The 156 – 1000 miles in.

It’s two weeks today since the sleekly shaped Italian beauty came onto the Fu’Gutty fleet – how has it fared so far?

The initial 250 miles home from Chester showed the two faces of the beast straight off.

First up, the poor steering lock and heavy derv lump make it a ponderous thing to pilot around conurbations. 

Certainly its something I have adapted to, but the propensity for squeaking from the front suspension just adds to the irritation.

Get her out the towns though, and the magic happens! Motorways are but a comfortable inconvenience as you thunder along to the 5cyl thrum, miles dissapearing without notice.

This is the car I should have bought when commuting to Blackburn. Too late to resolve that, so time to move onto its other party trick.

FWD+ DERV+ 5cyl = understeer? Not so with the 156! Instead it makes for a scalpel sharp way of barrelling cross country.

It revs more like a petrol than any other diesel I’ve encountered, and pulls strongly even when not boosting. This makes it a joyous thing to drive in a spirited manner!

Its schlepped many miles, carted the occasional book case, and even attended it’s first Motorsport event in my care.

Despite having no failures to proceed, there are (as ever) a fair few issues that need resolved:

Front suspension squeaks and clunks (likely replacement needed).

4 different makes of tyre (at least they are all the same size now..)

5th gear can be grumpy to engage if hustling along – there are a couple of potential causes.

Suspected battery drain – the classic “bulb out” light issue in the rev counter.

Boot carpets and load covers are manky and need replaced.

Interior could do with a proper clean- I may have to crack out the Rug Doctor.

60% split of folding rear seat won’t fold down.

Bottom of the front wings are holy enough for the Vatican City.
Overall though, its a world away from the Fabia, engaging to drive and characterful to own. I like it!

Super Touring Sunday

Last Sunday, two miracles occurred.

Firstly, Knockhill Racing Circuit was to be found bathed in 20degrees worth of sunshine and 0mm of precipitation. 

This may not sound much, but those who know the circuit will understand that this is akin to catering a large event with but a couple of fish and some bread.

I haven’t been to Knockhill properly for a couple of years, and I must say I was properly impressed by the improvements to facilities trackside – the new round circuit path and seating has made a massive difference!

The second miracle could likely be better defined as a small rip on the time/space continuum – the 1990s arrived just after lunch!

Supertourings were out to play in force!

The back of one legend, and the front of another

For anyone too young to remember these cars the first time round, the Supertourings represent the pinnacle of the BTCC racing series in my opinion – they are essentially the Group B of saloon circuit racing!

Huge fields with direct factory teams from a diverse range of manufacturers were the epitome on the “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” approach to retailing.

Battles were waged on the track, and on the open road by legions of rep- mobile driving fans. If you had a Vectra, you WERE John Cleland!

If only the 1.4L came with these brakes..

In the 1980s, the Touring Cars were hairy chested rwd oversteery beasts. The 90s ushered in a technical arms race – started by the wholesale shift towards FWD platforms by most manufacturers.

You can see just how crazy it got by looking at the location of the engine in the Volvo v40 below

It may be FWD but its practically Mid-Engined

The sight and sound of the assembled pack making their way to the grid was something to behold!

You can watch it here:

Besides the Supertourings, there was a full programme of racing from a myriad of different series, each filled with drivers pushing (and sometimes rolling ) the limits of their cars. 

Furthermore, there were some properly lovely things in the car park!

Anyway, enough of my inane chatter – time to let the pics do the talking


Another Alfa Arrives

The Fabia covered over 12,500 miles with Fu’Gutty cars in less than 7 full months – mostly with aplomb, and with considerable frugality. That said, it hardly filled its pilot with joy, being a staid and sensible conveyance for undertaking the mundane “Adulting Adult” type tasks oft expected of those in their mid 30s.

With the MOT due in September, I was beginning to consider replacing it with something a touch more characterful, even if it meant an increase in inconvenience and fuel consumption. My fairwell review to the Fabia can be found here: Fu’Gutty Fabia Review

I didn’t want to hobble myself too much though, so had a scout about for something I could swap the Fabia for.

