March 25, 2008

The Geneva Motor Show

Last weekend (the one before Easter) was pretty hectic. On Saturday I went to a couple of sessions of the Share Festival (write-up coming soon I hope) during the day, then after a quick and very nice pizza at Ristorante Seven Up (on Via Andrea Doria) I headed out of Torino and off over the Alps.

It took me about three hours to get from Turin, through the Saint Bernard tunnel, and down into Montreux where I met up with some friends who've recently moved there to teach.

I didn't get to see too much of Montreux as it was dark and wet when I arrived, and the next morning we headed over to Geneva for the day. I didn't see much of Geneva either, to be fair. Most of the day was spent wandering round the expanse of exhibition halls looking at cars in the Geneva Motor Show.

The main theme I could see throughout the show was that of environmentally-friendly motoring. Lots of manufacturers were showing hybrid or super-fuel-efficient engines, but as a result lots of the concept vehicles were very conservative and boring. If cars are going to work as a carbon-neutral transport option, we need to find the sexy, interesting sports- and super-car versions.

Morgan were showing an interesting fuel-cell concept, that despite only having 30 BHP could still achieve 0-62 in 8 seconds. Apart from that, the most exciting stand was Giugiaro's but only because they were showing some of their old concept cars, including the fantastic-looking Bizzarrini Manta.

Overall I was a bit disappointed with the show, but it was good to catch up with some mates, and the drive back over the Alps on Sunday evening was fun. There are some photos from the show over on my Flickr account.


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June 29, 2007

She's Gone

Picture of Supersport on a trailer

This photo shows the final stage of my Supersport ownership. Last Friday a very nice man from Telford came to collect her.

The garage seems strangely empty now.


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June 19, 2007

Update on the Supersport

As a followup to last Thursday's post where I offered my Supersport free to a good home, I've uploaded some photos of how she looks at the moment.

I was quite surprised, and heartened, by the amount of interest there still is in these little cars. Within twenty minutes of posted an advert on the XR Owners Club forum I'd had a reply from a guy called Neil who'll be coming to collect her on Friday. And if for some reason things fall through with him (which I'm sure they won't), there are three other people eager to look after her.


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June 14, 2007

Free To a Good Home

Me with my Ford Fiesta Supersport

UPDATE: A home has been found.

Getting My First Car

Back in 1991, after I'd passed my driving test I didn't have access to a car. I did have a Saturday job, and so the saving began. The intervening months gave me plenty of time to work out what car I was going to buy. After learning to drive in a 950cc Fiesta, I knew it would need at least a 1.1L engine if not a 1.3L; but I was happy with something Fiesta-sized and preferably sporty.

The inital choice of a Fiesta 1.1S soon gave way to either a VW Polo Coupe S or a Fiesta 1.3S when I discovered that the insurance wouldn't be much more. Then, my weekly ritual of scouring the classifieds section of the free papers showed there wasn't too big a price premium for a Fiesta Supersport.

There were a couple of Supersports knocking about the village; the precursor to the much-maligned XR2 with an attractive set of RS 4-spoke alloys and the same bodykit as the XR2 but with 1.3S mechanicals. I was smitten and soon had my heart set on getting one, despite my parents' repeated efforts to persuade me to get something cheaper and more basic.

When the time came to leave for university, I had enough in my savings to start looking for cars but finding the right one was easier said than done; the first few I dragged my Dad to see were pretty ropey. On the trip home at the end of the first term, Dad mentioned in passing that there was a Supersport advertised in that week's St. Helens Star. After complaining vociferously that he should've told me sooner, we agreed to go for a look.

That was how, on Friday 18th December 1992 I became the proud owner of a 1981 (old-style-W-reg) Ford Fiesta Supersport, in sunburst red with red stripes and a grey interior. I still remember the thrill of meeting Dad at the bank during my lunch hour and drawing out £900. It seemed such a huge amount of cash to be holding in my hands, but the feeling was short-lived as it was handed to Dad almost immediately so he could go and pick up the car for me.

The Love Affair Begins

My car ownership didn't get off to the best of starts. Come Sunday morning I was eager to go for my first drive and show her off to all of my mates. There were two problems with that: firstly Dad insisted on coming with me in case I'd forgotten how to drive (in retrospect a perfectly sensible decision, but at the time...) and more importantly we couldn't get the car to start.

