Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Eastleigh Grand Prix

Along with a group from the Wessex TR Register Group, we descended on the indoor kart track in Eastleigh last night:

We provided six of the eight teams racing in "Le Mans" style,although we only ran for 90 minutes, split between our 4 drivers (Jerry, Geoff, Ann and myself). Jerry was our team star, having done a bit of kart racing before. We swapped drivers after 22 minutes.

Surprisingly, what seemed like speeds of 50 mph turned out to be around 28 mph, but the slick tyres and polished track surface made cornering fun.

We came 6th overall out of 8 teams starting.

And the Angouleme trip is now all booked, so roll on September!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Itchy Tyres

We weren't going to use either Triumph for a European tour this year.  Well, other than taking the TR6 to Classic Le Mans, but that is a "boy's weekend" so doesn't count as a tour.  For the past 3 years, we have organised an Easter Tour for the 2000 Register, but we're having a year off this year.
We picked up a leaflet for one of the commercial touring companies at one of the shows. These often become the inspiration for "Triumph Tours" and so we found ourselves looking at a weekend's classic car racing at Angouleme in south west France.  Might as well make a tour of it, so we're planning a further week in the Dordogne.

Watch this space, as they say, for further updates.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

After the car show

Last Sunday was the Triumph Show at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire. This is the same "Stoneleigh" as in the National Agricultural Centre and the car show is held in what are usually called "the cowsheds". Not without good reason, either! We took Opal along to be on show and spent a while walking around buying things we didn't need to fix problems that don't exist, spending money we don't have....
Opal's parked up at the back of the gazebo while we organise the stand.

We did need a few bits for the car, though, including a new set of HT leads to replace the previous set that are slowly disintegrating after just 2 years and 6000 miles. So the new ones were carefully examined prior to purchase and I've just fitted them, along with a new set of spark plugs. And, miracle of miracles, got it all right and in the correct order first time.

We also bought ourselves a new wash leather. Can't call it a "Chamois" (or even a "shammy") as this one used to be part of a sheep. Apparently, one should always buy wash leathers from New Zealand sheep, rather than Australian ones as the NZ sheep are bred for meat and not for their wool. And there was I thinking they came from goats that lived in the mountains.
Cleaning out the car earlier today, I came across a brochure that I picked up at a previous show for Continental Car Tours International and a trip to Tuscany caught my eye. Or, rather, it did until I saw the price...  I can sense another "Triumphs on Tour" production coming up...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Messing About on the River

Ann and I spent our honeymoon on a hired boat on the River Thames. That led to a number of further hire boat holidays and eventually, we bought our own:
This is "Swanmore", built in 1997 and owned by us for a couple of years until we outgrew it.
Swanmore was replaced by "Vigornia", a 65 foot narrowboat, cheaply built with some expensive fittings. Very curious, because the important bits like the wiring and the mechanicals had all been skimped on, but the taps were gold plated. We bought her as a "design study as we worked towards the "ultimate" boat, which was to turn up a few years later.

Vigornia did us well for a few years and we had many enjoyable holidays. Here she is, tied up in Oxford close to Osney Bridge. We'd been up the river as far as was possible to go to Lechlade. Actually, that isn't quite true as we went a bit further, couldn't turn and so reversed until we got to a point where we thought we could turn. Well, we couldn't and became stuck hard agroud front and back until rescued some hours later by the Environment Agency in a powerful tug. Well, these things happen. We sneaked out early the next morning, to be greeted by a lock keeper enquiring if we knew why the flow of water might have slowed the previous evening...
And finally, we come to the ultimate boat "Jasmine". Just over 70 feet long and built for long term cruising or as a live aboard.
We weren't using her enough due to all the other interests, so in the end we took the decision to sell her. Boats are expensive toys...  The best feature of this boat was the engine - a vintage Russell Newbery slow running proper boat engine. Idle speed, approx 60 rpm and flat out at 700 rpm. They are full of character, but not by any means an install and forget option as they require a lot of tender loving care to keep them running properly. We'd just about got ours running to perfection when we sold. Here's the engine, below:

Any More Fares, Please?

