All the King’s Horses and All the King’s Men

I am not a mechanical person. Any DIY and mechanical stuff I do is self taught. At school, I was made to do Latin rather than woodwork and metalwork. I suspect there are tens of thousands of us ex grammar school boys like that.

It was a bit of a selling point to me to come on this continental adventure with members of the Grinnall Owners Register that most of them do their own servicing, and some had even built their cars from kit. Unlike me. Ironically, then, it has been three of them who have had pretty major “mechanicals” so far in the trip. There is a “black book” being run. Not sure my knackered battery has got me in it yet, but it’s clear I’ll need to find somewhere over the next few days to buy a replacement. After a night in the underground garage to our present hotel, my Grinnall just about started today. Not sure that would have happened after a night outside in the truly epic storm we had yesterday evening.

The other four Grinnalls were out in that, having opted for a different route to the hotel to us. Not sure I’d have wanted to bleed a clutch on one car, and rectify total brake failure in another at the height of that thunderstorm. The hotel garage is full of pieces of car today, or rather, cars in pieces, much to the amusement of other guests. I take my hat off to my companions, who have remained cheerful in conditions that would have had me in total despair.

Latest news is that one car might well have to be recovered back to the UK if a trip to a local garage this afternoon fails to come up with the right brake seals. Seals that were originally for a 1995 Ford Fiesta are not likely to be easy to find in Italy, of course.


We have driven to here (Lago d’Iseo, near Brescia and Bergamo) from Central France, via Annecy, Chamonix, and Andermatt, over several big mountain passes and miles and miles of really interesting roads. Weather has been very mixed, with us getting a soaking and a roasting at some point on most days. My biggest regret was crossing the Julier Pass, to St Moritz yesterday and the Bernina Pass just after, in very poor weather indeed.

Mind you, it might have been more serious. It seems I may have done many of the miles between Annecy (last complete check-over of my Grinnall) and here, with no rear lights or brake lights. This morning, I discovered the connector to them was undone. No idea when it came loose, or how. Now very firmly taped up. Happily, that connector didn’t affect the rear indicators, though.

We are in an Italian hill village for two nights, in a very good hotel, which is a plus. The minus is the 10 kilometers of hairpin bends up to the village, on a tiny road which (as we found out on our way up yesterday) is nevertheless a public bus route!


Tomorrow, what I’m sporadically tweeting under the #bigtrip hashtag moves on to the Dolomites, my spiritual second home these last 30 years. We’re only passing through really (sadly), and the forecast isn’t good. Total trip mileage since home will pass 1,000 somewhere on tomorrow’s stage.

After that, we’re three nights in Austria, in a hotel with its own car museum and fully-fitted workshop where, it seems likely, some time will again be spent “putting Humpty together again.”

Stay tuned!

Update later on 21 August:

One Grinnall (the trip organiser’s) now declared dead. Needs a part that is being shipped direct from the UK to our Austrian hotel. Another Grinnall needs clutch work, and that hotel has a workshop. Because I am keen to video footage of The Great Dolomite Road for my web site about it, I’m heading to tomorrow’s intended stop near Cortina d’Ampezzo via a slightly altered, but nevertheless long route. The rest of the party are accompanying the dead Grinnall’s recovery truck direct to Austria for an extra night there, and we’ll meet up with them on Saturday night. Means I stay pretty close to original route, and get some video done as we drive my very favourite roads.

There are downsides, such as being away from the rest of the group for 36 hrs and not having their mechanical expertise. We tried and failed today to source a new battery for my Grinnall today, so some starts, particularly in the mornings, will be pushes, but we’re confident that if we can survive two days on the road, and get to our Austrian hotel, we can get a battery somewhere within reach of that.

Dull it isn’t, though the weather might be, sadly.


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