
Our first V8 Register tour, and in fact the first organised tour with Vee, and what an eye-opener. I reckon we spoke to more people on this MG Car Club event than we have in twelve years of MG Owners Club events. Everyone was so friendly, chatty, and willing to mix whereas we have always found that MGOC local groups keep themselves to themselves and don't welcome if not actively discourage, people not in their clique. This isn't just us, there were two other MGOC couples at an MGCC event for the first time and they said exactly the same. But enough of that.

We had travelled down to Barnstaple via Porlock, Lynton and Lynmouth on the Thursday rather than have a very early start on the Friday. Rain and spray all the way down the M5 rather spoiling all my hard work polishing Vee and refurbishing her wheels, but the sun came out in the afternoon making for a very pleasant trip along the north coast of Somerset and Devon.

Friday dawned sunny for an amble from Barnstaple to The Jamaica Inn on Exmoor, from where Gordon and Jennifer Hesketh-Jones had organised four days of tours and visits commencing at Friday lunchtime. We renewed our acquaintance with Chris and Mary Backlund from Guernsey who had organised the MG Rally there in 1999. Chris and Mary had literally just the previous day returned from a 12-day MG tour in South Africa, picked up their MG which had been left at a friends house in England, and travelled to Cornwall. From The Jamaica Inn we travelled to the very impressive Eden Project and then onto our hotel in Falmouth. A slight hiccough in the Tulip route (a T-junction with the arrow to the right but the place name from the left) meant we had a scenic detour via the King Harry Ferry rather than going via Truro. Gordon said they used to use the ferry until one of the cars lost its exhaust going on, Vee's just scraped slightly but I could imagine a lowered conversion would have real problems.

Saturday morning warm and sunny for a trip to Goonhilly Earth Station Lands End and the Levant Mine with its beam engine. The Goonhilly tour and displays are well done and impressive, and is somewhere I have always wanted to go having spent 32 years in BT. Lands End was touristy as usual and very 'end of season', we didn't stay long and a short sharp shower sent us on our way. Levant was very interesting, with tours of the (working) engine and the entrance tunnel to the workings. Along the way Gordon sent us via places such as Mevagissey and Gorran Haven where the very narrow streets, steep hills and tight turns have to be seen to be believed!

Sunday again warm and sunny after heavy overnight rain and more scenic lanes, coastal roads and beaches to the National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek in a glorious location in a valley along one bank of a navigable creek. A large site with things to see and do other than watch the antics of the seals, especially at meat-time. Then on to Pendennis Castle in Falmouth itself, on a spectacular position on a headland. We parked inside the grounds in front of the main buildings making a good display, and there was a lot to see in many of the castle buildings, including some impressive animated displays triggered by motion sensors as you walked into the various rooms. From there to Heligan and the Lost Gardens. A bit disappointing as the gardens were past their best and rather small. What was billed as a woodland walk leading to the Lost Valley where we expected to see a lot of planting, was actually all just a woodland walk. The relatively new Horsemoor Hide with a lot of information on bats, foxes, owls and other local wildlife with film, nesting box cameras and the like partially made up for it, but we would have preferred the formal tour of the Northern Gardens which probably gave a lot of information about the discovery and restoration of the gardens.

Monday cooler, cloudy and quite blustery so the RV8s and roadster conversions mostly opted to keep the hoods up for the trip to the St Austell Brewery. A very informative and amusing tour from our guide, who was as nutty as a fruit cake and made me wonder if anyone had done any research into the long-terms effects of working in a brewery! From here we departed to our various corners of Britain, and a straightforward trip along the A30, M5 and M42 to Solihull in 3 1/2 hours. About 775 trouble-free miles, quite a few three-lane (two up, one down) single-carriageway sections on hills giving opportunities for a quick blast of a convoy of V8s and all relatively traffic-free being the end of the season. A big 'thank you' to Gordon and Jennifer for all their hard work in making the tour so successful.

September - Quarter-panel replacement on Vee

August 30th to September 1st - South Downs Run
(or The Eight Counties Tour)


Why The Eight Counties? Because that is how many we drove in or through over the long weekend. Drove down to Arundel on the Saturday for the first of our two nights, cooler now than earlier in August but still beautifully sunny. Stopped off at The White Horse for lunch ... Navigator disappointed to find it was of the 'carved in chalk' variety near Lambourne rather than one with a licence. Arundel Festival in full swing so plenty going on in the town, which is dominated by the impressive castle and cathedral church best seen from the eastern approach on the A27. Stayed at The Norfolk Arms which is a sister hotel to our favourite - the Forest Park in the New Forest.

