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SierraMikeHotel's chod: SMH goes above plodding pace SHOCK


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I'm not currently running anything, but I thought there might be some interest in the god-awful tat that I have driven in the past.


Let's begin with My First Car, the Arsemobile itself.  This is the car that I still own, although it will be moving on soon.


My best mate's dad saw this looking sorry for itself by the roadside and bought it, thinking it would be an ideal* first car for my mate.  They did the bare minimum necessary to get it through an MoT, then my friend bought a better one and sold this to me.  It was in vaguely running order at the time and here it is with the slightly nicer one.




I did the old £5 to the DVLA thing to get hold of its history and discovered it had spent most of its life with the same owners.  I took it to visit them and was given some paperwork, which I still have.  The old chap had had a stroke and couldn't talk, but he was thrilled to see the car.


Many adventures ensued, a particular favourite being a round trip from Bromley to Canterbury, Egham then home again during which it used more water than petrol and caught fire a bit.




With that repaired it went back into daily use.  I was still a student then and as the car had a tow bar it was used for us all to move house at the end of the year.  Nobody would rent me a van at the time because I was too young, but I did find a local company willing to rent me a trailer.  Sadly they'd double booked it, but it was all OK - they had a horsebox I could use instead.  Yes, all our stuff did smell of horse manure for the rest of the year.




Later, I took it on my year abroad in France where it wowed* the locals.  Oddly, it only broke down once during that time with a duff starter motor.  A local auto electrician fixed it for a sensible price without any sucking of teeth or "On ne peut pas trouver les pieces pour ca."  This has left me utterly impressed with French mechanics.


When I got home from France in 2001 the car was somewhat tired and I decided to put it away in my mum's garage awaiting a proper restoration.  Sadly I never had the funds or the skills to do so and it's still there.



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I think this may be the photo you mean.




There is a small chance we may have forgotten to re-attach something after replacing the water pump.  The bastard thing still overheated until I'd replaced every component in the cooling system - water pump, radiator, hoses and thermostat were all equally knackered.

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Easter holidays in 2000, so not far off 20 years.


Looking through these, I did enjoy looking at the other cars in the background - check out the 25 and what I think is a pair of Fiestas lurking behind the horsebox, then the very corner of my housemate's silver Polo Coupe.  That was just an old banger at the time, but I'd be quite excited to see one now.


Bonus pic - what else do you see here parked up in the middle of Arras?



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Keep going!!

As I am familiar with the vast majority of SierraMikeHotel's vehicular history (and very familiar with some of them having been on the driving end of a grinder/welder in some cases) I know for sure it will be very welcome reading here.


Keep going indeed!

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With the Rover laid up, I needed wheels.  The budget was small and I wanted something interesting.  I'd always liked hydraulic Citroens since we briefly had a BX when I was little so went hunting for a GS.


During my search I met mnde (an Autoshite member but not currently active) on a Citroen-related email list - before these newfangled fora came along! - and we remain good friends.


The result was a cornflower blue GS 1220 Club and I wouldn't be surprised if others on here have also owned it, it really was the Citroen Car Club bike.  It had a bit of an odd back-story, being in a paint shop with a fresh respray but the owner had disappeared without paying the bill.  I probably wouldn't risk it today, but I paid £500 for it with no paperwork.  Someone from the CCC had put me in touch with it so it seemed legit!




The VW van was just parked there, by the way, no connection to me.


I remember going to a local CCC pub meet-up where there were three previous owners and I learned that it had previously been written off at least twice, and we came to the conclusion that the only original bit was the roof panel.


Despite that, it wasn't a bad little car.  It had a few issues but I don't remember it failing to proceed.


My work life was a little difficult back then, going from one casual short-term contract to the next, until finally the work dried up completely so I went to work in Italy instead.  Again very fortunately, it had no issues during the time I was over there.  I reckon a G is one of the best cars to take to Italy because you have to drive them flat out and the ride's good enough to cope with the bad roads (although I reckon the roads here are as bad now as they were in Italy then).




