The plan was that we would keep the Talbot Alpine for maybe a couple of months, have the experience with it, and then sell it on. However, before too long it was pretty evident that I have become hooked!
The car that I had bought with ten months MOT to just experience for a couple of months and then sell on was now needing another MOT! I had tinkered, fettled, cleaned, and changed bits... It was under my skin, and I was loving it. Perhaps loving it a little too much, as by now the Talbot was being used all of the time, and for everything. It pretty much made my much newer daily driver Ford Mustang a bit redundant! With all the time being spent in the Alpine I thought I might address a couple of items, starting with all the junk in the boot.
With the lack of spare tyre carrier under the boot floor I was carrying my spare in the boot. The problem with this was that the spare was pretty much knackered. I'm sure it would've done at a push, but the tyre had some pretty big cracks in it, and so I wouldn't have really wanted to have put it on the car for any distance, or to travel very fast. The other thing was, with all this stuff in the boot it was always a mess, and almost every time I wanted to put something else in the boot I had to have a quick tidy up first. To be honest, it wasn't so much that it was messy, the main problem was that when you're driving along everything slides around the boot like snot in a kids mouth. With this problem, and the state of the spare wheel in mind I decided to track down a decent tyre, and also try to just stop the movement!
I managed to snag a space saver from a Punto for just 99p on ebay which did the job of a spare for the Alpine perfectly, I kept the Punto tools with it in the boot for a bit, but then found out they wern't a farts worth of use to me as they didn't fit, so I gave them away... It was all adding extra weight I don't need anyway! The rest of the junk was put into a big tool bag that I managed to get for free from the kitchen fitting company that had supplied some kitchens on the building site I was working on. This was tied to the back of the seat to stop everything sliding about, and I lined the boot with a bicycle box from Halfords. I didn't think it was a permanant solution, but it did the job!
So the good news is that the Punto space saver fits! I thought it would, but I just thought I'd check it, because I'd hate to be in the middle of nowhere on a cold, windy, rainy night when I find out that although it bolts on, it now rubs the caliper or something, so it won't rotate... Very irritating!! Not to mention how much grief Mrs Clint would give me! Still, not to worry, the damn thing fits on both the front and the back, rotates and everything... Happy days!! So after the successful test fit of the Punto space saver wheel I figured that while I had the wheel off I'd address the knocking rear shock absorbers as I was almost certain that it would fail on them during it's upcoming first MOT in my care.
Lifting the weight off the back wheels by jacking the car up unearthed another problem that I thought the MOT inspector wouldn't appreciate either, the rear springs just fell out. The problem here was that in order to get the car really low the rear springs had just been chopped down with an angle grinder. It did the job, and the Alpine looked so cool slammed to the ground, but I felt that the MOT inspector wasn't going to take into account my cool points for worlds lowest Talbot, and instead fail me on having suspension parts that can just fall off at any moment!
I tried not to think about it, and fitted the new rear shock absorbers, and hoped for the best for the rear springs. I really had no idea where I was going to find a pair of rear springs for a 1985 Talbot Alpine, and I was fairly sure that my local motorfactors wouldn't have them on the shelf! Besides, I figured that I was probably going to have a bit of a list after the MOT, so I'd try and sort something out then. I don't know why the thought of taking my car for an MOT fills me with dread, but it does, and as this would be the first MOT for the Alpine in my care, I was even more paranoid than usual! But its just one of those things that's got to be done, and so because I was feeling particularly lazy, and because Kwik-Fit is literally across the road from my house I booked it in there, and at 10:45hrs on the following Monday it was off for it's first MOT in my care... I had a feeling this wasn't going to go well...
I was right, the MOT inspector took one look at it in the car park and said, I HATE TALBOTS, THAT'S GONNA FAIL! He then said he couldn't test it because it was too low to get into his workshop. So I said, it's been in several times before for tyres, and that was ok. Then he said it was too low to go on his ramps, so I said, it's been on them before, and it was ok then. After several more attempts by the MOT inspector to convince me that my car wouldn't be able to be tested at his station because it was too low et cetera, I finally said, "Why don't you just give it a try and see how it does?" He reluctantly agreed, and told me to return in an hour or so. When I got back I was told he refused to complete the test as in his opinion it was unsafe to do so as it had an oil light flashing, fair enough, it does but it's due to a loose wire, and after having it stood still for 45 mins with the engine running, it was starting to get warm! Unfortunately he was nowhere to be found, so that I couldn't ask him what the problem was (what a nobber!) So, not exactly a failiure, but without a sheet of problems to fix, where should I go from here?
Well, where I ended up was at my friendly mechanics workshop, who laughed at me for taking it to Kwik-Fit in the first place. He said I should get it booked in to a proper MOT station that doesn't have monkeys working in there, and then come back to see him with the list. I knew he was right, and I knew thats what I should've done in the first place, and so after our little chat, thats what I did.
My mechaninc suggested that I take my Talbot to Best Autocentre in Winchester, and let them have a proper look at it. So I booked it in, and a couple of days later I was at Best Autos waiting for my Alpine to get a proper MOT. That went better... Sort of!
Of course this was a fail too, but that didn't matter so much because atleast now I had a list of problems to work with, and yes, those chopped rear springs were on it. Also featuring on the list was a little bit of rust, and a couple of other small items. All in all, not too bad really, and certainly nowhere near as bad as I imagined it would be! So I headed off back to my friendly mechanics workshop with the list of problems that needed attention.
Once up in the air on my mechanics two post ramp the rear springs just dropped out onto the floor, and a full assesment of the rust could be made. My mechanic said to just leave it with me, and he would start to cut out the rusty parts, and graft in some fresh metal. While he was doing that I was to go and get the parts that I was going to need to replace for the MOT.
High on the priority list was those rear springs. I had no idea where I was going to find some of those. I scoured the bay of E and came up with nothing, and so in the end I started asking for advice on the Retro Rides forum, and it was there that a solution was found. I was advised by a fellow Chrysler/Talbot owner, although in this case a Chrysler Horizon, that the front springs from a Mk5 Ford Escort would fit the bill perfectly. Armed with my new found knowledge I headed off to the motorfactors to try and order my new parts.
Amazingly they had the steering gaitors, wipers, and Mk5 Escort front springs in stock, all for less than £100! With these collected I was back at my mechanics workshop where he was busy carrying out a rust-echtomy on my Talbot. I asked him how bad it was, and he told me that it wasn't too bad really, and it would all be ready for me to collect in a day or two! Once this was done it was back off to Best Autos for a quick re-test. Which ofcourse it now passed, so the moral of this story is that apparently you CAN get better than a Kwik-Fit fitter! And I won't be going there for my MOTs again! But despite this experience, my Talbot was now once again fit and ready for another year of happy motoring.
However what I will say is that the Alpine is the only lowered car I have in my collection, and fitting 1997 Ford Escort front springs on the back meant that my ride height at the back was higher than the front. Therefore the front has been wound up a spline or two meaning that it now sits just over two inches higher than previously. I really can live with that, and it's so much more comfortable now it's unreal!! However, as far as my friends are concerned it is now too high, and I've ruined it, but for me, I can't really see the difference, and apart from the new level of comfort, the other bonus is that I've not had to stop and pick my exhaust up once on the morning school run since I've raised it, and this works for me!