Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Automatic for the people

Anyone following this drivel will have noticed that my life has been the last resting place of what frankly were a whole bunch of dirt cheap sheds.

Most of my cars, certainly, have been merely stopping off on their way to the scrapyard.

But there is one motor vehicle which broke that mould – my Nissan Primera 2 litre SE Automatic.

Ideally suited for the executive car park

This is the single most gorgeous motor car I have ever owned.

True, on the surface it’s a very ordinary saloon car and nothing special. But after Fiat 126s, ancient Escorts and decrepit Avengers it shines like a diamond.

The Nissan was my 41st birthday present. It used to belong to my mum's husband Bob, who had passed away, and my mum didn’t want it, because it was just too damn big for her.

He had damn good taste. He bought the car as an ex-demo and being a canny devil, he ended up with a car with every single goodie added for nowt.

So I leapt from the driving seat of a rattly old Renault 11 into the world of luxury motoring. In order to get the motor I had to drive it from London to Edinburgh, and then back from Edinburgh to Somerset.
Getting behind the wheel I luxuriated in the leather seats, air conditioning, and CD auto changer – hell’s teeth, on most of my motors you had to slow down to hear the radio over the roar of the engine. It had big fat alloy wheels, and a deliciously smooth automatic gearbox.

It purred.

It purred all the way home and  purred on for another 80,000 miles in my ownership – once whisking the family of four to the Scottish Highlands on a traditional motor tour of the kind people just don't do any more,  mile-munching effortlessly with a full load up, and camping gear three feet high on the roof.
C'mon kids! It'll be fun!
The air con was a revelation in traffic jams, as was the gearbox. For a while I was loath to use the air con as I was told that it made the car use more fuel, so I drove with the widows open. Then someone pointed out that actually this was a false economy.
Most modern cars have been very carefully designed in wind tunnels for aerodynamic efficiency. Drive with the windows down and this all goes, well, out of the window.
The rush of air increases the drag, and you use more fuel as a result. Allegedly.

I spent three happy years zooming round corners, with the car never putting a wheel out of place, and it was actually quite easy to work on – just a bit chunky in the engineering department. I did get hit by a tree on the Wedmore road in it, and it snapped off the radio aerial and cracked the windscreen – yes that’s right, I was hit by a tree – not the other way round.
 It had been felled by the overheight lorry I was driving behind, and bounced off his roof, swinging down into my path.
The chaps in the cars behind had looks on their faces that said “how the hell did you get away with that?” and I’m not sure myself. The windscreen had to be replaced with a wallet-lightening bill for nearly £400.
By now with just over 100,000 miles on the clock the beast was beginning to show its age, and as one might expect the odd thing started to go wrong with it. The air conditioning only worked when it felt like it and the CD autochanger got very temperamental. For some reason it only really liked the Clash, and Wagner. It also snapped a drive shaft clean in two in the centre of town, and hereby hangs a cautionary tale. I phoned Nissan and asked if they could get a replacement shaft – just the metal bit – and they said sure – as long as I could wait six weeks for one from Japan and could pay £350 for it. A driveshaft specialist in Newport wanted £200 for a reconditioned one. So I went on the internet to look for a secondhand one. You would have thought that as the Primera was pretty popular there would be a few in the scrap yards, but no – eventually I signed up to a part finder service – who said, by a text costing £3.50, they had found one at a breakers in Birmingham – I called the breakers – they said they had one and wanted £60 for it. But it was for a car without ABS. So it was the wrong one. I figured that actually as all I needed was the metal shaft, I could use the bits off my old shaft using the necessary bit from the non-ABS one, but decided to keep searching anyway. Then I got another expensive text.
The Birmingham breakers had one from an ABS motor after all and they wanted £85. So I bought it. And guess what. It wasn’t from an ABS motor at all – it was the original shaft, they had just lied to me – by now I was desperate to get back on the road, so I cannibalised it and just decided to put the £25 price difference down to experience.
Three weeks later I got another text from the part finder service asking if I needed any more parts. At £3.50. Then another. And another. It was six texts before I finally got them to stop sending them. The lesson being, be careful who you give your mobile number to.
 Sadly, after putting 80,000 miles on the Nissan, it got less and less use.
The trouble is that  a 2 litre fuel injected dohc engine and an automatic gearbox isn't exactly eco-friendly.
With increasing maintenance needs, 240 miles a week at 18mpg and petrol at what was then a quid a litre, what you get is impending bankruptcy.
God knows how anyone affords to run anything bigger than a 1.8 now.
I started using the good lady's ridiculously frugal Peugeot 106 Diesel, rather than the thirsty Nissan.
So eventually it was parked up when the tax and MOT ran out, and with a house move on the way, an advisory note on the last MOT that the catalytic converter was on its way out costing another £600 and the impending departure of my off-road parking it had to go. I sold it to a second hand dealer for £200.
I think he sent it abroad, and it's probably being a taxi in Estonia or Liberia or something.
I do apologise to Bob, but on my salary the Primera was just a fast road to financial ruination. I doubt I'll ever own such a superb motor car again.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hipster Chainsaw Massacre

