Weird, weird, weird.
Regular readers/ victims will know that I’m an exexpat, a Brit re-re-locating from Canada to Scotland after a mostly happy couple of decades in British Columbia. In the last couple of years, the structural deterioration of the too- close USA, new and actively dangerous fire and flood conditions in BC, increasing corruption and gouging, 5000 new houses in what was previously a pleasingly comatose little village – okay, I get the message. Time to move on.
Another developing problem around my previous home has been that all the little one-storey workshops that once provided homes for machine shops, radiator guys, windscreen guys, instrument guys and so on are worth many times more money as little blocks of trendy flats, and as expertise has retired or moved too far away, it was getting increasingly difficult for me in my Ayrspeed Bentleyspecial-building persona to get anything done. Also, anything ordered from the UK attracted shipping parasites like clouds of mosquitoes. So while British Columbia may still be a paradise for buying classic British sports cars – 95% of MGAs were sent to North America for example and many are still there – it’s becoming a nightmare for restoring, building or repairing them.
You might have read about the 1947 Bentley, the 1957 Bentley, the brewing ally boat-tailed Beast special, the TR6 Cobra, the RSP Mini Cooper, the Jeep Cherokee, the Mini Marcos, the Chevy van, the MX5 and the Triumph Bonneville. I liked them all, but there had to be a cull. The yellow 1992 MX5, the TR6based Cobra, the Japanesespec air- conditioned 1990 Mini Cooper, and finally the faithful and unkillable Jeep all ambled off with new owners. The rest were gradually prepped for shipping to the UK. The Chevy van was actually bought after the repatriation decision had been made, hence its 1981 date. Annual MoTs are a fine idea, but paying road tax does not appeal, and nor does anything newer anyway.
The 1947 Bentley was the first to be shipped, and I sent that well ahead. It was delivered to MkVI expert Dan Moore in Whittlesey for some maintenance that had been deferred for 60 years or so, and was UK-registered while at his workshop. It has not
yet had the engine rebuild it needs, so its prodigious thirst for fuel is matched by demands for oil. One bonus of this is that I am rarely tailgated – my exhaust is too smelly, so the BMW/Audi/ white van boys keep a respectful distance. If they don’t, I just back off the throttle to suck some oil down the valve guides and then burn it. The resultant rich blue-black cloud of smoke clears the tailgaters nicely. In any case, it seems fair for a British car to emit clouds of poisonous gas rather than only German diesels being allowed to do it.
When we landed, I was using the Bentley a lot, and living on a boat in a marina while we looked for a house. The MkVI was intermittently misfiring quite a bit, and I assumed that it was caused by the burning oil fouling the plugs. This impression was reinforced by the fact that the engine ran better after I fitted a fresh set of plugs at a thousand miles or so. All joking aside, such oil-burning antics are not to be condoned or lauded of course, so I retired the Bentley into storage in Norfolk for a while and bought a modern (2005) Fiesta. Classic car insurance requires one to have a daily driver too anyway.
Then some more of the menagerie arrived, shipped from Vancouver via the USA, the Panama Canal and the Atlantic to Southampton and on to wherever I could find to put them in the UK to await registration. This is where it gets weird as two worlds are colliding. Suddenly I’m looking at my daily- driver Chevy van not in the space and sunshine of British Columbia, but in my friend Bob’s Surrey garden, still with its Canadian licence plates, and it looks huge.
The Mini Marcos arrived in Norfolk. Weirdly I had never actually driven my Mini Marcos. I got it out of a barn ten years back, but it never got to the front of the queue, so I gave up and had Mini friend Mike Smith in Victoria assemble it for me. The Marcos has a custom and fairly cheeky 1100 engine along with a 40DCOE Weber with smaller venturis. I now drove it briefly and it was sharp, rude and very harsh even with new Smootharide suspension cones. The weirdest thing though is that since leaving Canada, the negative terminal on the battery has melted off. I’ve never seen anything like it before. The positive terminal was slightly loose too; somebody must have tried to jump-start it from a Boeing or something. The new, expensive, lightweight, miniature racing battery is toast, but the car starts fine with a cable to the positive and another to earth.
As I only have three spaces in the barn and it already contains Beast 1 and the spares Rolls chassis, the unregistered Mini Marcos was now evicting the Bentley so I had to take it away. As I now finally have an address other than ‘care of motor yacht Wee Energie, Rhu Marina, Argyll and Bute,’ I could take the Bentley home. This was a mixture of excellent and horrible. When the engine was running well and I was cruising across the Pennines in cool sunshine, driving a favourite car with the suspension and steering recently overhauled and enjoying my new countryside not being on fire or even smelling of smoke, it was sublime. When it poured down with rain harder than my one hand- operated wiper could cope with and the engine was misfiring at one point badly enough to pull over, it was not quite so enjoyable.
I cleaned and changed the plugs again by the wet roadside, and then focussed. They’re not actually that bad, the plugs. A bit rich, and one is carbony, but they’re just not bad enough to intermittently cripple the car. I wonder if it could be something as simple as a duff condenser?