Ideally, I needed:

  1. More MOT
  2. Decent MPG (40+)
  3. The practicality of an estate.
  4. The ability to Part ex the Fabia (I’m currently lacking the time to answer inane questions on Gumtree at 3am;)

What better than to combine the vendor of the Peugeot 306 Dturbo, and the unfinished business of the first Alfa 156 Fu’Gutty cars has owned?

With that, the trusty jump pack was prepped and I set out on an adventure.

240 miles to target – range says 265 miles..will I make it?

A Handy thing to have charged up -useful for jump starts or for phone charging

The m74 was dispatched easily, and sustenance was procured at Tebay, as per. During this imbibing, the massed ranks of “ALL THE TRAFFIC IN BRITAIN” converged on the m6 and m56.  Less than 100 miles to go, yet the sat nag was saying over 2.5hrs.

A touch of jiggery pokery saw me escape the gridlock at the Warrington junction, and take the A49 cross country to the m56. With the fuel light on, I crept through rush hour traffic, slowly edging my way to the destination.

The Green doors of dreams!

In case you had not guessed, its the silver Alfa we’re after, not the Suzuki Ignis..

The usual pleasantries were exchanged, and the brief test drive revealed the usual Alfa squeaks and rattles, but a mechanically sound motor car none the less.

Deal concluded, it was time to fuel up for the long schlep North – bound for Hame.

Purveyor of Petrol’s canopy just visible in the distance

Despite the tired suspension, I confess its nice to be back in a FWD car that communicates well with the driver, and handles confidently. No doubt, I’ll be cursing the same suspension at a later date..

After some swift seat adjusting, I was well in my zone – completely at home with the controls and the driving experience. Even the myriad squeaks and rattles were tholeable due to the engine.

12345 Senses working Overtime!

The 2.4 JTD 10V as fitted to this car in 140bhp format is a delight. 5 Cylindered, and blessed with a massive WHUMP of torque, it hustles the lithe 156 along beautifully. The driving experience could scarcely be more different from the VW TDi PD I’d driven down in.

Tractable from no revs, you can drive it all day using only the 500rpm from 1250 -1750 rpm- its like having a mini truck! 1750rpm in 5th is an indicated 50mph and just about to start getting interesting.

Alternatively, the 5k readline can be reached most promptly, should you use the pedal with the subltly of Trump on a State visit. The turbo cuts in early and hard, with the engine pulling like a petrol all the way to the red line. Me Likely!

As always, with Alfas, there are a few niggles to resolve. At least with this one the engine  is a crowning glory, rather than a tremendous dissapointment.

 

Tune in for more mishaps soon (gotta love #Alfalife)

Tartan Tarmac May 28th

Sometimes, just sometimes, its nice to actually go out and do stuff with cars that doesn’t involve copious levels of swearing and skint knuckles.

Driving can be quite a rewarding experience – especially if you get the chance to meet up with other like-minded folk, and also scoff a roll n slice at the same time. This is where Tartan Tarmac’s meet in Motherwell comes into its own.

Held in a college car park, with plenty of space for a menagerie of cars, its a laid back Sunday morning of a car meet.

Ordinarily, static car shows can be a bit humdrum – with many boring stands, and adenoidal chit chat over “obscure trim revisions in November 1967”. Tartan Tarmac is not like that at all.

Instead, you park where you can, next to godknowswhat and get chatting! The range of cars on show was really diverse – with a multitude of countries represented throughout the show. This also made it easy to fill the couple of hours we spent there – I think my brother and I now have a “Want one of those” gallery in our phones..

A pretty mixed lot of cars here..

We bumped into some good mates, and had a natter before aquiring sustenance from the chuck wagon – shortly thereafter, we stumbled upon some absolute stunners from Italy.  The Montecarlo in particular tickled my fancy – such a purposeful yet elegant design.

OOOOFT! old italian tin for the win!

As regular readers of thes blog will know, we at Fu’utty have a penchant for fast Renaults – the meet aforded me the opportunity to see one of the best up close –  the Clio v6. take a small fwd supermini, and fit it with a v6. In the boot/back seat. Driving the rear wheels.

Tremendous!

Yes, Yes, I would indeed have one!

Another bonkers car from a generally sane manufacturer was to be found nearby. Imagine your Gran owned this Honda?

More reliable than Alonso’s steeds of late..