We spent an hour or so trying different things without any success, including swapping the battery for a spare we had lying in the garage. I'd just about resigned myself to a many-hour delay to wait for the battery to charge, when Mum "just double-checked" that we hadn't forgotten about the ignition cut-off switch hidden behind the dashboard... Cue a couple of rather red faces, but more importantly a little red hatchback with a running engine!

For the next five years our lives were tightly intertwined. The Supersport makes an appearance in almost every story from that period of my life - if I had a scanner I'd be able to provide pictorial evidence too.

But this post is already long enough without a diversion off through tales of country lane diversions at the merest hint of traffic in central Lancaster... of late-night dashes up the A6 and A591 to visit friends in Ambleside... chasing the RAC Rally across Northern England... learning how to drive in the snow...

I'll pick a handful and write them up separately over the next few weeks.

Improvements and Showing-Off

From early-on in my Supersport ownership I was a member of the XR Owners Club (they incorporated the Supersport Register (SSR), given that the cars were close relatives to the XRs). This meant that there was somewhere for me to show off how good she looked and revel in the car-geek heaven of car shows. Whilst she was never at the jacking-your-car-up-to-show-the-shiny-suspension-components level, the regular washing, waxing, glass polish, alloy cleaner... treatments meant she could hold her own on the SSR stand. The photo above was taken on the stand of the 1993 or 1994 XROC National Day show.

I've never been that into customising or obsessing over the appearance of my cars; I like to choose something that looked good when it rolled out of the factory gates, and whilst I keep them clean and tidy I prefer to spend any serious time and money on improving the mechanicals.

The Supersport was no different. Although I was a poor student, the car was on a programme of continual gradual improvement. Generally when parts needed replacing, I'd take the opportunity to fit something better: the suspension was first - slightly lowered and uprated springs alongside gas dampers when the original dampers needed replacing; then when the front discs needed doing I put in the vented XR2 items instead; and when the top of one of the pistons decided to detach itself from the rest, during the engine rebuild I swapped in a better camshaft and uprated oil and fuel pumps. That engine rebuild was the reason I came out of university with an overdraft...

About the only part I upgraded before it needed replacing was the head (the top half of the engine with the valves in). Once I'd started work I could afford to buy things before my hand was forced, and I got a head that was better suited to the camshaft. It was clear even then that leaded petrol wasn't going to be around for much longer, so I paid a little more for the hardened valve seats that means she can run on normal unleaded.

A Change of Direction

By mid-1997 it was time for a change. I was earning more, and commuting weekly to Bury St. Edmunds from Rainford (230-odd miles each way). So a plan was hatched. For my daily transport I bought an E30 BMW M3 and then over time I'd strip out the Supersport and turn it into a classic rally and hill-climb car.

As I'd just sunk all my money into the M3, I couldn't do anything to the Supersport there and then, but that was okay - my Mum had just passed her driving test and so for Christmas I bought her a new steering wheel (an original Supersport item to replace the button-sized one that came with the car) and gave her custody of the Supersport.

Of course, Mum didn't see much of the car a year or two later when my sister got her licence and found it most useful that there was a car she could borrow. However, I think that just meant it spent a lot of time parked down at the farm where her horse is stabled - her passion for horses probably even outstrips mine for cars and is almost as expensive.

The summer of 2000 saw me moving to Cambridge, into a house with a double-garage! That meant there was room for both of my cars. The Fiesta was still in daily use, but was getting to the stage when each MOT meant a few more things needed fixing so it was best that she was retired from such high use.

Just before the MOT ran out, I brought her down to Cambridge and enjoyed a last week or so of commuting with her before I got round to moving the M3 out of the way so that she could get into the garage and await her restoration.

The Next Chapter?

And that's where I hope that you can help. When I was working at Microsoft back in 2001 I decided that the next bonus cheque was going to be used to start the restoration; but then they closed the department and made me redundant. Since starting my own business I just don't have the spare time to devote to her, and in a few weeks we're moving to Italy and she needs to leave the safety of the garage before then.

So, I'm looking for someone to take care of her and to use her. In return for giving her a good home you get to take her away for free. You'll need to bring a trailer because after six years of sitting in the garage she isn't going to be driveable, but she isn't in a terrible state either. One of the previous owners had the shell professionally treated with waxoyl (or something similar) and I gave it a second coat a couple of years into my ownership.

