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    Seems spring has arrived early

    CAR: 1989 BMW 320i Convertible
    OWNER: Glen Waddington
    PHOTOS: Robert Hefferon

    / #1989-BMW-320i-Convertible / #1989 / #BMW-320i-Convertible / #BMW-320i-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B20 / #BMW-320i-E30 / #BMW-320i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-E30-M20 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet-M20 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet-E30

    This Time last year we had snow. My 944 had just recently blown its rep by blowing out its own electrics, and the Beemer was tucked up safely in my garage. Where it spends too much time. But I don’t like taking it out on wintry roads, because it’s nearly 30 years old, factory-original and in damn fine fettle.

    As I write this on the last day in February, I’m looking out onto a sunlit garden, daffodils swaying gently in the breeze, birdsong drifting through an open window. Two record-breakingly warm days preceded this one. But tomorrow it’s back to normal. Whatever counts for normal in 2019.

    Anyway, I’ll stop wittering, because my point is that this is the first winter during my eight-year tenure of the BMW – today is its anniversary – during which it’s been driven with anything like regularity. I was even out giving it an early spring clean last weekend, ahead of driving it to Bicester Heritage for an editorial meeting with the #Drive-My team. And I drove home with the roof down. That has rarely happened this side of April. I’m generally an advocate of use rather than storage, although I admit that when the BMW crept past 50,000 miles last year, I fleetingly wondered if I should mothball it. Winter hibernation can cause the odd issue: I’ve lost count of the new batteries I’ve fitted (even if the last one was terminally discharged when I left the bootlid slightly ajar – can’t blame the car or the weather for that one), plus I’ve been through a master cylinder, a clutch slave cylinder, a heater blower motor and a seized brake caliper. All these failures occurred within the first post-hibernation drive.

    There have been no such problems this year, and I’ll count my sunburnt forehead as a freak of the highly unseasonable weather. We’ve had a lot of frosty nights, mind. Frosty enough to make the 944 a tardy starter one morning. Rather than drain the battery, I reached for the Energizer 400A jump-starter kit I got late last summer. It wasn’t cheap at around £100, but it’s about the size of a large smartphone and can be used to charge one of those so you can cycle its battery between boosts. Connection is easy – it’s great not having to lug something heavy around – and the 944 sprang instantly to life. Indispensible for any car that is parked up for just a touch too long.
    So I’m glad I’ve got it, ready for when we have snow in June…

    Above and below: BMW bowls along at Bicester; it was joined by editor Elliott’s Triumph not-2000 – and a McLaren 12C Spider.
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    Paul Walton – EDITOR

    / #2000-Jaguar-XK8-4.0-X100 / #2000 / #Jaguar-XK8-4.0 / #Jaguar-XK8 / #Jaguar / #Jaguar-XK8-4.0-X100 / #Jaguar-XK8-X100 / #Jaguar-X100 / #Jaguar

    After suffering yet another setback, Paul finally manages to take his XK8 for a drive to the Norfolk coast, but will he make it back home again?

    You couldn’t make it up. Just two days after collecting my now legal XK8 from the bodyshop (to repair a small rusty hole close to the offside sill so it could pass the #MOT test, which it had failed the week before – see #Drive-My ), it has suffered from more bad luck.

    Due to visit friends who live an hour away in the Lincolnshire countryside, I figure this is an excellent opportunity to drive my now rejuvenated XK8. So, while my wife changes for the umpteenth time, I go into the garage and start the car. It fires normally, but soon falters, eventually stalling. When I turn the key again, the engine cranks unevenly, starts hesitantly, then idles awkwardly before stalling again. The big V8 eventually runs smoothly, but only after I give the throttle the beans, something I hate doing when the engine is still cold. I grudgingly leave the car at home and take my less-stylish Nissan SUV.

    After the problem persists all week – eventually resulting in an amber engine warning light – I finally cave in and contact Nene Jags Specialists (www.nenejags.co.uk).

    Even proprietor Clive Kirton is surprised to see me back so quickly, joking the car must be on a piece of elastic. He soon diagnoses the air mass flow meter is at fault and also discovers the air filter is incorrect, meaning it doesn’t fit correctly.

    With typically poor timing, as soon as the car is fixed and ready for action, the weather takes a seasonal downturn and, frustratingly, I have to leave the XK8 in the garage.

