John's Jottings

We Kit-car owners don’t do great mileages, usually drive with care, and with cars of lighter weight are liable to have long-lasting tyres. It is often difficult to know when to replace them. My experience now is to replace sooner rather than later.

When I finished building my car (Sierra based) in 1996 I fitted a set of new tyres and have always been impressed by how well they wore. slight crazing adjacent to the wheel rim. Not wanting a tyre failure in each subsequent year I specifically asked my local village garage , who have always done the MOT, to check the tyre walls. In addition for the last 2 years, just before each overseas trip, I had the tyres checked by a reliable tyre fitting firm in Rugby. This year the tyres still looked OK perhaps now 60% worn at 27,000 miles. But were they really OK? I was lucky, a few days later the car had a deflated front tyre whilst in my garage and not a blowout at speed. It was not a puncture.A split had occurred where the tread joined the tyre wall, otherwise no tell-tale signs. I have little doubt it was caused by age-hardening of the rubber.


Last August I wrote that the joint between the bulb and the capillary tube of my Kenlowe thermostat unit controlling the electric fan had fractured, with a boiling over result. I replaced it with a similar Kenlowe unit and had the not unusual problem of trying to make a good hose seal due to the capillary tube, although in theory the silicone ‘saddle’ should resolve this. There had to be a better engineering solution. Some searching on the Internet found the Pacet thermostat adaptor, which is a moulding to insert in the hose and house the bulb with a proper sealing olive. The Pacet capillary thermostat kit includes the bulb, capillary and rotary temperature setting controller. The controller is not quite as elegant as the Kenlowe unit but is functionally acceptable. I ordered it from Demon Tweeks whose website has comprehensive info.Top hose diameter for my early Sierra 2 litre is 32mm. The result is very satisfactory. – see photo.  If anyone is in need of a virtually new Kenlowe unit contact me on 01788 822415.


For the last 12 years Loraine and I have had an annual Merlin touring holiday of 2 or 3 weeks usually in France but occasionally in Spain. This year we planned Portsmouth to Cherbourg on the high speed ferry, then stays on the Loire-Atlantique coast. The weather in the UK was awful prior to departure in early September and we nearly opted for our usual saloon transport. Instead we drove in the Merlin for over 3 hours in pouring rain to Portsmouth then the following day in some rain down the Cherbourg peninsula. Thank heavens  the windscreen wipers stood the test. Then the weather improved and top-down motoring became the norm. Our first stay was in Bernerie en Retz, a delightful small resort with broad sandy beaches and a number of other small resorts to visit. The nearest larger town was Pornic on a major inlet, the usual harbour full of boats overlooked by a chateau and with winding streets up a hillside to the old town area around the church. All very picturesque. We then moved from south of the Loire estuary, over the magnificent St Nazaire bridge to La Baule a little further north. La Baule is quite a large town, a sort of Harrogate by the sea, luxurious apartments along a 2 mile promenade with large well-kept 1920’s houses just behind. Near the front are up-market shopping and restaurant areas with numerous fashion boutiques. The beach is enormous and a great attraction for walking at low tide. Nearby is the mediaeval town of Guerande with its walled central area. We visited on a Saturday when it was busy with its market and went into the church for some peace. By chance some superb soloist singers and a trumpeter were practising with the organ for what we thought would be an evening concert. Actually it was for an afternoon wedding, so after lunch we slipped into a back pew. It was quite entrancing. Obviously a very lavish affair and a fashion field day for Loraine.

So what of France this year. Well it is clean, as usual effectively free of litter, with good roads generally uncluttered by traffic although tractors are often bowling along secondary roads. At least 4 times a day the Merlin attracted admiring comments and it could be left without fear of vandalism. But France is now rather expensive with costs at least 20% more than last year due to the major change in the Euro exchange rate. Did we have any hiccups? No, the Merlin didn’t miss a beat for 1008 miles. Hopefully we will go again in 2009.


John Winn

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