Laon Historique 2015

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I must have had too many shandy’s one night last year as I suggested to a couple of buddies that we should do the Laon Historique. I’ve read great reports on this event in this mag and elsewhere so it was booked with a MG Midget and Lotus Elan in mind as fellow tourists. Sadly the Elan hasn’t quite finished its rebuild but no matter we were booked and raring to go. I’d been to the Le Mans classic accompanied by Tim in his classic MG Midget a couple of years ago and really enjoyed the trip as much as the event so even though the prospect of a c800 mile round trip was daunting it was equally exciting. We did though consider having the odds stacked a little better in our favour and elected to travel from Hull to Zeebrugge overnight and cut out the long boring motorway miles in this country. This seemed a great idea and as the event drew closer it was made better by colleagues from Cleveland and Durham also doing this trip.

The initial journey over the Yorkshire Wolds was pleasant but with a couple of the bigger hills it was me who had to have the bonnet up first as MEF just wasn’t performing well uphill. A cursory inspection soon showed a plug lead off…so no dramas there. Plug Lead replaced we resumed our journey, thankfully on 8 cylinders rather than 7 !

Once out of the port in Zeebrugge we’d somehow got split up so a few hurried phone calls and we had a rendezvous at the first petrol station…where else ! Resuming our journey it was fairly uneventful through the initial flatlands of Belgium until we came to a road closed and Tim indicated it was his turn for a problem. It seemed that his brakes and clutch were becoming very unresponsive and all fluid appeared to have escaped somewhere, but from where ? There were no obvious traces on the road but something wasn’t right. We eventually found a garage and tried to explain our predicament, but even though the fluid was topped up this didn’t solve the root cause of the problem. Unbelievably the garage mechanic explained he had a colleague who restored classic Triumph’s and MG’s and he was only 10km away !! Even though it was a Friday afternoon with many miles ahead of us we continued undeterred to get the problem fixed. The garage itself was superb, the garage owner clearly knew his stuff and getting the car on the ramps showed that the problem was a broken brake pipe where it entered into the slave cylinder. An hour later and we were fixed on rolling again. It did just give me enough time to look at the classic Austin Healey 3000’s that he had along with classic Jaguars and Triumphs.

Saturday dawned bright and clear and we met up with Ron Davey from SOC Herts who as well as being a real gentleman is a seasoned foreign traveller and was able to give us some top tips on the weekends activities. Vehicles at the Parc-Foche where we met at registration were superb – such a variety of cars from classic super cars like the De-Tomaso Pantera GTS to the 1914 14.5 litre

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Simplex chain driven car. Then we set off on the recommended tour. Being driver and navigator was not something I relished so we elected to follow 2 gentlemen of a certain age <ahem> who were driving a classic open top Bentley. Surely they would find their way around…..alas it was not to be – they turned into the Hotel car park, which meant car number 2 expressed his alarm over leading a group of classics on a 140 mile tour around !! Sure enough, we drove round and round until Tim pulled over and lead our little convoy which by this time was just 4 of us, the Midget, 2 Stags and a Lotus Elite Turbo. Soon we were making great headway and polling along quite nicely top down and seeing fantastic scenery and classic cars.

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Lunch was held at a beautiful chateau where everyone congregated before setting off for the return trip to their hotels. At designated stops along the way eager locals were happy to offer bottles of water and other gifts, sunglasses, newspapers, chargers, and even a bottle of delicious local cider. If a route turning wasn’t 100% clear there was usually a local who popped up indicating the route and on most roads in the countryside local children were usually on hand with cameras or mobile phones taking videos and pictures etc.

Saturday evening the three of us Roy, Tim and I returned into Laon for an evening meal with our colleagues from Cleveland and Durham SOC where we had a really pleasant meal and sampled a little of the local produce !

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Sunday morning wasn’t quite such good weather for the closed roads circuit of the town but the sheer spectacle of so many classic cars from simple 2CV’s to the more exotic and expensive was great to see and participate in. I must confess that after a couple of laps of the circuit though Tim and I elected to take a short tour to the old Reims motor racing circuit where en-route the weather seemed to clear up for us. Although Reims circuit hasn’t been used since the early 1970’s most of the buildings and grandstands are still there and for confirmed petrol heads like us it just had to be done ! Another fine evening was spent in good company with our friends in Laon sampling the fine wines and local produce (you can never be too careful !)

