It’s a very wet, dull, afternoon at the moment and we shall be unable to properly use the campervan for a week or so. Instead I am looking back in time.
When the children were still at school, we lived close enough for my wife to walk there with them. Fine in good weather but when it got like it is today, it was a case of getting cold and drenched. I did the honourable thing and bought a little Suzuki Alto , a bit like the one shown above. It was right hand drive, in lovely condition and came with an automatic gearbox.
The interior was an “interesting” shade of beige. The steering wheel rim was very slender and all the controls were extremely light. My wife did not enjoy driving. Early driving experiences of wild, raucous and bucket-seated , rally tools, belonging to me, had not helped. Stopping in the middle of my parents’ shrubbery in their front garden had not encouraged her either.
The car came at a very low price and the engine sounded a bit tinny. This quickly turned out to be a shot water pump which I changed at a cost of £13.00 if I remember correctly. We never had any further trouble with it.
That little car carried the kids to school on wet days and even impressed my mother in law on the shopping run to Tesco.
Once my wife had grown used to the metallic brown (yes !!!!!) micro-car, I began to think about taking it with us behind the Talbot Excalibur motorhome we had at the time.
That’s the Talbot, above right, at Newborough Warren on Anglesey. The Bedford CF belonged to ma and pa Dinkum. As you can see we always took bikes with us on our adventures. The first thing to do was sort out how to carry four bikes on the Talbot and still be able to tow.
At the time, Halfords sold individual bike racks which had two swivelling , square section tube “rails”, a seat cup made of heavy duty plastic and handlebar clamps. All adjustable, these were perfect to hang the bikes off the vertical rear wall of the coachbuilt motorhome. I beefed up the mounting points with tasteful strips of hardwood glued inside the rear bunk bed frames. Long coachbolts secured the bike racks and overall it looked the part. I thought it had the look of those Tour de France service “barges” but then I can be a little fanciful….. shall we say.
That problem overcome, the next issue was with the car. Being automatic, it could not be towed on a frame. Pity, because we had a manufacturer of these devices close to home. Seaching around, I found one of these:
The towing dolly was exactly like this one. The wheel carrier articulates and when locked using ratchet straps, the ramps allowed the car to be driven up onto the frame. The front wheels drop into the frame. The ramps are stowed back in their slots. The ratchet straps then go around the wheels, securing the car to the frame. These devices were unbraked but with a gross towed weight of less than 750kg., I think it was, you were in business. Intended for car recovery, these devices were sold back then as car tender towing kits for motorhomes. The law has changed now so do not follow this path before checking legalities.
The only issue was when reversing with dolly attached. I never got it right.
It all worked perfectly. We could leave the motorhome set up for day or night “running”, the huge driveaway awning attached and go off in the Suzuki if it was raining or we were suffering from cyclists’ numb bum.
Back then, this caused quite a stir on campsites It was relatively unusual at that time and we got a lot of comments from fellow campers. Great fun and we were making family memories as we went on.
Epilogue: My wife had a slight collision in the Suzuki. Somone cut into the junction where she was waiting to pull out and swiped laterally across the front bumper doing little damage but righting off all confidence. We sold the car to a young chap who worked for us at the time. Within days he had written it off, understeering off a suburban bend and ripping the suspension out of the front of the car. Later the Excalbur developed a terminal water leak in the crazily positioned joint in the centre of the aluminium roof sheets. Who designs such things?
The car towing dolly was also then sold off , athough it had doubled up for retrieving broken down classic motor bikes on more than one occaision. Don’t ask about how that was done or how legal it was………