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RatRod Rally to Romania

inal plans were coming together as we neared the departure date for the run to Romania in our 250 Volvo 760. Our newest team member and CM reader, Mark Nutter, was exhilarated. Wed met for the first time in Stoke-on-Trent last month he drove down from Preston in his 210k Mercedes-Benz 190d just to say hello. He really is a nutter! Apart from the last minute jobs or in the case of the aircon and electric seat control inessential fixes we changed the top hose. It was showing a weep of coolant and we thought it prudent to do the job now rather than trying to fix it on a mountain pass 17 from a Volvo dealer. I was wrong when I said the fuel gauge dial on the dashboard wouldnt be the culprit for its non-working action. Ordering a secondhand fuel sender, we compared output from our original
A visit to the local hand car wash sees our banger looking immaculate. We only have time to apply two stickers to the bodywork before the clock says we have to depart from Eastbourne and head down to Dover to catch our 17.20 P&O ferry. The Editor is on the far left, with (from l to r) regular experienced banger rally contestant John Brennan, CM reader Mark Nutter and ex-CM colleague Ben Hackney.

PART THREE: Our 285,000-mile Volvo 760 is nearly ready for the banger rally start in Calais. With 3000 miles ahead of us, will we even make it to Dover? The Editor and BEN HACKNEY attend to final repairs before saying bon voyage!
with the replacement and we were getting similar readings. In the end we called in an auto electrician, who knew from experience that the gauge would probably have a dry solder. Eighty quid later, our fuel gauge was working. Expensive, but well worth it considering the amount of fuel our Volvo would be consuming. Leaving for Calais on Saturday morning was our plan. Prior to this, however, I was extra-busy getting the October issue ready for print in between driving the Volvo to the garage for final repairs. It wasnt until the Thursday that I received the okay to collect our banger. A smile soon returned to my face as I drove the ten miles back home. Everything seemed to work well: the tickover was spot-on, the aircon was freezing and the mega-miler barge drove like I was sitting in a leather armchair! We were ready to roll...

250 Purchase

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Last issue we fitted a new distributor cap and rotor arm hoping to fix our unsteady idle. The new components made no difference, so we concluded that the engine was having trouble breathing. Here we see Mick having trouble breathing himself while perched in the engine bay, trying his best to find all the breather pipes he can before we decide that the breather box located down on the block was the culprit. Once removed, we contacted a Volvo main dealer and had this and a couple of small hoses delivered for just over 32. It cures our up and down idle. Hurrah!

The Editor, with his hair cut shorter than normal to match the other vehicle occupants, concentrating hard on getting the stickers to line up. Our initial attempts werent that good, but we got the knack of it in the end!

Front droplinks

Designing the bodywork stickers was done this week, too, and I had to ask the company (Rare Displays, Tel: 01323 845523) to make them on the quick quick. Fortunately, Id realised much earlier that the magnetic CM logo that we normally place on the bonnet each year wasnt going to work on this car. Why? Well, the bonnet (and sunroof) are manufactured from aluminium.

Our start point was at my fathers house in Eastbourne for these reasons: one, he could pick-up the stickers from nearby Hailsham; two, he could make lunch; and three, he could take a picture of us large blokes before the off. The journey to Dover gave the guys a chance to settle into the Volvos luxurious surroundings. I will now hand you over to Ben Hackney TURN for his report on our expedition.
The original front droplink rubbers looked frail. The MoT man said nothing, however replacements were readily available at my local Euro Car Parts. At 16 each, we decided to replace both sides a 20-minute job.

Electric seat control

It wasnt imperative to get the electric drivers seat working, but as all four passengers were of differing heights, it would help. A same-year 760 GLE was breaking on eBay, so I ordered a replacement seat control unit and a fuel sender for 40 including p&p. As you can see, our original forward and back switch had burnt out. Getting the wiring and connector apart from under the seat was hindered by the seat being unable to move. By removing the two front seat retraining bolts, we were able to slightly lift the front seat. However, to clip in the replacement control switch panel and associated wiring required a degree of seat dismantling. The seat panels either side had to be removed to gain access to those awkward two rear retraining bolts. Then the whole seat could be lifted to give a clear working area. Many hours labour for what we thought would be a simple task.

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Another job that wasnt imperative. Fixing the standard-fit electronic climate control would be beneficial on our long driving days while visiting seven countries, so we went for it. However, it turned out to be a bit more than just a re-gas as we first thought. A visit to aircon specialists Vehvec in Edenbridge, Kent (Tel: 01732 868080) had the Editors eyebrows rising when they said the condenser was holed near the top. They had a Volvo 740 condenser on the shelf, but when we matched the two, the 760s fixings were out by 90. We talked about doing a makeshift fix, but bossman Len said he would order one from Germany. An aircon pipe connection also burst while under the high-pressure dye test, so a new section of pipe was made to plug the gap. The other slight problem was that our car was still running on R12 connections, albeit with a R134a gas mixture. The guys plumbed in a new blue low pressure connector on the accumulator/drier and a red high pressure connector down on the compressor. Final testing proved it was now rather chilly.