From a megacorp’s supercar, to something a little more niche – a Quantum kitcar.  Not omly that, but the owner was advertising a Rickman Ranger project for sale too – truly living the dream!

Mildly obscure, but definately cool- a Quantum

From the rediculous to the sublime- an LHM and spheres equipped Xantia was on hand to show the modders how to do LOWZ

a “green Goo” Citroen – even Xantias are becoming cool now;)

Lastly, and by no means least – the car of the show for me.

Not a 911, nor any BMW M car. No.

 

A Buick Skylark. running a 318ci v8 and 2 speed (!) auto.

behold it in this video : https://youtu.be/Jg-6mry1XVE

I very nearly had a WANTGASM..

The v8 I want, next to the v8 I have.

All in all, a great meet!

Lovvin the Lexus!

In the last blog, I gave a tantalising glimpse of the Daimler’s replacement- a 1995 Lexus LS400 lovingly known as “Mason”.

Having had such a fine beast for almost a month, allow me to share some observations with you regarding ownership.

Where to start.. Ah yes!

The Engine

I’ll be the first to admit that I like a v8 to be a gazillion litres and fed with as big a carb as one can fashion out a conveniently nearby dustbin. Safe to say I like coughing, snarling, spitting cast iron hulks hell bent on putting you through the nearest hedge backwards.

On paper, then, the modest 4.0 1UZ-FE doesn’t sound like my kind of v8 – too many valves (32 of the blighters!) and the usual Japanese clinical precision seem at odds with what I’m after..

Let me tell you though- WHAT AN ENGINE! It revs like a bastard, hurtling the big saloon forward with suprising ferocity, yet maintains a dignified silence at idle, or on a steady cruise.

Not the v8 I was looking for- but certainly one I’m glad I own!

Putting out between 250-260bhp (i’m not sure if mine is earlier or later spec) it never seems to labour, and makes short work of flattening hills. The wide torque curve is also ideal for the mating to an Autobox – both work in harmony to provide a smooth and serene transition along the road.

The super-duper multivalve nonsense and modest capacity has another advantage- on a recent work trip, this Leviathan Lexus returned a most pleasing 28.48 mpg (imp) over 500 miles. Phenomenal for such a large car cruising at the legal limit.

Driving

Designed specifically to compete with the 7 series and S class offerings from the pesky Germans, the LS400 had to do several things competently.

On the motorway, progress is swift and assured – the car feeling stable and purposeful as you waft along on Cruise Control. Its easily as composed as an e32 7 series. Overall visibility is grand- this was the tail end of the era when designers were able to use thin a/b/c pillars for better visibility, as opposed to thick ones required for modern crash structures.

On A roads, the bumps are soaked up as you thread between bends – the auspicious grunt allowing for the “slow in, fast out” technique to serve up repeated v8 howlings with no discernable impact on progress. The gearbox performs well here- eager to kick down and spur on.

On B roads, the width and weight of the car becomes a touch telling, as does the disconnection in feel betwixt driver and controls. Keen to hear the v8 scream, I’ve found myself fast approaching a corner with a touch more pace than grace. Thankfully, its a docile big bugger and helming it in is no hard task – I’m working on being slightly more sensible when on the Duke’s Pass though!

Its not quite as comfortable as an XJ40 Jag, or as nimble as the BMW e32 but it is definately a compromise that does not leave you feeling frustrated! A large exec saloon you can schlep 400 miles in, and then play with down the lanes on the last few miles to home is a wonderous thing!

Exterior

Again, the LS400 is not my normal cup of tea – indeed it apes much more of the slab- sided drudgery of the e38 BMW 7 series, over the the “Cad in a good suit” looks of the earlier e32.

Slab sided salaciousness

However, where Lexus have suceeded is in creating that sence of imposition that apes the menacing presence of a good exec saloon. If Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels was filmed in Tokyo, then “Big Chris” would have driven an LS400. A v8 and heavy doors are key to his requirements.

The rear of the car is superbly bland, giving little away of the nature of the Beast, whereas the front wears its scars with pride. The straight lines convey a certain arrogance and appear mightily effective at chaperoning those sans v8 out the way. I’ll get those gawdawful talepipes rectified ASAP!

Menacing at the front- wnough to get a 5 Series Scared!

Back’s a bit boring, mind!

