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A year in old cars. Diary, September (Citroens, houses)


barrett
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I'm not sure if this will be of interest to anyone else, but here goes.

It just dawned on me that it's almost the end of the year, and as usual I feel like I haven't really achieved anything in the last 11 months. Thinking back, I have actually crammed quite a lot in but - especially when it's something I'm doing for 'work' - I don't really have time to sit back and think about the cool cars I've seen, interesting (and otherwise) people I've met and the places I've been. So, I'm going to attempt to map out the things I've done involving silly old cars in 2015, as much for myself as for you lot, because I have a memory like a goldfish.

I started the year with the Herald, Allegro, Bond Equipe, BX and 404. Also I remember it was quite cold. That's it really. Things got off to a good start when the hugely disreputable ex-Angrydicky A90 Atlantic joined the office carpool. We drove to Southend with loads of tools, jump leads, tow rope, spare battery etc and drove it home in the middle of the night as we didn't want it to overheat in traffic. A painless journey all round, as it turned out.
Since then it's not seen much use, just local pottering really, as it's quite similar (but a bit worse) to some of the other cars in the fleet, and it developed a leaky fuel pump soon after arriving. We were able to park it next to a friend's Tatra T87 and compare the many styling similarities. I'd rather have the Tatra.
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Soon after, I jumped on a train to that London
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And interviewed high-end dealer Gregor Fisken. I meet lots of dealers, and for the most part they don't have much in the way of interesting stock (or stories) and I find it quite dull. Gregor is a proper London mews dealer and only deals in very exclusive shit, and despite being far too busy to fraternise with proles like me took an afternoon out to indulge me, and was happy for me to get my sticky paws over his very expensive stock - very refreshing. Anyway, he had these outside waiting to be loaded up to go to Retromobile
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Somewhere around this time, mid January, I ended up with this heap. It's been here 10 months and still isn't at the stage of being a 'proper car', ie, one you could get in and actually drive, but I haven't fallen completely out of love with it quite yet. Running '60s exotica on a Shite budget is always gonna be tough and I know it'll be a while before all the problems are ironed out, but for now I'm just happy to look at it
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Somewhere around here, and my chronology is pretty sketchy, I decided the thing I needed most in the world was a 1950s French bicycle, and I ended up with the stupid Etoile du Nord thing, of which I can't currently find a photo. My boss then went one better and agreed to by a beautiful 1930s Peugeot from a bike-mad friend in Norfolk. We only have one vehicle suitable for collecting bikes, so we loaded it up and headed off. On the way we stopped in to see our friends at Smithy's Coachworks - they do wood framing and custom body work to an amazingly high standard and have petrol in their blood. These were sitting around outside.
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Then we carried on to get the bike. The guy selling it has been involved in the music industry for 30 years - he was the guy who turned U2 on to Trabants, and he has the pair from... that album, or whatever (I fucking hate U2) just rotting away in his garden, along with loads of other stuff. He also has the best collection of Vintage bikes I've ever seen, and a few very nice cars too
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Bike collected and loaded up and off we went
