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 want 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.👍

RogueRunners '23 - Day 8

 Heading South

We packed up & set off from the Ord Arms Hotel, I was having trouble with the cameras & ended up at the back - even more so when I got caught at the first lights & then went straight on at the Tore roundabout - it was only Richard following me & saying "you turned off the roundabout too soon" that gave me any clue where I was.

So Richard & I were playing catch up from the off. But catch up we did - at the A9 which was closed after a fatal accident, which unfortunately goes to show that the rigidly enforced speed limits are maybe not the answer.

NOT the A9
So we turned round to get us away from the queue & asked the SatNavs to avoid the A9, which to be fair they did - by taking a tiny tiny road across a moor for 10 miles. It was all going quite well until eight cars going one way, met four going the other in the one place where there were no passing places for a mile in each direction.

Having sorted that out & got back to a road with a white line in the middle, things improved & after quite a while we successfully negotiated the "Bridge of Doom" going south & celebrated with cake & coffee at the Bothy at Braemar. Richard & Robert arrived late after changing a wheel on Richard's car after the tyre got shredded.

Then Roger & Steve headed off for Steve's house on the west coast, Robert & Richard abandoned the route to find a Quick Fit & have the tyre replaced, leaving Linda Graham & myself on the route. A little while later Graham had SatNav issues & headed for the hotel direct, leaving two of us to tackle some pretty good roads & the Edinburgh rush hour. But we made it to the hotel in time for a freshen up before supper & a well earned sleep.

Sunday 4 June 2023

Rogue Runners '23 - Day 7

 Day 7 - hmm - bit of a disappointment.

We set off from our hotel on a schedule, we had to be back by 14:00ish as we had a tour of the local distillery booked.

We headed out of town & soon found ourselves following a coach on the road to Drumnadrochit. This was bad news as it meant the coach would be going all along the north shore of Loch Ness. Coaches have been something of a bane on some of the routes on this trip.

I managed to get past the coach & after a while, the others did too, but then I was stuck behind something else doing 30 on a 60mph road.

Along the north shore we were again held up, but I got past & called "road's clear" several times, but no-one appeared in my mirror.

Leaving the Loch side I stopped in a layby & took some photos, no-one appeared, I drove off calling "anyone hear me" over the radio - no-one replied. I drove on again & after a while yellow appeared behind me & I hailed it on my radio but got no response. About this time I realised my radio wasn't working.

We were at least all together at the cake stop where I encouraged a small French boy (with parents & grandparents) to sit in the Stylus.

Not a real coo
After that we rolled on along some roads with twists, turns, undulations & stunning scenery, almost always behind another vehicle doing 30 on a 60mph road. Eventually I got free of the traffic at a junction where the SatNav showed the line to follow going both ways, but it said "turn right". This section was planned as a loop though a scenic valley, but after four miles, the "Turn Around Where Possible" message suggested it had all gone wrong.

On my return from the T.W.E.R.P. I met Richard & Robert coming the other way, but time was pressing as the ETA was now almost half past two.

I followed the route to the A9 which was just horrible with average speed cameras on all but the dual carriageway sections & while getting safely past a lorry in preparation for turning left in a mile & a half, I noticed the camera van. Was I over the limit? I didn't think so, time will tell, I suspect not as the speedo reads higher than the SatNav.

So I rolled into the hotel car park at 14:10 having not re-fueled to save time & we sauntered to the distillery for our tour, which was the high point of the day, pleasant & informative & when we staggered back to the hotel, Steve had arrived from Dunnoon, a curry was ordered & the banter flowed.

But we're moving south again tomorrow, so with much packing & organising to do, we retired early.

RogueRunners '23 - Day 6

 What can I say about day 6?

It wasn't just EPIC - it was the very EPICentre of EPIC!

236 miles of diving heaven. We headed north out of town on a route similar to yesterday's but with a minor de-tour to take in a couple of hairpin bends I'd found. After that we endured the A9 & it's traffic for a few miles, but today I was content to just sit there because I knew what was coming.

On the minor roads, we got stuck behind an artic, but managed to get past, then took a smaller road which was good driving, but put us behind the artic again. We pulled in for coffee & cake at a cafe Linda had found - I don't think the attached soft play area was what appealed to her. When we arrived at Lairg, the very same artic was unloading comestibles into the shop as we refueled. It was only 40ish miles in to the journey, but fuel stops can be unreliable in the northiest of north, so keeping the se7ens topped up was the order of the day.

The next target was Altnaharra, but unfortunately the road that was so EPIC yesterday was infested with vehicles that wouldn't pull over to let us past, so I stopped to mess with the cameras & as I suspected the van that had been in our way was there in the pub car park at Altnaharra.

We turned off the north / south road just to the far side of Altnaharra (where there was a proper full size red deer stag eating someone's front garden) onto a very scenic, very winding road & I stopped again re-arranged the cameras but the one now fitted in the nose only recorded 15 seconds of stationary gravel before switching off.

Eventually we arrived at the north coast & turned towards Tongue, though we never arrived because I'd again taken the route on a short detour for a couple of hairpin bends & a sea view.

The road across the top of the country is wide & flowing & we passed hamlets with spectacular beaches & azure seas, but as we rolled into Durness to refuel the Se7ens again, we realized that Richard's 2B wasn't with us. He was hailed on the phone & said the car was making an odd rotating noise & he'd pulled over to investigate. Having re-fueled, the others went on to the refreshment stop at Scourie & I went back to find Rich.

This Rock........

I had no doubt he could sort the car out, but 10 miles from Durness is 80 miles from any population centre worthy of the name & just having someone there with you takes the stress away. does it just stay there??

We rolled the car back & forth & decided it was something loud but minor & it would be best to take it into Durness where there was hard-standing, loos, food & drink if required & there Richard sorted it out (It was just a dis-used sensor rubbing on the prop-shaft), refueled we headed for Scourie ourselves. The road south is spectacular, but busier with campers than I've seen it before, then Richard came on the radio saying "problem". I stopped & saw in the mirrors he had pulled in a little way behind.

This time a throttle cable had snapped, but again Rich soon had it sorted & we rolled into Scourie where Linda & Robert were still waiting.

After an ice cream, we set off again, setting a "good pace" taking campers & saloon cars in our stride & after another 50 miles of fantastic roads, through properly breathtaking scenery, in beautiful weather, we arrived in Ullapool where Linda refueled to lay the ghost of her last visit where the car overheated due to a dead radiator fan.

We set off again over the final section of brilliant road, slowly Linda & I drew away from the others & eventually arrived at the Muir of Ord petrol station, I stopped, Linda rolled along side, we looked across at each other & both said together "THAT WAS EPIC!!"

And it was.

Back at the hotel we arranged the cars neatly for some photos for the hotel website, ordered up pizza & retired to the bar.