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|History '96 Dave Tongue|
Eddie Tee, Neil Grenyer and I were driving my 1850 Dolomite. We got to Enfield in good time and looked around at the marvellous examples in the car park. Setting off at about 7pm, the first stop at Blyth Services was reached about 9.30 without much happening. Not so Andy Everett whose Sprint’s fan blade came off and “head butted” the radiator – not a pretty sight! Despite acquiring another rad – it was the wrong sort – so it was the end of the road for Andy. What a disappointment at such an early stage. Neil then drove the next section up to Corbridge, a sleepy little place suddenly taken over by Triumphs wanting petrol at just gone midnight – very brave! Eddie then took over for some er … spirited driving up to Scotland and Edinburgh Airport. Eddie saying he was surprised at the amount of performance it had and that it felt like it would carry on going all night! Just mark those words.
At Edinburgh we did the normal checks and I noticed the inner wall of the offside wheel was shiny as if it had been boot polished. On checking wheel cylinders, brake pipes, etc, nothing appeared amiss. Checking the oil level we only had about ½-litre left in the engine, so evidently it was leaking from somewhere and then spraying the underside. On further inspection the oil appeared to be coming from the “letter box” below the thermostat housing. This was not good because it meant the water pump ‘O’ ring was broken, allowing it to spill out at an alarming rate. This was confirmed by fellow Dolomite man Jim Webb who then said he had a good water pump with ‘O’ ring and even the extractor tool needed for the job. Now, the thought of stripping the top half of the engine to replace the notoriously difficult to get out water pump and having engine parts all over the shop outside Edinburgh Airport on a cold night at 3am didn’t really appeal. So we bought a small amount of oil and pressed on. Oh, how I wished I hadn’t and listened to Jim Webb’s advice. Thanks again Jim – next time I’ll take your advice!
So Perth was reached by about 4.30am. More oil was bought and after a couple of caffeine injections we pressed on with me driving onto the A9 heading for Thrumster, due about 9.30am. WE NEVER MADE IT!! Going up the A9 we were keeping up with a pack of 2000s including Nigel Gair, Jayne Sparkes and Paul Peake. Then half way up a hill the car started losing power and pinking. The temperature gauge was going up and the engine started knocking. I pulled over and raised the bonnet. Steam everywhere, the expansion tank bubbling like a hot kettle and the underside dripping with hot oil. We were about 15 miles south of Inverness. Run over.
We called the AA on a mobile. At about 7.15 we were picked up by a “very nice man” and trailered to Glasgow – change of trailer. Then to Carlisle – change of trailer, then all the way back to West Wickham non-stop at about 60mph, save for a stop near Birmingham for a particularly greasy “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. On the way back, however, Neil suggested, having given up the weekend for driving, that we continue the event in his 2000 Mk.1, meeting up with the others in Bristol. We were all for it! So we transferred all the tools to Neil’s car. Eddie’s girl friend wasn’t well, so he went home and then there were two.
Neil and I set off again at about 11pm arriving at Gordano at about 2.24am. We followed the Practical Classics Sprint into the car park. Signing in as car 63, eyebrows were raised: “we heard you had dropped out in Scotland”. Even more eyebrows were raised when we told our story. None more so than Tony Beadle of Triumph World fame who noted details of our event so far. We might even get a mention!
After an excellent fry-up we set off for Land’s End with me driving. 2000 Mk.1 … ah … I’ll have a go. Having never driven one of these before, let along a “6 pot” I must say now how impressed I was with it. It’s very comfortable, surprisingly nippy for an automatic, but most of all the handling was superb compared with the Toledos and Dolomites I’d been used to. How can a car designed in the early 60s handle better than one designed ten years later? Oh for I.R.S. on a Dolomite!
A couple of miles outside Land’s End we caught up with the Triumph World 2000 Mk.1, also in white. Another fry-up and lots of good conversation about the event was definitely the order of the day. The next stage was completed without incident. At Dorchester I met Yogi Gay, the new contributor to the magazine’s “Particular Triumphs” section, for the FWD cars and I wish him luck with this. Between Dorchester and Fleet we developed a vibration and found a loose front wheel bearing which was repacked with grease and tightened up by 3 or 4 guys in a 2000 Mk.11. Sorry I didn’t get your names, but thanks.
We made it back to Enfield in one piece, much relieved to have finished. My Dolomite did about 600 miles and Neil about 900. My car was serviced before the event (though you can’t account for internal problems), but Neil’s car wasn’t even washed. Both cars will be back on the road soon having visited the Triumph hospital that is Classic Triumph Services.
Thanks to everyone involved. Roll on 1998 I say!! Though (touch wood) I hope it’s not as eventful next time.
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