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At the start of February I hopped on a train to Paris and headed to Retromobile. This is easily my favourite old car event, if you've never been you are missing out. It's massive, the selection of cars ranges from mundane-but-interesting to pure once-in-a-lifetime exotica. There is always good manufacturer support so Citroen, Renault and Peugeot will dig out a few gems from their own collections and lay on a really good display. The French clubs always have good stuff there, although the stand sizes usually limit this to one or two cars, but it's always stuff you'd never see in the UK. It's also a good place to meet people I might only see once or twice a year and have a (cheap) beer whilst bitching about other people/cars, which is always fun. The automobilia has to be seen to be believed - I spent literally about a hundred quid on Panhard brochures and stuff. The best bit is it only costs about £6 to get in!
I can't find any of the proper pics I took inside, just this one quick snap of Corbusier's Voisin C7 (it came from a bloke in England. My boss had tried to buy this a couple of years earlier, when nobody knew about the Corbusier connection). It sold after the show to Norman Foster for what is, I believe, a record price for a Lumineuse
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I also spotted this great Dyna outside. Next year I'm definitely driving there in an old car.
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Somewhere around this time I discovered the Heron. A rash purchase - it took three days from seeing it on a forum (not for sale) to it being delivered. Nothing has happened to it since, but I'm glad it's been saved and is safe and dry. Something will happen next year, as soon as the 404 has had its mechanical problems sorted. Can't wait to drive it.
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Most of February was taken up by possibly the most stressful project I've ever been involved in, creating the programme for the Vintage Revival Montlhery. I can't begin to describe how much sweat went in to it, but it turned out excellently and by early March I was all buoyed up for the event. This is a prewar car motorsport event held at the Montlhery Autodrome, the oldest complete purpose-built banked circuit in the world. It's really, really bloody good, helped by only being run bi-annually, so you don't just see the same old stuff every time. There are cars there that I have only vague knowledge of from books, and never expected to see in the flesh, let alone being ragged around a circuit at high speed. In the end, I was so busy 'working' that I didn't see as much as I'd have liked. But Ettore Bugatti's grandaughter rode around on my bike for a bit, which was quite cool.
We took the Ami and the Vedette down, loaded with a marquee and all the programmes and loads of other stuff. It was really nice driving the Ami in France again, it is such an effortless thing to bomb along in and mega comfortable on a long journey.
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Again, I was so busy I hardly took any photos of the actual cars at the track. Here's the Ami outside the Palace of Versailles
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And here it is loaded with beer and cheese ready to go home. The suspension dropped about four inches.
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The end of March was the Goodwood Members's Meeting. I'd heard good stuff about the first one so was keen to get to this, It was great actually, so much better than the FoS or whatever, but for some reason I was mainly concerned with drooling over this Sherpless and ignored all the 250Fs and whatnot
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This Standard 10 was also incredibly cool. I must get another baby Standard while they're still properly cheap
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After that I had to sit in this fuggin' beavertail and take the 404 to Norfolk to have the fuel injection sorted. Turned out to be a bit of a waste of time in the end, but at least I managed to take this photo of the massive pile of shit. And the Peugeot.
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Somewhere around the same time I finally admitted defeat and got shot of the Bond. I would still like one, one day, in excellent condition, but it was never gonna get done in my ownership without spending a tonne of cash that I don't have. I thought I would be sad to see it go but I was actually relieved, and last I heard the chap had completely stripped and rebuilt the chassis and running gear. Hopefully I'll get sent a photo of it back on the road at some point soon.
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And that takes me to the end of March. Personal fleet now Herald, Allegro, BX, Heron, 404 and Panhard.

