Its been on my mind for a while, that apart from journeys to and from garages for MOT’s, or for things like its annual service, my coupe has mainly been sitting in the garage.
Now mainly this situation has without doubt been made worse by almost non-stop bad snow/wet weather for 7 months here. On some days we were talking biblical amounts of water. On other days- just when I thought it would be a chance to take her out for a spin, a quick look would show that local roads and country lanes awash with field run off and flowing mud.
The garage doors remained firmly shut. Yep she is a 2nd car-and a bit of a garage queen. My hat is off to all of you who use your coupe as daily drivers!
Recent posts on the forum about owners far more experienced then I, who had decided the time was right to surrender their coup, also made me sit back and think - just what is the point of a weekend car that never moves much.
And that only seemed to make the situation worse.
So the decision was taken that personally -this bank holiday weekend, I was going to take my coupe out for an adventure – come what may!
Now to avoid any disappointment from the outset-I can reveal that I failed.
The initial plan had been to drive the Route Napoleon – always wanted to do it- but no matter how much I planned it became clear that with commitments I just did not have the time to get all the way there, and then back in the allotted 3 days that I had free….well at least not if I wanted to sleep.
So maps were consulted...and a new plan was borne.
Could I make Germany? Could I get her around “The Ring”?
The coupe had not moved much in a year- and she felt sluggish but an across UK trip from east to west to see Joe and get two subtle upgrades – replacement recaro front chairs and the “sparco” engine bay strut brace- seemed to blow her cobwebs away. A look-over by Joe and his nod that she was pretty much running fine sealed the deal that she was going on an adventure.
What was needed to get there?...Double check of insurance- yes legal to drive in EU. Cover for recovery from abroad- she wasn;t getting left if she broke down! EU driving kit, stickers, breathalyser, bulbs, tools, gloves etc.
I packed the boot twice- once with all the tools I thought it might be prudent to take- and when I had filled up the boot without a spare space to be found- I striped it down to tool kit, wheel braces, assorted wiring tester and wiring kit, spare oil, tow rope, and three good torches. The boot then easily took a small suitcase, coats, brolly supplies, etc.
My car has a very small handling issue to resolve she pulls gently one way – I elected this would be fine to resolve after the trip. Tyres were all fine tread wise.
The tank was already filled to the top, the tyre pressures and all fluid levels checked...I gave her a quick wash- and that was it. The Saturday morning arrived – the key was turned and she fired up and was off out the garage...next stop Europe.
I took it easy-letting her warm up nice and gently. I’m a long way from the south coast- and it was a hot day. She seemed to enjoy the open road and felt good. The real test – turning on the AC- ice cold air came out- great!
So at Le Channel Tunnel – I stopped and bought headlight stickers for her- and a small badge to make her EU legal – I fitted these inside the train (I was just a bit worried that her tight turning circle may make it a challenge to get her into the train- but - she went in fine. At the UK customs-the coupe was flagged up for a security check- and a team swarmed out asking me to open boot and bonnet – they took maybe all of 40 seconds to look over here-and someone asked me what type of car she was. I left the security area with the distinct impression she had been pulled over by them as they wanted to add a Coupe to their “tick list” of cars checked. Other then that- I could have had an a-bomb in the back they would have been none the wiser. I had to smile.
30 minutes later- with a small fanfare in my mind -out she burst in to even hotter sunshine- and all of a sudden there she was. The type of trip I had been putting off far too long. Hot day, faster traffic - French cruising!
I’d elected to shoot through Belgium, and down through to Germany to reach the hotel I was staying at that night. And crossing Flanders, the first snag was hit- the radio kept going in to “info” mode and nothing much I did would resolve it. It became clear that around the edges of a few towns there were a lot of traffic jams, of 20 mins or more- the reason became clear as she sailed ever deeper into Belgium, the sky became darker and darker-almost purple. Then a massive lighting storm came- traffic has stopped-and it was impossible driving conditions….then I could hear a tinkling sound...and realised it was starting to hail. And Hail. AND HAIL.
By far the largest hailstones I have seen out of the USA- massive pieces. And they were hammering down on the coupe…
I winced at every single blow. Why had I taken her out to subject her to this?
I could only sit there and consider that she is in line at some point for fresh paint-and if she was being damaged- it would just be the nail in the coffin to push the button on that.
But I still felt very very bad
It wouldn’t be until just past Brussels, many miles south - when I stopped for fuel (she had hit the half tank mark) that I checked her over. Her paintwork isn’t perfect to start with- but all I could detect was one possible dimple on the rear tailgate- I could not see anything obvious other then that.
Filled up-which is a real faff in EU as they have the pay then pump system – and time to stretch her legs, past Belgium- in to Germany. The coup was sounding good – the burble from the engine was coming through clear- and the coupe just runs so much better at the EU motorway speeds of 80-85 then she does trying to balance on her throttle at 69/70 in the UK.
