Round Britain Coastal Drive 2018
"What do you mean you've no oil pressure - we haven't had oil pressure since Day 3"
When we took part in the inaugural run in 2016, we could only manage one stage owing to workload pressures. However, it was a wonderful day and sowed the seeds for a repeat trip. This year, we could not think of an excuse not to do more and on the spur of the moment, signed up for the whole 19 yards!
Our E-type had been bought in 2004 to fulfil a life-long ambition and the receipts it came with hinted at an engine-out rebuild in the ‘90s where the colour was presumably changed from the original Primrose Yellow to Signal Red. Following on from the incident with a Belgian HGV near Goodwood in September 2016, the car ended up with replacement nearside panels, a new boot floor (more of this later) and a back-to-bare-metal re-spray.
Following its return in late 2017, the car was used sparingly over the Winter and very rarely in the wet (more of this later) but a short-list was made of things that needed attention before the big trip. Interestingly the car broke down on its way to the garage for this shakedown work and again when they took it for an MOT test (more of this later).
Bookings for all the overnight stops were made by my tour guide with the help of information provided by the Club and internet reviews. I was conscious right from the start that I could not see myself dealing with 21 3-course evening meals and full breakfasts so we opted for roughly every other formal stop. We always made it to an official 'Flag Off' in the morning even if we were not staying at the location.
Following the Club's advice, the car was loaded with some essential spares. However, as the trip went on, this list continued to be added to. The soft-top brigade always had a 'dig' at us for having a tin-top. My reply was 'how many suitcases have you got in your boot? We've got 4!'
Day 0 - Although the RBCD was listed as 19 days, we live in South Lincolnshire some 300 miles from the official start on Pendine Sands, near Tenby, South Wales and we needed 2 extra days, 1 day there & 1 day back. We thus left home on the Sunday. The rain started as we entered Wales (more of this later). At a pitstop near Cardiff we discovered that the passenger door no longer locked when you turned the door-handle on the inside. This meant that the car was never secure. At one point I asked my tour guide if it was particularly windy as the handling of the E-type was becoming a bit squirmy and when I eventually pulled over it was obvious that the rear left-hand tyre was almost flat. This is where you find out that a bottle jack is too tall to fit under a car that is now too low. Pumping the tyre up enabled us to get to our 1st overnight stop 10 miles along the road. This turned out to be the infamous 'closed deserted diner'; ie the pub was shut. Frustratingly we could not get a signal on our Tesco (O2) mobiles - note to self, consider purchasing a cheap mobile phone on a suitable network for where you are planning on travelling.
After the 1st formal dinner, we ended up staying in the same hotel as Peter, our 1st mechanic. This was very handy for changing the wheel the following morning and he took the wheel to get it repaired. We thus set off for the official start on Pendine Sands. We managed ½ mile before the car coughed to a halt and would not restart. Fortunately, we were able to contact Peter and when he turned up, he diagnosed water in the fuel. Stripping & cleaning all 3 float chambers in turn cured the problem and we set off again. However, the time we had lost meant that everyone else had left the beach and we were playing catch-up. This was unfortunate as we had been nominated as Stage Leader with the presentation of the infamous yellow hats. Presumably if we had got there in time, it might have been our car that made the Daily Telegraph.
Day 1 took as around the Welsh coastline ending up at Portmeirion. The roads were typically narrow & winding and the weather variable; sunny, wet & windy. We stayed in Criccieth. When Peter turned up with the repaired tyre / inner tube, we were only charged for the cost of the tube. As the tyre had a very slight nick in the outer wall, he recommended leaving the spare on the car and the repaired one in the boot. However, the original spare was never meant to cope with 1000s of miles (more of this later).
Day 2 started with a somewhat slow bizarre convoy through the tourist attraction of Portmeirion itself. A grey, damp, windy day. The drive took us through Caernarfon, Bangor and a midday halt at Llandudno where Helen unfortunately was given some gluten-containing food. She succumbed classically 3 hours later in the leafy suburbs of Southport in a rather expensive looking avenue. I ended up knocking on the door of a random house to ask for assistance - they did have an XKR in the drive so I knew they'd be OK. The drive around Liverpool was horrible. Overnight eventually was Lytham St Annes where Helen spent the rest of the day & night in bed recovering.
