Carry Essential Spares…

A couple of day’s earlier my friend rang me up with an issue with his 1957 Morris Minor. My gut instinct told me that it was either the points or the condenser.  I heard my voice saying the best thing to do was to carry spares…Now those words had come back to haunt me…

One of the reasons I’d come up to the North East was for the MX5 owners club record attempt Elvington on the 28th of April… In the past, I have been too car club meetings and I will admit that they are generally not my thing.  Yet… Once again MX5 owners are different. As I made my way down the A19 the number of MX5’s started to increase. Oddly a lot of owners seem happy to sit at exactly 70 mph. I remember a friend who had driven rally cars in the 60s and 70s saying that all cars have a natural cruising speed. Another dear friend who has had both 1.6 and 1.8 MX5’s saying that they like 80 mph… 85 and they get twitchy, 75 to 80 and they will run all day. I agree, when both you and your vehicle like a similar pace, driving becomes much more relaxing. 

So there I was, going along at 80, roof down, overtaking the odd other MX5 until I joined the back of a long line of them.  I only found when I and a few other fellow MX5 drivers followed them into a service station a few miles from the meet. They were from the Tyne Tees group… And a very nice gent in a red NB that had been following came up and said hello. I will admit leaving the service station and arriving a little earlier at Elvington. After following a car from Scotland in were lined up initially 3 across but due to the number of cars that turned up that became 4 across.

After registering, Bel receiving number 255… I met Sid GoPeform and his custodians.  I then had an hour and a half to wait before the record attempt. One way to do this was to queue for the toilets. More than one person was heard to comment that this was another record they had decided to attempt to break. It was then a question of going back to where Bel was… Not as easy it would be normally when far as the eye could see there where was MX5’s.

I did wander about looking at the whole range of cars on the track. From scruffy NA’s and NB’s to the restored, immaculate early ones, daily drivers and pristine later cars. Oh and a few customised cars.  Each car special to its owner. Oddly, Bel did stand out a little, her mismatched bonnet, gaffer tape on her rear quarter panels, rack and wearing her patches with pride.  I chatted with Brett from Total MX5 about the joy of owning a scruffy everyday car. One that is reliable…Oh how that came back to bite me… Yet one that we can jump in and drive a few hundred miles. 

It was then time for the record attempt. I’m not going to say much about with this post as I think it deserves a separate one with video.

I left after the record attempt and decided to drive across the North York Moors. Putting Saltburn into the satnav I set off. Soon the little number of MX5’s decreased until it was I was alone in following the instructions. I have a rough idea of the geography, but it is certainly not extensive.  I pulled over at a couple of spots to take photographs and enjoy the scenery. As I pulled away the second time, her alternator belt started to slip…

This was then my words a few days ago came back to haunt me. A few seconds later her belt snapped.  Now I was stuck, on the moors with no real idea of where I was.

If this was at home, I know enough people where I could leave Bel and get her fixed later. This is not the case. Sadly, if the alternator belt goes, the water pump stops working. You can limp a car home a few miles if you know how to drive gently. First thing I did was to switch off all unnecessary electrical equipment. I then switched the engine off going downhill and bumped started her at the bottom. With my heart racing and driving very carefully I made it back to Redcar.  I pulled into a well-known tyre supplier a mile from my mother’s house and she refused to start after. Two passing boys helped me push Bel across the road and I rang my mother who came out with some jump leads. Half an hour later Bel and I were back safe. I started to strip her down hoping that her power steering belt would be the same size at her alternator one…With a choice words… It turned out that it wasn’t. Close, but not close enough… About 3 cm too small.

If I had a spare belt it would have been easy, yes, my words had come back to haunt me.

I’ll cover the belt change in another post, but there was a chance I had cooked Bel’s engine.  I’m pleased to say that I didn’t.  As for MX5 meetings, this was my first, it won’t be my last. But there will be a spare belt in Bel’s boot just in case.   

Classicaraddict on Tour…

Bel at Saltburn last year.

Classicaraddict on tour?…

I’m sitting surrounded by tech  I barely understand. At the suggestion of a friend, soon Classicaraddict will have a YouTube channel. Well, that is already there, as yet it has no content.

What does this mean to the Classicaraddict blog?

This will mean that Classicaraddict will become smoother and easier to negotiate. There will be more content as I intend to extend the range of what I’ll be covering.  For instance, now when I’m working on something, I’ll make sure I set the camera up first, and try to capture some of the essence of the experience. I’m no mechanic, but hopefully, people will find it interesting. 

First and foremost, I’m a writer, admittedly a dyslexic one, but that is what I do. The blog site is going to get tweaked later this week by my friend Esther Nagle. This remarkable lady has written on how yoga has turned her life around. She can be found at Space to Breathe Academy

Having read my English with Creative Degree with Falmouth University a few years ago there will be some automotive fiction and poetic prose. Not just mine but also others. Which nicely leads into reviewing books, films, some television.  At first, I’ll be covering the ones that I like. Later, and I might come to regret this… The ones I don’t… Like any of the Fast and Furious franchise.

