Saturday, 25 October 2008
One step closer
At 18:45 on Friday evening I jumped aboard the Swansea train from Paddington. As soon as it started moving sat down in a seat that was reserved from London but had nobody in it, and waited for the inspector to come along and sell me a ticket. Two and a half hours later I arrived at Bridgend and got off, still without having been sold a ticket. RESULT! I saved £59 thanks to the lack of an inspector.
I took a cab to Mucker's house, dropped off my stuff and went out to get beers.
In the morning he took me on the back of his bike to Chris's place and Althea. It was the first time I've been on a motorbike in over 20 years and though he rode carefully and slowly I still hate riding pillion especially going round corners. Not enough wheels on motorbikes.
I woke Chris up and we discovered that the battery was flat and not taking a charge very well. My car had been dropped off at his house after being repaired (see two entries ago). However when I put the key in the door it was twisted and cracked so I popped across the road to the garage and after a short lesson in logic, reason and good business practice they agreed to send a boy into town to get me a new key cut. I took their courtesy car and we went to buy a battery. Chris took me to the place where he'd bought the exhaust parts and we got one for over £100 less than it would have been at Halfords. RESULT!
We put the wing mirrors on (not without some last minute "why wasn't this done ages ago" from me). Chris climbed into the back and I very carefully and gingerly inched Althea through the gates and down the lane onto the road. For the first time I was driving her on the road and it was GREAT! The brakes are deadly, the clutch takes three strong men to depress it fully and the steering is like dragging a bag of coal up a ladder. The seat is too high and too far forward so my left knee is wedged against the wheel and the engine hood. The engine is in the Cab remember so the noise is pretty bad too. The indicators are on a large wobbly flappy switch and the window wash is two pathetic little fountains that bubble up a bit in front of the screen. When she's moving the gears are very difficult to change and bits did drop off inside as we went along. There was a popping sparking sound too which we couldn't trace. When we got into 4th gear and started climbing a hill I noticed so much thick white smoke coming from the exhaust that everything behind us was invisible for about 2 miles but it soon cleared up. Chris said this is because the engine has been standing for a while.
Almost straight away other road users and pedestrians started looking, smiling and even waving. Hardly anyone we passed didn't react in a positive way. Althea's charm was working its magic on everyone as I had suspected she might. When we got to the garage the MOT guys jaw dropped. "What the *!ck is that?!" he said. At first he was genuinely shocked but once we'd established that she'd fit on the rolling road he set about her with his list of tests and we headed off to the Cafe.
When we got back he was just discovering that the King pins were worn and that means a fail. He showed us a worn brake pipe and a couple of minor electrical faults. The brakes weren't perfect but that's all. He remarked that she is in much better shape than he expected and we discovered that the tyres are of the same kind of strength that the military use.
When the garage boss came on the scene he was quite visibly delighted. I even saw him give her a friendly pat. He was clearly enjoying having my lovely ambulance in his garage. We arranged for him to look at what needs doing to get her through the test and I left him and his boys to their fish 'n' chips.
The indicators had died during the test so we drove her back to her field with hand signals.
I'll go back in a couple of weeks and drive her home.
Though disappointed I'm not surprised she didn't pass and am happy that she failed on something that would only show up under proper test conditions. Driving her was very exciting and I've definitely got the bug for driving something that makes people happy to see it go by. Yes a super car is a lovely thing but I reckon the kind of pleasure I get from my shabby old ambulance is worth ten times the ego thrill of a Ferrari any day. (but I wouldn't say no to one if anyone wants to donate).
So I came home in the MX5 which after driving Althea felt like a skateboard made of feathers.
Posted by Mike at 19:24