Out in Saudi Arabia and now seconded to British Aerospace as a flying Instructor teaching the Royal
Saudi Air Force and now heavily involved in Operation Desert Shield time has come to find something
to do in my spare time and also get some wheels!

Obviously I would like to get off base and see some of the desert  as well as have some transport to
get to the 21 Club and various other watering holes. Either because of the imminent war or for other
reasons there were several english speaking peoples wanting to sell their cars so any offer was a
good offer and would generally be accepted on the spot.

So this will be my first vehicle with the steering wheel on the wrong side and the rest of this article will
go through all the joys of left hand drive ownership. Strange thing is nobody (fortunately) ever changed
the gate over on the manual gearbox, I wonder why?

My first left hander becomes an early Range Rover manual which somebody has resprayed in a dark reddish color. It looks reasonable and seems to drive well enough but whoever took it to bits to do the respray did not have a tech workshop manual  for the rebuild as on purchase there were 64 electrical
faults and things that didn’t work. No matter that was the plan and would occupy my time.

About 3000 GBP changes hands and work commences. Wire brushes, circuit testers and a toolkit are acquired and I start on the many electrical problems on my list. Wheels are resprayed and lights start
coming back on as things get reconnected. Even discovered it had central locking while trying to get the electric windows to work….. who knew?

Hours spent solving the wiring problems

During the initial phase of ownership I would often find myself climbing in the right hand seat only to
find someone had stolen all the controls and would then sheepishly pretend I was looking for
something to cover up the error and embarassment!

Would you believe it!  some bastards stolen the steering wheel and all
the pedals and left me with a grab handle !!

After the war was over there was a glut of nearly new used vehicles as the massed forces of the
military had either purchased them or comandeered them. Saudis don’t buy USED vehicles so you
can imagine the prices were exceptionally low. I pick up another Range Rover less than 1 year old
with 9000 miles on it for 9500 GBP……. an absolute steal and also sell my nearly fully restored red
one for 4000 !

Nearly all working and sells for a profit

The brown beast requires nothing other than continuous cleaning and polishing and I kept this one
with me until I left Saudi in August 94 when my Darts partner bought it off me for 10,000. I don’t know
which nation used this during the conflict but they sure loved sun flower seeds as two years later I
was still cleaning them out !!

Hours and hours of mindless polishing

The Gift that keeps on giving……. Sunflower Seeds!!

Coming to America I’m now very much a Range Rover devotee and on starting up the Grading & Trash company I buy a white Range Rover County from the CEO of a company who awards us a huge
contract. It seems to be that Range Rovers in America are very well equipped as first time owners
seem to go for every available option and extra. This one had the special alloy wheels, Hella lamps,
brush guard and roof mounted top of the line ski racks.

My first US purchase

As the business starts to become successful other company vehicles get purchased and on a visit to
the Dodge dealership there is an amazing exhibit on the showroom floor! It claims to be a Dodge but
is in fact a Mitsubishi 3000GT twin turbo that the owner, who owns a paint and body shop, has spent
a fortune on it with special wheels and an exotic paint job. The Dodge model is called the Stealth and
our man’s paint shop have gone to town airbrushing a stealth fighter on the hood with reheat plumes
going all the way back. Yes, it just has to be! ………. and another one of those impulse purchases is

Fantastic to look at and an unbelievable paint job

The bat thing is a Stealth Fighter, but you can’t see it unless you are up

Now you are up close

Jaw dropping

Gorgeous from any angle

Great fun to drive, blistering acceleration, but I never get to use it as I’m always driving something
else. I think I probably only drove it about 3 times a year and usually had to jump start it as the
batteries had gone low through lack of use. A fantastic white elephant but gorgeous to look at………
and it was MANUAL!!

The white RR gets traded as the dealership tell me they are getting a British Racing Green Range
Rover County long wheelbase with hi-chrome wheels and it does seem that Range Rover have
listened to all the complaints and have actually done something about it. This one has dual control
heaters and real air conditioning whereby the passenger gets some! We all know that most
vehicles have their problems and known defects and the RR has quite a few. Unless you have
extended warranty you are in for a shock when it comes to the brakes. About every 12,000 you are
looking at new pads and at every 50,000 all the rotors have to be replaced…. and they are not

All the “goodies” fitted time for a test drive……..

Test drive complete……. oh crap! is that the neighbor’s cat ?

Time moves on and the accountant advises me I’m making too much money so I need to spend
some quickly in the current tax year. A Lincoln Navigator is ordered including rear TV and video and
once it arrives and I’m minus the RR it seems I’m never, or rarely, going to see the inside of this machine……… so I can clearly see where this is going!

My badges were removed within the week when I found out I would not
be driving this one !

At the Chevrolet dealership where I have just bought 4 new big trucks for the company they have a
series of limited edition models for Ducks Unlimited. After 4 Range Rovers its time to buy something
else so after a quick test drive I now have a Ducks Unlimited Tahoe in a very nice green and gold livery.
An extra of a burr walnut dash completes the story. This was a pretty good vehicle with reasonable
mileage to the gallon, 4 wheel drive “on the fly” which I very much liked, and tons of room inside. The
only thing I disliked was the double rear doors which made it like a grocer’s truck. I see later models
now use the one piece tailgate.

The “Duckmobile” with grocer’s rear doors

So as the final divorce gets underway, the Lincoln Navigator departs (no surprize) and I get to enjoy
the Tahoe. As the lease is coming to an end on the Tahoe time to see where we will be going next.
The new bodied Range Rovers look nice but where has all the boot and luggage space gone ? The
BMW entry into SUVs is OK but on the small size and then there is this new Escalade thing from
GM’s Cadillac division.

Previous Escalades have been little more than a luxurious Tahoe but the new one is a completely
different animal. It is indeed an exceptionally well built and designed car and I fall in love with it on
the spot. It does have all wheel drive but you as the driver don’t get to select it, and even when, or if,
it engages nothing on the dash tells you…….. does it really exist ?

It arrives in a Sandy Beige metallic which is ideal for the dusty Phoenix conditions, I put 90,000
miles on it and other than regular oil changes and air filters I do nothing. When I eventually trade it
in I have never changed the brake pads and at over 90 thousand its still running the original
Michelin Pilots !!!

The all purpose beige Escalade with two bikes on the rack

When it was delivered the salesman took me out to do the talk through and we got to the newfangled
“On Star” system which then refused to cooperate. No matter I would take it and bring it back next
week. The car is duly returned on Monday and I’m given a “loaner”. After nearly three weeks of
frustration, wrong parts, “its on back order” etc, etc I’m told it is finally ready. By now I have composed
and rehearsed my speech and there is no “sugar coating” on this one and somebody better have
their earplugs in when I start venting !!!

Arrive all fired up, see the now working On Star system and all its joys and now its time to see the
Manager and read him the state of the union address!
” Come in, Mr Down…….. I believe you have had a less than acceptable experience with your new
vehicle……here at Cadillac we don’t expect this………. so on behalf of the Company please accept our
check for $1000 and dinner for 2 at any of these Scottsdale restaurants”
“Urrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh………. ummmmmm, stutter, stutter, cough politely……. meek and humble … thank you”
Well that was very clever, completely knocked the wind out of my sails and I found myself becalmed
in the Sea of Cadillac!