The Vlog… Oh, I already have about 6 cars lined up to review, the first will be Andy’s Toyota Rav’4. Luckily, living in Cornwall we are surrounded by beautiful scenery.  This will provide a style to the content that will help showcase both the cars and county.  I’ll also be doing vlogs as I drive, this more informal style will allow me to talk about ideas in a relaxed manner.  To an extent, much like the Classicaraddict, I’ll do a few. See what works… And then take it from there.

Now for the Tour part… Classicaraddict is going to the MX5 Owners Club meet at Elvington on the 28th of April. On the way up, as already mentioned, Esther will work her magic touch on the blog site when I stop in South Wales. On the way back I’m meeting another friend at Exeter and having a look at the new Suzuki Jimny … Bel and I are on tour…

See you at Elvington.

Classicaraddict, AKA Alex Small.

Link to the MX-Owners Club.

www.mx5oc.co.uk

Magic Moment.

The rider was leaning slightly forward as the large bike swept around the corner towards us.

I was about 14 years old and a passenger in my mothers’ car. That rider on that sunny afternoon in Cornwall has defined motorcycling to me ever since.

This was mid 80’s and the bike as an older Kawasaki Z1000, painted matt black. The rider was wearing Doc Martin’s boots, black jeans, old black leather jacket,  gloves, shades, open face helmet and the biggest grin I’d ever seen. The speed was not excessive, but enough to be making progress. He was riding for pleasure, fully present to every aspect of the moment.  

I’d already started helping my mother’s friends husband restore vintage, veteran and pioneer motorcycles. This was before at 16 that I could ride on the road. At this time, we lived in a bungalow in Perranporth, there was a private lane system from the bottom of the hill to the top. This was relevant because it meant I could legally ride the moped I acquired after saving up from my paper round. One moped led to another as addiction finally found a way of expressing itself beyond every magazine and book I could lay my hands on.

One of the sons of mechanic opposite came past one day as I was tinkering. He was a good guy, but in the past had taken something that affected him. He knew what was lost, and that it was down to him. Yet, he was a gentle soul.  We greeted each other, and then he gave some advice that has stayed with me ever since.

“Stick to the bikes, once I used to ride, now I can’t.” He spoke with sadness and wisdom.

Oddly 10 years later I was meeting friends in Perranporth, at the time I had an orange Triumph Dolomite 1500. I had been enjoying it fully and she smelt of hot car, warm brakes, etc.
As I parked, I heard, “It just had to be you, didn’t it…!” There was my friend who had given me the advice years before, with a smile on his face. I grinned and waved. Clearly, I’d listened to his wisdom and that moment I hope showed my appreciation.

There are times that help define, guide and create our understanding. Those two very different ones have stayed with me. 

Bel, MX5 Update.



Now that I’m writing again, it is time to do an update on the fleet. The first is Bel, my little MX5.  So, after 8 months…

Small. scruffy red sports car on top of a hill overlooking a wild beach Cornish beach with waves crashing in.
Bel near Porthtowan

First, I never intended to buy a sports car, but then that goes for a lot of us… In other blogs, the buying and MOT process has been covered.  Since then we have shared about 3000 miles. Some longer trips, once even getting caught in the snow and of course lots of local driving.

Bel has proven to be remarkably reliable, well to anyone used to a British sports car she would be. I can feel confident even after leaving her for a week or so she will start up. For a cheap car, one that was saved from the scrapyard, this is amazing. After checking her fluids, she is safe to drive 500 miles.  And each one will be with a smile, roof down most of the time. Cruising at the legal maximum without strain. Even a lower spec 1600 is plenty fast for the overcrowded roads of Britain. 

Here in Cornwall, on the narrow lanes, she has the right combination of speed, power, size, and grip. Every mile is a grin and when safe, even with narrow 14inch tyres she can carry a lot of speed. Her heater makes going top-down easy on the coldest of days. Yes, we did get caught on the edge of the snowfall. After my Vitara had passed her MOT in the morning, I was asked if I could do a Penzance to Newquay airport run. No problems, except I’d not checked the weather. As we went around the Hayle bypass we started to notice cars coming towards us with snow on their roofs, this did not bode well.  As we headed towards Avers roundabout near Redruth the snow on the ground started to get thicker. I made the decision to come off the A30 and either drop my friend off at the train station or go and get Tug, my little Vitara.  This being Cornwall, no one had any idea of how to drive in the conditions. Once we managed to get up the slope, I had worked out that you can drive an MX5 in the snow if you are careful. After dropping my friend off at the train station I popped the roof and tried to fight my way out of Redruth. With traffic moving slowly the technique I found was to go from grippy spot to grippy spot. sometimes resting her rear wheels on speed bumps to get a little momentum on the gentle hill. Bel seemed to be connected to my nervous system. The feedback was amazing. We managed to climb out of Redruth and carefully drop into Lanner, by the bottom of the hill the snow had cleared. If I wasn’t impressed before, I really was now. We had become a team. We were even spotted by a couple of friends, roof down…

You don’t drive an MX5, you bond, become one.