    Waking to an unusually warm and sunny December morning a few days later, I decide to blow caution to the wind and take the green Jaguar for a drive. With little time on my hands due to our hectic Christmas schedule, I choose Hunstanton, on the Norfolk coast, as my destination. The 100-mile round trip is enough to test the car and I can also be there and back in an afternoon. That I know an excellent chip shop on the seafront isn’t a factor at all.

    As I start my journey along the eastbound A47 that cuts through the flat, empty, but still beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside, I swear my XK8 feels a little faster, the engine slightly more responsive than it was before. I’m guessing this improvement is because the car can now breathe properly thanks to Clive fitting the correct air filter. More importantly, as I reach King’s Lynn 40 minutes later there are still no warning lights.

    As most of my recent long journeys (and some short ones) have ended in a dashboard filled with more flashing warnings than a Boeing 747’s console after a wing drops off, I’m constantly expecting something bad to happen. But nothing does, not even when I turn onto the tree-lined A149 that passes through the Sandringham Estate. Or even when I enter the outskirts of Hunstanton 20 minutes later and make my way down to the town’s pretty seafront. It might be just 50 miles from home, but I feel a real sense of accomplishment as I park the XK8; it hasn’t put itself into limp mode, broken down or blown up. Although that could still happen. Even though it is a glorious afternoon, Hunstanton’s seafront is deserted as I go for a stroll. The amusements are empty, the beach is quiet and, even worse, my favourite chip shop is closed. My run of bad luck continues.

    My journey back home, though, is enjoyable and trouble-free, and, with the Jaguar’s immediate issues taken care of, I return my attention to a most pressing task – replacing the original plastic tensioners with metal ones from the 4.2 #V8 . When Leeds specialist Tasker & Lacy removed the head to inspect them in 2016 they were in good condition, but knowing that the engine could still self-grenade at any minute, should the tensioners snap, is never far from my mind. I plan to drive the XK8 to Le Mans for the 24-hour race in June, so it’s something I need to get looked at, and sharpish. Other jobs for 2019 include having the increasingly crusty rear wheelarches tidied, and repairing the worn driver’s side seat bolster.

    But that’s for the future; today, I’m simply enjoying the warm sensation of my XK8 getting me to Hunstanton and home again in one piece.

    The XK8 beneath Hunstanton’s famous red-striped cliffs.

    Paul cuts through the desolate Cambridgeshire countryside using the A47.
    The amusements are empty. Well, it is December and Hunstanton is deserted
    The view down Hunstanton’s beach in bright sun is gorgeous.
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  • Post is under moderation
    Martin
    HEADING SARTHE FOR THE SUMMER

    The Le Mans Classic is a favourite on the DRIVE-MY calendar, and that is mainly down to the road-trip aspect of the journey there. The Reader Run has become a team-bonding exercise in getting our old nails to La Sarthe and back, hopefully without having to throw in the towel and hitch a ride on a recovery truck. The process of preparing our respective classics always begins nice and early – literally days before the off – and in typical fashion it included Port carrying out an emergency water-pump overhaul, MacLeman install a cooling fan, reinstating the overdrive wiring and fixing the wiper motor, while Clements checked the oil and set his engine tinware to ‘summer’.

    Making it to the docks at Portsmouth is always the first success and, with the UK still basking in a heatwave, it was a relief to get on board the Brittany Ferries boat for St Malo – particularly for Port, who had a last-minute reprieve from a £140 surcharge because his #Land-Rover-SII was deemed too tall. After entrecôte avec frites all round and a few cooling beers, we were suitably refreshed for the overnight sailing – a chance for our extended group to get to know each other.

    The DRIVE-MY crew – Clements, Port and MacLeman – was joined by BMW Z4-driving former #DRIVE-MY designer Paul Breckenridge and Le Mans virgin Sam Read (both on hand to help Clements celebrate a significant birthday), while MacLeman’s travelling buddy was fellow professional beard-grower and millennial Paul Bond. After years of pestering, Port gave in and brought eldest son Alfie – the end of GCSE exams finally giving no reason to refuse. After a fitful sleep and the usual rude awakening by tortuous lute music, our quartet rolled off the ferry early on Friday morning. For a while it was business as usual, following a familiar route from previous excursions including a stop for breakfast at Combourg. But here we met up with fellow DRIVE-MY cohorts Mick Walsh and Julian Balme, who had burbled down enthusiastically in Balme’s Lincoln Cosmopolitan, ‘Wooly Bully’, adding to an already eclectic mix of classics parked up in the surrounding roads. This included Reader Run regular Scott Fisher’s stunning #Porsche-912 – previous winner of the DRIVE-MY car park concours at the Hotel de France. Echoing 2010, Port set the 55mph pace up front in his #1959-Landie while the #Suzuki-Cervo , #Triumph-2500 and #BMW-Z4 shadowed his every move – owners doing well at concealing their frustrations at his cruising speed.