Now, here's a curious thing.


It's a Derringer. Like those little guns saloon girls would pack in Randolph Scott movies.

The manufacturers say:

"A modern interpretation of the board tracking racing motorcycles of the 1920s, Derringer cycles capture the simple, pared-down, aggressiveness of early motorsport while delivering an intricate level of personalized customization. Like their owners, no two Derringer cycles are the same.
For the discerning rider, Derringer offers the opportunity to own a truly unique, one-of-a-kind motorbike that combines innovative engineering with a classic high-performance aesthetic.
Powered by a moto-hybrid drivetrain, Derringer cycles are built for our modern age."

But hang on, Board racers are like this:

A Board Racer, yesterday

 1,200cc deathtrap nut jobs with no brakes, designed to take you straight to Hell. Ridden by men with balls of steel, who had just come back from charging the Kaisers machine guns armed with a toothpick. Or by women with even bigger balls. It will eat your children.

 This, however:

oh look, I'm so ironic

on the other hand is a very nicely built bicycle, with a chainsaw motor shoehorned into the frame.

Is it a motorcycle, or a means to sell $650 leather jackets and $49 t-shirts to people with more money than sense?

You decide....

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Monday, 16 April 2012

Renault build a better car. They just keep them for themselves.

Ma Renault Cinq cest tres petit.Avez Renault un auto midi?
Mais oui. parce-que vous would ne pas  appear so shaggable dans la..
Ces't la vie. Mon homme friend avoir moi up le duff de toute facon  
Some vehicles come your way more or less by accident, like this one. We weren't really looking for a new car, but the Escort was so very, very tired. Just down the road from the mouldering pile we had come to call home was a car dealership. Pretty standard stuff on the forecourt - a tidy line-up of resonably good small hatchbacks and saloons, all far too expensive for us.
But round the back, periodically, he would have the odd old banger. And one day I belched past in the very smoky Ford Escort, and there was just such a machine.
A gold 1984 Renault 11, with a sign on the windscreen that said: "£200." AHA! Just my price range. And I knew my Renaults, after all - this was of the gereration of cars I'd spent a far from merry year poking inexpertly with screwdrivers back in the day. I knew how these things worked. I took a look.
18 years old and only 69,000 on the clock? Surely not.
I popped into the sales office and there I met the only honest second hand car salesman in the UK.
He was wearing a yak wool jersey and reading the Guardian. He rather grumpily told me that the Renault belonged to a little old lady who had decided she couldn't drive any more, and who had bought it off him many years before. She had come to him and asked if he could sell it for her. He'd agreed. And agreed to give her every penny of the sales price.
I went and had another look round it - genuine low mileage, unmarked upholstery, factory wheel trims, the real deal. I returned to the garage with my beloved. "Well?" he said, grumpy as ever. "It looks to be a nice little car that," I said.
"Are you kidding? you can't tell from a look. It could be a bloody death-trap." he said, sighing. "But it's £200, so no comebacks, alright?"
I put it on a credit card and drove it off the forecourt..
If you squint, it looks a bit like a Delorean...

