The previous posts have already shown you what horrors befell the peaceful Welsh countryside at the end of March, I just want to share my personal experience here.
Preparations began Friday afternoon with washing the car, where I met this British bloke (a sign?) who told me some weird stories of his last visit to Wales, checking tire pressure and loading the car with local beer.
Started off relatively early on Saturday and picked up Multipla Orgasms (Who really has a “crisis” when he sees a pre-facelift Multipla) several hours later about half way to Rotterdam. At a Dutch service station we encountered this sorry looking Senator which was strapped to the trailer through the rust holes. Seems safe-ish. In Rotterdam we were greeted by DutchieDC2R who had dinner ready and a fridge full of cold beers. Knowing his address but having never been there, we had to reverse and go back in his street to find his house, where he was already waiting for us outside. “I heard an I6 engine and knew it was you guys.” Opponauts really are car nerds, I guess. After dinner he showed us around Rotterdam in his heavily modified Integra. I learned a lesson on stiffer motor mounts that day.
The next morning we bid farewell to DutchieDC2R and headed onto the channel. We couldn’t decide whether we wanted to take a ferry or the train, so we just typed in our next stop and let google decide which it thought was best. We ended up at the train/tunnel thingy. And no, I have no idea what that vehicle was we were stuck behind at check-in.
Having used the ferry several times but never the train this was interesting.
You basically drive into a double decker train until traffic come to a stop, put it in park, and wait while the doors between the carts close.
Note how clean the car is, this was about to change soon.
As soon there was nothing but black to see through the extremely dirty windows we consulted the owner’s manual and changed the headlights over to RHD. Remove plug, flip a little lever, done. This saved me from having to put stickers on the headlights like the other continental Opponauts. They look like you put googly eyes on your car and you have to deal with glue residue afterwards.
Unfortunately the effect is the same. Instead of mirroring the beam pattern it just blocks the light that would otherwise blind oncoming traffic, leaving you with a black spot in front of the car. With the swiveling headlights it’s OK in right hand turns but even worse in left ones. The one time I had to drive in the dark I was more than happy to just follow TwingoTamer’s taillights.
Once we got hungry we stopped at a service station and as soon as I saw this I had to park next to it. Pre-LCI 535d with the same wheels I run during the summer. I had hoped to put them on before the meet but snow just a few days before I left made that impossible. I later found out that 16 inch wheels with lots of sidewall instead of 18 inch ones with less were just perfect for what we were going to do.
We stopped for the night at Chinny Raccoon’s place and met with Duurtlang, Rustholes, Out with a ZW30, Gmporschenut (who flew over from the US for this thing!!!!!!) and DocBRZ. Beers were had, cars were talked about and after a nice breakfast we headed off to meet the rest of the gang at a nearby supermarket parking lot.
We parked at one end, the others were waiting for us at the other end but we finally got the cars together and headed off.
We later stopped for lunch, and as you might already know the BX started to piss hydraulic fluid. In true Top Gear fashion, those who weren’t any help anyway headed off further into the Welsh countryside to meet increasingly interesting roads which made for some technical driving.
Chinny Raccoon had scoped them out earlier, and shared the routes via google maps and other sources to be downloaded on all kinds of navigational devices. He put tons of work into that and I can not thank him enough for doing so.
But being the daft blokes we are, me and Multipla didn’t really try that out and just used the old technique of “follow that car, now, fast….”
At some point we, for no particular reason other than that we could, passed Chinny Raccoon and now the only car in sight was the BRZ, which was piloted by a lunatic. Having to chase that maniac with at least half a ton of weight to my disadvantage was great fun and I was more than pleased that the fat pig could keep up. Two cylinders and a liter more of displacement for the win?
The fun and games ended when we hit a bump hard enough to catch air while a pothole caught the right front wheel to send the cars spinning in mid air. I saw the BRZ doing that in front of me but couldn’t do anything than get off the gas a little. Having left all the acronyms on (yes, they can be completely disabled in an E61) saved our asses. Total code brown moment! Which was promptly followed by another one less than 30 seconds when a farm tractor came the other way. These and and fading brakes which started to smell badly were a clear sign that we shouldn’t keep up that pace for the next four days.
