We asked our Bangers4BEN competitors to tell us the story of their adventure. Some we managed to include in the next issue of the magazine, but some arrived a little too late, like this one. So here, in full, is Malcolm Greig’s story of nursing his Vauxhall Omega up and down the country on Bangers4BEN…
AS SOON as I read the article in Car Dealer Magazine describing Bangers4BEN 2, and being fairly confident that my first choice for co-driver would be up for it, I didn’t hesitate in rushing off our entry form.
On hearing that we had a place we could then give some thought to finding a suitable car. As luck would have it the ideal vehicle fell in to our laps; recovered into our workshop was an Omega with extensive engine damage due to a broken cambelt.
Written off by the owner as beyond economic repair it was left with us to dispose of so cost us nothing other than our time and parts required getting it back on the road. Six weeks later after some evenings and weekends spent rebuilding the engine the Omega was running again and we were on our way.
Following a 5.30am start and a struggle round the Surrey section of the M25 we arrived at a frosty Ascot, which seemed even colder at eight thirty than when leaving home earlier.
Reinvigorated by coffee, bacon rolls and some suitably motivating words from James we were soon on our way from Ascot. Aware that this was definitely not a race (to satisfy the H&S people) we had decided to enjoy the journey and take the scenic and somewhat less direct route via Carter Bar and the Northumberland National Park.
After a few stops along the way including Hadrian’s Wall, sun setting over the borders, fish and chips under the Forth Rail Bridge, we eventually arrived at a damp Inverness just before the Land Rover and just in time for supper, and a few beers before bed.
Setting off for John O’Groats the next morning it was grey and damp but remarkably there was no wind. As we headed further north paradoxically the weather steadily improved until entering the carpark at JOG more or less on time just after midday the sun was almost breaking through and still no wind.
Group photos revealed that everyone had made it and pretty much according to plan. JOG has little to commend it beyond its geography so it wasn’t long before we were leaving and once again the scenic route beckoned.
Twenty minutes west and we were standing on Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on the British mainland. By now the sun had come out and the 360 degree view was tremendous from the Orkneys in the north to the mountains in the south. To be standing there without a breath of wind on our faces was truly fortunate.
A short drive further west and we turned south on to what must be one of the most unique roads in the country; 40 miles of single track A road with passing places taking us back down to the A90, along which we passed precisely five cars, one tractor and a herd of deer standing next to the road completely oblivious to our presence.
It was dark by the time we reached Inverness so once again the whole journey along the A9 over the Grampian mountains was completed in almost total darkness giving rise to the strangest experience of the trip.
Almost an hour spent driving steadily downhill from the Drumochter Pass, with no lights other than car headlights, on either side or ahead we began to wonder if we were in a Stephen King story and about to drive off the end of the world.
Needless to say, eventually some houses appeared and we were back in the real world for a quick run down to Berwick. Hard to imagine that at the other end of the country this road would be a steady stream of traffic yet here, just south of Edinburgh, it’s almost empty.
Are we sure it’s the same road? Simple accommodation at Berwick and a quick drive around the town revealed that we weren’t likely to find anything much better. By then we were only too happy to have a bed as it seemed one or two others were struggling to find even that!
Bright and early start the next day saw us filling up with fuel – again, and heading for breakfast somewhere south of Newcastle. An unexpected sign on the A1 for Holy Island saw us off on another scenic detour and as luck would have it the tide was right out so a quick trip across the causeway to Lindisfarne was possible. Always wanted to see the place.
The Tyne tunnel was a mistake leading to the only delay on the whole trip. Apparently some others were wise to this and took an alternative route round Newcastle – luckily for us they didn’t eat all the bacon rolls.
The last leg of the trip to Mercedes World was trouble free with the Omega continuing to perform admirably although we did discover an additional seat adjustment with about 20 miles to go which might have eased some of our aches over the last three days.
Finally to welcome us back to the sunny south of England it poured with rain as we headed home along the M25, something that we had not until then experienced over the whole 1,500 mile trip.
In summary then we had some frost, some rain and in between a whole lot fun while raising money for a deserving cause. Many thanks to everyone involved in making the event possible.