    As temperatures soared we ploughed on, avoiding autoroutes, and were rewarded with some fantastic countryside – freshly harvested fields and abandoned stone farmhouses beckoning a new life away from the constant onslaught of Brexit negotiations and a government in turmoil. Hitting the roads around Le Mans meant two priorities: a visit to the supermarché to stock up on food and drink, then heading to pitch tents at the Porsche Curves. Naturally, our shopping was made up of the three Le Mans staples: meat, snacks and booze – the latter mainly consisting of French lager, but also the finest vin rouge that three Euros could buy. (We’d tried the one-Euro alternative two years earlier, and decided to push the boat out on medical advice, and also because it was Clements’ birthday.) Rolling into the Travel Destinations campsite reminded us just what a great location it is – despite being a road-train ride away from the paddock. As the GT40s roared past the banking within stumbling distance, tents were pitched and thoughts turned to chilling beers and burning meat. Crucially, we had all made it without significant mechanical issues – albeit with Balme reporting brake troubles – just a little hot and bothered thanks to the Europe-wide heat-wave.

    There then ensued three days of the usual mix of breathtaking cars, spectacular on-track action and paddocks to die for – a combination that never fails to result in a magical atmosphere. With temperatures hitting 35º-plus during the day, it was important to maintain fluid intake – but fortunately the local cider proved very useful in ensuring that stamina was maintained, as well as a finely honed sense of humour at all times…

    The ‘good old days’ of sitting on a busy banking at Maison Blanche are now a distant memory, but the Porsche Curves campsite offers a relatively quiet experience (at least in terms of numbers).With most of us now being past 40 (Clements only just, a milestone marked by late-night cake), the short roll down the hill to the toilets and showers is pleasingly convenient and doesn’t interrupt viewing of the right- and left-handers for long. The relative peace also provided the perfect opportunity to raise a glass to absent friends. Although he was never keen on camping, the Le Mans Classic was one of our late chief sub editor David Evans’ favourite events, so in his honour we each drained a dram and saved him a space on the banking, before some made the pilgrimage to his favourite spot at Arnage corner the following morning.

    Wooly Bully left on Sunday and, with heavy hearts (plus a few heavy heads), the rest of the team packed up to head home on Monday. But not before Port had dived under MacLeman’s Triumph in a bid to reduce the vibration of exhaust on propshaft and gearbox crossmember – Greg using a convenient grass bank as a makeshift ramp.

    The convoy headed north without any other problems. Driving into Le Buisson, however, Clements suddenly stopped up front – almost giving the Triumph behind a new Suzuki-shaped bonnet ornament. We’d all seen it: an open yard packed full of French classics in varying stages of decay. Seconds later we were rummaging through the Négoce Matériel collection at the invitation of owner André Papillon, who was working under a Renault 8 – swaying gently on the outstretched arms of a forklift. The noticeboard in his office revealed that he knew what he was doing, however, with an impressive display of past rebuilds.

    Back on the road, we headed cross-country and opted to pause for lunch in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne. Steak tartare, galettes and omelettes filled the table, but we soon found ourselves tight on time if we were to complete our supposedly relaxed trek back to Ouistreham.

    “I’ll lead,” announced Port, who then promptly ground to a halt. The cause was clear straight away – muck in the idle circuit of the carburettor – but cleaning the jet and aperture didn’t improve matters. There was little else for it but to raise the idle to prevent stalling and carry on, with as much speed as he could muster. Although the Landie was running fairly unpleasantly, the quartet pulled into the port with minutes to spare – the Series II then doing a decent job of fumigating fellow passengers as it waited in line.

