Con­ti­nen­tal petrol­heads

Classics Monthly - - Driver's Diary -

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.

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