Category Archives: ifa

A sort of homecoming

“Are you famous?”
No, not really….
“Do you want to be?”
Er…I just wanted to ask about joining the Vintage Motorcycle Club…

Volunteering for charity is supposed to be its own reward. I have recently signed up to be a Fat Controller for the local Blood Bikers – I have been looking for something useful to do with my time and I can answer telephones and send volunteer riders to hospital while based at home with AdventureDog.

Bob the Rota came to my temporary residence with an impressive set of induction materials and talked me through my new responsibilities. At the end of the evening, after he’d successfully co-ordinated two riders to collect from Nuneaton hospital and deliver to Coventry, he asked if I was going to the Classic Bike Show this weekend.

As earlier that day I’d opened a 600 quid legal bill and a tax demand for another 185 on top, I have had to slash all current spending that isn’t on food or petrol. I explained, with my sad face on. So he slipped me a wristband, and on Saturday morning I took my packed lunch to the NEC – on the train, to save the price of parking – and had a lovely day.

Last year I was being an Eastern Bloc Schraubenschlüsselfrau to promote the SALT tours, blissfully unaware that I was about make a really poor decision and turn my life upside down, again.

This year SALT wasn’t exhibiting but the Wartburg-Trabant IFA Club was out in force and it was just lovely to catch up with everyone and talk about what’s going to be happening next year. Now I am back in England again I’ll be able to join in – even though I don’t have the Trabi any more, because of the Jawa outfit I’m still eligible, so I’m looking forward already to Drive-it-Day in the Spring.

I wandered among the car clubs that – unlike the excellent value IFA Club – want the best part of a hundred quid as a membership fee, and was gently ignored by the sleek chaps at the desks, and then I got to the bike section, led there like a Bisto kid by the tempting aromas of rubber, oil and petrol rising under the hot lights. I couldn’t find Bob the Rota but I did get a warm welcome from the VMCC. We discussed whether I was qualified to be a member, being an owner of a G-reg motorcycle. I didn’t like to say that it was a pedal-and-pop Honda – I might join anyway and keep schtum.

Queuing at the 2CV Shop espresso Acadiene, the chap in front of me said “You have the blue Lomax, don’t you?”

I’m very sorry, but I don’t remember where I met you! Or maybe I haven’t met you, and you just know from my outrageously indiscreet social media profile.

So maybe the answer should have been yes, after all.


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Drive It Day

IFA Club friends were having a lovely time in Lincolnshire. Last year’s Lacock run was immense fun, and in fact the only full excursion I had with Scabbers before his health failed him. He’s now gone to live in East Kilbride, and, rather in the manner of sponsored children in Columbia, every now and again I get sent a photo and an update. He has been fully fettled and took part in the Scottish IFA Drive-it-Day today. I’m glad he has a new lease of life and is in really good hands.

I was hoping to get out with 2CV Ecosse but Hortense has not been terribly well since the mice moved in. And, much as I want to meet new friends now I live in a new place, old friends were visiting, and deservedly took priority. They wanted to re-enact Chariots of Fire on the beach but we paused for a quick photo-shoot on the way.




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I should have ironed the factory

15034008_10154767142872577_354449354_oLife has been difficult of late. I lent Scabbers to the BBC and this happened – a literary and literal demolition job. A replacement engine and gearbox are on their way from Germany but it will be mid-December before they get here and Scabbers went away for pre-BBC fixing in June.  All that stress and not even a lovely story as a souvenir. I think perhaps he didn’t want to go to the factory without me.

Maybe he will be fixed in time for next year’s SALT tour. (That is a tautology, by the way, and causes sub-editors teeth to itch in the same way as PIN number and ATM machine). I have been promoting the splendid collective madness that is SALT at the NEC Classic Car Show. Uniforms are always interesting. In two weeks time at the bike show, most people in the NEC will be wearing black t-shirts, beards and boots. Your classic car chap was more likely to be found in mid-range jeans, a polo shirt and a sports jacket. They roamed in pairs. Some of them roamed up to the SALT stand, where Sarah and I were playing the part of kombinat workers at our suspiciously 2-dimensional car plant.

“I should have ironed the factory,” the Northern Comissar ruefully observed, afterwards. But it does look rather splendid in the photos. The big blue car is a Moskvich and the red one isn’t a Lada, though many of the herds of roaming car chaps took some persuading. Apart from a young lad, the skinniness of whose legs was only outdone by the pointiness of his shoes. “That’s Ed Hughes’s Tavria!” he declared, with joy.

Lots of people thought we were offering actual tours of Russia. That would be dull. It is much more fun to bring Eastern Bloc cars and their owners together to create a little theatre in the byways and fords of the UK. Or in the Pavilion of the NEC.



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Barkas Mad

ScabbyTrabi at the car show

ScabbyTrabi at the car show

“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!

Not a Capitalist Running Dog

Not a Capitalist Running Dog

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.

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