2011

November 11th-13th - Classic Car Show Birmingham NEC


Visited with a pal on the Friday, a bit more expensive but much less crowded than at the weekend.


September 23rd-25th - Lake District and Scafell Pike


Back to the Lakes in Vee climbing Scafell Pike (on foot ...). There are four peaks over 3000ft in the range - Scafell Pike, Broad Crag and Ill Crag virtually in a line on the Esk Hause route, with Scafell itself a little further on, so we have set ourselves a bit of a challenge to tackle as many as we can. Broad Crag and Ill Crag are hardly any higher than the surrounding plateau so very few people visit them despite their being over the magical 3000ft that denotes a Munroe (of which more below) in Scotland. However Scafell itself is a different proposition, a significant descent from the Pike, then a steep ascent in the boulder-strewn Lords Rake gully, then a steep descent of another boulder-strewn gully which is Foxes Tarn, then another steep ascent back to Mickledore and Scafell Pike before you can pick up the path home. The first three should be 'easy', the final one definitely a bigger ask.

Saturday dawns mizzling with very low cloud, oh well never mind. Drive to Seathwaite in Borrowdale from Keswick, then starting at 9:30am take the Corridor Route. This is much more interesting than the Esk Hause route with a couple of scrambles, Esk Hause is definitely easier for a descent when tired, and also makes a circular route. As we climb the rain gets worse, as does the wind which is in our faces. Paths streaming with water so our feet get wet before too long, vanishing altogether under the torrent in Sty Head Gill just past Taylor Gill Force. Once past Styhead Tarn at least the rain starts to ease off - rain or wind is OK, but both together in your face is not much fun. At Piers Gill we split up into two groups of three, one group heading straight for Scafell Pike while the rest of us go round by Lingmell Col and Hollow Stones for an attempt on Scafell itself first. At Hollow Stones we find ourselves losing too much height following the path that comes up from Wasdale so start traversing under Pikes Crag and Pulpit Rock to pick up the Mickledore path - and that's where the problems started. This is very steep, at least 45 degrees if not more, on a very loose shale scree surface. A case of two steps forward one step back - if you are lucky, potentially a lot more back. At that point I decided I would bypass Scafell for the Pike as it was already about 2pm, it didn't take long for the other two to agree. Eventually we got to the top of Mickledore and the path to the Pike, but it was a real struggle all the way. I didn't even see the start of Lords Rake as visibility was so poor, a feature of the whole walk so far with only occasional glimpses of the valleys below and nothing above. The rest of the route to the Pike was a steady ascent over tumbled boulders, and very windy on top of the 'shelter' in thick cloud.

A celebratory picture, then head for Broad Col and the other two peaks. We had wound back and fore heading up to the Pike and with no visibility of the surroundings needed map and compass to show us the correct line of cairns to follow. More scree down to the Col, with the other half of our group not too far ahead. Up the other side of Broad Col then leave the path for Broad Crag. Now it's really massive boulders, the size of small cars, tumbled at all angles, so not an easy ascent. Go for my camera to take another picture - and the inside pocket is open and the camera gone - buggah! Not much chance of going back to look for it, last picture was taken on the descent to Broad Col, and with the scrambling over the boulders it could easily have fallen down any one of the large gaps between them. Nothing for it to press on to Ill Crag - a longer but easier detour off the path this time, then the descent via Esk Hause to Seathwaite catching and passing the other group on the way, getting back to the cars at 7:30pm.

Keswick is a really lively little town with about 30 eating and drinking establishments in and around the square. Most of the pubs and bars have a different music ('music' being a relative term ...) act each night and stop serving food at 9:30 so we didn't have long after getting back to the B&B to get out again. Good value food and loads of ales, so we ended up on a bit of a pub crawl, moving on as each one closed to find another still open, not leaving the last one until after 1am! Next day took the scenic route back through the Lakes and back home, Vee running perfectly all the way, 420 miles and averaged 34mpg.