Hangin’ With the JDMSKIDZ crowd!

Interior

Interiors are a very important thing to get right in an Exec saloon – after all, they’re where your buyer (and their driver!) will spend most of their time.

Here’s where the old Lexus falls a bit behind. If I’d paid £49k in 1995 for one of these, I’d expect to get something a little better than Carina E/Avensis indicator/wiper stalks and wood so plastic, it looks like it came out a pound store.

Additionally, it’d be bloody handy if the cruise control stalk was to be found in the one location, rather than orbiting like a demented moon in relation to the steering wheel.

The leather is not as supple as you’d like, but has stood up to the passing of time incredibly well, so I’ll let it off. The seats are well sprung, and electrically adjusted in the front. Combine this with an electrically adjustible (reach and height) steering column and it is easy to get a comfortable driving position.

The cupholders blocking the ability to open the lower storage compartment in the armrest is a minor irritation.

The ultimate “cool gadget” award is split between the Dashboard and the electrically adjustable Seatbelt height (yes, really!).

I think the Seatbelt adjustment just shades it though,as the dash is woeful at communicating any extra information the driver may need. You get 2 trip ODOs and the main car Mileometer – no trip computer.

A technological tour-de-force dash, let down by no trip comp, and the world’s smallest “LOW FUEL” light.

Verdict

A worthy contender for your hard earned bargain barge cash – strongest point is definately the engine, luckily the chassis and ride comfort back it up, taking your mind off the less than glamourous interior.

I can see it being on the Fu’gutty fleet for a while!

 

Doin’ the 4Litre Shuffle

A new job at the start of the year has put a significant dint in the ability to tinker with old scrap.

The Fabia has been doing sterling work as a motorway mile muncher- surpassing 10,000 miles to date. That said, it is somewhat lacking in refinement and comfort.

This was made especially clear when Mr Dollywobbler drove it.

Ah yes, Mr Wobbler was up from Wales. Why? Well….

Deleting the Daimler

With the downturn in available time, something had to give on the project front. A strict “Last in, first out” policy was applied, and the Daimler was up for the chop.

As luck would have it, Said chap who authors Hubnut was on the lookout for a new car.

A rather last minute plan was hatched, involving a convoluted conveyance of correspondents.

We were to meet and dine on the Friday evening, before retiring to prepare for the day of reckoning.

Soon enough the day arrived and we set to work.

The Daimler has an MOT but was not fit for use due to a fairly heavy fuel leak from the filter area.

The first task was swap one rear tyre over with the spare to allow for actual tread.

Then it was up in the air for a swatch at the leak.

Unfortunately, it was not a filter based leak, rather a bleeding blown return line- a more complicated repair.

Mr Wobbler worked diligently to produce a fuel tight seal with a replacement piece of hose. 

This worked well, except another appeared. A modicum of muttering and a multitude of jubilee clips later, there was fuel passing securely through the lines.

Back together, we topped up the fluids and took a short run to the petrol station.

3miles later, we were roasting ourselves by the heat from the front right wheel:( A sticking caliper causing further misery.

Back to the hoose and we applied much science and percussion as required, eventually getting it to work properly.

With that, the Daimler was off on a 320mile run to Wales. I’m glad to say he made it back in one piece.

Meeting Mason

Having been without a 4L luxury car for 19hrs, I was nearly inconsolable. But my good mate Brian stepped in.

Having purchased an Audi s4 avant for himself, he took pity on my plight and sent me the appropriate remedy.

Enter stage right Mason, the M reg Lexus LS400. Equipped with a 4litre 1UZ v8, it has the shove to provide luxurious high speed cruising.

Initial impressions suggest that Mason and I will get along exceedingly well – infact we have covered 70 odd miles already.

Moreover, with electric seats and electric seatbelt height adjustment (Really!) Coupled to cruise control, I can feel a more comfortable commute coming on this week..

Let’s hope my wallet survives!

Fabia Finds Felicia

Regular readers will know that the Fu’Gutty life leads to me knowing a fair few people who exhibit similar proclivities to crap old cars..

One such chap is my mate The Moog. By day a super duper sensible lecturer at a further education college, he becomes a voracious consumer of shite old cars by night.

Tonight was one such evening.