And then I hit a bit of unrestricted Autobahn...It was actually not too hard to locate where these are in Germany- so I knew when I was on it- and all off a sudden vans and cars are rocketing by me and I was by far the slowest thing on the road-so I knew it was ok to up the speed. Now my days of needing to go fast “just becuase” are behind me - So I stopped at 130 ish mph. Mainly as I was conscious of my tyres, it was still fairly damp – and I was not at the half way point of the 3 days away yet.
But boy it was fun to legally be at that speed.
Finally – late in to the evening the run down to Nurbrugring began, as the motorway ends. Coming in via Wiesemscheid- with very wet roads- you wind down in to the edge to the Germany dark forest where Nordschleife is built around – and with steam pouring from the damp roads, tired eyes and thousands and thousands of bugs flying out from the verges to hit the coupe-it felt epic!
A bit too late in to the evening, the coupe arrived- at the Lindner Congress hotel and I paid the £10 for parking – and there she sat- bug spattered, dirty and ticking as she cooled- surrounded by Porsche Panamera’s, 911 of one type or another, Audi R8’s. Lamborghini's….I had to smile-and I didn’t let these expensive cars make my coup feel too far out of place.!
The hotel was ok-bit of a boys club-with beer and burgers available well in to the night – but the rooms were fine.
The next day – after breakfast- found a sorry sight- the coupe was plastered with dead bugs so thick- you could in places not see the body colour- I cleared them off as best I could. I then did a few small checks -as I knew one way or another the next hour or so would be interesting. I checked the oil level 3 times- all fine. I then checked that all the wheel nuts were on tight- they were fine too.
So – I thought- lets go. I turned on the coil sat for a second or two and then as normal turned her over. She sounded terrible! Firing on maybe 4 cylinders...my heart sank. I revved her gently to clear her throat- nothing. This isn’t right I said out loud- I turned her off- and turned her on again – she started absolutely fine this time...darn coupes!. Maybe she was teasing me
From the hotel you go down through the main road, with the GP track on your left- and 2k or so further on you can take a turn that brings you down and under tunnels that are the main road and the Nurburgring itself. At the t-junction take the right and you end up at a roundabout- pull in either side there- and you can buy tickets to enter the Nurburgring.
Now there at two ways to enter it – as a competitor in a track day. If you do this your talking race helmets, safety cages, and all the stuff that goes with that. Or you can go on a touristenfahrten – or simply a tourist day- when the track is a public road and if you own a road legal car-your good to go. You don’t even need to put a helmet on. This is what I did. Two tickets bought (two laps) you go round the 1 way parking system...and there I was – at the track ready to enter the original start / finish straight.
Now if your expecting some adrenalin soaked, blow by blow race commentary next...I’m sorry I’m going to disappoint. I entered the straight a bit nervous if I was honest- and the first lap was just a haze of overfilled excitement, and bend after bend- not knowing if I was going to fast or too slow- or well the heck i was going really! You keep to the right and signal right and go as fast or as slow as you like if you don’t known the track I was told the night before in the bar. And lap 1 this is what I did. Lap two -I started to go for it a bit more. This seemed to go ok. There are one or two really BIG turns on the circuit and trying to connect them up properly is something that takes a long time to master. I knew as I went around the lap a 2nd time there were some corners I took way too slowly – a couple I think I went in to too quickly and spoiled any kind of “racing line” I should have had. I was swallowed up by Porsche/Ferrari and Lambo’s – but -up ahead there was an even slower driven Audi TT...so when the chance came on a longer straight -I took it!” I then had to really hit the brakes to make it around the following S’s and I could feel the brakes starting to complain a bit – so I took it easier again – but on the straights I was starting feel more comfortable– I was really surprised to find I could hold on to the tails of some of the 911’s (996 and 997’s I think) ….and like that-my two laps were over!
Coming out, you come in at the same car park you entered- the boys in the bar said there was some ritual to come in-park up and have a small beer – but the car felt hot and I wanted to keep her rolling – So even though I was on a bit of a high- I didn't stop – I kept on driving back the way I had come – and excitedly -it was off -back to Belgium where I was overnighting the 2nd night.
It became a bit clearer that the cost of the 2 laps were slightly spongy brakes….not feeling quite as sharp as they had, And for a few miles I was quite worried about that – but in all other ways she felt fine. I pulled over- keeping her running- just to check the brake fluid level- all fine! Mind playing tricks on me.... In jumping back in to her and putting my foot back down- the 5 pot burble sounded better then ever. And in the day light you could see some really fantastic sights of Germany from the Autobahn- and some great rivers and valleys...the sun was getting hotter and hotter and hotter- I turned the A/C on -and cold air blasted out again! I was winning! :-)
I fuelled up pretty much the opposite side of the road where I had the night before- when the tank reached the half way mark. I’d really wanted to stop far to the north at Ypres in Belgium that night- as I like it very much as a place- but my fave hotels were full and I could not find anywhere- so I tried Namur for the last evening….and while it was ok – the food wasn't great- and the best bar was the hotel bar (that’s very odd for Belgium) if/when I do this again-I’d press on to Ypres or somewhere like that to avoid longer drive the next day to get back to Calais.
