Back in 2013 when I purchased the Hawk chassis and body I set my sights on driving the finished car to the LeMans classic weekend in 2018. It was to some degree a stretch target for me as at that stage I had no idea of if, let alone how, I would get on building the car. I made it though and in July 2018 my daughter and I set off from a very sunny Scotland to drive to LeMans.
I had booked the trip with Bill at Classic car tours so the accommodation tickets et el were all sorted by his company. I only needed to book the ferry and any additional accommodation we might require.
The trip to Portsmouth
We left home having planned an overnight stop in Preston. I had not covered more than 60 miles in the car in one go before so wanted to give enough time should anything go haywire heading south. 2018 has been an amazing summer in the whole of the UK, and for a change even Scotland saw day after day of sunshine. We decided to go with the hard top on to protect us from the Sun!! We left in good spirits and headed south on the M74/M6 before deciding to take a detour through cumbria and the eastern lakes. The car ran faultlessly and we were having a blast. My confidence grew in the car after every mile. Even with high outside temperatures she remained steady at 190DegF and comfortable. That was not so true of the passengers, we were both feeling the heat inside the hard top, but both were pleased to be out of the direct sun which continued to shine.
We stopped to take in the view in a wee lay-by beside Ullswater. The weather was just amazing.
The rest of the trip to Preston went without incident other than stopping for fuel. The fuel gauge had failed to work after returning from the paint shop so we were logging every fill and working out our MPG to judge when we needed to stop again. I was amazed to see her make 27MPG on the motorways at a stead 70MPH. I believe that is another benefit of the hard top with improving the aerodynamics. I was certainly not complaining on that point.
We had a good nights sleep in our Premier Inn catching the England world cup game in the bar. After a good breakfast we loaded up and headed south again on the M6. Our ferry was not until the evening so we had plenty of time and the car was behaving well. That was all to change though as we were about the join the M6 toll road. We were in the outside lane of a very busy motorway doing around 70MPH when for no apparent reason St Piran started to weave all over the road! I had to force my way across the lanes and wait for an emergency lay-by as there was no hard shoulder at this particular stretch of road. I thought we may have had a puncture or maybe two as it came on so quickly. After getting Abby behind the armco I checked the car only to find every single wheel spinner loose! All of them! I could undo them with my hand, one of the rears was very loose indeed! If we had lost one completely that would have been trip over and who knows what else, we were very lucky indeed.
I set about jacking the car up each wheel at a time and hammering on the knock offs again. When I reached the rears my bottle jack was not able to get the tyre off the ground, nightmare, as I was not then sure if the wheel was fully home or not! I tried all sorts of things just could not get her off the deck. Time was moving on and we were in a dangerous position with trucks passing less than a metre away from me. So we got back in and ran slowing for 10 miles to get to the M6 toll services. In that time the near side rear had again come loose, the others were all still tight. I spent nearly an hour trying to get the tyre off the ground, letting the air out, using coins to get more height. I could not be sure if the wheel was home but had to make a move as time was getting short and we would now hit busy time passing Oxford and other towns. I drove 45 miles at 50 then checked again, they were all tight. It was then a fast trip to finally make the ferry with less than 40 mins to spare.
The good news was the sun was still shining were were safe and other than the wheels nearly coming off the car had ran beautifully. In the queue just ahead of us we saw a couple of other cobras Peter and Dave from THE289REGISTER so we spent a lovely half an hour talking about knock offs self tightening or not!
Drive to our Chateau de Dobert
The ferry crossing was very pleasant indeed. Our cabin was clean cosy and quiet, the staff on the French boat were fantastic and the sun continued to shine so the crossing was smooth. We were indeed blessed.
We had agreed with the other cobras to run together following a motorway free route all the way to our Chateau. We followed the expert navigation of the other cars enjoying the sunshine, scenery and being careful to not exceed the newly introduced speed restriction of around 50mpm! I have a US FIA dashboard in the car so the speedo is infront of the passenger not the driver, so I use a phone app speedo to tell me the speed of the car. It is accurate and can be set to kilometres so I would recommend it to all those travelling abroad in their cars. Our cobras thrive on pace and it can be very hard to tell if you are going fast, they cope with speed so well!
We arrived safe and well in Avoise still in glorious sunshine and had lunch in a very local restaurant. Pete and Dave were staying elsewhere but they directed us to the Chateau just a mile or so up the road.
It was now Thursday and the classic started on the Friday morning. Bill had arranged a welcome dinner for all is guests in the Chateau where we quickly made friends with like minded folk and also saw a vast array of wonderful cars. It was not long before the story of my wheels coming loose was around with the champagne which ended up with me searching out a drill as another 289Register member offered me wire and special wire pliers to fix my spinners in place. We were due to drive around the track first thing in the morning and the thought of a loose wheel was not a pleasant one. I failed to find a drill so we wired them a little heath robinson to make do. That was after a good hit with a proper Thor hammer to get them tight!
Later during dinner the heavens opened and it absolutely pelted it down for half an hour. I rushed to get the tonneau cover on as we had removed the hard top for the weekend. It was to be the last rain we saw for the whole 3 weeks trip!
Track day at LeMans classic.
We were up an out early on the Friday morning, breakfasted then followed the other cars off to LeMans for the track session. We arrived in the nick of time and were a little rushed getting our helmets all together so were left a little behind the other members of the group. There was quite a large selection of cars doing the laps and we joined the queue and made final preparations.
We headed out steadily onto the track behind a vast array of fast cars, a lot of Porches but quite a mix. It was very crowded for the first couple of laps as the cars spread out. I could not believe the track was 8 miles long it passed so quickly. We did have one problem though, she refused to go faster than 110mph! Out of bends she was a quick as the Porsches around us but topped out too early n the straights. I would need to look into that later. It was great fun and the car really came alive on the track and even though I had not set her up so well (see later notes on Silverstone classic 2018) she really handled well. With all that rubber on the back she could not be coaxed into letting loose. It turns out my mechanical linkage for the throttle had bent with my temporary bracket that I had forgot to replace, meaning I was not able to access the additional 2 carburettor jets so she was running well down! Given that she went really well! There is something to be said about building your own car and driving her down LeMans straight – what a great day!
As part of our trip we had booked into Le Ferme de Mulsanne Restaurant for dinner. It is a very famous spot where in the past you could eat and wonder into the garden to watch the cars go past flat out through the night, literally a few meters away from them. Over the years however with safety in mind there is now a very sturdy fence between the track and dinner tables. Even so the view is amazing as is the sound. The cars are still accelerating out of the second chicane but even so they are running fast. When the series of 1960s race cars came through the building shock with the roar of the V8s of the GT40s and 289 Cobras. I would certainly recommend a visit.
As I drove back from the Resturant I was on my own as my daughter stayed and received a lift back with others in the group. It was my first time in the dark with St Piran and on unknown roads, following the sat nav, it was quite a taxing journey. All went well and event free but I was pleased to see the bar was still open back at the Chateau.
Sunday Race day
Again the sun shone and the temperature rose into the 30degC. We spent most of the day in the main stand out of the sun watching the racing. LeMans Classic is such a wonderful event with access to the pits, live music and hard fast racing. There is no doubt St Piran and I will be back again in a few years.