I’ll cover some of the work and the non-performance upgrades I’ve done in another post. In an earlier blog, I covered my favourite 5 cars I’ve owned. The best being the little Triumph Spitfire 1500. That spot is now shared, with Bel, my MX5.

They share the same essential essence.

And rust issues…

Finding a Unicorn Car for a Friend.

I’d put it off for far too long.  Early January and my friend wanted to replace his very high mileage Toyota Yaris with something a little better.  To be fair, we found him the Yaris about 5 years before and it had provided amazing service yet now at almost 200000 miles, the end was nigh. That amazing little engine had developed a death rattle…

Over the last year or so my friend had mentioned how he would like a 4×4. Now I’ve had Tug, my little Suzuki Vitara at that point for 18 months. So, I do feel that  I can comment. The trade off for 4×4’s is the extra weight of the internals, extra driveshafts etc… That some have separate chassis, the fuel consumption is bad. They handle worse on road. Now if you have a use for one, like I do, they are amazing… But.

I’d already talked him out of a Jeep Cherokee… Too big, expensive to run, and Jeep reliability.So not ideal. 

At this point. I thought I’d put him off the idea… Yet, once again here he was asking me to help. We are good friends, what could I do? The gardening doesn’t really start until the first full week in the new year. So first it was research time. The only choice that really covered the bases was another Toyota, this time the Rav4. Oh, and just to make life a little more interesting, my friend wanted an automatic.

Why a Rav4? Simply because Toyota made its best cars from the 1990s to the middle of the first decade of this century and they were the most reliable in the world.

We both live in Cornwall, which means that once you find a car, the chances are that it will be at least 2 to 3 hours away… I found a couple of auto MK2 Rav4’s listed, one near Taunton, the other near Bristol. The closer one had just been sold, the seller in Bristol didn’t get back to me… Facing a dilemma… Then I found an MK1 Auto Rav4 at a dealer in Honiton, in the pics it looked really clean… My friend now was in a meeting for a couple of hours… So I rang the garage, explained the situation. They said they would hold it until 1 pm.

We left at 1.30 in Bel, my little MX5, roof down, of course.

The garage was a Rav4 specialist with mostly MK2 models. There in the furthest corner, she sat. Clearly had not been moved since before Christmas. Her body looked clean, and underneath, for her age, she was amazingly tidy.  The salesman came out and was about to start her, but I got him to open the bonnet. First, I placed my had on her engine, it was stone cold. Then a quick check of her fluids, all looked good… As I was doing this, I explained what I was looking for and why. The salesman made a joke about dodgy second-hand car dealers. Then he turned her key and she burst into life. No smoke, no hassles.

I jumped in and we set off on a quick test drive that included a blast down the nearby A30. She ran like a dream, at first the brakes ground a little, but that was just the surface rust coming off. We then swapped seat and my friend had a little drive.

Thumbs up…

We left with the car an hour later. I fear my I might have inflicted my friend with the classic car bug. We drove home in convoy, Bel in front and the Rav4 that now had been named Phoebe following. Inside I felt a sense of relief. I’d pulled another out of the bag.

My friend Andy with his new purchase…
Phoebe and Bel at Victoria Services.

Finally, Live, What Next?

Classicaraddict, why live now? How did I become the Classicaraddict, what has been going on in the very large gaps between posts?  Now it is live what do I intend to do with Classicaraddict?

Classicaraddict came out of the first few weeks of my master’s in professional writing.

We were asked what we really knew, arguably what we could be considered experts in… Now my friends would think, making a mess, perhaps bull sh tting, etc, etc. The lecturer assumed I knew about gardening. She was initially very dismissive of me and any idea I had.

Historically I’ve avoided writing about my automotive addiction. Perhaps considering it too easy, or maybe I’m just stubborn…  But, elsewhere within Classicaraddict hopefully my hands-on passion does show. After she accepted that I might know a little about the subject and that my local nick name of Petrolhead Alex was not meant ironically. She then used her very real publishing wisdom to guide me into a more traditional blog form. 