I'm not sure that I'd be brave enough to do this now, going 900 odd miles in a 25 year old car to start a new job in a country where I didn't speak the language!  The journey was quite something but the views from the roads through the Alps are just amazing.




I believe the car survives, there's certainly a great collective fondness for it in the G section of the CCC.

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Thank you for the encouraging comments, I certainly will keep it coming until we're up to date!


Odd little things have been bubbling up in my head as I think back to these days... like my uni mate who played double-bass.  It turns out you can carry a double-bass player and a double-bass in a Rover P6 if you recline the passenger front seat as far as it will go, squeeze the player in behind it, and lay the bass diagonally across the car.  I wish he'd played the piccolo.


I got some parts delivered to France for the P6 when I was living there, can't remember what now.  Maybe an exhaust?  What I do remember is the conversation I had with the French counter-terrorism people at La Poste persuading them that I wasn't getting bomb parts imported.


Or that journey to Italy in the GS...  There had been a couple of big accidents and the better-known Alpine routes were closed so I had to go a long way around through some very scary tunnels.  Got a bit lost trying to get around Turin and found myself in the industrial outskirts and eventually asked a prostitute for directions (because as anyone who's been to Italy knows, there is nobody to talk to except prostitutes in the outskirts of big cities).


My dad came to meet me in Italy and we drove home in convoy - he had a Picasso at the time (pictured).  His favourite recollection of the journey was the vineyard we stopped at, near Beaune.  The bloke just couldn't believe his eyes when we pulled up, couldn't stop talking about the GS he'd had new and how thirsty it was.  He talked about how many Dutch tourists they got visiting, but never British... at which point my step-mum piped up and admitted to being Dutch!




When I look at pics of the GS now I mostly remember how it drove and handled.  They are brilliant little cars, just absolutely full of enthusiasm.  Not fast or powerful, but keen.

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Two cars for the price of one post!


So, the contract in Italy came to an end and I slowly drove home.  The GS ran out of MoT and I ran out of money, again doing short-term, week-long contracts here and there.  I sold the GS and couldn't afford to replace it, so my friend lent me the red P6.  He'd bought a really, really good one in the meantime - a 3500S in Paprika - that he still has and cherishes.




LPC was built as a 2000TC but had been given a 2200TC engine at some point.  I was always surprised at how much difference 200CC and an extra carb made - it was considerably quicker than my 2000SC and felt free-er, revvier somehow.  We always called it the Big Red Fun Bus and it was indeed a fun old bus to smoke about in.


Scariest memory of it: driving to Canterbury, and started to smell petrol.  It wasn't too bad so I pressed on but when we arrived and got down to town speeds it absolutely stank.  Parked up to find petrol had been pissing out of the carb - you could see the trail along the road.  I abandoned it there and went home by train (because I had people with me) then went back a week later to ring recovery for it.  The road where I'd parked was too narrow to get the recovery truck up there, so I had to drive it out to the truck with the driver walking alongside me with a fire extinguisher in his hands.


I've admitted elsewhere on the forum that I'm no mechanic, but rebuilding the carbs on this was really not difficult!  Even I could do it with some help from the Haynes BoL and the right parts.


The car was up for sale for the few months that I ran it and eventually it did sell.  I'd scraped some pennies together in the meantime so I had a replacement lined up.


Hold onto your hats chaps - this is where things start to get seriously shite.


I have unfinished business with Saabs.


My first ever car journey was in an early white 99 which my dad recalls with great fondness.  It sadly died when it was in the garage for some fairly major work and somehow the engine got dropped off the bench and onto the ground, which was fairly terminal.  The garage refused to sort it out and it got to threats of small claims court etc but Dad gave up eventually and the car got scrapped.  He'd previously had a 96 which he was equally fond of, and credits the excellent handling with saving his life when a Triumph Herald spun out on an icy road in front of him and he was able to just drive around it.


