Multiple Choices When It Comes To Parts. Suzuki Vitara.

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Never an easy job…

There is a rule when it comes to getting parts. There will be multiple choices and whatever part you choose will be wrong. Since the advent of smartphones, the sensible person always takes a picture when they have a component apart. Which is great unless you have never done it before.

 

Yesterday was one of those days… Having checked the MOT certificate for recommendations, it mentioned that the front brake pads were low. So I checked them, and not a moment too soon.  So that means a trip to my local motor factors. Even in Cornwall, there is always a choice. I’ve been going to one for many years, they supply the trade mostly but still have a little counter. It is like a club, not exclusive, just one with its own rules. They also look after their local clients, so always my first port of call.

 

Brake pads, yes they will be here tomorrow, old stock £10… well, £12 with the dreaded VAT… Great but they were the wrong ones. My friend behind the counter mentioned that my Vitara was a Spanish one, hence the other blog post. Of course, the pads were the wrong ones, a return trip to the counter. The replacements will be here at 3 pm, two pairs ordered just to make sure. As promised they arrived and off I went to change them.

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After the problems getting them the nice surprise was how simple it was to replace them. Having a chassis at the least jacking up the Vitara was easy. As I was working under the car an axle stand was used. With a normal car, I would also suggest placing the wheel under it as well, just not much point with a 4×4.

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The large wheels are remarkably light for their size, so no problem to remove or mount. There was a nice surprise with the general condition of the calipers with the rubbers all sound and the pistons sliding smoothly. Also the owner before the last one I think liked Copper slip, as some bolts already had a smear on. A very good and sadly rare sign. After the struggle of getting the pads at least fitting was easy. I remembered to loosen the brake reservoir cap a little and even tighten it up when I was finished. The only real problem was squeezing the new pads in, simply because of the amount material. With a little smear of Copper slip for good measure, reassembly was easy. Of course making sure the pads location springs fitted properly as I did.

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The large wheels fitted easily back on and the job was completed. When I tightened up the brake reservoir I checked the VIN plate. Yes, there was the name, Santana, confirming that Tugg has a Spanish heart.

 

Another job ticked off the list as slowly the Vitara receives a complete service.

When is a Suzuki not a Suzuki?

When is a Suzuki not a Suzuki? This may seem like a daft question and the answer is when it is a Santana…

What are Santana’s and where are they made? And why would something wearing Suzuki badges not be one?

The answers that Santana’s were Spanish, I say were as sadly they are no longer made.  2010 was not the best year for European motor manufacturers with names that started with S as Santana and Saab both effectively ended production. Santana had been making Suzuki’s under license from the mid-1980’s. Before that Santana made under license localized versions of the Land Rover, this agreement ended in the early 1990’s. So at one point both Suzuki’s and Land Rovers were being assembled in the same factory at the same time.

 

So what has this got to do with my Vitara? If anyone checks the details of when Suzuki stopped making the model, most will say 1998. Yet mine is a 1999 model, so who made it?

Of course Santana, officially it is a Santana Suzuki Vitara. When Suzuki and Santana’s agreement ended in 2006 so did a lot of the support for those models. The result being that it is far easier to get certain parts for earlier Vitara’s than later ones.

Does this change how I feel about the Vitara? Oddly I have a passion for oddballs and even had known a little of Santana’s history long before I bought the Vitara.

So quite the reverse, I always fancied having one and now I have one.

Petrol Filter Change On a Suzuki Vitara (Tugg)

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A filtered change?

Finally, after almost a month I’ve changed the fuel filter…  An easy job, but not having a workshop a real pain. As funds allow the Vitara is slowly getting a complete service. The parts I expect to come to around £150. Some things seem to make very little difference, yet I know in the long run will pay dividends.

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The fuel filter is one of the cheapest components to change, yet has had a major difference to the driving experience. When I first bought the Vitara (Tugg,) she ran so badly it was frankly almost dangerous to drive her.  The filter is fairly accessible but I would still need wheel ramps to make it that bit more accessible. Oddly it was the easiest reverse up ramps I’ve ever had, in low range, the Vitara simply inched her way up.

