Last week, we asked Roadkill Nation about their great British-car stories in advance of Freiburger and Dulcich heading to England this weekend. We had gotten so many great ones about Volkswagen ownership that we figured you would not disappoint. And you didn’t. From nearly missing a wedding to many fire-related stories to Land Rover’s myriad electrical quirks, RK Nation delivered some fantastic reading material. Here is a smattering of it—including some non-British marques but car from in the United Kingdom—but you can read and see more on our Facebook post here.
Brave Wedding Car Choices
“Blew the head gasket less than a 1/4 mile from where my wedding was going to happen. That’s me under the hood in my tux trying to get her started again with less than a hour before the ceremony was going to start.” – Patrick Stanton
Now It Sloshes the Other Way
“Having to reverse up hills on the shoulder in an MG Midget because it would run out of gas and stall going up hill when below 1/2 tank.” – Tim Skinner
“I bought a ‘53 Chevy about 4 years ago and about 2 years ago, I decided to start rebuilding it. I had already put a Chevy S-10 rear end in it and was looking to replace the front suspension so I could get power steering and disc brakes. Naturally, I started looking at the aftermarket Mustang II front ends but cringed at the price. I read on the internet where people were using the Jaguar IFS, particularly the XJ6 between 1973-1986. I also found out that the bolt pattern for the wheels was a Chevy bolt pattern as those cars used some Chevy parts.
So I bought an 86 XJ6 for $500, followed a couple guides on the internet and after few modifications, got it bolted up to my frame. Looks like it belongs there. The best part is after selling some parts and then finally the whole car, I came out $100 ahead. I still have a ways to go yet as the body is in primer and I need to find a 5.3L engine. Hopefully I’ll have her done this spring so I can find out how much better she handles with that Jag suspension.” – Brian Ferretti (above)
KPH, MPH…What’s the Difference?
“In about 1983, I bought my wonderful wife a 1970 Triumph 2500 sedan. Nice and clean, plenty of room in the back seat for 2 child seats and a baby safety capsule in the middle as we had 3 children under 4. It was a ‘PI’ model, which never made it to the USA because of exhaust emission issues, but it was essentially the engine from the legendary Triumph TR6 sports car wrapped up in a neat 4 door sedan body.
“A week or so after I bought it for her, she went on her first road trip to visit her mother, about 50 miles away along a major motorway, with 3 babies all lined up across the back seat. I rang her mum about 40 minutes later to let her know Deb was coming. And Deb answered the phone! It was an impossibly short time for her to make the trip, unless she was flying, and it turns out she was…
“It was a 1970 model car; Australia went from miles to kilometres per hour in the ‘70s, but this car still had a miles-per-hour speedo in it. I’d forgotten to tell her, and she’d driven the length of the motorway, passing everything in sight, at 110 mph!” – Glen Crawford
Miata Pickup: A New Variation of the Internet’s Answer to Everything
“This is my rear-wheel-drive (Volkswagen) Caddy. Look like a pickup but is actually a Mazda MX-5. Longest journey it’s done is 10 miles before it’s had some issue or the diff has blown up, but I’m going to drive it 140 miles to you guys on Sunday so it’s going to be my very own Roadkill adventure.” – Darren Sawyer (above)
The Trusty Carb Hammer
“I once owned a Ford Capri that stalled if you took your foot off the accelerator pedal for even a moment. I therefore used to drive it with foot permanently on the gas, brake using the handbrake, and at the same time switch on the headlights to mimic the brake lights coming on so nobody crashed into the back of me. Every so often it would cut out entirely, and I would have to open the bonnet and hit the butterflies on the twin choke Weber with a mallet to free them off before it would run again. Happy times!” – James Wood
A Luxurious Tour Bus
“Well, there was that time (actually two times) I drove all over the Continent in a Ford Transit conversion carrying nine band members/crew/all their gear for a month. Only one significant breakdown: Piston seized going through the Alps and scored the cylinder. Austrian mechanic honed and re-ringed that cylinder and we finished the tour.
