Tag Archives: 2cv

A garage that sets homework!

Hortense has been to Pete Sparrow’s 2CV workshop to get a towbar fitted. I’m not anticipating towing any time soon, because most modern caravans are well over our 400kg limit. In fact most trailer tents are also over that limit too! But it seemed worth doing while you can still get TUV-approved towbars. It gives her a rather rugged air, as if we could hook up a rig and head for the horizon.

It was quite embarrassing taking her because there are lots of little things wrong with her. And one big one. The clutch is now slipping. I feel certain that this has been brought on by me not having a handbrake since December. Instead of a simple handbrake adjustment I now need to split the engine from the gearbox and put a new clutch kit in. Talk about spoiling the ship.

The underseal is also peeling off her hindquarters. Pete has put me under instruction to strip it all off, with a wire brush, taking off the shock absorber for proper access if needed, so that the job can be redone properly. I think one of the reasons he’s so busy is that he was happy to take time to lift Hortense up into the air and talk me round all the flaws that are starting to develop. She needs a damn good waxoyling, a hard look at the offside rear brake cylinder, a new stone guard and a new clutch. Over a cup of tea we agreed that 2CVs are awesome and although they demand most of our spare time as tribute they are worth the effort.

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Filed under Garage stuff

New adventures await. How exciting!

RescueDog and I had a lovely day out in Norfolk last weekend.  Having tried the Africa Twin sidecar, and been a bit scared, and eyed up a Ural combination for sale in Wisbech, but been too chicken to go and try it out, and despite the offer of a Velorex sidecar to attach to my Triumph, we have gone down a different path.
The RBR, and other navigational rallies like the English and the Welsh, are open to three-wheelers as well as outfits.
Some people like to do them in Plastic Pigs.
Other people like to do them in a Lomax. On a cloudy day, and without your specs on, you might take a Lomax for a Morgan, but it is one-tenth of the price and, more importantly, built on the running gear and engine from a 2CV.
I know 2CVs. I am much less scared of the idea of travelling in a 2CV-derived skateboard than a ditch-devoted piece of Ukranian ironmongery.
This Lomax was destined to be ours. One of my RBR friends was given a classic car magazine by her dad. She flicked through it, she spotted an ad for a Lomax. It was February’s edition, so well out of date. I made a not-very-hopeful phone call. Yes, still for sale, yes, please do come and have a look. It is in a village on the edge of the Norfolk Broads.
So on Saturday, RescueDog and I got into our GrannyWagon and set off east.

The Broads mean only one thing to me – Arthur Ransome. While the Blacketts and the Walkers sail in the Lake District, Dick and Dorothea have their main adventures in and around Horning. When I was young I wanted to be Dorothea – brave, loyal, cheerful, and devoted to writing stories, having gentle adventures and challenging wrong-doing. Like Clark Kent, but with a cup of tea and a pony tail.  There aren’t many role models for girls in glasses who want to be writers, but she was one.

It is a very blue Lomax – fortunately for RescueDog  sufficiently blue to deter a previous viewer. We have bought it, and are off to collect it tomorrow.
We hope for many adventures.


Filed under Lomax

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.


Filed under 2CV

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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Filed under 2CV

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.


Filed under 2CV

Beer, bikes, bands….

Finally I get to write my triumphant “car is fixed” post. Bear with me, it’s a long story.

This weekend I had three tasks – go to the BMF Show, go to the Fake MA Party with friends from work, and put a new fuel pump on the 2CV.  Friday, Saturday night and Sunday morning. Should have been simple.

I reckoned without the careful attention to detail of the people behind the BMF show. It was very good of them to provide excellent beer, great company, and a ZZ Top tribute band who (I think, but my memories may be confused by the beer here) rounded off their set with La Grange, which I absolutely love to dance to.

