Tuesday, 19 September 2023

RogueRunners Wales '23 Days 0 & 1

 The first thing to note about RRW 23 was the timing - the previous weekend had seen temperatures of 30c across Britain. The weekend we went to Wales it tipped with rain - not constantly, but quite a lot. Also it was the weekend when "all of Wales" went onto 20mph speed limits. The implementation of this was chaotic at best.

As I understand it, the word from the Welsh gov't was "put a 20 in the towns unless it's a major road with lots of traffic" - which undermines the "safety" argument - isn't that exactly where you would want the 20?

In the middle slice of Wales this seemed to have been done with a descent dollop of good sense, 30 limits on the approach, 20 limits in the built up areas where the pedestrians were, but in the north, there were times when we were driving in between fields for miles on a 20 limit & in the south, south of the Black Mountain (which has it's own ridiculous speed limit issues) there is ribbon development of a number of towns on a major A road for about 10, maybe 15 miles - a 20 limit has been slapped on the entire thing.

Add to that the signage - which was appalling for "Safety" signs...

20 one side - 30 the other? I noticed 3 examples of this as well as "20" painted on the road between signs saying "30", "20" signs followed by "30" on the small repeater signs. "20", "30" & "40" signs within a few dozen yards. It was a mess & I can't see any prosecutions sticking until they sort it out. I tried to keep the cameras on in case any NIPs come through.

But - onto the road trip.

We assembled at the Cardiff North Premier Inn which has a whizzy new QR code check in system - which doesn't work, so then you use the alternative "booking Ref" method & it keeps asking if you want another guest in the room with you (what are you offering? - got any photos?), then it demands your phone No. - why? I'm checking in! Then it demands your country of residence in spite of the fact that it presented me with my address & post code. But the biggest issue was that I had to put in my car reg to get free parking - on the check in terminal? No, there was no mention of it there, there's a separate terminal five yards away. The only people in the place to help with this were the bar staff - who had other things to be getting on with.

The following day we set off on the trip proper, but the Cardiff area is pretty car - hostile & just north of it is the Heads Of The Valley road which is STILL being built. The seem to have told TomTom that the new road is open because the SatNav was desperately trying to show my position on it in spite of the fact it clearly wasn't open - in some places it wasn't built! But we did escape that & made out way up to the Black Mountain road, one of the best driving roads in the UK, so the authorities have seen fit to slap a 40 limit on the entire length of it with average speed cameras. In previous years there's been quite a buzz with bikers in large numbers at the cafe's at both ends & ice-cream sellers in the car parks at the top.

This year it was pretty much deserted, no bikes parked up in the village cafes at the south end, no ice-cream sellers at all & the café at the north end had about a dozen bikers sitting round looking miserable. So well done, you've made it safer by making it unused, but you've also done a bunch of people out of a descent income as well. Scotland has many challenging roads, they linked them into the NC500 & the local communities are reaping the benefit. 

Strangely the limit over the mountain is 40 where it's wide & open with good sight lines, as soon as you're off the mountain (heading north) it's a 50 limit on a winding road past people's houses & drives. I can't help thinking they've got that the wrong way round.

We wended our way north through the Welsh heartland taking in the Elan Valley which is always a good drive & eventually arrived at our hotel in Mold. Maybe it was tainted by out experiences earlier in the day, but the Beaufort Park Hotel seemed pretty down-at-heel. Last year is was saved by the helpful & attentive staff, this year they seemed surly & lacking humour.

So, Day 1 a little disappointing then, but were we downhearted? Well yes, obviously 😄

Thursday, 20 July 2023

Not Been Here For a while

I'm afraid my attention has been focused on other things, it's been mas busy at work & the Stylus has only been out of the garage once in the last three weeks, to my Brother's house & that was mostly to give it a run out. So what have I
been doing? Quite a lot of sleeping after busy days at work, quite a lot of tidying up & finishing off the bathroom in preparation for my son & his family coming south for a week, starting to build my road bike back up again after having the frame refurbished, going out visiting Brooklands & the excellent Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop (yes, that's actually a place) with a friend - doesn't sound a lot down I come to write it down, but I've hardly set foot in the garage because of it.