Then Tuesday I get a phone call from the organiser of the Northumbria run earlier in the month, to say someone had found my camera! The finder been through the photos, spotted the rally plaque and found the organisers on the internet from that, decided which must have been my car from the number of pictures, was able to read the number plate, and passed that on to the organisers with his phone number - what a gent, and they found me from their records! I phoned him that evening and he told me he had found it Monday in terrible weather, i.e. two days after I had dropped it, sitting on top of one of the large boulders heading up to Broad Crag. About five doses of luck there - 1: as I said very few people visit the crag as despite being over 3000ft it isn't much higher than the surrounding plateau (which is below 3000); 2: there is no recognisable path to follow so it was pure chance he happened across it; 3: it was sitting on top of a boulder rather than having dropped into the many large and deep gaps between them; 4: the only reason he was there was that he is a member of the Munroe Society and was writing an article on the English 'Munroes' for the Society journal; and 5: it was pure chance both trips took place in September as I delete all the photos at the end of each month after backing-up. Swapped addresses - I had to prod him for his as I wanted to send him something to cover the postage plus something for himself or a favourite charity, and got the camera back in full working order just a couple of days later :o)


September - Vee suddenly becomes difficult to hot-start

Once in August could have been an oddity, but twice more definitely needs investigation. It's like the battery is almost flat, slow cranking, although it has only recently been switched off, and spins away merrily when cold. I was at a pals the third time and we wondered if it could be a rich mixture. He has a Colortune so we put that in No.1 and it seemed fine (although I still have difficulty working out just what the flashes as opposed to using the lifting-pins, others seem to find it the other way round), if anything a smidgen weak. Put the plug back, which I always do by hand with the socket and short extension until it 'bottoms', then tighten with the socket wrench. However this didn't seem to tighten, so I stopped anyway. Discussing further I did wonder if it was heat soak, but back home it was only switched off for a couple of seconds while I unlocked the garage door then took a while to restart, so it isn't heat-soak. At some point the question of how old the plugs were came up, and I realised they had probably been in some time. On checking it was nine years and 25k miles! Standard Bosch single-point, but no visible erosion of the electrodes.

Bought a new set from Halfords based on the part numbers I had written in the Workshop Manual many years ago, but they turned out to be long-reach and I was pretty sure I needed short-reach - buggah! Then I looked in the bag of bits I carry around for an old one to compare, and found a full set of new ones - double-buggah!! But at least I could replace the (very) old ones. However when screwing the first one in (the one I had replaced with the Colortune plug) I kept turning by hand and it never bottomed - oh-oh. Removed it and a spiral of aluminium came out with it - triple buggah!!! Put the new one in until resistance just started, and fitted the rest (this time very careful about tightening!) and ran the engine. I fully expected the dodgy one to pop out but it didn't even through getting fully up to temperature, and blipping the throttle. Switching off and restarting, both immediately and a few moments later, and it started instantly, so confirming the plugs as the cause. What happens is that as the plugs age they get harder to fire, maybe the hotter they are the harder they are as well, so maybe something elsewhere in the HT circuit was breaking down. And whereas in normal cranking both hot and cold the spark, even before it fully fires up, there is some combustion to aid the cranking, with no spark the starter is having to take the whole of the load. Easy enough to prove by disconnecting the coil and cranking.

But what to do about this plug? I certainly wouldn't drive it anywhere like that. Helicoil should fix it, but I really don't want to remove the head (a head bolt snapped last time and needed drilling and retapping), so could it be done with the engine in-situ? And in any case I would probably need to drive it to somewhere that could do it. Looking at the engine No.1 plug is situated between two exhaust manifold bolts, so potentially I could put a plate between them, with a tube going over the plug onto its metal base pressing it into the head, and that is what I did. Should be good enough to drive somewhere to see if I can get it helicoiled. Subsequently my pal says he knows the garage he does occasional MOTs for has had to helicoil plug holes in the past, and can borrow their kit and get it to me for about 24 hours, which he did in October.


September 3rd-5th - Northumbria Heritage Run


Our first organised run in the area, although we had toured on our own account in 1998. We travelled up on the Saturday, diverting via Middlesbrough to take the transporter bridge over the Tees, an objective of mine since I first came across it in 'Auf Weidersehen, Pet'. Unfortunately the visitor centre was closed (on a Saturday afternoon?) but the bridge was running. Also fortunately Bee started on the other side, I had visions of us being carted back and fore at 1.30 a time. Dry up till then, but the further north we got was wetter and wetter, and it rained steadily most of the night as well.

