Updated: Nov 29, 2021
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For most classic car owners, the act of preparing for a car show normally involves an examination of the dipstick, a glance at the tyre pressures and perhaps a coat of wax polish. However, for me on this occasion, it entailed replacing the entire rear suspension. With less than a week to go until the long-awaited Scramble held at Bicester Heritage, I had not been planning on attempting such major surgery to my Series 3 Land Rover. Yet the M.O.T man detected a cracked leaf and severe splaying in what must have been the car’s original set of rear leaf springs, which meant my only chance of heading to Bicester was to knuckle down and drop the rear axle.
I had been visiting my TW colleague in West Wales at the time, taking advantage of the more spacious garage facilities to finish the final jobs on the Land Rover which had been laid up, (mostly in bits), throughout the winter of 2020. Therefore, not only would it have to drive the usual short journey from my home in Buckinghamshire to Bicester in the neighbouring county of Oxfordshire. It would also have to trek the 200 miles back to Bucks.
"on this occasion, it entailed replacing the entire rear suspension..."
While I didn’t convey this to Will at the time, I was not exactly optimistic when it came to the drive home. There’s little I haven’t fiddled with when it comes to that Land Rover, but I had never covered such a distance in it before. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’ve ever been in a Series Land Rover, you’ll know that 200 miles in the space of a day is quite the expedition. On reflection, knowing the history of the car, I very much doubt it had ever driven as many miles in one day, but as it turned out, I needn't have worried. In fact, neither car faltered, in spite of the 20+ degree temperatures outside and the fact that they had not been on such a run for years, if ever (in the case of my Land Rover). Okay, the clutch is probably on the way out and I think the brakes are almost down to the metal as they were rather squeaky and grabby, but both of us took it very easy and no problems were encountered along the way. It’d have been a little less nerve-racking if my temperature gauge had worked, but with a Lucas electrical system, you should really count your blessings if anything works!
Luckily for me, my M.O.T exempt beetle made my preparation for the show a little less strenuous than Jack’s, nevertheless, jobs had to be done. To quote ‘The Battle of Britain’, We were on our own, we were playing for time, and it was running out. To boil things down, I condensed my tasks into 3 categories: Stopping, Going & Oil. Over the few days leading up to the Scramble, my car had decided it was eager to go. Too eager in fact, as every time my foot went near the accelerator, the throttle would stick open. Naturally, this made the car virtually un-drivable and downright dangerous so needed to be fixed ASAP. Luckily, the prognosis was a worn out (or lack of) pedal return spring and a slightly bent bracket. Both fixed quite simply, and I replaced the throttle cable while I was there. As a precautionary measure, the brakes were bled and tested and the oil was changed. I was ready to go. As viewers of our Instagram page may remember, a few days before our trip, I decided it would be a good idea to fiddle with my washer jet hoses. As you can imagine, this ended poorly. For the unaware, the washers in a VW beetle are pressurised from the spare tyre. My genius idea to ‘bypass’ the valve I had broken meant that the bottle became over-pressured and leaked washer fluid all over my nice new espadrilles.
Like Jack, I was slightly nervous about the journey that lay before us. Sadly, not much is known of the history of my car, other than the fact it spent most of its life in Leicestershire. The chances are, it had completed a long-ish journey before, but never in my ownership so this was going to be a new chapter.
Apart from a few minor navigational errors (my fault, sorry all), the journey to Buckinghamshire was a piece of cake. As mentioned in our Youtube feature, the Beetle makes for a surprisingly modern travelling experience and the journey was rather smooth and uneventful. The biggest drawback to convoying along the A40 in two 40+ year old cars is the time. People must have been perpetually knackered in the 70’s and holidays to local beach resorts like Bognor Regis begin to make more sense. The whole journey (including stops and accidental detours) took us around 7 hours.
The following morning, I was up with the lark and after a couple of boiled eggs, was once again back on the road headed for Bicester Heritage. I was immediately reminded of how bad our roads are in this part of the world compared to those in Wales and it is easy to see why car and bike enthusiasts flock westward for the superior quality of asphalt. Even my hastily fabricated exhaust bracket held on and I arrived at the former R.A.F base with the car still ticking over like a sewing machine, (providing said sewing machine was powered by a 5 bearing diesel engine...)
The Scramble itself was, for obvious reasons, far smaller than usual. However, as ever, it did not disappoint with a fine array of vehicles sprawled across the leafy former air force station. With Bicester, the show is as much about the location as it is the cars, and the workshops are in my opinion amongst the most exquisite I have ever seen. Nowhere else do you see a Le Mans winning Ford GT40 parked next to an Austin Allegro or a Dodge Charger beside a 2CV. I think the eclecticism of Bicester is its greatest quality as it makes for a well rounded show that is about the automobile, rather than one marque or type of car. The Scramble events encapsulate my love of vehicles as I love everything from Morris Minors to Montiverdis. Bicester manages somehow to be exclusive and inclusive in equal measure where everything and everybody is welcome. There’s truly something for everyone and I’m glad to report that it still occupies my number one slot when it comes to the automotive events calendar.
The show itself was quite simply awesome. One would not be incorrect to assume that a ‘scaled down’ version wouldn’t be the best way to cut your teeth on such a show, however, this assumption was totally wrong and the event lived up to every expectation that I had imagined.
"every time my foot went near the accelerator, the throttle would stick open..."
As Jack has no doubt mentioned, the myriad of vehicles on display was mind-blowing and as countless people have said in the past, “the car park becomes its own show”. They weren’t wrong. Parked behind my humble VW Beetle, was a Series 1 Jaguar E-type. Directly to my right, was a pre-war MG (the model name escapes me now). Moreover, every ‘lap’ of the parking area was different as new (old) cars were arriving every moment.
Bicester Scramble was a show I shan’t forget and very much look forward to revisiting.
Will had to drive home to Wales again so his 1974 Volkswagen certainly earned its keep last weekend and I’m glad to have completed the journey back to Buckinghamshire with him in front to navigate. As most owners will tell you, driving a Series Land Rover at anything more than 50mph for a prolonged period is an unbelievably physical affair that requires almost superhuman levels of concentration.
With seats that consist of a thin veneer of foam and vinyl stretched over a piece of plywood, I feel like my back may never recover, despite the car riding a little better on its new rear leaf springs. Despite ostensibly sporting a full complement of synchros, double-declutching is a necessity on every change to ensure smooth selection of gears and non-assisted steering requires constant input to keep the car on the road.
P.s. More pictures and videos to follow- Watch this space