“We (mostly me) drove that thing from London to Budapest, with stops in Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and many points in between. Put a new motor in and did it again the next year.” – Jack Dedert (above)
The Rare Sieve-Roof Option
“Not mine but my dad’s: His first car was a Mk. 1 Austin Healey in the early ’60s. He was questioned by a police officer because he was parked in a cemetery putting the top down in a pouring rainstorm. He had to explain that if you put the top down and kept it over 40, you would stay drier than if the top was up.” – Matthew H. Terry
“Went to a job interview with my trusty Mini (back then my daily driver). I had just put in a hot-rodded 998cc engine, basically thrown together from parts out the “trash but maybe usable” bin. I took it on the highway, all was going well. Gave it a full throttle run and it went bang. Loud rattling and running on three. Coasted to the next exit.
“All I had on me was a leatherman tool. I managed to remove the rocker cover and found a loose rocker arm on the exhaust side. It had a good 3/8″ of play. I adjusted it with the leatherman and a piece of random post card I found in the car. I was half-an-hour late, but I still got the job. Which I still have today.” – Johan Wolfram (above)
Did You Try Taking the Hood off?
“’79 mk4 cortina auto, taking the boys on a road trip, about 200 kilometers (125miles) from home, auto overheated lost all drive if we stopped. Waited ‘til it cooled and drove home without stopping. Had to pull U-turns at every red light, very Roadkill. Installed a manual box and it lives to this day.” – Jeremy Sommer
English Driver’s Education
“Mid 1980’s as a learner driver, driving home with my dad in a my new-to-me 10-year-old M.k 3 Ford Cortina (Taunus). On the 50-mile journey home on a busy North circular in North London, the gear stick came off in my hand. I coasted across 3 lane junction, put it back and gingerly drove it for the next 8 months.” – Brandon Booth
Shouldn’t the Smoke Have Kept Them Away?
“1976 MG Midget, I was driving to college that had a wasp nest built in it overnight. I dropped the top, drove downtown to get oil because it burned it like a James Bond smokescreen and all of a sudden, my lap is full of 3 dozen or so wasps. I immediately pull over and walked to the hardware store to buy wasp spray. Many wasps died that day and I always carry a can with my tool kit.” -Scott Dewey
British Track Beauty
“This is my 1982 Mercedes w123 280e track car. I paid £150 for it and had to drag it out of a hedge, where it had sat for several years. Since then, I have stripped the interior, converted it to EFI using BMW M3 throttle bodies and coilpack ignition. It gets thrashed on track days as often as I am able. It’s not pretty, it’ll NEVER be finished, but it always makes me smile, even when it breaks, and it’s definitely in the spirit of Roadkill.” – Frank Hall (above)
£20 Well Spent
“I endured one of British Leyland’s finest for a few months. I paid £20 for an Austin Princess with a 2.2L transverse 6 engine and 4-speed manual transmission. It was rotten everywhere and only the carpet stopped your feet falling through the floor. The Hydragas suspension had collapsed at the front end and it was driven around on the bump stops, butchering the driveshafts so it clunked badly when you turned the wheel when moving.
“It only started if you hit the starter with a hammer. The SU carbs were so worn it caused the emissions test machine at my local garage to show an ‘error’ signal and shut itself down. They eventually sprayed fuel over the hot engine and the car almost torched itself on a funeral pyre of it’s own making. Scrapping it was a mercy killing.” – Alan Storey
Propshaft Flies Away
“So many stories as I’ve owned so many dodgy cars – the green Mk. 1 Escort had a few moments. Gear stick fell out at a busy set of traffic lights and we had to rob bolts out of the rollcage to get it going. Then the bodged propshaft snapped and came through the floor at about 70mph, hit the bucket seat and not my leg luckily! This pic was taken in about year 2001. The car is still going but sadly no longer mine.
“The M535i behind was my daily, engine mounts broke once and we used some steel zip-ties (pre-Roadkill!) to prevent the fan shredding the radiator until I got it home and replaced the mounts.” – Phil Moran (above)
“Climbing through the Rocky Mountain National Recreation Area in a 1970 MGB with my future wife, late at night. Start smelling more gas than usual. Stop over a mile above Estes Park, and in the quiet moonlight I hear, “Tsssss, tsssss, tsssss.” Gasoline is dripping from the dual SUs onto the exhaust. Not good. I take one carb apart and redo the packing around a little fuel fitting, while my girlfriend imagines us starving to death in the mountains (never mind that this road will be bumper to bumper RVs when daylight comes.)
