Always Spend More On Your Power Converters

‘When it rains it pours’ – that’s how the saying goes and it’s never been more prudent in the case of my humble garage.

I’ve been running my 3-man mechanics team out of a workshop in Essex for the past two decades.

We have a good laugh, us and the boys, but always strive to keep our work ticking along at a good rate. The common stereotype of the ‘lazy’ mechanic is one that I am constantly striving to challenge; hiring good people to work under you is always the first step in the process.

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However, you can have the most motivated mechanics in your team, but if your equipment starts failing on you – the work rate is always going to suffer.

I’ve not been able to get any word done on any vehicles this week, thanks to a power surge that hit our local grid. At some point during last night, an extra few hundred thousand volts of energy slammed into our little workshop, causing all our gear to blow their fuses.

I know what you’re thinking: ‘Surely an experienced mechanic of twenty years would have come across this problem before and have back up fuses in storage?’

Well, to answer your question, no. No, this hasn’t happened before and no, I didn’t have any spare fuses in storage.

The fuses have been ordered on one-day delivery, so we should be up and running in the next couple of days. In the meantime, my boys have been set to cleaning duties and I’ve been researching fool-proof plans to stop this happening in the future.

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Electrical surges, the internet tells me, can be caused by a number of things.

Lightning strikes are the chief culprits, however they can also be caused by power returning from a cut as well as pesky electrical contractors cutting lines. There’s no way of knowing when any of these things are going to happen, so the best step forward for us is to buy some serious protection.

Although I’m inclined to push the blame on local electricians, the best way forward, I think, is simply to buy some industrial grade surge protectors for the entirety of the workshop. With some extra time on my hands, I conducted a rigorous walk through of the entire workshop.

I’m a frugal sort of guy, that’s how I’ve managed to maximise my profits over the year, but it also shows in the support equipment that I’ve purchased over the years. To best protect my investments, I’ve decided that I need to ditch the scrimping attitude and invest in some high-end industrial goods.

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There are a few options that I’m considering, however after so many years dealing with British solutions, I’m now moving away from UK consumer suppliers and investing in a US based company for my tech needs.

We use a variety of American made pieces of equipment in our shop, these require specific forms of power converters to run in the UK. After some research on the forums, I’ve settled on using Wall Industries as our main supplier of AC/DC and DC/DC power converters. They’ve got a significant reputation for providing good quality tech, so they’ll hopefully be able to give us everything need to protect our gear from any further issues.

A word of advice to anyone reading this – always invest in good technology – you’ll thank me later.

 

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Mini Meet at the Legendary Ace Cafe

The Ace Cafe was first opened as a transport cafe in Stonebridge, London in 1938.

Providing refreshment for drivers on the, recently opened, Northern Circular road, the cafe was rebuilt in 1949 , after being destroyed in the midst of World War II.

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Opening for 24 hours a day, the cafe was a staple for long distance drivers looking to feed up before a big drive. However, opening at all hours of the day tends to attract an alternative kind of clientele – one that you might not want in your establishment.

Word got around about a new place, open 24 hours, just outside of the city. Biker gangs, who were just starting to pick up popularity in the 50s, started frequenting the venue.

Although they were initially deemed as troublesome, the amount of custom that they provided more than made up for any hassle they caused.

Soon the ace cafe had become a hub for mod and rocker culture with hundreds of moped and bike riding men in their twenties showing up every night to knock back drinks and listen to rock and roll music. The place successfully fulfilled the roadside bar fantasy that had been perpetuated through American Cinema and young Brits were eager to get a slice of the action.

In 1969, the cafe was unceremoniously closed, making room for a new service station further down the M1, however; that wasn’t to be the end of the Ace Cafe.

ace-cafe-reunion25 years later, Mark Wilsmore, a loyal patron of the Cafe back in the 60s, organised a reunion. Bringing together past regulars, as well as scores of other individuals who had been influenced by the venue’s legendary status; 12,000 visitors attended the event. Life had been brought back to the venue and this led to the doors officially reopening in 1997.

