Bee's seat cover replacement.
Two more jobs: Replacing Bee's steering lock, and replacing/repairing the speedo.


I finally get round to Vee's C-post liner replacement.

October - Bee's Battery Goes West

A sunny Sunday morning so get the paper in Bee, and one of the batteries gives up the ghost. Read the full story here. Subsequently I noticed none of Bee, Vee or a spare alt had harness plug clips, and eventually tracked some down here.

September 25th - Vulcan Cold War Tour, Gaydon

A last and spectacular hurrah for the Vulcan display season was a Cold War tour of the V-force airbases to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. RAF Gaydon hosted the Valiant and the Victor, although not the Vulcan, and the British Motor Museum kindly 'donated' space and organisation for parking and spectators. What was announced as a simple pass over the runway, tear-drop turn at the end, and return over the runway became something much more spectacular at Gaydon. There was a Vulcan to the Sky merchandise stall, and Bob who gave us a memorable tour of the Wellesbourne Vulcan said we were to get something special, and as well as overflying Gaydon it would overfly Wellesbourne as well. In the event we had a full display over Gaydon, really special and spectacular because as there was no formal display line it flew over and round us. Don't you just love that spontaneous applause at the end? All in all a tremendous end to a superb season that saw no flight time lost to technical difficulties, a tribute to the support team.

September 20th - Southport air-show

Running out of opportunities to see the two Lancasters again so booked in advance for Southport. Tickets could be used either Saturday or Sunday, but as a late booking the Vulcan was to be on the Saturday only, so that was the choice made! Tickets still on sale right up to the previous day so I feared horrendous crowds. Because of that we got up at 4:30am, arrived at Southport by 8:15, 45 minutes before they opened the car parks. Driving along the beach road we were suddenly confronted with a choice of hardstanding parking or beach parking. No one seemed to be taking the hardstanding option, so we carried on, and a few minutes later found ourselves - perhaps not surprisingly - on the beach! The hard-packed sand was fine, but there were patches of very slippy mud, so I immediately started fretting about our exit and plotted a route avoiding the mud. No rain forecast but on the M6 it started mizzling then developed into full-blown rain, but fortunately stopped and the clouds lifted as we arrived. But by the time the display started at 1pm the clouds were gathering again. Some good displays including the Hanger 11 Hurribomber and Mustang, Tornado (with valid warnings to protect children's ears and restrain dogs) and the Red Arrows brilliant as usual despite being restricted to a low-level display. Under darkening skies, lowering clouds and reducing visibility during which the display by the Jet Provost was abandoned after a particularly low dive over the crowd instead of the display line, the commentator kept us on tenter-hooks about when the Lancasters would appear, and we wondered 'if' as the Spitfire and Hurricane were apparently stranded elsewhere. But finally they appeared, and very moving it was too. I took some video and pictures, but for the last two passes I put the camera away, and just drank in the spectacle. After that they announced that the Vulcan would not be appearing as although they could take off visibility was too poor for the landing on their return - very disappointing. With that most of us decided to leave. Getting off the beach wasn't too bad, got straight through the middle of Southport, but on the exit towards the motorway we just went slower and slower and eventually ground to a halt after about an hour. Looking at an old copy of an AA handbook I could see that by going north towards Preston we could get onto the M6 higher up. Managed to extricate myself from the queue, reversed up the other side of the road into a side-turning, and escaped. A bit of queuing that way out, but in about half an hour we were on the M6. Had to get a couple of gallons of petrol (and a wee) immediately before in order to get home, given all the queuing. In the end we did about 100 miles on the M6 in less time than we had spent getting out of Southport. Sunday was fine and sunny, and the day we would have chosen apart from the Vulcan, but you can't win them all. 250 miles, alternator light flickering a bit when idling like last year. Went out when the cooling fans cut in so maybe some resistance between the alternator (which powers the fans directly and not on the usual brown circuit) and the white for the ignition warning light.