With the sandy beige edition at 90,000 time to go shopping again as the company is on another
upswing. This time the dealership have the very latest EXT version which is a longer wheelbase
chasis, the pick-up rear end, true 4-5 seater with 4 doors, navigation system and hi-tech bose radio
and disc player. Big chrome wheels, a host of custom billet parts and red pinstriping and motifs over
stunning black. Its a MUST !

Home with the black EXT

The drive home reveals an annoying wheel balance problem at about 65 mph, but as this super
hi-tech machine has every bell and whistle imaginable I can flash through the comp which shows me
the tire pressure on every wheel. The dealership says bring it back and the following day they spend
trying to balance it. They claim it is better but not good enough so they will change all the new tires the
next day at around $350 a pop! These tires are the super wide low profile Toyos. Well once more I’m impressed with Mr Cadillac.

40 miles later with another $1400 of new tires!

The next year Brenda decides to change her car as she doesn’t like the Chevrolet she is driving.
Sadly she is the wrong way up in it financially but she does have a very nice boat which is not getting
used enough so she arranges a cracking deal using all her realator expertise.

On the day of the deal, which is a Sunday, I pump up all the cross ply trailer tires for the boat and they
are all dry rotted in the Arizona sun but we only have 30 miles to go to the dealership so they should
do one more trip.

The trailer tires are pumped up, in some cases for the last time

Trailer is hitched, full lights checked, and off we go. The first 20 miles goes by and we are on the 101 freeway and then there is an almight BOOOM and the left side rear trailer tire goes on the number two
axle !  Well I suppose that was fairly predictable so with hazards on we limp down the hard shoulder
at around 15 mph. 3 miles later with the rapidly shredding carcass flapping and bashing the fender
there is another BOOOM as the front right axle loses it’s rubber! Now we have a matched set !

We pull into a gas station to survey the damage and of course being Sunday lunchtime to find an
open tire shop who has trailer tires and a mobile service, even in Phoenix, just isn’t going to happen.
With only 3 miles to go we will creep down the side roads in town and hope the Police are all at lunch.
With tires throwing chunks of rubber and flailling around we press on at less than 10 mph and find pedestrians turning round to look at the carnage and even get overtaken by cyclists and barking dogs.
Finally the dealership is in sight and we limp in and park in an area where we can’t be seen.

At the dealership its not all wine and roses either as our salesman has his own problems to deal
with! He can’t find the Escalade that he has sold Brenda……….. it was here yesterday, went through the
valet service, and was taken over to the frontage used car lot. That was yesterday…… so where is it ?
Frantic searches are conducted through their entire inventory including other lots and workshops…….
NO CAR !  It appears someone just got in it and drove off and is most likely in Mexico by now.

A full search of the dealership reveals nothing…. not even on the roof

Our minor tire problems pale into insignificance at this stage but the salesman will not be denied
and drops the price several thousands on another Escalade of the same year. This one is in
pearlesant white with super chrome wheels and the “gold” package. Brenda is asked if this will be acceptable and after much thought, and further review, lasting all of 10 seconds, agrees to their plans.
The deal proceeds at the same price as though nothing has changed !  …….. we drive home laughing.

Still laughing Brenda drives home her Cadillac Escalade


What did you think of this article?




No doubt where most of them are today

Brought about by a story of vintage buses and then remembering all those years of four on the floor,
the mind wandered into its archives and came up with all the many vehicles I’ve owned over the years
and they will now be divided into the following categories of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Due to the passage of time over my 47 years of motoring behind the wheel many of the pictures of my then “pride and joys” can’t be found so suitable “google replicas” of said vehicles have been used to suppliment the text.

Having achieved the ripe old age of 17 my first car is sourced and given the once over by Father who
is a Ministry of Transport Driving Examiner ……. it is a 1944 ex Royal Mail Morris 8 Van. “L” plates are
affixed and Dad takes me through all the delights of car mechanics including how to start this beast,
wheel changing, and what to carry onboard at all times. Starting is an art and requires lifting the right
side engine panel and priming the carb. Now round the front and insert the starting handle, and with
proper placement of thumb and hand one almighty swing and a little over 1200cc’s would burst into
life. It did have a floor starter but the knob had come off leaving just a rod which would go through the
sole of your shoe, so hand cranking was the norm. It did the job, I passed my test, and other than
evening pleasures I used it a few times to take the Greeves to a trial or two because I could ! Where
does this one go in the categories? Difficult, it has to be Good as it was my first, but looking at it now
it really is pigging Ugly !

The Ex Royal Mail Morris 8 van from 1944 !  ….. but “IT” was my first

The year changes to 1964 and I’m due to start RAF Officer training on March 2nd so parents decide I
need something a little more upmarket and I now become the owner of a Ford Prefect through one of Father’s friends in the Barham Motorcycle Club. This one serves me well all through Officer training
but coming down the M5 it throws a big end and has to be towed home. Eddie the garage owner says
he will fit a recon 105E engine at no charge and I’m back on the road in no time. Some time later and
now a commissioned Officer I’m home again before setting off for Flying Training and its a Friday
night out with the boys. Many pints later one of my friends Charlie starts throwing up and I say I’ll take
him home. As we round a bend on the road home from Ramsgate I meet someone with his
headlights on full so I give him a “flash” at which point he gives me everything he’s got which is
something akin to full stadium lights at Wembley !  We depart the road, I see the left front wheel come
off and then some trees coming……….. next thing I remember is my arms across my face………. and
then who knows…… then feeling very wet, and looking up I see the red and green lights on the dash
for the oil and ignition…… not good!

The Ford Prefect, mine was in cream and pale green

Standing on the main road dripping wet I remember Charlie and go back and swim out to the wreck
and drag him out. We get home via the hospital and the following day I have to get parents to take me
back to the scene. On arrival the crane is lifting whats left of my pride and joy from the dyke…… its not
a pretty sight!  Front left wheel missing, hood through the windscreen, roof squashed flat on the
passenger side, rear seat in the front, and the engine fan chopped through the radiator !!

Well never mind, shit happens, so the wreck is now deposited in the driveway, Father salvages
everything of use, including the new engine, and Mother digs an enormous hole and some time later
she burries it. So this one started in the Good, went Bad when the engine blew and finished up
decidedly Ugly thanks to yours truly.

As I’m now in gainful employment another beast is purchased in the form of a Ford Thames Van.
This is a two tone ex Butcher’s van with pale blue over black and costs the princely sum of 50 pounds.
Father fits the new engine and I remove countless meat skewers that are everywhere including many
that were in the seats and kept coming to the surface at some very unexpected moments !  Never
mind the Van went like the clappers with the new motor and once again I could zip cross country and
have my trials bike in the back. As I remember it was fantastic on left hand bends. For 50 quid this
was in the Good class.

The replacement Butcher’s Van, the Ford Thames

Training moves on and a dumb decision is made to buy a big Ford Zodiac with bench seat, column
change. etc and this should be a real chick magnet and be perhaps more fitting for an Officer than
the Butcher’s van. The salesman pointed out that my Ford Lotus Thames looked a little odd and
measured the wheelbase …. and sure enough it was 2 inches shorter on the left side as the rear
spring had been mounted arse backwards on that side. Well that accounted for the dazzling left hand
performance !