Feel free to email me with any questions at, or leave a comment on this entry. There are details of the modifications after the jump.



Pipercross free-flow air filter High pressure oil pump Facet electric fuel pump Kent BCF2 fast road/rally camshaft Vulcan Maxiflow unleaded head (enlarged inlet valves)


Lowered, uprated springs (approx. 1" drop) Uprated gas dampers


XR2 calipers and ventilated discs at front XR2 master cylinder

And I've got a spare set of RS 4-spoke alloys which I'll put in the boot or somewhere.


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June 03, 2005

Black Or Blue And Red?

Just throwing this snippet of information into the google mix as it doesn't seem to be there at the minute...

If you want to recharge the air-conditioning on your Lancia Delta Integrale Evo, you need to know which kind of coolant (or gas) it's filled with.

In the engine bay, there are two pipes running down the passenger side of the engine to the air-con unit - one with lagging, and one without. Each pipe has a small plastic cap sticking out of it. If both caps are black, then it's filled with R12 (nasty old-fashioned coolant which is bad for you and the environment or something) and if one is blue and the other red it's filled with R134 (the newer, safer, friendlier coolant).

Of course, mine is filled with the old nasty stuff, so it's going to be harder to get to a point where I'm impervious to the outside temperature again...

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November 09, 2004

Pimp My VW

When we were at school, Andrew and I harboured plans for buying an old VW Type 3, dropping the ride height, stripping off the chrome and sticking on a set of cool Porsche alloys.

The nearest we ever got was dismantling the front of my Supersport and fixing the rust.

Now, through the wonder of the Internet, we can customize Type 3s (or Beetles, or Campers, or 911s) to our heart's content, all without getting cold or covered in oil.

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August 02, 2004

Everything You Didn't Realise You Wanted To Know About Roads

CBRD, or Chris's British Road Directory, provides the answers to all your road desires: how the road signs we see today evolved; where the worst designed road junctions are; why the M62 starts at junction 4; and much, much more (although it's all road-related).

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July 28, 2004

24-year Old Buys TVR

And not just a shiny new T350C. The entire company!

BBC NEWS | England | Lancashire | Russian buys up British car firm

It's a shame that the new owner isn't British, and a little worrying because he's only 24, and more importantly, Peter Wheeler - the previous owner - had done such a good job. Still, he's reported to be an enthusiast and seems quite ambitious; if the investment helps bring TVRs to a wider audience, presumably most importantly America, then it will take the company to the next level. I wish them luck.

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July 27, 2004

Quick Quiz

When looking at these photos should I:

  1. be glad that I couldn't identify what kind of car it was until the last photo
  2. be disappointed that I couldn't identify what kind of car it was until the last photo
  3. be slightly concerned that I knew what make of car it was from the engine bay shot

And isn't it spooky that when I happened upon this site, I was listening to Billy Bragg's Shirley?

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June 02, 2004

Keepin' It More Real Than The Streets

The Super Nova Tune!! - the rap for all boy-racers...

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May 14, 2004

Ciao, I'm Off To Italy To Join The Police

Let's see, I could take the Integrale back to her home, as my personal transport. Then join the Italian police and get to drive this as a company car!

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March 10, 2004

Florida Has Never Really Interested Me

Florida never seemed like much of a holiday destination to me, but that was before I realised I could visit P.J.'s Auto World Inc.

I think today I'll have this one.

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August 13, 2003

The M25 variable speed limits might actually work

For ages I've wondered whether my attempts to smooth out traffic flow in jams actually improve matters at all. I do it as much because I'd rather maintain a constant speed as an attempt to reduce the jam, but I always thought it'd be a nice little project to write some simulation to show people that although the maximum speed would be lower, trying to keep to an average speed would have a much higher minimum speed (i.e. not stopped :-) and we'd all get there a lot quicker.

From Critical Section today, I found that someone else has already done a load more analysis than I'll ever get round to in SCIENCE HOBBYIST: Traffic Waves, physics for bored commuters. And he reckons that I'm right.

Plus there's a link to this cool traffic simulator which lets you see what happens in different scenarios with different speed limits, and traffic densities, etc.

So leave gaps, and destroy build-ups of traffic with anti-traffic!

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August 12, 2003

The twisty-wisty one's are best!

