Category Archives: 2CV

“Thank you for talking to me.”

I have been trying to track down an exhaust leak on Hortense for about the last 2 years. I know she is blowing, because I can hear it, smell it, and she was about 20mph down on where she should be. Which is a big loss from 70mph.But could I find it ? Hell no.

Here’s why not:

The hole is between the exhaust and the gearbox, where the bracket that holds it on has torn off.  She has been away at a spa getting a new manifold and the chap doing the work said that he had found the hole and I needed a new one. He may have sounded slightly disappointed when I told him thanks but  could do that myself.

When I say, could do that myself, I recall it taking me a day and a half and much trauma. So I have been putting it off, but today dawned (eventually) bright and sunny and there was really no more excuse not to.

Except the nice old boys who kept stopping for a chat. Obviously I look at my most attractive in my official Scottish rugby beanie, two pairs of trousers and three jumpers. So I think it may be curiousity value. “Where’s the motorbike gone?” asked first Cheery Old Cove, walking his Extremely Fluffy dog. We had a quality chat about 2-strokes and the defection of Ernst Degner, which I know about thanks to Mat Oxley’s excellent book, and he told me about his collection of BSAs before the dog decided it was time to move on.

The second old chap had a rather stylish fair isle hat and a rucksack. It is possible he was a rather off-track rambler, but I think he may just have been a little lonely. We discussed the benefits of owning an older car compared to a modern one, how much fun it was to work on your own vehicles, and then he said, rather sadly “Thank you for talking to me” before heading on up the road.

This time, 6 years later, the new box went on in 45 minutes. And bloody hell, does it make a difference!

Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV

Happiness is…

…driving to the park on Sunday afternoon in a 2CV with a new exhaust fitted, which has restored her mid-range verve and really, really reduced the engine noise.

Getting there was painful though. The parcel finally arrived on Monday morning – it must have been first out of the gates when they were unlocked. I also got a cute biscuit to say sorry and DPD would do better next time. Their apology game is strong. It didn’t count for much when I was lying on the landlady’s drive in the snow on Saturday morning grinding two rusty bolts off the rear exhaust hangers, though.  I looked like Joey wearing all of Chandler’s clothes (except his pants) in Friends but still lost touch with my fingers after just 20 minutes thanks to Son of Beast from the East and the sub-zero temperatures it brought.

I really like the biddy next door. She has an amazing garden full of bird feeders and beautiful plants, and she didn’t complain at all when I was fettling the Jawa and making a ridiculous amount of noise one weekend.

“Have you got everything you need?” she asked, as I was taking a break from swearing at the tenacity of the bastard rusty bolts.

“Well, I could do with a burly bloke. Or an angle grinder…”

“Hang on,” she said, and went off to see what she could rustle up.

20 minutes later she returned. “Will these do?” she asked, brandishing a pair of bolt-cutters that were more than half her size and would be the envy of any London moped scrote.

We compromised on the loan of a hacksaw.


Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV

In which the universe has another go at finishing me off

If I had written this last night it would have been called “Red Sky at Night – Highwaylass’s delight” and it would have been a cheerful reflection on an evening ride home after a successful sidecar voyage to the far distant territories of the Birmingham suburbs.

But I’m writing it tonight and it’s called ”I’m shit out of luck, still.”

Last week the 2CV exhaust sheared off about two thirds of the way along its length. I’m already a week late going to Wrexham to collect a 2CV engine for the Lomax (snow stopped travel), and now I don’t have a car. I put the screws on a friend and he agreed to be chauffeur yesterday – then it turned out that the seller wasn’t going to be around to do a handover. So I had a free Saturday. If DPD had done their part, I would have spent the day fitting a new exhaust and all my mobility problems would be over.

Friday came and went with no parcel. After half an hour on hold I got to speak to a human who muttered something about the parcel not having been scanned out and he would upgrade me for free to Saturday morning delivery.

Saturday morning the tracker was going backwards – on Friday my parcel had “arrived” at Hinckley. On Saturday morning it was “on its way” to Hinckley. 20 minutes on hold to speak to a human who said no, don’t expect it today – it’s probably locked in a truck. Actually I’m imagining it swirling round and round some mythical maelstrom, unable to acheive escape velocity. It’s now supposed to be arriving tomorrow. I’m not holding my breath. It’s incredibly frustrating not to be able to talk to anyone prepared to give me a straight answer about what has gone wrong, and when I might actually get it.

Anyway, I was determined to make the best of it so instead of wrestling the exhaust,  Saturday saw dog, Jawa and I having a fun day out with no mechanical failures.

And today is the start of the year – the Round Britain Rally pre-ARSE ITCH, at the Long Itchingdon diner. After a foggy start the sun came out, we trundled down at a fair clip navigating the bends like someone who knew what they were doing, had a cup of tea, met old friends, and then it all went a bit wrong.