Day 3 took us into Cumbria. We were driving with the storms and although the wind was strong it was following us. If the trip had been a day sooner, the roads in Scotland later would still have been blocked. The E-type developed intermittent wipers today, something it was not supposed to do. The lunch stop was at the Lakeland Motor Museum in Ulverston where upon hearing my plight, the owner gave us a bottle of RainX and some dry cloths. The museum is well worth a visit and the public who came for a chat & a photo contributed to our tin. I think today the oil pressure disappeared, despite the sender unit being replaced recently, not for the 1st time. Oil usage was thus checked regularly and during the trip I had to buy 2 more gallons of Halfords best 20/50. The standing traffic near Egremont meant that I could exploit some local knowledge and we took the back roads to Rowrah where we persuaded those nice people at Edgar's garage to fill our tin. Overnight was outside Workington.
Day 4 took us along the Cumbrian coast where I learned to drive in the late 60s, into Scotland and around the southern edges. At a coffee stop we met up with Simon who as one of the 5 'all-rounders' became a firm friend. He was very enterprising, hiring the passenger seat in his Roadster out in aid of the charity. While we sat outside, we saw a group of Morgan 3-wheelers drive past then a contingent of the Dutch Lancia club pull up. We stayed in Ayr overnight.
Day 5 at the official start, we only just made it. However, as we went to drive away the car died again. Mechanic Andy diagnosed water in the fuel again. Stripping the 3 float chambers did not cure the problem. Stripping the 3 dashpots did at the expense of a 2-hour delay. At one point, Andy had fountains of water spurting out of the jets like a council town-centre display. This is when we took to applying gaffer-tape around the fuel filler cap to keep any rain water out, leaving only a small vent for breathing. Andy recommended driving straight to Fort William and he followed us all the way. It did mean that we missed the Oban loop. At Fort William after an excellent lunch provided at the Ben Nevis distillery, we then had a detour to Classicfabs to view their premises where they make bespoke manifolds. They also very kindly let us borrow their hoist and with the car in the air, we drained the petrol tank and threw the contents away. A refill with new fuel cured the problem. It transpires that when we had had the car refurbished, the new boot floor did not come equipped with the appropriate drainage / breather channels. It seems that the rain water was draining to the space under the petrol tank where it was being sucked up by the tank vent pipe. Onwards to Plockton which I had never heard of but what a super view!
Day 6 started very interestingly. It turned out that the local council were repairing the almost vertical cliff face to keep the rocks from falling onto the road. This meant diverting traffic along the railway track in convoy, driving along suitably placed rubber mats. Not your everyday occurrence. Allegedly the next train was not due for some time! We then took the scenic route over the mountain to Applecross which is not for the faint-hearted. Beautiful weather meant stunning scenic views. Owing to a misunderstanding of the local post codes, our overnight stay ended up being 50 miles away from the rest of the crew at Rhiconich. However, an early start the following day got us to the start on time where 33 E-types had turned up.
Day 7 took us from Rhiconich across the North Coast 500 to Inverness, stopping off at John O'Groats for some group photos. A very nice landed gentleman put on a super lunch at Dunbeath Castle and gave us a conducted tour of what is in effect, his private home.
Day 8 we called in at the Moray Motor Museum in Elgin. Those very nice chaps there managed to scrounge me an old but serviceable replacement tyre (it's only done a couple of track laps!) at no cost. We put another donation into the tin in lieu. All along this journey, I had been trying to think of a way that we could get a replacement tyre shipped to us, as had the Club staff. At a later stop I took one look at the wear that all the mountainous roads had taken on the tyre and promptly put it back in the boot, putting the repaired one back on the road. It is still on the car. Overnight at The Links in Montrose, probably my favourite hotel.
Day 9 off to Edinburgh. We were in a bnb with no parking nearby. It didn't help that I had reversed into what turned out to be a one-way street so I was facing the wrong way in the morning. The cars tracker device still thinks we are alongside Loch Lomond which is worrying should the car get stolen.
Day 10 we called in at Classic Autosports at Inverkeilor where the very nice chaps there ditched the extremely dodgy spare tyre in favour of the donated one - no fee again. This garage had so many cars in various stages of restoration - TR4, E-types, DB5. Onwards to Alnwick. By now we were getting a reputation for going off-piste. Having checked the tide tables, we took a detour across the causeway to Holy Island. Although the tide was out the wind was so strong that it was blowing the sea-water across the road. The video makes interesting viewing. We stopped at the Post Office cafe for a coffee break and when the staff heard of our journey, they donated their tips jar into our tin. Stunning. It became one of many lasting memories of the generosity of the Public. We stayed overnight with the rest of the crew at the White Swan in Alnwick.