Lynne's just pointed me at this list of Britain's Best Driving Roads. I've done some of them, but might have to see if I can get a few more in... maybe some on this weekend's trip to Snowdonia :-)

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May 03, 2003

Milla is legal again

Further to yesterday's post, I got the tyres fitted to Milla this morning.

National Tyres wouldn't fit any tyres that they hadn't supplied, and the guy at Abbey Tyres just didn't seem to want my business (blathered on about possibly having to wrap the alloys in paper or something, and quoted 11/tyre "at least", and then could only do them on Tuesday...) but the guys at Kingsway Tyres on St. Andrews Road, Cambridge (01223 352002 - they don't have a website, I hope I'm remembering my phone URLs correctly...) were cool.

They were busy when I first called, but said to give them 3/4hr or so, then fitted them while I waited, only charged 15 for the two tyres, and had a good chat about drag racing - Milla's still got her race number in the back window, and one of the fitters used to work for a drag bike team.

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May 02, 2003

Ways to settle into a new office...

Keep two new Goodyear Eagle F1 tyres next to your desk. This will cause all manner of people to comment on them, discuss the groovy tread pattern, speculate on whether the tread pattern actually works or is just a fashion thing to make them more likely to sell, wonder whether they'll fit their car, look for your car in the car park (only to find that you're on your bike that day :-), discuss recreating 8-bit platform games in real life by rolling the tyres at your co-workers, and all sorts of other things.

And you get strange looks when you roll them down the office after they've been delivered.

Plus you can get them delivered to your (office) door at bargain rates from

Assuming Milla's battery has charged when I nip home at lunchtime, they'll be gone from next to my desk this afternoon. Then I'll have to find something else to puzzle passers-by ;-)

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April 25, 2003

How slow am I?

Well I finally got the pictures from my dragracing debut posted.

It was a good laugh, and getting Milla on the strip was a bit different. Unfortunately, they ran out of helmets when Robbo registered, so we had to share one between us - which meant we couldn't go head to head. However, given my performance, that's probably a good thing :-)

Most of the excitement, and nerves are in the build up, and start, and the first run it all seemed to be over before I'd realised - I was concentrating on getting staged properly (there are two sets of lights which show you when you're properly lined up with the timing beams) - I over-ran a little and had to reverse, and then once I'd got that sorted out the lights seemed to go straight to green without doing the amber in between... I didn't get enough revs at the start, so bogged down, and it was all over by then really...

Second time out, I was a bit more organized. The marshalls confused things a bit - I was lined up against a tuned Renault 5 GT Turbo, but then they got us all to pull aside so they could get some of the hot rods through, which looked like they'd run first, but then they decided to let us go first after all! I got called through, but no-one followed, so for a bit I was concerned that I was stuck on the strip when I wasn't supposed to be... then the MR2 Turbo that was behind me came through and I raced that instead. I had more time to prepare for the start this time, but still didn't use enough revs - I was better off the start, but not as good as I could've been, and then didn't change up into second quickly enough and hit the limiter... D'oh!

I have found a way to get much better starts now though. I just need a Fiat Uno full of grinning passengers with their thumbs up to be sat next to me! On the way back down South, this Fiat Uno pulled up alongside, with the passengers looking over at the car, grinning manically, and holding both thumbs up, just at the point where we got to a roundabout... So it was rude not to... ;-) And I got my best start of the day! Although it did smoke the clutch a little bit, shame I hadn't done that earlier on...

The results are now up on the York Dragway website...
Robbo's results
My results

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April 23, 2003

Photos from York...

Not my photos from yesterday, but for those who can't wait, here are Mark's photos of the day, which are actually a much better selection than I've got...

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April 22, 2003

A _very_ Good Friday

An excellent start to the Easter weekend. Glorious weather, and plenty of time for my road trip over to Snowdonia.

Traffic wasn't too bad, plenty of albums queued up on the Empeg player and my first sightings of the new TVR, a Lancia Stratos, and two other Integrales improved the long motorway trek to Shrewsbury where we dropped onto A- and B-roads for the rest of the journey...

Milla and I had excellent fun improving our overtaking skills through the Bank Holiday traffic, and even more fun when blatting along the B4410 and B4085. Welsh B-roads and 3rd gear.... Mmmmmm... :-D

Then six hours after we set off, we reached the campsite, in the shadow of Snowdon, and next to a reservoir. Very picturesque and nice, but two toilets and three showers weren't really enough for the two fields-worth of tents...

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