SPAIN: IT WAS FUN WHILE IT LASTED!
Run by Malcolm Thorne
Owned since October 2016
Total mileage 28,620
Miles since December
2017 report 325
Latest costs £550
The first big road trip that I ever undertook was 18 years ago: across France and down the coast of Spain to Gibraltar, before heading up to Seville and finally Lisbon. I then turned around and drove home.
That 6600-mile, three-month odyssey was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and as such I didn’t bother taking any tools or spares. In spite of that, my unlikely transport (a Citroën 2CV) never missed a beat.
That adventure convinced me that Spain and Portugal have some of the greatest driving roads in Europe, and regular readers will know that I’ve been itching to exercise the Healey on a cross-country dash to Andalucía. But being older and (supposedly) wiser, I thought it prudent to put more thought into the preparation this time.
A trip to Moss yielded the parts most likely to halt progress: coil, plugs, points, leads, dizzy cap and the like. While I was there, I added some braided hoses (the only thing I’d not changed when overhauling the brakes in the summer, and which have transformed the mushy pedal), plus a couple of new wheels, because two needed replacing.
I could only get silver, but a can of black paint soon sorted that. With a set of rim bands and inner tubes from the guys at Vintage Tyres, plus a pair of 145 R13 Falkens, they look the business and inspire more confidence than the old items.
With tools and parts stowed, and the Sprite given a final once-over, María and I were looking forward to a blast down the A3 to Portsmouth followed by a relaxing cruise to Bilbao. And then I checked the weather: ‘Severe Force 9 expected.’
I don’t enjoy rough seas, but we needn’t have worried: instead of battling wind and waves through the Bay of Biscay, the ship took shelter in Brest and remained there until the storm had passed. It was then full-steam ahead, and we arrived in Spain with just a minor delay and not a hint of queasiness.
After lunch in Bilbao, we pointed the Sprite south – our goal for that night being Madrid, where we’d arranged to stay with a friend. In spite of snagging the rear silencer on a vicious speed hump (which left the little Healey sounding more like the big variety), the Spanish roads were a joy and it was great to be back there in a proper car.
Avoiding the motorway, we climbed out of the Basque Country and into the vast landscape of Castilla y León where, after a series of hairpins leading to the Mirador Puerto de Orduña, we enjoyed spectacular views as the road opened up into long, fast and empty straights that could have been lifted from the Carrera Panamerica. This really is ideal sports car country, and a world away from London. With the little A-series revving its heart out we were making great progress, the clouds of the north giving way to golden evening light. All seemed well with the world, until the engine developed an occasional cough. As night drew in, we pulled over to take a look under the bonnet. No obvious loose wires, plenty of petrol getting to the carbs, and the splutter had vanished. We decided to chance our luck, but 60km short of Madrid the misfire returned, accompanied by an angry backfire as the engine died.
By then it was pitch black and beginning to rain, so we decided to call in the cavalry. When the breakdown lorry turned up, the driver told us that the best he could do was drop us off at a hotel en route to the workshop, where someone would look at the car in the morning.
Alas, that’s as far as the Sprite got under its own power. The next day, it seemed fine after replacing various bits, but soon came to a halt.
This time the diagnosis was a faulty fuel pump – the one spare we weren’t carrying. Dejectedly, we got a lift to the nearest town and, after several calls, organised a hire car from the outskirts of Madrid and recovery to our destination for the Sprite. The car’s first breakdown was an ignominious end to the trip, but it is now safely tucked up at our place near Granada and I’ll be taking a suitcase full of spares when we fly down for Christmas.
Brittany Ferries: www.brittany-ferries.co.uk
Vintage Tyres: 01590 612261; www.vintagetyres.com
Moss: 020 8867 2020; www.moss-europe.co.uk
The reason for the trip: Spain is blessed with stunning scenery and fantastic driving roads – ideal for some top-down fun in a British sports car. Bull keeps a watchful eye on Brit’s progress. Thorne and Sprite, full of hope after rolling off Brittany Ferries’ Cap Finistère in Bilbao. Rear silencer damage makes Sprite rorty Oh, the shame! Healey’s saviour arrives. A trailer takes the strain for the final leg.