Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Sir...

I have been dismayed to see the increase in vandalism in the West Lothian area...

... is how the letter would start, if I were to write it. However I won't be writing it as I have something of a soft spot for some of the local Street Artists. Don't get me wrong, tagging and mindlessly daubing public spaces with paint don't do anyone any favors, but our local artists seem to have a pretty wicked sense of humor. Not yet Banksy, but they put a smile on my face..

This one one seems to be a recurring use of chalk, and what apears to be drawing round shadows of objects at various times of the day, unfortunartly the one I photographed does look a little unseemly. What I like about this one is that the artist keeps going, there are newly identified shadows all round the town every week.

This one makes me chuckle every time I see it.

Finally, carved into the filth on the back of the van I found some slightly less entertaining artwork. If you look closely you can just make out the artist's signature. It looks like M e g. If I get my hands on her...

Linlith Go Go GO!!!

A year or so ago I bought myself a trailer which I had intended to use to transport the awning and other stuff on trips away with the van. That plan never really came to fruition, the trailer has come in handy for trips to the tip though and has helpfully adorned the garden.

The other idea I had was to hook it up to Molly for camping trips away. Of course this requires a tow bar (done that!) and some wiring... a bit more of a problem. Usually such things are simply a question of Scotch Locks and a length of trailer cable. However Molly has to be a bit awkward doesn't she. As you all know she's a change over model. After trafficators where phased out and before the modern orange indicators came in. She has a normal indicator stalk on the steering column, but instead of orange indicators, the appropriate brake light flashes (red) on the back as a turn signal. All this is achieved by a clever little relay on the inner wing. The upshot of this is that it would be a little tricky to get a non flashing brake light feed and a stand alone indicator feed at back. However I had a cunning plan. To take the hook up from the relay input. So I hooked up a length of trailer cable to the engine bay and away we go! Well it wasn't quite that simple. Firstly 3.5 metres of cable isn't long enough (4.5 metres is a much safer bet). I know because I have both lengths of cable in my garage and only one fits. Secondly, when fiddling with crumbly old wiring, just looking at something can cause functionality (such as say... brake lights) to stop working for hours. So the top tip there is to bite the bullet and, carefully dismantle clean and reconnect anything that looks like it might give trouble.

Anyway, I did all that, tested it with a lighting board so what was left to do? Oh yeah find out if Molly is happy towing a trailer or not. Time for a test drive I think!


Yeah OK.. it was a chance for a photo shoot. As it turned out, she performed impeccably, a little bit of a wheeze up some hills, but generally not too bad, the trailer was empty though.

In lieu of celebration (and the fact it is our wedding anniversary) we decided to take the family off to Linlithgow, for a wander round, feed the ducks, and a poke around the canal system.

Where's Molly?

We stopped at the chippy on the way home to grab the now traditional wedding anniversary fish supper and headed off to a local beauty spot to eat them. I say beauty spot, there did appear to be some more modern activities going on that simply enjoying the view. Anyway as we were parked up I noticed a little puddle under Molly - oh dear - split radiator top hose. Years ago such things would have panicked me, however today I simply had to get the hose I had in stock and fit it. That's what 20 years of Morris minoring does for you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


The retro addiction takes many forms, one of which is how to substitute perfectly acceptable modern things for cooler (less practical) retro ones. One of the things highlighted as something we needed (while we were away in Kinross) was a wind break. Now these things can be bought for about £10 from Argos, but we'd end up with a floppy plastic thing which wouldn't be in keeping. So when this little beauty can up for sale on CommerVanFan, we had to have it.

Its a 1960's fabric windbreak, which wooden poles and even a wooden mallet for knocking it into the ground - I know a plastic one would be more practical in the British weather - but that's not the point is it? We were very lucky in that the chap selling it was going to be staying in South Queensferry on Monday night so we could meet up and collect it.

So for a bit of family time, I packed everyone in to Molly off for a trip to the seaside and ice cream (via the hotel so we could pick up the windbreak). Unfortunately, halfway there, on the motorway, Molly's stainless steel exhaust decided to part company with the silencer. I managed to lash something together with a bungee so we could (noisily) continue the journey.

The following morning I gave the Birmingham Morris Minor Centre a call (where I got the original from) and a new exhaust was winging its way to us. Unfortunately they don't supply stainless ones any more, but the mild steel one fits very well. Time to hit the beach and shelter from the British wind.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jolly Hols!

