We left day 2 in much the same place as we left day 1: a leaking Citroen and a plan formulated over drinks on how to fix it (with the minor detour of an overheating Fiat).
Now, while Duurtlang is clearly bonkers for catching air in the Citroen, he’s paradoxically also rather sensible. During the previous day he’d been scoping out garages near to where we were staying and we arranged some time on a lift to have a poke around.
Luckily, the very helpful mechanic chappy managed to spot what it was. Or, at least, he discovered a random little tube coming from the strut that wasn’t connected to anything. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like there was much around for it to connect to...
Hum. What to do?
Oh wait. Didn’t we see a BX in the hedge just outside the garage?
Lets have a look at that and see if we can find where that hose goes.
Turns out that the misc hose on mine was one of the return lines from the struts which went to an MIA t-piece connecting both struts to a line running back to the reservoir.
Luckily, this was one of the things I had foreseen and had brought a box of varied t-pieces with me. A little jiggery-pokery with some scrap diesel return line the mechanic had lying around and we had a fixed Citroen!
So off we go again! Late, as usual, but on our way with a fixed Citroen :)
Today was the day when we were leaving the Brecon Beacons and travelling up to the second cottage in Snowdonia. Still a brilliant drive set out for us by Chinny Raccoon. I’d been endlessly impressed by how well the little Fiat performed on these twisty Welsh roads next to the much more powerful MX5, the BRZ which handled like it was on rails, and the MGF which wasn’t far behind the first two.
Power: neck and neck with the MGF
Handling and roadholding: keeps up fine with the 5 and F, and only just behind the BRZ which stuck to the road like it was on rails...or had a bonkers driver...or both)
Brakes: [i]Not quite so good.[/i]
Yeah. Definitely [i]not quite so good[/i].
What happened here is the BRZ, MX5, MGF and Fiat had all been sticking pretty close to each other down this brilliant winding country road. Up ahead there lay a really nasty little section. Three sweepers followed by a little crest then a sharp 90-degree left with some water runoff from the field it skirted.
The BRZ met this 90-degree corner, sharply put on its generously sized anchors, heaved left and made it round.
The MX5 met this 90-degree corner, sharply put on its big 4-pot brakes, heaved left and made it round. Just.
The MGF met this 90-degree corner, sharply put on its big 4-pot brakes, heaved left and made it round. Just.
The Fiat met this 90-degree corner, sharply put on its upspecced but not brilliant brakes, didn’t slow down enough before it hit the water runoff, locked the fronts and plowed straight ahead through the hedge and fence into a field the other side.
Negotiated it out of the field, paid the rather irritated farmer not to call the police (I gathered it wasn’t his first rodeo), mended the fence I broke with some rope we had, and limped it to the nearest town for a tea to calm the nerves and to assess the damage.
I reckon the left hand side took down one of the fence posts as the tie rod was bent fully 45-degrees, meaning I had some mad toe out. Like ‘right wheel pointing straight, left wheel halfway through its arc’. Not much we can do about that at the moment. Radiator pushed back 4" or so, but seemed to be intact. However, one of the coolant hoses under the car had been split and was leaking a fair amount of coolant.
Ok, so first thing’s first let’s have a go at fixing the coolant leak.
The leak itself was actually pretty straight forwards. Loosen the clamps and slide the hose up a little bit so a good section of hose was bridging the gap between the metal pipes. So far so good.
The [i]real[/i] issue came when we went to bleed it. See, the bleed screw on the radiator is only accessible from under the bonnet...which we couldn’t open because the nose cone panel had been pushed up over it. I’d also bought a load of coolant after the near-overheat...which I’d sensibly put in the front boot.
We tried knocking it forwards with a hammer but it wouldn’t budge. Next up was to try prying it forwards with a hammer and later a crowbar a very friendly biker chap lent us, leading to this particularly distressing gif Duurtlang made:
That got us precisely nowhere, so the next step was to punch a hole through the panel with a screwdriver, and use tin-snips to scissor along the front, allowing us to push the top of the panel down and pull the back of the panel forwards. That led to this even more distressing video:
That did, at last, allow us to get the bonnet open.
Unfortunately, because the rad was pushed back we needed more cutting to get to the bleed screw which was now 4" further back than it used to be. This, my friends decided, was the ideal time for some humour ;)
Some liberal application of duct tape later and we were finally ok to get on our way :)
Before that though, coolant to clean up, curry across the road and some phone calls to make. Before I left for Wales I was speaking to some very helpful people at a company called Eurosport who specialise in X1/9 parts. I rang them up and explained the situation: road trip in Wales, put the fiat through a tree, bent a tie rod. Is there anything they can do to help?
I’d just caught them before their chap took their last batch of deliveries off to the post office that day, and asked if they could send it overnight. Brilliant people they are they got that sorted :) 9am the next day, we’d have a replacement tie rod!
Silver lining: I can now say I’ve overnighted parts from another country (Norwich to Wales, but it counts!).
Still had another 50 miles to go until we got to the cottage, but we got there. Managed to scrub off most of the inside tread of my tyre on the way (initially I thought it was wind noise...but no...it’s my tyre squealing along on the road).
11pm we arrived at the cottage and set to work. Fiat up in the air...
...and bent tie rod off, ready for when the new one arrived tomorrow.
Still, provided the evening’s entertainment, and the sheets of cardboard cleverly brought along by Chinny Raccoon were much appreciated!
Part 4, coming up next! Will we have a day when something won’t go wrong?!