An article submitted by Neil Winnington
To many people, kit cars are two seater track day cars with optional windscreens and heaters. The idea of doing a road trip of any sort in one would fill most people with dread. I’m not one of them, but in times past kit cars were not only Caterham inspired buzz bombs or replicas (more often than not cobra clones).
Some were even quite practical and clever to boot! Those following this story will know enough about our Quantum to know that it is proving to be both practical and if anything better to live with than even I expected.
I have no reservations about using it in the Summer of 2016 for my road trip to Sweden, but that will be summer. With another 21st birthday in December I decided to give the car a mini road trip as part of the preparation. Just a couple of nights, but a chance to recharge my batteries and put together a travel feature I thought, but where?
I’ve driven the car a lot in Wales during the summer. Cumbria was suffering floods, and wading through any flood in the low Quantum challenges even my enthusiasm! The wet stuff put me off North Yorkshire where similar problems could be possible.
Devon was a bit far, if overdue a visit and the eastern fenlands might hold less appeal on a dreary December than during the summer, and headlamps from a mile away can drive me nuts on those long flat expanses of road on a dark winters night.
For some reason Dorset sprang to mind, and seemed far enough to make a decent road trip while making for an interesting new (to me) location to explore when I got there.
A quick scan online for hotels found a deal on Booking.com (Other booking sites are worth checking too when looking for hotel deals) for a remarkable £60 cost to book a room for two nights including breakfast at Hotel Piccadilly in Bournemouth (Normally a still reasonable £100 at this time of year) which had good reviews from other guests. So with a day to go I made my last minute booking and threw some clothes in my bag ready for the next day.
Getting the car fuelled and washed, plus some messing around before I set off delayed my departure until way the wrong side of 2pm, but the car started first time and I was underway.
As I passed Stafford on the M6 the traffic slowed a little and four Asian lads in a Mercedes C-class took a shine to the car and cruised alongside where traffic allowed doing some sort of co-ordinated dance routine to whatever they were listening to and giving me waves and thumbs up whenever they caught my eye. Pulling in front of me when they couldn’t stay alongside and cheering if I slowly eased past them in the ebb and flow of all lanes doing 50-ish MPH.
Those lads were not the only positive reaction to the car. Two men approached me at Warwick services just to ask what it was and were suitably impressed. One thing from the thumbs up, waves and smiles that proved universal was the positive reaction the car drew. I’ve experienced this in a Morgan 4/4 some years back, but you’d be surprised how good that makes you feel.
The front seats are just so comfortable on a long run, fatigue wasn’t a factor at all, which bodes well for Sweden, the heater kept the cockpit warm enough to drive in a t-shirt and the CD stacker kept me smiling thanks to some classics from ELO, Dire Straights and Queen.
Two round headlamps close enough together to get my attention appeared in the rear view mirror as I drove the last stretch of M40 before switching briefly to the M25, and what looked in the dark to be a Dax Rush, or something very similar eased past me at what must have been close to 80 mph with hood down and a well wrapped driver wearing goggles and gritted teeth at the helm.
Hats off to him I thought, estimating the relatively mild and dry night at close to 10 degrees from my last foray out in the open at Warwick. I decided that hood up I might well have driven that car tonight when a track I love interrupted my train of thought, and I adjusted the near perfect temperature as the Quantum purred behind the slowly disappearing lightweight ahead.
Maybe I’m going soft? Damn right, but I would still have enjoyed that car, or better still a Sylva Striker or Leader, but for a run like this, or Sweden for that matter, I’d leave the more extreme car for B-road blast or two and roll out the Quantum for these long tours.
By the time I eased onto the M25 and then the M3 the buzzbomb and its brave pilot had long gone and I was enjoying Bohemian Rhapsody. The rest of Queens classics filled the car and a grin crossed my face as more people strained to look at the car, thumbs up in approval.
I arrived feeling fresh at the hotel and booked in, planning to do a bit of exploring in the morning.
Drizzle greeted me next day, but it was still mild and one glimpse at the Quantum sitting in the hotel car park put another broad grin across my face.
I thought I’d walk down to the pier where I was told the local tourist information office resides and get some ideas where to head to get some nice pics of the car. It was during this short walk that I appreciated how well located the Hotel is, but I arrived a little while before they opened their door.
No matter I noticed the Pavilion Theatre nearby, and thought I’d see if they had a play on that night.
Again I was a tad early, but the automatic door slid open and it was ten to ten, so I thought they might have opened a little early. I barely got through the door when a young blonde girl carrying leaflets intercepted me, “We’re not open until ten!”
Ok, so maybe she was having a bad morning, but I followed another punter in at two minutes to. This time no comment but a less than pleased look and a tut. There was no play that night in the end, but I wasn’t really in the mood any more.
Never mind, the tourist information was most helpful, although I decided to pass on the Ferry trip to Swanage on account of the Quantum having a delicate ground clearance. A ferry to Europe it’d be a different matter, but I’d drive around Poole bay instead.
First though I took a little detour to nearby Boscombe where I could drive the car by the beach and take a couple of pics of the car.
That done I made my way out of town and on the A35 and A351 toward Swanage via Corfe Castle, which is as picture book a village as you could hope to come across.
Swanage sea front made for another good photo opportunity and all day parking is £1! A few photos taken I popped into the Sea Breeze takeaway for the obligatory portion of seaside chips.
I wanted to look for one of the Widdle villages, but the light for photo’s was starting to fade and then my first ever warning light came up on the dash. The car was a little rough idling but otherwise everything seemed to be working fine, so I decided to make my way back to the hotel.
My last night was as comfortable as the first with a self service British breakfast setting me up beautifully for the day. The car swallowed my baggage with ease, and I headed off on my way home, stopping briefly at a an independent luxury car dealer to find out what they thought of the car and on looks and spec’s alone, what the car would be worth in their opinion. Gratifyingly they used the donor Mk2 Fiesta XR2 as a guide coupled with the low volume rust proof body to arrive at a figure between £4 and 5,000.
They were genuinely amazed when I told them the current values, so it goes to show now is the time to invest in one of these modern classics before the market wakes up and their values harden.
The warning light on the dash remained on but the car was running sweetly, and it turned out to be nothing more than a low brake fluid warning. A small top up is all that’s needed, but the brakes continued to work as effectively as ever on the rest of the journey.
I wish I could regale you with tails of an epic journey, but it was mostly motorway and completely uneventful. I’ll need to go further to make it more exciting, but the car was as good a companion as I could wish for.
So a great run, and plans are underway for a further run dipping my toe into Europe prior to Sweden. For now though it’s back to less eventful trips in the car to de-stress.