We have just been lucky enough to have a week's holiday. Now how does a classic car enthusiast relax? There is only one thing to be done - Road Trip! Now is the time to admit that after ten years of living in Scotland, we had never made it further north than Inverness. So we took a week and decided to head up north. The first stop was at Rosemarkie, a beautiful little camp site on the banks of the Moray Firth. The camp site is about 10 metres from the beach and was very friendly indeed! Another excellent feature of the place was the village pub the Plough. Real ales, good food and very friendly staff. Definitely recommended.

The trip up to the Black Isle caused me a little worry. The road has lots of long, high speed hills, and the flat-out up-hill travelling caused a bit of a misfire. Now my classic car symptom diagnosis had me pondering. Misfires can be down to one of two things. Ignition or fuel. Jessica has electronic points, a new distributor, coil, leads and plugs - so there's not that much to go wrong there (nothing should be ruled out though!). The other option - fuel, does fit with the symptom. When a car is travelling flat out on a motorway, and then asked to go up hill, the fuel flow rate (which is already pretty high) has to go up again. Now this will test even the best kept fuel system, and Jessica doesn't have well kept fuel system. I took a look and the fuel filter needed a clean out and it appeared that the fuel economy device (poppet valve?) might have been stuck - I say might, as I had to collect the bits of the assembly from all round the engine bay after it pinged apart after I undid the screws. Once it was all back together we went for a little test drive, and all seemed well. Of course I was extra concerned about the fuel system as there were lots of hills and not very many petrol stations on the rest of our planned journey.

After a couple of nights on the Black Isle we decided on the rest of our route, to head up north, along the coast, to John O' Groats then along the north coast and to our second camp site at Durness.

The journey north took us along the coast, past Wick, however the route took us past Helmsdale and the notorious Berriedale Braes. While planning the route, everyone I spoke to warned us about this area and I ended up being quite anxious about it. Once we got there, it really wasn't all that bad. OK I had to knock it out of overdrive once or twice ;o).

A road with a run-off lane - I'm not scared...

Once that little molehill was out of the way, we continued our journey up to the town which is furthest away from Land's End. Lots of photo opportunities and three gift shops - who could ask for more! As we were leaving, a couple of Japanese tourists were looking round the van with interest, so I got a chance to explain to them that, no Jessica isn't a VW, yes the engine is in the front and she is rear wheel drive. Oh and they now have pictures of me in front of my van!

Of course John O' Groats is the most northerly tourist attraction in the Mainland Britain but as we know, you can go further (if you don't need tartan tea towels and fridge magnets that is). If you want to go north, then Dunnet Head is the place to be. Its rather nice to stand there looking south to John O' Groats.

The rest of the journey to the second camp site at Durness was bliss. It took us along some windy single track roads, which were very relaxing. The scenery was fantastic and seemed to change round every bend. The campsite is located at the top of cliffs, looking out over two golden sanded bays with clear blue sea. The sun was shining and provided perfect weather for playing by the sea, swimming and exploring the local caves.

We spent a couple of nights there before heading south again (well there wasn't anywhere else to go!). We headed down towards Lochinver to a campsite recommended by a friend, again through some gorgeous scenery. We did have to be careful about fuel though as the last time we had filled up was in Thurso (about 120 miles previously).

Commer on the outskirts of nowhere.

The site turned out to be lovely, but the weather prevented us from exploring properly. We did get to sample the excellent fish and chips from the on-site chippy though.

Lovely campsite - not so lovely weather.

The rain became pretty relentless, so we decided to head south and back home after what, we all agreed, was one of the best holidays we had had in years. I'm really looking forward to the next big adventure!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Once in a blue moon...

You get a couple of Commers all together in one place. This weekend there were 43 of them. Yes it was Commerfest, the 50th anniversary in honour of the humble Commer van.

Friday night saw us travel the 240 miles down to Yorkshire, to find the celebrations well under way. On Saturday morning, we awoke to an amazing sight, Commers as far as the eye could see!

Saturday night was the main event and Martin had laid on entertainment and a hog roast which all went down well.

On the Sunday, when everyone was looking a little tired we headed off in a massive Commervoy to Harrogate commercial vehicle show. This event was massive and 20 or so Commers made it, we were a rather impressive sight!.

Commervoy pauses for photos
Unfortunately, it was at the show that I discovered the only major mechanical hitch of the weekend. The petrol filler hose had perished, which means that after I had filled up the tank, it was slowly emptying itself all over the show field! Luckily I had a spare on in the van which Martin kindly fitted for me once we were back at his place. It was very strange that I had the part in the van and even stranger that I hadn't fitted it when I had the tank out a few months before. Anyway it was all sorted in time for the leisurely return journey.

A big thank you to Martin and Karen for organising such a wonderful event.