I’ve long suspected that my Series I has a mind of his own. What else could explain some of its recent behaviour? As you’ll have seen in the March issue, we drove to County Donegal recently to see an amazing amphibious One Ten.
This meant a round trip of around 1100 miles, so I decided it would be a good idea to take some back-up with me. Rather than packing my customary three boxes of ‘unnecessary’ spares, I persuaded Calum Brown, LRO’s web guru, to bring his ex-MoD Series III 88in. Thankfully (as it turned out) I took my tools too…
We set off from our respective homes at silly o’clock on Monday morning and meet at Wetherby Services on the A1 in North Yorkshire just after 8am. Bacon butties, strong coffee and a good drink for our steeds see us on our way to the next refuelling at Southwaite, three hours up the road on the M6 in Cumbria.
We leave there about 12.15pm and are relieved to get off the motorway into the rolling countryside of Dumfries and Galloway without any drama. By the time we reach Stranraer, it’s dark, wet and windy, but the North West Castle Hotel provides a warm welcome.
Another early start
We leave the hotel too early for breakfast – we’re booked on P&O’s 7.30am Cairnryan- Larne crossing. Two hours and a breakfast later, we’re in Northern Ireland.
Calum’s naturally more than a little nervous about driving an ex-MoD SIII across Ulster, but I bury myself in the Series I experience and press on. We’re aiming to be in Dunfanaghy, over the border in Co Donegal, by lunchtime.
A hill too far?
I didn’t realise quite how hilly parts of Northern Ireland are. One stretch of the A6 takes us up and over The Sperrin, a stunningly remote and hilly area of moorland. On reflection, I later suspect it was this monster hill that finally finished off the head gasket. The engine note takes on a slightly different tone from here to Dunfanaghy.
The night shift
Later in the day, we’re having a great time on the water in Denis Ferry’s amphibious One Ten, but the light is fading. Time to go. After a blast around the bay in a RIB safety boat, we pack up the One Ten and get ready to leave.
My Series starts but runs like a bag of spanners. Sounds like two cylinders are missing, so we limp up the hill to Denis’s home and begin diagnosing the problem.
After a fair amount of tinkering, the unpleasant truth is finally confirmed with a borrowed compression tester.
‘The head gasket’s gone. It’s blowing between cylinder three and four,’ says Denis. I ruefully explain that I have no spares with me. Unperturbed, he makes a few calls. Within 10 minutes we have a plan.
‘We’ll all go out for a meal while my parts man Sean Doherty collects a head gasket from a distant garage. He’ll drop it off with Les and he’ll bring it along to the bar,’ explains Denis.
Then he adds with a laugh: ‘My garage doesn’t open until midnight, so we’ve plenty of time.’
He isn’t joking.
Following a hospitable evening of food, song and Guinness at the Olde Glen Bar, nominated driver Denis brings me, Calum, Donal and Les – plus the ‘new’ gasket – back to his garage just before 1am. After two hours, my Series I is up and running sweetly.
Just in time to try out some Donegal greenlaning...