Piling back towards Cov we stuttered to a halt. OK – just need to switch onto reserve. But that’s just 100 miles from 15 litres of fuel. Is that about right for a 350cc engine with a sidecar and a fat bird?  And it seems that running dry has led to shite being sucked into the carb – 2 miles down the road there was a catch and a stutter, as if the engine was about to sieze, 8 miles down the road we could barely stagger round the Sainsbury’s car park, and then when parked up I discovered the carb pissing neat petrol all over the hot engine.


Thank god for Twitter. Hit it with a hammer, said @midlifeclassics and @scunjee.

I know that it’s teething problems and to be expected. But I just want to go on a run and not have something die, blow up, risk spontenous combustion while I’m buying potatoes, or sieze.

And DPD if you’re listening, I really, really want my fucking parcel tomorrow.



Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV, Riding, Round Britain Rally

Are we going to take the doors off?

I am a bit lonely in my new life so I am making an effort to get out to car and bike-related events, to have fun and maybe meet some new friends.  Today 2CV Ecosse kindly started their Scenic Run from Cupar Highland Games, so I got to watch some Scottish cultural activities (no caber tossing- is this a myth?) while having a cup of tea on the rugby club balcony before the start.  Then Shakey kicked his water bowl over and we had to slink back to the car in disgrace.

The line-up is a bit of a Highwaylass History of 2CVs. Nearest the camera – just like my third, if it had a big painting of Tigger on the bonnet. Two to the right of Hortense – a duck egg blue 2CV Club, just like my first. Though without gaffa tape holding the headlight glass in.  I was also unreasonably excited to see an Actual Mehari – the French equivalent of the Trabant Kubel. The doors lift out so that you can enjoy the proximity of the tarmac.

It was a rather more sedate run than the rinky-dink anarchy of an IFA Day – and there were no fords to splash through, which was probably appreciated by Donald in his matt-black mean-as Lomax. But we did visit a herd of vintage horses.   Fife is home to a world-famous Clydesdale stud – ‘fresh and chilled semen available from all horses’ – and it was necessary to look Gorgeous George (right) firmly in the eye in order to avoid looking at his prize-winning tackle. I am a city girl, I’m not used to this sort of thing.


Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind…

L1060144crop This is what the end of the RBR 2014 looks like.  Strictly speaking there are 9 days left in which to bag landmarks, but I am happy with my 215 points this year. Special Circumstances apply, and it seems to have been a low-scoring year all round. Sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes you need to rebuild half of your engine before you can move forward.

It looks like a fairy ring but it’s the footprint of a medium-to-large tipi. Conkers being less wild than Low Wray, Shakey and I enjoyed a bedside lamp and a halogen heater. Because I am a bit slow of thinking at the moment, I hadn’t realised that a halogen heater doubles as a lighthouse. Still, it made the Klondike look very pretty – like a pointy Chinese Lantern, but not on fire. It would have been cool to have a mobile of bikers and three-legged dogs chasing landmarks to shadow-dance on the walls.

To the right is the windbreak for our Saturday afternoon Adjudication Barbecue. Those whom Graham decides to have photographed the wrong landmark can console themselves with a Frickadillo or a bratwurst. And a beer. Normally Dave and MommyBear come and do the actual cooking.  This year it was my responsibility and my skills fell sadly short. Thank god for caravans with ovens!








Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV, camping, Round Britain Rally

Wild? I was livid.

Robens Klondike

This was my campsite last weekend.

It was supposed to be the jumping-off point for a tour of the Cornwall and Devon RBR landmarks, but the Lomax’s cylinder heads were away at Ivor Searle’s for new valve seats so Shakey and I had to go in the car. Our reward was the opportunity to wave cheerfully at a big orange H-van coming the other way on the A4. There are almost no other 2CVs out there these days – I was chatting to someone the other day about Hortense and he said the only other 2CV in our town lives in a garage and comes out on dry sunny days. I think Hortense was quietly sobbing at this point.

It may not look much like wild camping but it is, in fact, an awfully big adventure.

When I was a little girl my dearest wish was to sleep in my tent in the back garden. It was a green ridge tent, the kind you would draw in a picture, or imagine the Walker children pitching on Wild Cat Island. But this tiny taste of adventure was vetoed by my mother, who was unusually concerned about stranger danger for the 1970s. Her concern that random strangers would carry out evil acts upon my person extended to banning 16-year-old me from going to see Bon Jovi, hardly the peak of rock depravity. Sleeping outside was out of the question.

So this isn’t just Martyn and Jane’s back garden. It’s a tiny slice of belated rebellion, with a side order of wish fulfilment. It’s also a bloody nice tent.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV, camping, Gear, Round Britain Rally

An appeal to the Patron Saint of Wayfarers

No, not that Christopher upstart.

The original and best patron saint of wayfarers is St Botolph, a member of the Saxon nobility and founder of a monastery on land given to him by King Anna.

This story proves that having a girl’s name was no barrier to success in AngloSaxon England, just as having a beard is no barrier to winning Eurovision if you are also rocking a fishtail evening gown.

St Botolph’s church is just opposite my office and normally before I go travelling I pop in and say hello,  but this week I have been working at home while a succession of practical chaps build me a new garden fence. So in a very modern twist, I am checking in virtually.