A glorious day for the run starting from Petersfield with 350 cars. Almost 100 miles of stunning scenery and pretty villages along the South Downs, and a pleasant finish on the lawns at Eastbourne. Eastbourne much nicer than Bournemouth and especially Brighton clean and smart for the whole of the seafront and no tacky areas that we found. The route book was unique in our experience in that it was mainly narrative with few mileages. This meant lots of reading and re-reading for the Navigator and the occasional over-shoot of turn-offs, we prefer the more usual Tulip-style.

A real bonus on the journey back to Arundel - we got stuck in a traffic jam on the A27 by Shoreham. Why is that a bonus? Because it was the RAFA Air Show and we were about 100 yards from the edge of the airfield for the duration of the display of a Spitfire and two others, possibly a Corsair and a Kittyhawk, and all from the Old Flying Machine Company. This consisted of shallow formation dives right at us, swooping over our heads at little more than tree height, climbing up and rolling and other mild aerobatics. It was stunning, and the sound of the Merlin is one that makes the hair stand up on the backs of our necks.

Dull at Arundel on the Monday morning for the trip home but it was just coastal so within a few miles we were in full sunshine again, with some more patchy cloud for the second half of the journey. 513 delightful and trouble-free miles and the extended shackles (see 'Ride Height') fitted since the last trip seem to have done the trick.

August 23rd/24th - A brand-new unregistered Midget in Yorkshire


Not a trip in an MG, but while visiting friends in Yorkshire they took us to 'a garage with some MGs' on Sunday morning. I thought it would be the usual MG Rover dealership with TFs and 'Z' cars, but no. It was a very old garage complete with some ancient (non-functioning) petrol pumps from various eras outside and a dozen or so classics, mainly MGs, inside the showroom and workshop. As well as restored cars for sale they had a 1980 Midget with only 120 miles on the clock and a brand-new unregistered example as well. From the blurb on the 120-miler it seems that when the factory closed a collector bought thirty (yes 30) Midgets. The unregistered car claims to have been bought by a father for his son, but due to a family dispute never registered, subsequently acquired by a collector, on sale for 12, 500.

July 13th - Cheshire Romp


Phew what a scorcher! wall-to-wall sunshine over the two days and very warm. Had very pleasant meander up through Worcestershire Shropshire and Cheshire on the Saturday morning to Blakemere Craft Centre where the Cheshire Waterlife Falconry Centre is based. Lots of Raptors to the delight of the navigator.

Sunday morn found about half-a-dozen of us roaming the countryside looking for the start of the run - the joining instructions were completely inadequate, I have to say. The run visited Anderton Boat Lift. We were in time to see two boats enter the bottom and the tour boat enter the top ... but they just stayed there. Apparently yesterday two boats had been stuck half-way for over an hour, maybe a repeat of the same problem. Pretty impressive none the less. Then onto Mouldsworth Motoring Museum - privately owned and quite small but worth a stop, and finishing up at Little Moreton Hall. Not only a very attractive building and grounds, but an excellent guided tour with some humour to flesh out the facts. As for the run itself, we found the roads a bit more congested than on other runs, and due to the number of lanes and roads with high hedges we didn't get to see much of the countryside. One place where the route map said 'good views of the Mersey' was right enough, but spoilt somewhat by the acres of factories and chemical plants also in view! Nevertheless, we enjoyed the weekend and may return.

280 very warm but trouble-free miles. Even at 6pm it was still nearly 30C, it is usual for Bees temp gauge to rise when switched off but I have never seen it rise so much as when we arrived home - right into the 'hot' shaded area. I have also got fed up with grounding Bee when loaded so am investigating the possibility of obtaining longer shackles for the rear springs to raise the rear about an inch.

July 6th - Shelsley Walsh VSCC meeting


Our first visit to Shelsley Walsh, and an interesting comparison with Prescott. We've been meaning to go for years but never quite got 'a round tuit'. The trigger this year was that the lease on the site ends next February and if they don't raise 1.5Million by then the site will close. This would be pretty tragic as it is the worlds oldest motor racing venue in continuous use, having begun in 1905. We were a bit taken aback by the entrance fee - 15 each (Prescott jumped 2 to 10 last year and that was bad enough) but given the amount of money they need to raise I suppose one can forgive them. I estimate they raised some 40, 000 in entrance money alone on the one day.

