Thursday, 22 May 2008

The Joys of Motoring

The fridge has packed up in the motorhome. Not very exciting and certainly nothing new. We've had it quite a few weeks, from new for goodness sake and it only cost just over thirty thousand pounds. What do you expect, a lifetime of trouble free motorhoming. Plus the blind on the roof has fallen to bits and we've replaced the seating cum beds with miracle foam as the originals are pathetic in the extreme. The water leak behind the bench seat has been fixed but now the internet motorhome chat rooms are full of ominous mutterings concerning the new Fiat motorhomes inability to reverse without an almighty juddering. Fiat, Fix It Again Tomorrow.
All this after an eight month battle to get the last one replaced due to a catalogue of problems. Leaking roof from day one (hooray for a wet summer) faulty door seals, water persistently under the bonnet, blown fuses, toilet leaks, four or five recalls, engine management failure, fridge replaced, you name it, we had it. Three or was it four visits to the dealers at Weston Super Mare, though in fairness they tried hard to sort us out. Visits to importers at Grimsby and heating specialists at Mansfield. At least it was an educational year. Why else would one normally go to Mansfield or Grimsby, or to Weston come to think of it three times at least in one year.
All this puts me in mind of motoring years ago; trouble free times, reliable vehicles, exciting trips out. Who's kidding whom! Though the exciting bit stands, every trip was an adventure in that you never knew for certain if you would arrive at your destination.
In my student days, poor with a wife, two children and a scruffy old dog to support I owned in quick succession two Moskvichs, a van and an estate. Now they were real motors! The van used to make strange noises, a zut, zut, zut sound as you rolled along. Traced to the rear end and caused by the rear tyres being too big for the wheel arches, don't ask me why. Easily cured by hitting the inside of the wheel arch with a hammer until it cleared the tyre. Imagine doing that to a new Rolls Royce.
Not to be outdone, the front tyres used to rub against the copper brake pipes when on full lock. Again only a problem if you had no imagination or DIY skills. You simply grasped the coiled pipe firmly and manoeuvered it clear of the offending tyres. Hooray for flexible copper pipes.
The floats in the carburetters were made of brass and the Russians never did get the hang of soldering. Consequently the float periodically filled with petrol and sank, bringing you unceremoniously to a halt, wherever you were. Of course you always carried spare floats so no great problem. (I also carried a spare starter motor, battery, bulbs, cable, fuses and undoubtedly other paraphanalia I have forgotten in the mists of time.) Though my technical skills have never excelled (No shelf stays up in our house for more than two weeks, one if you put something on it) I could replace a Moskvich carburetter float at the side of the road in less than half an hour. And I have spent an entire day under a Moskvich swinging on a chain via a crane in a local scrapyard on my own in order to remove a back axle. What would Health and Safety make of that nowadays I wonder. Mind you, we pulled a small trailer to contain the camping gear and I don't suppose they would have been too keen on our towbar, bolted to two metal plates secured through the back doors. Heath Robinson, eat your heart out.
My wife has never been happy on my improvisations and in retrospect she's right. I once charged the Mosky battery up still on the motor via the cable through the letter box. The lazy way, I know, I know and even lazier to pull the clips off the battery rather than carefully lifting them clear. To do so when still plugged in to the mains literally nearly fatal. The clips jammed in the boxwork supporting the battery, sparks flew and the consequent explosion brought out the entire street; acid shot to a great height in the air and I undeservedly narrowly escaped serious injury. Strangely enough the battery, though now in three pieces remained connected. Even more remarkable, the car fired on ignition first time and I ran it for a day or two until I could afford another battery.
By today's standards my Moskys were crude in the extreme. Rumour has it they were built from melted down Messerschmidts shot down in the war. The steering, rack and pinion failed on me one day. But it only failed on left lock. Fortunately I wasn't too far from home, but you try going home unable to turn left!
Life today motor wise may be more sophisticated but its not necessarily more fun. I had a talking Maestro once whose electric windows never worked properly in its life. In winter they always stuck open, in summer on a boiling hot day, immovably closed. The blasted car never mentioned why! Strangely enough that too suffered carburetter flooding problems. I remember sitting in a line of traffic near Paignton, hot day, kids tired, car refusing to start and the fool behind me hooting impatiently. I walked back to him in his posh car with its air conditioning. "I tell you what, mate" I volunteered, "You go and sit in my car and try and start it and I'll sit in yours and blow the horn." If he'd have got out he may well have been six foot six to my five feet four but he got the message. Happy days!
No vehicle is perfect, at least not the ones I buy. I had an A35 Austin I think it was with cable brakes and you could never be certain to stop it in a set distance, lethal it was. I had a Simca, old and worn out, another 'never be certain' car,. You could never, ever be certain what gear you were going to get when you changed gear.
Hopefully the Tribute will give us happy hours when the niggles are ironed out. I hope so. My nomination for my worst ever. Undoubtedly the Simca. And the best? Almost certainly my perplexing, infuriating, exhilarating 970cc Mini Cooper S, number GDT 703C. But that's another story.


kyozan said...

It's being so cheerful that keeps you going!
I think I once saw you at the Hippodrome, Scarborough.
And very good you were, too.

kyozan said...

Yes, I found the programme. Alma Cogan was top of the bill, Arthur Haynes was the support act, and you were down at the bottom after Flip and Hazel, the tumbling jugglers. It was a matinee performance, I think. I remember it rained.

Nota Bene said...

Ho ho, very funny. A life in cars, all unreliable...and I'm not sure they're really better now!

I worked at Austin Rover at the time of the Maestro...what a shame they were so badly put together. There was a last minute redesign, when someone spotted the ashtray was just below the air vent, so if you used it, ash blew around the car...