This item is from legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar’s motoring diary for the Chester Mail, July 1972.
Time stops for no man but Fiats can stop for everyone, at any time. While out on test with the revised Fiat 128 I found myself stuck by the side of the road near the Swan at Tarporley: failed brakes. The wretched car juddered to a halt with engine braking just as the lunch menu reached its final dregs. Only the rabbit brawn remained (foul) and I followed that with some Cheshire pudding and followed that by coaxing the stricken car back to life.
Luckily I had some Bleedmaster which is made by Holts. Using it one can bleed a brake or clutch system single-handed. The kit included the brake bleeder and a tin of Castrol Girling brake fluid. The whole job took under three hours meaning I had a chance to try the evening menu: more rabbit brawn and Cheshire soup with a few pints of the local ale – strong stuff. I propose Fiat make the Brake Bleeder standard equipment on the 128 as this is the third time this car has failed in this way.
Renault have opened an import centre in Yorkshire, aiming to turn out 25,000 cars a year there. I had a chance to test the Renault 17 last week, taking one from Yorkshire to Acton where la Regie have their headquarters. The 17 is a very handsome car indeed and I am sure in these increasingly competitive times it will fare well in a cut-throat market for sports cars.
Alas, the example I tried was not without its problems. Having motored down from deepest Yorkshire I stopped for refreshment at the Osborne Hotel, Acton, where I had a very large breakfast (lunch was off due to a strike in the kitchen). Getting back to the car the dismal green slab would not start. What was the problem?
By chance I had with me one of the very good Davenset battery testing sets. I applied the points and got the answer: dead battery. A quick call to the man at Renault and the penny dropped. Over use of the electrical ancillaries can drain the battery even when the car is driving. I had a look around the Spartan cabin and discovered the rear-window demister had been set to “on” for five hours. After a further wait of two hours a fellow from Renault arrived with a lorry to remove the car. I took the train back to Malvern full of resolve never to test another 17 again. The Osborne Hotel’s breakfast, though, is worth a second try. Renault, take note.
Down to Blackpool. That means TVR, of course (or a day with the in-laws). I had a chance for a long sample of the left-hand drive 2500 intended for overseas markets. Much is improved with the car such as new heater system and a, lo!, Triplex demisting screen may be available soon. The new 2500 is rather quiet for a TVR: a little wind around the window frames and some buzzing from the engine mounts.
The steering is now tolerable. The ride is still firm and the gear lever remains too far back to be very usable. I kept elbowing it into second while fiddling in my coat for my matches and pipe. Somewhere around Chimay in Belgium the gear-lever jammed and I had to coast to halt with my foot on the clutch. Try as I might the gear lever would not move and began to bend like a wire as I applied more force.
Fortunately I had with me a Tecagun which is a useful way to apply high-pressure lubrication. It can inject anything from SAW 20 up to grade 2 grease. It does require care: fortunately nobody occupied the passenger seat when an impressive blast of Grade 1 scythed across the cabin. Some of it went where it was intended and whatever was jamming the gear-lever freed.
Still the car remained immobile so I had to resort to a full systems check with my Yazaki tuner kit (I always pack this when testing TVRs). After checking with the ammeter, coil tester and alternator diode and ignition tester I discovered a shortage of petrol. The fuel gauge had been lying since lunch in Arlon near Luxembourg.
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