Did I really drive that thing? The Ford Zodiac 20miles/pint

The Zodiac was not much better and only did 20 miles to the pint so I was forever stopping and
pouring oil into the beast. It was so bad that getting away from the lights would be like a Naval
destroyer laying smoke and many motorists had their headlamps on full to drive through the clouds.
Overall this one was in the Bad category !

My standard get away from the traffic lights in the Zodiac

With flying training coming to an end the Zodiac thing is traded for another Ford in the shape of the
Consul Capri. If this doesn’t do it nothing will. A sort of “Coupe” thing with an enormous boot that
would take all my uniforms, greatcoat and raincoat flat and still had room for luggage along the sides.

It was a pleasure to drive, had loads of power and was relatively new. Mine was creamy white with a
blue roof and I have some pictures of the real thing somewhere. Only dumb memory of this one was
going home to Kent after a 4 month session holding at RAF Shawbury.  Getting to the other side of
London and now on home turf and the M2 I noticed the fuel guage was reading empty. I knew this
wasn’t correct as I had refilled only 50 miles ago but I had noticed that sometimes the guage wouldn’t register on start up but would kick into gear if the ignition was switched off and on.

Yes, here it comes ……. doing 70 on the motorway with supercar still in gear the ignition is switched
off and on, the bump start fires up the motor and all the unburnt fuel recently pumped into the exhaust.
Net result one thundering great explosion, the night sky is lit up and the silencer is split wide open! ….
but the fuel guage now works. Overall rating Good, very Good !!! Grade A Magnet.

The Ford Consul Capri chick magnet

Posing before departure from RAF Shawbury

With my conversion to the Canberra bomber complete I’m off to sunny Cyprus on my first tour and the
year is 1966. Once again I’m car-less so time to consider the options. I know I’m allowed to buy a duty
free car in Cyprus but I must have it a full year overseas and then a further two years back in the UK to
avoid all the taxes. So what will it be ?

Initially I didn’t need a car so I opted for a nice Yamaha 250 twin road bike and kept this for about a
year and then as a lady friend was acquired some evening transport was required so a “stop gap”
cheapo car was found in the shape of the Hillman Imp. Engine in the back, no transmission tunnel
but 4 on the floor with something akin to a Harley Davidson shifter device. Clunky, noisey and gutless
so another for the Bad category and some would also say Ugly.

My first year Cyprus transport

The Hillman Heap

With about 18 months to go to end of tour date I’m looking at 3 cars on my shopping list, namely, the Triumph TR 4/5 IRS, the MGB in British Racing Green with wire wheels and the Alfa Guiletta which is
very popular on the Squadron.

The Triumph looks great but drives like a pig and seems to wallow all over the place on the rather
undulating roads…… pity as they made it in purple. At the MGB shop they tell me prices will be going
up when I need to order one but they do have one in BRG but it has a 1000 miles on it and its their demonstrator. It doesn’t have the wire wheels but at the discounted price its a dam good deal at 695

It drives like a tractor with the massive steering wheel but its MINE all MINE !  Remove the middle
silencer box and it actually sounds like a sports car and as the advert says “I’m enjoying the bucket
seated summer of my sports car youth”. Shortly after my purchase we are told all 4 Canberra
Squadrons will leave Cyprus 3 months early so I’m very pleased I bought it when I did.

Hill climbing the “B” with the Limassol Motor Club

Driving tests too!

My tour like nearly all the other 120 Officers of Strike Wing comes to an end and now the problem of
getting it home seems pretty unlikely as everybody else wants their car shipped home by the RAF.
Normally about 10 cars a month go back to the UK on empty freighter C130s for a small fee, and
another to those loading and prepping it. I duly apply and I’m 34 on the waiting list so my chances
appear to be zero. Plan B is to go to Italy on a ship and then drive across Europe and make the
Calais-Dover ferry. Tickets are booked and then the day before we should have sailed I’m called and
told if I can get the car to air movements by 0900 it will ship that day on the tailgate of a Belfast. Tickets
are cancelled, the car is delivered, and lucky me gets on a VC10 flight the next morning. We arrive in
RAF Brize Norton about 2 hours after the car had been unloaded and after a load of pleading and
promises with the local customs officer I can take the car after reoiling and  filling up coolant and
sorting out battery etc.

I keep the car for over 3 years and despite the then Mrs Down wrapping it around the gatepost I fitted
a new door, drilled a hole in my thumb fitting it and had the beauty resprayed metallic purple. I still
have the marks on my thumb ! Overall rating Good.

The MGB gets traded for the same that I paid for it and I now have a Scimitar GT with another 3 liter
engine from Ford but a little breathing to give it a true GT feel. I think I had just won a pair of Lucas
Siver Sabre and Silver Lance spot and driving lamps from a Christmas draw and I then spent an entire evening in the Motor Club’s workshop trying to drill two holes through the massive bumper ….. can’t remember how many drill bits I went through but it took nearly 4 hours to get the lamps on.

The next day I had to drive up to Ministry of Defence for a motorcycle meeting and of course it came
on to drizzle all the way. At some stage I came up to a set of roadworks and stopped behind a Mini
Minor. The road works were controlled by a man with a stop go sign and no sooner had we both set
off when our flag man turns the sign round…….. the woman in front of me sees this in her peripheral
vision and steps on her brakes…. the Scimitar is accelerating when I see her lights come on and one application of the 11 inch discs locks up the wheels and I glide into her rear….. at which point the Mini
Minor takes off disintegrating as it goes……. the back window pops out, light clusters shatter, the fuel
tank drops down taking the exhaust with it and finally the little boot lid drops off in the road. For my
trouble both of my newly acquired lights are now shattered in their covers and I have a hair line crack
in the fiber glass!

The Scimitar departs as I’m informed WE will be needing a “family car”in the not too distant future.
Overall rating Good from me, family car = Bad !

A lot of muscle behind the “Great White” front end of the Scimitar GT

Next up my first Triumph in the shape of the 2.5 PI in a cherry red color. Another pleasure to drive,
pretty punchy with the fuel injection and very comfortable. Another 3 year car. Rating Good.

My 2.5 PI Triumph

With a divorce looming on the horizon and a change of base the Triumph is exchanged on an impulse purchase for the Alpha Romeo 2600 Sprint. Gorgeous to look at with stunning plush white leather and another metallic purple finish… very distinctive.

However, like most things Italian it was tempramental and on many wet mornings I found myself
walking to work as it refused to start in the damp conditions. Come back at lunchtime when the fog
had burnt off and it would start first go.