Whatever the conditions you are driving in, you want tyres that put you in control. In other words, fit Avon Tyres.

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Oil change

The last job of the day was to change the oil and filter. Wed done this about 600 miles earlier using a semi-synthetic 10w40. However, nearly a litre of that had burned during these miles, so we switched to the recommended 15w40 mineral oil from Comma. The Mann filter came from We also examined the rear diff oil, which has a hard-to-find level check situated towards the front of the car. A cable tie was placed into the level hole to act as a dipstick, and we happily found it to be full of gear oil.

R2R continued

P&O Ferries is the countrys leading ferry operator. Welding and MoT repairs carried out at: Humphreys Garage, Cudham Garage, Cudham Lane South, Cudham, Sevenoaks, Kent TN14 7QB

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The rat-ted Volvo 850 looked kinda friendly.

R2R continued

Eastbourne to Calais
There are some opportunities that are just too good to pass up. Thing is, boring stereotypes like swimming with dolphins or betting big in Vegas just dont cut it. We need something tougher, something dirtier something that was going to really kick our arses, but still leave us smiling at the end of it. A truly great experience is something you have to work for. So when I got the call from Martyn to drive thousands of miles around Europe in a 22-year-old Volvo 760 turbo in pensioner corduroy blue that already had 285,453 miles, there was no way I could say no. Granddad-spec though it may be, you cant help but love our beautiful banger. Near-perfect paintwork, brand spanking new tyres and a full leather interior thats begging to caress your bum. Martyns been working endlessly on getting the 760 prepped for the big trip, and as I sit in it for the first time, I realise just how big a deal this really is. According to an app on my smartphone, its 1518 miles direct to Brasov in Romania. I look on the map and thats a long way. A really long way. Somehow Id managed to forget that Hungary even existed. Not only is it an epic undertaking to arrive in the destination city on time, if at all, but we have to drive back again as well. We arrived in France just as it started to get dark, and were soon in search of our first meeting point at a local pub. After a few laps of the main strip, we snuck down a sidestreet to discover our destination. Pints were pulled and drinks were downed before we ordered some dirty pizzas and made our way back to the hotel. Day One was about to start.


Calais to Nrburgring
The following morning, the Rat Rod start line was buzzing with petrolheads ready to take Europe by storm. We rolled up behind a sLaguna before wandering around and admiring the rest of the rally cars. The only real rule for this years trip was that the car must be purchased for less than 250. We saw everything from other Volvos (my favourite being the furry Rat 850 SE) to a rusted bonnet Mondeo Si, a Rover 216SLi, the Not So A-Team BMW 3-Series auto and a red 5-Series SE Touring estate complete with stuck-on Ferrari badge for good measure, a Saab 900 Turbo kitted out as a cop car, the Bucket of Doom Polo and even a 1977 Allegro 1300 SDL with its team cooking breakfast on the bonnet. It wasnt all just about the visuals either. Before long we were hearing theme tunes and soundbites

emanating from a loudspeaker under a bonnet behind us. We should have guessed at the time, but we were about to embark on a trip filled with the sounds of KITT of Knight Rider fame asking: Could you please remove your ample behind from my hood or some such, among other things. With the giggles out of the way, our handy power pack jumpstarted a Rover 800, who had fallen at the first hurdle. It was go time We were finally on our way, leaving Calais and rolling further into an incredible driving trip. Wed all been on rallies before, but knowing that each one is different left us eager to find out what was in store for us. Soon we were heading up into hills, admiring the greenery surrounding our magnificent motor as the rain began to fall. All was going well until, all of a sudden, our windscreen wipers decided to stop working. Frantically searching for a better way to see the road, including considering the head-out-of-window option, we pulled over to find the wiper arm linkage had popped off, and there wasnt a lot we could do, other than to pop it back on and hope. Other than that minor setback, our Brasov-bound banger was purring, happily sitting at the speed limit as we sailed past the other rally members on the way TURN to the legendary Nrburgring.

Breakfast on an Allegro bonnet.

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Applying more graphics to this rare Audi 200T.

As we drew nearer and started to see more signs for the infamous track, you could feel the excitement growing in the car. It didnt matter that it was still raining, or that we had lost a little confidence in whether wed be able to even see the track out of the windscreen after the wiper incident earlier, we just wanted to get there. Eventually, we pulled up in the car park. That alone is something thats greatly underappreciated in the stories from Ring visitors when they get back home. Its one of the best car meets you can imagine, with masses of metal filling the bays, all waiting to get their time on track. After wandering around, open-mouthed, we paid for our lap and slowly made our way to the gate. Martyn was behind the wheel, and after the barrier went up, I started filming from the back seat. After a slow introduction to the lap, being ushered round an area where I can only assume there was an accident earlier in the day, we were beginning to pick up speed. The CM bossman was taking corners and clipping apexes perfectly, leftfoot braking at every opportunity. Considering we were in an OAP auto, this thing could move!
A Rover 820i, nicknamed Rat Patrol, needed a jump-start in Calais.