Today, the Ace Cafe isn’t open 24 hours, but it does still pay homage to the impact that the place had on Motoring Culture; they hold regular meetings, car festivals and live music events.

I recently travelled out to the cafe to check out their monthly Mini Meet.

I’ve never quite understood the infatuation that people have with Minis. Putting aside their starring turns in the classic crime caper, The Italian Job, I’ve always felt that their stature in the Automotive world has been unnecessarily high. I’ve always preferred the slightly larger, but significantly beefier, Morris 1100 as a classic compact car.

There’s nothing like a car fair to change your mind though. By the time I left the Classic Mini Meet, which is held on the first Thursday of every month at the Ace Cafe, I was positively itching to buy one of my own – much to the chagrin of my husband!

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As with all car meets, half the enjoyment you get out of the events is in the meeting of the people, rather than the cars themselves. Car enthusiasts have got a funny way of transferring their excitement and passion onto others.

I’d only planned on staying for a half hour or so, but pretty soon I was popping bonnets and asking about tuning and exhausts, thankfully the friendly owners were only too eager to answer.

The Ace Cafe runs several regular car meets, so if Minis aren’t your thing there should be another event that takes your fancy. As a slice of UK automotive history, it’s a place that every gearhead should visit at least once.

Taking the Carrera to Tech-9

I first met my husband Jeff at a roadside service station, on the M6.

My awfully abused 82′ Ford Fiesta had all but given up the ghost on the way down from a Baptist’s conference in Birmingham.

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I had a few hundred miles left to go down to Bristol, and I was in a bit of a position.

That’s when Jeff pulled up next to me, driving his Porsche 911 Carrera RS. Stunning, smooth and full of life; my future husband also looked pretty good too. At this point, my automotive skills were yet to come into existence, so I was more than thankful to Jeff for helping my Fiesta back on the road. We exchanged numbers that night and the rest, as they say, is history.

That was 30 years ago. Now, in 2016, all of us are getting a little long in the tooth, the Carrera included. Although it’s perhaps a little too late for us get any modifications made, it’s never too late for the machine that brought us together to get a little makeover. However, a vehicle with such rich heritage must always be treated with care and respect before any serious work can be undertaken.

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Although the first Porsche 911 came out of the factory lines in Germany in 1963, it took over a decade for the now iconic model to ascend to the level of ‘classic’.

Through ten years of turbulent development, the car rose to prominence in the competition circuit thanks to the creation of the 911 Carrera RSR.

Drivers racing the naturally aspirated model were most successful during the 70s, winning major competitions like the Targa Florio and 24 Hours of Daytona.

As such it has become a highly sought after model and one that we have no intention of selling anytime soon (just in case there are any eager Porsche fans reading!). Although we’ve both got some experience in stripping and building sports cars, we would never dream of attempting any of our own modifications on the Carrera. For that we have had to consult some real professionals.

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In Liverpool, a group of Porsche-obsessed mechanics work under the brand of Tech-9 (http://www.tech-9.co.uk/). They’ve been preparing race cars, providing services and renovating old models since 1993; so they happen to be rather good at their jobs.

Jeff and I drove the old girl up North last weekend, giving us an opportunity to take a look at the rest of the wonderful models that the showroom had to offer.

They take on any project on at Tech-9, as long as it’s Porsche branded.

The one model that caught my eye was a gorgeous Porsche 930 Turbo LHD, in a Light Yellow B6B6 that just screamed 80s Daytona Beach. Someday, but not today! After the mechanics gave our model a  cursory look, we were given a reasonable price and left the professionals to do what they do best.

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Liverpool is blessed with two stunning Cathedrals.

Although neither Jeff or I adhere to the major denominations that own these buildings, they both made for a spiritual respite from the road and gave us some time to reflect on our Lord.

