2020

What a dire year that was. Barely 1000 miles in Bee with all bar one day-trip being local jaunts, and 1500 miles in Vee with just one trip to the Lakes and one to our son's place at St Neots.

Mid-December: Weather so poor neither of the cars has been out for over a month but one Saturday looks like it's going to be dry so an opportunity for Vee at least. Refuelled and the tank read just short of F which is pretty normal so what was going on at the last refill is anyone's guess. Whilst out the clouds roll back and the sun comes out so it would have been good for Bee as well, but a couple of days next week are supposed to be sunny so maybe then. In the event the roads were too wet, and so it was for the rest of the month with salt as well in the last week or so.

November: Get round to draining the oil from Vee's gearbox (clean) and replacing the speedo cable pinion and oil seal, which was far more of a fiddle to put back then ever it should have been. Then it will have to wait for some miles to see what happens. At the end of the month I collect the replacement screen from Leacy, it'll wait now until the weather gets a bit warmer and my pal is willing to come round and give me a hand.

Late October: During the 200-miler the gauge operated as expected i.e. started off a shade under F then dropped gradually, rising and falling slightly on left and right-hand bends. Exactly what one would expect, so it's a bit of a mystery. Haven't refilled yet, so that will be the next test.

Also after the 200-miler was to take the speedo cable inner out to see what that looked like ... and it was slathered in oil again right to the top. So oil still getting into the cable somehow, but the inside of the speedo was clear so maybe just caught it in time. Next step will be to disconnect the cable from the gearbox and see if anything drips out, and keeps dripping. Also to check the oil level and colour to see if it is a black is what's in the cable.

October: Still nothing happening, we thought for something to do we would go on the delayed MGOC Kimber Run, but then it was cancelled altogether, so only local running in both cars. Filled up Vee, nozzle clicking off several times at the end as usual, and on a flat forecourt, but driving off it only showed 3/4 of a tank. Gauge still going up and down right-hand and left-hand bends, and going down as fuel is used, so it's not the wiper sticking against loose turns as it had been (a couple of decades!) before. Float partially sunk? After about 100 miles its down to half so I shall fill up again, and this time if it's the same remove the tank filler hose and visually check the level. If full I'll check the resistance reading on the sender which previously has been about 25 ohms and if it's the same I'll check the stabiliser and electrical connections. If high then I'll know its time to replace the sender.

A second fill again showed only 3/4, but driving back home it gradually crept up a shade under F, without the usual rising and falling round bends this time. Back home checked the visible fuel level and it was just about level with the top of the tank so it was full. Took the green/black off the gauge and measured the resistance to earth at 23 ohms so just about right. Back on the gauge with the ignition on it eventually rose, with tapping, to just about on the F. So inconclusive, with last time indicating a bad connection or a partially sunk float, this time indicating the wiper could be sticking on the windings. A 200-miler coming up on Sunday so another opportunity after that.

20th September - Sywell Pistons and Props.
First time, and quite disappointing for the first (and maybe only) event of this season as by the time we left there had only been two props - Boeing Stearman wing walkers and we couldn't be bothered to wait for another aerobatic pair later on in the afternoon. That's all there was despite posters showing one or more of the Spitfire/Hurricane/Messerschmitt 109 that frequently fly from there but no sign of them. In fact the posters on the sides of the road when we were approaching only billed it as a 'Classic Car Show', but apart from visitors classics parked on the edge of the field all the running vehicles were competition cars and bikes, so more of an 'autosport' show than anything else. Nevertheless glorious weather, after a dull start leaving from home the clouds cleared just as we arrived and unbroken sunshine for the rest of the day. All the vehicles were just doing sprints up the runway and back, with the cars going in pairs, which after a while got quite boring which was why we left early. To be honest most people seemed to be sitting in the beer and food area and not the main viewing area by the commentary box, so just there for a day out in the sunshine. The wing walkers were quite good doing their stuff right in front of us, there was a Benneton F1 running which I was going to take pictures of but wondered if it was Schumachers and it was so didn't bother. Another one was a Hesketh F3 (I think) that looked interesting but I got diverted before I could take a picture in the paddock, which was a shame as it was reputed to be the last single-seater James Hunt drove and has his name on the side. Quite a pleasant day and the longest roadster trip by far so far this year at 120 miles.