I'll do April to June when I can next be arsed if there is any interest

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More please. Great to see you enjoying work, it was obvious years ago from your posts on here you'd find a natural home on one of the more quality magazines. 

 

I was thinking of a vintage road trip to Essen but perhaps Retromobile would be a good start 

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Ta!

 

Great stuff, but what is the part-wood station wagon?

 

It's a 1938 Ford Model 81A station wagon. It was originally owned by sir Malcolm Campbell and used as a support vehicle when he was challenging the Water Speed Records with the Blue Bird boats. We have a pic of it at Lake Hallwil in 1938 parked next to Campbell's Lincoln-Zephyr coupe on the trip when he broke the WSR in Blue Bird K3. The paint under the flaking green is 'Bluebird blue' - even says so on the old log book! Totally original and unrestored. I could talk about this car for hours, there are so many good stories behind it. But I won't.

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I also managed to find a pic of the Etoile resting against it

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Great work man!!!!!! Tell me more about the fuel injection woes on the Peugeot. I remember Buckley being driven to distraction by the fuel injection on his 504 koop years ago. What is it thats so fickle on them?

 

Just the usual problems with any early adoption tech I guess. It's sensitive, over-engineered and over-complicated but as you know I'm a bit lost with technical stuff so I can't talk about it with any real knowledge. There are three main components; a relatively conventional fuel pump, the main injector system and a warm up unit which is essentially a choke and is controlled by a thermostat connected to the heater. On our car, all three were pretty buggered and the warm-up bit had been disconnected entirely and the heater bypassed due to a leaking matrix. The main issue is lack of knowledge in this country - it was only fitted to a few expensive European cars during the '60s and there are pretty much only two people in the UK who really know them. The place we went to did a fair job getting the pump rebuilt and the warm-up unit connected, but there are some inherent problems with the engine that stopped them going any further. Of course, there aren't really any Peugeot people in the UK who can rebuild a 404 lump (yes, I know Dean Hunter) so they pretty much gave up and sent it back. In fairness, they charged hardly anything and had the car for ages so I can't gripe. It's hopefully going to France in the next month or so for a full engine rebuild and a thorough assessment of the injection system. If everything works out with no trouble I'll be driving it back on Retromobile weekend...

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Blimey that sounds expensive. I have never even seen one of these systems let alone fiddled with one so I have no idea how they work but I remember reading buckleys tales back in the day and thinking "how hard can it be to fettle an all-mechanical system from the 1960's??" I guess it must have lots of actuators and pressure compensators and god knows what that you can't test the operation of.

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Remember I mentioned the special 'Kugelfischer tools' we needed? Turns out they are mainly a really complicated set of balance gauges that get plugged in to various bits of the system and give you a reading on various pressures, mixtures and volumes which you then have to cross reference against the manufacturers standard settings etc.

 

Most annoying but of the whole thing was we managed to get a copy of an uber-rare English language 404 injection engine service book that goes into great detail about the system and the fuckers didn't put it back in the car when we collected it. Despite numerous phone calls and promises to send it back they never did, the buggers, so I'm gonna have to go and borrow the original again and make another photocopy (it's about 150 pages long)

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Probably gonna want to check back when we reach mid-September then I reckon Hirst man.

 

Right, I have already massively messed up the chronology here. Looking through some old photos and I saw this fabulous 1912 Stutz tourer. I organised the photoshoot for this up in North Yorkshire. It's owned by a nice chap who happened to make a lot of money in The City and has amassed an enviable collection of early cars, traction engines, tractors, automobilia etc This is the back of his house. Now, I know I've got my dates muddled because we were up all night on the ferry en route to Montlhery writing the freakin' article about it. It was the first Stutz owned by legendary Stutz collector AK Miller, a real character who didn't believe in banks and hoarded gold, silver, currency and Stutz motor cars. This was the one that kicked off his obsession and it's been left more or less as it was when he first owned it in the 1950s

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The owner and his full-time mechanic also have a thing about Trabants, so I got to blezz about the estate in this thing. Much fun. I never knew they had such an odd gearshift - it's just a little handle on the dash that you variously push up or down to select a gear. I didn't really have a clue what I was doing but I was grinning like a madman the whole time

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Now, at this point I should mention that my 'phone died in June and I lost most of the photos I'd taken before then that hadn't already been backed up on my computer, so I don't have pictures of lots of fun stuff. I've managed to grab a couple of 3rd gen copies from Facebook but they're really rubbish, sorry about that.

This was a silly idea really - pitting Atlantic against Healey 100/4 for the first time. We know a guy who has multiple examples of each and borrowed a couple of his cars for a shoot where most things went wrong and we only just salvaged a decent set of images due to the enormous patience of the photographer. Obviously, we went along in the A90 and got the three lined up for an impromptu shot or two. Long story short - Atlantics are much better value if you don't care about picking up birds in 1961

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This is June now, and the VSCC Light Car & Edwardian Section rally in the peak district. I don't really like navigational rallies but we decided to give it a go rather than do the tour as normal. We came massively last. The little Peugeot just couldn't make it up the hills with two on board and I spent half the time jogging along beside it - I smoke 30 a day and have the lungs of a 70 year-old so this was pretty tough going. Nice scenery though.