August 24th - Little Gransden air-show

Our first opportunity to see both Lancasters in the air, as Sywell and even more disappointing Waddington and the chance to see both Lancasters with the Vulcan, and East Kirkby with a third Lancaster on the ground, were all sold out. Because of that we bought the LG tickets in advance, normally we buy on the day, and just as well we did as the place was packed out. But still a brilliant day with fine weather and many other aircraft including the Vulcan.

August 8th - 'Vera' flies in to Coningsby

I had been watching the preparations for the 4-day epic flight of the only other Lancaster in flying condition in the world, from Hamilton, Canada to Coningsby to join the BBMF, and a planned series of joint displays during August and September. This Lancaster is owned and operated by the Canadian Warbird Heritage Museum, and is affectionately known as 'Vera' from its registration C-GVRA.

It was due to leave Monday morning 10 am local time (3pm BST) and was pushed out to the start of the runway rather than taxiing out, as with a heavy fuel load they wanted to save the brakes. They got three engines started, but there was a problem with No.2. At first the message back was that it had flooded, but then they discovered both magnetos had failed, which has to be incredibly rare - better then than under way though. So there was nothing for it but to push it back to the hanger, and an all-nighter to replace both magnetos, achieved at 1 am local time. All engines started next morning, for a departure a day late. They had built in contingency in case of problems, as with a large invited audience of guests and dignitaries at Coningsby the arrival time was pretty fixed, but as they said they hadn't expected to use such a large chunk of it before even setting out! First leg was to Goose Bay eastern Newfoundland, then next day (Wednesday) a 7 1/2 hour flight to Iceland, overflying the tip of Greenland where they could have put down if required. Thursday was a bit of a rest day with just a couple of flights over Reykjavik, then on Friday a 7am local time (8am BST) start for the flight to Coningsby. We waited to see it had taken off - discovering in the meantime that they were due to make a fly-past with the BBMF and Red arrows before landing, then set off ourselves for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Coningsby.

Despite lots of browsing all the info I could find talked about road closures, and the BBMF pleading with people not to turn up on the day but wait for a planned display - as if! Given the wind direction - unusually from the east - we decided to head for the western end of the runway where there is a parking area and a series of mounds within a couple of hundred yards of the end of the runway which give a good view. Also to approach over open countryside from the south, as access from Coningsby itself was likely to be severely compromised. We got right to the mounds with no traffic, but loads of signs forbidding parking on the roads, and access only for residents and car park. The parking at the mounds was cordoned off for pass holders only, so that meant driving back till we found a road without parking restrictions, then a 3 mile walk back to the end of the runway. A few dozen people, but plenty of space by the perimeter fence arriving as we did at about 12:30 for a planned 1:30 arrival. Several Typhoons kept us entertained with landings and aborted landings while we ate our sandwiches. Very hot and heavy, plenty of sunshine but quite a lot of mid-height cloud around.

Then at 1:15, heavy black clouds approached from the west, and it started to rain. Then it poured, with thunder and lightning. We could see the BBMF Lancaster outside its hanger, so that obviously wasn't going to fly. Word from people roundabout was that Vera was coming straight in, then out of the murk it appeared at five minutes to 2, passed by within yards of us, and touched down. We then headed on foot round the end of the runway towards the hangers - and were gobsmacked to find a large organised public car park, obviously a very well kept secret! We waited there for Vera to taxi back up the runway, and be pushed in towards the hanger and the waiting dignitaries and invited guests. Much cheering and waving from the crowds on our side of the fence, which were much larger this side of the runway. More photo opportunities as it rolled past us and the BBMF Lancaster, then we went further on to right by the hanger where Vera parked up. Then the BBMF Lancaster was pushed up to just behind Vera, so plenty of opportunities for pictures containing both aircraft.