I was summoned to the Batcave in my Robinesque Fabia – and charged with pounding the mean streets of Bingley in hot pursuit of The Joker..

Ah yes, The Joker. Sworn enemy of Batman and a known deviant in the anti-roll bar department, this Burgundy bruiser bore a passing resemblance to the Blomqvist piloted 3rd place car in the 1996 Network Q rally.

Yes, The Joker is a 1997 Skoda Felicia 1.3i. Despite not having the powerhouse 1.6, these 1.3 mpi engined beasts are willing performers, and I had fond memories of my brother’s one.

Initial impressions for The Moog were less than favourable – sloppy handling, a veer to the right when braking and the incessant din of tappets made for a less than auspicious first impression.

But I was prepared and ready to go on the attack!

First strike- apply Batflation devices to the 4 rings of doom! Rendering them full to 32psi of handling gas.

Strike two- gloop the Gubbins in the engine bay with Batfords finest 5w30 super shiny synthetic oil. Once more silence prevailed near Keighley.

The Joker was tamed.

Back to Gotham we toddled, and The Joker was incarcerated in the Batcave once more..

The Moog had even taken a shine to it by this point. mission accomplished!

Patience is a virtue.

My Gran had a saying back in the day – 

“Patience is a virtue, find it if you can.

Seldom in a woman, and never in a man”

Today was example of the scarcity of the afore mentioned virtue..

On Wednesday this week, the Fabia was recalcitrant at starting, and would stall after about 15secs. Upon restart, it’d run OK.You can see what was happening here.

Being 200 miles from home, I decided to schlep it up the road asap and mess with it once home.

Today was my opportunity.

I sojourned to the local Halfords and procured what was required. The primer bulb is a boon for getting air out the system.

It went as follows:

1. Get a Golf filter from Halfords as none of the Fabia ones were available.

2. Realise outlets are at different angles.

3. Decide to reroute pipes using new fuel line.

4. Realise new fuel line is too small a diameter.

5. Elevently mph dash in Clio 172 to Halfords.

6. Arrive 7.52pm.

7. Get correct pipe.

8. Return home and fit pipe plus primer.

9. Run car after priming.

10. Marvel at instant starting.

11. Remove primer, spray diesel liberally.

12. Note Diesel not as untasty as diff oil.

13. Secure all fittings.

14. Go for test drive.

15. Go LIKE FUCK.

16. Celebrate successful 6 mile drive.

17. Return home.

18. Instant hot starting FTW.

19. Tidy up.

20. Dinner

Top service by Halfords to swap over the fuel pipe for me – great to get it back up and running tonight!

The acid test will be a cold start tomorrow.

Mind you, if I’d been patient, I’d have got the correct filter soon enough and had no crafty piping to do.

Gran was always right..

A Com-Pela-ing purchase..

It started out innocently enough, with oil filter and oil purchased for the Fabia. 

I’m currently sticking about 2500miles a month on it at the moment, so it was the least I could do..

I got myself ready one Saturday and timed my attempt between rain showers (or as close to ‘showers’ as Scotland allows).

Car jacked up, and it was immediately obvious that the undetray was held in place with a multitude of different fastenings. For additional joy, they were rusty – even the cable ties appeared to have suffered from oxidation!

Discretion therefore became the better part of valour and I retreated to the house to consider my options.

After discussions with “virtual” friends, I settled on getting an oil extraction pump – The Pela 6000.

How it arrived

This is a 6 litre contraption that uses a vacuum to extract oil from the sump via the dipstick tube. Ostensibly, this removes more oil from the sump than the traditional sump plug and drain method. The cost was similar to that of the “posh” oil the PD lump requires.

I decided to put it to the test.

Neatly packaged up, with relatively few parts

It comes with the container, a pouring spout, a tube for placing into the dipstick tube and a 2 part pump for creating the vacuum (the handle screws on and off)

It was easy to build up as each section was an interference fit- just needing pressed on to seal effectively.

Fully assembled and ready for use.

I then took the opportunity to get the Fabia out on some local back roads so I could hoon some heat into the oil before extraction:)

That done (and what a chore it was..), I returned to the house to commence my first ever ‘no jack’ oil change.

Plumbed in and ready to commence

It appeared too simple to be true, what with just removing the dipstick and inserting the tube. But I gave it a whirl anyway.