I'd always fancied a 99 or 900 and this seemed like the right time.  I found an uber-cheap 99 - £250 if memory serves - and got it bought.




Right colour - brown - and not a Turbo although it tried to look like one with those wheels and a fuel consumption gauge where the turbo boost pressure gauge ought to be.  Amazing brown velour interior, just like the sofa your grandma used to have.  Weird slightly offset driving position with the pedals not quite straight and a bit of a dog-leg to get across the gearbox.  Truly excellent engine access with the bonnet up.  I could totally see the appeal, one of these in good condition would be a bloody brilliant small car.


Sadly this one was an utter death-trap, and the moment that I learned not all MoT's are equal.


It had always made a *clonk* when changing direction from forward to reverse or vice versa and I'd intended to look into it at some point, but wasn't too worried as it came with all its previous MoT's, all from the same garage.  Then one day I was nearly home when something fell off, with a clank and a grinding noise from behind.  I assumed it was the exhaust of course, and pressed on because I was less than half a mile from home.


It wasn't the exhaust.


It was one of the rear suspension arms, which had pulled clear out of the bodyshell due to rust.


I had a look at the other side to see what it was supposed to look like, and there was nothing there but a suspicious rusty hole.  After a bit of headscratching, I found the other suspension arm hidden under the spare wheel.


I'd only had the thing for a few weeks so rang the seller to give him a piece of my mind - not his fault, he'd only owned it briefly as a stop-gap while he had work done on his 96.  Previous owner and his dodgy bent MoT mate are at fault here.


Immediate scrappage.


The weird thing was that I didn't notice the handling being poor.  It wasn't as taut as the GS, but then I didn't really know what to expect.  It didn't feel actively dangerous, but then I never drove it hard - just local pottering and a couple of short motorway trips (and anything should feel OK on a motorway as they're mostly straight).

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We're getting into the realms of truly dreadful chod here.


With the Saab gone, I again found myself needing wheels.  Enter Chris Salter, who is probably known to Citroen-lickers on here, and his impressive collection of truly dreadful old bangers.  Believe it or not I parted with some actual cash money for this, can't remember how much now but I hope it wasn't much.  It lacked MoT, had a motorbike battery and only one of the wipers was working.  It also absolutely stank, possibly because mice had been living in the headlining.




But who cares!  It's a GSA, with proper mentalist dashboard, PRN satellites and even five gears!


It needed many jobs for the MoT, mostly welding which was done by a local bodywork chap.  The hardest thing that I did myself was getting the bastard exhaust to seal, which I'm sure you all know is nigh-on impossible with a G.


Believe it or not, I went on holiday to Scotland in this.  It is a very long way and the car didn't break down at all.




I sold this back to Chris when I'd had enough of it and sadly it was stolen from outside his place not long after.

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It needed many jobs for the MoT, mostly welding which was done by a local bodywork chap.

Was that the same chap who we visited with your BX, and you told him "I've been here before. You once weaved an entire new GSA out of welding wire for me"


The look on his face and visible shudder was the funniest thing since toast!

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So who'd be daft enough to buy a ropey Citroen CX when you're short of cash and don't have the skills to fix stuff yourself? Yup, I would... look, I just really wanted a CX, OK? Especially a C-matic one. Which this was.




I always thought it was a bit of a strange old bus, this. Those amazing futuristic looks, the smooth ride, the brilliant interior, the semi-automatic gearbox (which really suited the car)... then you open the bonnet and there's a big old 4 cylinder lump from a Traction Avant hiding under there.


There was just so much wrong with this car but I never cared. Honestly, I could forgive it anything. It even charmed my dad.


It didn't seem too bad when I bought it... it was cheap and a bit frilly round the edges, but it mostly worked. Some electrical niggles because French, but it went and stopped as it should.




The work dried up again but this time I was ready for it and decided to bugger off to France for the winter. Unfortunately I realised that MoT would run out very soon after getting there, which would be bad, so packed it in for a test a couple of days before I was due to leave. It failed on... well, everything. And I had neither time nor money to fix it before having to leave.


