Tagged: Europe Touring
I last toured France towing a caravan with my RHD Light 15 (KYO 745) in 1981. I have in recent years had a yen to tour again (France, Spain, Germany, Italy) for 2 or 3 weeks but without caravan. My wife is now reducing her working as a teacher so we can go away in June and July this year. Whether it is sensible for a 76 year old to tour with a 74 year old car is still exercising me but I would like to seek whatever advice any of you can give me. I would be the sole driver as the steering and brakes are too heavy for my wife. The car is in good condition and used quite a lot when the weather is warm.
Obvious questions are: How available is low ethanol petrol (In the UK I try to use only 5%)? What spares and tools should I take? Any services or help available in these countries? I don’t want to have a rigid timetable, so are there any hotel/restaurants with rooms chains one can be reasonably confident of getting into at short notice? What is the best way of adapting the headlights for colour and dip? Are LEZ’s and ULEZ’s becoming a problem? Should I fit an extra mirror on the n/s (as I did for the caravan)? With increasing temperatures, should I fit a cooling fan and temperature g/g? Any recommendations for insurance/breakdown recovery? Ferry or Eurotunnel?
Thanks for any advice. Nigel Orchard Member 128
I am older than you by a little, my light 15 is from 1950. Touring in France and Spain is in my experience straightforward and delightful. In the last four years we have driven from Santander to the UK, from UK to Bergerac and back via NE Paris, Normandy and elsewhere. I think my total mileage in France last year was nearly 2,000 miles.
I would suggest that you use the car as much as possible in the UK in all sorts of conditions before setting foot abroad, be sure the car is in good working order and that you have given it the miles, the beans and that is reliable and symptom free. Dont be too worried about 10% ethanol, I used 5% when it was available and 10% when not. If it boils in the UK it will probably boil in Europe, fix it first, dont add complication, ie electric fan or pump. Yes of course have European breakdown cover, it comes as standard with cover from RH Insurance for instance. Carry the V5C, insurance document, both original, and a means of ID, passport for instance. A warning triangle, yellow vest, spare bulbs, I dont drive at night, so do not bother with headlight adaptors, but the black cut out versions can be used (I dont think you are going to cause anyone discomfort)
How competent are you as a mechanic? Take tools appropriate to your skill level. I take all the electrical ignition items, making sure they actually fit the car before leaving. Cable ties, spare fuel pipe, oil, water, brake fluid, electrical wire of various sizes, binding wire to fix broken things, duct tape, a ratchet strap (doubles as a tow rope) jump leads, electrical tape, disposable gloves, grease, a phone and means to charge it. Know how to use “What Three Words” as a locator. disposable overalls, rag, rad seal, exhaust bandage.
Having done the miles before and assembled the kit, go, whichever way is convenient and suits your journey, enjoy, tell us all about it when you get back. Bonnes Vacance!
What a very prompt and helpful reply. Many thanks. My Light 15 is also from 1950 first registered but I believe made in 1949. I am a retired mechanical engineer. Over the many years I have owned this car (bought for £20 in 1966) I have done a lot of work on it including eg taking the engine out to fix the clutch but I have not done engine or gearbox rebuilds (hopefully not required on this trip!). As I live in Salisbury, only 20 minutes drive from Andrew Galt’s works, I leave most of the work on this car to him and instead work on my 1937 Austin 10, my wife’s Morris Traveller and my 1970 BSA, 1961 Norton Dominator and 1930 AJS motorcycles. I am reasonably electrically competent having worked in the power station industry and on many old vehicles over the years. I had in mind to submit this query as a short article to FP (deadline this Sunday) as not all members take part in the forum. I would then follow it up in later editions with the advice given and the experience. Would you mind? You have answered most of the questions and given me renewed confidence but there might be some mileage in still putting it in FP. Like you, I rarely drive at night now despite having had one cataract operation which did not seem to cure the problem of dazzle.
Should have included: As this car is not subject to MOTs I have no proof of its safety. Do I need to get one or some proof if challenged abroad?
I only avoid driving at night in France due to the headlamp issue, otherwise I use it here night or day. I am not aware of any issue with the non-MOT status of UK cars, but then I have not been stopped or had an accident. I have a pull-up blind in the rear window of the TA, which stops a lot of the light scatter from following vehicles and seems to help with bright headlamps being reflected back and forth on our upright’ish glass.
You are welcome to put it in the comic by all means. I shall be attending the 90th in Clement-Ferrand in May are you going?
I should have added that just for a larf, last year we counted pot holes. UK from Oxford to Portsmouth 10 to the power of n, France 1 in nearly 2000 miles, using all manner of road from Motorway to secondary country lanes. Traffic conditions, light to moderate except in larger towns. Road manners, really very good in France and Spain. You asked about ULEZ, there is a good French Gov site which gives details of current zones. Just avoid Paris and the very largest cities, there will be more, but a sticker can be purchased for a modest fee
I’m a long way from an expert in any of this but would think adding a (loaded) grease gun to the list bearing in mind the service interval might be prudent?
As a regular long-haul Tractionist, I fully endorse the advice from Jack and Jonathan.
With respect to the MoT situation, although not compulsory, I would certainly recommend you have it checked over “professionally” in advance of a major sortie.
I actually have all my vehicles MoT tested annually just so another pair of eyes checks them over without the benefit of my rose-tinted specs. If stopped for any reason I can then show the car was at least certified street-legal within the last 12 months.
Bonne route – i’ll give you a wave if we cross paths.
My thanks to Jonathan. You are probably right about a grease gun but I have to admit that greasing the traction is one of my least favourite jobs and I have recently been farming it out to our local traction expert when he is doing other jobs on the car. One has also to jack up the front wheels in turn to complete the front end greasing. This and the inevitable greasy mess I get myself into when doing this (or any other greasing job on the other cars and bikes) makes me very reluctant to undertake it in the car park of whatever hotel we will be staying in! I think I had better aim to drive abroad less than the distance prescribed between greasings!
I have not long returned from a trip to our house in the Charente. I took the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe and back with an overnight sailing. A few things cropped up that caused concern. On the auto routes my bank card was no recognised when offered up on the screen for payment, fortunately my friend who I was travelling with allowed me to use his. I would try to avoid Rouen as the route directions seem not to lead anywhere and I found it difficult to find a way out. Check that your points, plugs, leads and distributor are all in good condition. Unfortunately my points worked loose and caused a difficult and erratic journey back to the ferry from Le Mans where we had an overnight stay. I did not realise this was the problem until we were back in the UK. I have since bought a new distributor from Chris. 5% petrol is available easily but I advise taking a lead replacement additive and an additive that reduces the effects of ethanol. I work on the basis that if the car is working fine in the UK then it will be similarly OK in France so I did not take a huge selection of tools.
As they say noting ventured nothing gained. Age of car , and yourself should not pose any problem. If you have not got an MOT might be worth getting one or at least make sure your insurance company is aware there is no MOT. Take what spares you can so they are available if you do breakdown even though you might not be fitting them. At least in France your much more likely to come across a breakdown engineer who has actually seen a traction before.
I get the impression that Dave feels as I do concerning MoT testing.
Possession of a current certificate – particularly when there is no legal requirement for the vehicle to be tested – will generally assure even a cynical third party that the vehicle was recently considered road-legal and show that the owner clearly demonstrates a responsible attitude to road safety. In the event of a difficult situation arising (here or abroad), I believe those two points alone are likely to make any dealings less traumatic.