The crew stepped down to be met by a line of dignitaries, then a really nice touch as they soon broke away and came over to the fence to talk to some of the hundreds of us outside the fencing. Apparently the weather just off Scotland had been so bad they were almost faced with having to turn back to Iceland, so quite a stressful leg, and we were very disappointed on their behalf that they had such a low-key arrival, not even a couple of Typhoons to do a fly-past after it had landed, by which time although not exactly sunny the clouds had lifted and the storm moved on. Really good to see it fly in, and worth the 250 miles round trip and 10-hour day to see them. Travelled up in Vee, the only problem was that having switched off just after our initial arrival, and very hot, she wouldn't start again when she needed to be moved further back to unrestricted parking. First time the hot-start problem has reared its head in a couple of months, despite the weather being hotter than this in the previous couple of weeks. Took about 10 minutes with the bonnet up before she would start, even disconnecting the fans to take some load off the battery. No problem with fuel as I could smell it after cranking for a bit, but not flooded either as foot to the floor did nothing - although in fairness that's usually the remedy for having flooded it on a cold-start, maybe less help when fully hot. Did a quick test of the spark and wasn't sure whether it was there or not, so started wondering if the coil boost circuit was functioning. Next day back home did some more detailed testing - to find it isn't! So will attend to that, and then see what happens. Also the brakes screeching like a banshee through Grantham, when 'normally' it's only when cold and for the first couple of operations. I say 'normally', they never used to squeal, but since changing the calipers (but not the pads) last year and only 3k ago I've already had to regrease them twice.

July 7th-10th - North Devon

Stayed at the excellent Staghunter's Inn in Brendon, Lynmouth, snuggled down in the East Lyn valley, as a base for a couple of days walking on the South West Coastal Path. A certain amount of indecision as to which car to take, had the forecast been wet it would have been the V8, but as it was sunny it had to be the roadster, despite having changed the head gasket just a couple of weeks earlier, and there being some pretty big hills - the steepest A roads in the UK - at Porlock and Lynton/Lynmouth. I'd managed to get about 80 miles in beforehand as a shakedown, and there comes a time when you just have to go for it. Bee has done the hills before, on my round Britain trip in 1996, and again no problems. A lot more rain than forecast on the afternoon of our arrival, but only a steady drizzle.

Next morning was bags of sunshine and we took a short drive to Countisbury Hill for a 6 mile circular route starting with the walk down to Lynmouth. When putting the clutch down to drive out of the pub car park I thought I heard an unfamiliar noise, but whatever it was went. We faffed about a couple of hours there on the beach, and up the cliff railway to Lynton, then resumed the walk up the East Lyn river valley to Watersmeet. Had a heavy shower here for a few minutes whilst under an umbrella scoffing a cream tea, then the sun came out again. From Watersmeet it was quite a stiff climb up the valley side to the top, then back to Countisbury, during which the Navigator opined "Of course, the mistake we made was parking at the top!". Unfortunately the shower had left bobbles of rain on Bee, and the sun did it's usual bleaching, so some vigorous polishing will be required on our return.

The second day we drove to Croyde Bay, started off in cloud but still top down, then reached the sun as we arrived. More noises from the clutch, got to be the release bearing! Nightmare journey through Croyde on a single-track road behind a delivery lorry, at one point with a bin lorry coming the other way! Eventually got to the car park in the village centre, and set off towards Putsborough. Woolacombe beach made a superb sight in the sunshine. Then round to Baggy Point and back down to Croyde Bay. More of a slog than I was expecting back from the beach to the car park in the village centre, and extremely annoyed to find the Pay and Display ticket gone and a penalty charge notice on the screen. Searched the car but no ticket, so I can only assume someone had lifted the rear corner of the hood and reached in, then refastened it again, and to do that they must have some knowledge. Funnily enough someone was asking us about the windstop on our arrival, and finished by saying "I must investigate one" as if they had a similar car ...

That put a real dampener on the day and we started heading straight back rather than wander round the village, but the Navigator suggested we stop at a farm shop where we had another cream tea and sit in the sunshine.

