Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Rogue Runners Wales '21 - Day 4

Day four began with a bit of a surprise when I opened the curtains to see thick fog, but the weather guess suggested sun to follow & indeed that’s what happened. But it wasn’t the worst surprise – the Elan Valley road was closed! OK we got a clear run yesterday & took it “at speed”, but this was a problem. Over breakfast options were discussed & a conclusion arrived at.

We’d do the first bit on A roads & revert to the smaller ones once we passed the trouble spot.




There was inevitably more traffic & I got stuck behind an artic, as I eventually passed it the SatNav went blank – I knew we had to turn off, but not where. With a burst of speed the Quantum wasn’t capable of before the engine swap, I was able to catch the leading group just as they turned left onto a mountain road.



When we’d passed the Elan Valley, our disappointment was eased by another visit to the Devil’s Bridge station where there was more cake, but thankfully fewer wasps, after which we wended our way over moorland roads, some of which were a little small for comfort, but we were again in mid Wales where coffee stops are few & far between, but just in time we found a small garden centre & had some lunch because the guest house for this evening didn’t do evening meals.



Shortly after that our Elan Valley disappointment was well & truly forgotten when we got a clear run up & right over the Black Mountain road. At the top I took some pictures of the same car I was in last year, parked next to two others I was parked next to last year. 



The route then took us through Brecon where I got lost & then into some very remote places with tight little winding roads with rivers going across them & eventually down to a petrol stop where the last of the route was pruned as it was getting late, but not before one last mountain road which seemed to be used as a communal sheep toilet. I was glad for the lack of rain at this point.

Some of the Rogues ordered up a taxi & went in search of a pub, the rest of us ordered in Pizza for tea in spite of the lack of phone signal making it near impossible.

Rougue Runners '21 - Day 3

 Today we were heading south, the car started again – which was nice, though I was by now getting concerned about the strong smell of hot engine oil. Our illustrious leader, feeling better than last night but still not his usual chipper self, elected to drive straight to the next hotel & therefore avoided some of the roughest, narrowest & most grass grown “roads” Wales had to offer. Oh how we sympathised with him as he cruised smoothly along well maintained A roads.

No, for us it was up onto the moors – after a little confusion with rogues appearing from unexpected directions. The moors is a good thing, yes there were a few tracks that made me fret for the Quantum's exhaust, but things went well until we rolled into a traffic jam in a small town. They were digging up the road & the lights took ages to change & the Quantum was sat pointing up hill & getting hotter. I knew full well that if I stalled it it would refuse to start for ten minutes, adding immeasurably to the transport chaos, so when I got my chance I gave it some extra revs, put the steering on full lock to get round the corner & forgetting it’s front wheel drive, let the clutch up. I was ½ way through the road works by the time the wheels stopped spinning (sigh).

The next thing we had to contend with was a shower of rain – not too bad, no-one stopped to put a roof up, then just as we turned right, a shout came over the radio that there was a coffee shop if we stayed on the main road, so one car turned round in the road & I, followed by another car went up a house’s drive & down the neighbours, not realising that the car behind us was one of the home owners waiting to get home & looking very surprised.

After a pleasant coffee & of course cake (did I mention that I like cake?) we went out to the car park & were accosted by a group of old blokes congratulating us on driving “real” cars. I say old – probably about my age.

As we set off the sky was greying & the rain started, but again didn’t amount to much & I think that was the last rain we saw all trip. As we entered the Elan Valley the roads were clear & the sun had his hat on - hip hip hip hooray

Not long after that I realised where the oil smell had been coming from. I’d fitted the oil catch tank from the Stylus (shiny blue anodised & extremely heavy thing) & it was close(ish) to the heater intake which was drawing fumes in. I’d never noticed it before because the car had only got properly warm when going to my Dad’s or brother’s, both those trips are round the motorway & don’t slosh the oil around much. So I could stop worrying about that & devote all my energy to worrying about whether it would start next time I shut it down.



After visiting Devil's Bridge station again (yes more cake - what of it?) there were more moorland roads & a road we called “the lake road” because there was a lake. It was was EPIC, really enjoyable, though of course none of us have a clue where it was.





When we returned to the main roads we got stuck behind a cattle truck – I say “stuck” but it was keeping up an impressive pace & it didn’t hold us up by much. Then there was a need to refuel. But the petrol station was busy, I had to wait, The Quantum got hot & sure enough refused to start. Fortunately there were Rogues about & a short push got it going.


By now the time was getting on, so we trimmed the Black Mountain from the route as we’d be doing it tomorrow anyway & we headed for the hotel. In fact apart from our illustrious leader I think I was the first to arrive.