    Murphy’s law meant that the rush was followed by a delay, thanks to a computer failure – a blessing in disguise because, after 45 minutes of queuing and a hand over the carb to create a vacuum, the blockage in the Land-Rover cleared itself and the Series II rumbled onto the ferry with no more than a bit of smoke from the rich running.

    Yet more steak and chips were consumed with a sigh of relief that we’d made it, tinged with sadness that it was all over for another two years, and a few hours later we were welcomed into Portsmouth by a stunning sunset and the sight of the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.

    Pulling into our respective driveways at around midnight, we each reflected by text on the mileage covered (just over 400) and fuel consumption. ‘I’ve used about £48-worth,’ boasted Clements, before expressing his disbelief at the Land-Rover’s £147 bill.

    Yet the Le Mans Classic is worth all of that and much more. It’s an event where friendships are cultivated, belly-laughs are enjoyed and memories made, all in the company of some of the world’s finest classic cars. (And ours.) Martin Port
    THANKS TO Travel Destinations: 08448 730203; traveldestinations.co.uk

    ‘Steak and chips were consumed with a sigh of relief, tinged with sadness that it was over for another two years’

    A gathering of old scrap… poses alongside André Papillon’s collection of classics waiting to be rebuilt or raided for parts.

    Clockwise from top left: first goal achieved, having arrived at Portsmouth ferry terminal; breakfast stop at Combourg; magical sunset bathes La Sarthe; happy campers toast their arrival at superb Travel Destinations campsite with welcome cold beers.

    Clockwise, from above: selection of Djets fronts amazing Matra display on Bugatti Circuit; Balme’s ‘Wooly Bully’ pauses while passengers enjoy a break on eventful run to Le Mans; Whizz at speed (well, at 55mph); Peugeot 504 and period caravan equipe.

    ‘Port set the 55mph pace while Suzuki, Triumph and #BMW shadowed, owners trying to conceal their frustrations’
    Clockwise, from right: Port tries to solve Triumph’s ‘prop on exhaust’ issues; troubles of his own with SII; Renault-8 – no health-and- safety concerns here; team #DRIVE-MY seeks new fleet additions; patinated Impala, just one gem to be found outside the paddock. From far left: Citroën IDs and #Citroen-DS s have seen better days, but still provide parts; Sam Read prepares to pilot the Suzuki for the final leg home; stunning sunset over Portsmouth.
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    CHOP-TOP PROJECT JOINS THE RATPACK / #Ferrari-Ratarossa / #Ferrari-Testarossa / #Ferrari / #Ferrari-V12 / #Ferrari / V12

    FERRARI ‘RATAROSSA
    OWNED BY Scott Chivers
    FROM Wokingham, UK
    FIRST CLASSIC Porsche 912
    DREAM CLASSIC Ferrari F40
    BEST TRIP Le Mans 2015 in my 360 Challenge Stradale – the sound of heaven in long tunnels!

    Three years ago, while looking on the web for an obscure car part, my search returned this unrelated Ferrari Testarossa located in California. It was a project car that had been started (the roof had been chopped off and strengthening added to the chassis), but other than that it was a rolling shell with an engine and gearbox bolted in place, and hadn’t been on the road for well over 20 years.

    I told the seller that anyone else buying his Ferrari was likely to break it for parts because it was worth far more in bits. But I promised him that my sole intention would be to get the Testarossa built and put it back on the road. It arrived a few months later accompanied by two huge wooden crates of parts. At the time I owned another Testarossa coupé, so was lucky enough to use that car as the blueprint for my ‘Ratarossa’.

    Why the unfinished style? Part of the enjoyment of this project was that it didn’t have to be perfect, with its ‘rat’ look, so I just took my time and enjoyed the build. With the two massive crates of parts that came with the car I have been like a kid with a giant puzzle; it’s been a lot of fun and very satisfying figuring out where each item belongs.

    Ferrari made only one official #Ferrari-Testarossa-Spider for #Gianni-Agnelli , and it’s estimated that around 15 more were subsequently converted by aftermarket companies, making these a pretty rare sight. It’s also the car that many believe Ferrari really should have put into production. Obviously there have been a few head-scratching moments. Testarossas are 30 years old now, and the expertise on them has been whittled down to a few gurus worldwide. I have no background or any kind of training in this sort of thing, other than a hobby and passion. For the most part it was on-the-job learning for me.

