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Brunel on the Channel Islands

Brunel on the Channel Islands

Rob Lovell wrote a few words about the recent trip to Guernsey and Jersey and admit they are brilliant.

So read on if you have an interest in:

  • Ammeters
  • Mad Mary
  • North Korean Rockets
  • Mobile Power Packs


This is an explanation of the wonderful time Lynette and I enjoyed recently in Guernsey and Jersey.Oh what fun we had.The idea was to stay the night in Poole before catching the ferry to Guernsey where we would stay for 3 nights then go on to Jersey for a 4-night stay.And our friends Bob and Sue were with us in their very nice SL250 of 1965 vintage while I decided to take my TR5.

The drive from my house was due to start with an agreed meeting time of 1230.Bob called to say they were running late and he and Sue arrived at 1400.Lynette had arrived on time at 1230 and went for a drive in her car as the meeting time had slipped to 1400. Inevitably she wasn't back by the time Bob and Sue arrived. Typical, you might think.

Anyway, we were soon off and making our way down to Poole. The sat-nav in my TR had decided not to work.No power from the cigarette lighter and, also the ammeter was showing a small charge with the engine off.All very strange.It never occurred to me that these 2 things might be connected.Why would it ?

As before, last year in fact, we stayed in the Thistle Hotel on the sea front in Poole.And very nice it is too.A decent dinner in a very nice local pub and an early night as usual, at least it's usual for me.Breakfast was at 0730 and then a short drive to the ferry.The quickest and shortest route was over a bridge but that was shut.But, intrepid explorers that we are we found a way round the bridge and managed anyway.

The ferry crossing to Guernsey was fine, it was the start of the holiday proper after all so we were in good spirits.We arrived on time and made our way to a great hotel. The name ?I forget, sorry.But you could tell it was good because they de-stoned the prunes for breakfast.

Then I discovered my passport and credit cards contained in my wallet were missing, as was the wallet itself.Spent half a day searching high and low for it, cancelled my cards and asked Condor Ferries to help if anyone handed it in.I called Bonny, who manages my little B&B and she said she was glad I had called because my passport and cards were on my desk… I resisted asking why on earth she had not called me to tell me about her discovery previously, and after I had wasted half a day searching high and low but hey, panic over.So, with a smile on my face…

We explored Guernsey and found the roads ridiculously narrow and even worse was the fact that road names were often missing.Main roads ?Lanes in the UK !But we went for a long walk one afternoon and stopped for an ice cream at a small stall by the beach where we were approached by a man who was on the same ferry with us and he recognised the cars, Bob's 250 SL and my TR5.

It turned out that this guy was a leading light in local car events and after explaining the problem with the lack of power to the cigarette lighter he offered to take us to a garage that, among other transport exotica looks after 200 Porsche's on the island.

And where we spied a Ferrari with no engine (being rebuilt) an XK150 under full restoration, a Porsche and several other very nice cars being repaired or restored.We were lucky to find this garage because the guy I was supposedly following was driving an Abarth Fiat 500 and he drove it, shall we say, spiritedly.

As luck would have it the wiring guru in the garage had just finished a job and was soon scrambling about in the passenger foot-well of my errant TR and, after poking about with a meter under the dashboard he proudly exclaimed that he had found the problem, a bad earth meaning only 9 volts to the lighter…So he fed a separate wire between the lighter and the battery and all was well.Good eh ?Half an hour and £37.50 later and we were on our way.

The TR ran like the proverbial sewing machine after that.And after another day or 2 we boarded a ferry in Guernsey and headed for Jersey.In a storm.Some storm, too.We arrived in Jersey to be told the storm was too bad to dock so we sailed round in circles for a hour or so then returned to Guernsey.Where they presumably have deeper and therefore safer water.We were off-loaded from the ferry back in Guernsey, waited 2 hours and a reserve ferry took us back to Jersey where this second ferry was able to dock.

So we arrived several (8, was it ?) hours late, Lynette not at all a happy bunny.But we have stayed previously in the Merton Hotel, Jersey where the food is excellent and we like it.We arrived just before midnight We were in the room for about 5 minutes when the internal telephone rang.The caller asked if we wanted the chef to send us up a meal; nice touch but no thanks, bed beckons.

On Friday Lynette and me decided to go to Portelet Bay on our own.Not being used to cars where you have to actually switch the lights on and off we parked in the pub car park and walked the 127 steps down to the beach.Thoroughly recommended, lovely place.A great little beach food stall sold us lunch and we wandered about the almost deserted beach in blissful ignorance of the next episode in this holiday.127 steps up from the beach had the old ticker ticking faster than it had for a while.And there sat the TR, resplendent and easily the prettiest car in the car park.So we climbed aboard, obviously.And…

When I sat in the TR ready for the 'off' I noticed the light stalk was in the fully down position, ie the headlights should have been on.I used a well known expletive and thought rude words and turned the ignition key when… nothing happened.Yep, the battery was as flat as the proverbial pancake.Oh dear. I knew that Bob would have jump leads but I had no idea where he was and, anyway, I had invested in an Energiser pack and in the now wet weather I attached it to the battery and hey-ho the TR fired up like a good-un !Phew, relief and thank goodness for the power pack that is the size of a mobile phone.Brilliant little device.Just glad I had charged it before leaving Bristol.

The next day, Saturday we decided to explore.Started the engine to warm it thru and I operated the window winder. It went round and round several times and the window continued to sit, unmoving.And then there was a whoosh and the glass dropped like a North Korean rocket landing in the sea off Japan.Oh dear.More trouble.Managed to get the window up but then a loud bang occurred and something fell into the bottom of the door.But the glass stayed in place. Phew.And it is still in situ now awaiting a repair.