Rogue Runners Wales '21 - Day 2

I slept well in spite of the warbling woman singing next door to the hotel (an event which caused a certain amount of “Waltons” style inter-room conversation over whats-ap), we breakfasted & - always a bonus - the car started. To be fair it always starts when it’s cold or warm, but if it’s got hot the starter turns only slowly, so as a precaution I was firing it up early in case it needed a push.

First on the agenda this morning was Horseshoe Pass & we got a clear run at it which is always a good way to start the day, but pretty soon we ran into some closed roads, which generally shuffles the pack as people take their best guess as to whether to follow the car in front, take a chance that the road they’re on isn’t the closed one or follow the Sat-nav. But we more or less all arrived at the Conwy Falls Café, more or less at the same time & hade coffee & of course cake (I like cake). The weather was fair & we sat outside taking in the scenery.

 << Two extremes of touring


After refreshment we headed out into the wilds of Snowdonia, which involved the Llanberis Pass. It is very scenic, but it is also prime tourist fodder & we crept down the winding road at 10mph behind an enormous coach that was taking NO chances. Fortunately it turned off at the Snowdon mountain railway & we then had clear roads for a while.





>> Myself (bottom left) always the epitomy of sartorial elegance (thanks Duncan).





Next up was the railway station at Ffestiniog & more cake. Again we may not have all been there, but most of us were. On arrival we noticed a green Caterham in the car park, now usually “Catering Van” owners are somewhat aloof, many refuse to refer to their cars as kit cars & don’t acknowledge us other kit drivers when out on the roads. But this chap was chatty – perhaps because we inadvertantly boxed him into a corner in the café & talked at him. Like us he’d come from the east for a meet / run & had called in for refreshment before wending his way home via the midlands.


After that there were a number of split ups & re-forms as closed roads saw people re-plotting the route on the hoof & met each other coming from unexpected directions as we passed through Porthmadog, Harlech & Barmouth, skirting the coast southward.

So eventually we turned inland & returned to Llangollen, where once again the car park was rammed full, but with just enough space for us to park up for the night. Some of the group went out in search of curry, the rest stayed in the hotel, but our illustrious leader was struck down with illness – would we be a complete group the following day?? (Always good to end on a cliff-hanger).


Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Rogue Runners Wales '21 - Day 1

 So, off on the Rogue Runners autumn adventure.

With the Stylus suffering, it was down to the Quantum to do the blatting for the secnd year - but this time with about three times the power, but not much development - the trip was actually more miles that it had travelled with the new engine, so there was a little jepardy.

I was awake at 02:00, so was well prepared when the alarm went off at 03:00. In fact I was the first to arrive at the meet point at Newlands Corner & Graham – usually first to arrive for everything - was last. So as four of us were gathered, we headed off into the night. We travelled by back roads & eventually wound our way up to the Severn bridge without attracting too much attention – but that was about to change.

Early start Neil? >>

The breakfast stop was friendlier than last year & all went well until while leaving, Graham comented on a particularly large speed hump having a scrape on it left by his MX5 a few years ago, seconds later I gave it a new scrape with the Quantum, what I didn't immediatly realise was that it had pushed the exhaust backwards. I realised that when I pulled out on to the main road & it separated completely.



<< Neil helps out.



A few (noisy) miles down the road was a petrol stop with (thankfully) an old-school garage who leant me a very large trolley jack & with the help of a stray pallet, the end off a concrete gate post & assorted Rogue Runners I was able to lift the car a foot into the air & move the exhaust forward, tighten the rear clamps & re-fit the front joint where it had separated.

No lasting damage then – phew. But how often on the trip would I have to do this??

The next few miles would be more relaxing, but I was VERY careful over any humps we encountered.

There were the usual shenanigans. At one jungtion I was about to turn left over a bridge, the radio crackled into life with someone saying their satnav was saying straight on. While we discussed this Graham & Roger appeared from the other direction entirely. We had all bases covered.

We were winding up through central Wales which seems entirely bereft of any coffee shops, garden centres or other sources of refreshment (by which I meant cake), so it was a very thirsty group that sat in traffic for fifteen minutes only 100 yards short of our hotel.

As ever, parking was “an issue” at The Hand in Llangollen, but we all got parked up & headed in for food & beer & chatter before bed – only to be kept awake by the music & singing from the establishment next door.

But day one done, we were all in Wales, all the cars were wor
king. Bring it on!

Monday, 13 September 2021

A New Dawn

 I made the decision that it would be wise to buy a spare engine, Zetecs are now of the age where thousands are scrapped every month & the engines aren't going to get any cheaper, in fact they are going up in price fast. I looked on Ebay & found one for £450 not to far away, then another for £395 a little closer, then this morning there was a listing for four of them for £375 each on;y five miles away. I hitched up the trailer & went looking. The chap at the breakers was on the phone so I poked around the engines, the oldest had the fewest miles (around 2000 (year) & 95k miles) I've known people put 120k Zetecs in kits & they still go like a rocket, so 95k was OK.