    I faced a number of difficulties during the build. The engine hadn’t run in many years and the wiring was missing or not connected. My first job was to hear the engine roar once again. With a bit of luck and plenty of perseverance, I was able to bring the #Flat-12 back to life.

    Another challenge I’ve had is getting hold of parts. Many are no longer stocked by Ferrari and I’ve had to source items from around the world wherever available. But it’s amazing what pops up on auction sites across the globe. For example, I picked up a brand-new original dashboard in the correct colour for £180, shipped. If Ferrari still made the dash, it would have cost me £5000.

    Suspension was another massive problem; steel bars had been fabricated and welded into the mid section to reinforce the car’s structure and rigidity where the roof had been chopped off. They did a great job of keeping the car from flexing but the bars’ added weight caused the front end of the Testarossa to lift up. The factory suspension is pre-set and fixed, so I had to work with a suspension company to create custom shocks and springs. Eventually it took three sets of custom springs to get the right height I wanted.

    Other bits I’ve had to modify to work properly on the Spider include the safety belts; even with the original luggage straps behind the seats, the belts had to be anchored differently. Unless you really know Testarossas, however, you’d never spot the changes.

    When the Ferrari first arrived in the UK it was like the Flintstones’ car: there was no floor, wheelarches, carpet etc. It now looks really good and, eventually, I plan to have a mechanically perfect car, in pristine condition under the skin, yet clothed in a ‘rat’ look.

    Although it’s only recently been put back on the road, I have already taken it to a couple of events and really enjoy the reaction the car generates. It’s a bit like Marmite: you either love it or hate it. It doesn’t bother me either way because I built it to have fun! The Ferrari is by no means finished – it’s an ongoing project. I have blogged the build each step of the way, and you can follow my progress at #Drive-My .
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    In for a spot of sword sharpening

    CAR: #1970-Lamborghini-Espada / #Lamborghini-Espada / #1970 / #Lamborghini /

    OWNER: MARK DIXON

    There aren’t many car restoration shops in the UK where you can find not one or two or three, but four Lamborghini Espadas in for work. That’s how many I counted at Cheshire Classic Cars when I popped up recently to check progress on the car I share with friend and colleague Richard Heseltine. There were about the same number of Miuras, too; proprietor Iain Tyrrell knows these V12 Lamborghinis intimately and it was his company that restored the famous Italian Job Miura that was our cover car in #Drive-My .

    Besides being a Lamborghini expert, Iain is a thoroughly nice bloke, so choosing his company to sort a few jobs on our Espada – which is the silver car on the ramp, above; the gold ex-Australian RHD example has just been sold to a customer – was a no-brainer. There’s nothing majorly wrong (we hope!) but there are a number of minor defects, including a couple that came to light during our trip to Le Mans Classic in 2014.

    Among the most serious faults are the rubbish front dampers. The car would ‘porpoise’ at speed on a motorway yet, should you hit a pothole, the relevant damper would seize solid and send a most appalling crash through the car’s structure. It was so bad that we were afraid it would crack the windscreen.

    Then there’s the exhaust system. The centre boxes are genuine Lamborghini and may have been on the car since new – it has covered less than 70,000km since 1970 – so they’ve started to perforate, while the pipes aft of them have been badly crushed by clumsy jacking. It’s amazing the car has been performing as well as it did, considering the restriction in gas flow. We’ve asked Iain to replace the centre boxes with straight pipes, partly for cost reasons but mainly because we’d like to liberate some more #V12 howl – the Espada sounds just a bit too refined.

    Structurally, the car is in amazingly good condition. It’s had one repaint, probably in the early ’90s, to a very high standard, but there are a couple of rust bubbles on wheelarch lips that need catching now before they get any worse. It appears to be perfect underneath, as the picture, right, of the nearside front inner arch shows, and Iain assures us that it is an extremely good example.

    And that is causing us some heartache. Do we keep the car a while longer or sell it now, in the hope of realising a return on what we paid for it two years ago? Both Richard and I are contemplating house moves this year – different houses; we’re not that good friends! – and money is tight. On the other hand, we’d really like to do a proper European road trip and live the dream.

