Staples2Naples 2005: Preparations, part four


MOLLY has been brought out of hibernation, and the preparations for her long journey to Naples begin in earnest this week.

Most importantly, we needed to get some pictures of her for posterity. For me, the most interesting aspect of the day’s events has been to get behind the quartic wheel yet again and get some miles under the belt – after all, we’d be spending a lot of time together, and I thought it was time to begin to understand about the Molly driving experience.

s2n05_04A lot of people had been saying to me that all it would take a few miles for the Allegro magic to work on me.

But I must admit that when I first drove her (after stepping straight out of my 75), I couldn’t help but wonder what that hell I had done. My initial feelings of dread were soon reinforced by the cantankerous gearchange, unwilling engine and laughably badly damped ride.

That first frive from Peterborough to darkest Northamptonshire was a real culture shock for me – and even when compared with my badly rusting Alfasud (currently off the road being re-built – aren’t they all?), I thought it was a real pup.

When I Molly into storage, it was a rainy day – and it soon became apparent, the tyres were past their prime. Every corner either saw her slithering for dear life, or squealing like a stuck pig. Needless to say, when I arrived at the storage lock-up, put her in, and closed the garage door on her, I wasn’t in the least bit sad…

Yes, one or two amusing character traits emerged, but on the whole, the S2N run was beginning to fill me with dread.

Well, after a bit of a drive on familiar territory, the strangest and most unpredictable thing happened to me. The old girl actually started working her magic on me. Just as Richard and every other Allegro lover out there predicted, I began to warm to Molly – and my previous worries about our prospects on the rally began to melt one by one.

For one, she is in very good mechanical shape. That little E-Series engine bursts into life with real vigour – and driving off, the clutch is smooth, and gear engagement is consistent. I won’t say consistently good – because you’ll nearly always need to go into second and push the stick back up in order to get her into first. Third and Fiffth are also rather difficult to find – but on the whole, it’s consistently like that, so at least you know where you stand.

…we need more decoration, and I’m
looking for ideas on how
to bling up Molly.

s2n05_05Steering is also a bit heavy at parking speeds, which is to be expected. However, it lightens up nicely at speed, and manages to deliver loads of feel… This is a very good character trait, because on rather perished front tyres, grip levels are laughably low (at the moment). Understeer is monumental, and there’s something peculiarly amusing about the front end squealing and washing away – meaning to make that corner, you just add more and more lock. It’s cumbersome, but also very funny. This could be a laugh going up Stelvio, but I think I’ll treat her to new boots, just to avoid scaring Declan and Alexander.

Performance is good enough. It’s not the happiest going over 80mph at the moment (the tyres are badly out of balance), but that situation will change for sure. I’m hoping that once the new rubber is on, we’ll be happily able to cruise near or at Molly’s top speed of a mighty 86mph…

Beyond that, the ride quality is really rather good, once you get used to the inadequate damping.

So, there you go – driving Molly hasn’t been the nightmare I thought it would be. Obviously, many of the other S2N teams visit this page, and most have either expressed wild amusement or masses of pity for us – and to be fair, I can understand why. Still, I suspect Alexander, Declan and I will be reasonably happy at the end… Just as long as I don’t decide to go banzai through the Alps like I did last year. I suspect Molly, won’t let me though…

We did did begin to add some decorative touches to Molly. So, we now sport go-faster stripes and a sun strip – made from good old parcel tape. Given her less than glamorous Harvest Gold paint scheme, it seemed right to be-deck her in such drab looking colours. Best not leave it there, though – we need more decoration, and I’m looking for ideas of how to bling up Molly.


Keith Adams
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