Then there was the day when I found myself starring in a very bad Hollywood car chase scene on the
M1. I’m driving down to Heathrow in my new toy to pick up lady friend and all is going well and I’m
thinking how little throttle pressure I’m applying as we seem to be accelerating on an uphill stretch.
Take foot off throttle, car keeps accelerating, so check the three levers for the cruise control and put
them all in the off position. Still accelerating and coming close to the top of the hill I decide to depress
the clutch and I’m expecting the revs to fall down to about 700 rpm but as the foot goes down there is
an orgasmic howl from the engine and the rev counter rockets into the red !!!!  we are now on a
downslope and in heavy traffic in all three lanes and I’m rapidly approaching 100 in the purple rocket
and I have the horn on constant, headlights flashing, and a whole load of fast and erractic lane
changing…… with some adventures onto the hard shoulder and others weaving through gaps that
suddenly opened up when I thought a crash was inevitable….. finally at about 120 mph I find myself
in the clear and start aiming for the hard shoulder with a lot of braking but I I’m not slowing much so
turn off the ignition at which point the steering locks but at least I can slow down and as fortune had
it I’m pointing at a good angle for the hard shoulder. A whole load of checking under the hood for all
the linkages for the 3 in line carbs revealed nothing, no carpet fouling of the pedal, no hesitation or
rough spots in the throttle cable……… complete mystery, gingerly start the beast and try a few throttle openings…… all normal and the rest of the drive there and back was completed without incident.

However, the embarassment of walking to work and this incident persuaded me it was time to
change to something more reliable. Rating Bad, very Bad !

Good looks but bad manners from the Alpha 2600 Sprint

At a local Datsun dealership there is their new model the 180B SSS demonstrator so that becomes
the new duty vehicle and is indeed very reliable, quite sporty and well equipped . 2 years of happy
motoring and then on marriage number 2 it departs as it is beginning to rust through round the wheel
arches and lower sills. Rating, what was Good became Ugly.

The 180B SSS

Now 1976 and I’m a first time home owner so not going anywhere so the rust bucket Datsun
becomes a dark blue Mini. What can you say about a Mini. Good on fuel and good for short distance
work commutes. Other than that …. charmless!

1977 and a change is made to the small Volvo 343. Built like a tank and with similar handling I quickly
get tired of it and buy a gorgeous dark green Scimitar GTE. What was I thinking? Man, its Ugly!

Don’t ask, I can only assume I bought it for a joke …. the Volvo 343

The Scimitar is really nice and I can’t remember many problems with it other than being fiber glass it
didn’t let out any moisture and always felt damp when you got in it during the winter. Adequate for one
small child but with the arrival of number 2 it had to go. My rating as a sports car would be Good, but
as a family car, Bad.

Happy motoring in the BRG Scimitar GTE

Now I need something for 2 child seats and a boot big enough to take all their junk  and the answer
is the MkII Triumph 2500 PI. This was an auto and a first for me I really enjoyed the car and its
effortless driving. Some time into its stay with me little rust bubbles developped all around the wheel
arches and they were all cut out and replaced and resprayed. Within 2 years they were back ! As a car
I thought it was Good and as a people carrier excellent and I was very pleased I owned it as I broke
my left leg so I was still able to drive. The rust was another matter and depressed me no end so Bad
in that department.

The MkII Triumph 2.5 PI rust bucket

A financial windfall and the Triumph is replaced by one of the best looking (in my opinion) cars of the decade …. the Audi GT. The kids are big enough to get in it  and when they are not then I can play!
Another two tone blue affair with red pin striping. What a car !  Of course there were a couple of
problems, the first being the speed at which it went through front tires. With drive,steer, and braking
you were through a front set in about 7000 miles. The other annoyance was the onboard comp which sometimes would not engage the auto choke and made cold starting a nightmare on damp foggy Lincolnshire mornings. I really loved this car so it has to be up there in best of breed and despite the
tire issue I rate it as Good.

What a fabulous car! ….. the Audi GT

A move of the household to southern England means that I am now the long distance commuter with
a 200 mile drive to RAF Coningsby at o’dark thirty every Monday morning and then the same mind
numbing journey on Friday night. Sadly the Audi departs and a nearly new Renault 5 Turbo replaces it.
This thing has blistering performance and is definitely for the boy racer and the solo traveller. It did
have a tendency to overheat on the M25 or Greater Outer London Car Park but other than that was a lot
of fun and way up there in the pleasure category of Good. However, being French it was in the Ugly box
on looks.

It was fast and fun, the Renault 5 Turbo…… but French and Ugly

My one and only NEW car in the UK was the Toyota Supra which I ended up keeping for about 7 years. Outstanding in every department, great fun to drive, exceedingly comfortable and reliable, and in my
mind a real looker ……. GOOD……..VERY GOOD !

My one and only NEW UK car….. and a GREAT choice

Flying for British Aerospace in Saudi Arabia opens up a special car opportunity for the household as
they own British Leyland. Aircrew are allowed a NEW car EVERY 4 MONTHS at some very silly low
lease prices. Only rules are don’t put more than 5000 miles on it. When you pick up the first one order
the next and so on. Believe it or not I had immense problems convincing the “then wife” that this was a
good deal….. whats not to like ? a NEW car EVERY 4 months and all YOU do is drive it !!! so she had
new Rovers, MGs and whatever else she wanted but dropped me in it by not collecting the new ones
on time!!! I never could understand that ……… if somebody told me there was a BRAND NEW CAR
waiting for me I would be there in a shot!

One of “her” many free “4 monthers”

That wraps up all my motoring fun sitting in the right hand seat so in the next article we will explore the mysteries of what happens when someone puts the steering wheel in the passenger’s side ?


OK so what did you lot drive ?????

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Now you are probably expecting some article on a recent “barn find” and something that I’m about to restore ….. well that of course would be wonderful and I would thoroughly enjoy it……. and perhaps
might happen in the not too distant future.

What I would like to get my hands on are some more SWM’s and a few Fantics. Everybody says the
Fantic was the bee’s knees and someday I would like to be able to confirm one way or the other
whether they were indeed a quantum jump forward.

Of course we currently don’t allow either machine on the Ahrma circuit but now might be the time to
start acquiring them ready for what I see as only a matter of time before they can be used again. The
quest will continue unless the readership offers some back yard wrecks up for renovation.

So from one barn to another the new found fun of driving a vast variety of buses may provide some
pocket money to search the country far and wide for a suitable machine. Back in the land of reality I’m
still enjoying the challenge of driving vintage school buses with all their quirks and mega variations.
Nearly managed to confuse myself yesterday when I took a newer Bluebird out for the homebound
run only to find my left foot and right hand were getting bored as it was an automatic!

Seems I’ve been driving a lot of manuals lately which takes me back to my youth when everything was
4 or 5 speed boxes. I can remember when I recieved my inheritance from my dear old Auntie Madge,
and when all other family members wants had been met, I decided I would have a NEW car and for
me this was going to be a FIRST ! Of course through the years I have had perhaps more than my fair
share of cars, some good, some bad and a splattering of ill advised purchases based on impulse
and looks.

Going back to1987, at this particular stage of my life I’m faced with large scale weekly commuting. The “then” wife has a BMW 318i company car for all her travel and family needs and I’ve got a boy
racer Renault 5 Turbo which has electrifying performance, is fun to drive, but is shall we say small
and French !

After much research I decide my one and only NEW UK car will be a Toyota Supra in two tone blue. It
is duly ordered from a company in Nottingham, the Renault is given a fair price, and the deal is done.

