Category Archives: 2CV

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.



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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!








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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.

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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. 


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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.

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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!

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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.


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I have in my hand a piece of paper…

Awful things are happening in the news but in my small world it has been a good day. Hortense has passed her MOT. For the last few weeks I have been trying to prepare all the things that I can do – we started with an oil and filter change, new plugs, grease on all the kingpins and checking the brake pads. These were all good.

She needed a new headlamp bulb and the handbrake has never quite recovered after I drove for several miles down the A66 with it on. I have form for this. In my defence, when your car makes a cacophony of unusual clicks and groans at anything above walking pace, it’s easy to miss the giveaway squeal.

So I ordered a box of bulbs and replacement handbrake pads from the lovely people at Der Franzose and set about it. The headlamp bulb was very easy. The handbrake pads were very hard. The Haynes BOL doesn’t actually tell you how to replace pads, just how to adjust them. But somewhere on the internet there’s a picture of how to push them out using a butter knife. So I took the air filter off, and undid the eccentrics, and pushed the old ones out, and the 2ps which you can stick behind them as shims, and then reached an impasse.

The new pads, from Ferodo, would not go in.

I asked Mark McArthur Christie, who is one of my 2CV gurus. They go in fairly easily once you’ve got the springs sorted, he said.

Are you sure you’ve got the right ones?

It says 2CV on the box. Though this might be an aspiration rather than a description.

The North Briton came for the weekend. He tried to stuff them in with screwdriver and plumbers grips. They went in a bit and got stuck. No problem, he said, before whipping the calipers off the discs for a full strip and rebuild.

The handbrake pads would not go in because they were 2mm too big.

I am annoyed about this, because when I can’t do something on the car I tend to assume it’s my fault. That women should stick to fondling puppies, and wearing pink, and baking cupcakes, not lying on the drive in the mud and the grease and the gunk while bemused neighbours wonder why I don’t just pay someone else to do it.

He filed them down round the edges, I cleaned the calipers. We bled the brakes and adjusted the eccentrics. By the time we finished there wasn’t enough day left to get to the BMF show, but we did have a lovely time at Duxford instead.

The fog light didn’t come on when I pulled the switch, so I spent an evening feeling proud of myself cleaning all the rust off the contacts to make it a good earth, checking that the unit worked if wired direct to the battery, and making sure it wasn’t just a duff bulb. Then I discovered that it only comes on if the headlights are on too. So I felt a bit of a muppet.

And then I tried to fit the new windscreen wipers and broke the teeny-weeny plastic clip that holds the wiper blade to the arm. Big MOT hugs to Cambridge Discount Autoparts, who dug in their Tub of Obsolete Wiper Bits to find me a replacement one for no charge.

This morning Mr McLeod the MOT tester found the front wheels to be wobbly and the back brake to be essentially ornamental, but since this is normal for 2CVs we have passed. Hopefully this means that I will sleep tonight, for the first time in a week. And then, since timing is everything, I shall try and fix the points.

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I have everything I need

I’m not generally a fan of moving with the times. A glance in my garage should make this rather clear. So when it comes to psalms I prefer the rolling complexity of the King’s English than the simple language of the Good News Version.

Except for Psalm 23. “I shall not want” sounds like things will be better in some uncertain future. Or a statement of determined self-denial.

As I drive my car round this UK through this snow-bound hell that is supposed to be spring, I take stock of the equipment I have loaded into the boot. I have warm clothes. I have jump leads. I have coffee. I have in-car-entertainment, though it goes into fits of randomly pausing the CD to provide moments of reflection. I have warm feet, gloves to wear and a Scottish Rugby beanie to keep my brains in my head. I have a shovel in the boot. I have a dent on the bonnet, but that is a different story.

I have everything i need. Right here, right now.

This is a good place to be. Although the car looks like it is about to be baked with a salt crust.


Filed under 2CV, Gear, Introspection

Foxy Lady

Hortense has upped her pulling power with fake lashes, though one of them has since fallen off so she is looking more like a droog than a Lady.

The manufacturers offer extravagant promises on the packaging.  “Of all the eyelashes, it is in fine fettle, inspirited, love the charm, and became a power in the road goes. There will be very high Turns head looked.”

I am looking forward to it.


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