V8 goes East

V8 goes East
Gordon Hesketh-Jones (Harvest Gold 1904) from Cornwall uses his V8 in a serious way with tours overseas and has clocked up an astonishing 330,000 miles in his chrome bumpered V8. When we heard he was planning another major trip, we thought members would like to follow his journey with regular reports. Here Gordon starts the series with a note on what he has planned and the preparations he is making. (29.3.05)

Gordon Hesketh-Jones is a lonstanding member of the V8 Register and organised the V8 Cornish Tour 2003 and the V8 Tulip route as part of the V8 25th Anniversary events in 2003. (Photo: Victor Smith)

We try to go to the continent twice a year, normally a four-five week "wandering" trip, then a shorter two-week trip to visit MG events. Recent journeys have been to Sicily in the far south of Europe and via Denmark and Finland across the Norwegian tundra to the far north of Europe - in fact to the North Cape of Norway. This year we decided to go to the MG Italia event in Greece but then to return via Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic before heading into Bavaria to meet up with Allan & Eva Doyle and Kai & Claudia Knickman - V8 enthusiasts who are well known from their visits to the UK.

Eva and Allan Doyle with Jennifer Hesketh-Jones at a Silverstone Club Dinner. (Photo: Victor Smith)

Having visited County Maps of Truro to stock up on maps the next stage was to spend many hours using MS AutoRoute 2002 to plan the route and look for hotels and also logging into the websites of the various embassies to download information about the countries and to request tourism brochures. I use Autoroute 2002 because I find the 2005 version is less useful as it is now aimed at sat-nav usage and does not cover any of Eastern Europe or much of Scandinavia. For the same reason we decided not to buy a Garmin or similar in-car GPS system. By coincidence my car insurance came up for renewal in March, but when I told Lancaster Insurance that I planned to visit Bulgaria and Romania (non-EU countries) there was a shocked silence! After contacting more than twenty insurers or brokers I finally obtained an excellent policy for both the car insurance and also for full RAC continental breakdown cover from Norwich Union Direct who are based in Sheffield and Bombay.

Further reading of the small print received from the various embassies revealed that apart from a Green Card, an International Driving Permit was also required, this coming from the RAC. A visit to the Foreign Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) was quite depressing and worrying about Bulgaria and Romania particularly and almost made my wife change her mind about the trip. We also learnt there that we needed various vaccinations before going to these two countries also an above- average travel insurance package. A large selection of currency was ordered and it became clear that, just as in Scandinavia, I would have to memorise a vast number of conversion formulae; suddenly even the dreaded Euro seemed attractive!

Because we cover around 15,000 miles a year in our V8, most of it abroad, I work on the basis of routinely replacing most rotating components roughly every 65,000 miles. So the first stage of preparation each year is to review my service history - the replacement list including front brake pads and disks due to other problems (a V8 Workshop Note will follow), brake and clutch master and slave cylinders and also the brake servo in view of the recent spate of failures reported in the V8 Website. It seemed wise as my car has

Harvest Gold 1904 seen at a stop during the V8 Anniversary in 2003. (Photo: Victor Smith)

covered some
330,000 miles! The rear prop-shaft U/J and both radiator fan motors were also on the list. The immobiliser was upgraded, and whilst at 33,000 miles there was plenty of tread left on the rear tyres, two new Michelin Energy tyres were fitted. The battery does not rotate very often (!) but my experience of modern batteries is that they fail very shortly after the expiry of the three year warranty, so in went a new 12v 506 amp hour battery.

Petrol quality in far-flung parts of Europe varies greatly and probably caused the early demise of my previous solid-state petrol pump, so I have fitted an extra in-line filter between the tank and the pump. I always renew that filter and the normal engine-bay filter before each trip. For some time I have been carrying out testing for SPAX who are developing a new shock absorber to cope with the demands of cars like the MGBGTV8 with stiff rear springs (Factory V8 powered GT cars have 550lb rear springs whereas the original MGBs were at 450lb); stiffer springs mean sharper and shorter movements inside the shock absorber, also the MGBGT bodyshell presents some problems with harmonics which amplify any noise or rattle from the shock absorber. So far I have tested and reported back on five variations and the current version (code name "Red with Rebound Bleed") gives absolutely superb bump absorption and totally predictable road-holding. A new version using these settings but with other changes will be sent to me for fitting before we depart so that they can have an immediate 6,000 mile test. Finally, obviously the car gets a full service, but in addition I check every single hose clip for tightness and torque up most of the engine and suspension bolts.

Spares and tools are an important consideration and obviously V8 drivers should always carry a fan belt and at least one set of contact points, a rotor arm and a condenser even if only travelling in the UK, remembering that RAC/AA patrols no longer carry these on their vans. I also carry a set of spark plugs plus a selection of plug leads; the three cables (choke, accelerator and bonnet release); a full set of bulbs including the halogens for the headlights; a set of 35amp fuses; various lengths of wire and a relay which can be used either for the radiator fans or for either of the halogen headlights. I carry but fortunately have never had cause to use a spare coil, but have needed to replace the petrol pump by the roadside whilst wandering around the vineyards of the Rhine Valley. Having had various distributor problems I now have two, both rebuilt by Holden, so one comes as a spare. All of these pack into the battery space vacated by the change to a single 12v battery some fourteen years ago. Less obvious is a half-shaft plus two oil seals - a few years ago we drove rapidly up and down a deserted Stelvio Pass three times on our way home from Sicily and greatly enjoyed reliving my past but exactly eight days later a half-shaft broke - however by then we were just four miles from home! A litre each of water and Duckhams 20/50 plus a gallon of petrol go under the boot floor together the mandatory First Aid kit and Warning Triangle along with my tools. If your combination spanner set or socket set has both metric and Imperial sizes, why take the metric ones? Finally, the Factory workshop manuals for the MGB plus the V8 Supplement are essential.

All being well, reports on this journey will follow.

Reports from Gordon Hesketh-Jones so far
V8 goes East 11
V8 goes East 10
V8 goes East 9
V8 goes East 8
V8 goes East 7
V8 goes East 6
V8 goes East 5
V8 goes East 4
V8 goes East 3
Route card
Preparations for the trip

Reports from Bob Owen on the MG Italia
Additional photos from Bob Owen
Final report from Bob Owen
Second report from Bob Owen
Report from Bob Owen on the MG Italia