Amazingly Sunday for the run dawned bright and sunny, about half an hour from Gosforth where we had stayed with friends David and Helen to the start at Belsay Hall. Dry for the whole run and mostly sunny as well, much to the amazement of the locals as they have apparently had a very wet summer, unlike in the Midlands where it has been very dry. Much glorious Northumbrian countryside with places of interest en route, and very friendly people both on the run and in villages where we stopped, had several nice comments about Bee and her Black Tulip colour. Towards the end the countryside was a bit more 'ordinary' but it was getting us over to the coast and Whitley Bay and the finish at Tynemouth Priory.

Monday morning also sunny, at which point David warned us this wasn't normal for Northumbria, and our journey home. Stopped off at the Angel of the North which was impressive, although how you are supposed to get back onto the A1 afterwards is left up to individual imagination and ingenuity! Also a (in fact the only) very nice bench placed with a good view of the sculpture - at least it did have until a planted copse in front of the seat had grown up and completely obscured it! After that a succession of heavy downpours followed by dry roads and sunshine, so many we lost count, but fortunately we finished on a 'dry' and had another couple of hours of sun and breezes to make sure Bee was fully dry. 590 completely trouble-free miles, and a very enjoyable weekend.


August 13th - Gaydon

A BMW event really (but travelled in the roadster). Sunday was to be the main event but on Saturday the BMW club of GB were recreating an aerial photo of around 70 E35 M3s laid out to form an 'M' for 'M Power' to mark the 30th anniversary of the car's launch. Son had been invited to include his red model, brought his son along, hence my interest


August 7th - Duxford Classic Car event


A weekend at out son's place near St Neots doing some work combined with a trip to Duxford on the Sunday as it is only about half an hour away. Travelled in Bee given the forecast and the event, normally we use Vee or if the weather is going to be really bad then the ZS. Bypassed the M6 through the lanes but picked up the A14 as that isn't too bad top-down. Warnings of long delays round Huntingdon but we turn off onto the A1 just before there so no problem. However passing St Neots on the A1 we encounter stop-start traffic, very few people peeling off into the town so we decide to as we can finish the journey cross-country from there. However not knowing the route through we end up in Eaton Socon and a horrendous jam in which we spend about an hour travelling one cars length every few minutes, in warm sunshine. I watch the temp gauge creeping up, and into the shaded 'H' zone before we can escape the traffic, but it soon comes back down once we are moving and there is no steaming or coolant loss - note to those who are paranoid about a small rise above 'N'!

Saturday quite dull but mostly indoor jobs so no problem, except that is supposed to be the better day of the two. However Sunday dawns bright and sunny albeit quite cool when driving, but then I did opt for tee-shirt and shorts! Given the size of the venue I suppose I was surprised there weren't more cars there, just a handful of MGs and no sign of the MGOC even though their HQ is only a few miles away. Still the main reason for the visit was the planes and not the cars, my son got me in on the BMW stand so we only had to pay the exhibitor rate and not the visitor. I say 'only' but even that came to 20 for the two of us, the visitor rate would have been over 30. You do get a lot for your money though. Started off in the tank museum, and found an example of the gun Harry would have been on at Dunkirk which is something I have been wanting to see for a while. Some really good flying displays from three Spitfires and an ME109, lots of sight-seeing flights from a Tiger Moth and two Dragon Rapide, and the Flying Fortress took off about lunchtime returning mid-afternoon which was good. The rest of the time was seeing the huge amount that is in the American and British hangers, neither of which were there when we last visited in 1994. A heavy shower early afternoon that needed sheltering from followed by sunshine which left the usual white marks on Bee's paint, then more rain on the way home including a cloudburst just as we started coming into Solihull, so Bee's period of minimal valeting has come to end and she will need the full works for the next outing. 250 miles, brake light switch still fine.