“At one point I drop an important part, and we have to roll the car back in hopes of finding it. That was the moment that had me doubting our chance of success. But after about 40 minutes, I buttoned it up and she came back to life and kept the gas inside the carbs. We were in Utah the next day.” – Scott Williams
That Could Have Ended Better…or Worse
“This was my 1966 Triumph Herald 12/50. I don’t think these were ever sold in the US, but the Spitfire and GT6 use the same chassis. It was slightly improved with a 1296cc twin-carb engine. (65 bhp instead of 50, quite an improvement). Unfortunately, it met a rather sticky end. I’d like to blame the ridiculous transverse leaf spring swing axle rear suspension, but in reality, it was a gravel road, excessive speed and generally driving like a prick that killed it. These have surprisingly strong roofs and pillars.” – Matt Walker (George Coneely photo, above)
Always Carry 35 Gallons of Water
“I had a 1984 Mini Mayfair and i drove it for 130 miles from Aberdeen to Edinburgh with a hole pissing water out the radiator. I had a cool box on the passenger seat full of water with the motor from the windscreen washers in it pumping water into the radiator after jamming the cap down. I also removed the grille by hitting it repeatedly with the car jack and bending it to buggery. The joys of being a student. Got the radiator fixed when i was home but the engine was absolutely buggered.” – Steven Ezio Brogan
Pretty Sure That’s In the Factory Service Manual
“1977 MGB with Weber sidedraft, pouring rain, dark, left lane, heavy traffic, throttle cable breaks. The semi next to me must have realized something was wrong and slowed down so I could get on the right shoulder. I was pulled down the freeway by a guy in an old Bronco to a gas station. I pulled the choke cable out of its housing, threaded it through the gas pedal and onto the carb. It was about a mile too long, so I tied the extra around the carb and hit the road. I drove it like that for about two weeks before I got a new cable.” – Zack Allen
Made It Home to Break
“I bought a Classic Mini sight unseen while I was in the Netherlands. I knew it was a bit rusty, but I figured I would be able to patch it on the side of the road if anything mechanically went wrong on my four-hour drive home with it. It has the 1275 engine, but if you know anything about old Minis, they are not highway cruisers. I actually made it home with no problems which was amazing!
“The next day I took it to work and on my way there (three-mile drive), the rear frame collapsed and the swingarms went completely cock-eyed, sending me into a crop field. Luckily, the car was so light that I drive it home with the wheels scrubbing the wheel wells but not locking up. That was when my restoration started…
“Now, she runs and drives perfectly with nearly every panel replaced and upgraded suspension and engine components. I shipped her to Texas now and love to drive the ol’ Mini here among the huge trucks!” – Paul Wright (above)
But They Were 400 Great Miles, Right?
“No pictures, but Dad had a Jag XJ-12 in the ‘80s that he bought brand new. The car would SCREAM, but it always had problems. Dad only drove it 400 miles in 9 months, even though it was supposed to be a daily driver. He ended up trading it off after its sixth trip to Jag for over a month. Three weeks later, it burst into flames (Lucas electrics) while parked on a lot waiting for the next sucker to buy it. Took out a new Mercedes and BMW with it when hell finally reclaimed it.” – CJ Dunny
“My first car was a 1978 Ford Fiesta 950cc, no boot floor, manual brakes, no sills. First morning driving to work, #4 (cylinder) big end let go, punching a fist-sized hole in the crankcase and leaving 2 rod bolt holes through the sump. Managed to nurse it 7 miles to work where it promptly seized!” – Gordon Bradford
“Meet Bob, he’s a McCoy kit car, mostly based on a classic Mini. After sitting untouched in our garage as a bare shell for a few years, my now wife challenged me to build him in 8 weeks. Lots of late nights and a week off work to pull all-nighters. It was some challenge but I loved every minute of it. Missed the deadline with a truly Roadkill style oversight of a rare part needed for MOT, but it was complete and touring Scotland 10 weeks from the day I stopped using it as a shelf! He’s a marmite car but it’s just as well I love marmite. These days he is sitting awaiting a little more love but a growing fleet means he has to be patient for now.” – Alex Kee (above)
Also In the Factory Manual
“Driving a beat-up 1966 Sunbeam Alpine when a bolt fell off the alternator so I removed the fog lights and used the bolts to put the alternator back on.” – Mark Salmon
‘It Does That Sometimes’
“My old Discovery 2 used to catch fire at random near the handbrake. Funny thing was there was few wires that ran threw there. I never found the problem but loved that thing to death.” – Jesus Serrano
Spare Tire Breaks Engine: Only in a British Car
“My first car was a 1969 Series IIA Land Rover SW 2 1/4 litre petrol with Weber carb, Salisbury axle, and works registration. She had a few Roadkill moments, such as when the choke cable snapped, but it was going to take a week before a new one arrived.