September: I get round to booking an MOT for Bee with Roger at Cranmore Garage in Solihull who I have been using since I dumped Halfords last year. A pass, and a lovely throaty roar from the workshop when they started her up to drive her out. Vee also needs one but I know she'll fail with a cracked screen, having problems getting a replacement to fit myself. I may see about getting an informal 'safety check' done minus the screen (and emissions ...).

25th July - the ZS 180 has a new home, and a Golf 7 1.4 TSI takes her place, and my first experiences of a truly modern car.

21st - 24th July: And another 'at last!' - a few days away in the Lake District now that hotels are reopening.
A glorious day for travelling up and still benefiting from the restrictions with no hold-ups. However I started noticing the speedo making occasional flicks, and wondered if it was the new speedo cable. But the 'flicks' became bigger and always upwards so I began to suspect the speedo itself. Then it was jumping up to 100, 120, 140 and then hitting the back of the needle stop, until it finally stuck there all the time. It only dropping slowly when we came to a halt coming off the M6, then as soon as we started moving again went round to the stop again. Definitely speedo - spinning magnets dragging on the needle cup for some reason.

Borrowdale Hotel at the southern end of Derwent water, one of a group of five in and around Keswick. Last time we stayed at the Inn on the Square in Keswick centre and wanted to go back there but it didn't open in time for when we wanted to go. Nevertheless the Borrowdale was quieter than Keswick which was very busy with no social distancing in the main pedestrianised area, and a good starting point for our walk up Cat Bells from the south rather than the normal starting point near Keswick. Forecast not good for our two walking days and so it proved - spitting and windy part-way up Cat Bells, then wetter and windier as the day went on. Coming down was a bit of a nightmare as there is a scramble near the top, OK going up in the dry, but coming down in the wet was no go as the rocks were so slippery, and we had to find an alternative. Back down on the mid-level path the rain really started coming down and we got pretty wet despite an umbrella, but then it stopped for the last half-hour back to the hotel and the wind dried us out pretty quickly. Next day was wet from the outset. Drive to Keswick and discover Vee's new sunroof seal isn't totally leak-proof but nowhere near as bad as before. Park just outside the town and have a wander round, but then the rain started easing so we started off for Latrigg. This was supposed to be the 'easy' one, but the first half-mile was pretty steep, still raining. Got the viewpoint for a picture when it was only spitting but then came back down in more rain, for a coffee and cake back in Keswick.

Next day journey home, sunny by the time we got on the M6 then very warm, and this time noticeably more traffic than coming up and a couple of stop-start sessions round Stoke and Stafford. 440 miles, the only problem being with the speedo, the cause of which took about 10 minutes to discover.

13th July: At last the ZS gets it's MOT! I don't mind working on the car but with parts availability getting like it has been for the past two years I can't be doing with it any more as the ZS is supposed to be the 'reliable' car, so I'm afraid it will have to go. Sooner rather than later - better sold in the summer than winter, and certainly not wait until next year when the MOT will be looming again. I'd love a Jag XE but at 70 out of 100 for reliability I can't take the risk. It has to be German or Japanese for reliability, and I've never been able to bring myself to buy Japanese. Golf is a bit boring, Merc A-class is more interesting although the front styling is quite 'in yer face', don't like Audi. Get a viewing of a 66-plate Golf 1.4 TSI fixed up for two days later and an A-class next day - but we are so impressed with everything about the Golf we buy it there and then, and another two days sees it at home!

Next weekend the car test in the Sunday Times is the Golf 8 with the all-digital dash, and the reviewer ends up by saying the Golf 7 (i.e. mine) is the one to go for as a keeper. Not that I plan on keeping it more than three years or so, neither can I keep the ZS. It's a lovely car, but it would get used even less than now, and would mean the Golf would be used even less than the ZS was and I'd end up with battery and caliper issues on both cars. Not to be out-done, just a few days before son swaps his BMW homologation M3 for a Ferrari 550, plus not much cash as the values of the M3 have sky-rocketed.

