In February 2010, Mike Towey, who was chairman of the Daimler & Lanchester Owners' Club, passed away. He was a well-respected member of our branch, besides being active in the organisation nationally.
Our branch has always organised a run around the beginning of the new year, and the idea of holding the event a little later to commemorate Mike's life took shape. Mike lived in Cheshire, so that had to be the venue for the run.
Our Daimler had spent virtually all of the hard winter inside the garage, with coolant carefully drained off. We had been running without antifreeze until we were happier about the cooling system. At one point we had refilled, with a weak antifreeze mixture, for a short run when we were not too certain about the likely temperature, but had drained again afterwards. Before the war, the car had not been drained properly, and a serious split in the water pipe through the inlet manifold had resulted. Having spent a lot of effort fixing that split, we took no chances, and during some of the coldest weather we can remember, the engine was safe.
With the worst of the frosts over, we refilled, this time with antifreeze. There are two main types of antifreeze found in motoring shops. One is only suitable for modern engines, the other for older engines. We took a different route. A third type of antifreeze is sold for use in central heating systems, and this is perfectly suitable for use in older engines like ours. It contains corrosion inhibitors and is normally used in systems with various dissimilar metals - like our engine.
Suitably protected, we looked forward to the run. The weather in the week leading up to the 27th was wet. Very wet. The forecast for the Sunday, though, sounded more promising. We set off from home to the meeting point at High Legh, south of Lymm, in the rain.
The trip down the M6 was uneventful, with improving weather. By the time we crossed the Thelwall Viaduct, we were down to occasional showers. Rain can be difficult in a car with only a single windscreen wiper, which is only six inches long, but we use a product called Rain-X , which makes the drops run quickly off most of the screen. Aerodynamics keep the side windows dry when moving - the V-shaped front screen forces the airflow outwards.
We parked up at High Legh garden centre and went inside for coffee and the bacon butties which are traditional at such events. While chatting with other members, we heard the roof being battered by two very heavy showers, but we were not disheartened. Several members had turned up in their modern vehicles, not wanting to trust their classics in the wet weather, and others had vehicles in the course of restoration or repair. We were in the same situation for several years. In our club, we do not look down on members who turn up in modern cars, as we think it is more important to get together and support each other. Reports of progress, or even setbacks, are welcomed. We can all learn from them.
The route took us through some of the narrow lanes of Cheshire, passing places such as Tatton Hall and Jodrell Bank. In many places the road was very definitely "single-track". Puddles lined a lot of the route, and in several places covered the road surface completely. Our Daimler, though, has more ground clearance than most modern 4x4 vehicles, so we were not worried.
The route was covered almost entirely in top gear. Our car has plenty of torque provided there is fuel in the carburettor. Slow down for a corner to walking pace, then let the clutch out and pull away in top gear. After all, the instruction manual says "under favourable conditions, start in top and glide away silently".
There were not many hills on the route - Cheshire is quite flat. There was one quite imposing hill at Swettenham, though. I picked second gear and sailed up it.
We arrived at Congleton Museum, where tea and biscuits awaited. However, we were first interviewed and photographed for their next newsletter.
After wandering round the museum and being refreshed, we set out on the next leg of the tour, a few miles south to Little Moreton Hall, a glorious black-and-white timber manor house, which has for many years been in the care of the National Trust. On the way a large number of blue flashing lights ahead gave us some foreboding, but it turned out not to be a serious accident but a very wide load being escorted up the road towards us. We passsed it where the road was at its widest, but those setting out a little later had to wait while it proceded through Congleton.
We decided not to visit the hall itself, it having been only a short time since we were last there. We were kept busy in the car park though, answering questions and having lots of photos taken. I hope that the children whose faces lit up at the chance of sitting in the driver's seat go on to own classic cars themselves.
The tour then proceded back up the A50 to Allostock, where a hearty meal awaited us at The Cottage. Plenty of space to park, as they are not normally open at tea-time on Sundays. They stayed open especially for us.
After the raffle and speeches of thanks to Mrs Towey and the organisers, we set off home - in the dark.
On the trip we ran on dipped headlight, so reducing the electical load to the point where the dynamo could almost keep up. Even so we noticed that the headlight would dim dramatically. Obviously some investigation was needed in the near future.
The temperature had remained at a safe level all through the run. On the trip home, of course, we were in the dark, and the Motometer on the radiator cap is then invisible. At one point, I pulled off the M6 to check it, and found the temperature much lower than I had imagined. The cooling appears to have been improved by the addition of the antifreeze, which both raises the boiling point of the liquid and improves heat transfer in the radiator. The system is not sealed, however, and I later topped up the level, which had dropped by about a pint in 120 miles. Much better than when the system boiled over!
Our Daimler was put away that evening ignoring the instruction in the Instruction Manual - "Wash car". It was very dirty, but you can't clean it properly in the dark! The following day it was rinsed down thoroughly. There had been a lot of mud around on those country lanes.
Later, careful checking with a meter narrowed the reason for the poor headlamp illumination - a loose connection on the dynamo. With a washer fitted, performance was back to normal. Of course a half-hour test run was needed to check it - as if we needed an excuse!