“All that week, in midwinter, I had to go out, open the bonnet, pull the choke out manually all the way, start her up, go back inside, start fixing my breakfast, go back out, adjust the choke a little, go back in, eat some breakfast, go back out, adjust the choke a little more, go back in, finish my breakfast, go back out, adjust the choke a bit more, close the bonnet, set off for work, pull into a layby, open the bonnet, push the choke all the way in, close the bonnet, get back in, and carry on to work.
“Then there was the intermittent fault where she kept cutting out. By that time, I was working a night shift at the same place as my sister, so we would sometimes car share. My landy kept intermittently cutting out and dying, I’d get stranded, wait for the AA to come and save me. They’d take it back to the local landy garage and he’d try to work out what the problem was, but couldn’t replicate the fault.
“He tried changing the distributor, HT leads, spark plugs, all sorts but nothing helped, it would never cut out when he had it. It was driving us both up the wall.
“Eventually, about 3 am on the way home from the night shift in the pouring rain, she cut out again. I called the AA again, my sister sat there and waited again. Then she accidentally hit upon the common denominator, when she said “Why does your car always break down when it’s raining?” BINGO!
“It turned out that because of the spare wheel mounted on the bonnet, when it rained, water would pool up in the spare wheel well, trickle down the threads of the bolts holding it to the bonnet, and drip down into the recesses of the spark plug sockets, shorting things out. No one had noticed, and the water would evaporate after a while anyway, leaving people none the wiser.
“So all it took to fix the problem was a £5 wheel cover to stop the water filling up in the spare wheel.” – Kirsty Farnfield (above)
Who Needs Brakes Anyway?
“I had a Morris Major Elite as my first car and fixed it up with the help of my Dad. It was sketchy in every way imaginable. The exhaust leaked, the timing was off, the gearbox was temperamental and it didn’t like going in reverse. To add to that, the brakes refused to bleed properly.
“Taking it on its first long trip involved going over a mountain – by the end there was more stopping power from the 90 cubic inches of engine than the brakes! I didn’t tell anyone else that, though…it was only later they found out. The car ended up trashed out at the farm and I went on to my destiny, buying a Chrysler Valiant which saw me through high school and university.” – Enoch Bailey (above)
Wait for It…
“A friend of mine had a ‘72 Triumph Spitfire that was always in need of repair. One day, a U-joint broke and it beat up the half-shaft pretty bad. There was a British car parts dealer near by so we were able to get the whole shaft and brake setup. Only problem was the U-joint coming out of the diff was bad. We ground out the banged up portion of it and just got it together. All this was being done in the parking lot of a grocery store, spilling Gurling brake fluid all over the place. Right on the corner of the main four-way stop in town. Everybody saw us working on it. I was his mechanic and he gave me the car in payment.
“I later threw a rod going down the freeway with pedal to the floor. I got home and had it running with the hood open when it stopped and a thud with chocolate milk pouring out all over my dad’s driveway. I was planning a V6 swap but my dad made me get rid of. I donated to the high school auto shop I had graduated from. I found out later it was given to a student for good grades in the class and that it burned up in his parents’ driveway. Not sure why, but that ended its money pit ways.” – John David Cortez
We Bet You Could Have Put More In There
“My first car was a 1969 Vauxhall Viva (imagine a late 60s impala that has shrunk in the wash). I once managed to fit ten of my friends in it at college. Don’t ask me how.” – Henry Stracey (above)
Helmet? Why Do You Ask?
“Probably about 1991 or so, I saw a 1967 MGB, red with wire wheels for sale on the side of the road. When I stopped to ask, the owner told me he was headed off to prison the next day so we settled on $500 because he needed the money. The thing was a blast to drive and looked decent from 20 feet but had an awful exhaust leak so I took it to the local MG specialist (who worked out of old dairy barn).