There's a bit of a story across the two places, here we have a Sopwith Schneider (replica) in the Brooklands "Aircraft Factory" & as the name implies it was built for (& won) the Schneider Cup before the first world war.

When fitted with wheels rather than floats, it became the Sopwith Baby (because it was small) & when fitted with a machine gun on the outbreak of war, it became the Sopwith Pup -  here's on in the Museum of Army Flying.

Fast forward 50 years & the Sopwith company became Hawker & they were flying this, The P1127, which became the Kestrel, which became the Harrier - The Finest Aeroplane Ever Flown, as we say at work.

One of which - this very airframe in fact, won the Transatlantic Air Race in 1969.

Monday, 19 June 2023

Britain's Bonneville

Everyone's heard of Bonneville Speed Week. Flat salt pans, HotRods (& other things) modified by heavily bearded blokes in sheds for that one sublime record breaking run.

The UK has something similar. It's different, but it's good & it's gaining a reputation.

Pendine in south Wales is a small village quite a long way from anywhere, but it has two clams to fame. Three rocket sled tracks, one used to test ejector seats & seven miles of very hard packed smooth golden sand ideal(ish) for driving very very fast on. So it's all about the speed in Pendine & it has a museum to prove it.

Once a year when the tide times are right, the Vintage Hot Rod Association comes to town to run speed trials up the beach. It all gets a bit special because there are rules controlling both the "Vintage" & "Hot Rod" parts of that, so you're going to need a car made before the 1940s & for preference you're going to need it powered by a flathead V8 with the right transmission & suspension.

What all this means is that it's pretty certain that most teams could go faster if they ran the tow car up the beach, but that's not the point. It's all about the heritage & the early land speed record attempts mixed with a little Bonneville spirit, and this year I heard the twang of American accents, so hopefully those people enjoyed it - it's a long way to come.

But the event doesn't disappoint. There's no razamataz. The VHRA are there to run the cars, if the public want to watch, that's fine as long as they keep to pretty much one rule - KEEP BEHIND THE TAPE.

Plenty of visitors arrive in interesting cars, so they are parked up in one line (if you wish) for the public to see, so I took the Stylus as I wanted a pic of it on the beach to go with the one I took of the Fury in 2019.

There were plenty of people, but somehow the village never seemed crowded, I'd gone with a good friend & we went into the very nice ice-cream parlour on the prom & only waited a couple of minutes to be served, it was all very relaxed.

But you don't want to red all that, you wan to know about the cars.

They split relatively easily into a few groups for descriptive purposes:-

Immaculate late '30s saloons - not too many this year, if you had one, would you run it over a sand / salt water mix?

Hot Rods in the classic sense. Road going cars with proper paint, interiors etc. The above also applies here.

Hot Rods in "less original" condition. There's a rust theme here, not rat rods as such, but bodywork that's very much only there to keep the sand out.

Original race cars from the 20s & 30s

Streamliners - specially built from original pre-40s parts & enclosed in an aerodynamic body - traditionally made from old aircraft drop tanks, hence their other name - "belly tank racer".

It works like this:-

As soon as the tide has retreated past the track zone, the competing cars are gathered in the pit area & come out one by one, are waved off by the flag girls - who always seem to be having more fun than anyone else - & accelerate up the beach to a speed trap that measures their speed over 110 yards, then they slow & the next car runs, simple. Except that these are mostly engines that won't rev over 5,000 rpm & have the original three speed gearbox, so they have to be geared REALLY high, so getting them off the line is a skill in itself. Then accelerating hard while keeping the back behind the front, on sand is also a bit of an art. The fastest cars are clearing the trap at around 120, most won't get over a ton & some struggle to see half that. But it really is the being there & taking part that's the thing & while watching some old cars accelerating quite slowly won't be for everyone, there's other things to do & the cars just keep going up & back, so you can wander off, have a drink & an ice-cream, look at the constantly changing "interesting car" park & wander back to soak up some more atmosphere while wondering at the fact that this sort of thing is even still allowed today.