I patiently wait for the phone call and about 2 weeks later I’m told I can take delivery on the Friday.
Much talk in the Officer’s Mess bar the night before so after flying is complete on Friday morning I
excuse myself from ground training and set off to collect the treasured object. As I drive from Lincoln
to Nottingham I’m thinking of what a real NEW car will smell like with all it’s virgin blue leather. I arrive
at the dealership, unload my bags and the Renault disappears into the cavenous bowels of their
workshops. Usual pleasanties from salesmen, and other automotive leeches and I’m escorted to my
NEW vehicle……….  and there it is……. drop dead gorgeous in dark blue over pale blue, the new plates
of the year, and all I have to do is write them a cheque and I’m on my way.

A quick admiring once round for any blemishes and the boot is opened and my bags are in. Time to
get in, set up the seat and mirrors and drink in all the new car heady perfumes. Climb aboard while
still smiling and chatting to Toyota sages……… hand reaches out to check for neutral……. strange? no
lateral movement in left fist………. shit! no clutch pedal either …….,. FFFF#$%^&$%^ !!!!! ……… there now
follows a very heated discussion with the General Manager as I’ve already dismissed the salesman
as an incompetent bufoon.

The order form is presented, blue over blue,  blue leather upholstery,  NEW, FIVE speed MANUAL etc, etc ???? ……… all they could come up with was    ” We couldn’t get one in manual and we didn’t think
you’d mind”   much further heated comments….. “Look you morons, I WANT to DRIVE the bloody car…..
not be driven round by a hi-tech jap whizz kid computer who always wants to be in top gear!!!!”………….
“Don’t you think if I’d wanted a F#$%&*^ auto I’d have ordered one ?” This coversation was a bit like
the rendition given in the U-Tube “Wrong bike for Hitler” scene which is why I always find that piece so

“Well Sir, we are giving it to you at the same price as a Manual” …………   Some time later when I had
calmed down and further LARGE sums had been cut off the price I wrote them a cheque and left. Now, despite all my complaining this machine had a “sports” selection and also instanteous downshift
control….. hhhmmmm! very clever! It would actually out accelerate the manual version and would hold
in each gear until 6700 rpm with the sports mode selected.

Perhaps one of the best cars I have ever owned, a delight to drive, all modes, totally reliable, and in
the 7 years I owned it I only replaced one sidelight bulb and the exhaust system which of course
rotted through after about 4 years of UK winter driving.

…….and perhaps had I stayed in the UK after my return from Saudi Arabia I would have hunted down
a car that I always wanted to own……. the Vauxhall Lotus Carlton. I did have a drive in one of these
beasts and I was VERY impressed !

With all those treasured memories of the Super Supra my mind flashes over other vehicles I have
owned and I guess as I await the warmer weather and think of trials to come there will be time to
remember the Good, Bad and the Ugly of my motoring history.


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  • 2/21/2011 6:12 PM Steve wrote:
    So Tony why is the Fantic twinshocks are not allowed in AHRMA? are there other t/s breeds that are not allowed?
    Thanks for the info on TC today, always enjoy the knowledge of the “been there done that age”
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One of the fundamentals of travelling is having an itinerary and of course being on time to catch your flight/train/bus etc. Thats all fine and seasoned commuters become blase about platforms, gates and
docks and their daily journies become routine. Not quite the same when you are 4 years old!

Yesterday was one of those days and I suppose could have easily degenerated into a parent’s worst nightmare. Little Michael leaves home at some ungodly hour and makes his way to the bus stop with
his elder sister and Mummy driving. At 0723 the yellow bus comes in sight and pulls up at the stop.
The doors open and Michael and sister are now onboard  “The Rat”, and the bus rumbles onwards to
school. Being a pre schooler he has to sit up front with all the other little people and some that are in Santa’s “naughty box”. At the main school all the passengers get off in their assigned order and when
the last batch have gone a walk through is conducted for sleeping bunnies and then the pre schoolers
are taken off and walked over to Rodney on the “Panda” who will ferry them all over to Pre School as
the last part of his run.

In the evening it is a reverse operation with Rodney and the Panda collecting all the little ones from
pre school and bringing them round to the main school. On arrival all the other drivers walk over and
collect their respective charges and walk them back to their route buses for homeward delivery. As a
driver you have no way of knowing what transpired at school during the day of whether the parents are
self transporting their offspring. As an example the other day when I had a 2 day stint on the Panda I
delivered 11 in the morning and only picked up 5 in the evening.

Now as I have mentioned before all the school buses have a drawing in the side window by the door
so that all the other children can see which bus they are getting on in the evening as we may be lined
up in any order. For pre schoolers this is not a problem as they are escorted so they may not even
think about it. Of course some of the older children may bound onto the bus and see you as a relief
driver and may ask if it’s a chicken, dinosaur or a horse ?

For whatever reason yesterday afternoon there were 4 relief drivers or Subs on the afternoon run. I’m
driving the Horse for boss lady Lena and its a spare bus with no retarder, no auto snow chains and
manual transmission……. and its snowing like hell and the roads are slick. The Rat bus also has a
Sub driving. Young Michael takes a run at me at the Panda bus and off we go. Easy now with 20/20
hindsight, I had obviously seen the little boy on one of my many routes in the last couple of weeks
and I assumed as Rodney gave him to me that he was a Horse Bus passenger.

About half way into the route I come up to the stop where I am expecting to drop him and he tells me
its NOT his stop………. I ask the other kids where he gets off and after several blank stares one says
he doesn’t travel on this bus!………. WHOOPS !

Armed with this new piece of the jig saw we go through the bus animals and his face lights up when I
ask him if he should be on the RAT BUS ?………. I can then remember him and by now on his correct
route he would be 30 minutes overdue at his stop……. and the question has to be asked “what was
his sister thinking?” Fortunately we have 2 way radios to base and the stowaways presence is soon
reported and phone calls are made to find his parents. Despite Michael being a very chatty little fellow
he doesn’t know his second name but I can remember his stop so we are getting closer. It does strike the “Rookie Driver” that perhaps pre schoolers should have some ID tag so that we know who they are
even if they don’t!

Michael rides the Horse bus all the way around the full route back to the Bus Barn and isn’t phased by
any of it, never cries, never whines and even rushes round the bus when we finally stop collecting
trash and even moving the empty sign back in its position. A delighted father picks up small boy none
the worse for his experience and another happy ending is in the books.


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Classic mud position, weight back, a lot of counter balance with inside
arm straight

Having expressed myself on someone elses attempts at a “Mud Tire” and while researching the
archives for suitable piccies to go with my comments on the “how to” portion of what I was trying to
explain I happened on  almost a roll of pictures on a section which was, Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud !

 My cousin Tom Arter on a MkII Cota at the Weald of Kent Trial in 1971.
We both loved mud and I think we both finished in the top 10

So today we will look at all the problems  a mud section caused some very experienced riders and
see the errors they made. Many people, panic when they see mud!  Maybe because its a bit of a
novelty here in the USA, maybe they don’t want to get the bike dirty, perhaps they have a fear of getting
stuck or even sinking ?

At both ends of the spectrum there are the too fast and the too slow attacks, but mainly the causes of
failure are a lack of appreciation of how the mud, and it comes in many varieties, chalk, sand, peat,
clay, forest leaf mold, bayou goop etc, will affect you and the bike. We as a rider need to be VERY
flexible to deal with the fast changing circumstances, and to that end a very wide stance is essential.
We also need to be prepared for sudden weight changes fore and aft  and have excellent throttle
control to deal with the grip, no grip, portions that we will come across. We also need to appreciate
that we will encounter various level of resistance as we plow through the goop and be prepared for
the changes and not panic.