Needless to say, but a rusty bolt led to almost a bugger moment. Normally a little heat can be applied, but not near fuel lines. The bolt loosened as I held my breath and carefully turned it half a turn one way and then quarter back the other.  Having loosened it off, I then bolted it back in and undid the fuel lines. No matter how carefully I did this, yes I did get an ear full of fuel.  With disintegrating latex gloves and making sure that the direction of the filter was right. Of course, the shape of the replacement was different to the original. In the process setting off my dyslexia paranoia. So after a double check, I fitted it and crossed my fingers. Checked the fuel lines and even remembered to use fresh washers.

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As Tugg was up on the ramps I had a little inspection. Some brake lines might need changing for the MOT. But it confirmed the generally good condition that I first attracted me to the Vitara.

The road test was a revelation. Tugg drove so much better, not perfect but a real difference. Each little improvement brings an increase in my understanding and appreciation of the little 4×4.

 

After a shower and shave my partner commented on my new aftershave. Apparently being a petrol head is ok, smelling like petrol is not.

DIY BARBECUE

Barbecue

With the camper van I realized that I need a reusable barbecue. So what does someone with a little welding experience and some scrap metal do?

Simply make one…

I had the remains of a metal case from an old printing press…

With an hour of bodging, welding and generally mucking about it was finished.

More by luck than judgment it was the same width as the wheel ramps.  This is important as everything has to have a place.

Disposable barbecue…Pff…

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Faceless Drone

 

Two weeks ago I attended a speed awareness course.  An option offered instead of receiving 3 points on my driver’s license. In the UK we can only have 12 points before it is taken away for a compulsory ban. Points can be accrued for being a little over the speed limit, using a handheld mobile phone, etc, etc.

In my case, it was for doing 35 mph in a 30 limit. I will say that this was not in a town, but between two villages on the Northeast coast of Britain. Also, I did not know the area, had my mother and her dogs in the car. Thankfully I could attend the course here in Cornwall.

 

The little room was full of a mix of people and diverse ages apart from the very young. All levels of experience and knowledge, from the commercial driver to the little old lady who only pops down to the shops. Those taking the course were driving instructors. Their aim, to partake a little knowledge to those who were there simply to avoid the points.  Both were good people and very articulate. Like a group of naughty school children, we sat at the start and shared how we got caught. The recent changes in the highway code, refreshed areas we had forgotten…It also informed us how car design has changed, for instance how stopping distances have been reduced with antilock brakes. Why more people survive accidents thanks to airbags, how cars now deform when others impact them, etc.

 

All which is very good, but and this is major but, cars are now not only filled with distractions but also they have major blind spots. With ever increasing levels of safety, car pillars are becoming far wider. If you compare a car from the 60’s, 70’s or early 80’s they seem so light and airy. The blind spots are far less. Now yes, it does make them less safe in the event of an accident, but arguably it makes some accidents far less likely.

 

Within recent years there is more and more electronic interference in the driving experience. Electric power steering can rob all tyre feel. For example, I drove a modern automatic supermini to near London and back again in April. It was far more like a simulator than it should have been. The car gave no feedback to what was going on beyond the windscreen. Many messages of the changing conditions bypassed. Often it was only my experience that helped to fill the gaps. At low speed the car is amazing, but it was not a driver’s car in any shape or form. The auto-box is not the traditional torque converter, but a more modern electronic clutch,taking away feel and choice. There are tricks an experienced driver can do with a torque converter that can help in difficult conditions. Those options are taken from the driver and therefore reduces control.

The designer of the original Mini, Sir Alec Issigonis, gave it the most amazing handling. Anyone has ever driven one fell in love it almost immediately. When asked why, Sir Alec replied, “it made the car safer for the district nurse, the young mother.” Instead of making a car that was soul destroying to drive, he went the other way. He saw safety in the ability of the driver to react. Of course, he accidently created one the greatest rally cars of all time…

I drive a MK 3 Golf convertible, she is old, tired and battered. She really should not be used the way I do, often overloaded and pulling a trailer. Yet, of all the cars I’ve owned and driven, she is my second favourite. A simple car with amazing visibility and such fun to drive. Every journey is an adventure not because I wonder when or if she will break down.

Driving can be a joy… Well when not caught in an endless traffic jam, and even then the odd roundabout calls.

