Old Friends.


We sat across from each other. Old friends, once been closer, but over the years a little distance, perhaps more than we would have liked. It had been over a year since we last had met.  http://www.classicaraddict.com/motorcycles-and-renewed-friendships/

Far warmer in the pub, beside warm log burner. Coffee, good and cheap. About 15 years ago when I had my Kawasaki Z1000 MK2 my friend had gone for 15 mins and came back 45 later. He later bought a Suzuki Bandit 1200 and now has a collection of bikes that many would envy. Our shared connection being first bikes and then all things with an engine.  

My relationship with bikes, well motorcycles has always been a lot more  ambivalent. When younger, they were my life, freedom at its best. Yet now, and despite having two in the lock up waiting for me to get around to fix them I don’t ride.  

With the brace still on, we chatted about dealing with injuries as we get older. My friend spoke about driving, and how thankfully when he had his wrist problem a while back, he still could. Likewise, now I can drive again, far easier in Tug (Vitara,) than my MX5, yet I can. http://www.classicaraddict.com/no-driving-for-6-weeks/ 

We spoke about what we missed when restricted. For me it is the water. My friends and I despite all of us growing up fairly close to the wild north coast of Cornwall never really got into water sports. My older brother was one of the local surf gods from an early age. I was never that good and to be honest bigger surf scared me. Yet the water and the beach has always there. I moved to the South Coast of Cornwall 25 years ago, here it was more swimming and sailing initially.  For a few years I had my own little boat, sailing all year and every condition.  It was only 3 years ago I fell in love with paddleboarding.  

I’m writing sitting in Beerwolf Books, Falmouth http://beerwolfbooks.com. Across from me there are a couple of students in deep discussion about post modernism and Marxist theory. They remind me of how I used to belong to that group when I reading for my undergrad. Even then, I approached it from my default perspective of pragmatic cynicism. I belonged, but didn’t when studying. Someone once commented that I was too practical to be truly academic. I think they meant that when using a hammer, I didn’t hit my hand.   

I  can drive, which is truly amazing with my leg in a brace. Most days and timing it for 2 hours before low tide I head to Swanpool beach. There, a little group of regulars surf the gentle swells we get. Long boarders and paddleboarders together. What has really amazed me is people know who I’m, they chat before heading to the water. The last few years have seen an explosion of those of in and on the water. I belong to that group, much more than I expected.  http://www.classicaraddict.com/one-more-wave/

As we sat drinking our coffee, catching up. My friend spoke of touring on his bike and how mutual friends also had done European tours on theirs. I laughed, bikes could never be practical, for how could I carry a board? My travels consisting of looking stretches of water and rideable surf, not too big or crowded.  

Two old friends catching up, seeing the difference yet understanding some things are the same. For him, the open road calls, for me, it is the water. 

 

Suzuki Vitara MOT, 4th Time.

Another year, another MOT…  

Wow, where has the time gone? Can this be Tug’s forth MOT with me?   

At the time I was doing my masters in Professional Writing and had decided to write about what I knewcars.  Well, among other things as well, but classic cars have always been there. It could be said people became hooked on hydrocarbons during the last century.  I was and still, I’m among the worst. Well in regards to cars and bikes anyway. My last post spoke about surfing and car culture. My passion is a mix of situation, work, marital, financial, environmental and my own often dubious mental state.   

The picture of Classicaraddict is just after I’d bought her. I’ve written about this in the past, but it sums that moment the brain catches up with consequences of the latest impulse buy. It didn’t start off well with the fuel filler pipe collapsing the day after I got her legal… 
My friend Nigel recommended that I should look at one. At the time, his project Vitara was a bare shell exposed to the elements.  Tug has changed how I work and after 4 years I’m still constantly amazed about how capable she is. I’m also constantly shocked at the fuel consumption, aside from that, they are just what Nigel said. MK1 Vitara’s are amazing little off-roaders.  
 

Oddly they seem to be creeping up in value once more.  A lot seem to rust like well, Suzuki Jimny’s and MK1 and 2 Mazda MK5’S, (Oh bugger.) Also, because they were cheap, plentiful and good off-road, many got used and abused.   

I do use Tug off-road a lot, but don’t really abuse her. She is my workmate, my colleague, my friend. In the last 3 ½ years I’ve only welded her twice. The first time was around the rear seat mounts a month after I bought her. The second was two years ago and a little around the driver’s side tow bar mount.  Last year when Dan at Dan CB Tyres fitted the exhaust, I checked under her…  We were both were amazed at how good the floors and chassis are.  I know how bad they can rust as Nigel’s didn’t have any floors at the time of me getting Tug.   

