On the road again…
With my physical recovery taking longer than I had anticipated (much more like the doctors advice than my own optimistic assessment), Rita has been sitting idle for a while. I now have some work to do before she’s ready for our upcoming adventure!
First things first, Rita needs to be ‘road ready’. Without any further delay I book her in with Steve at VW Retro Restorations for a full service. For the first time since February, I climb into Rita’s driving seat, insert the key and attempt to turn her over…
All I get is a lacklustre attempt. No doubt, we have a flat battery and as a result, a false start. This isn’t an issue, I’ve been expecting it. As a pre-emptive measure, I’ve previously requested my neighbours assistance in case this situation arose. He owns a decent sized battery booster that should provide enough power to turn the engine over.
‘Switch it off! Switch it off!’
Sure enough, with the booster on, she starts up. I’m not pleased with what I hear at all. It sounds as though two pieces of metal are being repeatedly tapped together, the noise gets louder and louder. Initially I put this down to oil having settled, presuming once run for a while it’ll work its way around the engine and she’ll settle down. Ten minutes later, we’re no better off. I’m left with a difficult decision, drive her the few miles to the garage or have her towed?
Brave or stupid (I’m not sure which), we set off. She’s making more noise down in the low gears. I try my uppermost to keep her limping along, up in 3rd gear. After probably the slowest and most stressful drive of my life, (to my surprise) we make it. As I pull into Steve’s yard, he must think a WWII Spitfire is approaching. I’m met by him waving his arms in the air, shouting ‘Switch it off! Switch it off!’ Not the sort of thing you’d like to hear your mechanic shouting at you, and definitely not a good sign. Stupidity or not, Rita’s now at the workshop. I head for home, my mind racing. What on earth is wrong? Will she be fixed in time for Ireland? How much will it all cost?
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With Rita and I apart, I decide to have a go at more of the curtains. I’ve always wanted to do something a little different with the window in the high top. Being up above all the others, I think it’s separated enough from the rest, to use another type of fabric. I quite fancy making it into a map, adding a ‘travel & adventure’ element to the interior design. I’d like them to look almost antique, reminiscent of an old treasure map when the curtains are drawn. Not only that, if I manage to get the colour just right, it should compliment the lighter headlining, much better than the fabric used around the rest of the van.
I manage to find a ‘map’ fabric. It’s pretty much what I’m after and the colours are perfect. I love the aged, yellowed look of it. As per my brief, I want to complete the world map by drawing the curtains. The difficulty in doing this is getting all the countries to line up correctly… Cue much head scratching, and more than a few failed attempts. This one little set of curtains have been stitched, only to be unpicked several times. With all the extra time this has taken, I’ve given up hope of finishing all the curtains before our road trip in July. I still have the two across the cab area, along with the one for the sliding door, yet to complete. So for our trip, I’ll just re-fit the originals.
The photo shows the curtains complete. I’m finally pleased with the join. An antique brass popper holds the curtains in place whilst closed, ensuring everything lines up ‘just right’. I’m happy with the final result, although I’m glad I didn’t go with a design like this for the rest of the camper. Give me a simple line pattern any day!
A few days pass before I hear from the garage. It’s positive news. Steve has replaced the engine mounts as it was shaking itself to death! He then ran tappet cleaner through the engine and changed the oil. Surprisingly, this seems to have fixed the issue, Rita is no longer making that dreadful noise. Our starting problems are blamed on old or poor wiring causing resistance to the electrical current. Steve has fitted a larger diesel battery, hoping this will get more power through to the starter motor. Now I have Rita back I fit the new curtains. I’m semi pleased, although in all honesty, I could do with trimming them down a little. With all the work I put into them though, I decide this is one for the future. They’ll do just fine for now. Still, overall I’m happy with the experiment, having the two different type of curtain doesn’t look odd at all, it works rather well.
So Rita and I are as prepared as we’re going to be. Rita may still be a work in progress, but I guess like most vans her age, she always will be…