Cheap Gumball rally
Who hasn’t heard of the Gumball rally and who wouldn’t want to drive a supercar through Europe. The trouble is you have to be genuinely rich to take part, so what’s the next best thing, a European rally where you end up driving some cheap cars instead. Just as much fun and definitely more of a challenge!
Motoscape banger rally is now 10 years old
It doesn’t seem like 10 years ago since we started out on our first banger rally, but ever since that very first rally, we are always asked the same question. ‘What made you start organising banger rallies’? The simple answer is this; ‘we went on one’. We had a fantastic time, met some great people and experienced fantastic camaraderie. The event itself however, was poorly organised. So with this in mind we thought, why don’t we organise a road trip around Europe ourselves. Ten years later and we’re still going strong.
What happened when we took part in a banger rally?
We bought ourselves a Volvo 940 turbo estate on a ‘J’ plate for £100. The car had been stood a while but looked in pretty decent nick. We probably spent another £200 getting it fit for the road. The only issue we had with the car was that very occasionally it would cut out at junctions.
Anyway the day came and off we set for Calais. We’d called ourselves ‘Two little Dickie Birds’ which was apt really, seeing as we were Peter and Paul. The plan was to meet the organisers and some of the other teams at a motorway service station before heading for Dover to catch the ferry. As we pulled into the car park and spotted the other cars we felt a little underdressed. The Volvo looked rather sorry against the other decorated bangers. With plenty of time before the ferry crossing, a trip to good old B & Q was the answer to our ugly duckling problem. We managed to get some insulation tape and a roll of children’s decorative wallpaper, which we duly applied, to the car. It still didn’t look great but hey, at least we’d made an effort.
Problems start on our road trip around Europe
Why did we park next to white van man (WVM) on the ferry? It was a move we were going to regret. A conversation with the driver was the start of our problems. It went something like this:
WVM – ‘I used to have one of these’, pointing to the Volvo, ‘what a great car’.
Us – ‘Really, we’ve got a slight problem with it cutting out at junctions’
WVM – ‘Oh I know what that is; it’s the filter for the turbo. Just take it out and give it a little blow and that should do the trick’
Us – ‘Great, thanks for that’
Paul then promptly took out the offending part and gave it a gentle blow. Big mistake! It must have been on its last legs as the gentle blow duly blew it to bits.
We were now docking at Calais and were called to start our engines. It was then that it became obvious that we had problems, as the car coughed and spluttered like a 60 a day smoker. We limped to the meeting point and duly registered, keeping our fingers crossed that the car would start the next day.
The long drive to Annecy in our broken banger
The following morning all the teams met up before heading off for the first stop, Annecy, a mere 520 miles away. We spent the first two hours of the day driving round various scrap yards, looking to buy a replacement filter. With no such luck and the car running a little better, we decided to call it a day and drove all those boring motorway miles to Annecy. With only the name of the hotel we were supposed to be staying in, we had a real problem trying to find it. We contacted one of the organisers and asked where the hotel was. ‘Where are you’ he asked. ‘We’re by the lake’. ‘What lake’ came his response? He’d obviously never been to Annecy before. At around 9 miles in length, Lake Annecy is the 3rd largest lake in France.
A coach had been organised for 7.30 p.m. to take everyone to a restaurant at the top of a mountain. Unfortunately for us, it had already left by the time we arrived at the hotel.
Flames under the bonnet of our banger
After quickly checking in at the hotel we decided to drive the 12 or so miles to the top of the mountain to meet with the others. As we got nearer the top it became apparent that there was something wrong with the brakes. Anyway we got to the top in one piece and joined the rest of the teams in the restaurant car park. Paul flipped the bonnet and I stuck my head under it to see if there was anything obvious that may be causing the braking problems. There was a lot of heat under the bonnet, which was probably as a result of the turbo now glowing bright orange. Paul then put his foot on the brake pedal, which by this time was going all the way to the floor. Brake fluid then shot out of a damaged seal and onto the turbo, promptly bursting into flames. I’ve never jumped so quickly in my life. I was sure glad that my face wasn’t any closer, escaping the flames with just slightly singed eyebrows.
Back down the mountain, handbrake only!
The flames under the bonnet had caused a small crowd to gather. One of the onlookers just happened to be from a family of mechanics. He quickly identified the problem as being a metal seal on the master cylinder for the brakes. This just happened to be right next to the turbo and the heat that it was giving off had damaged the seal. He tried to carry out a temporary repair but unfortunately this didn’t work. It was now approaching midnight and we had no option but to drive back down the mountain using the handbrake and gears to slow us down. Squeaky bum time or what! It was a slow journey but we eventually got to the bottom without any mishaps.
Camaraderie kicks in
The following morning the guy who had tried to help us the night before, stayed back to fix the problem with the brakes. What a star, he was able to remove the master cylinder and replace the damaged seal with a bolt from the seat. It worked a treat; the brakes were as good as new. Unclipping a wire also sorted the turbo out.
Our turn to offer help
We weren’t the only ones with problems. A couple of students in one of the other teams had bigger problems than us. It looked like their old Rover wasn’t going to go any further. We’d plenty of room in the Volvo so we duly offered them a lift. They arranged to meet some friends in Salzburg, the penultimate stop on the rally and were more than happy to tag along for the ride. Quite a bit later, we then set off in convoy with the guy that had mended our car. We arrived in Bormio in Italy just in time to get a meal in a restaurant before they closed.
Stelvio pass day
Anyone who embarks on a road trip through Europe, probably has the Stelvio pass on their list of things to do. We were no different. It was popular then but even more so nowadays, especially after being featured on Top Gear as ‘The world’s best driving road’. Everyone met in Bormio’s town square in plenty of time, that is apart from the organisers who were a good half hour late. The 40 or so cars were then allowed to leave in convoy through the streets of Bormio, complete with police escort, what a hoot!
The road to the top of the pass was busy with cars, hundreds of motorbikes and also cyclists slowly powering their way to the top. There was so much activity at the top, that a stop was a must. After a leisurely coffee it was then back down the other side and on to Salzburg where we said ‘so long’ to the students.
Prague – the final day
Today was the shortest drive of the trip which everyone was glad of. We arrived in Prague mid afternoon and were allowed to congregate in the main Wenceslas Square where the decorated bangers drew plenty of attention.
It was then time to check in at the hotel and get rid of the car. I think the hotel receptionist must have thought all his birthdays had come at once when we asked him if he wanted a car for free. He snapped our hand off and took the keys from us with a smile on his face.
That evening there was plenty of drinking and story telling as everyone relived their trials and tribulations of taking part in a banger rally.