 

Sadly, we are heading towards driverless cars as they become metal boxes of convenience. Each new technology takes us a little further away from the joy of driving. As a result, the level of awareness on British road is becoming truly awful. In many ways, the change to complete driverless cars cannot happen fast enough. Then we can all become the faceless drones that many would like us to be.

 

I will still remember the call of the open road. My fear is that soon all I will have are those memories.

 

Footnote

Since this blog was originally posted I’ve bought a Suzuki Vitara(Tugg) so accidental speeding is much less of a problem.

First Week With Tugg

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Until I bought the Vitara (Tugg) I had never driven a small  4×4. To be honest my first impression was quite frankly terrifying. Having driven countless cars and vans it is rare anything surprises me, yet the Vitara did. If I had test driven it before purchase I may not have bought it. Yes, I really was that unnerved. Compared to my MK3 Golf convertible it felt tall, narrow, did not accelerate, stop or handle.

After purchase, I drove it 5 miles or so to a friend’s place. Left it until picking it up the following day. That drive back in the dark and heavy rain was really one the worst of my life. I knew the Vitara made sense for work, but I was not sure if I could put up with it.

After some teething issues, I settled down to using her on a daily basis. Funny thing is after a week of driving Tugg in a variety of conditions I have to admit I was wrong.

On the road, the handling is really not as bad as I first thought. In a funny way it does handle, even well enough to surprise a newer BMW whilst I followed it up a particularly twisty road. I should mention I was towing my empty trailer at the time. On the dual carriageway, it is happy at 70 mph. At much more than that the petrol consumption is as frightening as I thought the handling was initially. The high seating combined with the large glass area gives a clear view ahead. Yes, it does pitch over bumps but you get used to it. The brakes… well yes, they do work in a way. Compared to the Golf, or any modernish car they are rubbish. A firm shove is needed and all that happens is the suspension absorbs most of the initial force. Yet they do work, you simply have to readjust your driving style.

This covers the on-road experience, but then you don’t buy a 4×4 to drive on the road. Well, most people only get as far as the odd grass verge. But I bought it for some gentle off-roading for both work and pleasure. So with a friend we did a little exploring on a Byway Open to All Traffic(BOAT). Tug performed with aplomb, the track was narrow and a little muddy but fairly level. My passenger smiled as I snuck the drive into 4 high and selected first. We trundled along the track for perhaps half a mile at 10 mph worrying a little about scratching the paintwork. Only a slight bank at the end of the track provided anything like a challenge. We grinned at each other as we crested it. Our first off-roading experience was fun.

Later after eating fish and chips overlooking the sea at Perranporth we decided to have another go on a BOAT. Having grown up in the area I knew one that cut across Cubert common. Having not been on it for 20 years I had no idea of the condition of the track. We headed through the gate, stopped for a moment admiring the distant lights. I chose low range and first gear to minimize any damage and to maximize control. My friend was a little worried about how close we were to the cliff despite my reassurances. We trundled into the dark down a track that I knew would get far worse.

The first 100 hundred yards was gentle, but then as the track dropped down it became rougher.  A 9-inch drop on one side did not represent any form of challenge, just a little fun. A bit further down between high sand banks the track got a lot worse. After a little careful consideration, we decided to cross to the verge. The angle of lean was more extreme than we were used too, but nothing to be worried about. Soon after the track became better and we had completed our second green lane or BOAT.

I have to admit that Vitara really surprised me on the second track. She performed in a manner that inspired complete confidence.

After a week of driving Tugg, I’ve fallen for her charms.  I do smile when I drive her after adapting my driving style… Despite her small size, she can carry an amazing amount of gear.

I’m even considering giving her a wash and polish…

 

Living With Tugg

Living with Tugg

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These blogs are being written on time but published a little later due to launch dates for Classicaraddict. The reasons that I’m doing this is that owning any interesting vehicle is an ongoing experience. Trying to capture those daily moments retrospectively simply does not work.

So after almost 4 weeks what has the experience been like?

To be honest there has been good and bad. In an earlier post, I’ve written how scary driving her at first was. Yet after only a few days and about 200 miles I started to learn how to listen. As I write I’ve driven about 800 miles in all conditions and sometimes with a trailer.

I also spent a little time reading how to use a four-wheel drive properly. For in that aspect and despite their image to some the Vitara is proper 4×4 with separate chassis, lockable front hubs, and a low range box.