July 24th - Pendle Run, Lancs/Yorks


A glorious three days for this run - glorious for the scenery and vistas on the run, the weather, and not least our home for two nights The Alma Inn at Laneshawbridge, Colne.

The weather had been pretty miserable the week before but the forecast for the weekend just got better and better. We had given up a 'scenic' route to this area as it is tortuous and takes hours, so opted for the M6 straight up to Preston and the Turbary Woods Owl and Birds of Prey Sanctuary where we had been previously in 2008, arriving in just 2 hours. Plenty of sun but windy and the air still a bit cool, but a very good guided tour of the enclosures and a flying display as before. Unlike many places anyone could put on the glove and receive the several owls and kestrels they were flying that day. An easy journey from there to The Alma at Colne, and a bit of a culture-shock in Nelson for petrol. More than outweighed by the stunning location of The Alma with rolling distant hills pretty-well 360 degrees round. Lovely staff, beautifully kept public rooms and bedrooms and excellent food and wine, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

Sunday was less windy with hardly a cloud in the sky, warming up nicely in the afternoon. Incredible route around Pendle Hill to begin with albeit mostly steep and twisty single-track roads so great care needed with quite a few vehicles coming the other way. The first 20 miles took us about 2 hours, and we had another 60 to go! Fortunately the roads opened up a bit one away from the hill but still glorious rolling countryside, including views across to Morecambe Bay and Blackpool Tower. Different again for the Trough of Bowland with its almost prehistoric moss-covered boulders in a steep-sided valley containing the River Dunsop. Probably the most scenic route we have ever encountered, and a break from the very short distances between instructions of the previous two runs. Sometimes a bit too much of a break, as on a couple of the longer ones we found ourselves going into a bit of a trance and nearly missing them (some people are never satisfied ...).

Cloudy leaving Colne but the sun broke through by the time we reached the M6 at Preston for the journey home, hood up again as traffic at speed is no fun with it down. Apart from an unexplained hold-up for a few moments near Keele just 2 1/2 hours back home. 405 miles altogether, and no problems. Bee has now done four (if you include Gaydon) trips and almost 1000 miles and apart from quick wash before this run to get the dust off hasn't needed any other cleaning, the wheels still look like they did before the Ratae Run.

July 11th - Hans Duinhoven from Holland visits the UK


Another internet pal, Hans, and I have participated in various fora and emailed each other from time to time for a number of years. Hans and his son, Dave, are spending a week in the UK touring in their 67 GT visiting various places of a 'classic' nature in Lincolnshire, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Cheshire. Monday sees them at Gaydon so a good opportunity to meet up. A quiet day being mid-week, so a good opportunity to get some nice pictures right in front of the museum entrance.

Subsequently Hans writes an account of his exploits, published in the Dutch MG CC Region West News.

July 10th - Marcham Road Run, Chesterfield


First time on this run, and first time back to the Peaks since we stopped going on the Kimber Run several years ago. Forecast for heavy thundery showers in the afternoon, better weather to the south of us. In the event we had plenty of sun and only a couple of light showers in the last few miles but didn't even stop to put a jacket on let alone put the hood up. By contrast Silverstone looked like they had heavy rain shortly before the start of the GP. Classic peaks and dales scenery with some very pretty villages and good vistas, although the Navigator wasn't too keen on the hairpin climbs we encountered. No warning of those, but there was an optional alternative route given to avoid Tissington Ford, which only had an inch or two of water in it. Just a bit too long, Navigator a bit fed up with all the short distances again, and it would have been better to finish at a place of interest. Feedback form did ask if that would be preferable, so we voted yes. 255 miles, no problems, brake-light switch holding up going by the tell-tale repeater I had rigged up on the dash.

July 6th - Michael Beswick drops by

Michael and Suzie call in on their way for a week in Wales, in their Moss supercharger-equipped B.