Over the years I’ve done the fuel filler pipe, cambelt, plugs, leads, air filter, radiator, exhaust silencer, petrol filter, battery,  two sets of front brake pads and rear shoes. Two clutch cables, one clutch, rear brake cylinders (both sides,) front to rear brake pipe, cylinder head gasket, one injection unit, two internal door handles, passenger external one, both door catches, two passenger mirrors and lots of oil changes.  Oh, and all the transmission fluids. 

It seems a lot, but over those 3 ½ years and 31000 miles, it isn’t.  Checking the old MOT’s, I’m averaging about 9000 miles a year… Wow! A lot of gear is carried which means at least the weight of another full-size adult, and then towing a trailer as well. No wonder the brakes take a bashing… 
In my keeping, she has failed two MOT’s first time and passed two… I always try to prep a car properly and joke it is the only time I get to see the back seats. They are still there but hardly used.  

 

Considering the time frame, she hasn’t been expensive to run. Well apart from fuel…  

Now worth more than the £350 I bought her for. About £800 to £1000 with the fresh mot, if not a little extra at the moment. Apart from fuel, insurance, and road tax I doubt that anything else could have been so useful and cost so little over the years. Now that I have Bel my little MX5, Tug does far fewer longer drives which is one reason I’m shocked at the annual mileage. She is used most days for work and pleasure, often with trailer in tow and paddleboard on the roof.  

There is no reason that she shouldn’t keep going for years to come with a little TLC and I’ll keep her until I change my work and then I’ll struggle to part with her… I’ve never been bored driving. Scared once or twice yes, but never bored. 
The smile is there every time I get in and then it dims a little as fuel is needed again

Thank you Tug, my Spanish lady with a Japanese heart.  
You are the perfect example of a practical classic…

One More Wave

One more wave… 

After the last post, what have I been up too?  

Recovery was slow and it wasn’t until about mid-October that my back was good enough to consider being almost back to normal. The other scars will take far longer and for the second time, my younger brother and I are no longer speaking.  

My knee… As I write it should have been operated on the 3rd of this month, (December 2019.) Sadly, the op was canceled and will hopefully get rescheduled for mid-January 2020. Some nights the pain is constant, on others I can cope. Work is a struggle, likewise doing anything to the fleet is difficult. I changed the front brake pads on Tug, my little Vitara just before my op was meant to happen. A job that normally takes 30 minutes max was over an hour with much swearing and cursing.  

In August whilst taking clean washing from my machine my right leg locked. Stuck, I had to pop my knee and after seeing the specialist it seems I’d torn and possibly detached my right meniscus…  

If my life was not so physical this would not be an issue. Yet walking on uneven ground, carrying off-balance weights, steps, kneeling are. All of which are a major part of my daily routine. At the moment, workwise I can do about 50% of what is normally possible, and then only for 3 to 4 hours before it becomes too painful.  

Thankfully there is one thing that I can do. 

After ringing my good clients in the morning, I’d told them I’d be there for 12…  I arrived at 12.30…  

“One more wave?” was their greeting, we have a mutual friend who got into paddleboarding very early. My clients understand, during the winter, on the south coast of Cornwall we often get rideable surf, not large, but to longboarders and paddleboarders, we can surf it.  

At Swanpool there are now a group of regulars. We have come to trust and respect each other. My weapon of choice, an old 14ft downwind board that turns as fast as supertanker, yet will catch ripples.  

Last year I wouldn’t surf in the pack, now I can. Maneuvering this 14ft board through the group is possible and a lot of fun.  

More than one regular has commented that Swanpool is among the most chilled outbreaks that they have encountered. Mostly free from ego, wave sharing is common, and mutual respect even more so. For a little while, on every wave I’m free, walking the board and reaching back to those early Hawaiian beach boys who reintroduced surfing to the world at the start of the 20th century.  

 

Growing up in Perranporth, on the north coast of Cornwall, surfing culture was a part of everyday life. Summer fashions being a mix of both Hawaiian and Californian.  Admittedly I tried surfing and really struggled. Then went back to bodyboarding. Yet, there in the racks of Perranporth Surf Club stood some of those original boards. Tall and elegant they were echoes of times past.  

Modern longboard type surf sups share similar lines, rightly so. Both those early Hawaiian beach boys like Duke Kahanamoku and the later watermen like Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama used essentially longboards with a paddle when they chose to SUP, (stand up paddle.)

Some aspects of car culture and surf go hand in hand. Hot Rodding originated in Southern California in the late 1930s and exploded into popularity after the Second World War. For instance, The Beach Boys were essentially a group of car guys and not surf ones.  

When I load the board up and head towards the beach the cultures combine. Instead of the woodies of old, now converted vans, for more affluent, VW ones, of course, gather.  

