Staples2Naples 2005: Day one – Calais to Sarnen


BECAUSE the organisers think that 100 cars converging on Staples Corner on a Friday morning could pose some problems, the event starts at the giant CitieEurope shopping complex in Calais. Arriving there in our beige Allegro was a real eye-opener.

As we pulled in to the car park, some seemed amazed we made it at all. For day one, the organisers gave us an interesting challenge – to keep us from getting bored on our 600-mile journey to the first stop over in Switzerland, they had us play car snooker. We had to spot cars in the correct sequence. Not as easy as you would think, when pink is in the equation… Still, we managed to get a pretty high break (no pink cars spotted when or where we needed them though), thanks to Declan’s quick photography, and my sometimes reckless ‘traffic management’.

With that in mind, we headed towards Luxembourg. With the clonking suspension drowned out by engine noise over about 50mph, we put that out of our minds, and limited ourselves to the speed Molly was at her least shaky – 68mph (except for fearless Alexander, who quite calmly took Molly to over 90mph without breaking a sweat). Noticing other drivers’ reactions to our car was continually amusing – as they overtook, many smiled, and more than a few would slow down and let us overtake again for a closer look. As we concentrated on playing snooker, looking after Molly’s fluid intake took a back seat.

By the time we arrived at Luxembourg, Molly was starting to get thirsty. We got out to fill up, walked around to the front, and were dismayed by the sight of a watery foaming mess, spewing out from the engine bay. Was it disaster? It probably should have been – especially as a mix-up in communications meant we had brought no tools along with us! This was going to be even more of an adventure – a 30-year old car, no tools, and no breakdown cover…

Near Saarbrücken, and Molly stops for a leak. Thanks to Alexander's brilliantly sympathetic driving and calm demeanor, Molly was coaxed to Switzerland without any major problems. It might have been badly different had Keith been driving...

It soon became apparent that we’d had a stroke of good luck – half of the coolant had been lost – and more miles would have seen us cooking the engine. Not that we would have known from the temperature gauge – according to that wonderful device, all was good in that department. Checking the engine bay, Alexander found no leaks…

Like all good BL cars, the Allegro’s coolant expansion tank is lower than the top of the engine, so to correctly top-up, one needs to unscrew the thermostat housing and pour in there. However, you need tools to get it off, and we didn’t have any. Alexander was calm under pressure, though and got us through the potential disaster. He had already proved to be a rock earlier in the day, having diagnosed our clonking as nothing too serious (a dry joint) and not to worry about it, and now he managed to press the Molly’s jack into service as a very effective large screwdriver…

By the time we arrived at our first stop-off in Sarnen, Switzerland, the place was dark, and the event party was in full swing. As we drove through Sarnen town centre, we were spotted by some of the other teams, who cheerily waved us on.

Molly and us had made it as far as the Alps.


Keith Adams

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