 The car used to belong to Steady Barker and he took it all over Europe on adventures so we are pretty determined not to trailer it for the most part. It now belongs to my immediate boss (and co-owner of a load of my shite, and the Ami). Together we've driven this to Monthlery, Peterborough and most places in between and it is GREAT. Top speed is about 37 but it just keeps on going and even the two biggest mechanical dunces in the world can usually get it going if it does fail to proceed

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Stondon. You all know what that looks like. Again, my chronology is a bit messed up here I think, but we drove the 24 up on the last weekend it was open. Then all the gears decided they didn't want to play. this is Gary's photo of it sulking in the car park - we drove back with only 2nd and 4th and it was bloody horrible

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With a mind on the rarity of Panhard spares, we thought we'd have a crack at a LHD 24CT parts car coming up for auction at a show at the Royal Bath and West showground. It was too far gone even to yield many useful bits (and has been pictured here a couple of times already) but there were a couple of nice things at the show, including this very early Allegro. The whole place stunk of ammonia and was full of CCBs (Classic Car Bores) so all in all a disappointing and very long day

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The big event in June is the Festival of Speed - I'm not a fan, really. I hate the crowds, a lot of the cars are dull for me and it's all so vulgar and monied that I tend to get annoyed very quickly. We gave ourselves a two-hour limit to rush round and see everything and get the hell out, which is by far the best way to do it. Highlights were the selection of DSs in the Cartier concours...

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...and the Peugeot 404 diesel record car. Using a much modified 404 Cabriolet body, it was the holder of several speed and distance records for a diesel car in the '60s. It sounded mildly smoother than the petrol 404

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At some point during these three months my gaffer chopped in his Audi A8 - seen here with the only other all-aluminium production car of any note - which went to a 'Shiter for a super-low price. Not heard much about it since, but hopefully it's still going strong. Great car, but not for poor people really. I'd still love one.

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The A8 was replaced by this much more suitable very early Xantia TD, a mega low mileage car that has clearly been looked after very well. It's just done 10,000 miles in his ownership and has been trouble free the whole time and is great fun to drive. I still prefer the BX, though

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And that's pretty much it I reckon. There were several other things that I either didn't take photos of, or have lost the photos of. A quiet few months though, with no fleet changes or major dramas. Hopefully the next entry will be a bit more varied

 

 

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Excellent diary-ing.

 

How close were you to missing the train to Retromobile this year?

Not at all, due to not having to rely on the G Cox taxi service!

 

I should probably point out that everything posted here is a direct result of Seth and Mrs Seth being very generous and encouraging and supportive to me during a not particularly great time in my life and virtually forcing me to apply for a job I assumed I would never get. So, cheers for that Seth.

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The amazing variety of cars featured including the rare, obscure and very interesting reminds me of one of the threads by our "King of shite" (Nigel Bickle). Most enjoyable.  Look forward to hearing about other months in your diary.

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Can I add my appreciation to the list of others for this fascinating thread, sort of rekindles your enthusiasm for the site.  Nearly missed it too.

 

Some wonderful French machinery, I agree even if the Panhard gave up completely it's surely worth keeping just to gaze at the bodywork.  There was a very nice looking blue specimen at Prescott last year on a UK 'C' plate, and the metallic green one that's been around for ages is regularly seen at shows.  Gorgeous car.

 

I remember the saga with Martin Buckley and his Kugelfischer woes, especially as I ended up with his restored green 504 Coupe for a while around the year 2000.  I probably finished it off by accidentally pouring water into the petrol tank.  I recall MB had a Coupe and a Cabrio at that sort of time.  The system was well known for its difficulty in setting up correctly although didn't BMW also use it for the 2000ti model?  You would have thought some BMW specialist may be an option.

 

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Seeing as we've finally found a car you can't identify Barrett (WTF is this thread), I'll have to post another car identity quiz, you used to get all the ones I've posted in the dim and distant past!

 

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