Sadly though all too soon the time came on Monday morning to head back North – we naturally elected to take a more scenic route staying off the motorways and whilst MEF was performing well, my overdrive noises suggested not all was happy down there. Eventually we reached Bruges and called in for an hour or so doing a quick tourist thing before heading back to Zeebrugge for the ferry home.

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We had an absolutely fab time and I’d be looking forward to doing it all again.

Thanks Andy Mathers for sharing your trip with us.

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Stag Engines Reunited

I used to own a 1965 signal red TR4a. it was very pretty and very reliable but with the onset of children, not very practical without any rear seats!

My friend James, already a Stag owner, used to let me keep it in his farm workshop over the winter months and regularly told me that I really needed to buy a Stag.

My one disappointment with the TR4a had always been its lack of a throaty roar, so a couple of years ago, I bit the bullet and started searching.

I knew what I wanted so I only looked at a couple of cars before seeing an advert for one in the west of Scotland. I managed to tie a visit in with a business trip, and armed with cash from the sale of the TR, did a deal. The next challenge was to get my new Stag home to Kent which was solved when another friend recommended a local transportation company….money well spent!

So James and I lined up our Stags in his workshop and tinkered and fettled….as you do, until I looked at his commission plate. Despite his being purchased in Kent, and mine in the West of Scotland, they are only 9 cars apart. With a bit of research, I have discovered that they initially both headed to the West Country as the registration, WG is for Exeter and WV is for Bristol. Not so remarkable you might say until a couple of weeks ago when I was in the process of upgrading my ignition and coil.

With the coil out, I was able to read the engine number stamp and made a note of it – LE44741HE. Wondering what James’s engine number was, bearing in mind their close commission numbers, I peered into his engine bay with a torch. I couldn’t believe what I scribbled down – LE44742HE. Two cars sitting next to each other after 38 years with consecutive engine numbers. Why doesn’t that happen in the lottery?

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So how were these cars built on the production line? Presumably, bodies on one and engines on the other. Were our engines built by the same person? If they were, he did a good job because they’ve both survived this far and have just returned from a 500 mile round trip thrashing down the French autoroutes to Laon.

Coincidentally my grandfather , CJ Peyton, was financial director at British Leyland having come across from Rover in the amalgamation. My mum remembers Spen King and Harry Webster who used to come to the house.

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I remember as a small boy travelling in various “test” models when we visited at weekends including the prototype Range Rover which we took to Holland. My dad discovered a fault on a pre production Dolomite Sprint when he couldn’t release the handbrake after we parked up for lunch and I have a vivid memory of a white Triumph 2.5 PI estate that even then seemed incredibly fast!

I was fascinated by the overdrive on top of the gear stick and think of him every time I get my foot down in the Stag and flick the switch!

Our thanks to Simon Lord for his article

Bluebell The Stag – Her European Tour

Having owned our stag for fourteen years and also owning a TR5 and TR8 we decided on a sensible day to cut down our car collection so sold the TR8 and the Stag  BIG Mistake  we wished we had kept them both.

However Helene really missed her Stag, funny how every time I turned on her computer it was left on “stags for sale” ? So in 2013 we bought bluebell a Tahiti blue auto Stag.

 

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I am no mechanic but we like everything as it should be and tinker so all the lights work, doors click etc.

The only major thing we had done was a Tate and Lewis gear box, not cheap but wow it transforms the car to a wonderful long distance cruiser.

We usually do a European tour each year, but in the TR5, this year we did it in the Stag (Bluebell )

Always staying our first night in St Omer to get the feeling of France we travelled through the centre of France taking the scenic routes down to Orleans on to the Dordogne and Sarlat for the Saturday market.

Then on to Carrcasonne we crossed into Spain for for a night in Viella travelling along the Spanish Pyrenees, seemingly all to ourselves the roads were smooth and completely empty.

We took a rest in Birritz for a couple of nights then travelled up the coast to La Rochelle. It happened to be the National 2CV rally that weekend we joined them on a large roundabout lots of tooting , waving etc

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2CVs may be small but boy they can make a lot of noise, Also by chance the Red Bull cliff diving challenge was in town diving off one of the harbour towers, the place was very much alive.

Then onto Dinan, Port Bessin, Honfleur and then home.

Now for the most important bit.

Bluebell ( The Stag )

Never missed a beat

Oil used – None

Water used – None

Smiles on faces – Lots

Waves by people – Lots

The only problem was we took several CDs to play but only listened to the wonderful sound of the Stag.

Thank you John & Helene Dennison for sharing your wonderful trip with us all!!