Our first choice went belly up, thanks to a leaky tank, fuel lines, and duff brakes…
ALTHOUGH I wasn’t saying so at the time, the moment I smelt petrol from behind the wheel of my 827 at the mouth of the Tyne Tunnel, I knew that the chances of making it to Prague in this particular Cowley car were receding by the minute. Offered to me for free by sometime AROnline contributor, Achim Kuepper, the 827 should have been the perfect addition to my life – a fix-up project for the site, culminating in a glorious journey East. If only everything in life were simple.
Still, help was at hand nearby, and the Sterling soon reached the safe haven of Village Lane Garage in Washington. Steven Ward, the garage’s co-owner, was quick to offer help and advice. ‘Leave the Rover with me and take this glorious Skoda Felicia 1.6GLXi Estate instead,’ he beamed. Given I could have been walking, that seemed like a good idea to me. £100 was handed over, I waved goodbye to the Rover, settled into the stinking cabin of the tired Felicity and rumbled home.
Actually, as it transpired, the car drove reasonably well, cruising happly at 70mph and not consuming fuel at an alarming rate in the process. My team mate, Andrew Elphick, was delighted by the news (warning, actual emotion might not be delight at all), naturally – the nimble Skoda will be more fun on the Stelvio and we’ll feel much less inclined to bring the thing back from Prague…
Here we go – with period mobile ‘phone aerial. Rust is an optional extra, as is the smell of dead dog, and
Meet the team
Update: KEITH ADAMS
Keith Adams and Andrew Elphick with Felicity – one broken suspension turret cup hasn’t dissuaded them
that they’re right to take this prime slice of Czech class…
Smoking it to and from work for the following week or so threw up no further worries – yes, the camshaft is chattering away like a malcontent, the brakes are spongy, the power steering pump is whining like a defensive politician and that mighty VAG power unit seems to be putting out about 50bhp tops. However, I reckon that she’ll get us there in one piece and, once we hit the Czech border, the old girl will be happy to be back home and no doubt develop a second wind.
Well, that’s the hope.
We’re aiming to raise oodles of cash for Great Ormond Street Hospital and you can give directly to the Charity on our Justgiving page – we’ve also come up with a theme which we hope to announce in the coming weeks. Finally, there’s a vacancy for a third seat – if you fancy coming along, don’t mind paying your way, and don’t have an aversion to awful driving, drop us a line via email, explaining why you’d be right for the event.
If you make Andrew and me laugh hard enough, you could be joining us…
The preparations are over
Update: KEITH ADAMS
Keith Adams and Andrew Elphick’s daughter, Isabel, complete the paint job. It’s amazing what you can
achieve with a roller and a bit of time.
In the end, we didn’t really need to do much to our Skoda – it was a case of dreaming up a theme for the car and throwing some paint on it. Due to holidays and other commitments, neither Andrew nor I were able to have a serious go at this until a few days before the event and I have to say that, in my absence, Andrew did a fantastic job.
We dreamed up the theme of Cannonballers and that meant dressing the Skoda in a paint scheme that matched JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds) and Victor Prinzim’s (Dom DeLuise) Transcon Medi-Vac ambulance – Andrew even managed to find the perfect matching paint to apply to the car.
For a bit of fun, we decided we’d all go as Captain Chaos – or HIM (right) – then, that way, there’d be no arguing. The day before the event was due to kick off, Andrew’s mum managed to make some templates for the sign-writing and, as I rolled up to his house on the day of the off, blue aerosol in hand, we got down to applying the finishing touches. Andrew had put in an all-nighter the previous day so there wasn’t actually much left to do, other than touch in a few areas of ‘Very Orange’ Dulux Gloss and then spray in the Transcon Medi-Vac logos down the side of our soon-to-be-suffering car…
We were doing this and the time was ticking on before we were due to get off to Dover, when our third team member – and secret weapon – ‘Big’ Dave Smart rolled up. S2N rally veterans will know Dave (or ‘il Diavolo’) from his many S2N adventures and, between the three of us, we’ve racked up a total eight S2N adventures. CRX might be a little different, but the basic concept’s the same – four days of driving and general messing around, while pretending to have a go at the Challenges.
However, as things turned out, we wouldn’t even bother pretending after day one of the event.
Andrew’s mum did a fantastic job with the sign-writing…
Just before we were due to head off for the ferry, Rob Bambridge and his mate Tony of Team Piston Broke (TPB) turned up in their 1987 Audi Coupe, doing the best they could to pretend they’d just hot-footed it from the set of Ashes To Ashes. Parts were swapped, tools were compared, and laughs were shared. I managed to avoid covering myself in too much orange paint but sometimes it can’t be avoided.
TPB and Team Chaos (TC) rolled out onto the A13 and headed south. We couldn’t keep the Audi in sight for long, though, as it became clear that our Felicity had lost one or two of its 75 mighty horses during the years since it had left the Czech Republic. Dave got a feel for the car – and realised that he’d be wearing a cloak and mask the following day. We all started to get over the stress of the preparations and began to have a laugh.
The finished article…
Sadly, we rolled up into Dover a minute or so late for our ferry and ended up getting bumped for the next one – and who should we run into again but Rob and Tony of TPB… they’d also missed the ferry; the same Norfolk Line job as our’s. Still, a couple of hours’ wait in the queue became a whole lot more bearable when Rob pulled out a pair of boat-horns from his boot. ‘They won’t fit under my bonnet.’ he said. ‘Would you like to use them?’
The glint in Dave’s eyes was enough to answer the question for us. A roll of electrical flex, some cable ties, spade connectors and Duck Tape had them installed in no time… and a test run had us all laughing like idiots.
Now we were fully prepared…
We missed our ferry, so what better to stave off boredom than to fit some boat horns to the roof (Keith
on the left, and Dave Smart on the right).
The three stooges…
Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...
Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.