So, there we were, by younger brother, Paul and I, sat in a sauna gently cooking ourselves after a swim. I'd not long bought the TR and bro' says, just like you do, "why don't we buy ourselves a nice little vintage coach to take to shows?"
So we did. A 1950 Bedford OB with a Duple Vista body. All the mechanics had been restored, but the interior needed a retrim. That could wait.  We took the train up to Lancaster from Southampton to collect it and drove back in one day at a steady 40 mph.  It was a long day...

Here it is - a couple of years later, parked up in the village of Southwick not far from where we live and the place where "Operation Overlord" on D-Day was masterminded.

This is the vehicle that everyone went to school on, or they've seen it in a film. They are fun and rewarding to drive, if rather tiring. There's no synchromesh on the gears, so you need to learn very quickly how to double declutch because it makes a horrible noise if you get it wrong!  We did a couple of shows and Paul, who runs a large minibus business came up with this idea of using it as part of a new business - tv, film work and wedding hire.  It would help to pay the bills.  So, I went off to get a PSV licence and we started looking fro premises.
If we were going to run it as a business, we'd need another vehicle and soon afterwards, found this one for sale...
It's pretty obviously on a wedding job.  By this time, we'd set the business up, got an operator's licence and were taking wedding bookings left, right and centre. We called the business "Valley Rambler" because the OB had the words "Valley Rambler" painted on it and people made a connection with the name.  It was all a complete load of fiction, but hey-ho!
So, the second vehicle was a 1956 Bedford SB with a Duple Vega body and a rare "Butterfly" grille. Originally petrol engined by the time we bought it, it had been long converted to diesel and the big 6 cylinder Bedford 300 diesel sat under a bit of hardboard about 18 inches from the driver's left ear. You did get used to the noise eventually.

One of the first jobs we did with the SB was for the Kent Tourist Board. This entailed picking up a group of journos at Victoria Coach Station and driving them all around various attractions in Kent.  We managed to "blagg" our way into the coach station and be put onto stand 1. You can see me in my best "bus driver's uniform", complete with flat hat, looking for all the world like Stan Butler.  

And here we are, parked up at the Hop Farm.

Business was doing well, we were getting more than enough bookings for weddings to keep us occupied and we decided to buy another coach.  I'd always liked the "Royal Blue" coaches that used to be seen in the north of the county. No chance of getting one of them, but a similar type, owned by "Red & White" came up for sale. It's a Bristol MW6G from 1958 and was my favourite of the 3 classic vehicles. This was a real monster to drive with the curious Bristol gearbox. A very unforgiving crash box with an overdrive 5th gear for cruising at a flat out 50 mph, but if you came to a halt in 5th, you were stuck as it was impossible to get back through the gears.  That really kept you on your toes. And here it is:
We're parked up at RAF Colerne, having completed the Bournemouth to Bath Commercial Vehicle Run.
We got some film and tv work as well. The OB was featured in "Dealing with Dickinson", a six part reality show on the BBC, in a Meridien Production "The Summer of 44" and in a cameo on BBC2's Business Lunch show, with Paul being interviewed live. The SB was used for a week by GMTV for their breakfast program, travelling all over the country from Newcastle to Sussex via East Anglia and in the Channel 4 program "Wakey, Wakey Campers" and the MW appeared also in "Wakey, Wakey Campers".
And several hundred weddings over a period of 3 years.

One that I didn't own outright, but had a share in was this 1964 Leyland Atlantean Bus. People talk about going to school on a bus like that - but I used to go to school a couple of days a week on this actual vehicle. Because it was such a regular, the number stuck in my head.

The Cars

So, in the introduction, I said we'd owned a number of classic vehicles. Here's a few pictures and description, this post is of the cars in the order that we bought them


When I was about 18, I saw a TR6, brand new in the local Triumph dealer. Obviously, there wasn't a hope of being able to buy it...
But I said to myself "one day". And that day came in January 2002 when I saw this car for sale at a dealer and bought it there and then, on the spot - although subject to a proper assessment by someone who understood classic motors.  Anyway, the assessment was good and a week later the car came home. It looked a little different as we've made a number of running improvements over the years. The picture above shows it in Greece overlooking the island of Hydra. We've driven it to Greece twice, its been to France countless times  and to the far eastern edge of Sweden. So it gets about a bit!