Day 11 in the morning there were something like 13 E-types crammed into the rear car park. When they all fired up it was reminiscent of a WW2 fighter squadron preparing for takeoff. We took the opportunity to visit Barter Books which is housed in the old Alnwick Railway Station, run by my cousin Dave, and get a free coffee and another donation. The North-East is where I was born and I have a number of relatives there. Again, we took the opportunity to visit another cousin in Cramlington and then took the scenic route along the coast via the sea-fronts of Whitley Bay & Tynemouth and through North Shields. When we got to the Tyne Tunnel I was not expecting it to be unmanned but still needing a cash payment. We were stuck alongside the booth hunting for change. All the other toll points have been online payment. The route through Teeside is not the most exciting but we had a stop-off at Whitby which was crammed with tourists on a beautiful summery day. A coffee stop at a farm shop got us another generous donation from a random member of the public. Overnight was in Beverley.
Day 12 started with a photocall from a member of the press. Never found out who they were. We had picked up a brake squeal by now, as had a few of the cars. Having had the fronts rebuilt for the MOT, I assumed the rears were at fault. Not a problem says mechanic Andy who promptly had the back end off the ground. With me pumping the pedal he checked that the pads were moving freely. However, he did discover that the rear right-hand wheel had ½" of play side to side. Not good. He tightened the wheel bearing nut up as much as he dared and said we should be ok to complete the journey (more of this later). Onwards to Cromer. We took a detour to our friendly JLR dealer in Boston where we took some nice pics and some more donations. We live nearby so took the opportunity to drop off a suitcase of dirty washing and replace it with my trolley jack! Also spent the afternoon with my aged mother in her care home.
Day 13 took us from Cromer around the coastline to Chelmsford. A coffee stop was had at Southwold Pier. Another glorious day. A member of the public stopped to donate to our tin which we always carried. Turns out he was undergoing treatment for Prostate Cancer. We stopped off at Woodham Mortimer (formerly JD Classics) where the cars are for the extremely wealthy. I was quite happy to sit in a Lamborghini 400 GT 2+2 but the staff were not interested in a part-exchange.
Day 14 was another main road day, heading for the Dartford Crossing. This is a number-plate recognition system and you have until 12 midnight the following day to pay. My excuse is that on a motoring holiday with variable internet connection it didn't cross my mind until 0345 on 2.10.18, ie 3hrs 45min late. I have a receipt on my phone honest guv. That did not stop a Penalty Charge Notice dated 11.10.18 arriving on our doorstep. Isn't modern technology wonderful? We took another detour, this time to the Isle of Sheppey which I had never been to before. We even managed to catch a car-boot sale. Later on we stopped for lunch at the classic restoration garage owned by one of our 'all-rounders' Ian Turner at Manston near Ramsgate. We then took another detour to Dungeness for a photo opportunity. While we there a young lad around 11 or 12 came up & said 'I like your car'. Do you know what it is says I? 'Yes, he says it’s a Jaguar E-type. Is it a Series 1 or 2?'. It's a Series 1 says I. 'It's a 6 cylinder then!' Outstanding what they teach in schools these days. Anyway, after letting him sit behind the wheel he then put his hand in his pocket, pulled out £1 (presumably his pocket money) and put it in our tin!! By now his Dad had arrived and he did likewise. Unforgettable. The day ended at the Bannatyne Spa Hotel near Hastings - super room. This was when we spotted the chrome strips of the front & rear screens popping out of their rubber seals. To keep them in place we resorted to gaffer tape. This matched the gaffer tape around the fuel filler lid, keeping the rain-water out. By now I'd also bought a luggage strap to connect the passenger door handle to the gear knob to make it secure when we locked up.
Day 15 we left Hastings and with a lunch stop at Chichester Marina, I for one was getting tired of the rough surface which seemed to plague the South Coast roads and you get this perpetual vibration through the car and it was tempting to head for the dual carriageways. Beaulieu Motor Museum declined the offer of having a horde of E-types call in for a coffee and said we would be treated as normal customers, parking in the main car park. This would have made a coffee stop cost around £56. Needless to say, none of us went there. We ended up at Lymington.