Next day was back home, and a very warm and sunny day, top down until we got to the motorway. 410 miles covered and a good test of the head gasket and my reassembly. The release bearing is whining when the clutch pedal is first operated, but stops either when the pedal reaches the floor, or if it is lifted up a bit and put back down. Hopefully not an imminent catastrophic failure like last time in 1994, but if I hadn't already decided that I wouldn't be paying extra for the roller bearing release bearing, I would now! The question is whether something to do with the release arm caused the old release bearing to break up in the way it did, and has caused this one to become noisy after only 50k. If so that needs to be found and fixed otherwise it will keep happening.

June 20th-22nd - Lakes Walk

Perfect weather again so we did Coniston Old Man on the Friday afternoon prior to Pillar on the Saturday. Coniston Water was where Donald Campbell died in his water speed record attempt in 1967, and I had always wanted to see the memorial on the water side at about the point of the accident. Did some Googling and the only reference I could find was to one in Coniston itself, but that is a much more recent memorial commemorating the finding of his body and interring at Coniston in 2001.

For Pillar we were staying in Wasdale Head, and I had warned the others that this wasn't in the middle of nowhere, but at the back-end of nowhere, basically 10 miles up mostly single-track roads once you have left the main road. It's also about 30 miles from Coniston, and not having filled up before we turned off the A5092 I was keen to find a petrol station as soon as possible. Getting more nervous as the fuel gauge dipped below a quarter, and despite circling through Broughton-in-Furnace twice following signs for a petrol station only to find it shut, and a pal's sat-nav several times telling us the next petrol station was only 273 yards away (it lied) we got all the way to the turn-off to Wasdale and hadn't found one. At that point I decided that even if the others headed for Wasdale, I'd have to carry on the main road until I found one, as I definitely wouldn't have enough to get all the way up to Wasdale Head and back plus heaven only knows how far back towards the motorway. In the event we rounded the next corner and there was an Esso station, so all was well. On my return home I found there had also been one in Coniston, about 100 yards to the right if we hadn't turned left on leaving the town! Arriving at Wasdale Head I was expecting the B&B to be virtually opposite the pub, but discovered it was another half-mile or so up a dirt track. As another of the group opined, "Not so much the back of beyond, as beyond the back of beyond". Nevertheless very comfortable and welcoming at Burnthwaite Farm.

Next morning a steady plod up towards Black Sail Pass, and glorious views of the Mosedale Horseshoe and back down Wast Water. I was really looking forward to getting to the head of the pass as it should give fantastic views of the Black Sail YHA - the most remote in the UK, and across Ennerdale to the High Stile Ridge we had walked last year. Only to find I had lost my camera - again - this time in sight of where I had lost it last time on Scafell. Very annoying. Ran back down the path quite a way to see if I could find it, and asked others on the way up, but no go. A bit of a downer on the rest of the day for me. After that it got a bit steeper as we headed for the summit. I had thought of doing the 'high level' route, but it looked a bit tricky and none of the others were keen so we followed the ridge. Down the other side towards Wind Gap was even steeper, made more so - psychologically - by the ground dropping away very sharply both sides of the Gap. I had originally thought I would go further round the horseshoe before descending, but having looked at the only two alternatives back down - a very long scree slope at Dore Head or all the way round Yewbarrow then back along the road for two miles. Wind Gap was a steep scree descent, but started lower and finished higher than Dore Head, so all bar two decided on that with the others carrying on round. Wind Gap was bad enough, very large rocks in the scree that might or might not move, all of us went down at one point or another, one tipping forwards and drawing blood. With relief we got off the scree and had a long lie in the sunshine, wondering how the other two were getting on. They had looked at a gulley as a possible alternative to Dore Head, but the further we got round the less doable it looked, and in the event it was impossible, so they were committed to Dore Head, and no fun at all apparently. As one of the web sites says, OS must have been having a laugh when they decided to show it as a path.

Despite it's remoteness - the next pub was miles away - the Wasdale Head Inn had excellent food and beer at reasonable prices, and of course was packed on the Saturday night. Sunday morning a virtually clear trip back home, traffic-wise, as was the trip up on the Friday. 445 miles and no drama with Vee this time, except for a repeat of the hot-start problem between Coniston and Wasdale when we stopped to discuss tactics when looking for a petrol station. The previous occasions had all been on the same tank of petrol, but this was a 'new' one albeit from the same place - Tesco. I used most of the Esso tank while away, but no trace of the problem when back home on the remains of the tank. I'll refill with Tesco and see how I get on then.

