2004

October 3rd, Autumn Gold Run, Cambridge and Bedford

The last run of our season and a mixture of sunshine and showers, could have been worse though. At least we spent most of the Sunday with the hood down, only putting it up for the last hour as the Navigator was chilled through. Monday morning coming home we had just got started when it started coming down in torrents with a gale-force wind, so hard I could barely see the road ahead. A good test of the waterproofing following the screen replacement the new header rail seal didn't leak at all, nor the glazing seal, both of which leaked before. However two new leaks at the corners where the legs go through the wings, but shouldn't be too difficult to lift the screen next spring and re-seal it. Things dried up along the way and the sun came out, and that and the sunny and breezy afternoon meant Bee could go back in the garage dry again.

Saturday we went via Woburn Abbey a very impressive collection of paintings. A bit of a surprise when we got to our hotel - The Golden Ball in Boxworth - to find it was owned by none other than Roche Bentley. A bit peeved to find they didn't do evening meals on the Sunday especially as I had asked before booking, but they noticed we were MG-ers and gave us a useful discount as club members which went part of the way to easing the pain of having to drive to another restaurant and forego our usual bottle of wine.

Quite an attractive route on Sunday, a bit of sun would have helped. Not much 'Autumn Gold' in view probably because of the wet summer, this year many of the leaves seem to be falling before they have turned. Travelled to the official stop at Stondon Transport Museum via Cardington where the airship hangers are and The Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden. We should have stopped at the latter, even at extra cost, but at the time we didn't think we would have time to do both that and Stondon. In the event we would have and it would have broken up the journey, as it was not getting to Stondon until 3/4 the way round meant a long first leg. I'm fairly sure that there is not a museum as such at Cardington (yet) but annoyingly I only discovered that the Airship Heritage Trust does have a presence at Old Warden after our return. Stondon is privately owned and contains a wide variety of items from a Sinclair C5 to a Russian missile launcher complete with missile! Some exotics of course, but nice to see many 'bread and butter' cars that usually don't feature elsewhere.

About 310 miles and not a beat missed as usual, although two minor electrical problems which both turned out to be switches. One was the overdrive intermittently jumping out and back in again over a bump or sharp bend, and the other was on the Sunday morning when the immobiliser switch wasn't closing. A couple of flicks got it going again, but next morning that didn't work so I swapped over the wires to bypass the switch and away we went. On our return I dismantled the OD switch to find the problem was probably due to hardened grease that I cleaned out and replaced. The other switch was one I had had kicking around for about 35 years and used on various cars, so was well past retirement age, which I simply replaced.

September 11th - 13th Lancashire Lanes Run aka 'The Hump-backed Bridge Run'

With the diabolical weather forecast (the tail end of hurricane Frances) we opted to go in Vee even though we had booked Bee, peering through a letterbox slit for three days isn't much fun, and Bee's screen is still an unknown quantity waterproof-wise since the glass was replaced a couple of weeks ago. In the event the Saturday meander up to Preston, via Rufford Old Hall (the original home of the Heskeths of one-time F1 fame) was dry with quite a bit of sunshine until mid-afternoon when it started to drizzle. One interesting feature was a 1930s 'Aerogen' gas generator lighting system using petrol droplets and blown air and classed as a 'carburettor' :o). Apparently as long as the ratio of petrol to air was kept between 2% and 5% it was safe. Given the blacksmith engineering of the device rather their house than mine. Sunday morning was again dry and bright for the run, after heavy overnight rain, but again clouded by late morning with fairly general rain from lunchtime on. Torrential rain and howling gales overnight, but again dry and sunny for the run home giving Vee a chance to dry out before going back in the garage.

West Lancs is a first for us and very scenic despite the rainy afternoon, it reminded me a bit of Cornwall with its twisty lanes, pretty villages, and hilly coastal regions. I don't think I have ever been over as many hump-backed bridges. Not a problem for Vee although fully loaded the back is bouncing a bit, I'm more certain then ever that the accursed tubular rear shocks are now too soft but the adjusters have seized so it's back to lever arms as soon as I can. Well organised, with an error-free route book and attractive glass tankard as a memento, the local group were friendly and chatty. The only draw-back was a city-centre (more-or-less) start and finish at the marina. We happened to meet a local TD at a petrol station just outside Preston who led us in, but had to endure a long, slow, wet crawl back out again at the finish.

420 trouble-free, but mixed weather, miles, with Vee going like a train on the 120 miles in 2 hours trip back on the M6. Typically traffic grinding to a halt on the M42 one mile from home.

September 10th, Dave and Liz Dubois visit

Met up with Dave and Liz for a spot of lunch and a chat, it was good to meet them face to face after having communicated via the BBS and mailing lists for some time now. They are from the Seattle area and touring the UK for a few weeks. Dave is an SU fuel pump expert and rebuilds them see here for his articles on SU fuel pumps and rebuilding service.