June 26th - Ratae Run

A late first run of the season for us, a local one, and for the first time. Fettling Bee in the days before I decide to check the lights and find the brake lights not working. They've gone high resistance - too high to light the lamps, but low enough to operate a relay to light them, so installed one as a temporary measure. I probably have enough time to order, receive and fit a new switch but I don't won't to risk struggling getting the old switch out and open up the hydraulic system this close to an event. But on the morning of the event although the relay is still clicking, it's clicking on at low pressures and off again at normal pressures, so no good. However I have a switch under the dash wired into the engine compartment that can be used to operate the relay and hence the lights manually. Because of that and wanting to avoid using the brakes and hence that switch as much as possible I opt to go the motorway route to the start at Broughton Astley near Leicester, and a quick look at Google maps shows junction 2 of the M69 is the closest. However J2 never appears, we reach the end of the M69, and a look at the atlas shows that it is a limited access junction not indicated as such on Google unless you zoom right in. Can't make head nor tail of the immediate road signs so head back down the M69 to J2.

The 'forecasters' were as useless as ever - a few days before promising loads of sun and heat for Sunday, but as each day went by they indicated less and less, the night before indicating we could only expect a couple of hours of sun around midday. And Sunday morning dawns with thick cloud and mizzle! However shortly after starting out on the run the clouds roll back and we had full sun for the rest of the day right into the evening, and boiling hot.


The first half of the run was superb for the scenery and villages, and we stopped off at Nazeby - site of the battle between Cromwell and Charles 1st on June 14th 1645. There is an obelisk and flag marking Cromwell's position (the victor, note, nothing at the Royalist position), and info boards showing the troop positions across the valley below. Then onto a coffee stop near Pailton, and lunch at Bosworth field. Site of the final battle in the Wars of the Roses between Richard III and Henry Tudor - Henry VII to be. A full visitor centre here, but again amusingly rather than the site of the battle it seems more likely that it was the campaign headquarters of the victor (Henry) as subsequent research has unearthed many cannon balls some distance away, and they think only Henry had cannon.

Second half of the route not quite so scenic, and really too many very short distances (less than half a mile) between turns (and a few errors) which meant the Navigator had her head in the route book for most of the time. Reached the destination of Staunton Harold thankfully and managed to park under a tree in what had become the hottest part of the day. Apart from the coffee and lunch stop we had literally only seen three other cars on the run all day, and very little other traffic. As we left one leaving plenty of other cars behind, and reach the next to find most of them already there, I think the locals must skip the route and go for the chat instead. Nothing wrong in that - at least it meant I only had to use the manual brake light switch a couple of times. Had a wander round the craft village, spotted a very apt gift for son and daughter-in-law, as well as some unusual owls carved from river stones for the Navigator. Too hot to do much walking round we headed for home, again opting for the motorway route to avoid braking as much as possible. But of course there was traffic approaching the A42/M42 so I was having to use the switch, the Navigator asked what I was doing and wasn't best pleased when I told her. Still once on the A42 I didn't need them again until we got off the M42 at Solihull, and not after that. 193 miles and no issues on the actual run, although changing the switch was the first job for next day.

June 19th - Father's Day

Out for a spin on a reasonably fine Sunday morning I noticed a narrow-boat just beginning to cross an aqueduct as I passed under it, so stopped the other side to take a photo. The chap on the tiller looked much the same age as me and recognised 'a fellow traveller' so we exchanged smiles and waves and he took a picture of me and Bee. I was particularly amused when I looked more closely at the photo and saw the name of the boat - 'Sanity Again' which I take to mean leaving the rat-race behind.

June 1st - Servicing

After three months working on a house refurb for daughter and son-in-law I have some time to catch up on the servicing of my three cars. Vee is first and everything went according to plan except the last couple of times I haven't been able to get the axle level plug out, so decide this time I really must. The two tools I have been using for years (home-brew adaptor and simply the 1/2" drive of my socket spanner) aren't working and I can see the corners of the tapered square hole are fracturing. After a bit pondering I can see no other option but to use a hammer and chisel on opposite corners of the square, and eventually, after fracturing one of the sides out all together, it comes undone. I have a spare from Bee's old axle so that goes in. I've never been able to understand why the level plug is this design, when a hex plug like on the rubber bumper gearbox would be so much better. I can understand why the drain plug isn't as that would reduce ground clearance, even though the gearbox drain plug is a hex plug! I shall be experimenting with the old plug to see if I can weld a bolt into it, and convert it to a hex plug.

