Apocalypse Dartmoor

1:00AM Sunday morning.  My mobile ringtone jolted me suddenly from a deep sleep.  I looked at the screen.  It was Kim, a friend of mine.

“Ben?  I’m stuck in a flood the other side of Bickleigh.  The MINI cut out halfway through and it won’t start.  I don’t know what to do…”

“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” I replied.

For the previous two days Devon had been pummelled by storms rolling in off the Atlantic.  The high moorland of Dartmoor had been completely saturated, which meant that instead of being absorbed into the ground, rainwater was rushing down to lower ground in torrents.  My village was directly in the path of these torrents.

The wind and rain had stopped as I drove through the night to where Kim was stranded, but the evidence of its passing was all around.  Shattered bits of tree littered the road, which at times disappeared beneath flows of mud and gravel, being swept across it by the rainwater.  A mile from my house I had to take my Alfa Romeo beneath a tree which hadn’t survived the storm, and was leaning across the road at a terminal angle.  And then I got to a dip in the road which contained two things – water, and a silver MINI.

Kim had hit the water at a rate on knots, and rather than creating a bow-wave, the rounded front of the car had allowed the water to flow directly into the car’s air intake, and her attempts to restart it had proved futile.  Using the higher tarmac of the pavement, I was able to drive my Alfa around the flood, and soon we had the MINI hooked up to a towrope, out of the flood, and safely parked in a lay-by.

After dropping Kim off in Plymouth I set off to drive back to my village.  The Police had arrived at the fallen tree – which it turned out was only being held up by some power lines – and closed off the road, so I was forced into a short detour which predictably, was flooded.  I stopped and walked the flood, checking its depth, and found it to be about a foot deep in the middle; ‘no problem’, I thought, before ploughing through it in first gear at about 6MPH, my standard approach to anything resembling a water crossing.  Fortunately, I got away with my impatience to get home, and was back in bed by 2AM.

The following morning, the fate of Kim’s MINI meant Laura wanted an escort back to civilisation, and so we set off in convoy for Plymouth.  The fallen tree was still closing the usual route, so we took the detour, which was still flooded.  My diesel Alfa made it through fine, but Laura’s lower-slung Alfa Spider came out of the flood with a distinct lack of power.  Drying everything out and disconnecting the soggy air filter brought back some enthusiasm to its engine, but it still wasn’t happy, so we recovered it to the local Alfa garage, where it eventually made a full recovery.  Meanwhile, further investigation in daylight showed that Kim’s MINI had so much water in the airbox that it was probably a write-off – and so it was.  There was a silver lining however; a weekend spent test-driving MX5s soon found a far-superior replacement…

Laura desperately needed a car for work the following week, and so drove home to Cornwall on Sunday night in my sensible Alfa Romeo, which meant that for a week and 800 miles, I’d be driving to work in the Corvette.  The ‘Vette took this sudden increase in its useage completely in its stride, proving completely reliable (even when asked to negotiate a few further floods) and frankly, an epic way to travel up and down the M5 to Bristol.  I was pleasantly surprised by the way the noise levels drop when cruising at 70mph, and by how comfortable a place it is in which to spend a few hours.  I was even pleasantly surprised by its economy, with a tank of fuel giving about 400 miles – a figure which could have been a whole lot worse, given its 5.7l V8!  All in all, being forced to use the ‘Vette intensely for a week has completely absolved any doubts I’d had for its suitability for V8Nam – it’s shown itself to be a good solid companion in which to rack up the miles, but still with a character and uniqueness which makes every mile memorable.

So that’s the current situation with the Corvette, but what of the Rolls Royce?  Well that’s a slightly different story.  A few days after the flooding, Brummy attempted to drive the Rolls to work for the day, but ended up broken down halfway from his destination.  The behemoth was recovered to a garage, and three weeks later, it’s still there, having one of its Carburettors rebuilt, among other things.  Hopefully it will prove a little more dependable once it’s finally back on the road.

Bye bye MINI

Goodbye Alfa...Corvette in the frost


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