50th Anniversary road trip

Having rashly said that I would take the Tycoon anywhere for the anniversary including northern Europe I suppose I should have been happy that the final venue was only as far as Ipswich. I had suggested the great roads of North Wales, suspiciously close to where I live, but Helmingham Hall and the Ipswich connection couldn’t be denied even though it turned out to be really close to where David now lives. Organiser’s prerogative!

I’d had a commitment to make the trip pencilled in my diary for a couple of years, even though there wasn’t a firm date. Typically Murphy’s Law dictated that my good daughter decided to get married in Chester on the same weekend, fortunately on the Friday. At least it was the first 100 miles in the direction of Ipswich so no added mileage. Ann and I motored over separately, stayed at Nunsmere Hall, handy for anyone attending Oulton Park, the car park was full of trailered Caterhams, did the wedding and went our separate ways not too early with only the mildest of hangovers on Saturday morning. I was accompanied by my mate Dave who had also been at the wedding and sent his wife home in his Maserati, very trusting. Dave and I have been friends since university and have done many road trips together over the years mostly connected with skiing and few have ended well. We hoped for better things in the rarest car yet at our disposal, I was going to say the oldest but then I was reminded of a couple of really early MGB/C’s, a GT6 and even a Triumph Roadster that came and went a long time ago.

I never like to have the Trident unavailable for use. When Neal Marsh rebuilt the car in ’94 he did a great job on the chassis, which was in a terrible state, and the paintwork but largely just refitted a lot of the other componentry with mild repair as necessary. Hence the car now has a really nice patina but a couple of years ago I realised that a lot of the running gear was getting a bit tired. Over that period we have replaced the front suspension with new springs and a set of Spax adjustable telescopic shocks, after a false start with a Rimmer kit we eventually did the rear suspension with a Revington kit and new springs and Spax. Then an Mot advisory showed a worn joint on the steering so a new rack and pinion was fitted. New brakes and servo, new stainless steel exhaust, poly bushing all round and some rewiring around the rear end where fuel pump and tank sender were exhibiting intermittent problems rounded off the work. Right up to the day before leaving though I was still bleeding the fuel injectors every day to get all six cylinders firing regularly. There is still a bit of an issue with fuel pressure which I think is going to have to be addressed by replacing the Lucas pump with something new and then probably putting all new fuel lines in. The car, despite new gaskets in various places, still leaks fluids from places I didn’t even realise had fluids near them so I feel another big job breaking out soon.

The journey to Ipswich was uneventful on far better roads than I thought serviced that part of the country. The opening of the A14 a few years ago has transformed what used to be a nightmare of 30 mph back roads, fine if you want to enjoy yourself but hopeless for getting anywhere fast. We checked in at the hotel and went for a wander round the area. Being senile I had misunderstood the revised instruction regarding the afternoon meeting at the Ship so we turned up as everyone else was packing up to leave. Anyway got our first look at Gary Eaton’s long term project, very nice, with great engine bay detailing and Paul de Rivas’ newly built Clipper resplendent with all its added mod cons. Very interesting to see the different treatment on his car around the windscreen where there is no upstand where it joins the roof. But whoever thought they would see air conditioning and touch screen sat nav in a Trident?

The dinner at the hotel was excellent and we had the opportunity for an open discussion regarding the activities of the club which are of course always limited by the small and geographically widespread membership.

Next morning we had decided to convoy to Helmingham Hall but for me disaster almost struck when we were unable to get the car in gear when the engine was running. The convoy was a bit delayed while we decided how to get round that but then a mile long queue to get into the venue nearly sidelined us. The problem turned out to be that the hydraulic fluid had drained away from the clutch slave cylinder due to a leaking seal. Took a while to find a big enough Mole wrench to get the master cylinder top off but after that the ever prepared Mr Rowlinson was able to produce a tin of fluid which effected a temporary repair.

Helmingham Hall turned out to be a really good choice with a fantastically eclectic range of cars on show. Well organised and with kind weather it was a great day. I’ve always been into hot rods and there were some fabulous pickups ranging from immaculate to the current trend of smart rust but best of show in my mind went to the most stripped down early Ford, I think, pickup I’ve ever seen wildly trimmed with US number plates.

On the Trident stand it was good to see Martin Rhodes immaculately presented Venturer. When I first saw it I assumed it had come straight out of the restoration shop, but Martin said No, it was over 20 years since the paint had been applied. I am always impressed by other people’s fibre glassing skills and Martin’s re-working of the roof line to take out the gap between the top of the doors and the roof was really good to see. Needless to say that is one issue I will not be tackling any time soon. Nice to meet Andy Hutchinson for the first time on the TVR stand and to see him having discarded the wheel chair. A special mention also for Tim Osborne who brought his immaculate yellow Venturer 500 miles all the way from Aberdeen, but on a trailer. Commiserations to John Bailey who failed to proceed half way from Lichfield and to Glyn and Terry who for different reasons just failed to get their cars ready on time. Sorry not to see Steve Riley who has helped me with regular advice but good to finally meet John Lansbury with his rally car and newly acquired Venturer resto project. And not forgetting Norman with the sole running representation of the TVR Trident coupe which just continues to mellow.

We left at about 4 o’clock wanting to get to Dave’s home in Derbyshire that evening. On the way down we had run in the opposite direction to a 7 miles tailback around Huntingdon which looked like it was caused by roadworks. To try to avoid that we went north through Suffolk and Norfolk on some really great straight roads running along dykes on the flattest country side I think this country has to offer. Stopped once to top up clutch master cylinder but otherwise fine. As we were making good time we detoured into Nottingham to be introduced to the Olde Trip to Jerusalem, reputably Britains oldest pub carved out of the base of Nottingham castle. If you get that way try the Olde Trippe bitter, a must for CAMRA lovers.
Had a great run back through North Wales the next day exploring the limits of the Tycoon’s handling and arrived home having covered a grand total of 680 miles. Long distance award well deserved I think!

Without cars in attendance but of course very welcome were the European contingent represented by Bruno and Roland who had been touring up in my neck of the woods. As I am often in France Bruno was kind enough to suggest I ‘popped over ‘ to Switzerland for an impromptu Trident meeting with the offer of a loaned sports car for a quick tour. I will do this one day but I want to do it in the Tycoon but with my own daughter’s wedding coming up next year and lots of work to do on the car it’s more likely to be 2018 before I can make it happen.

I haven’t really mentioned David without whom the Anniversary wouldn’t have happened. So thanks to him for a job really well done and of course looking forward to the 55th or 60th by which time there should definitely be more cars finished.

Bildquelle: Steve Combes
Text: Steve Combes