August 14th 2nd Lincolnshire Wander

Journey up on the Friday started off dry but cool, but after about an hour it started to mizzle, and an hour later it was very heavy rain with the usual leaks from the header rail seal and the bottom corners of the screen. Somewhere along the way the screen got hit by a stone and a vertical crack started developing from the top edge. Right in front of my eye-line, so it will have to be replaced before the next MOT. Bummer. I hope the silver lining to that will be properly sealing the glass to the rubber and the rubber to the frame and finally see the end of some of the leaks at least.

Speaking of silver linings we were staying near Coningsby which is the home of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and the weather being so bad all planes were grounded and so on view in their hanger, most of them would have been away had the weather been better. Excellent guided tour, with lots of fascinating history on the planes, and a 40-page full-colour brochure, all for the princely sum of 1.40! Only two Lancasters left flying (legally) in the world, the other is in Canada. About eight years ago this Lancaster got a new main spar which will keep it flying for another 40 years, and at the same time they had a second one made which barring accidents should take it nearly up to the end of this century. Several Spitfires, including the oldest flying example in the world, No. 14 off the production line at Castle Bromwich not far from where I live. This plane actually took part in the Battle of Britain, and you can see the patched bullet holes. Another Spitfire took part in the D-Day landings, and a third was the last to enter service in the RAF. This is a photo-reconnaissance plane stripped for speed and with a 1900HP Merlin engine (in the earliest Spitfires the Merlin was little more than half that). More good news is that as well as being able to repair damaged aircraft a brand-new Spitfire is under construction in the hanger, so again we should see them flying for the foreseeable future. Two Hurricanes, a Dakota and a Chipmunk also in the fleet. One of the Hurricanes suffered a major engine failure in flight in 1991, crash-landed at Wittering and was severely damaged both by impact and fire, but again has been restored to full flying order, a tribute to the dedication and skill of the RAF engineers and technicians seconded to the flight, with the support of a number of sponsors including MG Rover.

Saturday for the run dawned bright with patches of blue sky, and by mid-morning and for the rest of the day was full glorious sunshine without a cloud in the sky. A very interesting route joining up the Pinchbeck Engine Gordon Boswell Romany Museum and Heckington railway station museum and working eight-sailed windmill. The Pinchbeck Engine is a beam engine with scoop wheel and was used for draining that part of the fens for agriculture. It replaced windmill pumps which allowed the land to flood when the wind didn't blow! It was locked up and left untouched when replaced by the electric pumps in an adjoining building in 1952. Starting in 1988 the pumping gear was restored and is currently run from a small electric motor, they are hoping to get a grant to restore the boilers. A really enjoyable day, thanks to Stuart and Margaret of Freewheelers.

Sunday again sunny and bright so we headed for the coast and the nature reserve at Gibraltar Point near Skegness (too near, one has to pass through it). Headed home about mid-day with cloud developing but still warm, then about 20 miles from home mizzle and finally steady torrential rain just like Friday.

We stayed at the Lea Gate Inn near Coningsby very comfortable rooms, friendly people (as everyone seemed to be in the area) and superb food. Highly recommended! The icing on the cake for the Navigator was when out for a stroll after dinner in the evening we watched a Barn Owl for several minutes just yards away in the fields alongside the road quartering for its prey.

370 miles of mixed weather although really good for the run and most of the way home. Trouble-free as usual, apart from the cracked screen.

July 4th Shelsley Walsh VSCC meeting

Another good crowd to hopefully keep the place open, as they say the future is still not assured. A generally sunny day, the only shower being just as they broke for lunch. Good to see the Raymond Mays ERA break its record again this year by nearly half a second.

June 5th-7th New Forest Run

Our 2nd year on this event (we were on the inaugural run on 2000) but our 4th time in the New Forest staying at The Forest Park hotel in Brockenhurst each time A bit cloudy to start with on the Saturday run down with the clouds breaking up in the afternoon. On the day of the run there was some high thin cloud that burnt off within an hour or so, the rest of the day being sunny and pretty warm. A great tour through the woods and over the heath of the Forest with plenty of new foals to captivate the Navigator. Finished up at Christchurch on 'The Quomps', or to you and me some public open space adjacent to the river and marina. About 250 cars this year, around double that for the first run.

The day of the run was the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings of course, and also our 34th wedding anniversary. Whilst at Christchurch we had a look in the church and came across a modern stained glass window commemorating many events, large and small, in the life of the church over the past 900 years in the year 2000. Imagine our surprise when amongst the many was one marking the 30th anniversary of a couple who were married there on 6th June 1970, which also happened to be our wedding day. Another nice bit of happenstance was a glimpse The Red Arrows flying in loose formation on their way to the celebrations on the Normandy beaches.