The first impression was one of sheer size, possibly four times the number of spectators as at the Bugatti Classic meetings at Prescott. The paddock was also very impressive, being hard standing and covered 'pits' for all entrants. The course itself is very different. Shelsley is a continuous hill with three of four kinks and one 'S'-bend, Prescott having more in the way of bends but the hill only starts about half-way along the course. Shelsley is fairly linear meaning each spectator location has only sight of a limited part of the course, where from Ettore's Field at Prescott one can see at least half and most of the interesting bends. Unlike Prescott Shelsley doesn't have a separate return route from the top of the hill to the paddock so competitors queue up in a compound at the top after their run, then periodically ascents are held while everyone comes back down the hill. This and the fact that Prescott seem to run the cars closer together means that Shelsley probably has less 'runs per hour' than Prescott. Another difference is one of organisation, at Shelsley cars run in any order without commentary in the morning, only getting one competing run in class order in the afternoon. At Prescott, until last year, cars had free practice on Saturday and two commentated, competing runs in class order on Sunday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Some superbly turned out cars including a magnificent K3 that set a new class record (the same car also set a new class record later in the year at Prescott), Bugatti, Frazer Nash, Alfa Romeo, Bentley and many other marques from the early 1900's to just post war. Many Vauxhalls in evidence it is the company's centenary this year and this was the official 'Vauxhall Centenary Weekend'. Bugatti is still my personal favourite but I was seriously impressed by the smooth lines, power and sound of three ERAs - the first time I had seen these in competition.

Warm enough for tee-shirts all day, and a mere gnat's gambol at 80 miles.

June 1st - Arden Heritage Run from Gaydon to Claydon

Lining up at GaydonMG Record breakersMG EXE
'Taxi' the first heritage reshell
and the last GT off the lineTea and a bun at a scenic spotArrival at the Bygones museum
The 10th anniversary of the Arden Heritage Run. We were inaugural members in 1993 when the run finished at the then brand new The British Motor Museum at Gaydon, this time we started from Gaydon. I took a trip round the museum for the first time since F**d took over the building and was surprised to see the contents largely unchanged except for the odd Ford, Jag and Aston on the upper level. However with the upcoming auction of around 80 vehicles from the collection I feel F**d may well be putting pressure on The British Motor Museum to make space for more of their own exhibits. From Gaydon a trip of about 60 miles of beautiful Warwickshire and Northamptonshire villages and countryside, finishing just a few miles from where we had started at the Bygones Museum, Claydon. Somewhat of a travel back in time, from a museum devoted to motive power of the multiple horsepower variety, to one where it came in ones and twos. Bygones is one man's work in collecting agricultural implements and machinery and many domestic items displayed in contextual settings. He is still around, and happy for you to try out some of the exhibits. Weather very warm, with early cloud soon clearing, an isolated shower in early afternoon (while we were under cover anyway) then clearing again. 120 relaxed, very pleasant and trouble-free miles.

May 10th-12th - Regency Run from Brooklands to Brighton

A pleasant Saturday afternoon in and around Windsor CastleThat banking is steep!The Loch Ness WellingtonMGs ...... as far as the eye can see
Our first time on this event, we made three days of it by travelling down on the Saturday and spending a few hours in Windsor - spectacular decor furniture and paintings in the Castle - before moving on to our hotel for two nights just south of Reigate. The Brooklands banking is pretty spectacular, it isn't until you get near the top that you realise just how steep it is. A short sharp shower before we started from Brooklands, fortunately while we were ambling round the museum. On the run classic English countryside, cricket on the village green in several places, and weather pretty fine until a few miles from Brighton in the early afternoon when showers developed into more general rain. 500+ MGs lined up on Madeira Drive was pretty impressive, then a dry run back to the hotel. Monday was a succession of very heavy showers followed by sunny spells to dry the car out. Enjoyed the run (I wonder how many ended up on the correct route after the split?) even though the weather was disappointing given the amount of sunshine we have had lately, and the forecasts were even more inaccurate than usual. 400 slightly damp, but trouble-free, miles.

April 19th - Shropshire Scramble

Some of the cars before the 'off'.Early CitroenView from The LongmyndTwo cars followed me through the ford then wouldn't you know it
no more for ages.Stokesay gatehouse from the castle rampartsGatehouse and castle from the churchyard
After a fabulously hot week Saturday dawned cloudy, windy and very cold. Oh well, never mind, Shropshire is a beautiful county and the tour called at Stokesay Castle which is a superbly preserved example of a moated manor house largely unchanged since the late 13th century and somewhere I have wanted to visit for some time. On another historical note although one considerably more recent, the run started from The Down Inn near Bridgnorth which is somewhere where my wife and I used to go when we were courting over 30 years ago. Did the 80 miles of the run with the top down, although out of consideration for the Navigator the journey there and back was with it up. 170 dry (at least) and trouble-free miles.

