Category Archives: 2CV

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.

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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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Scrying for beginners

These are the entrails of my car. If I had enough arcane knowledge I reckon I could peer into them and discern the future. Or at least the past. The right hand pipe is much blacker than the left hand one. So has there something wrong with the cylinder on that side?  Does the future look more mono-cylindric? Will the numbers 3,1, and 2 loom large on my horizon?

I don’t need very much arcane knowledge to know that holes in the bottom of your exhaust are A Bad Thing. So I spent all of yesterday replacing this.  How hard can it be? Two clamps on the horny bits, and one more to join the stumpy pipe to the swan neck that leads down to the exhaust pipe under the car.

Hahahahahaha. It took me 6 hours, 4 cups of coffee, some weeping, several calls for moral support and All of My Fingernails. The first problem is that the horns are very much wider than the hole in the bottom of the chassis that you have to get them through. So there is a lot of wiggling to drop the old one out of the bottom of the car, and then you have to try and remember what you wiggled in reverse to get the new one in.

Then you have to hang the hooks off two bolts sticking out either side of the gearbox. In theory this should be easy. In real life you can only see one side of the gearbox at a time, and when you’ve got them more-or-less lined up there’s a brake duct stopping you from dropping the box down onto the hooks. The presence of a Handy Helper would have made this part much easier, but sadly next door’s children are still too small for any practical exploitation.  The instructions stress the importance of having a washer between the exhaust hook and the gearbox. This has only been possible on the side which I could see.  I hope it’s desirable rather than essential.

Then you have to clamp the horns to the Heat Exchangers. In my fantasy world of Straightforward Exhaust Fitting they would line up and it would be easy. But they don’t, unless you loosen the front of the heat exchangers for more wiggle room. Two more clamps to undo, scrub with wire wool and WD40, cover with exhaust goo and do back up, while holding the two pipes as close together as you can manage with one hand, while the other hand tries to get the clamp on without dropping the nuts or the bolt, because now it’s getting dark and once they’re dropped they’re gone.

And when you get all of those as close as possible and not leaking too much there’s a half-inch gap between the short horn and the swan neck. 

At about half past one, in my second hour of not being able to hang the new box onto the bolts, I stopped for a cup of coffee and a small cry. Does that ever happen to blokes in Kwik Fit?

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loch ness (no monster)

We have made it to Loch Ness. Family Bonding will take place in a hotel about 20 miles down this road. The Loch is grey and rather choppy. When I was quite small we used to rent a boat and cruise down the Caledonian Canal, of which Loch Ness is part. This would have been more fun if it hadn't been done in October. Also, being the youngest in the family, my allotted role was Staying Out Of The Way and Not Falling In. This alternated with occasional Being Shouted At for Being in the Wrong Place. (and possibly for eating all the chocolate digestives. But if I'd had a more exciting job I wouldn't have been tempted.)

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Hiatus

This was going to be a picture of us in front of the Welcome to Scotland sign at Carter Bar. But I haven't got enough petrol to get there and since I was last on this road, some time ago, the Border Services have closed. I took my revenge by widdling on their ex-forecourt. Now I am waiting for the AA to bring me a fuel can. Knew i should have packed one.

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Needful things

What might a nearly-vintage car need while travelling 2/3 the length of the UK? I have packed, in the car's box, grease gun, oil, jump leads, spare points, and the Book of Lies. Perhaps I should also add some Psychological Spray. In my basket I have salt&vinegar McCoys, bananas and my new DAB radio. I haven't had one before so I'm quite excited.

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Hortense and I are Planning an Adventure

I have to go to the Highlands of Scotland for family bonding. My dad is going to be 80 in November but because my brother, his wife and his children (who I am not supposed to mention on the blog) are over here now, while it is still school holidays in WA, he is having an early party at the weekend. Then we are all going to go and stay in a smart hotel in the Great Glen. I am not very good at the family thing. In order to make the whole experience more fun, I am going to trundle up in the car. This may take some time.

In preparation for this oddessy, (is that spelt right? Odd is probably the word!) I have serviced her. (ahem. Raised Frankie-Howerd-style eyebrow).

New spark plugs, oil change, new HT leads, greased nipples all round. New brake pads not needed yet so put away in a safe place (box marked 2CV bits). I also need to do the timing but I’m not quite sure about that, I’ve read the Book of Lies and it’s pretty complicated.

As a result of the changes so far, she has gained 10mph and we can even overtake things now. Downhill, obvs. I am looking forward to seeing if we can overtake things uphill once I’ve sorted out the points.

None of these things were particularly difficult, though there were about 30 minutes when i thought i wasn’t going to get the oil filter off. I feel pleased at my self-sufficiency.

In the further interests of independence, on Saturday morning I shall set out North. I am going to make a flask of tea and wrap some sandwiches in greaseproof paper. I do have a picnic hamper but I fear the extra weight might do us in when we try and get over the Lecht so I think I shall leave it in the garage.

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This weekend’s challenge

From chaos, order. Maybe. People are awkward messy things so I am retreating to the comparatively straightforward world of 2CV engineering.

I enjoy our stately progress round the Flatland lanes but I do think the car should go a little quicker than 45mph. Also we have to reach the Highlands in early October in something less than three days so I think it is time for a proper service. The oil filter, spark plugs and HT leads ought to be straightforward. The timing I’m less certain of. I’ve read the instructions and have my 6mm knitting needle ready to stick in the flywheel so all ought to be good.

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Hortense, topless

It has not been the weekend I planned, but it has been all the better for it. I am supposed to be in Scarborough this evening researching a travel feature. I am actually at home watching The Terminator on BBC2.  I have had a peaceful evening watching the Jubilee Concert and rebuilding my mountain bike, which I had to take to pieces this morning to fit into the car. I had to cycle to the car this morning because yesterday, after riding home for 3 hours in the pouring rain from Yorkshire, I drove in the car (in the pouring rain) to the King Bill to see Charlotte Pergande and Stephen Hehir do their new acoustic set. I was very good and had 2 pints carefully spaced over 3 hours so I could drive home, but I was led astray by a jug of incredibly strong sangria and wonderful company and ended up getting a taxi home at 10.15.

After extracting several pieces of bicycle from the car and putting the seats back in, I celebrated  in the the traditional Bank Holiday manner with a trip to Tescos.  In my car. In the rain. Which was lovely.

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