After looking underneath for the exhaust issue, he implied that this car had some serious frame problems. By implied, I mean he asked me if I wore a helmet when I drove it. I kept it about another year then sold it for $750.” – Jason Faught
When They’re Great, They’re Great
“Drove five hours to buy a ‘99 Land Rover Discovery 2 sight unseen. Was told all it needed was an alternator & a battery. Showed up with both, cranked it first & ran great, installed the alternator, and then my test drive was five hours the way back home.
“I did some small things to it and then Hurricane Harvey hit us in Beaumont, TX. I put it through water over the hood and it performed flawless. It’s now known as ‘Old Faithful.’ I checked all my fluids after all the deep water crossing & nothing had any water in it!” – Tad Sands (above)
Shortest Horror Story Ever
“Two words: Rover SD1.” – David Peacock
Stag Can’t Handle Horse Show
“Breaking down in a Triumph Stag on the way into the Royal International Horse Show and jamming things up for miles was quite British, I suppose.
“Somewhere toward the other end of the scale I had a POS Ford Orion which liked to spontaneously die at the best of moments, such as in the middle lane of a motorway during morning rush hour. It would usually start again within a few minutes if you talked nicely to it and offered it a cup of tea.” – Jules Richardson
We Can Get Behind This
“Daily-driven Triumph Spitfire with a Corolla AE86 drivetrain. So 1.6-liter DOHC 4AGE, currently has a T50 transmission, but I made an adapter to put a Lexus 6-speed in. Doing the swap greatly increased reliability, at least until I put MegaSquirt on it with ITBs. I need to fiddle with the cold start enrichment. Surprisingly, the Prince of Darkness has stayed away with all original chassis wiring.” – Ian Brothers (above)
‘It Does That Sometimes,’ Part II
“My 1989 Range Rover has its share of electrical quirks, but the best one is that sometimes when you turn the ignition key, the driver window goes down. Never quite know when, which is super fun when it’s raining. Fixing it is only like a $30 part to replace, but I think it’s part of the charm of the car.” – Sam Hansen
Just Like Riding a Motorcycle
“Broken throttle cable in a ’66 Austin Mini on an icy winter night. Ended up wrapping my left hand in safety wire for throttle so I could still shift with my right. Longest drive home ever and I wasn’t sure the purple would ever fade from my hand lol. – Matt Lewis
But See How Good It Looks?
“This is my 1972 Lotus Elan plus 2 which I flew to the Czech Republic (Prague) to purchase and then drive it back to the UK. It broke down 300 yards after buying it that took 3 hours to diagnose a blown condenser. Then broke down again on the motorway near a service station when the alternator bracket snapped. Meant I spent another night drinking.
“Got home the next night after the only Lotus garage for 200 miles welded the bracket together. On the M23 on the way home the lights were dimming almost to nothing so followed cars very closely using their lights! What an adventure and the more time that elapses the more I look back with fondness and pride!” – Gareth Hill (above)
Eh, Close Enough
“1969 Triumph GT-6 Hatchback. I pulled it from a junkyard. This was circa 2002. No one knew what it was. I told everyone it was an old Ferrari. Long story short, it was full of rust and parts were impossible to find. I sold it box by box on eBay.” – Carey Kraehmer
“So there I was, a 19-year old with two female companions in my 1969 Mk 2 GT Cortina trying to impress them in my refined English machine when suddenly the dash goes up in smoke from the dodgy British wiring in the GT gauges. At 60 kph, it’s bloody hard trying to stop a car when there are flames licking at you from the dash. Needless to say, I didn’t get either girl, but I did rebuild the dash with Autometer gauges!!!!! – Jason O’Halloran (above)
“I was stationed in England in the early 90’s. One of the 5—yes, 5—cars I owned during two years I was there was an Austin Maxi. The Maxi is the underrated big brother to the Mini. My buddies and I beat that thing to death. No level of embellishments can exaggerate the merciless thrashing we levied against that poor car.
