Many thanks to Roy Smith for his Stag Tales in Spain….
I thought that I would start by sharing a picture of my wife’s Boobies. She took the picture in March 2012 on Ascension Island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (near the equator) when we were warming up on a break from my Civil Service job supporting the British Forces in the South Atlantic in the Falklands.
It was later that day that – without any understanding of either the subsequent financial or social life changing consequences – she tossed me a 2008 copy of Classic Car magazine that she had found in the converted portakabin that we were staying in. As I browsed through, I came across an advert by Cherished Classics of Leicester who specialize in the Triumph Stag. I had admired the Stag since its launch – regrettably I am old enough to remember those days – but had never been in one or even had a close look. Heading for retirement, the following year I quite fancied the thought of something to enjoy after I left work and after discussing this with my wife Sandra we set about investigating the possibility of ownership then. Once a year, I was entitled to return to UK with my wife – the Ministry of Defence being all heart – and I wrote to Lee Court of Cherished Classics and explained that I would appreciate it if he would allow us to visit his showroom in May as he opened only “by appointment” on Saturdays – the day that the flight arrived at Brize Norton. I also explained that we were not in the market at the time but were interested. I am sure that he thought that we were just “time wasters” and initially put us off. I persevered and eventually he agreed to our visit. Sandra and I had done a little homework, looking at various websites and had concluded that we would particularly like a yellow or red Stag, one with solid rather than wire wheels as these are too difficult to keep clean. We didn’t want white.
When the day came, after the 17 hours of flying we made our way to Leicester and Cherished Classics showroom. Lee pulled back the showroom door. There were maybe 6 cars in there but the very first, immediately behind the door was PKE 454L. White, wire wheels, love at first sight! Lee talked us through the cars in the show room and started two up. I still have the recording!!
We looked over the others but our hearts were set on the white one. She has been renovated – in 2006 but has covered – even now less than 5k miles. The interior is French blue leather with white piping. It’s funny, as we did not intend to buy for a year or so, we did not look in great detail at the condition of the body, although she looked immaculate but we did listen to what Lee told us about how to tell a good renovation.
She was priced at a figure more than we could afford so we thanked Lee and left. We watched Lee’s website and over a period of a month the asking price dropped by £2k. We offered a little less again and this was accepted! However, we were back in the Falklands winter by then and couldn’t arrange another flight for a month or so.
Our home is in Spain, near Gibraltar so we made all the arrangements, flights, ferry, hotels etc and arrived back in UK towards the end of July 2012. We rented a car from Brize Norton, drove up to Leicester and there she was, sitting outside the show room. Beautiful!
Lee ran through putting the hood up and re-stowing it, told us a story about another Stag owner and a problem he had had with the Torquatrol unit – the noise it makes when the bearings fail. He gave us a free pack of all the fluids and also the various “insurance” items that I had bought in preparation for our long journey to Spain – spare fuel and water pump, service kits (2), rear wheel cylinders, etc, etc, plus the right hand drive headlights as the car was now fitted for continental driving. It was at the front of my mind that neither Sandra nor I had ever driven any Stag before. Buying a car on the internet with no knowledge of this particular example, but with plenty of not so good press about reliability, overheating, mashing cam chains was a gamble and with the bookings made for our journey, we were committed.
We stayed with friends for 3 nights in Melksham before setting off on Tuesday morning for the Portsmouth – Santander Brittany ferry. All the time we had been in England, I had been praying that it would not rain. I just did not want to get the car wet. I did not know if it would leak, affect the electrics; stop us getting to the ferry…. The weather was fine.
The sea voyage to Spain was lovely and a chance to relax a bit but we had the thought of the next challenge – getting to Salamanca and the hotel – a 4 hour drive from the ferry. But the ferry did not dock until 1830 and by the time we got off and cleared customs….. Off we went, assisted by TomTom. The skies darkened and not because it was getting late, but because there was a thunderstorm ahead. The rain in Spain falls mainly on my Stag! Well, it did that evening.
We made the Abba Hotel in Salamanca by 2300 that evening without incident with only a few drops of rain – which was pretty heavy at times, dripping through the firewall somewhere. The view from the hotel, of Salamanca at night was so wonderful that we went down to the front desk and booked a second night. The Stag was safely parked in the hotel garage as we explored the historic elements of the city and possibly exceeded our capacity for churches in the process. But I can thoroughly recommend the hotel and the city. The next day we set off bound for home, driving some of the excellent old “main” roads that have been replaced by the autovia’s funded by the EU.
It was on one of these that the grinding began. Oh no! Cam chains!! In a bit of a flap, I phoned Lee Court and put the phone as close as I could to the front of the engine so that he could listen. “Oh, that’s the Torquatrol unit”, he said. “Get some oil on the bearing and it will be fine”. I don’t know if you have tried to drip oil onto the bearing here, on a hot engine but it is a bit inaccessible. Remembering a Bond movie where the villain dripped poison down a thread lowered from the ceiling into the victim’s mouth (Bond’s new wife I seem to recall), I used a small stick to drizzle the oil onto the bearing. It worked a treat. We had 300 miles to go but only had to do this once more before we arrived safely home in Los Barrios, Andalusia. Other than the minor problem that was nowhere near as bad as I had feared, the car had run perfectly. The car has a Kenlowe fan fitted and the temperature gauge never exceeded the 11 o’clock position. The outside temperatures had been up in the 30’s and all bar the thunderstorm had been done with the hood stowed. Many other motorists had peeped and given a friendly wave as they passed us or we passed them and it had been an adventure.
We live only 13 miles from Gibraltar where our daughters live now so went over the border a few times but the queue of over 2hours (now sometimes exceeding 5 hours) made us decide not to risk sitting in traffic for such extended periods. When I got a chance to have a good look at the condition of the car in my garage, she is in better condition than I could have hoped. Great actually. I can recommend Cherished Classics of Leicester and Lee’s expertise. We flew back to UK and on to the Falklands a few days later.I retired at the end of last year and I have not yet managed to get the car back on the road due to Spanish red tape. But that is another story!