After finishing work on Thursday evening, I headed over the the local van rental place to collect a Transit recovery van. At X-registration, it had had a fairly hard life, with the mileometer showing 206,000 miles. I'd also never driven anything quite so long before, and the first thing I had to do was a right turn onto a busy road at rush hour! Anyway, with a slight diversion we made it to Dover, but not quite in time for the correct ferry. So we sailed at 00:50, arriving in Calais at 03:30 (French time). After 3 hours sleep at a motel with a thankfully huge car park, we set off through Belgium for the Netherlands. I hadn't realised beforehand, but we drove right past the 300 factory in Born (destined to make Minis from next year).
That is where I was greeted by the purpose of the trip:
I wasn't completely crazy as Danny had sent me lots of pictures of all possible trouble spots beforehand, so I knew what it was going to be like. Reality showed that the pictures were accurate, which was a relief. Danny took me to a local office which could deal with exports and deregistration, and the appropriate Dutch paperwork was presented to me for €25.
The next task was to load the car onto the van. This was made harder by the fact that the car had decided to choose that moment not to start. Happily, after a couple of replacement batteries and much head-scratching, a loose connection onto the starter motor was found and reconnected! And so, the 343 was loaded onto the van:
Driving with a 343 on the back was interesting, but ultimately okay.
We got a few hoots and waves from a couple of other British vans too. Unfortunately, extremely heavy traffic on the Brussels ring road at Friday rush hour meant that we missed our planned ferry back too, but the next sailing wasn't much later. I was very relieved to have got to Calais:
The journey back to Cambridge was slow but uneventful, and the next morning came. Now, because I am completely insane, I had booked the car for an MOT on Saturday morning at 11:30, so I could use the van to take it there. I tested everything, and the windscreen washer pump connectors needed a clean to make it work, but everything else worked. Until we tried to start it! In no way was the car going to idle, and would only run with my foot slightly on the throttle. At which point we abandoned the MOT idea and suddenly felt much better about life!
We then spent the rest of the day having some fun with the car.
First step was trying to get it to idle. I adjusted the mixture according to Mac's guide, then eventually after buying some clean petrol and revving the nuts off it to clean everything out (the driveway was quite black at that point!), it settled to a lovely idle. I then adjusted the idle speed, but only by ear.
All ignition components look fairly new, as does the alternator. We patched up a small exhaust leak.
Next job was to replace the headlamps with right hand drive units. This was actually not a bad job, but the spare headlamps I had were connected by multi-plugs - the ones on the car were just a mass of solid wires. So I decided that the easiest solution was to simply swap over the glass lens.
Next job was to fit the proper '77 chrome door mirrors. One is brand new and perfect, the other is pitted and the arm is completely seized (happily in the correct location). But hey, it looks better than the plastic ones:
The interior of the car is really in damn good condition for a '77. The air vents are intact, the dash is not warped, and even the steering wheel isn't too badly faded. The only real issue is that the seats are quite badly torn. The glovebox works, the ashtray works, the rear door cards are immaculate. The front ones are held on by screws along the top, which is inevitable. The only thing which was actually seriously broken was the seat winder mechanism for both front seats - they were completely smashed, almost as if someone had kicked them. Anyway, I'd noticed this in the pictures so had already got spares lined up, which fitted beautifully (although they are black not brown - the other side was much worse and is completely black).
Next job was to sort out the wheels, which were obviously from a 86- car. I'd bought some spares along with the car, so got some decent tyres fitted to those on Sunday afternoon. I'm now just waiting for some hub-cap pins from RJ so they can stay in place. When fitting the new wheels, I was pleased at how solid the jacking points were...until I got to the rear left jacking point. All appeared well until the tyre cleared the ground, at which point the sill made some crunching noises and parted company with the jacking point. Oops.
The only other bits of significant rust are a few small spots in the engine bay, and one on the front crossmember bar:
There are a few small spots dotted around, but nothing major:
I'm told that the car was restored a few years ago, before being bought by an old lady. It had a respray at that time, which is showing some signs of wear. The bonnet is not original, and is yellow underneath the gold paint.
I've found a few small problems with the car, but again, nothing major.
- The hazard warning switch has snapped in half. It just about works via a gaffer-tape repair, but that's not really satisfactory. It was also wired incorrectly, so I have re-connected it according to the green manual.
There is a small coolant leak from the top of the radiator somewhere.
The tube going from the air filter to the exhaust manifold is missing, and indeed the recipient on the manifold has rusted off completely. I'll try to take a picture at some stage, I've forgotten so far.
The boot light is missing.
I can't get the vario selector into park, although Danny managed to do so when the car was on the truck.
The handbrake is basically ineffective as I managed to drive down the driveway without realising it was still fully on.
The driver's seat tipping wire has come loose, but I'm about to fix it.
The driver's door rests too far from the body, can't quite work out why.
The driver's door lock button doesn't work, I've had a look inside the door and the little pin that it should push down just won't budge - I might get a 'new' lock from Lakes.
The interior rear-view mirror is not original.
It's going for its MOT on Saturday, which I'm sure it will fail now that that sill has decided to be rusty. And the handbrake doesn't work. I've been told by the tester that an MPH speedo is not necessary for the test, but it would be useful to have one if I can ever find one. Once it's MOTd, I can sort out registering it with the DVLA. It will take a 'R' plate, being registered 21 April 1977. Chassis number is 314458.
Anyway, here are a few more uncensored frivolous images of brown '77 porn:
'77 meets '79:
And finally a video of me driving it - I cut out a good 3 minutes of me failing to reverse a LHD car in a straight line:
I've definitely missed out loads I want to say I'm sure, but I'll keep updating this thread as I go. I am amazed by how much detailing was changed between '77 and '79.