With the summer drawing to a close we were fortunate to enjoy a late spell of really good weather for our recent jaunt to Brittany with a small (and select) team from Gloucester TSSC (otherwise known as the Tufty Club). The idea of an late summer trip to France was mooted about a year ago and as I had somehow managed to stumble upon a group of ex-pat petrol-heads enthusiasts in central Brittany it seemed like a good idea to meet up with them for a ‘cultural exchange’.
Early on the Thursday morning fourteen intrepid adventurers in seven cars (The Magnificent Seven?) met up at Portsmouth for the short cruise to Caen followed by a 200 mile drive on the excellent and relatively empty French roads to Gouarec, which lies about 80 miles due west of Rennes. Our campsite, which Denise and I had recced earlier in the year on our way to Le Mans, sits on the bank of the Nantes/Brest Canal and is an excellent base for touring the region, albeit its a bit rough around the edges.
On Friday morning a number of members of The Interesting Car Club arrived at the campsite in their eclectic range of cars to take us on a short drive around the surrounding area before we settled down to a typically Breton lunch at a local restaurant. It was good to have an opportunity to chat with our hosts and to establish a strong connection which may well form the basis for future visits. Saturday was given over to a visit to the Manoir De L’Automobile at Lohéac which is about a two hour drive from Gouarec. With an excellent collection of more than 300 vehicles of all ages and types its probably one of the best such museums in Europe and well worth a visit. On Sunday some us gave our cars a rest and stayed local whilst others went north to explore the Granite Coast. A few of us went back to the Abbaye Do Bon Repos where a stroll around a local market and a short walk down the canal bank were followed by a couple of beers and a bite to eat in a local café whilst taking in a little more French sunshine. Marvellous! We broke our drive back to the ferry on Monday with a short visit to Pegasus Bridge between Caen and Ouistreham . Not having enough time to visit the local museum we opted for refreshments at the small café that sits alongside the bridge – which would have been fine had they not charged €7.80 for a pot of tea! Am I bitter about the ruthless financial exploitation of an historical site where large numbers of British soldiers died in the liberation of France? You bet!
I like a challenge and, although I’ve probably got more than enough to keep me busy for the foreseeable future , when I heard about this rather unloved little Triumph Herald convertible I couldn’t resist going to look at it and ………. well one thing leads to another. So we now have four Triumphs and I have a BIG challenge for the winter months.
This latest member of the Ewbank stable is a 1967 Herald 1200 convertible which by all accounts has sat, untouched, in a garage for at least the last 26 years, maybe longer. It has 89,000 probably genuine miles on the clock and although the bodywork is tatty and a bit rusty in places the car seems to be generally sound – which is to say that it’s only rusted through in one or two places! The engine currently seems to be seized but with a bit of luck and a lot of gentle persuasion I’m hopeful that I may be able to get it turning again and hopefully save it from the scrap pile.
Hours of endless fun in prospect. It’s strange how these enthusiasms addictions can take you isn’t it?
When it comes to attending outdoor events during the English ‘summer’ timing is everything, and for once we seem to have got our timing spot-on. Our trip to the Goodwood Revival has been planned for months; in fact, ever since Denise bought me a couple of tickets to attend Saturday’s activities for last year’s Christmas present. At the time it was a bit of a leap of faith because I was really quite unwell at the end of last year and the beginning of 2017, but the big day eventually dawned and fortunately coincided with the ‘Ewbank Remission’ (an event of equally epic importance as the Revival!).
Whilst some gentlemen may be deluded into thinking that the Goodwood event is all about motor racing, the ladies know different. As probably Britain’s, and possibly the world’s, largest vintage fashion event it really is all about what you wear. After months of angst and countless hours of research and trawling the local charity shops we (that is to say Denise) finally decided what we would be wearing at the eleventh hour. I, on the other hand, simply had to dig out one of my older suits, source a waistcoat from a well known internet auction site, and doff my panama – who says that fashion’s a young person’s game? If only I could have found my flared jeans and US Army surplus jacket I would have felt right at home back in the sixties . Fortunately the TR3A needed no ‘fancy dress’ and was completely at home in ‘memory land’.
As far as timing goes attending on the Saturday turned out to be an excellent choice as torrential rain and prolonged drizzle were the fate of Goodwood goers on Friday and Sunday. We, on the other hand, stayed dry and saw some excellent racing – not to mention more than a few vintage fashion victims.
