903 miles in a Mayflower

‘Mini tour’ of England & Wales to run in a Mayflower – June 2006

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The best part of Mayflower ownership for me is in the driving. My ‘new’ Mayflower was not run in since it’s engine rebuild and so I decided that not only would I drive it to the Mayflower Club Rally from North Lincolnshire but I would also visit my best mate in Devon. I decided to do a round ‘tour’ from Messingham to Ilfracombe returning via Sir John Black’s grave at Llanbedr, Wales. I planned a route avoiding motorways and steep gradients (I thought) taking in leaded fuel stations (I want to build up some lead memory after the engine rebuild). I’m glad I did this in advance because every garage I phoned advised me to check a couple of days before I intended to fill up due to poor delivery times from the supplier. This ‘tour’ would help run the car in and give me the chance to get to know it.

My mate decided to drive up and do the full tour with me and so we set off at 08:00hrs on Sunday 25 June. We arrived at the Mayflower rally at 11:00hrs, which, as usual, was excellent. For a small club it competes well with the larger Triumph clubs’ in terms of enthusiasm and organisation – well done and thanks to the Rally Secretary and Committee. We left the rally early at 14:00hrs as we wanted to get in some miles and find a decent village pub to watch an England game (Soccer World Cup) – which turned out to be dire. We arrived in Ilfracombe at 21:30hrs without a hitch.

A days rest (for me, not the car) playing snooker and we set off on the Tuesday at 05:30hrs for the return journey travelling up through Wales to visit Sir John’s resting place. Originally I intended to do the ‘tour’ alone and had used a black marker pen to ‘highlight’ the route in last years map book. The idea being it would be easier to navigate at a glance. I didn’t realise that I’d ‘blacked out’ the arrows indicating a long steep hill on the A470 near Caerynwch and so when we started to climb I was surprised at what lay ahead. Dropping into second is not unusual when encountering steep hills in a Mayflower. Dropping to first is not unheard of but not the norm. When your passenger asks "Should I get out of the car?" as it slows to walking pace is a first for me. My mate didn’t get out but I must confess we discussed an exit strategy for both other road user safety and our own. Thankfully we got to the top with nothing worse than butterfly bellies. The cars following beeped and waved as they passed at the top (smiles, laughter but not anger) and had I taken an informed run up at the hill I’m sure second would have done it.

We arrived at Llanbedr lunchtime and stopped at the post office for directions. Unbelievably the elderly lady we spoke to remembered Sir John and not only told us how to find the church but also his boat shaped summer house. We ate lunch in the pub and by this time the Mayflower in the street and our enquiries about Sir John had the busy pub buzzing. We paid our respects at Sir John’s grave, crossed a railway line, river and a field full of bullocks to find his summer house in the middle of nowhere undergoing rehabilitation by it’s present owners before setting off on the final leg of our ‘tour’.

Above & left

Sir John Black’s grave and churchyard.

Above & right

Sir John Black’s summerhouse was modelled on a houseboat.

It was in the middle of nowhere!

 Although the weather delivered periods of sunshine and heavy rain, and the Mayflower was driven harder and harder (familiarity) over the 25 driving hours it took to cover the 903 miles, the only problems experienced were a minor leak from the passenger quarter-light and the snapping of the rear straphanger to the exhaust. This was repaired with a piece of coat hanger wire (useful stuff to carry). With the use of silicone on the windscreen the need to use the poor performing wipers was greatly reduced. The temperature gauge didn’t gave cause for concern at any time which I hope helps dismiss the myth that Mayflowers boil over at the slightest hint of an incline.

Employing a portable Satellite Navigation unit we determined our max speed (on the flat) was 62MPH and we cruised for hours at 50MPH with no problem. We used two pints of oil, four pints of water, 29 gallons of leaded and watched her go around the clock to zero and onwards. I don’t know how much adrenaline was involved but I can safely say that I loved every second and hope to plan a longer and more ambitious ‘tour’. After all, we had travelled further than Lands End to John O’Groats in a car some dismiss as an unpractical / unusable classic. Go on, buy yourself a Triumph Mayflower and join the owners club – the smiles come free!

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Revised: August 2011