Funny little motor, the 11. A 1.4 litre engine that dated back to the stone age, huge boot, ridiculously huge road clearance, which was good given the potholed state of the roads, but did make it lurch around like that other ugly French bugger, Quasimodo. There was just on small problem. Every so often it would simply stop. Dead. You'd pull up at junctions, go to pull off and it would just die. There was no rhyme or reason for it. No special weather conditions or anything.
just Phut. Thats it, I'm going nowhere, mon brave.
And an hour later, it would burst into burbling life again. I checked for a failing coil, for petrol icing, for faulty points and condensers, but nothing worked. Just burble-burble-phut. and always at the worst times.
I wracked my memory banks. It had to be ignition related. I remembered  looking for tracking out in distributor caps - this was a problem with Renaults - they'd used shonky plastic on their distributor caps - they developed hairline cracks, and instead of the spark making its way from cap to plugs, it would run along these hairline cracks and earth out on the engine block. But the cap was fine. but, while putting the rotor arm back on, I noticed a faint black line on the end of it.
Aha! enlightenment - the rotor arm had a crack in it - but was it the cause? In the old days we had been taught to take a hand drill and perforate the cap along the line of the fault, because the errant spark couldn't jump the gap and that sent Sparky back to the plug lead. so I decided to interrupt Sparky again.
Instead of drilling a hole though, I put a tiny blob of superglue on the crack. Instant success - it never missed a beat after that. We kept ze' Automobile Francais for quite a while, or nine months in my money, eventually chopping it in as the deposit on a little Peugeot diesel when the ride started to get lumpy. They gave us £250 for it. When I took the Peugeot back because the thing wouldn't charge, the dealer complained bitterly that we had stitched him up as we'd obviously been driving around with only one rubber engine mounting intact out of three, hence the lumpiness...

Friday, 6 April 2012

Zero-Budget cafe racer part two

Well, I've just spent the afternoon at the lock-up rewiring the Ducati's petrol pump and generally moving stuff around - which is what you are supposed to do on bank holidays anyway in my opinion.
 After I'd done all that, I decided to have a tinker with the dormant RS100 cafe racer project.
Such incredible workmanship

Didn't do a lot to it - attached a new tail light, mucked about with the seat a bit and fabricated a seat hump out of a some scrap alloy, a bit of stainless mesh and an old guitar case.
I then made free with the old matt black spray paint.
Like the day it came off the production line

I've got a battery on charge, so I might just whip up there with half a gallon tomorrow and see if it'll start.
looks like 45mph standing still

If it does, I may strip it down for a proper prep and build. Or I might just MOT it and flog it.

I've got another one in the shed with a good chrome exhaust, so i might swap them, though I do quite like this matt black job - makes it all purposeful.
Yamaha RS100 cafe racer. Spirit of the 70's...

Need some chequered tape to set it off properly. Still pondering a little mesh screen too.

The tail light/numberplate combo cost me £9.99 - five quid less than the identical one I bought in 1986 to go on my Honda 250 Dream
Total spend so far. £79.99. Including the bike...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Rocking Horse Shit

Behold, in all their wondrousness. A pair of 35mm Marzocchi forks from the late 70's originally fitted to a Ducati Pantah, now destined for my Moto Morini 350 Strada, thanks to a very nice man in Southampton via ebay. My birthday present to me.

Well, hellllooo beautiful. Great legs...
Let joy be unconfined.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

oooo new project.

All the news you need about Somerset's Festival Scene, all summer. Can you afford to miss out?

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Local Derbi...

I'm always on the look out for the interesting and spotted this at my local dealership - their usual stock is relatively new Jap sports bikes and scooters, so this stood out. It's a Derbi 659 Mulhacen.
Its got a Yamaha XT660 engine, like the other bike thats tempting me , Yamaha's MT-03.
I'm very taken with it, and it fits me beautifully, but I understand that after 15 minutes its so uncomfortable you can barely sit on it anymore.

 Shame, cos its very, very funky.

No Donkey, this Derbi

untitled motorcycles: The secret to making an easy seat pan.

untitled motorcycles: The secret to making an easy seat pan.: Making a seat pan can seem very difficult if you have never done it before. I hadn't made one until I did my "midlife crisis bike" in 2010. ...

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Camping it up at the seaside

So, let’s get the Easystart out and clean the plugs and see if we can’t coax this baby back into pulsating life.
It's summer 2001, and I’m about to be sent off on a 12 week training course to darkest Hastings.
This causes something of a kerfuffle,  and instead of spending the money my delightful employer is prepared to cough on a bed and breakfast I have a much better idea.
I’ll buy a camper van and live in that.
A quick scout of the classifieds throws up a Ford Transit, my affection for which I have previously waxed lyrical upon.

It’s a 1986 mark 3, long wheelbase diesel and yer man wants £750  for it – almost exactly the allowance I’ll get for being away from home.
Yeah, it's a bleeding Winnebago

 Using the rules governing man-maths, this means I’m going to come out of this with a free camper van, obviously.
They bloke selling it is a bit, ermm, odd.
A funny little homunculous with a scraggy beard.
The van is a home conversion job on a minibus. There’s a single bed, a cooker and sink – which is what you need to have a vehicle  registered as a camper. It’s the laughably named Hi-roof – five foot from floor to ceiling. There’s gaffa tape holding the rust together on the back doors.