June 1st - Arden Heritage Run

Our seventh time on this run, this time with pals Michael and Susie from Hertfordshire.

Slight trepidation given the apparent stat problems that started last month, but all was well. In fact someone's fuel pump failed to start on the morning of the run and the car stopped after about 100 yards. Fortunately turning the ignition on and off a couple of times kick-started it into life, and so a case of 'Listen to your car, it's talking to you", and clean etc. the points ASAP. Fortunately no further problems, or on Michael's (oops) return home.

Given the weather in recent weeks it was a glorious day and just got hotter and hotter. An easy run to Gaydon for the start - a place I always enjoy visiting. And another excellent route through Warwickshire and Staffordshire from the Arden group, as have all the others we have been on. As usual finished up at a place of interest - in this case the National Arboretum near Alrewas, somewhere all four of us had been waiting to visit. Easily filled three hours there wandering around many of the memorials, then a straight run home in Tee-shirts.

A mere hop, skip and a jump at 126 miles. Bee's trip odometer still playing up so I had to do the inters by referring to the miles off the main odometer and the tenths off the trip, as will be the case until I decide whether to repair or replace at the end of the season. Info from the MGOC indicates my speedo can be refurbished to keep the existing mileage, whereas other suppliers only seem to do an exchange for an already refurbished unit.

May - Thermostat sticking - not!

It looked like the thermostat was sticking from the way the temp gauge went up to H before the stat opened, then the temp gauge would drop to its normal position, so I changed the stat. A couple of warm-ups on the drive were fine, but then when driving from cold on two occasions exactly the same thing has happened, and it's chucking out a little coolant as the stat opens. As the (cheapo alloy) water pump has been seeping on warm-up for years, and I bought a cast-iron one soon after it started expecting it to get worse but it didn't, and as a similar problem on Vee may have been cured by swapping the water pump, I'll try swapping Bee's pump. If that doesn't work (it didn't) it will mean head off and a thorough investigation of the bypass passages. Although as the temp gauge is going right up, but the stat not apparently opening, surely heated coolant must be in the stat housing? Maybe it's the fact this stat doesn't have a bleed facility, and enough air is getting trapped below the stat to keep the wax pellet out of it, but not the temp gauge sensor? But it can't just be that, as the stat I removed when I first had the problem has the original bleed valve! Suddenly realised that I should be checking the compressions and for combustion products in the air in the radiator, and five minutes at my friendly local Halfords confirmed the head gasket is indeed leaking, so needs to be replaced.

May - Vee's MOT

After years of being nervous at each MOT for both Bee and Vee, despite the fact that there was hardly ever a problem, a couple of years ago I finally managed to calm down. But this year what with the very recent tendency to pull to the left a bit sometimes even though the calipers were replaced last year, and the handbrake being rubbish as the shoes were also replaced last year, I felt sure either one or the other would cause me a problem. Fortunately all was well, although I got an advisory about slight wear in the front anti roll-bar pins/bushes both sides, so will have to check that out.

I'd weakened the mixture the usual half-turn to get it through the emissions, and that left the idle speed quite low. When I got the car home I managed to stall it in the road, and couldn't get it started again. Gave up before flattening the battery and pushed it out of the way to let it cool down and went in for lunch. During that we had a heavy shower, and of course I'd left the sunroof and drivers window open, so wet seats. Anyway about an hour later it started just fine, so I tweaked the mixture back up and left it idling a while to recharge the battery, with the cooling fans cutting in and out. This was one of those occasions where it was cutting in and out quite quickly, such that the temp gauge was barely moving up and down, whereas at other times it can be on and off so long that it goes from N to about 1/3rd the way to H and back again each time. I did notice that it tended to flick on and off a bit as it switched off, so maybe this thermo switch is on the way out anyway. It's a replacement for the original Otter switch, and it's only 14 years old!