May 10th - Beckett's Farm meet

Not been for a couple of years as the chap who used to organise them wouldn't do them anymore because the kids in their hot hatches were rather taking over screaming up and down the bypass, egged on by people standing on the side of the road. However it seems to have taken on a life of its own, several times bigger than when we used to go, and despite a Police presence noting numbers and cameras on the road right outside still some nutters. But they were far outweighed by many awesome classics, of which these are just a few:

Son-in-law had a Porshe Cayman for a couple of days so we went in that instead of one of the MGs. Pretty impressive, except it had a weird trick when pulling away sometimes. If you pulled away very gently it seemed to be stuck in 1st gear even though Auto was selected, with the engine revving much more than it seemed it should. Prod the throttle a bit more and all of a sudden it changes up but with the available torque even in the higher gear takes off like a rocket. After that it drives perfectly normally, and is very easy to keep to speed limits, until the next time you start up and pull away.

April 17th: Some unseasonably fine weather and a beautiful Sunday morning, but on going to get Bee out of the garage I espy a large damp patch under the engine. Oil, clutch and brake fluids all OK, but coolant below the top of the tubes, and drips on the bottom of the heater valve! Full tale here.

Feb 20th - Stoneleigh MG Show. Always a frisson of excitement to see how they are going to cock-up the parking and this year didn't disappoint. There is a 'gatehouse' with two 'In' lanes almost immediately one turns off the road, and we were directed to use both lanes ... but they weren't taking the money there, and immediately after the gatehouse we all had to get back into one lane again. Then a slow crawl for everyone up the main road to the turn-off point where MGs turned left to park in the covered sheds, and non-MGs turned left to park elsewhere. The MG queue was extremely slow, which of course backed-up through the gatehouse and onto the road, and held everyone up including the non-MGs. The reason? Only one person checking tickets and taking money! She then directed people down the side-road to the chap in the high-vis jerkin ... but as I was heading down there he wandered off into the shed. I saw where he went but the people behind me couldn't, so they didn't know where to go, and were trying to get into the already-full sheds and all-sorts.

Not quite so many stands there as normal i.e. only two outside whereas it has been pretty full in the past, but I was able to get what I was looking for - a screen washer bottle and holder for a drinks bottle holster in the cabin for the Navigator to save having to keep moving the existing one between Bee and Vee for 3, a front studded hub to convert into an adapter for Vees wheels to go onto centre-lock balance machines for 5, and an octagonal spinner ditto for centre-lock wheels for 3. Spotted some Mann 916/1 oil filters which are the correct length rather than the shorter 717/Volvo filters for 3 rather than 10 (also won another in an eBay auction for 99p ... plus 3 postage), and some Castrol Valvemaster for 8 (rather than 13), so all in all worth while. Also looked for seat covers for Bee as the ones I replaced 20 years and 50k ago have developed a hole or two already! I deliberately fitted GT covers with the fabric facing for comfort, and Vees which were old when she came to me have done 16 years and 85k with no holes. Both fabric and vinyl are better quality then Bees, so I want to see before I buy, hopefully to get better quality this time. Surprised to find no-one doing these, even when asked, apart from MotoBuild who had a pair of complete seats in midnight blue. The fabric on these looked almost plush, rather than woven which is how Bees look (hence one strand breaks and they come unravelled like a jumper), but they didn't do just the covers, this was just an odd pair of seats they had. Another stall had some in Autumn Leaf which again looked better than Bees, but not as good as the others, but again none in black. After a cold wet Saturday, and back to the same on Monday, Sunday was just dry enough to travel in Vee, the first time for anything other than one Sunday trip to get a paper and a couple round the block in about four months.

Jan 9th - finally dry and salt-free enough to get both cars out for a short run, but has to be a short one as a frost made the back roads very icy and slippy. Then back in the garages for more rain, but warm enough to start thinking about getting rid of the rotational play in Vees steering column, and fitting the missing engine restraint bracket (stops the fan coming far enough forward to chew into the rad!) to Bees left engine mount.

Jan 1st - I wonder what this year will bring, some better weather soon I hope!