“On its final day, I ramped the thing over a bridge which spanned an irrigation canal. When we landed, the bottom of the block (the motor has a deeeep skirt block with a thick cover rather than an oil pan) struck the ground, cracked and was pushed back about a 1/4 inch. All of the oil immediately fell out of it. I drove that magnificent damn thing about 3 miles back to base and made it into the driveway of my barracks before it finally seized. The next morning IT FIRED UP AND RAN!!!! So I drove it to the junkyard and scraped it.” – Jeffrey E Fuller
Mmmm…Stainless Steel Sandwich
“Bulkhead snapped where the throttle cable goes through, made a stainless-steel sandwich plate to fix it after finishing work. Fitted it in the rain. Tricky. Oh and that picture was taken after changing a jet in a car Park after the fuel hose decided to fall apart. Or rewiring the overdrive in a B&Q car park post work.” – Oli Harvey (above)
Woodn’t You Know?
“My second car was a Vauxhall Cavalier in the early ‘90s. The clutch pedal snapped off the bulkhead and I drove it for another six months by using zip ties and a lump of 4×2 timber to jam the pedal against the heater ducting. Occasionally, it would fall off in traffic and require me to crash the gears without clutch until I could pull over to fix it. This was driving in London so traffic could be a problem with no clutch.” – Chris Bailey
I Thought You Tightened Them
“About 15 years ago, I had a 1975 Morris Mini. I changed a wheel bearing, the swap went quite smooth until i was trying to get the ball joint back together. So in a stroke of genius, I put the wheel back on, nuts finger tight, placed a block under the ball joint, lowered the car off the jack finished up the job with four wheels on the ground, had a post-job beer.
“After a few hours, I drove home. Eight miles later, I turned left out of a junction got back up to the 40mph speed limit when ‘Crunch!’ The wheel I put back wasn’t tightened after I had finished and had come off. After I came to a stop, the wheel hit the back of the car. I walked back up the road about 300 yards and found all 4 wheel nuts. Called my mate who came and put the wheel back on as I lifted the front corner of the car. I lost first gear, warped the (upgraded) brake discs, and creased the A panel, yet still drove the car for a few months afterwards.” – Gary Green
‘Hand Me the Fuel-Pump Hammer’
“I was a 15-year-old kid with a paper route when I saw this ’60 Austin Cambridge A55 sitting behind a customer’s barn. Had no idea what it was but I loved the American-inspired chrome and fins. Asked him about it and he said the daughter had left it there years ago after graduating college.
“I bought it for a year’s free subscription to the newspaper I delivered, ran home, and got my Dad. We went back with a hot battery and some gas. Cleaned the points and it fired up. Drove it the 1/2 mile home and I had it through high school.
“Brakes would intermittently fade and then come back to life for no reason. And, typical British car, sometimes the fuel pump would stop. Coast to the side of the road, open the trunk, smack the pump with the hammer I kept there just for that purpose and off I’d go again.” – Ben Compton (above)
Friendly Reminder: Trailer Brakes Are Important
“English car: 1957 Land Rover series 1 (the first Land Rover), with the popular Australian engine swap modification of Holden (GM) “Red” 186 cubic-inch engine. After buying and loading up on the car trailer, we set off down the Toowoomba range (one of Australia’s steepest mountain ranges) without turning on the the trailer’s assisted brakes!! Halfway down,both feet on the brakes until we spent hundreds of meters to finally slow to a crawl down to first with handbrake on and a few swear words later, we thankfully stopped. Such a silly mistake after towing dozens of cars and thankfully nobody was hurt.” – Aidan Dalooney
But Look At That View!
“Lost count of how many times this thing broke down on way back from picking up the Mini on the west coast of New Zealand. Darn fuel pump points.” – Jeremy Brown (above)
‘It Does That Sometimes,’ Part III
“Owned a P38 Range rover, made the mistake of locking it in a Target parking lot once. When I unlocked it and opened the door, the alarm would go off with no chance of starting it. Fifteen minutes later I had people wondering if I was trying to steal it, finally I slammed the door and yelled I was going to set it on fire if it didn’t start working. Next time I opened the door, it was quiet and I started it up and drove off quickly. Never locked it again.” – Justin Porter
Thanks for reading and be sure to come meet us aEBC Brakes in Northampton on this Sunday, November 19. If you haven’t RSVP’d to kits@EBCbrakes.com, the on-site parking is full already. However, you can still make the trek to Northampton to come see us without parking at EBC Brakes. Get the details here from a short FAQ with Freiburger.