May 3rd - Wye Valley Run

Our second time on this run, this time heading up into the Brecon Beacons from Chepstow before back down to the Newport area and finish 'under' the original Severn crossing at Beachley. Barely above freezing with a significant frost at 6:45 for our 95 mile run to the start, but glorious sunshine. Hood up for the journey down and back home being virtually all motorway, but down for the run. A bit of cloud from mid-morning to mid-day over the Beacons, but very warm by mid afternoon. A nicely varied route, with various stopping places such Raglan Castle, Brecon Mountain Railway (missed a departure by five minutes) and Caerleon. That put us just a couple of miles from where my grandparents used to live, somewhere I haven't been for 60 years, and only worked out where it was a few months ago and was planning a visit anyway! We finished at The Old Ferry, Beachley, under the first Severn motorway bridge, and a chance to sit in warm sunshine with a cool drink in the side of the river. A really pleasant and varied route, with plenty of longer stretches between instructions so the Navigator could enjoy the scenery as well instead of spending her whole time with her head buried in the notes as has been the case with some runs we have been on.

294 miles, the only problem being the trip odometer sticking such that only the tenths wheel was turning, which caused a bit of confusion. It jammed altogether last year, so I removed it from the case but by that time it was working again. I suspect the gears have worn, a tweak of the reset cable got it going again for the rest of the day, but it's bound to happen again so will need refurbishing or replacement at the end of the season.

As usual I had forgotten to fill up before starting the wash and polish routine, meaning I only filled up the day before the run. Glancing at the temp gauge on the way to the petrol station I was surprised to see it on the edge of the H zone and coming down, normally it barely goes above N before coming down and oscillating a bit before settling on its 'normal' position. On my return home checked the coolant to see it barely above the top of the tubes, even though it was hot. Topped up when cool and it took a litre - too late to do anything about it now, something to be paranoid about on the run. Apart from the same thing happening on the day of the run there were no other effects for the remainder of the day, but within a couple of miles of starting out from home there was a smell I knew but couldn't put a name to - then I remembered it was like battery gassing on a high charge. I'd just had the batteries out to repair some cracking on the top that allows gasses to leak out and corrode the connectors, and give them a boost-charge as they had seemed a little 'soft' lately, and wondered if it was something to do with that. Turned on the interior light and that was normal brightness i.e. not excessive voltage, so carried on. The smell went, and having got to the start of the run checked the batteries to find acid level good and everything secure, and no reoccurrence the rest of the day. One of life's mysteries.

On our return it took another litre when cool, then going round the block next day the same thing happened, and another litre lost. Looks like the thermostat is sticking.

For years I've wondered how much kit I carry around with us when we are on a long run and touring as I carry a large toolbox, ancillary tools, trolley jack, fluids, spares and all sorts. So while loading up on Friday I weighed it - 120lb, or about 3/4 of a third passenger!

April - Vee's Service

Largely uneventful, easier getting the rear wheels off to do the brake as with the V8/rubber bumper height and the V8 springs I can just support the axle, instead of having to support Bee's body to some extent to get them out from under the arches. Tables turned for checking the gearbox oil level though, have to crawl under the car for that on Vee with the side-mounted level/filler plug. Why did they do away with the dip-stick?

However I've had a couple of bouts of pulling to the left under braking in recent weeks. Checked the calipers, and both inner pistons are noticeable stiffer to push back than the outers, and the outers move back out again with the brake pedal before the inners. Hope it doesn't become an MOT issue, after all the brake problems of last year on two cars. Handbrake still pretty weak after the new shoes last year, I've checked them a couple of times, and sanded the high spots i.e. the areas that are obviously contacting the shoes. The one side is making contact over about 95% of the area, the other side about 75-80%. Another possible MOT failure point if too weak.

March - Bee's Service

Not looking forward to this given the worsening problems with getting the oil filter to seal over recent years, but I found the problem and hopefully have resolved it.