Out in the line-up, the mantra is one more wave and who I’m too argue. Even with my buggered knee…  

Thank you Toni for the pic of me paddling.

Importance of Gut Instinct.

May… Wow…

Classicaraddict did meet Classic Britain, more than once… The last time resulting in a 350 mile drive in Tug towing a trailer.

Bel went to Devon 3 times in 2 days at the end June.  The last time was accidental when it appeared that my wallet was dropped at Ashburton petrol station after we picked up an Austin Maxi for my brother.

Both last Sunday and Tuesday previously there was a sense something is not right…

After picking the Maxi from South Devon we made our way down the A38 and back into Cornwall and headed towards my dear friend’s house at Trevelmond near Dobwells.  Just as I pulled past him to so he could follow me the final couple of miles of course we stopped…

There is a rule of thumb when it comes to helping people get cars is that as soon as you can smell the kettle, or think that you might get to the chip shop before it closes the gremlins pick their moment to strike.

In this case, he turned the wipers on and one fell off… Having retrieved that one and almost reaching insight of the steam off the kettle, we pull over again. The front brake was sticking…Something that did not surprise me. We did make it and spent the next hour sorting the brake caliper. We then left to head home.

As my brother followed me down the 1-mile single lane road towards the main road my internal radar started to ping. Where was my wallet?  As my heart started to race, a frantic search of the car soon revealed that it wasn’t there.   I sent my brother west, telling him once again to drive very carefully. I then when to the two places we stopped on the bypass to check to if my wallet had fallen out. (It hadn’t)

Then I played the memory game, ringing petrol stations that we had stopped at, until I rang the nice people at Ashburton petrol station, the time was 8.05 pm.

They asked for my name, yes we have it here, here being 45 miles away. They also said I’d never make it. All I can say is that clearly, they never have driven an MX5.  They are not fastest cars outright, but for covering ground quickly and safely, they are amazing.

I did make it with shall I say a little time to spare…

After popping in to see my friend Jude who lives close by I then headed home down the A30 with the roof down. The stars only being interrupted by the occasional fog bank. The last of which the car following me at safe distance turned out to be a police one.

 

I’m not sure what gut instinct is, or that sense of something is not right. When it strikes, I’ve learned to pay attention. For instance, Sheldon from Classic Britain wanted to take his Rover P6 to get some parts the following Sunday. Despite the extra fuel expense, we used Tug my little Suzuki Vitara.  I knew that we would make it, with his car I could not be sure.

There will be another blog post on that after Sheldon edits the footage he took of the day.

 

Part of gut instinct is to think about what you want to achieve and then look to see what can go wrong and try to eliminate as many as possible. Like carrying a spare fan belt….Oh, bugger….

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.

Welding One Small Patch?

Welding…

Older Suzuki Vitara’s have a reputation for rusting, well the bodies anyway.

When I bought Tugg, I did miss a couple of holes near the rear seat mounts. Now removing the seats was an option but would mean notifying  DVLA this would not be an issue for the MOT or annual road inspection. But then Tugg would become a commercial vehicle and that would affect insurance etc…

There are a few basic rules to welding, the first is that any hole will be far bigger than it initially appears. Many years ago when welding a friend’s Ford Escort after tapping a small area almost 2 foot of rust landed on my head and in my eyes…  So yes the holes did appear a little larger than expected, but not overly so.

After being taught to weld by a friend 10 years ago I enjoy it much more a lot of mechanical work. I still use the same second-hand Cebora 130 Mig welder I bought then. Over the years I’ve welded on a fairly regular basis and have slowly increased my skill level.

Along the way, I’ve acquired a few tricks. One is to disconnect the battery. This is becoming increasingly important with the increase in sensitive electronics. Perhaps the most important trick I’ve learned is to prepare the metal really well. I use sanding disks on my angle grinder as they give a better finish than grinding disks.

Having prepared the areas that required welding I started work. After cutting a patch to fit I then spot welded it into place. Metal expands and contracts as heat is applied, so almost fitting is good enough in the tacking process. You can either hammer down each section as you work along the edge or press down using an old screwdriver. Once the patch is spot welded in place it is simply a question of then joining them up using little beads of weld. To avoid overheating an area it is best to weld on alternating sides of the patch. I was taught to weld on the lowest setting to avoid blowing holes in the metal. Sadly this means that good penetration is not always achieved. With experience, I now weld on a higher power setting.

Once done, I ran over the welds with the sanding disk. With a coat of black paint, the job looks fairly tidy for MOT test next Thursday.

Yes, the holes are a little bigger than expected, but now they are done.

A good afternoon’s work.