Then the guy came off the phone & I talked to him & he pointed out another engine, again y2k, but with 66k miles, I've checked the MoT history & yes, it's done 3-4k miles a year all it's life. So I've stripped the gubbins off it (power steering & aircon pumps & alternator), cleaned it & now I need to look into what I need to do to convert the car to blacktop, it's not much, but it'll take a while

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Santa Pod & Stylus Running(ish)

 On the road trip back in May, the conversation drifted round to top-fuel drag racing & some of the numbers associated with it.

Like - if it could be arranged such that an F1 car at it's flat-out maximum speed passed a top fuel car on the start line, the top fuel car would get to the 1/4 mile mark first - by some margin.

Like - the ground physically shakes when the top fuelers launch.

Like a top fueler is the fastest accelerating thing-with-a-person-in that exists & I include space craft & the rocket sled things they use to test ejector seats with.

Like the car in the pic, on one run shut down the engine no more than 1/2 way along the 1/4mile - it still passed through the trap at 4.1sec.

The first pic was taken by Duncan, I was sitting closer to the start line & couldn't get a moving top fuel car in frame.

This omission was clearly something that needed correcting, so a little research was done & the euro finals at SantaPod was chosen as an event that would showcase the world of going-in-a-straight-line-very-fast - and it did it in spades.

We went on a qualifying day to avoid the crowds - the point after all was to see the spectacle not to find out who won & there was a mixed bag on offer from "Street Eliminator" where the cars have to be street legal & run on road tyres, through a number of classes & on up to the "funny cars" & top fuelers, with the odd two seat rail car giving passenger experience rides & jet cars thrown in. Also Children's dragsters - yes, they're a thing. Rail cars with 90cc Honda "step-through" engines tuned to - are you sitting down - 80bhp & piloted by 10 year olds running an 1/8 mile in 10sec at 80mph. Imagine you're ten, you go to your friend's house & they show you the dragster they ran at SantaPod last weekend! & don't think this was all boys, oh no, at least 1/3 were girls & good on them I say.

One thing I was pleased to see - a Tesla, presumably running in Street Eliminator (though I'm not sure how you'd get round the standard pump petrol requirement), got resoundingly thrashed. 11 1/2 is a good time for a road car, but not in this company, I say this because people had put HUGE effort into preparing cars for the event, if they could be beaten by some bloke with a fat cheque book, that would be a sad thing. As is is, when he goes to the golf club & someone says "how did you get on at that racing thing" he'll have to admit to being beaten by a Transit Van.

That's drag racing.

Perhaps surprisingly - the Marina Van won.

Yes it's an E-type dragster - what of it?

Drag bikes - a special kind of madness

Then today I was back on the Stylus. Let's recap:-
The engine's badly overheated, the alternator pulley is cut up, so today - I covered the dashboard with vinyl. There was method though.
I patched the cooling system back together, mounting the rad an inch aft of where it was & putting the electric water pump in a more sensible place, but on switching on the ignition there was no oil light. I spent ages tracing wires & checking continuity & in the end came to the conclusion that the oil & battery lights were cross-wired so with the alternator off the car there was no oil light rather than no battery light - in my defence, both had been wired with blue wire, but as the dash was entirely out of the car, it made sense to do some other jobs, like making the left indicator warning light work with the left indicators & swapping the 12v & USB ports & - covering the dash in vinyl. It does look nice - but then I should like it - it's almost identical to the Fury's.

But the big news is of course that the engine WORKS - ish. Before it "ticked" from the cam box, now it ticks louder. This is not good & I'm seriously considering buying a replacement engine. Also the electric water pump which I really can't see the need for, is now leaking, so do I but a new EWP, or do I buy an Escort pump & go back to mechanical, or do I use the Mondeo pump that came with the car & rig up some means of adding a pulley so the pump is driven off the back of the belt?

I have no answers yet.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Small Progress


The car is stripped & the radiator is with Ashby Welding of Church Crookham to repair, while the front has been empty I've done a few jobs making wire routing more sensible & today I've mended the bonnet latch.

Yes, the bonnet.

I had to mend the boot latch a couple of weeks ago after it separated completely & on Sunday I noticed the ugly block of wood (wood!) the latch was screwed into had split - see the black line where the screw is? 

It turned out that what appeared to be a block of wood, was in fact two blocks of wood held together with only one screw. 

So I removed the screwed on bit & briefly considered going HotRod (the car version of "going commando"), but it would need a central supercharger for the full effect so decided to be sensible about it, found some scrap aluminium sheet & made something with the same geometry as the split wooden block, but made from nice folded metal - with a couple of lightening holes obviously.

It actually closes much nicer than before, resting on the stops & then just going "click" as the latch engages with a gentle push.