V8 returns from the MG Italia

V8 returns from the MG Italia
Bob and Carolyn Owen took their MGBGTV8 out to Greece to join the MG Italia event, and met Gordon and Jennifer Hesketh-Jones on their "V8 goes East" tour, and now recounts the eventful return journey. (25.5.05)

Simplon Pass
- the V8 passing through spectacular mountain scenery with remnants of snow beside the road. (Photo: Bob Owen)

In case email silence should be construed as our being missing somewhere in darkest France, I can report that we arrived home safely on Friday afternoon (21.5.05) after a great holiday.

After the landing at Ancona we all said our long goodbyes to the MG enthusiasts we had met on the MG Italia and then went our separate ways. We astounded our prospective son-in-law by arriving outside his apartment in Viale Papigniano in central Milan without recourse to sat nav, mobile phones or a police escort. In fact, we had had some tips from an Italian couple who lived in Milan plus some luck in finding the right streets - and I have to confess that Carolyn is a very good navigator! We sometimes reverse our roles but I usually get us lost!

The lovely Carla of MG Italia waves goodbye. (Photo: Bob Owen)

After a day and two nights in Milan we set off for our long lost friend's house in Durrenasch, near Zurich. All went well as we headed north over the Simplon pass and through spectacular mountain scenery with remnants of snow beside the road .... this should have given us cause for concern... but we headed gaily on to the next smaller higher passes pointing towards Zurich.....only to find all three possible passes closed. Now we either had to retrace our steps or take a long deviation west along the French border. Either way, we would be late and so needed to use motorways. But we hadn't got a Vignette (Swiss motorway licence) or any Swiss francs....so we had to stop in town where parking wasn't metered and find how to get a Vignette. Luckily I found a travel agent with customer parking and they directed us to the Post Office who fortunately took Euros.

So off we set on the motorway, complete with our new sticker, keeping eyes open for the law and running at a nice steady 3000 rpm (approx 87 mph) and rapidly eating up the miles - less picturesque than our chosen route but at least we wouldn't be too late. Wrong - was that the engine missing I felt? Perhaps I had inadvertently knocked the overdrive switch as I operated the indicators.... Yes, all is well.... but... hesitation again. Then running on four cylinder, then picking up. Was it a fuel problem? I managed to get to a service area, then checked fuel to carburettors - none. So I removed the feed to filter and turned on the ignition - fuel. So the filter must be dodgy, but it looked OK. Strange, so I bypass the filter and proceed. Ten miles later, the same again. The problem was an intermittent fuel pump. Who was the wise virgin who bought a spare petrol pump, just in case, but then proceeded to leave it in the garage at home?

After stressful few miles, I pulled off for small town and headed in looking for a small garage and luckily found one just about to close. As it was a French speaking area, my schoolboy French was brought into play. Yes, they would help if they could. Unfortunately they had never seen an SU petrol pump! So they said would I like to use their ramp and tools? I declined the latter as I had my own then set about seeing if I could repair the pump.

Six years and 30,000 miles ago I had the fuel pump in pieces to change the capacitor and re-adjust the contacts, although the contacts weren't replaced, so

I had vague memories of how to proceed. I turned the contact assembly through 180 degrees and re-assembled. No good so I disassembled it and turned it back through 360 degrees and re-assembled. Bingo! Quick clean up and back on the motorway. We arrived for dinner at Durrenasch at 10pm and our hostess, Monika, managed to serve us a delicious meal even though it was two hours after the due time. We drank plenty of wine and talked until 2am before collapsing into bed and instant sleep.

We spent the next day in Durrenasch and then set out on Thursday morning for Cambrai. Car was going well but near Dizier in eastern France we decided to leave the autoroute and head into town to find a pleasant place for some refreshment. Going south east on the N road we met an old MG - a dark red TD - "Bu***r me! It's Malcolm and Lynda!" I said. They had been with us in Greece but had spent a couple of days in Gabbice Mare and then Chamonix before heading home, mainly on the ordinary N roads. What a remarkable encounter! What were the odds of being on the same stretch of minor road at a random time in eastern France heading in opposite directions? We had a chat and resumed our respective ways.

Chance meeting with Malcolm & Linda in their TD near Dizier in eastern France. (Photo: Bob Owen)

Back on the autoroute I felt a strangely familiar hesitation as we approached Reims. Pump again...so I found an Aire (service area) and put the car with the pump side wheels on a kerb to get clearance to slide under the back of the car. Fortunately it was daytime and dry, so I used old newspaper as a mat. This time adjustment would not solve the problem, so I released the fixed contacts and moved them so that a new area was contacting, then re-set them. Phew - the pump was working again. But we were due in Cambrai, 100 miles away, for a meal at 8pm. We were now late once again. We were making a habit of late dinners - but fortunately the lovely Babeth at Le Clos St Jacques came to our rescue, just as Monika had two nights previously, with another delicious meal. Again, more wine and chat followed by a deep sleep.

Next morning I stocked up on wine from the Cambrai supermarket - 50 bottles and 11 wine boxes- and fumigating bombs for the greenhouse - EU rules means they are banned here, but the French show their usual healthy disrespect for such things. The wine boxes and bottles go flat on the rear floor with the luggage on top; coats and pullovers etc provide packing and stop rattles. The space behind the seats and the passenger foot well are also used to provide further capacity.
No problems getting to Calais or from Dover to our home near Reading.

So a total distance of 3,200 miles in just under three weeks and a very enjoyable holiday. Sadly, the car blotted it's copy book a little, but in fact this is the first time I have had to get out and get under the V8 in five return trips we have made to Italy in recent years. Old cars may be less reliable than modern cars, but when they go wrong you do have a good chance of doing running repairs. When a modern car goes wrong you have a far slimmer chance of putting it right. There are great roads in France with much less traffic than in the UK - ideal V8 country! So go out and take your V8s to the continent, or beyond.