    Whatever the outcome, it will be a tough decision, because we’re both still utterly besotted with this sexy, fabulous, underrated machine.
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    Renewing the vows

    OWNER: Glen Waddington

    CAR: #1989-BMW-320i-Convertible / #1989 / #BMW-320i-Convertible / #BMW-320i-Convertible-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-M20 / #M20B20 / #BMW-320i-E30 / #BMW-320i / #BMW-E30 / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet / #BMW-E30-M20 / #BMW-E30-Cabriolet-M20 / #BMW-3-Series-E30 / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio / #BMW-3-Series-Cabrio-E30 / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet / #BMW-320i-Cabriolet-E30

    Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that the Beemer is 28 years old. The body’s in such fine (and still original) fettle, it’s such a vivacious drive, and it’s still got less than 50k on the clock. I love it to bits, but I use it sparingly.

    A little too sparingly over the last year, though. Life got in the way, in exactly the manner described by John Simister in his How to reconnect with your classic piece in #Drive-My . The 320i had languished over winter yet flew through its MoT in April, though when I wanted to press it into service for a rare romantic weekend away with Mrs W, a shudder through the steering the night before we headed off put paid to that. And I’d already been putting up with a non-functioning heater blower for 14 months or so. So I booked it in for a once-over with my mate Stuart Templeton.

    The night before it headed off to Templeton’s Garage (www. templetonsgarage.co.uk) I washed and buffed the bodywork: step 1 of the reconnection. And it came back a few days later, following a short service and with the maladies rectified (step 2).

    The shaky wheel? A seized brake caliper was the culprit, as Stuart had diagnosed on the phone. With that replaced (on exchange), plus a new blower motor, the Beemer was back to singing along. Just in time for the early-June heatwave.

    And so step 3 of the reconnection was suddenly there for the taking: get back out and enjoy the car, reminding myself what it was I always loved about it in the first place.

    This is our seventh summer together. I always said it’d be a keeper. And that remains true, especially now it’s running that little bit sweeter – amazing what fresh oil can do, even if it’s all in the mind. And yes, I’d swear it’s that little bit faster too.

    As a family, the four of us headed down to the Goodwood Festival of Speed in the Beemer, roof-down for the stretch across the Downs from Winchester. Reconnection complete.
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    / #Citroen-GSA-Spécial / #Citroen-GSA / #Citroen-GS / #Citroen

    CAR: Citroën GSA Spécial
    Run by David Evans
    Owned since March 2007
    Total mileage 105,006
    Miles since February
    report 1353
    Latest costs £204

    PARIS REMATCH FOR RENDEZVOUS

    There’s nothing quite like La Traversée, the massed drive around Paris organised by Vincennes en Anciennes. It’s the sort of brilliantly orchestrated chaos that only the French can get away with. I was in two minds about doing ‘the Crossing’ this January, though – after the dreadful weather there and back last year – but I inevitably found myself drawn back to the website over the Christmas break. Alcohol may have been involved. Registrations had closed, so I e-mailed the club’s ever-helpful PR-person Anne Quémy, who kindly sent me a press pass by return. The Eurotunnel is cheap off-peak, so I booked a train. As for accommodation, Hugh and Anne Thompson, who I’d met on the 2017 Traversée – friends of my old mates Brian and Pat Buckett – recommended a good hotel just around the corner from the start.


    That just left the car, which had a couple of runs out over the festive period to Romsey on Boxing Day and Vintage Stony, both of which were heaving. After inadvertently finding a standing lake on the way to Stony Stratford – followed by a bow wave – the car (rather than the owner) developed an odd groaning sound. It went away with the clutch down, and seemed to have cleared by the time I stopped to investigate why I had been flashed a few times. The right-hand rear sidelight was on but the bulb had dulled and the numberplate lamp wasn’t working, although that was a broken earth.

    To be on the safe side, I booked the car into Chevronics, after mentioning the noise to mechanical guru Port. He suggested water in a bearing (having had a similar experience) and Rob Moss agreed, but there was no trace of it when he test-drove YLC. Next on the list was the dashboard, which was in darkness apart from the speedo. As Rob pointed out, it can take a while to repair a module and, as I’ve found in the past, any time that you remove it, something else always stops working. It was beyond my capabilities anyway, needing careful soldering, but was as good as Blackpool’s Illuminations when I turned on the ignition that night. So we were all set for France.

    Fog and freezing rain had put me off venturing into central Laon 12 months ago, but this year I had a brief look around the beautiful mediaeval town and its Gothic masterpiece, Notre-Dame Cathedral. It’s also a fine route nationale run from there to Paris via the N2.

