ClassicLine’s resident roadtripper, Ben Coombes, is back with a brand-new series of motoring travel blogs. Combined with his love for classic cars, Ben will be bringing us tales of epic road trips, driving adventures and the latest from the Pub2Pub HQ.
A year on hold. Ben Coombs recounts Pub2Pub’s most challenging year yet…
In the past fifteen years of adventurous road tripping, I’ve overcome many an obstacle. From bureaucratic borders to bad roads, bandits to biblical storms, whatever issues have blocked my path, I’ve generally been able to push through and make the trips I’d dreamt about happen. My drive across Africa in a Porsche 944 came to pass despite an expedition budget of around £2.50; Pub2Pub failed to be stopped even by a smothering bout of pre-trip depression, or a week spent trapped in No-Man’s-Land at the Costa Rican border.
Through the years and the successes, I’ve ended up taking a twisted pride in my ability to keep on pushing through; to beat any barrier in the pursuit of the road trip. I may have been slowed on occasion, but I’d never been stopped dead. I’d always found a way through.
Then 2020 happened…
Suddenly, my adventures faced an obstacle which couldn’t be overcome through willpower or lateral thinking. Previously boundless horizons were drawn tight around us all, as the freedom of the open road was replaced with the four walls of lockdown.
In 2020, I was forced to cancel all my planned road tripping for the year and even now, as we approach the halfway point of 2021, the outlook for the rest of the year remains unclear. It’s been a tough journey for us all and one which, through stark relief, has demonstrated just how much the freedom of the open roads, car shows and other events means to us petrolheads. But at least now, finally, the green shoots of a return to normal seem to have arrived with the summer sun, and a gradual drift back to freedom seems possible.
So, what does an automotive adventurer and travel writer do when even leaving the house is frowned upon?
Get busy tying up loose ends and working towards the future, that’s what.
The first of the loose ends which needed tying up became my focus during the UK’s first lockdown – the book describing my UK to Singapore drive, which took place way back in 2013. The first draft of The Road from the East was completed shortly before the pubs re-opened for the summer last year, and various bouts of editing during the subsequent lockdowns took the first draft to the point where it was ready for release this spring, an occasion which means that not only is the book complete, but so too is my trilogy of road tripping books, with this latest release sitting between Survival of the Quickest and Pub2Pub to tell the full story of over a decade of road tripping. And this means that for the first time in many years, I don’t have a book sat waiting to be written, which is a nice, relaxing place to be.
With the completion of the book, other projects have risen up to fill my time. Firstly, I’ve built a new website, with the objective of giving me somewhere I can bring the whole Pub2Pub smorgasbord together in one place – trips, articles, books, merchandise, and the rest of it. You can find this one-stop-shop for all things Pub2Pub at www.planetpub2pub.com.
But enough of the deskbound tasks; surely you must have done some car-related things in the past year, I hear you ask? It can’t be all writing and web design? And you’d be correct.
Firstly, the TVR has had its interior refresh completed, along with some further mechanical work, meaning it’s looking ready for the open road, once international borders open once again. The Volvo has required rather less in the way of attention, with a service seeing it continue in its role as a characterful daily. But the biggest project is the one which has received the most attention – Daisy the Mini.
Although Daisy hasn’t featured in any of my more recent road trips, it’s the car I’ve owned the longest, with the V5 having been in my possession for fourteen years and counting. However, there’s a reason why it has maintained a low profile while other cars such as the TVR steal the limelight – it’s been off the road awaiting restoration for at least a decade. And, with travel off the menu and books all up-to-date, there’s been no time like the present when it comes to getting Daisy back on the road.
But this is not simply the work of a moment.
As anyone who has poked a car built by British Leyland with a screwdriver can vouch for, one does not simply restore a classic Mini.
Over the course of the past eight months or so, I’ve completed the strip-down of the 1974 Mini Mk3, and set about working through the rust. And boy, is there a lot of rust. As is normal for such a project, Daisy didn’t look too bad when first taken off the road, but the deeper I’ve delved, the more crustiness I’ve found, and its currently looking like I’ll have replaced around 20% of the structure by the time I finish the bodywork. But, such effort is a small price to pay to know you’ll finally own that rarest of artefacts – a rust-free Mini.
In the absence of distractions such as road trips, Daisy’s restoration is currently progressing at a reasonable pace, and I anticipate having the body finished and painted by the end of the summer. Then, it’ll be a case of going over the mechanicals and getting it all back together during the winter.
So, if everything goes to plan, this winter will see me with a newly restored Mini, a lack of restrictions on road trips, and an eagerness to get back on the road. As appealing prospects go, that’s not a bad one – light at the end of the tunnel, and all that.
I’ll be keeping this blog up to date with news of Daisy’s progress, along with other developments in my classic car-centric existence as our freedom gradually returns, so watch this space for further battles with rust, interspersed with the freedom of the open road. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.
Ben would like to thank Classicline Insurance for their continued support during these difficult times.