Disturbingly, it’s got a rubber floor.
“I go away with my dogs at weekends” he says, “ They get very muddy and the rubber floor is easier to keep clean.”
“Yeah, and it’s easier  to get the blood and entrails of your victims washed  away as well, mate,” thinks I, as images of Hammer Horror movies rocket across my brain.
I'll have a bucket of popcorn and a Kia-ora please

But hell, it’s got a long Mot and a bit of tax, so what the hell.
We get it for £650.
It’s a chunky bus, first of the wedge Transits with the engine out of the old model and a four speed overdrive gearbox.
The overdrive is a button on the top of the gearshift. When you reach 60mph, and the engine is roaring like a distressed walrus and making noises like it’s about to leap out of the bonnet, you flick the switch. 

The engine starts to make a noise like a distressed sea lion instead, and continues to propel you at 60 mph.

We load it with essentials, shove the BMW in the garage, lend our rural idyll to some homeless chums and head for the south coast belching  a cloud of black smoke behind me, while my beloved  follows on in the white Escort.

With only five feet of headroom in the back, and a single bed, the van is a bit cramped. So we take a two berth tent to actually sleep in, and a  steel pole gazebo to mark out our territory and move onto a campsite situated in a bog.
The first day we leave the camp in the van the heavens open and when we get back the tent has been flattened by the deluge.
We move campsites, and as the law prevents us from actually living there,  we have to move pitches three times. It’s an interesting experience.
 If you ever feel like destruction testing a relationship, live with your partner in a van for twelve weeks in an English summer. If it survives that, it’ll survive pretty much anything.
We make it through to the end of the twelve weeks,  load up and head for home. The Transit has done jolly well.
A few months later we move house, and the van serves as removal vehicle, and it gets hacked up and down the M5 for a while as a thoroughly unsuitable commuter, blocking the works car park.
The new gaff has plenty of off road space, and I start to acquire more and more motor vehicles, until I sit down one day and decide that having five - or is it six?  is a bit excessive
So I sell it to a Glastonbury hippie for £400. Which seems like good karma.

Vegetable rights and peace!

Going, going, gone...

Put the hammer down... I'll take the GT750 and the B50. Don't bother to wrap them, I'll eat them here
Just found this in the archives - a second hand bike auction from 1986 at Shepton Mallet featuring a Suzuki GT750, Suzuki T500, Honda Goldwing, Couple of BSA C15 s, a BSA B50, and is that a Norton Commando sidecar moto crosser?

Oh for a time machine...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Thieves! Vagabonds! etc...

Well who'd a thunk it. An importer of cheap Chinese mopeds and the like has taken one of my pictures from this page and used it in a frankly derogatory fashion on their website as part of an advert.
a proper motorcycle, albeit in kit form

Now far be it from me to cast nastursiums on the quality of their handcrafted products, but I don't doubt that I could destroy one of their machines far faster than any of those listed here.

The question is, shall I send them an invoice for the picture as agreed by my trades union, the National Union of Journalists of three times the going rate of £130 or not? Or I could destruction test a Lexmoto 125 for them if they like...

a tart's handbag

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Bristol Classic Bike Show. Some Pictures.

 Here are some pictures frome the Bristol Classic Bike show. It was heaving - recession? what recession...
lovely little Hornet

eight heads are better than one

and this is the ugly side

Indian Enfield

love the Swinging London panel badge

A Panther

A Humber Tri-car. Looks like something Sherlock Holmes would get about in, Watson piloting and Holmes in the front shouting, "Faster Watson, I pray god there is still time!"

The Wells Classic Bike Club stand

it was entitled "Don't say anything, The wife's at her mothers for a few weeks..."

A Black Shadow. No Black Lightnings this year.

Nicest bike in the Car Park

You can keep yer Harley WLA's this is "the bike that won the war"

"Project, 90% complete, little work needed"

Nice little learner bike...

A biscuit to anyone who can name this...

Sex on wheels

The crowds favourite. Not mine though

Very Red


just insane

This was almost my favourite

Work of art (1)

Work of art (2)

Amazing to thing these are still around to be restored

My Favourite, it was in the car park. It was for sale, but I didn't dare ask the price.