We enjoyed the rest of Saturday although I can't remember exactly what we did except that we went to Mad Mary's (it is described as this on the official tourist maps) which is a little food and drink shack where Lynette had a crab sandwich, a favourite of hers .And on Sunday we again decided to go exploring in the TR.Maybe the pearl factory or similar.Well it didn't matter much because the whole car was as dead as, well, anything extinct really.Don't want to pick on the poor old dodo all the time.No lights, no ignition, no nothing !Grammar police take a day off please…

My trusty Energiser was tried; nothing.Bob volunteered his jump leads.No use.After ages of head scratching I noticed the ammeter was now right over into the charging side.How odd.But of no use.So, finally, I relented and called the AA.They were good and the breakdown man arrived 45 minutes later.He admired the car and enjoyed testing everything before, after about one hour he reluctantly admitted defeat.No go, even for him.

So what to do next ?In desperation I called my friend Chris, he who had restored the TR for me.Of course, given the clues, nothing from a battery in good condition and well charged, with an ammeter showing a large permanent charge even with nothing operating he diagnosed the fault and suggested, yes he suggested to the AA man (very politic is Chris) that he should remove the ammeter and bypass it using one of the ammeter terminals to hold both leads to it.And wadda ya know, we had lift-off as it were.Had I called Chris at the beginning I could have done that myself !

The AA man was relieved not to be beaten and actually took pictures of the TR's engine bay.Before leaving Bristol I had spent lots of hours making it spotless and he appreciated my hard work and said his colleagues would all be envious he had a real car to work on.However…

Not to be completely beaten the car played another trick; one of the foot-well lights stayed on all the time but after the troubles we had experienced I was not worried about that little problem.

Monday came and the car behaved itself, foot-well light apart.We explored a funny little cafe type place for lunch followed by a visit to Le Riche, a local classic car dealer on Jersey in the afternoon.At least the 3 men looked at the cars while the girls do whatever it is that girls do when abandoned by the blokes.Great cars, tip top restorations including a Honda S800 being restored for Honda themselves in the UK and a good time was had by all.

The men had a good time anyway, not so the girls I believe.It took ages to see all the cars because they were spread in 3 locations all over north Jersey !

And on Tuesday we were due to catch the ferry back to Poole. Our friends Tony and Helen had arrived on Sunday (as had Elf and Carol) having had their TR4 break down on the way to catch their ferry so they arrived in their Porsche Macan; paradise.On Tuesday morning we went with Tony and Helen while Bob drove his SL that behaved impeccably throughout the holiday.Apart, that is, from his panel lights failing but hey, that is nothing compared to the trials and tribulations of my TR. Viewed a little (is everything small on Jersey ?) Lobster BBQ stall.

Then back to the hotel to collect my TR.Bob and Sue were caught up in a traffic accident and went straight to the ferry port.Off we went to the ferry port to begin the journey home to Bristol and amazingly were right behind Bob and Sue in the queue.OK, weather-wise there were a few scattered showers but nothing much to complain about.Yet.

Bob's Merc was boxed in on the ferry by a Nissan Micra that its owner couldn't find and we were ushered off the ferry in Poole well ahead of Bob and Sue and I drove slowly to hopefully allow Bob and Sue to catch us up.We were now well over 2 hours late, having arrived at Poole at 2100, and we started the drive back to Bristol.In gale force winds and rain and the poor old TR5 was just unable to cope.

Poor thing, the inside of the windscreen steamed up making it hard to see anything.And the wipers might not have been working cos the rain was just too severe for them to cope. But if you know me, my motto is just to put your foot down and go for it. So I did.And I raced away from Poole at a staggering 30 mph and when the lights on the road ended and we were in the countryside that quickly became 20 mph.Lynette was heroically trying her best, and failing to clear the windscreen that misted up as soon as she cleared it.And then we hit a lake, or it seemed like a lake and the TR slewed before I corrected it and I slowed down even more.

Eventually there was a long snake of cars behind me.So I decided to give in and be sensible.I pulled into a pub car park and asked if they had accommodation; no such luck.In driving rain I crossed the road as instructed by the landlord and eventually, soaked right through I found a little B&B in Spetisbury, about 10 miles from Poole and we stayed the night there.

The owner was a very nice elderly lady but the B&B was, well, umm.Anyone of average height would have struggled to stand in the bedroom that had no ceiling light cos it would have been too low: .Not a problem for me !And a tall person would have had to walk about crouching all the time.There was one socket in the bedroom so the choice was to watch TV or charge your phone or tooth brush !Actually, I had an extension lead so no problem really.No power in the bathroom bit but it came complete with a snail climbing up the curtains...

On Wednesday morning we woke up at 0700 to sunshine.We drove home with an occasional shower but no real rain and wonder of wonders some occasional sunshine again.What fun.But the TR went like a sewing machine after the ammeter problem was fixed (it was bypassed as mentioned earlier) and modern traffic struggled to keep pace with it.Really.Lynette was a brick with not complaining at me finding a B&B, not one complaint.Actually I think she was relieved quite honestly cos it was just too dangerous to drive as we were semi-blind.

Modern cars might have cigarette lighters, a decent heater, intermittent wipers, built-in sat-nav, auto lights that are better, proper demisting facilities, far more room and greater comfort.But compared to a TR they simply have no soul !!

And the malfunctioning ammeter was removed and despatched for repair Thursday morning, no time to waste after all.

And that was the week that was.

Brunel TRs Group

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