I mentioned it had charmed my dad. He was willing to put the car up in his garage while I was away so I got on a Eurostar and forgot about it. That is, until Dad came to visit me in France and only bloody turned up in the CX! He'd had everything fixed for the MoT and even applied some filler and paint over the worst of the visible rust. It sounds like it didn't want to be fixed, as some vital (and expensive) component had failed while it was sitting in the garage and pissed LHM all over the floor. Believe me, that stuff stains concrete like nothing else.


Anyway, I had wheels in France - and far more suitable to the terrain than the P6 had been last time I was there. Fortunately the P6 had behaved itself, as I strongly doubt you'd find many '70s Rover parts over there, but the CX knew it would be well looked after so it showed no restraint in breaking down at every possible opportunity. I was genuinely impressed by French mechanics though. When the accumulator sphere went, they cross-referenced it in the book and discovered that it's basically the same part from the DS up to early Xantias and just charged me accordingly (the mechanic did drive into the lift post because he wasn't used to RHD cars, but he didn't damage anything so it doesn't really matter). Compare that to the £500 each that the Citroen dealer in Beckenham quoted me for wheel spheres after I'd got back to the UK...




Having said that, the worst FTP was caused by an idiotic French mechanic. The battery went so I popped into the nearest place (a Renault dealer/mechanic just opposite my flat) and they offered to fit it for free, as the car happened to be parked outside. Great, until a few days later when the car came to a spectacular halt. At the sight of smoke I pulled the key out of the ignition, which did not halt the engine. I popped the bonnet and pulled the earth lead off the battery, noticing in the process that it had slid across the engine bay and into all the spinny turny fanny alternatory bits on the engine that then ate the wiring. Granted, the restraining plate was a bit rusty and buggered but they could have made some effort to bolt the battery down, no? Anyway, despite a total lack of help from the Gendarme who turned up to tell me off, I pushed the car to the side of the road where some electricians were replacing a shop sign. They lent me some tools and a big roll of electrical tape, and I twisted all the broken wires back together. By some miracle it all worked! I took it to an auto-electrician for a proper repair but to their credit they didn't want to take my money - it would have been an enormous job, replacing large parts of the loom, so they advised me to leave my temporary repair alone for as long as it was working.


It also delighted in minor electrical annoyances and quality control issues, because French. One of the front indicators fell out, and when I sourced a replacement from a scrapyard I wasn't really surprised because they're held in by some really flimsy thin metal clips. The headlamp switch failed in a way which made smoke pour out of it when you put the main beams on (flashing them was OK though). I just stopped using the main beams, and honestly forgot all about it until the next MoT which led to a mildly amusing fail sheet.


Another good one was when I came back to France after a quick Eurostar visit home for Christmas. I'd left the car parked at the offices of one of the companies I was training in, and when I came back it was both covered in snow and also wouldn't start. Everywhere was still closed for Christmas and I hadn't seen a soul, but a couple of blokes - caretakers presumably - turned up at the sound of English swearing and swiftly made a diagnosis. A small air leak in a tiny hose that leads to the carb - electrical tape to the rescue again and all was well.




The journey home was quite entertaining. I'd been quite enjoying myself - as a long-distance cruiser the CX is truly unsurpassed, and with French autoroutes being so much quieter than British motorways it was a relaxing drive from Nancy back to Calais. Thanks to 18mpg thirst (remarkably consistent, no matter how I drove it) I found myself stopping for petrol sooner than I needed a rest or a pee. When I arrived at Calais I was waved straight onto the waiting ferry, which has never happened before, but I figured out why when the STOP lamp went on when I was half-way up the ramp and when I came to a halt I realised all the water was pissing out. Surprisingly you can't buy coolant on a car ferry, so I topped the rad up at the first petrol station in Dover and drove carefully home. Where I had to replace the radiator.