It’s not terribly clear how St Botolph got displaced by St Christopher. Perhaps St Christopher had better PR. 


Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV, Travel

Vorsprung durch Technik


Shakey and I are off to the Black Forest soon. I am very daunted by the prospect. This is a bit daft. I have been to Australia and ridden around on the far side of the world. But for some reason the 400 miles between the Chunnel and the Black Forest are freaking me out.

I don’t speak German. I don’t really read it either, other than the confrontational linguistics set out in my brother’s Commando magazines. These have given me the sure and certain belief that U-Boat captains wear polo necks and sea boots and are Decent Chaps, whereas certain Bad Eggs in the Luftwaffe will shoot at you if you are a sitting duck under your parachute. They have not given me much in the way of useful advice about buying petrol or asking what time breakfast is served.

I have a route in the satnav but Hortense has no power socket. Will the Garmin’s battery last a whole day? I have a road map but the scale is really small and I want to avoid the toll roads. I suppose they will be my fall-back – if I get lost, I can head to the superslab and look for really big direction signs.

I have a co-pilot but I don’t think he is very good at reading maps.

21 years ago I did a very similar trip, in my very first 2CV. That pre-dated satnav by several decades, and I survived fine. I wish I could remember more about the trip than scouring the verge looking for my headlamp glass that had fallen out, and having an al-fresco pee in a field of sunflowers. (Don’t worry, the photo is me gaffa-taping the headlight back together. Not the other thing. It’s not That Kind of Blog.)

There will be no wi-fi in the hotel in the Black Forest. This is possibly even scarier than the thought of navigating in Europe with only a Portuguese three-legged dog for company.

Leave a comment

Filed under 2CV, Travel

While my French car gently leaks.

imageIt is my third attempt at leak curing. Hortense is doubly incontinent, she pisses herself with petrol when starting, and loses oil from her rocker covers.

The rocker covers had to come off so that I could redo the valve clearances, which the Expensive Specialists had buggered up. I managed the same job on the Lomax with no leaks, but that must have been beginners luck. The first time on Hortense I think I hadn’t torqued them up enough. “Barely more than hand tight” may be rather different for burly mechanics than it is for me.

So I bought a very cool pre-set torque wrench from Billy’s bike shop – they ordered it in for me specially and were kind to Shakey, so I recommend them highly! – and did them again.

Still got leaks.

So we’ve tried a different pair of covers. If you do them too tight they get”dished” and stop sealing, and I think this may have happened in the past.

Of course, it is possible that she has always leaked from here but I have not noticed before. I could let it go but the workshop manual notes darkly that if you don’t get the covers on correctly, “total oil loss” can result, and that sounds Very Bad.

But not as bad as setting yourself on fire. Petrol should be inside the carb, not outside it, washing over a hot engine. It’s flooding, said Brian, my carb guru. So I ordered an overhaul kit. It came with many mysterious rubber rings.

“Are they O-Rings?” asked @ledwardio. “As in, Oh-where-the-fook-does-that-go-Rings?”

I only got to use one of them in the end. To replace the float you just “tap” the pivot pin out. Like “barely more than hand tight”, this has some kind of special meaning unrelated to what I understand “tap” to mean. 5 minutes with a hammer moved it all of 1mm. So the old float is still in there, along with the old gasket because you can’t change that without taking the float off.

But (touch wood) the replacement needle valve seems to have been enough. Driving no longer involves the faint whiff of petrol from under the bonnet.

We may yet make it to the Black Forest in June. The final hurdle – the MOT!

1 Comment

Filed under 2CV

Harsh realities

So I went to the Glasgow Transport Museum (it’s actually called the Riverside Museum, but that’s a useless name as it gives you no clue as to what I was looking at) and had a life-changing moment inspired by one of the exhibits.

Someone at the Museum really doesn’t like bikers. There are many splendid carriages and conveyances, hanging on the walls, dangling from the ceiling, threatening to impale an impala….and one Triumph Thunderbird, on its side labelled “motorbike crash.”

People die in cars, they maim themselves in planes, they scar their chins falling off push-bikes – why am I singled out for a memento mori? It wasn’t even a crash that could teach an important lesson, like “always wear your back protector.” The guy got rammed by a car driver. In the panel beside the bike, he says “the only way I could have avoided the crash was not to be there.”

What an incredidbly crass and revolting exhibit.

But that wasn’t the one which inspired me to change my life.

It was this one.

Yes. That’s a full-sized 2CV hanging on the wall of a museum.

It’s a C-reg. It’s two years younger than Hortense, who drove me up to Glasgow.

My car is a museum piece. 

In covering thousands of miles up and down the UK, perhaps I am being unreasonable in my expectations of her.

I don’t think she would like to be hung on a wall like an ornament. But maybe she would like a quieter life.

She has developed a bad case of wheel-wobble. New bearings haven’t fixed it. So she is at the Northern Rest Home for Distressed Machinery, waiting to get new kingpins fitted. And I bought a proper car for 1500 quid to drive home in. It has a cup holder. There’s flash.


Filed under 2CV