D uring a recent short break down on the Rock of Gibraltar, a friend offered the use of his 1998 1.4-litre petrol engined Peugeot 206. Although rather battered, the 1.4-litre engine ran very well and the gearbox was smooth as silk. It was a great chance to enjoy a car that is certain to become a good useable classic in the very near future.
Soon after I arrived, another pal, Dennis Durham, called me to say that, as usual on Wednesday afternoons, he would be going with my friend Patrick across the border and driving up to Soto Grande in Spain for afternoon tea with Hector Capurro, a local classic car collector. This weekly get together at Hector’s place is something of a ritual in this part of the world, so when Dennis told me that he and Patrick would pick me up at 4pm next Wednesday, I didn’t argue.
Dennis owns several classics including an Austin 8, Austin A35, MGB, Rolls Royce Silver Seraph and a trusty1986 W123 Mercedes 300 five-cylinder diesel estate he uses all the time. On Wednesday at 4pm, Dennis’ rather scratched and paint faded Mercedes swooped into the car park. Patrick and I climbed in and off we drove. Soon after crossing the border and entering Spain, the road opened up into a wide dual carriageway.
As we headed up a long hill the usually reliable Mercedes 2878cc diesel suddenly died. As Denis guided the car towards the three-foot wide Spanish excuse for a hard shoulder, the engine picked up again. Crisis over? Not really, as just a few yards further on the car spluttered and died again.
Patrick suggested a blocked fuel filter, at which Dennis nodded and picked up a spare filter he had in the central glove box. Like all of us, it was something he’d meant to deal with but hadn’t.
Thinking that it would be safer to get to the top of the hill where there was a minor road to pull onto where he could then change the filter, Dennis managed to restart the Merc and began to chug forward.
Suddenly, a rather irate Policeman appeared at his window and asked why we were trying to get away from him. Dennis had simply not seen the copper pull up behind him and beamed his broadest smile and said: “Officer, now really, do I look like a man that would run from the Police?”
Eventually, after something resembling a scene from a 1960s Brian Rix farce, Dennis managed to coax the Merc up the hill and off the main road as well as pacifying the law.
Once we had piled out of the car, Dennis opened the Merc’s big bonnet and still grinning widely, pulled a screwdriver out of his pocket. The fuel in the old filter was simply black, but within ten minutes Dennis had undone the fuel lines and fitted the new filter. The engine restarted fairly easily although the fuel coming through was still rather contaminated. Dennis said he was aware of the problem and after 197,660 miles he reckoned that the tank was entitled to be a bit dirty. Cleaning out the tank would be a job for another day.
Ten minutes later we pulled up outside Hector’s house. Hector is an amazingly active 93 year old and showed us his Rover 2000 that he recently purchased and the Rolls Royce Phantom II on which he has been carrying out repairs to the steering. We then joined the other dozen or so regulars around Hector’s big oak table where we were served tea, croissants and cake – colonial customs for ex-pat petrolheads. Driving back to Gib, I got to thinking how our classic world is just terrific.
Suddenly, a rather irate Policeman appeared at his window and asked why we were trying to get away
With the Mercedes off the road, the problem is assessed.
Pulling the fuel line into view revealed the clogged filter.
Dennis sets to with screwdriver to remove the old filter.
With the diesel running sweetly again, it’s smiles all round.
The culprit, full of contaminated dirty fuel.
Ninety-three year old Gibraltarian Hector Capurro, maintains all his own classics.