More comedy French luxobarge shenanigans after the break.

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That CX still exists tucked away in a barn somewhere doesn't it?

It does indeed. The current owner still intends to do it up, or he did last time I spoke to him, but he's got so many cars it's going to take a lot of effort to get through them all!
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I massively coveted a CX Familiale after a friend of my dad's bought one of the very last c.1991... bit weird for an 11 year old, but I still would. Mega cars.

That would have been a Heuliez-built estate by then.


There was a Familiale floating around near one of Bill's previous livery yards (Bricket Wood/Park Street) for a good few years. That car had space, and then some. Too long for where I park now. I drove my CX back there to have a look, and the Familiale had long since moved on.


If you do find one to your liking - and they did sell in Ireland - pay special attention to the tailgate structure; they particularly like to corrode around there, apparently.

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That would have been a Heuliez-built estate by then.

Very likely - was sold through Shaw's Citroen in Bangor; I went with him to collect it. Silver, blue/grey interior, full seven-seater... very lovely. Haven't seen any form of CX on the road in NI since about 2007 - though I understand R9UKE of this parish had one in his yard down Ballygowan way until a year or two ago.

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Very likely - was sold through Shaw's Citroen in Bangor; I went with him to collect it. Silver, blue/grey interior, full seven-seater... very lovely. ....

Probably the same blue/grey herringbone mine has.


Much favoured as film/camera cars; the BBC famously ran a few for horseracing; the only car that would give them a steady picture.

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Thank you for the kind comments, I'm pleased this is bringing some enjoyment!


I kept the CX for a while after returning to the UK and even put it through a second MoT, making it one of my longest-keepers.


For the benefit of those who have never driven a CX, they really are like nothing else on the road.  I've never been in anything with better ride quality - if you value comfort over speed, then this car really is for you.  Are you terminally lazy?  Citroen have the answer - DIRAVI steering means that when you let go of the wheel, the power assistance takes it back to the centre line.  Makes parallel parking an absolute breeze.  It's speed-sensitive, so you can park with one finger but it's still safe on the motorway (except for a terrifying few moments on the autoroute when it went to parking lightness - only ever did it the once but it clearly made an impression if I remember it after all this time).  Mine was a C-matic, a weird semi-automatic system that's basically a three-speed manual box with a torque converter instead of a clutch.  The 2.4 had enough torque to pull away in second (which would take you comfortably up to highway speeds), so in traffic you could just leave it in second and pretend it was an automatic, or on a proper drive you could use the gears like a manual.  It's a really lovely system, much nicer than modern flappy paddles.


So, a comfy cruiser with a lazymatic box - just the thing to take on a parade lap round Lydden Hill, right?




Various friends of mine had classic cars at that time and we often went for days out.  These are at Pevensey, and can you guess which front-wheel-drive car with a heavy engine slung out front got stuck on the beach?






Sadly the CX just kept going wrong faster than I could keep up with fixing it.  I was still only doing very much casual work at the time and it was deteriorating despite me shovelling all my cash into it and eventually had to go.  I sold it to a chap called Anthony Parkes who is probably known to some of you (and if he's not a member on here, he really should be) and drove it until the rear screen blew out (not entirely surprising as it had always leaked) and he retired it to his big barn along with the rest of his awaiting-resto projects.


A good CX is still very much on my lottery-win list.  Lovely cars and I think of this one with great fondness despite its many glaring faults.

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Nothing like a CX. Mine's got the independent starter, and I'm sampling a battery drain from somewhere as we speak.....


I have a theory that if you don't fix a fault like that straight away, you just learn to live with it.  I wasn't working when the battery died in the cornflower blue GS, so I just used to park it on hills or use the starting handle.  When I found some work and had money again it was ages before I got round to replacing the battery...


The one on the CX was a wiring fault.  Maybe once out of ten it wouldn't start on the key, but the signal wire to the starter had a plug fitted in it so you could pull that out, short it to an earth point and the car would start.

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