As we enter our mud hole the bike will of course be subject to the resistance of the mud and will slow
down, in some cases violently, and come to an almost dead stop. We can of course attempt to prevent
this by having our weight well back and keep the handlebars straight. However as we slow our weight
comes forward pushing the front end deeper and creating more resistance……. if it happens violently
then as your body moves forward you tend to close the throttle and panic dab !  Keep the weight back
and feel the bike slowing and keep your balance…….. in fact the mud will keep the bike balanced so
NO NEED to dab. If it won’t move forward, first try more power and if that isn’t working too well then
flick the bike left and right between your legs to get sidewall traction and then as the “icebreaker”
moves forward alternate on and off bursts of throttle……. all without using your feet.

OK, we now have some idea of what we may encounter so time to read the section.

We enter the picture top left on some dryish stuff and then need to come to the left (in the picture) of
the yellow marker card.  Already a line is developing and a slot is partially filling with water. For those
thinking otherwise the mud under the center water was both deep and thick, circa just over the knees!!

Same section, ….. must pass to the left of the marker (as we see it) then get up on the bank where
Nick Turner is by the yellow ribbon. Then complete the turn where I am and pick a line to the uphill
exit. We can see some wheeltracks in front on Nick going back into the bog , but there are no tracks
coming out…… which just maybe a clue that it ISN’T a good line !!

While YOU can’t walk it, feel it, or smell it let me tell you the first right hander to line up can be done
on firmish ground. The section by the Yellow marker board is thick sticky sand type mud with about 6″
of water on top. About 6′ past the card there is a firmish  18″ high bank where our line should be to get
out and up on the top of the very slippery bank. Choice 2 would be to stay in the water but there is no
clear exit and it will be difficult to keep the front wheel from trying to climb out with a host of resultant
inside dabs. The turn where I’m walking will soon be a mess as all the mud brought out of the hole
will fall off riders and bikes and make the whole area very slippy which is why I’m exploring the
furthest outside line on some dry vegetation for extra grip.

First we will see Ralph Foster, the current Modern Classic Expert Championship Leader trying a
wider line in the water and as he often tells me he isn’t too keen on mud or deep wash sand.

As we can see the approach was too wide into the deepest goop and the bike almost came to a stop
as evidenced from the front wheel “bow wave”. This has thrown his weight forward and a panic dab
ensued as he mentally thought he was going to stop.

Back in control with a big handfull of power and the front wheel is rising, the bow wave increasing,
and the giant rooster tail shows forward progress as his weight goes backwards. Reason for loss
of marks….. POOR LINE & PANIC.

Next we have Steve Richardson from Canada, who regularly competes in this event and can often
runaway with the win in Modern Classic Intermediate.

A nice fast entry, weight well back and bars straight, but in this case TOO FAST if he was going to ride
the upper bank line.

Looks like Steve missed the required 30 degree turn to get up on the upper bank and is now
committed to a very late big dab to try and get up there…….. or perhaps he was trying to stay in the
water in which case the left side of the his front tire is being retarded due to the slope of the bank and
the front will continually try to climb out and force the back round in an arc

Now as more power comes on he is going in deeper and the bike is begining to lean left and the
front will again keep trying to climb out with the result of a series of annoying inside dabs

…….. and yet more legwork  and power to get out ! Reason for loss of marks…. TOO FAST.

So no luck so far from two good riders who are clearly not in their element. Lets see if Nick Turner
from the UK can do any better on something he should be familiar with.

The nice wide line up on firmish ground but he has already clogged up his tires! (Stay out of the mud
if you can) Legs are a little too close to the tank and it will be hard to cope with any unexpected slip of
the bike on a mound.

Steady line with good counter balance for the 30 degree turn…….. but it looks slow to me!

This will need to be good or lucky as he comes to the 18″ bank he is almost out of momentum which
will mean a lot of power to get over it. Problems here if you don’t make it you will either dig a big hole
with the back wheel……. loop it if it suddenly bites on dry dirt…….. or be forced to use both feet and lift
it out with power…….. lets see what happens????

Up and out or is he ? It looks like a good position, and indeed would have been, had there been more
momentum. However it is going to take more power and some lightening of the back wheel as he is
still too slow.

Nick realises his mistake and puts on more power and his weight is now over the bars and as is often
the case when going for more power you end up pulling the right bar towards you. So he now has
power and full right lock ! You can imagine what will happen next……….

The back hops up and he rapidly tries to correct his line but the new momentum forces him down the
slippery bank…….. only a foot away from his intended line but from this position its a bit like the
F4 Phantom in a flat spin……… NO KNOWN RECOVERY!!!

A predictable series of slow speed dabs as the mud clogged tires offer no grip on the wet bank.
Overall reason for loss of marks in this section….. TOO SLOW.

Lets try again and see if we can “get it right” and  so far we have seen, POOR LINE & PANIC from
Ralph, TOO FAST from Steve, and now the other end of the spectrum, TOO SLOW from Nick.

Our next mud disciple is Phil Drury, also an Engishman, so this should be right up his street !

Reasonable entry and speed about right, but the knees are too close to the tank. If you keep your
knees this close in, like past masters Gordon Farley and Sammy Miller, you must be able to counter
with very quick movements of upper body. Note the “line” for the intended slot, it requires a left, right,
left sequence with all the counterbalance changes.

Good speed, correct counter balance as the bike turns to his right to follow the least line of resistance

Here comes the final left turn and the front wheel is about to enter the deep hole in front of the bank.
His weight at this stage is on the WRONG side, so unless he corrects VERY quickly when the wheel
enters the hole it WILL crab to the outside of the bank, and depending on speed, might jacknife on

The CRITICAL moment, …. we can see the “crabbing” as the resultant forces displace the slop at 90
degrees to his front tire. The bike  is slowing, his weight is to the inside of the turn, and his elbows are
bending putting more weight forward lowering the front wheel into more resistance……….. unless the
weight changes to outside and back a dab will surely follow !

The front end lowers, the expected dab is taken, and the observer’s finger goes up!

On line, power back on, and a series of inside dabs to get the back wheel up and out

Dabs done, 3 marks lost, and back up in the perfect position with correct counter balance for the
slight left turn and ride along the bank. If only this position had been achieved before the last big hole
we might have seen a clean. Reason for loss of marks……. BODY WEIGHT & POSITIONING

OK, so now its my turn and you the reader might be able to see the differences from previous
attempts. Looks like I’ve got an audience already !

Nice wide entry staying off the mud with legs wide apart and weight well back. Note my tires are still

Medium speed entry with increasing power, legs braced and relatively stiff arms to stop weight from
coming forward

Power coming on, body weight changing to counter balance the upcoming left turn. Slight right turn to
stay in the slot for minimum resistance.

Front wheel in the slot, time to be opening the legs again for the upcoming burst of power……

Legs wide apart to counter any rear wheel side slip, power on, weight coming forward as the front
wheel hops out

Weight easing back as the rear wheel bites and the power comes off allowing me to steer to my dry

Idle along the bank with counterbalance and still keeping the wide stance.