After a day’s work (and one night spent in a hotel) the Carrera was ready to pick up and we were ready to drive our newly renovated baby home. Smoother than ever, with gears that shifted silkily, the guys at Tech-9 had done a brilliant job.

Driving back down to Bristol, we both experienced some serious deja vu of the night that we first met – this time though, there was no chance of a breakdown.

Christmas with CIM

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us…

This is a special time of year for all the writers at CIM. As practicing Christians, of differing denominations, we all have our own way of revelling in the festive season.

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Our writers have taken some time to talk about their own habits over the Christmas period: how they’ll be celebrating, where there’ll be driving and who they’ll be with…

Jane

christmas-carols-37539_1280“Christmas is a very busy time of year for my husband and I. We’re not blessed with children, however our Church family is a truly extended one. Our congregation here in St. Ives is a big one and we have an active festive charity schedule – promoting the Christmas as a season of good will.

The day itself, will be a small affair. By the time we get round to Christmas itself, we’re usually content to sit back with a modest dinner and some soothing radio. The cars stay in the garage, getting some much deserved rest.”

Matt

“The Scout Movement, after long being involved with the Christian movement, has strong ties with the Christmas season. Although us Scouts have grown increasingly secular over the years, we still use the month of December to remind our boys of the importance of engaging in charitable activities.

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As far as driving goes, there’s always time for go-karting! I tend to get more time to myself during December, thanks to the Christmas break, so that means more time on the circuits!”

Rachel

porsche-driv“Jeff and I spend a lot of time working on the cars, during December. With the racing season looming in January, we always find ourselves with plenty of work to get done on the cars. Our local ministry holds some fantastic Christmas services, which we attend every year.

Every Christmas day, we take the Porsche out for a long drive round the countryside. It might seem like an old-fashioned tradition, but there’s nothing like tearing up the tarmac on the empty Christmas roads!”

Colm

“With the good Reverend Rob off in Spain this Christmas, my celebrations are going to be slightly different than usual. We’ve got a new holy man calling the orders of service, in our local church, so I’ll offer my help to him in any way I can.

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Christmas is a family affair for me. I forget about racing cars for a few days and spend some good quality time with my family. On Boxing Day we have the entire clan round ours and I’m forced into the kitchen, whilst the wife entertains!”

How do you like to celebrate Christmas? Are you going to be hitting the road or are you going to be in the kitchen, like Colm?

Road Tripping to Spain – Moving House

Driving Abroad Can Be Stressful, Ever Tried Moving At The Same Time?

Although Brexit may have scared many ex-pats into considering moving back to Britain, that didn’t deter my racing partner, the good Reverend Jameson, from purchasing a home out in Spain.

He’s long been obsessed with Spanish culture, regarding their faith in Christianity, despite falling on hard times,  as a sign of strong national character.

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Having retired from formally preaching last year, the Rev finally had the opportunity to take his savings and purchase a small terraced house in Madrid. Although I was sad to be losing my racing partner of 10 years, I could tell he was excited to be starting a new chapter of his life – taking our beloved Morris Minor to sunnier climes. 

Of course it’s quite a logistical challenge, up sticks and leaving a life built in the UK and moving to a foreign land. So when my old friend asked me to assist him in the big move and embark on a 1,000 mile road trip, there was only answer I could really give him.

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Now the question most normal people asked us, when we were neck deep in the planning of our grand tour was: why are you doing this yourselves?

It was a good question.

Indeed, there are many companies advertising online, that specialise in removals to and from Spain. Taking all the worries away, they can arrange packing, visas and transport. All you’d need to do is jump on a plane and meet them there – relaxing, but hardly much of a challenge!

As soon as the Rev mentioned a road trip, I knew that he could tell I was down for it. In the last ten years we’d both taken our beefed up Morris Minor screaming round the hair-pin bends and square-rights of England’s country roads. Us car owners are a sentimental bunch and Rob knew that I wouldn’t be able to resist one last ride, especially if it mean catching a bit of Mediterranean sun!