    Come the following morning, as I opened the window at 5:30am, it was chucking it down. And it was still raining as everyone gathered at Château de Vincennes, but fortunately it eased off as we convoyed along nearby Avenue Daumesnil.

    I vowed to keep with a few cars, having got lost last year, and mostly followed the route book to make it to the photo opportunity at the Sacré-Coeur steps. There was a space right behind a mint Renault 16TX, in fact, so it would have been rude not to stop. Shortly afterwards I met up with #Drive-My freelancer Julian Parish (who used to live in central Paris), so he took over directions and helped with translation when we met characters along the way. “You and Pressnell, always buying French cars!” exclaimed Jean-Jacques Dieumegard as we admired his Jensen Interceptor II at Les Invalides (see Your events).

    Now it’s always a treat to take the Citroën ‘home’, so thank you to everyone for their comments about the car – from the young bloke with an ’1984 Citroen BX at the start, to the chap at Place de la Concorde who’d owned a GSA when he was 30. It prompted a round of applause as we left there, acknowledged with a few toots.

    Julian helpfully led me to the Périphérique, having told me how to avoid the busiest part, and I made it to Calais an hour earlier than anticipated. Roll on the next one…

    THANKS TO

    Δ Anne Quémy and everyone else at Vincennes en Anciennes
    Δ Hugh and Anne Thompson
    Δ The Chevronic Centre: 01462 455280; www.chevronics.co.uk

    Two of France’s greatest landmarks: the Sacré-Coeur basilica and, right, Laon Cathedral. Inset: Thierry Dubois’ brilliant artwork for La Traversée.

    Module is easier to extract with wheel out. Delicate flexi-circuitry needed soldering. GSA spotted in Romsey by Oliver Edwards.
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    Long-term test 2017-BMW-i8 The same but different

    CAR: #2017-BMW-i8 / #BMW-i8 / #2017 / #BMW / #BMW-i3

    OWNER: MARK DIXON

    Love or loathe’em, hybrids are here to stay – although it’s more than 20 years since the Toyota Prius was launched and you do have to wonder whether the public would have embraced hybrids sooner if they’d looked more like spaceships and less like painted vegetables.

    Fact is, as I was always banging on about when I ran my first-generation Honda Insight (now sold; see), hybrids can be a lot of fun to drive. We’ve been running an i3 on the mag for a few months now, and all of us have relished the intellectual challenge of using its regenerative charging system to the max – and, less intellectually, the childish thrill of swooshing past other drivers by surfing the i3’s remarkable wave of torque.

    Interesting car though it is, the i3 has its limitations. It’s intended to be a city car but several of us live a considerable distance from the office, which means that a one-way drive will exhaust a full electrical charge – and the tiny range-extending petrol engine only gives you another 70 miles. Charging the car at home from a domestic supply can take up to 15 hours, and if you live in a flat, like me, you’re stuffed.

    Which is why we were keen to try the i3’s bigger brother, the i8. It’s a completely different kind of car: a GT with supercar performance that promises supermini economy. Yes, it’s a petrol-electric hybrid, but you can choose to run the i8 on petrol all the time (unlike the i3), using its turbocharged three-cylinder 1.5-litre engine – nicked from the entry-level Mini, can you believe – with added oomph supplied by the electric motor. A 1.5-litre triple may not sound exciting, but 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds tells a different story.

    Talking of exciting sounds, the i8 is a bit of a fibber in that its sporty exhaust note (which sounded a bit racing #V8-like , to these ears) is artificial and piped into the cabin. Shame! But that doesn’t detract too much. The #BMW-i8 is not just blisteringly fast, it feels genuinely special, and at night its cabin is streaked with blue-LED curves in a very spaceship manner.

    The one feature about the i8 guaranteed to divide opinion is the gullwing doors. They look super-cool but, leave the car in a typical British car park, come back to find someone has parked either side of you, and you may not be able to open them wide enough to get in. You have to be pretty athletic to climb in and out of the lowslung seats with any decorum, too – which rules out much of the #Drive-My team.

    For that reason, my colleague Glen said that he’d rather spend his hypothetical 100 grand on a 911. I take his point but I’d still have an i8. After all, who doesn’t want to pilot a spaceship?
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