24th June: Garage phone to say they got the middle section off the ZS without too much trouble which is good news. Less so is that they can get a replacement but not until sometime next week, so I order one myself hoping to get it before the weekend and take it round, and calipers. Good service (initially!) from Online Automotive who ring to ask if I need gaskets, and soon get an email confirmation with tracking details. That shows it arrived in Southampton (Eh? When it came from Northampton and is going to Solihull?) at 5pm on the 24th. No further progress by pm on 26th so I ask Online if they can chase it up. Next morning it shows as loaded for delivery at 6am in Nuneaton! So hopefully will arrive Saturday pm. Carrier is DX which they say stands for 'Delivered Exactly', 'Delivered Eventually' more like, i.e. Monday - minus gaskets! Phone up to apologies saying they would be sent out that day, and next day I get two notification emails - one for the Post Office as expected for two gaskets, and another for a carrier of large parcels! Both with tracking info that gave no useful information even on the morning of the day they both arrived, two days later. Duplicate exhaust rejected of course. Take first exhaust and gaskets round to the workshop, hopefully fitted on Saturday.

Front caliper ordered from Brown & Gammons arrives next day, complete with carrier which I wasn't expecting. Rear caliper ordered from Spareto who I haven't used before, but seeing as they are showing half the price for an outright purchase compared Rimmer (the only other one I can find) who also need a huge core charge against return of the old one, I go for it. A bit taken aback to get an acknowledgement of order that says "Thank you very much for this order. You are really nice. This exciting email is to confirm a few things you probably already know." Oh Gawd, what have I done!? Do a bit of research to find they are based in Estonia ('Oh S***' this time). Tracking info for DPD stuck at 'DPD notified' for a couple of days, but changes to 'In transit' on Friday so hopefully that will also arrive OK. Arrived from Estonia via Poland a week later after regular tracking updates, nicely boxed and reconditioned.

21st June:

All downhill to winter now ...

June: Skipped Bee's MOT this year, but a month later the ZS is due and fails on brakes and exhaust. One way or the other it will have to go, as parts are getting so hard to come by. Last time I replaced a caliper it was genuine MG-Rover outright, but now it seems the only one available are rebuilt returns, and B&G don't have any because people are not returning them despite their being a surcharge. Mind you, at 12 for a front caliper it's hardly surprising, Rimmers charge 66 for a rear. Even then they have no fronts, and B&G no rears. Exhaust centre section available from a couple of sources, but the problem comes with removing that without destroying the next section forwards, which is the rear cat. I'll probably decide to let the garage have a go, but if the rear cat section gets wrecked then there is the same problem with the front cat which bolts up to the rear head, and that definitely would be the end of it. If they can do the exhaust OK, then I'll do the brakes, then put it up for sale sooner rather than later. Which would be a very sad day.

Mid-March: Who knows which of us will fail to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, so even though we are being exhorted to stay at home I'm still driving the cars for pleasure when I can. If it's OK to walk on footpaths or cycle for daily exercise I can't see what is wrong with driving a car. However I'm miffed to find that Vee has drops of oil coming from the OD after a run when prior to the rebuild it didn't. Also although I didn't notice it on the first couple of trips subsequently there was a distinct thump that I could hear and even feel through the seat when engaging OD with throttle, but not disengaging or with a feathered throttle. On another couple of trips it was there, but not as noticeable, but then the speedo packed up. The inner is broken right down by the gearbox, and I'm wondering if the two are connected. Also very confusing working out what the correct replacement cable was.

March 1st: - A beautifully sunny morning for the first Sunday morning run out in Bee for months. I've had the occasional Saturday or weekday afternoon out but the lack of traffic on a Sunday morning is a real bonus. A bit chilly, but top-down of course.

February 29th: - Roads (mostly) dry and definitely salt-free so an opportunity for a Leap Day run out in Vee on, just the occasional water-splash.

February: - A rare event - I wash the ZS as it has got very mucky with unusually frequent use over the last few weeks. Giving a final rinse down with a garden hose nozzle on low pressure (NOT a Karcher!) and I spot something that looks like it's sticking to the vertical part of the boot lid, and as I'm spraying it chunks of colour coat start flaking off to leave beige primer!

January 29th: - The gearbox comes back, a couple of days later reinstallation commences, and five days later all done and a joy to be driving her again, on what was a sunny and almost Spring-like day.

January 11th: - A long-standing rubbing from the front left on the ZS on tight right-hand turns is found and fixed.

January 4th: - A couple of sunny days this week after weeks of rain, cloud and damp so a welcome run out in Bee. She's in a remote garage at the moment while the engine and gearbox are out of Vee so I haven't even seen her, let alone driven her for about a month. Spun over and fired up like a good'un, and a very enjoyable 20 miles or so. Then a few days later I've moved Vee to the back of the garage awaiting the return of the gearbox so Bee can come back home again.

January 2nd: - Investigating the ZS ABS warning light, and discover the cause.