For the journey home on Monday there was full sun from the start and it just got hotter and hotter. 380 dry, mostly sunny and very warm miles. No problems en route as usual although when I had one of the front wheels off next day I noticed a couple of broken spokes that hadn't been there when I cleaned them immediately before. After no breakages in Suffolk and the Mid-Wales Meander I was beginning to think I might get away with it this year. But no matter, there is time to get them replaced before the next run.

May 29th Mid Wales Meander

With the forecast originally for a wet Saturday, then the rain forecast for Friday afternoon, then Friday night, we actually woke to rain on Saturday morning. We had considered going in Vee if expecting a wet day but with the early rain and the promise of brightening later we opted for Bee. A wet journey to the start point of Bucknell near Knighton so hood up, and visibility down to a few yards over Clee Hill, but the sun came out as we arrived so the hood came down for the run. And apart from a couple of short sharp showers a few minutes after the start the weather just got better and better.

Some new roads for us and The Devil's Staircase between Beulah and Tregaron has some pretty spectacular climbs descents and views. Stopped off at Devils Bridge for Mynach Falls and my wife had the impression she had been their before and remembered not liking it. As soon as we walked down to Devils Cauldron it all came back to her ... and she still didn't like it! She had last been there over 40 years ago as a young girl. We skipped Elan this time having been a couple of times before and made a bee-line for Rhayader, Gigrin Farm and the Red Kite feeding station arriving just in time for 3pm feeding. On all our trips round and through Wales we had never seen any Red Kites, although we had seen plenty from the M40 near Stokenchurch. This time we saw about three lots along the way, then at Gigrin Farm there were about 100, including a rare albino. Beautiful birds, and spectacular close up as they swoop down to grab meat with their claws which they fly up with then feed on the wing. I'm not sure how they do that but on one occasion I saw a bird drop a piece from its claws then dive to catch it in its beak. Also several buzzards feeding on the ground. The only drawback was the huge number of crows feeding on the ground, so they get the lions share.

A really enjoyable run with warm and sunny weather for all but the run to the start, bags of enjoyable driving and some interesting places to visit, and 34 varied cars from a 1924 Humber Tourer to a 2002 Honda S2000. 255 miles, with the only problem being one of the supports for the wind-stop broke, and strict instructions from the Navigator to repair it before The New Forest run next weekend! That a major cleanup job inside out from the wet and muddy start.

May 16th - Iceni MGOC 6th Boadicea Run Suffolk

After the cold and wet of April and May we were really lucky to have the first three warm and sunny days for the trip. Not just MGs but a bunch of Westfields, a few TVRs, and some other classics. An unusual run in that it crammed in nearly 100 miles into what was probably not much more than a 10 mile circle to the north-east of Bury St Edmunds. Which explained why we kept seeing other entrants coming the other way - the route retraced its steps or repeated sections several times. The lunch break was at an MG Rover dealership and much chaos was caused as 100+ cars tried to cram into the car park mostly all at once bringing the road to a halt in both directions. It was also a TVR and a Noble dealership with five of the latter (an heirloom of Nobles?) on the forecourt.

We stayed at The Six Bells at Bardwell and it is difficult to imagine anywhere much more rural, with crops growing right up to the bedroom windows. Rooms a bit small, but excellent food. Also a bit of history having been the location for some episodes of 'Dad's Army'.

We would like to have seen a bit more of the county, so we shall just have to go back :o). 450 dry, sunny and trouble-free miles.

February

Bonnet release cable - Last year I had bought a new cable at Stoneleigh for the V8 as the old one had broken where it bolts through the firewall. All was well initially, then I found it going slack as I was pulling the sheath through the crimp at the handle end. Took it off and saw that the manufacturer had crimped over the plastic sheathing and hence didn't grip it very well. Tried cutting back the plastic sheath a bit and welding it but even on very low power it was still melting the spiral outer, so I Araldited it. We shall see.

Front damper replacement - Over the winter I'd noticed some dirty oil spotting the garage floor under Vee, and was relieved to see it was only the right-hand damper leaking and not something more serious as a result of the top-end rebuild last year. Replaced without too many difficulties other than the usual problems with top link bolt joining the damper arms to the swivel axle.

February 15th - International MG Show and Spares Day

No queuing on the approach roads this time, but a different cock-up inside. Marshals were directing all traffic up a road at the end of which the parking area was for MGs only, so non-MGs were having to park in the road and everything came to a dead halt. Fortunately I was by a turn-off and got into a field quite easily.

Lots of stuff as usual. As my Gunsons multi-meter had packed up I bought a Draper which was about 1/3rd the price of the Gunsons, and the show price reduction paid the entry fee. Also found quite a few speedos for my cross-reference list of part and reference numbers and TPMs. Then I had the brainwave of looking for repairers to see if they would be willing to send me the full list and one of them did. Very nice of them.