Monday, January 16, 2012


Must have been about six months ago. Driving my old VW camper back home from somewhere. Struggling uphill she seemed down on power. And the interior started filling with smoke. Not a lot but enough to cause concern. Made it to the top of the hill, parked up, hopped out and checked the engine bay for signs of fire. All seemed well. Couldn't figure out what the problem was. Dropped it off with the old mechanic in Aubusson. Picked it up a couple of weeks later. Mechanic said all seemed fine and he couldn't find a problem. Drove home (uphill) and once again the interior became a bit smoky and the engine seemed down on power. Took it back to the mechanic. Went through the same routine a few more times over the following months. By the fourth or fifth time I returned to the garage (around the end of November), the mechanic was almost ripping his hair out in total frustration at not being able to solve the problem. Went there in the week after Christmas to see if he'd fixed it. Garage shut 'til the New Year. Went again a couple of weeks ago. Mechanic again said it all seemed fine. Refused to take any money for his efforts. Drove home. Problem still there. Did an internet search for a local mechanic who specialised in classic air-cooled VWs. No luck. Then posted a 'help!' plea on the Creuse website for Brits. Luckily someone recommended a chap about twenty miles away. Gave him a ring and explained the problem. Told me to drive round there if I reckoned the VW would manage it. Luckily the old gal managed to get there without too much trouble and the mechanic (a northern, retired, classic VW fiend who knows VeeDubs inside out and who makes a fine cup of tea) set to work. Couple of seconds later, he'd found the problem. Air filter housing swimming in oil. Blocked air filter. Hence no power. And oil probably getting onto exhaust and burning - hence smoke in cabin. Removed air filter and took it for a spin. Noticeable increase in power. Complete mystery though how oil gets into the air filter box. Next job for my miracle-worker mechanic is to borrow a mate's cylinder compression tester and see if any of the cylinders is down on power. Will hopefully be sometime this week. Still haven't sourced a replacement air filter yet but hope to do so soon.

Then there's the Greeves trials bike. Bought it about four years ago(?) on eBay from a chap in Scotland. Had it delivered to a specialist trials mechanic in Devon for a checkover. He fitted a new clutch and said all seemed fine. Crated it up on a pallet and 'white-vanned' it over to France. In a rare bout of mechanical enthusiasm, I then started reassembling the bike (wheels and forks had been taken off) and immediately hit a problem: the two bolts at the top of the fork legs wouldn't turn freely, so the forks wouldn't tighten. No, I forgot: Hadrien gave me a hand - fitting forks to a frame is a two-man op. Cleaned up the offending bolts and tried it again (with Hadrien) about a year later (that's how long it took to get Hadrien to give me a hand). Failed again. Decided to give the bolts a proper wire brushing with WD40 and grease, then see if they'd thread into the clamps more easily. Seemed a bit better so told Hadrien his lifting services were required again. Took a couple of years before we once again attempted the fork fitting op. That was over Christmas, a couple of weeks ago. Failed again. Then last week Christian turned up with Hadrien and the three of us had another bash at fork fitting. No luck. Bolts just wouldn't grip. Luckily, Christian likes a mechanical problem so he took the offending bolts and collars away with him for a darned good spanking. Returned a couple of evenings back. He'd fitted a couple of 'superior' French bolts which, somewhat surprisingly, fitted, despite being metric. Anyway, thanks to Christian, the front forks and wheel are now, once more, attached to the frame. Only taken four years to get that far. Now I can start stripping off some of that stupid aluminium paint which the previous owner painted over various rusty bolts etc. (why do people do this?!). Could take years. Anyway, progress at last.

1 comment:

  1. Good progress, nice bike. My dad used to do up old bikes at the rate of one every two years. Then he'd sell it and buy another box of bits to last him the next two years. Absolutely bonkers but it kept him out of my mum's way.