You know, I looked at my watch half an hour back and it was three weeks ago. Something odd is happening to time these days; the continuum appears to not be following the traditional 60 minutes per hour format. And it’s forced my transportational hand somewhat. Long story short, my mollycoddled, babied, cherished Rover is going to cover the best part of 2,000 miles in the next fortnight.
I cover far fewer annual miles than I ever used to – my working pattern means several days can pass where I don’t so much as turn an ignition key. I work from home, and the information I need to do so comes to me electronically. Very modern. It means my driving is mostly made of local shopping trips and occasional parental visits, with longer trips pencilled into the diary and OH MY GOD IS THAT NEXT WEEK?
The Audi passed its MoT inspection back in May, was declared road safe and life continued as normal. Aside from an unpleasantness concerning the failure of a £2.50 plastic component and the consequent non-operation of the front driver’s side window (now, rather messily, fixed), it’s been absolutely perfect. Late June came and it was time for the Rover’s MoT, and after much clenching of buttocks and the containment of nerves, it passed. It did need an exhaust centre section, though – after twenty one years it was rotten to the core. So joyous was I that I even paid for the aircon to be regassed. A wise decision, it transpires, as Britain appears to have been supplied with an actual summer this year.
All this smoothness and plain sailing came to an end the other day, when I noticed that the Audi was sounding a little fruitier than normal. I suspected an exhaust blow, and last weekend put it up on ramps to see what’s what. And, yep, blowing raspberries at the flexible joint. Ah, bugger. And this discovery on a weekend that required a pivotal decision to be made. So I made it.
The quandary was which registration number to give to the ferry operators for our trip to the Orkney isles. The decision? It’s gonna be the Rover. We’re scheduled to head beyond the Northern tip of the Scottish mainland on 20 July, completing the 730 miles to Stromness on Sunday 22 and finally ending our journey on the island of Sanday. The following weekend, we’ll be heading back the way we came. With any luck, the 1,460 mile undertaking will be free from drama: I’ll be making regular and oh-so-exciting progress reports on Twitter (I’m @RoadworkUK on that, incidentally).
Hey, let’s have a hashtag. #Orkney800. That should do it.
Truth is I’m a little nervous about this journey. Not because the Rover is in any obvious danger of going wrong, but for the fear of what would happen if it did. Any internal engine failure would spell the end of the car from any sensible financial perspective, plus the hassle of recovery. Fortunately, it seems to be in fantastic mechanical fettle. I changed the oil and filter at the weekend – it came out pretty much the same colour as it was when I put it in last year. The coolant seems deliciously clear and free of unpleasantness, too.
The photo above was taken last night, when my wife drove the Rover for the very first time – this being in preparation for us to share the driving. We’ve made the journey before and the Audi soaked up the miles with no dramas at all. But that was 90s German engineering. How about 80s Austin Rover / Honda workmanship but built in the 90s? I’m curious, excited and petrified to find out.
So, that’s 1460 miles accounted for, what about the rest? Well, this weekend is the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where I’ll will reprazent for Hooniverse in time honoured tradition. With any luck, that 300 mile round trip will get the Rover used to covering distance. Watch this space.
(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2018)