Looks like a healthy 4L pulled out

Several pumps (10-20) on the handle saw the oil drawn out and into the bowl. No dropped sump plug, no oil up the sleeve.

I topped up with fresh oil and tidied up, only getting dirty when I stupidly dropped my phone into the engine bay.
All in all, I’m impressed by the piece of kit, and think it did a good job- certainly it made me wish I’d bought one long before.

Clio Back on the Commute!

Back towards the start of January, we had ourselves a little fettle of the Clio 172 as piloted by the Burd. With the exhaust sorted, it was fired in for an MOT a couple of weeks ago.

As expected, it didn’t sail through, instead needing a fair few fixes.

  1. A rusty front disc
  2. A rusty rear disc
  3. A non functioning right rear caliper
  4. A buggered balljoint
  5. A front Spring that was cracked
  6. A rear Spring that was cracked

All in all, nothing too major – although there was plenty potential for random French based faffery.

Funds were marshalled, motor factors and ebay was scoured, and a pile of parts was amassed.

Usually with the Clio, seeing how the simple parts of the job go gives a good overview of how the whole thing will go.

That meant front discs first:

Unlike normal Renault procedures, all 4 disc retaining screws ( with allen key heads) came out without issue, and the front discs were removed easily. Grateful for such mercy, I wasted no time in fitting the new discs and getting the calipers bolted back on.

Next up was the buggernated balljoint. On this 2001 Clio,it appeared to be original, and severely worse for wear.

There appeared to be 2 potential balljoint types available for the car – ones with 10mm bolt holes and ones with 12mm bolt holes. I bought 2x of the 12mm ones, but hedged my bet with a 10mm one being purchased too.

2 18mm bolts/nuts hold the balljoint into the bottom arm, and 1x 16mm nut and bolt is used to pinch the balljoint into the hub. In preperation for tackling this job, I’d liberally dowsed the bolts with penetrating fluid over the course of a few days.

this worked a treat, and despite difficult access due to the driveshaft, the bolts all came apart, and the balljoint hammered out easily.

For future reference, it was the 12mm hole balljoint that was needed. I have the other side to do shortly, but as it was not an MOT fail, I focused my efforts elsewhere.

The snapped front spring was plain to see, and as luck would have it, my mate Brian had recently updated the suspension on his Clio 182, allowing me to blag the front strut I needed to change the unit complete (Cheers Brian!).

img_20170122_134439

Yeah, I’d say that has sprung..

Having a complete unit to swap in made this task nice and easy – a 21mm nut on the topmount, plus 2x 21mm bolts at the hub end were all that required removal. A combination of breaker bar, ratchet and buzz gun made short work of the job!

 

With the front end back together it was time to start on the rear.

The clio 17/82 use a single piston caliper, with seperate pad holder and a lever operated handbrake. Such a set up is surely the work of a masochist – making even the “drum in disc” set up on the rear of my e30s seem like a sensible and effective engineering solution.

The sliders for the for the right rear caliper were as stubborn as my good lady, and despite significant persuasion with a hammer, refused to yield or slide.

After a touch of too and fro, a replacemet caliper was located and fitted. The arrangement for getting the brake fluid to the caliper is Gallic in extremis. 2 front to rear solid pipes run to just before the rear axle, before going into short flexis. The flexis then connect to yet more solid pipe at the Axle, before turning back into flexi (crimped) and finally returning to solid line into the caliper, via way of an 11mm/13mm fitting. Utterly bizzare.

Regardless, the caliper bled up ok, and there was a handbrake.

Next up were the rear discs – a single 30mm nut holds the disc on the rear stub axle, and once loosened the discs and wheel bearings just tap off. Replacement discs were sourced cheaply from Ebay (Mintex brand, with rear bearings already pressed in and ABS rings on). they fitted well, and have reduced rear end noise, whilst improving the rear braking.

These done, it was time to sort the rear spring that was broken – a simple affair involving unding the bottom shock bolt, and having someone stand on the hub. this allowed the old spring to be wiggled out, and the new one fitted.

A couple of days later, and Babette won a new MOT certificate – rapidly replacing the Fabia as commuter of choice for the burd.

This was good news for me, as I can now focus some attention on my cars!