Car tales

Have you ever had one of those days when you wish you'd stayed in bed, because everything you do goes wrong, and no matter how hard you try, fate conspires against you. i.e. Everything just gets worse and worse.

Back in the summer's of the early 80's I would frequently take the family down to Studland bay down in Dorset for the day. It has a beautiful sandy beach, one of the longest in Europe, and on a nice sunny day there are few places to beat it. Well, I had just bought another car, a Mk 4 Cortina, and foolishly decided to take it for a run without giving it the usual shakedown first. Boy, did I pay for that mistake.

We set off, loaded up with the mandatory buckets and spades, very early on a Sunday morning, and by doing this missed all the traffic normally associated with weekend Dorset roads. It only takes an hour at this time of day. Turning left at Corfe Castle on to the Studland road, there is a series of up hills, down dales, and hairpin corners which play havoc with your engine. No problem on a normal day with a normal car, but remember this is a Tooleytale.

This is where the fun starts:-
After a very pleasant, but scorching hot day on the beach, we decided to leave a little earlier than usual to avoid all the Bank Holiday traffic. We had all spent rather too long in the sun, and by the time we returned to the car everyone was sunburnt. All we wanted to do was get home and shower off the sand and salt that was aggravating the burning. After loading up the car with all the beach paraphernalia, I climbed in and turned the key......Nothing, except a clunk. Oh poo. Try again, this time I got a sickening crunch, then nothing again. Recognizing this as a knackered starter motor, or worse, a damaged flywheel, that feeling in the pit of my stomach started to churn my guts as our predicament hit home. We were 70 miles from Portchester, it was 4pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday, and within the next half hour there were going to be more cars on this road than you could shake a stick at. Even if an AA van could make it down here, there was very little he could do other than tow us back, and he would have the same traffic problem we were about to endure.

After a little begging of other holidaymakers, we managed to get enough people together to organize a bump start. This isn't easy on a sandy car park, I can tell you. After 3 abortive attempts, it was touch and go whether it would start at all. Finally, it reluctantly burst into life. Right quick, in and away. Now this is where it really went pear shaped. As we exited the car park, we immediately joined what turned out to be a 5 mile queue back to Corfe castle. Everyone had decided to leave early to miss the traffic, and then of course became the traffic. Ok, sit back and enjoy the wonderful Dorset countryside. Hang on a minute, what's that funny smell, and why is the temperature gauge going off the scale? OH NO!!! A cloud of steam emitting from under my bonnet gave the first indications of the crap to come. My fan belt had broken, which meant no water pump circulation, and no cool air over the engine. Now what??? I wasn't carrying a spare (Clang) I couldn't turn the engine off since I wouldn't be able to start it again. (Remember, no starter motor) But then, of course, I couldn't leave the engine running, for the engine was slowly cooking itself. I couldn't even pull over, as the road is so narrow. Once you're in, you're in for the duration. What a nightmare. We hoped and prayed that the traffic would only stop on the downhill bits, so we could bump start the car after turning off for a minute. But no, almost every time we stopped, it was on the steepest uphill slopes. Then we had to enlist help from the passengers from 5 or 6 cars behind us for a push. If we didn't move, nor did they. Several times it was so steep that everyone behind us had to back up (almost impossible) so we could bump start it in reverse. By the time we had got to the main road (can you believe it, 5 miles...3 hours) the engine was completely incinerated, and I was the most unpopular bloke in Dorset. Even my family didn't love me any more... I'd only had the car a few weeks, and now I needed a new starter motor, flywheel, fan belt, and the cylinder head had distorted as well. Total cost for that day out, over £500. Can anyone beat that???

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