Furthest outside dry line in the vegetation for the exit line up…… and of course this was all in 2nd.

Well that was MUD, and thanks to Brenda who took all the photos, we can see all the good, bad and
the ugly of this section. At some stage during this season I’ll ask her to do another series on other
types of sections that create complete mayhem for a lot of riders.


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  • 2/11/2011 8:21 AM Jimmy Allison wrote:
    Thanks for the schooling on mud. Hope to try it soon.
    Reply to this
  • 2/11/2011 3:14 PM Donnie Schmutzler wrote:
    I love mud! We had a section at Peoria once that was just a simple ride out of a shallow creek and across a short flat muddy area. It took many 5’s. No one knows how to ride in mud or sand.
    Reply to this
  • 2/12/2011 8:23 PM Ralph Foster wrote:
    Hey Tony. Great Fun! I just wish you wouldnt give away all of your trade secrets on your page. Save them all for me only and I will pay you big$$$. I need all the help I can get.
    I remember this trials very well. It was the first trials I have ever ridden. Now Im hooked.
    See you in Colorado my friend and keep these secrets for me only.
    Thanks Ralph
    Reply to this
  • 2/16/2011 4:37 PM Outlaw Dave wrote:
    What a great series of pics – big thanks to Brenda for that – Will have to make sure that Steve (R) clicks on when I next see him. Another golden rule for thick mud is to make sure the front fender has lots of clearance or it will plug up & stop you dead. ( especially up here in Muskeg gumbo Country)
    Reply to this
  • 2/18/2011 9:34 PM Tim Jackson wrote:
    Way to show us how it’s done, Tony! I’m still cleaning mud out of the gills of my Sherpa T from the hideously fun course Belvoir layed out for us at the 2010 Chehalis Premier & Classic weekend. Rained an inch the night before our start time. Wife Tina and I found out where our ’84 Itasca Windcruiser needed caulk — over my side of the bed! Hope to see you at Steamboat this year.
    Reply to this
  • 2/21/2011 1:54 PM Jon Dearie wrote:
    Great tips for my upcoming rookie season, thanks Tony.
    Reply to this
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What mindless bofoonery is this ????

I could hardly believe my eyes this morning when I flicked open a TC article on “Mud Tire” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This one just has to take the biscuit and falls into the same category as a friend of mine in AZ who
used my hacksaw to remove his front tire !!!!

A few cracks and holes

….. and while on the subject of lunacy there was a fellow who had a cracked ignition side case on his
TY175 so he decided to modify it and do something with the holes !!  A nice design to be sure and a
whole lot of work but,  despite all our reader’s snarky comments I don’t think the poor fellow ever
understood any of them.

BATS !!!

He was actually going to ride it like this, well it would certainly keep the ignition system cool but I don’t
think he realised that there was a small ingress problem and maybe, just maybe, water might just get
in. Other readers also suggested he do the clutch side to match !

Back to the “Mud Tire” …….. this clown, riding a modern day Gas Gas has decided his garden practice section is too difficult to do in the mud and snow as the tread pattern kept getting clogged. He states
he is aware of the trials regs requirements reference tires but thought he would see if he could make
an acceptable tire for the conditions.

Now we have all tried some experiments in our motor cycling career but this one is up there in the
truly dumb section! The question here is unless you have unlimited funds why in hells name would
you do this to a perfectly serviceable NEW tire? There is NO wear on this tire, but of course it is
worthless now, and you can see perfect tread blocks (those remaining) and all the mould strings
before the butchery. He claims he can’t ride his garden section on his trials bike as the snow and mud
keep clogging the tire and he spins to a stop whereas his MX bike doesn’t have the problem. So rather
than compare oranges with oranges and trying the section with a MX tire on the Gas Gas to get a
datum he decides to cut off every other block and compare oranges with apples ! His results so far
remain unpublished.

His wasted $100 of tire would have been better spent learning “grip” techniques which I often see as
sadly lacking in our current modern day rider. Sure they can hop & bop, take on rock faces that I would
never attempt and leap ravines at a single bound but when it comes to some of the basics like good
old deep mud or egg timer wash sand they are all at sea.

Historically in the days of the Dunlop Universal the OK pressure for trials riding was always 4 lbs,
and for just about all conditions that I ever encountered. When I started riding that was about right for
that tyre/tire. We never really considered other factors and let them down to that because thats what
our peers did. Things like temperature and altitude were not even discussed in the rural Kent
countryside and 4 lbs it was!

With the advent on the Modern trials tire from a variety of manufacturers if you want the best from your
tire you need to do your “own” experiments to see what is right for you and the tire of your choice.The
NEW Dunlops are as stiff as a brick and you can run these at the very low pressures wheras the tire in surgery is a very soft IRC which I normally use both for cost and performance. Just like all the medical
ads we see where we have to ask our Doctor “See if its right for you” and then the disclaimers……..
multiple unexpected 5’s, snaking of rear end on full bore climbs, sudden loss of traction, etc, etc.

Consider what we are trying to achieve by letting down our tires, very simple one word answer ….
TRACTION. If you let all the air out you have the same effect as a puncture or flat. The carcass will flop
about, will most likely pop the bead and will be impossible to control. What we are trying to achieve is
the best possible “footprint” from our 4″ friend without the nasties of a flat. So basically we are trying
to make 4″ into 6″…….. another one of man’s dreams!

I wonder what pressure this is ?

On arrival at the trials venue you can find a bit of muddy going and ride through it a few times with
various pressure settings. If you let out too much air the center of the tire will fold in towards the rim
and you will only be getting traction from the outside edges. So, for me at around 200lbs on a 200lb
Cub with a new IRC the best pressures are normally 5.5 rear and 6.5 front and maybe 1/2 a lb less
with a Michelin. With a very stiff tire like the Dunlop you could easily go lower.

Traction or the elsusive “Grip” is a basic of trials riding although here in America not many organisers
use mud holes on a regular basis and opt for big logs, rocks and super tight nadgery.  Again in the
US most trials are held in the summer months and are dry by nature and often up and down huge
pumice rocks which have grip a’plenty and don’t require traction finding skills. In 95% of US trials I
don’t suppose I’ll ever select anything other than first gear as it will usually be tight turns and little
squirts over obstacles where the line up was the critical factor.

Riding a good old mud section has much more to think about and line and preparation are the critical players. By the time you get to this section it may have developped into a quagmire and as you watch
rider after rider take a 5 don’t give up, study what they are doing and profit from their mistakes. I could
list all the common errors but a real mud section requires many things. Determination, technique and  general knowledge of the mud and what lies beneath. Is it a bottomless hole ? or deep goop over a
firm base ? will it get better or worse ?

Slippy yes, but goop over a firmish base

So having walked it numerous times, felt the suction on your boots, checked for hidden hazards like
roots and logs and finally the exit, which if anyone has got that far, will no doubt be very slippery with all
the goop deposited on drier ground, and in most cases there is a “transition area” where you come
out of the mud and get on firmer going. The Transition Area if often the hardest as this is usually some
sort of bank where most have come to a stop with a huge rooster tail of mud and all forward progress

If conditions are such that your tires are already clogged with mud and you are slipping and sliding everywhere then put the stand down, lean the bike over and give it a few high revving bursts to clean
the tire or ride through a river several times if one is available.