….and treat those two pretenders just the same…. (with apologies to Mr Kipling – that’s Rudyard, not the chap with the cakes). Well, I’m pretty sure there weren’t any pretenders at the Triumph International meeting held at Malvern last weekend, but if there had been they would doubtless have been overwhelmed by the number of lovely Triumphs (and their owners/masters) that turned out for the annual gathering. As the Three Counties Showground is virtually on our doorstep it would have rude not to have gone along to admire the cars and pick over the usual junk, sorry, autojumble that was on offer to those of us with more money than sense.
Fortunately the weather was kind so we enjoyed a nice run out in the TR3A which behaved itself impeccably throughout the day – perhaps it was just happy to be among so many close relatives or maybe the fact that they were celebrating the 60th birthday of the TR3A had something to do with it?
The weather for our trip to the Waterperry Gardens today wasn’t quite so clement but it was good to meet up with the Wigmores and the odd shower (that’s precipitation I’m talking about – not our good friends) didn’t spoil our enjoyment of the lovely gardens. That said we were perhaps a fortnight late with our visit; next time we’ll aim to visit in June when the herbaceous borders will doubtless be at their spectacular best.
Today (Sunday) we spent a really enjoyable morning at The Classic Motor Hub which we’ve just discovered tucked away in the depths of the Cotswold countryside, about 10 miles up the road at Ablington near Bibury. As it was a warm and sunny day we took the TR3A; fortunately I’d given it a bit of a ‘spruce up’ in preparation because the general standard of the cars there was fantastic. We joined perhaps two hundred visitors, most of whom arrived in or on classic vehicles – everything from Massey Ferguson tractors to vintage Bugattis – and spent a couple of hours wandering around oggling the carson display as well as those in the car park.
Nineteen sixties Ferraris at several million pounds a go, Italian boy racers at extravagant prices, quirky French veterans, monstrous Americans, stately Bentleys, fabulous Aston Martins and even a canary yellow Rolls Royce fit for any pop star! You name it and it was probably there. Well worth a return visit on the first Sunday of the month.
The past nine months have been a tad difficult – not least when it came to sitting down and attempting to write an interesting, entertaining or informative blog. In August of last year I started to feel unwell and by the time I had been diagnosed with kidney disease towards the end of 2016 I was well and truly under the weather and largely ‘confined to barracks’ with little prospect of having anything interesting to write about.
These days the media seldom seems to have much that’s good to say about the NHS, however I have to say that my personal experience has been pretty much wholly positive. No doubt I’ve been fortunate to live in a part of the country where the service doesn’t seem to be permanently overloaded and in crisis, however being able to get to see my GP at virtually no notice and most importantly being able to rely upon the services of the experienced, caring and highly professional staff of Gloucester and Cheltenham hospitals has made the overall experience of being ill vastly more bearable than it might otherwise have been. I am immensely grateful for their help and support but, at the risk of seeming ungrateful, hope to be seeing rather less of them in the year to come.
Anyway, enough of all that! The good news is that as I hopefully near the end of my initial treatment (the wonderfully named Ponticelli Regimen) I seem to be making good progress and have at last been able to get back towards living a more normal existence, enjoying some of those things that I’ve been looking forward to over the past few months.
The first and most important news to report is the arrival of our first granddaughter, Gretel Lilly Ewbank, who came into this world in Nürnberg on 23rd February 2017 courtesy of her parents Richard and Collette. She’s a beauty and a delight and no doubt will one day be a famous scientist, renowned artist or perhaps even a skilled restorer of classic cars. Who cares just so long as she remains healthy and happy?
On the automotive front I have to report that Bertie has moved on to pastures new. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our relatively short period of Austin ownership it became increasingly clear over the past year that he was just one car too many for us and that we would have few opportunities to gain full use or enjoyment from him going forward. The good news is that he’s moved on to enthusiastic new owners and that for the first time in 47 years of automotive ownership I’ve actually managed to make a small profit from buying and selling a car!
Nature abhors a vacuum and the prospect of having a little spare space on the drive was obviously insufficient reason for not going out and buying another vehicle (not sure that sentence makes sense, but you know what I mean) so we immediately went out and bought a motorhome – what else? Our first short expedition to the north Devon coast in early May was an unqualified success so as I sit here tapping away at the keyboard we’re actually parked in a field in Powys at the start of a six day break which, if all goes well and the weather stays reasonable, should see us exploring the Welsh coastline and getting to know our new mode of transport. Today Welshpool, tomorrow the world – we’re on the road again!
Driving the TR3A on the open road is great fun but we bought it with the intention of also using it on the track from time to time, so when the opportunity came we booked ourselves onto a TR Register Track Day at Blyton Park on Lincolnshire.
