“Morning!” shouted my Eastern Bloc fellow-traveller, cheerfully, to the lady cyclist pedalling determinedly up a steep hill just outside Wortley.
“Fuck’s sake,” she replied, Yorkshire brogue as broad as her bottom.
In her defence,we would have been the tenth Trabant to pass her in as many minutes, making an unholy racket and rattling clouds of two-stroke into her lungs.
She’d made the grave error of choosing to cycle along the road chosen by Dominic, Commissar North, for the day’s run through the post-industrial highlights of South Yorkshire. There were another ten cars behind us, though none quite so bonkers as the Trabant Tramp cabriolet, only recently repatriated from the Canary Islands. Though the Tatra ran it a close second. Imagine a vehicle that wouldn’t look out of place in Buster Crabbe’s Flash Gordon series, with twin fans and side air ducts that could swallow a small dog. No, two small dogs. Now have it driven by three students from Bristol.
Dear readers, welcome to SALT – Soviet Auto Luxury Tours, proudly described as ‘the best UK-based tours for all classic Eastern Bloc cars.’ And quite possibly the only UK-based tour for classic Eastern Bloc cars.
SALT pulls off that brilliant combination of tongue-in-cheek fun delivered with utter sincerity and meticulous attention to detail, creating a parallel universe in which it’s quite normal to have Karl Marx and Michael Gorbachev turn up at a gala dinner in Sheffield, and for our table’s group effort at the post-dinner quiz to be praised for its collective nature rather than condemned for cheating!
Before the dinner former Top Gear host and bike journalist Steve Berry put me in a headlock as part of a demonstration of the opening routine of 1980s wrestling star Mick McManus. And that wasn’t the strangest thing about the weekend. On Friday evening I found myself transfixed by several hours of real-time tram footage shot just after the fall of the Wall. That was quite weird, but not as weird as the episode of DDR children’s show featuring puppets Jan and Tini on a tour of the Barkas factory.
“Did you think,” asked Dominic, “when you bought your QEK, that you’d be sitting on a Friday night watching puppets buff a Barkas?”
I really can’t say I did…but I’m very glad it happened! Now that I’ve sold Werner I don’t really have a need for ScabbyTrabbi, but we had so much fun bombing about the countryside with like-minded fellow travellers that I’m keeping him for the social life. Well, I say ScabbyTrabi and I had fun on the drives but I’m lying – mostly I bombed about the countryside as a passenger in the Tramp, navigating and drinking gin. Someone has to keep the bourgeoise Western end up.