Back in March, I blogged that there was a real danger of AROnline going French. The fact that there were a pair of CXs on the books, and I’d arranged to buy a sweet little GS from Chris Salter bore well for my classic French quota.
To me, it seems like yesterday, but on checking my odometer, it looks like I’ve clicked past 500 miles since picking up the car from Aldershot. And that means it’s time to take stock of what is – currently – the only running car in my classic fleet.
The 1979 GS 1220 Pallas had been fastidiously maintained in the hands of its previous owner and, as a consequence, is an absolute beauty to drive. The aircooled flat-four fires up eagerly, it rises quickly on its suspension and glides along rough roads without drama. In short, it’s absolutely lovely to drive.
Back in June, I put it in for an MoT with my favourite tester, Ken Perrin, who runs Citycall Garage in Burton Latimer. As always with the annual test, I pace around like a nervous father in the maternity ward and, usually, this is justified.
Maybe that was tempting fate – after the sucking of air through teeth, and a number of lengthy conversations underneath the car, it failed its test. I knew that was coming; it took an age to get it through its emissions test (that was down to the choke being stuck on).
With a sinking heart, I listened as Ken listed the issues with my car.
- The rear number plate lamps weren’t working
- The CV boot was unsecured
- The front seatbelt mount was loose
- Front indicators not lighting orange
In truth, it wasn’t a big deal to sort. Ken fixed the issues within half an hour, and retested the car to a pass. And I was a happy boy. To me, this clearly demonstrates just how important it is to find a tester you trust, and who understands the unique needs of old cars. I doubt Kwik Fit would have worked through the failure points so diligently…
Free to enjoy the GS
With that hurdle out of the way, I got it insured by Hagerty (£110 per year on a classic policy), and I’m now spending my time enjoying driving the GS. And I can tell you this: it’s an absolute joy.
Starting with the ride and handling, it’s hard not getting carried away by how good this car is. The smooth ride is a given – with Hydropneumatic suspension, it remains flat and composed at all times. But what surprises me after years of BX and CX experience is just how flat it is in corners.
Forget the notion of wallow and lean – it handles beautifully, and inspires a great deal of confidence. The brakes are also sharp and keen, with plenty of bite and feel through the pedal. Again, this inspires total confidence. And you know what – I’d say that dynamically, it’s more than a match for what most people will say is the 1970s dynamic champion: the Alfa Romeo Alfasud.
And the rest of it?
Lovely! Once you get used to the indifferent fuel consumption (28-32mpg so far), the short gearing (4500rpm at 70mph), and scattergun ergonomics (two sets of heater controls and weirdly-arranged stalks), it’s amazingly easy to live with.
Seating comfort is excellent, and it’s wonderful driving something so tiny on today’s roads. Compared with modern cars, it’s an absolute pint pot (see the picture above), and yet it’s commodious inside and the boot is large and well shaped.
Threading through town centres is a cinch and grabbing a parking bay is a joy to behold. Yeah, it doesn’t have power-assisted steering, but who cares?
What needs doing?
It might drive pretty much as well as it did when it left the factory, and it looks great in pictures, but the GS is far from perfect. The list below probably represents the sum total of all the bits that need sorting.
- The driver’s door needs painting
- The passenger front door needs de-rusting and painting
- The front valance needs repairing/replacing
- The rear seats needs fabric repairs
- It needs a spare wheel!
And, er, that’s about it.
Like all of these cars, I tend to say I’m going to keep it forever before selling it on to fund my next project. But in this case, I’m absolutely enjoying driving this car, which is proving reliable in service and fun to drive.
Bear in mind that it’s a pukka 1970s classic, it gets lots of recognition from other drivers, and there are only about 40 examples left in the UK, it was surprisingly cheap to buy. Think I’m kidding? I reckon it’s worth a fifth of an equivalent Ford Escort Mk2 now.
There are plenty of specialists out there who will keep it on the road, too. And in the AROnline universe, it surely deserves a nod for being one of Alex Moulton’s favourite cars… I’ll keep you posted how it goes!