The grubby bits are all new to me. Using them is learning experience, for instance, the low range box. When reversing up a friend’s steep driveway instead of slipping the clutch I placed it into low range and let it climb at idle. This is not mentioned in anything I’ve read or seen, yet with a little thought makes perfect sense.

Of course, I did not buy Tugg for reversing up steep slopes.  I bought her for helping me with my day job of working as a gardener. My client base is not urban but is rural with larger gardens.  The Golf did sterling work but did mean that often I had to lug my equipment long distances.  The Vitara makes my life much simpler, I can get a lot closer and combined with my trailer means I can provide a better service to my clients.

For instance, last week when working in a large field we had to move the previously cut bracken. With a wheelbarrow, it would have been a thankless slog. With Tugg and a trailer what would have been at least 3 hours work was completed in less than one. I also had a lot of fun driving around the field carefully in low range. I did try to keep to my own wheel tracks to minimize any possible damage and kept the speed really low. Even on road tyres I was impressed.

The day before when taking some wood from a client I drove up a track that I had got the Golf stuck on a few weeks before.  It was not steep, but really muddy and slippy. Having had the previous experience I approached with caution.

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In low range Tugg was amazing, the incline was not great but what made the Golf struggle was simply not an issue.  After turning her carefully around I then loaded the trailer up.

Going back down the track was slightly more exciting with the trailer pushing Tugg at an angle.  With low range engaged all was kept under control. One of the first lessons of offroading applied. Use the slowest speed that is sensible for the conditions.

Those are good things.

The bad is that fuel consumption is worse than I hoped. This is perhaps affected  by towing the trailer a lot. Even so, compared to the Golf it is not good.

There is little more rust than I had hoped.  Not a major amount, but one repair is going to be little laborious than expected. Doing it will push my welding experience to its limits. I’m sure it will not be an issue, more a challenge. Also, I’m a little behind on the maintenance having not even changed the petrol filter.

Overall I’m finding Tugg really useful and look forward to further adventures.

Naming a car?

Why is it that some cars get names and others do not? I’ve own lots of cars and bikes and most have never earnt a nickname. Even some of my favourites never got christened beyond a shortened version their model or make. For instance, when I had a Jaguar XK40 2.9 it was simply known as The Jag… with my best Jeremy Clarkson voice in my head of course.

My latest vehicle earnt a name in a few days. With a registration number, T324UUG my first thought was to call her Uug. On second thoughts with a tow bar at each end, the only name she could have was Tugg.  My last VW Golf was called Erica, now the story how she got her name is strange but not for this blog. Oddly like boats all my cars have had female names. Perhaps that is something to do with my relationship with them, a closeness that becomes truly intimate on a regular basis.

Some will argue that cars are just inanimate lumps of plastic, rubber, and steel. Of course, we know otherwise. The ones we fall for are much more, they transcend boundaries that allow them to worm themselves into our hearts.

 

Below is a list of some the cars I’ve owned that got christened.

 

 

Triumph Dolomite 1500- Dolly

Triumph Spitfire 1500-  Spitty.

VW Golf MK3 Convertible- Erica

VW T25 Holdsworth Vision- Holly. My mother used to call her “Old Girl” for me to call her this would be disrespectful, hence Holly.

Ford Capri MK3 1.6/2.0- Evil Bob.

Suzuki Vitara- Tugg.

Another Dolomite 1500- Dolly Mixture

Talbot Samba-Tappet.. Because it sounded like it did not have any left.

 

Not all the names make sense, but then why should they?

My Top 5 Cars, Ish

Skoda Estelle

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My first car with four wheels…

Bought from a friend for next to nothing and the car I had to pass my test for. Cheap, fun and oddly endearing. Let down due to the odd design of the engine with an alloy block and steel cylinder head.

Great for off road driving.

 

Vauxhall Astra SXI Estate

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From the auction when we needed a cheap estate car. Being a Vauxhall it was simple but well thought out. The surprise with this car was the engine, it was like having an SRI engine in an estate. In the wet, the front wheels would spin in the first 3 gears, such fun.