But the excellence of Friday night meant that Saturday morning started in a slightly wobbly and uncertain way.  I managed to chat to Sue and Uki from the Guzzi owners’ club about camping, mainly because they provided coffee and ginger nuts; caught up with Andy and Sheila in the grandstands for the White Helmets;  and then tripped on my heels and fell arse over tit down the grandstand steps to land at the feet of Leon Mannings. I don’ t think that was quite the entrance he was expecting me to make.

I have a dodgy left knee, I dislocated it dancing at one of my sister’s housewarming party in the days when she liked renting cottages in very remote parts of Scotland. One minute I was throwing groovy shapes, the next I had crashed to the floor.  I think some of her friends thought this was just an extension of my startling moves. After only 12 months of physio I was able to walk on it again. I got married with a full-length support stocking on that leg, just in case it collapsed halfway up the aisle. So some sort of karmic echo has probably made it necessary that I get divorced in a similar state of immobility.

Knees are a bad design and when you bugger them up they really, really hurt, in a “putting a brave face on it but actually on the verge of throwing up” way. So I didn’t see much of the show. I said hello to the Oval Motorcycle Centre,  and I joined the Trail Riding Fellowship so that when I go back to Australia I can ride the lovely red roads, and then I had to go and sit down.

Hell for me would be sitting in a room while all my friends are at a party and I am not. So you can imagine how happy I was on Saturday night to realise, after 20 minutes making small talk and eating excellent onion bhajis, that unless cold sweat had suddenly become what all the cool kids are wearing, I was going to have to admit my limitations and retire hurt.

This morning I woke up at 4.30, and it was raining. Attempting to remove a vital organ from the car in the rain seemed to be an unwise idea but by about half 10 the rain had decided that staying in the cloud would be fine so I lined up the instruments and got stuck in. “Oh dear, is the car still poorly?” asked the neighbours, to whom my endless struggle with machinery is a source of bafflement and entertainment.

My toolkit has expanded and the teeny-weeny sockets were a perfect fit. I find it interesting that when I start a job like this it seems impossible to wrestle past all the bits of engine to get a grip on the object of my desire but by the end of three hours the spaces feel twice the size  and I seem to have developed extra thumbs to hold the spacer, the washer, the bolt, the socket on the extension bar and the petrol hose. Although this may just be because I have been in the Fens too long and have acquired the local adaptation.

Having got everything off and the new bits lined up, greased up and stuffed into hoses, I had to persuade myself to take the final step and fit them. I think this was fear. If this didn’t work, I would be out of ideas for what was wrong with the car.  But the great joy of a 2CV is that you can stick a starting handle in the front and turn the engine over with it. As the pump is mechanically-driven off the engine, I thought I would be able to tell whether it was working. It didn’t chuck any petrol out of the top hose but it did make a magnificent sucky noise,  like wellies in mud. Which the other one hadn’t.  Which gave me great confidence, which proved to be correct . The car now runs, the exhaust doesn’t leak, and the boots? They’re still shiny boots of rubber. All I need now is the MOT and it will be a success to be proud of.

* I don’t have any good pictures from the show, so here is the Travelling Moose of happy memory.


Filed under BMF Show

Neverending Story

So it started with new boots, and then a new exhaust, and now I am trying to fit a new fuel pump, but to fit a fuel pump I need a smaller socket set, because my robust half-inch drive set, while good for driveshaft flange bolts, is too chunky to fit the fuel pump bolts. So I have spent 40 quid on a new set of slimmer, more elegant sockets.  I console myself with the thought that spending money on tools is never wasted. Until some low-life comes and nicks them. I used lots of cool tools fitting the exhaust, including my impact driver, and even though it was nicked in 2002 which means I’ve had the replacement for 10 years, it still pisses me off that I am using an impact driver the insurance company sent me and not my dad’s, that he gave me along with a set of spanners when I started working on 2CVs in 1990.

The fuel pump came from a German company called Der Franzose. They are my new best friends, because not only has the lovely Jens answered all my questions about when the pump might be expected to land on my desk here in Blighty; and not only have they sent me a catalogue stuffed with every part my 2CV is likely ever to need (hopefully not immediately after the fuel pump, I would like a break from car maintenance); they sent me a small packet of Haribo 2CVs. They are not in the picture. I ate them.