I could tell you about the numerous times our convoy was pulled over by French traffic cops, or how we very nearly toppled off a cliff top in Landes de Gascogne Regional Natural Park, but those are stories for another time.

What I’ll you offer you here now, are a few solid tips that will help you plan your own European road trip, so you can perhaps avoid a few of the pitfalls that we very nearly fell into…

Start Planning Early…

As the old Scout’s motto goes ‘Always Be Prepared’.

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Thankfully, you can get fully up to scratch with the issues of insurance and visas using the internet. The UK government’s Travel advice website has done a great job of keeping their information up to date, so make sure you check that out before you start planning.

Bring A Map…

Even  a couple of old geezers like us have got spoiled by technology!

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You’d be surprised when GPS signal can just drop out, when you’re travelling through the hills of France or Italy. You may well need to take a small encyclopaedia of road maps with you, but they’ll be worth it when the Sat-Nav falls ominously silent!

Don’t Forget The Essentials…

There are a few things that you absolutely must take with you, when driving in mainland Europe.

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If you’re stopped by traffic police and caught without these things, they will fine you and put a real damper on your road trip. Make sure you bring:

  • GB Sticker
  • Headlamp Converters
  • Warning Triangle
  • Hi-Vis Jacket
  • First Aid Kit
  • NF Approved Breathalyser (France only)

I can’t promise that your European Road Trip will go completely smoothly, but you’ll at least have a better head start than we did.

As the good book says: ‘The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.’ [Proverbs 16:9]

Motoring News Weekly 06/12/16

VW looking for WRC funding, Rosberg walks and Killer Drivers could face life.

It’s always so hard to cherry pick the biggest of the news stories, when motoring is concerned.

In a week when the UK Government ushered in the ‘no-smoking in cars’ bill and the new 2017 Vauxhall Insignia was spotted out in public, it was Motorsports themselves that were always going to take the limelight.

Nico Rosberg Retires from Formula One

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Just a few days after winning the 2015 Formula One World Championship, Nico Rosberg of Team Mercedes has retired from the sport. At the age of 31, Rosberg might well have a good few more  years left in him, but he’s decided to quit whilst he’s ahead.

Posting a statement on his Facebook page, Rosberg admitted that becoming Formula One World Champion was his life long dream. Having reached the ‘peak’ of his ‘mountain’, he now feels that leaving the sport is for the best. No doubt Nico’s wife and daughter will be happy to have him back with the family on a more permanent basis, meanwhile Mercedes will be looking for a new driver to join theirs.

VW seek Financial Backing for new WRC Team

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Frank Welsch, Volkswagen’s Head of Development, has confirmed that he has entered negotiation with several parties, regarding the entry of VW’s new-for-2017 Polo into next year’s WRC.

Despite withdrawing VW’s factory team from working on the vehicle, Welsch has stated that he is open to sub-contracting new team members. Volkswagen famously pulled out of last month’s championship after winning a fourth-straight double – this was due to the fact that the company was also in the process of making 30,000 of it’s workers redundant in the fallout of last year’s Dieselgate scandal. Rumours have been swirling as to who will might take the driver’s seat, but no solid news has emerged yet.

Dangerous Drivers who cause Deaths, in the UK, could face life sentence

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Although the bill has yet to be put through by the UK government, the idea has been put forward to raise the sentence for dangerous drivers up to life in prison. Drivers caught using mobile phones, speeding or racing, could get sentences in line with those given to manslaughter.

Justice minister Sam Gyimah has spoken out against ‘killer drivers’ insisting that ‘if you drive dangerously and kill on our roads, you could face a life sentence.’

In addition to this, those still choosing to endanger lives by using their phones whilst driving, will now be facing double the trouble – as the on the spot fine rises from £100 to £200 and you’ll now find 6 points on your license, rather than three.

Are you shocked by Rosberg’s exit from F1, or do you think it’s his time? Have VW got a chance of getting a car out for January? Give us your views and opinions through the thoughts page!