April

Fitted the MkII Overdrive Sequencer relay to Bee, details in the 'Gearbox' section of 'Spanners'.

March

In connection with Vee's cooling system problem I decided to go the whole hog and do a full top-end strip-down and analysis and decide whether the engine was scrap, needed a full rebuild, or just the top-end. The engine was in extremely good condition internally so did a top-end overhaul, being fairly sure I found and cleared the cooling system in the process. The full story will be in the 'Engine' section of 'Spanners' in due course.

February

Decide to practice what I have been preaching and fit fuses to the overdrive and fuel pump circuits of Vee. I chose to do it at the rear of the engine compartment where the main, rear and gearbox harness join together, as the fuses can be inserted into the bullet connectors and removed again without cutting any wiring.

Whilst doing that the wipers were not quite parked so I lifted them off the screen and turned them on and off but they stopped halfway and wouldn't run again. Turned out to be a dirty accessories fuse under the main fusebox.

Then discovered that the fuel pump was intermittently not working. Couldn't complete the diagnosis as it started working, but there was no voltage reaching the back of the car, so it is either my new fuse, the immobiliser, or I have disturbed a bad connection in the POs wire feeding the pump (it had obviously shorted out and damaged the white in the rear harness in the past) when I was running in my purple for the clock.

Then one of the carbs started overflowing! Found out it was the right one, which had a new float valve when it was leaking some time ago. But neither a new filter nor emptying the carbs and refilling made any difference. Neither did another new float valve, then I found the float was full of petrol. Shaking it, squeezing it and warming it up showed no trace of seepage out of the float, so it could be a microscopic defect at the join of the two halves which has slowly been sucking in fuel during each heat/cool cycle. As I still needed to move the car from time to time I used the new overdrive and fuel pump fuses to cross-connect the pump to the overdrive switch so I could switch the pump on and off manually long enough to run the engine normally but not enough to flood! Until a carb actually emptied there seemed to be no difference in how the engine ran as the fuel level dropped, indicating that float level is not critical.

February 16th - MG Spares Day Stoneleigh

Very busy as usual. Getting in and parking even more chaotic than usual. Long queue on public roads then a single line through the grounds where there was space for two. Get to a large field where some were directed along one side and others were directed round the other three sides only for the two to join up again at the exit from the field, the 'one-siders' having jumped a large part of the queue. At this point we were encouraged into two lines at long last only to have to merge back into a single line a few yards further on to get through a gate!

Finally managed to 'cash in' my MGOC Gift Vouchers from 2001 for a book and some change, to which I added 50p and got 3 oil filters for the roadster and V8. Also got a new bonnet release cable and spring and beat someone down from 40 to 25 for a tonneau cover with headrest pockets with a stuck zip otherwise perfect. I already had one and use it a lot but it has no headrest pockets so is a bit of a faff to fit.

January

Fitted the battery cut-off switch, but didn't like having to reset the clock each time I used the car, so ran in a purple with an inline fuse direct from the battery post to the clock, with much fiddling and getting oily under the car. Then I realised what I should have done was to remove the original purple fuse and connect my new feed to the purple feeding the loadspace light at the back of the car. Geddit?

Short shopping trip out in Vee, went to check the coolant level before our return and the bonnet latch return spring chose that moment to break! The Navigator was not amused. Partly my fault as the cable had been getting stiffer and I had been putting off doing anything about it, but the spring had rusted through at one end anyway. Turned the last loop into a hook as a temp fix and ran oil down the cable which freed it up. The nut at the handle end was a bit loose so I tightened it up - and sheared the threaded part from the end of the cable!

January 5th - Auto Jumble NEC.

First time visit possibly only as big as the MG-only Spares Day at Stoneleigh. Decided on the spur of the moment to fit a battery cut-off switch in an effort to stem the annual battery replacement - managed to nag the supplier into a 2nd replacement but he wasn't happy - which I'm wondering might be due to the load of the alarm, even unset, now that Vee isn't getting much use. Found switches priced from 4.50 to 13, the cheapest stall seemed to be the only one that had suitable lugs, and threw in two of those as well at half-price.

Rubbed shoulders at another stand with Quentin Wilson, who had the embarrassment of having his credit card rejected. "I've been on holiday". Yes, Quentin.