When I re-fuelled there was a jet wash and lance – so I took the chance to give the coupe a well deserved wash down – she was plastered with mud from the storms, a thousand dead midges and moths at the front and now tarmac up her flank from the ring- but she looked loads better after a quick spray wash down.
The final day- was all about getting back. Again with hindsight-I stopped too early in to Belgium – and had to get up early to cover the 3 hour drive back to Calais – with no time for breakfast. I could have selected a later train back to England – but being a long way from the south coast- I wanted to get home before I hit English evening commuting on the roads..
Near Liege I considered stopping for an early brunch/late breakfast-thank goodness I didn’t-as the terror attack unfolded not much later...although I didn't realise until back in to England what was occurring…I felt very lucky!
Belgium and French Traffic are very different. From Namur- for much of the journey it was either fend for yourself and be prepared not to keep to the posted speed limit- or be content to sit in the slow lane. I’m used to driving in the EU – but not in the coupe and I felt it a bit more this time. The French want to get there, want to get there quick-and the roads were poor like in the UK – just before Liege, the coupe took on a massive pothole in the fast lane that came out of the blue-with a loud bang and real judder- I was worried for a bit that one of the tyres had bit the dust- but all seemed well. Although mental note to self to add this to the existing suspension double check I need to have done to the coupe. The Belgium traffic- bit like in Germany- roads surfaces smooth as silk in general – and the drivers much more well-disciplined signals and they tend to drive a good 20% slower. What seemed to be one general practice though-was that traffic does not follow any “2 second rule” even at over 80mph - and you find traffic up your chuff at all speeds. I learnt quite quickly that you needed to hold your own on the motorways-as otherwise you just have to pull over every few seconds to slow down, to speed back up when the road is clear-and your fuel MPG suffers.
And then-there I was Calais. A quick stop for a late breakfast/lunch before getting on the train . Arived in England to dark clouds, cold wind and grey skies...quite a difference from balmy Germany. And I thought the story would there, but the adventure wasn’t quite over….. here came the rain.
And biblical rain it was, rain so hard and fast no wiper setting would clear the screen, with traffic speeds down to 20mph even on the outside lane. There was a lot of standing water and I could feel her aqua planning a few times- and the first hour or so was a real tip-toe adventure! The AC remained ice cold- and that and having the rear de-mist on helped her stay de-fogged inside. But what a way to dampen the spirits- from balmy German track fun- to a slog of a journey up on to the M25. By the time I made it back to God’s own county – I was actually glad to be climbing out of the car.
I was good- and gave her a good hover and clean inside- and wash and dry outside. There was no real impact on how she looked for her little adventure other then the tell take tarmac up her flanks. I’ll give her a derper clean and a double check of all fluids/hoses etc in a few days when I have the time.
So – Thoughts- and findings.
1) I’m going to miss being a European! What exceptional fun there is to be had in the EU as well as on good roads here too. Being able to jump from country to country as we can now-massive fun really.
2) She can fly along – but I think the coupe is really underrated as a superb GT car – ok its no Rolls Royce- but with the new seats I had no driver fatigue-and with the radio up-the wind noise ddn’t really impact. And she rfeels great at the 80 mph plus range on a motorway. I’ve not calculated fuel costs yet- but I stopped for fuel twice and have just under half a tank left now….and that INCLUDES a bit of track time. So around 2.5 full tanks! I think that’s amazing given the track time.
I wanted to share this with everyone -as not withstanding those that have made the decision to move on from Coupe ownership – its easy to get in to the mind set of garage queen.
I had bags of fun. Quite a few people smiled./waved or thumbed up the car. And I had a really great adventure- and respect her even more now then I did. I think she is a really epic GT car!
What I did:
1) Le Channel Tunnel tickets
2) Eu travel kit (already had this)
3) extended AA cover for abroad (£65 for me)
4) A night at Linder Congress and Motorsport Hotel – Nurburgring
5) A night anywhere you like on the way back
Oh and the ring: http://www.nuerburgring.de/en/fans-info/info/opening-times.html
Joe of FCCSS had been right when he had mentioned at the last mot “you need to get out and have some fun in her”. As usual he was spot on!
I will be doing much more with her going forward...otherwise whats the point? I won’t hesitate to plan another trip!
Next time Route Napoleon! Where’s my map…
Regards all here's to your adventures!,