It was also good to see that the village had benefited with a re-built museum, new prom with beach showers & loos, these things make it a more attractive destination when the events aren't on, so helps keep the money coming in, though the electric car charging points didn't see any use at all that I noticed in 2 1/2 days 😂.

We spent the first day wandering up the track photographing the cars at various points until the last runs of the day after which everything has to be packed up at lightning speed, all the cars, the pit fences, the tapes & supports, timing gear, EVERYTHING - because the tide IS coming in. The following day it all has to be set-up again as the sea retreats. The second day wasn't as sunny, we watched the cars, looked along the display line (several people asked me about the Stylus) & went in the small but well laid out museum, then it was time to pack up & go home. 

I'd collected a bike frame from repair on the way, but it wouldn't fit in the the car with the roof on, but it'd be fine - it wasn't & I suffered biblical rain on the M4 on my way home, but necessity is the mother of invention & after finding a petrol station to hide in, I found that actually, if a little cleverness was applied the frame would fit in a horizontal fashion & I was able to put the roof up & continue my journey. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

Next Problem

 While I was away on the excellent RogueRunners Nae ORD'inary Tour, the Stylus did some strange things. loosing power on right hand bends, suddenly cutting out under hard acceleration, I could drive around it, but it was irritating.

When I got back to the garage I took off the injection, but all the connections onto it & the coil pack seemed secure, so I reassembled it & started the engine & noticed the fuel gauge was showing none at all where it had been showing 1/4 full. I took the panel out of the boot floor, then the access panel from the top of the tank to look at the gauge sender & whoa! All the POR15 tank sealant I'd sloshed round the tank after finding the small leak had peeled off in sheets & quite a lot of it was wedged in the exit hole.

This was a "disappointing thing". I didn't have the access to clean it all out & while I could get most of it out there would always be some I couldn't see or couldn't reach ready to peel off & block the exit again.

I flushed through the tank as well as I could, cleaned the filter & went for a drive. After 100 yards it was better, after 200 yards, stuttering, after 300 yards it didn't have enough power to move & I had to push it back onto the drive.

This wasn't looking good.

Again I had it all in bits & cleaned it again & reassembled, again I took it round the block, again it was pretty bad after not very far at all.

What to do?

I thought the No.1 problem was that I couldn't clean the inside of the sump that feeds the filter & pump, so the sealant lining it could at any time peel off & block the exit pipe. I opened the hole into the sump to a slot, packed it loosely with cotton fabric & held that in place by drilling both sides of the slot & lacing between the holes with locking wire - that will keep any peeled sealant away from the exit.

I also ordered a new fuel filter to be on the safe side.

I re-built it all & took it out - with the same result, fine to begin with, rapidly deteriorating.

I fitted a fuel pressure gauge & that showed very poor pressure, I took the pipe TO the filter off - petrol gushed, I took the pipe FROM the filter off - barely a dribble.

But the thing was, I could never clean the medium size bits out & they were just the right size to get through to the filter & clog it. Then I had a brainwave. If I could attach a gauze over the exit hole, there wouldn't be enough "suck" to hold it there & it would get washed off at the next corner when the fuel moved about. I couldn't rivet it through the tank skin, but I could rivet it between the tank & the exit sump as both are wet areas.

What I needed was a mesh - a stainless mesh - a strainer - a tea strainer!

A quick search of e-bay found this for a few £ & when it arrived I riveted it into the main tank floor.


OK - it works so far, but there's no real reason why it won't carry on working.

The car is actually much much smoother - it was idling at 600 rpm until I adjusted it up a bit so I could hear it.

So fingers crossed a disaster has been averted by a little ingenuity & a kitchen utensil. 

RogueRunners '23 Epilogue

 RogueRunners '23 (sigh) what can I say?

Well, it was a long way to go & a long way to come back from, all the travelling south of a line from Liverpool to Leeds was just a grind, particularly in an open car.

We also had a few reliability problems with one car off the road for two days & mechanical issues with two others (not including the Elise's fob battery).