And on the right, you can see her on the day she came home to us. The wire wheels have gone and the interior has been retrimmed. All our cars have names (that's Ann's doing, that is). Everyone else calls our TR "The Stig" because of the registration letters, but we call her "Sapphire"

In May 2011, we did a "trip of a lifetime" to the south of France, following part of the Monte Carlo Rally route. We did this in convoy with a group of friends and the story has been published in a number of magazines. Driving through the Alps in a "proper sports car" is the best therapy known to man! And parking out side the casino in Monte Carlo is a bit of a lark as well

This is on the road up to the Col du Tende and the picture below is outside the casino

1972 TRIUMPH 2000 Automatic

After we had sold our last business I came up with this little wheeze that we no longer needed to run 2 modern cars. We hardly ever went out in different directions at the same time and so one or other of the modern cars would be sat on the drive. So why not sell it and use the money to buy another classic?  Well, quite how Ann fell for it, I'll never know, but I got away with it!!
I'd owned a Triumph 1300 in my youth and have always liked Triumphs.  I looked around for 1300's, but they were pretty much extinct and those that were for sale were either basket case restorations or too good to use for anything except indoor shows.  So, the idea came to get a "4 door TR", or as it is more usually known, a Triumph 2.5PI. Ideally Sapphire Blue, manual overdrive and with a light tan interior. So not being picky, then...
Miraculously, one appeared on eBay.  It was expensive, but perfect. But the vendor withdrew it from sale. It was his father's car (from new), was a verifiable low mileage and had a complete service history from new. It was unknown to any of the clubs and it was perfect. The chap was only selling it because his father had just died. It didn't sell on eBay and I contacted the seller directly. In the end he decided to keep it.
A few weeks later, I saw another car on eBay, same sort of condition, but a 2000 automatic and French Blue. It was worth a look.  In fact it was worth buying - and so we did.  It has had a very sheltered life and other than one small bit of remedial welding (on the stitch in time principle), it is an original car, exactly as it left the factory. Well, not entirely true because we have made a few changes, like later seats to allow headrests to be fitted and the bus type steering wheel replaced with a MotaLita. Because of her registration letters, she is called "OPaL".
Here she is (left), parked on our driveway, ready to go out somewhere.

And below, in France at Easter 2011. She gets about as well, having been to France 3 or 4 times, to Germany and Holland and to the very north of Scotland. On her back window, there's a "Nurburgring" sticker. She did go there, but not round the circuit - but we did take a convoy of 4 other big saloons round.

And along the way, I've got involved with the clubs, editing the magazine for the 2000 / 2500 / 2.5 Register and as an area co-ordinator for the TR Register

A little bit about me

This is my first Blog. Hello World! So I thought I'd start with a bit about who I am for those who have stumbled across this and don't know me. That's me below, on holiday in the South of France, with the Med in the background. Hard to believe this was October!

The personal stuff:  I've been married for over 30 years to a lovely lady called Ann whose picture will no doubt make its way onto here at some time.  We've got two grown up kids who we are very proud of and we live in a beautiful part of England, on the edge of the South Downs National Park in Southern Hampshire.  I worked for many years in the computer industry, doing all sorts of things from designing and mending, product management, marketing and eventually ending up selling them. I was able to drop out of the rat race at an age young enough to enjoy life. And that is exactly what we try to do.

Interests - as this is mostly what this blog is going to be about:  Many and varied. Mostly focussed around photography and classic vehicles.  We've owned a few classic vehicles, ranging from the wacky and wild (like 3 1950's coaches at one time) to the rather more sensible, like a couple of Triumph cars (a TR6 and a 2000 saloon, since you ask!) Plus lots of involvement with a couple of car clubs and with the local bus museum in Portsmouth. And until recently, we owned a canal boat, but sold that due to a lack of time to use it.

So that's it.  First post completed!