Day 16 today we headed for Exmouth. However, knowing that there was a special start the following morning in Teignmouth, we opted to stay overnight in Dawlish. However, we had booked for the evening meal and our very nice landlady offered to drive us around the estuary free of charge in her minibus! Needless to say, we left payment. Lyme Regis was a very picturesque place.
Day 17 the local Mayor of Teignmouth had provided a nice gesture of bacon butties and doughnuts for our journey, notwithstanding we had all had our usual breakfasts. It seemed impolite to refuse. Onwards we went to Dartmouth which we know well and after crossing the estuary on the Upper Ferry, stopped off for coffee with another relative. South out of Dartmouth, the road was closed at Strete (advance warning would have helped) and we had to backtrack some 5 miles. By now I was definitely beginning to flag and opted for main roads where we could. But we made it to Lands End on a misty afternoon and as the apparently grumpy car park attendant was nowhere to be seen, we drove around the back to the famous signpost for pics. Overnight was in St Ives.
Day 18 the start was from the Carbis Bay Hotel, with very, very steep hills down & up to get to the start only to find building works and little room for manoeuvre. Nevertheless, we managed it without burning the clutch out. Onwards to Bridgwater. On the coastal roads, we stopped at Perranporth for a photo shoot and that was when I could hear a tinkly gratey metallic noise. A quick call was made to Peter who had taken over mechanics duty again. He diagnosed that the rear wheel-bearing was on its way out. To do the job properly entailed replacing the bearing, probably inner & outer, then re-shimming until the 'play' is just right. As the outer rollers did not look too bad, he replaced the steel outer in the hub and packed it with grease. This took out any play that had been there before. He said the alternative was to borrow some gas torches from the garage nearby but if he wasn't able to do the job it would mean getting trailered home. We went for the quick fix in the knowledge that a proper repair would be needed when we got home. Peter was so thoughtful that the following morning after breakfast, he had the car up in the air again to check for any wheel wobble. There was none. The lunch stop was at Westward Ho! Here one of the public sitting next to us heard what we were doing and told us about her husband whom she'd lost in June to Prostate Cancer. Her grief was obviously still raw as she recanted her tale and her daughter had to leave the table in tears. If we needed reminding as to why were doing what we were doing, this was it.
Day 19 we were given the honour of 'flagging away' the rest of the cars for the final leg. This took us around the Severn Estuary and across the Bridge back into Wales. I have to say that we took the shortest route and got to Pendine sands 1st which was a 1st for us. When the rest of the cars turned up, the 5 'all-rounders' were given access to the sands again by a very nice custodian and we had our last photo shoot. The final stay and group dinner was at The Trefloyne Manor.
Day 19+1 We were in no rush. We had 300 miles to go and took our time. It rained all the way (still with intermittent wipers) and a disturbing feature was that after a prolonged period of inactivity on the main road / motorway, the front brakes were extremely 'wooden' and had to be treated gingerly to bring them back into life. I don't know if this was due to water saturation or what but obviously it's been added to the 'to-do' list. We arrived home in South Lincs around 4pm having stopped off for driver breaks and some groceries. We managed this journey on 1 tank of fuel.
Overall we covered 4,376 miles using around 800 litres of fuel at a cost of just over £1,100 at an average of around 24mpg according to my spreadsheet. As the milometer has always only recorded 9 miles for every 12 travelled, the calculation has to take this into account. We also used I think 3 gallons of Halfords 20/50 oil.
I wish we had thought to mark the route we took on our atlas so that we could see exactly where we went. Also a photo of every hotel front would act as an aide memoire.
So would we do the whole journey again. At the time of finishing, no. However, time dulls the pain so we'll have to see. Maybe someone might give me an XK for next year!
We have had a stunning adventure made possible by the E-type Club and their staff. We have made some firm friends along the way and met some wonderful members of the Public. Our collection tins & the JustGiving page have made just over £1,100 which we are extremely proud of and I hope that we have helped to raise awareness of Prostate Cancer and the impact it is having on us menfolk.
We now have a list of places that we want to return to, to spend some proper time in - after a rest 1st.
Ed & Helen Didsbury