So I was more than happy when Out with a ZW30 kindly offered me to follow him in his MR (being a French version it’s not a Mister Two, just a Mister). We formed a little subgroup with Chinny Raccoon and drove the following days together. It was a perfectly working little unit. Chinny flogging his Ignis like mad man set a good pace which was good fun on these twisty roads but always left a tiny margin for error. The MR had a bit of a power to weight ratio advantage so Out had no problems following Chinny. I had to wrestle a two ton beast around tight corners, which according to Out looks a bit sketchy in the rearview mirror, but could somehow keep up and sometimes close a developing gap on the very few straights.
When everybody was getting ready to set off after a meet up, we jumped into our cars and set off first so as not to have slower cars in front of us. Which meant that we were the first to arrive at meeting points as well, like at the Cross Foxes a lovely pub in the middle of nowhere where we had lunch the day we moved from Brecon Beacons in the south to Snowdonia in the north.
That being said, we were always more than happy when we heard engines in the distance and happily waited to see who would turn up. Like when we met Schaefft, Twingo Tamer, BiTurbo’s gang, GMporschenut, and the guy in the Elise 111R (whom I blatantly stole this pic from) at a dam.
Taking this “family picture” took a while, though. Much like “getting the band back together”, there’s always this guy who has to finish his solo project first.
On this very day, the downside of low ride height also reared its ugly head. On what felt more like a rally stage than a road, the Turbo5 (that thing has a seriously big turbo, hp rumoured to be at 250 at THE WHEELS, it spins the rear wheels in 5th gear) developed an exhaust leak right at a weld joint. In true Roadkill fashion it got sealed up in a Halfords parking lot (Halfords = AutoZone, or similar). My inner German really admires BiTurbo’s gang’s efficiency. They were in and out of there in less than 30 minutes.
They displayed the same efficiency after they finally nursed the wounded Fiat back to the cottage late at night. We were actually getting a bit worried, but they all made it back safe and the boys instantly started working on the car so as to have a head start should the part arrive in the morning.
And it did! BiTurbo even set an alarm to wake him up early to get it installed. It worked perfectly at waking everybody except him. EVERY FUCKING 15 MINUTES!!!
Luckily 4MuddyFeet was at least able to meet up for two days in an MG B he borrowed from a mate. As the pic might indicate, he’s not really a petite fella, so it was quite funny watching him in that thing. Especially with the top down. He also brought our stickers, or they were delivered to him at cottage together with the overnight parts from
Japan Ipswich for the wounded Fiat.
I think they look especially well on BRG.
While some were working on the Fiat and the others watching, Schaefft decided to do a little soft roading. He missed the drive way to the cottage and decided to do a three point turn in the worst possible place for a RWD car on semi slicks. After everybody was done taking pictures 4MuddyFeet gave him a gentle push.
We also went indoor karting. I came second to last, but at least my lap times were improving. Having never driven one of these before, I got from “the fuck is this?” to “fuck it I’m too tall for this shit, but I’ll throw a down a fight before you lap me”.
Next to the second cottage was a former cooling lake for a former nukular power plant. And no, we didn’t take a swim to gain superpowers. Or did we?
On the last night some awards were given to be displayed on the winners’ cars.
On Friday we tried to get everybody lined up for a group picture, but Duurtlang came in a little too hot and we had to play with the BX’s party piece.
Changing a tire on that thing is easy when you already have jack stands.
This little guy sat in a shop window across the street from the local garage/Land Rover specialist/petrol station which had two pumps. One with diesel, one with unleaded petrol of some kind.
(Pic blatantly stolen from Chinny Raccoon)
While others were heading north into Scotland a group of Continental Europpos went south towards the ferry/tunnel. We stayed for a night near Worcester before visiting the British Motor Museum at Gaydon, which will get its own post soon.
Before handing the BX back to its rightful owner we treated it to a handwash as we didn’t trust all the trim pieces to stay in place in the drive thru. Having sat outside for years, this made it look much better. The guys thought it was a practical joke, though.
After spending the night at BiTurbo’s place, where we saw the famous Frankenspit (impressive!!), Multipla and I hopped on the train and went back to our old lives. 11/10 would do again!
Also, bringing a reliable, yet somewhat boring, car means that you can drive ALL THE ROADS and don’t have to take shortcuts to meet up again.
Edit: Why does strike through not work with headlines?