1990 Austin Montego looked almost mint. The 1600cc engine was considerably smaller than that loudspeaker.

world, and it was still chucking it down. Suddenly we were paying the price for giving it beans. Even when wed pulled over to the side of the road, it was still twitchy bum time. We couldnt get out to fix the problem, and if we couldnt get off the track on our own, wed be charged hundreds of Euros in recovery fines. And thats before wed even thought of the possibility that someone else could rear-end us. Martyn turned the key for the third or fourth time still nothing, but a splutter emanated from under the bonnet, combined with a loud bang from the exhaust! Eventually, just as the sweat was collecting on our brows, beading together before it dripped into our unblinking, petrified eyes, he tried the ignition one more time and we were back in business. We limped past Karussell corner in second gear. Am I still sweating now? Martyn asked, nervously joking. You were thinking of that big, thousand Euro bill werent you? Here comes the tow truck, laughed John. Mark and I joined in the banter from the back seat, but all four of us were just glad to be moving again. Although we werent doing any kind of fast speed, we were still loving the track as something hooned past us sideways on a corner, too fast to see what it was in the rain.

I told you to leave room for these stickers, didnt I?

R2R continued

One of the main things you dont realise about the Nrburgring is that, no matter how many races you watch on TV and read about it or how many games you play on your Xbox, the dips and climbs are much more intense than you expect. One second you can be speeding down a straight, before taking a corner and having to really work the engine to get up an incline. No wonder this place is used for testing cars to the limit it puts anything through its paces. The rain started to pelt it down, but Martyns confidence didnt slip. About five minutes in and we were sailing past a Golf Mk2 and gunning it past a SEAT Leon. We couldnt have been going any better and were making a pretty decent time, all things considered. Then the s**t hit the fan. Something was up and, before we knew it, wed lost power on one of the most difficult and dangerous tracks known to racers around the
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The Not So A-Teams two-tone, matt-look BMW 318i automatic.

Our Volvos offside wiper linkage decided to pop off the wiper motor arm.

We witnessed this classic Mini approaching the Nrburgring starting line, while the Mk1 Escort cruised into the car park.

Then, as if it couldnt mechanically get any worse, we lost power for a second time on the apex of a corner. Now I truly knew what Formula 1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart meant when he described this place as The Green Hell. Its an incredible track, but its so demanding, especially on our poor old banger. Again, Martyn desperately grappled with the ignition key every couple of seconds as Mark and I looked behind us, almost certain that something was going to fly around the corner at any second. With the concentration it takes just to keep on the racing line, and the rain pelting down, it would be stupid to think that anyone would notice us, just out of sight on the corner, with our down-but-notout 760s hazards blinking away. Luckily, we werent stuck there for long as the old-timer ticked over, back into action and allowing us to get on the move again. It felt like just seconds passed between us laughing at the events of the past few minutes and John saying At least the wipers are still working. Theyre overrated anyway. and them cutting out once more. After the double danger of stopping on the track twice, this was only met by more giggling and Martyn explaining: What Im going to have to do, is this... as he poked his head to one side and stuck as close to the red-and-white painted trackside as he could. Things got put into perspective in the last couple of minutes of our lap, as we slowly passed another Mk2 Golf that had stacked it into a barrier. The tow truck that we were so scared of was loading the shell onto its back before hauling it away. We considered we had dodged a bullet.

This caught our eye approaching the start line of the Nrburgring a furry dog-like Jeep Cherokee. The officials made them take the front decorations off before letting it loose.

After the track visit, our Volvo was badly in need of a Comma drink.

Day 2 to Chur, Day 3 to Salzburg and Day 4 to Budapest.

Our 22-year-old Volvo breezes past a modern SEAT on a thoroughly rain-soaked track only to find...

Next Month

Getting back to the track car park, we all breathed a sigh of relief. It may have taken 23 minutes and 28 seconds, but the Volvo had made it. It may have burned off nearly a litre of oil in the process, but how many people do you know that have broken down on the Nrburgring and got off it under their own steam, let alone broken down twice? It may have been more scary than any other car journey wed been on, but what a story! The cause of our troubles? The low tension wire on the coil had been arcing due to the very damp conditions. We cleaned the coil wires, along with a good squirt of WD40 the fault never returned! After a bit of sightseeing along other parts of the track, we headed to our hotel for some well-deserved beers and incredible German food. For some reason, everything tasted even better than wed expected after a trip of such intensity. We went to bed well fed, well watered and wondering what Day Two was going to bring.

...a few apexes further on that our 2.3-litre turbocharged engine is spluttering to a halt and the wipers kaput.

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