Filed under Uncategorized

New boots?

Early one morning last week I put the car up on bricks to grease the kingpins in the faint hope this might help us get through the MOT. It’s a good job I did, because there it wouldn’t have been the kingpins that caused a fail – it would have been the fact that there was a whopping big hole in the driveshaft rubber boot. On both sides. So I put her back down again and went to work.

Last weekend I had to write a feature so was very strong and left the tools in the garage. Today has been set aside for grease and spanners. Strangely it’s the only big job on a 2CV I know how to do, because I’ve done it before, some time around 1995. Only on the one side, that time. I still have the Special Tool, which is a Ligarex Spanner (bloody good job too, I’d forgotten how much it was!). The other Special Tool was the lid off a bottle of Sure deodorent, which I recall was the only way to get a tight fitting rubber boot over a rather large driveshaft.

The whole job is very dubious, there’s an awful lot of taking a firm but sensitive hold of shafts, covering them with lubricant and trying to stuff them into small spaces. The nuts holding the driveshaft flanges to the gearbox have been torqued up, the wings put back on and tools cleaned up and put away. A less vain woman would have paid someone else to do the work but this is my car and fixing her is my responsibility. And there’s a great satisfaction to be had in it. All the nuts went back in sweetly – no crossthreading here – and I’m slowly clearing up the twenty years of grease and crap that have accumulated in Hortense’s lower regions. It turns out that underneath that cultured exterior she is a bit of a dirty girl. But then again, aren’t we all?


Filed under 2CV

Gods and Monsters

The Ancient Greeks believed that every now and again, when the Gods got bored, they adopted human form and walked the earth in search of entertainment. Now, my knowledge of Greek myths came from this:

so it was a bit of a surprise when I found out later that Enid had omitted quite a lot of details about the kind of entertainment they were looking for.

After today’s experience I can tell you with some certainty that this is still going on, but in the 21st century it amuses Hephaestos to come to earth and take the form of mechanics called Steve.

Back in the days when I drove a series of ropey 2CVs, they used to love visiting Steve Hill, so that he could lay hands on them and get them back on the road. Hannibal liked to spit spark plugs and lose synchronisation on his points, while Baldwin (OK, so I named my 2CVs. I’m a girl, it’s allowed) worshipped him so much that he used to drop something vital off his running parts about once a fortnight – fan off the front of the engine; gearbox cogs…nothing important. I was on the verge of setting up a standing order for a hundred quid once a fortnight when I passed my bike test and sent Baldwin off to a new life in Greenwich.

Anyway… today, the bike was booked back in to Raceways to have the front wheel straightened up (after 3 hours of theory class). I’ve always understood counter-steering (as much as anyone does) and I try to do it, but I’ve always had to correct the bike mid-corner. I assumed this was because I’m not very good at it (like Dr Strangelove, my left arm is not entirely subscribed to the plot and likes to try and hold the bike up. One of these days I’m going to try riding one-handed to see if it helps), so I paid special attention today during the theory class – look where you want to go; drop shoulder; ride with forearms parallel to the road.

All of these things helped.

But not as much as 2 hours with Steve at Raceways.

I don’t know what he did (apart from straightening up the bolt which holds the back brake pedal and the subframe together, as he was still working on that when I came back to pick the bike up – not sure how I bent that, but if it was from dropping the bike, the last time it went down on that side was 2002. Maybe I can blame this scooter boy) but it was magic. The bike now soars. Riding the A507 for one last go before heading back to London, on a couple of corners we even approached a state of grace.

Tony, giving the theory course, says that I am wrong. He says that, in fact, my instructor is God. Now I’m willing to believe this is true, and if it is, I hope that cheese and pickle sandwiches are an acceptable oblation. Because there’s one in the right hand pannier of his BMW…


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