Whilst I don’t think that either of us is completely ready for F1 just yet, and the Triumph didn’t seem to have quite the poke of some of the other cars on the track, we had a great time storming around the relatively short circuit trying to keep out of the way of our fellow enthusiasts. The TR behaved magnificently throughout the day, though the smell of overheating brake linings and rapidly thinning oil reminded us that any 56 year old vehicle deserves to be treated with respect – unless of course you have deep pockets.
A very enjoyable Saturday was spent with the Lunt family who, as usual, were wonderful hosts, accommodating and feeding us royally and taking us off to a fascinating garden at Hall Farm in Harpswell. Our visit just happened to coincide with an Archaeology Day where we learned the answer to the age-old question ‘when is a Saxon wall not a Saxon wall?’ and were given valuable instruction on how to extrapolate medieval living standards from a single shard of pottery.
On Sunday morning we were once again up to our metaphorical nuts (and bolts) in Triumphs when we spent a few hours at the very well organised TR International weekend at Lincoln Showground. What can I tell you ……… there were lots of Triumphs.
Working on that age-old (and probably deeply flawed) principle that lightning seldom strikes in the same place twice, and having replaced the Stag’s steering rack after it let us down at Laon earlier in the year, we decided to chance our luck once again and set off confidently for the Le Mans Classic along with the majority of Gloucester TSSC members.
As it turned out the car behaved impeccably from start to finish and thanks to the perfect weather, great classic racing and some very sociable company we were treated to a memorable and very enjoyable long weekend in La Belle France – just don’t get me started on Brexit again!
Having thoroughly enjoyed last year’s TSSC trip to Spa we decided that for 2016 we’d ‘double up’ and join in with the Club’s planned trips to both Laon and Le Mans. As we once again planned to camp it was an easy decision to take the Stag, which has enough room to squeeze in essentials such as camp-beds, extra blankets and a comprehensive toolkit.
The attractive provincial French city of Laon sits on one of Picardie’s rocky outcrops just to the north west of Reims, and as the drive from Calais passes through the Somme region we decided that after the Laon events we’d stop off for an extra night in Albert to visit a couple of the July 1916 battlefields.
In company with six other intrepid members of Gloucester TSSC we crossed from Dover early on the Thursday morning and then enjoyed an excellent and fairly uneventful drive through rural France, ending up in the central square at Arras with around five hundred other classics just in time for lunch.
Arriving at our camp site just outside Laon in the late afternoonfate intervened. Having stopped the car for a few minutes to help move a tent I jumped back in again to find that the power steering had packed in. Disaster! The wheel wouldn’t turn at all in one direction and would only move jerkily (a word I never knew existed) in the other. Doom and gloom descended as I made arrangements for the car to be recovered (likely to take weeks), cancelled our stay in Albert and contemplated the prospect of once again attending a classic event without a classic car. Fortunately at that moment a fellow traveller (thanks Matt) made the sensible suggestion to see whether the car would steer with the power steering disconnected. It would – albeit you quickly develop arms like Schwarzenegger.
The rest, as they say, is historique. Saturday involved a 100+km ‘topless’ route through the local countryside, whilst on Sunday everyone congregated in the centre of Laon to show off their cars before tearing through the cobbled streets at high speed whilst the local gendarmerie conveniently looked the other way. Overall a lovely weekend in great company with more than a thousand classic cars as a bonus. Next stop Le Mans – what can possibly go wrong …….?
Yesterday was ‘collection day’ for the latest member of the Ewbank fleet. After an early morning start, and a two and a half hour drive across to Huntingdon, the sun was more or less shining when we arrived at TRGB’s premises, though the forecast threatened rain for the return journey. The first and only real problem of the day came when we realised that the colour of Denise’s jacket clashed violently with that of the car – fortunately she has more than one jacket, otherwise a full re-spray might have been on the cards!
TRGB had kindly erected the hood for us in anticipation of the weather, but they also advised that we do without the side-screens until such time as we get used to the car. As we drove the 125 miles home I thought for a little while that we might avoid getting rained upon, but this is England in April and sure enough the heavens opened big time as I took my turn behind the wheel down the Fosse Way. I’m sure that the hood must have offered some protection from the elements, though the rain seemed to have no difficulty in getting me thoroughly soaked and cold in record time. That said, driving the TR3 is just so much fun that you can’t stay miserable for too long when you’re behind the wheel, no matter what the weather has in store.
We spent much of today cleaning and finding our way around the car. Considering that most of the rebuild seems to have been done around 18 or so years ago it really is in great condition, though there again perhaps that’s not too surprising when you consider that the car has only done about 5,000 miles since most of the work was completed. Anyway, the bottom line is that our third Triumph is now firmly ensconced as one of the family – all we have to do now is find somewhere to keep it!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a general account of life in the Ewbank household…..