Of course, I ignored her and started creating this blog. About this time we had a tutorial on creating a specific blog site, during this I had a brainwave. Being dyslexic has its advantages sometimes, which when combined with instinct can lead to novel ideas. I always remember as she spoke about the importance of domain names the idea for the name Classicaraddict came about. She was very dismissive until it was clear that no one had misspelled it quite that way. Arguably it looks better than the correct way to spell it with the two c’s next to each other. There was a little a thawing between us as I quickly hoovered up the name and created the blog.

The lecturer was away the following week, during which I had bought Tug, my little Suzuki Vitara on impulse.  The following week was funny, as she asked each one of us what we had been doing for our blogs. She got to me, and of course, I  said, I’d bought a project car. Very classicaraddict.

I  even won her with my content, she said that my style was different to most and that it could lead to a publisher being interested.

The gaps are perhaps best explained with  the link to another blog, https://westcountrywriter.tumblr.com/post/183847615524/paddle-boarding-why.

Why live now? This one is much simpler.

Unless I can hit it with a hammer, I struggle to make IT work properly. The blog was there but I couldn’t share it on social media. When I asked for help it didn’t arise and as I was struggling in other areas it was one more thing that fell by the wayside. It  doesn’t mean that I wasn’t still owning, driving, breaking and fixing my little fleet, it just meant that I wasn’t writing about it.

What’s next?

This one is little more difficult, yet after two other blog sites have closed along with all my and other’s posts, I’m going to continue writing and publishing on here.

There are post’s I’m due to write on my little fleet.  After finding a friend an immaculate 1998 Toyota Rav4 auto in January this year, expect a few posts on that car. I’d also like to explore other aspects of owning an older car and the importance for instance of the friends we make. I’m going to start looking at doing Vlogs… But first I need to learn a little about that.

Finally, there is another idea to do with automotive history that I will try to launch here. But that is a story for another day.

Thank you for reading this and please feel free to comment below.

Alex Small , aka Classicaraddict.

There is a postscript to this.
I just want to say thank you to those kind souls who have comment on some posts. Your words of encouragement and support mean so much.

Thank you.

Classic Chainsaw for the Classicaraddict?

I work outdoors, when asked, the nature of it is best described as hack & slash…What this means is that small urban gardens are best left to others with nice little vans.By choice I prefer larger properties, this is where my little Suzuki 4×4 comes in. It has changed how I do my job, and never ceases to amaze me where she goes. Often called my workmate and she really is.

Today the starter cord broke on my law mower snapped just as the client was bringing a mug of tea out. We chatted as I quickly sorted the issue. The mower looks old, scruffy, yet cuts wet grass like nothing else. A few years ago I was given it along with a strimmer after they got thrown out. Sadly, the strimmer died after a couple of years of sterling service.

Late last year one of my clients gave me an old Echo CS330EVL chainsaw. It had sat in their shed for quite a few years. They said that it had an issue with the chain brake.  I did fire it up a few days later, it ran, but the brake didn’t work, and the starter got stuck. After putting it down, it sat, forgotten once again, until this evening. Sadly, once again the need for a reliable small saw has risen. For 3 years I used a beaten-up Stihl 009, this little saw was amazing, but finally died last year.

People assume that bigger chainsaws are better, yet I would argue that say one with 12inch to a 16inch bar is far better for 90% of all the jobs you need to do. Unless you are felling bigger trees, then, of course, a larger saw is better.  I don’t and when most of my use is logging and only small trees, a lighter saw is far better. First, you don’t get so fatigued using one, and second, they are cheaper to run, less hassle to maintain.

This evening, I dug the little saw out, got my socket set from the truck and set to work. The chain brake was simply down to being clogged solid with fine sawdust.  This is where the Echo reveals its older design. Modern saws have the chain brake on the inside of the bar cover. This means that every time you take it off it is a simple job to clean the brake. With this Echo, the chain brake is behind the engine drive sprocket and stays on the machine. Hence, it is far more difficult to keep clean, which then reduces the performance until it stops working.  After cleaning, it now works well, which means the saw is safe to use again. It is a little more complex than more modern designs, yet the quality is clear to see, and I’m impressed compared to cheaper, newer saws.

After sharping the chain, I then found the second major fault…

The starter cord was jammed, so once again, my tools came out, pulled it apart. Only to find starter drum was cracked. A quick look online proved that this a rare part. Only available from the States. Cost £6 and £16 for postage…

Tomorrow I’ll test the saw and if it runs well, then it will become my everyday one.  I’ll order a couple of spare chains, for £15 which will mean that for £40  I’ll have a good saw…

And that is a bargain.

Classic chainsaws for the Classicaraddict… Of course.

Quick update, the day after writing this post I did try the little saw.
Considering how long it must have been sitting, it did really well. At first a little smokey and until the fresh fuel worked through a little rough running. It now seems to have settled down and after  I get a spare chain, this will be the saw that lives in the truck, (Tug). I also would like to thank my clients for giving me this saw. They are truly good people.