Trauma on way to Luton Hoo. After three breakdowns in one night and a couple of days with an unleaded-induced headache, I’ve decided that I really should never tempt fate when behind the wheel of my Traction Avant. It may be a simple 1930s design, yet it seems to be able to read my thoughts. Well, that’s what appeared to happen on a 75-mile round trip to attend Peter Madden’s excellent Classics in the Walled Garden (see Your events).
Just as I was taking comfort from thinking that, while I was missing out on Drive-My jaunt to La Sarthe, at least the Traction wouldn’t be instrumental in the Le Mans gridlock by having an overheating fit, it started losing power. A couple of minutes later it conked out: at 5pm on London’s Edgware Road. The usual circus act of sucking fuel up from the tank and frantically priming the pump failed to resurrect it.
At least the latter revealed a stream of bubbles in the filter, which was cracked – not enough to let fuel out, but sufficient to allow air in. Bypassing that soon had me on my way until a Le Mans-style traffic jam brought on a bout of pukka fuel percolation. This time I had to whip out the 6V electric pump that I had previously fitted (then removed after thinking that I’d sorted the fuel-vaporisation issue) and plumb it in. Job done and I was soon zooming up the M1 towards the Luton Hoo Estate.
Citroen Traction Avant 15-Six
Run by Graeme Hurst
Owned since October 2007
Total mileage 17,523km
Kilometres since June report 392
Latest costs £3
The 15-Six attracted lots of interest, but not as much as Tom Hill’s immaculate, fresh-out-of-restoration 1968 Dodge Charger R/T next to us, packing a 500bhp V8. Its spec and condition were typical of the amazing juxtapositions that these informal meets always deliver.
I had hoped that the cooler temperatures on the trip home would result in a smooth journey, but the Traction failed again in a tailback near Aldwych. The 6V pump was ticking away furiously yet there was no sign of fuel. More roadside spannering to dismantle and clean out the tank pick-up followed and – bingo! – unleaded was suddenly gushing out on the engine side but the carb chokes remained dry. Next to come off was the top of the carb, while I fended off a weirdo and then a drunk keen to assist. After blowing air through the needle-and-seat valve, my Reine de la Route was back in action. I’ve yet to figure out what went wrong, but I know that I shouldn’t risk thinking about it, lest I tempt fate.
Plumbing-in 6Vfuel pump at the roadside. Carb top removed to investigate problem. Alongside Hill’s Charger in wonderfully varied Walled Garden classic selection.
Old family friend. I very much enjoyed Martin Buckley’s article on the Vauxhall Royale. My own example, despite also being a coupe, is a true family car. It was registered in Cheshire as LLG 999T on 11 April 1979 to my father, Howard Worth, and was one of the first Royal’s sold in the UK. It was fitted, from new, with the saloon’s two-tone silver and grey wheels, front fog lights, three dummy dashboard switches in place of die plastic blanks and a towbar. Other changes during the first few months were the fitment of the later model of Phillips Turn- lock radio (the early models simply locked rather than turned) and a one-piece fake veneer dashboard (as fitted to the 1980 model), rather than the two-piece version.
Look ahead to save gas! Tackling hills on my bicycle has taught me a few things about how to extract the best fuel economy from my car. The first time I saw the gas pump register $120 after filling up gave me a jolt of motivation to get the most from each expensive tank of gas. A while ago, I bought a digital speedo for my bike, primarily to see how far each journey was taking me. But once out in the hills, watching how fast I was travelling up the big long ascents soon took my interest. I realised that to increase my speed by even one or two kays an hour while I was climbing required a lot of extra huffing and puffing on my part. Conversely, when descending, it was easy to add another ten kays an hour by putting in the same amount of effort. On longer rides, I began saving my energy for where I was going to reap the biggest reward.