 

Triumph Dolomite 1500

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I bought this car in 1999 from the local car auction for £60. It was 24 years old at the time and still in reasonable condition. At the auction, it was making a sharp whistling noise. It turned out that the brake servo was leaking and that was the cause of the noise. Great car and started my love affair with Triumphs.

 

Suzuki Vitara

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My most recent vehicle has made it onto the list which is a surprise.I do not need to go into details as that is covered in other blog posts.Needless to say that I really enjoy owning Tugg.

 

Peugeot 406 Estate 1.8

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This car proves that I do not hate all French cars. I took the 406 in exchange from a friend. It had no mot but looked fairly solid. It passed without too much trouble. The car had almost 200,000 miles but drove like it had half that. That summer my mother moved from Cornwall to the Northeast and the car did the journey several times. Often loaded to the max without complaint. On one return trip I even managed to drive 297 miles without changing gear.

A truly amazing car that strangely shares much with the Citroen Xantia.

 

BMW E28 5 Series Auto

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Another car from my local auction…

Having lusted after a ‘shark nose’ 5 series for a while this turned up, I had just sold the Rover 416 and needed something interesting to drive.  This is one the few cars I wish I still had. It was comfortable, well-made and fun to drive.  It also had real a presence on the road. I drove this car to Scotland  at 80 on the motorway,  it was an effortless journey.

The best part was the wonderful engine. Compared to my friends 4.2 Daimler Sovereign it was more spacious, faster and a lot more economical.

 

 

Ford Capri MK3 1.6/ 2.0

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This car was bought locally for £100 when my Citroen BX snapped the cambelt at Christmas. Both the then girlfriend and I were working away at the time and we needed transport quickly.  After packing my girlfriend off to her parents in a taxi I started to look for a cheap car, any car. The Auction was shut so I started to walk around Penryn. I found the Capri in a pub car park marked up for £130. I bought the car for £100. It was an MK 3 Capri in black and looked a little battered.  The engine burnt a valve out a few weeks later so with a friend we replaced it with a 2 liter Pinto lump out of a Ford Sierra. This transformed the car into something special. Friends said I needed windscreen wipers on the side windows as I spent so much time driving it sideways.

A truly great car and much more fun the 3 liter one I owned at the same time.

 

Yamaha Fz 600

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A motorcycle on my list of favourite cars… Well, it is my list and I can do what I want. I’ve had lots of motorcycles and this is my favourite.

The Fz600 is sublime. Not fast but such fun on tight twisting roads.

 

MK 3 VW Golf Convertible

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I bought this car when needing a replacement for the Picasso, having owned another MK3 Golf I knew how much fun they are to drive. Whilst it might not seem the most sensible car for a gardener. In an odd way, it was. It would tow my trailer with ease and always a joy to drive. Mostly roof down I might add. It was not the most reliable car during the 14 months I owned it. Every time I got behind the wheel I loved driving it. Once again other blog posts cover my experience in more detail.

A truly special car.

 

Triumph Spitfire 1500

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My favourite car…

After driving a friend’s MG MGB convertible I knew I wanted a British sports car.

I did look at a Jensen Healey. Look is all I did before common sense kicked in.

When picking a friend up from Newquay Airport I spotted the Spitfire parked at the side of the road. Right from the first moment, it was if they had designed a car around a 6ft scruffy yob. For almost 5 years I drove this car every day and loved it. There is something truly magical about small British sports cars and for me, my Spitfire 1500 was the most special. Over those years I took apart just about everything on the Spitfire. So many great drives with the roof down and her green dash lights glowing in the dark as we round our way through the tight Cornish lanes.

One day I will have another.

 

 

Honourable Mentions

 

Classic Mini

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Anyone who has ever driven Sir Alec’s masterpiece instantly fell in love with it. My partner then wife had a couple. I had the pleasure of driving them often.

Total joy and everything a small car should be. The best driver’s car on this list by far.

 

Austin Metro

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What a Metro gains a place the honourable mentions list?

Shock horror. Well, it does for several reasons and I have had 3, two MG’s and a left-hand drive 1 liter.

I passed my driving test in one. Had one when I moved house. For a small car, they have an amazing amount of space inside. The most surprising thing about Metros are is that they are 90% the fun of the original Mini.

 

VW T25

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Holly is covered in other blog posts.  Needless to say that I truly love looking after her.