Find the driest entry line and enter with higher than normal speed, blipping the throttle to feel for grip,
as the wheel slows it will grip under momentum and the “on phase” will give you more forward thrust.
As the mud resistance builds the bike will obviously slow, so keeping legs very wide apart try flicking
the machine left and right to find sidewall grip in the slot. If the slot is deep any turning movement of
the bars will make the front wheel try and climb out of the slot, so be ready with weight coming forward
and as you hit the firm bank try rolling off the throttle and the bike will climb out with just a little
progressive power.

Front wheel out, weight coming forward, ready to roll off when the rear
hits the bank

If you have got this far now try and find a drier line somewhere near the tape or in unused vegetation,
accel on the flat, roll on the uphill and slippy bits and you might just be the first clean of the day !

Looking for a drier line at the edge of the section

Finally your $100 of fuel spent learning mud techniques will have been much more satisfyingly spent
than carving up a new tire like a Sunday roast ! Now of course there is some serious washing and
cleaning to be done but you will be keen to do it again.

Having just found all the photos of this section there will be a full rivetting expose of “how to” in the
next article with a lot of pics of “what goes wrong”

……. ah, mud, glorious mud!


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  • 2/8/2011 9:53 AM Dan Sutherland wrote:
    enjoyable reading!
    Reply to this
  • 2/8/2011 6:49 PM Jimmy Allison wrote:
    Thanks for the trials school. I can’t wait for the next installment.
    Reply to this

    1. 2/8/2011 7:26 PM Tony Down wrote:

      Fortunately I have a load of pics of this section and hopefully I will be able to show the “why’s and wherefore’s” of what went wrong…… see what you think in 3 days time.

      Reply to this

  • 2/9/2011 7:00 AM alex wrote:
    Thanks again Tony.
    I enjoy almost all you write but this trials school stuff marks you out as one of the special people of the internet era.
    Keep it up.
    Reply to this
  • 2/21/2011 2:07 PM Jon Dearie wrote:
    …4″ into 6″……..another one of man’s dreams! Great analogy Tony.
    Reply to this
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Two weeks into intensive training and having driven 14 different types of bus they all have one thing in common…. they are painted YELLOW !  Other than that they are all different and present an ergonomic challenge every time you get behind the wheel just like riding a Harley.

As you walk out to the bus you never know what you will find, is it automatic or a 5 speed manual ? Is
it airbrakes or an older pure hydraulic system ? The pre drive inspection will of course reveal all. To
date they have all been diesel and up here they are all put to bed with an engine heater power cord….
see later !

Manual door, manual tx and no air brakes!

Hoods up, time to see what lurks beneath, A CAT, a Cummings or something from Chevrolet?
Usually I start at the firewall and check all the airlines having had an under the engine scan for leaks,
but normally they are not Harleyish and haven’t marked their spot. On the driver’s side a look at power steering levels engine oil and transmission fluid. Hoses and belts and outward to the wheel
checking steering, shocks and springs on the way. A quick arm wrestling check on the slack adjuster
and a peek at the inside tire wall and rim. Plenty of tread and check the outside wall for bulges and
cracks and that the lug nuts are tight. Around the front and same game on the other side checking
belts, hoses, alternator wiring and coolant, and is it green or red ? Wheel done, hood back on and
where is the release mechanism on this one ?

I like to do full checks in the morning so I continue around the whole thing checking all the essentials
as I go. Finally if I’m going to take it time to get on board and have a walk through. Hatches, interlocks,
doors etc and see how many of the seat cushions the little darlings have undone. Quick peek in the
triangle box, extinquisher in the green and first aid kits still sealed and in place.

The will it won’t it question, and the mighty thumper coughs into life and now while things start
warming up time for the lights of all colors and the door switchology. Pressures are generally up by
now so time for the many and various airbrake system checks. With that all done and the engine
running again time to heat up the steel igloo and check all the mirrors one last time. Last checks of
seat and steering wheel, have the rally notes handy, flashlight at the ready and know where your
sunglasses are.

Usually about 10 mins left before departure so fill in the trip sheet, ensure the door will let you back
in again, either the pressure release or manual steel plate interlock and time for a final slurp of
coffee and top off the nicotine indicator.

Indicators, trafficators, turn signals and hazard warners can always be fun and again just like the
Harley they can be confusing. Turn signals are now pretty standard on every vehicle you drive and
come readily to hand under your left bunch of bananas, but why oh why can’t we standardise the
position of the hazard switch? Some are located under the turn signals and are clearly marked RED
and are easy to operate but have to be reset by turning the turn signals on and off. Others require a systematic search up and down the steering column and could be anywhere ! Some of course have
the red triangle and are easier to find and then just the other day I couldn’t find the switch for love nor
money. Eventually found it on the dash exactly where I would have put it myself had I been designing
the cockpit ! Maybe when the school bus gets round to the Formula 1 steering wheel they will put all
the goodies on the wheel as they currently do on top of the line RV’s.

 My favorite bus to date, the Bluebird Vision, with 4 stage retarder at 3
o’clock, touch screen auto
box and the hazard warners on the dash

Transmissions are seemingly all different and certainly the manuals, or stick shifts, have taken a
fair bit of abuse in their lifetimes with over eager high speed down shifting or forceful entry into another
gear! The “rape” of the gearbox? ….. have to wonder how many teeth are at the bottom of the box. The automatics seem to be in two types with either the big club foot handle in the center of the dash which
when you operate it cuts off your view of the indicator or the modern touch screen type mounted higher
up by your right hand.

Retarders, not retards, come in a variety of types, I suppose both do! Normally on the newer ones they
are 4 stage devices which work on the drive shaft and will slow you down without using the brakes
and overheating them. Usually under the right hand on the column with 4 red lights in a row on the
dash, however on the tour buses they are on the left side and one type I’ve used was a 5 stage which
you can leave in position 2 and only comes on when you release the throttle pressure, then add or
subtract as required. The other one was a sort of “dead man’s handle” a bit like being in a train.

Flat front rear engined pusher with 5 stage retarder at 9 o’clock, touch
screen auto box on the dash, air doors and seat. 

Flat fronts this week with 3 drives in the 78 seater “Panda”. The first was fine as an afternoon run
and back to the barn and plug in.  O’dark thirty and it won’t start, Cortez say they will send a mechanic
and another bus but I’ll be about 15 minutes behind schedule. There is one other bus, also a flat
front, but its old and apparently nobody likes it and its parked in a snow bank with no power cord. The
keys take some finding and amazingly the old girl fires right up. Some quick checks and some help
finding the door switch and off I go into the unknown with yet another ergonomic challenge.


The Genisis, but it started and the day was saved. Not sure if HD made it

The week wraps up with a Friday afternoon run over at Mancos on my favorite bus, No 14 and then a Saturday activity trip taking a few Basketball teams to another school at Ignacio on the Mancos tour
bus all decked out in team colors. This is another flat front with a rear engine as is very pleasant to
drive with fantastic headlights!

The Mancos tour bus in their “Blue Jay” team colors

A few more Dolores routes to learn and then take in some for Cortez . Variety certainly is the
spice of life…. never a dull moment……. and if they go wrong somebody else fixes them.


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