That sort of thing is all part of the adventure, we could've all gone in two front wheel drive turbo diesel hatchbacks, which would've been warmer, quieter, had more luggage space, been cheaper etc. but that wasn't the point. Yes the motorway miles were dull, but the other roads, especially those north of the Great Glen are superb & the cars we take are ideally suited & just come alive. The technical issues (as long as no-one has to go home on a truck) provide a puzzle to be solved, with people contributing ideas, tools, emotional support & help.

The scenery in the north of our sceptred isle is the equal of any views, anywhere on the planet & seeing it going by from an open car enhances the effect.


As ever, it's the people that make the trips so special. There are no egos among the rogues, There are no rules on our tours, people drive the roads at the pace they are comfortable with & we all get together in the bar at the end of the day. Technical problems are dealt with, decisions are discussed & agreed, stories are recalled & celebrated, (and some beer is consumed).

Each year the group changes with some people coming on their first tour with us, just joining us for a couple of evenings, or unable to make it this time round, but the atmosphere of co-operation & mutual enjoyment - & a certain amount of gentle mickey-taking - is always the same & we keep coming back for more!

RogueRunners '23 - The Nae ORD'inary Tour was another outstanding success & plans are already afoot for RogueRunners '24

Monday, 5 June 2023

RogueRunners '23 - Day 10

Day 10 – Proper South

Yes, I’m afraid it’s all over for another year, but there was still a little blatting to be squeezed out yet & just south of Harwick we took the B6399 which is always good, passing back into England as we cross Kershope Burn.
After that we took a variety of minor roads eventually passing through Haltwhistle – scene of last year’s tour & then two of us called in for a coffee in a biker cafe & waved frantically while the other two of our number drove past - or was it three? An orange Elise was hot on their tail so that was Graham yes? Odd as he had set off before us.

Refreshed Linda & I continued south through Raise & Hartside Pass! Oh yes. At this point we were photographed - not by the local constabulary, but by a chap who photographs bikers & anything interesting & posts the pics on a website should you wish to buy one (I did) & there in his record of the day's traffic was an orange Elise - but not our own GB's, so maybe it wasn't him we saw from the coffee stop.

Next on the agenda was Penrith for a fuel stop where the way in caught out at least two of us, then we hit the A6, because here, it’s quite smooth & wide, but all the traffic is on the motorway.

We joined the M6 at Shap – because Tebay – yes it was a cake stop & buying cake to take home was the order of the day. Off the motorway again & taking the minor roads, we made a couple of wide sweeps through the dales, visiting Hawes & Aysgarth, We stopped for ice cream at the Wensleydale Ice Cream Parlour (Lemon Meringue Pie AND Mint Choc Chip if you must know) & then it all went a bit unfortunate.
There was just constant traffic dawdling along, then we got stuck behind - would you believe - a double decker bus - on narrow lanes - in the Dales?

Then there was an air ambulance in a field just off the road, but finally we joined the A1 just north of Leeds & after that I’m afraid it was pretty much A1 all the way, lightened at one point by a Sprinter van passing us with Ayrton Senna (OK, probably someone wearing a replica crash helmet) leaning a long way out of the passenger side giving us the thumbs up.

The garden centre that marked the beginning was long closed when we got there, so we bade Linda a fond farewell on the A1 & stopped for petrol, I thought I probably had enough to get home so just waited & the final three of us escorted each other until the ways parted.

As it turned out I may have had enough fuel to get home, but chickened out & bought an expensive couple of gallons in a motorway services, then spilt most of in on the garage floor trying to solve a fault. but that's a story for another day

RogueRunners '23 - Day 9

 Bit of a different one today.

I had written a route over towards Girvan in a long & a short version, but I headed 1 1/2 hours north to visit my family. Gorgeous as all of them are, you won't want to read about them on a car blog, so I shall restrict myself to saying I pulled onto the first motorway behind an Edsel! (google Ford Edsel). As you can see, the motorway is peppered with "useful information", one I saw said "don't get distracted while driving" - what like, by reading a large sign that might be giving me important information you mean?
Then I  stopped in North Queensferry to take the picture I was running too late to take the day before. This one goes with a similar one I took of the Fury in 2015.

Generally it was a good journey with decent A roads & I did some overtaking - which was nice.👍