Worried about taking your classic car into Europe (and beyond)? With the correct preparation, you should have no problems
Driving abroad on an organised tour means safety in numbers and, if your old car goes wrong, you have back-up. But taking your ageing pride and joy abroad on your own is an adventure that requires an optimistic disposition. A reasonable mechanical aptitude is useful too, enough to diagnose and fix minor faults rather than panicking and calling the recovery service.
Here are the basics. Ideally, take a car with a credible spares back-up, even if that involves getting bits sent across borders by courier. Plan an approximate route via France’s wealth of backroads rather than grinding along an expensive motorway. Tour Le Continent the way people used to do it, and don’t set an impossible time schedule. Maybe forsake forward booking of hotels and wing it, so you’re under less pressure to get somewhere.
Sensible spares include plugs, points, a fanbelt, oil, water, hose clips, insulating tape, electrical wire and cable ties, plus a small socket set, spanners, screwdrivers (including a sparkplug spanner), knife, pliers, a feeler gauge, wire strippers and, yes, a repair manual for use by you or a repair shop. Take a foot-pump, pressure gauge, jump leads and kitchen roll too.
Then there’s the legal stuff. You need a set of bulbs, and something to mask the left-side kick-up of a right-hand-drive car’s dipped beam. Insulating tape does the job here; find out which part of the headlamp glass needs to be masked by pointing the car at a wall with the headlights on dip.
Also required are a GB identifier (period-style chrome letters look dignified; only a very pedantic policeman would quibble), plus a single-use breathalyser (technically two) and enough hi-vis vests to render anyone outside the car and by the side of the road visible. Add a warning triangle, the registration document and MoT, a letter of authority from the owner if it’s not your car, and evidence of insurance. UK policies still cover the EU automatically, but you might want to ensure your car can be recovered to the UK if necessary.
Regular foreign petrol contains more ethanol than in the UK, which can attack old rubber components, so use 98-octane brew, which has less, or no, ethanol.
With that lot, you’re all set. Just remember to keep an eye on the temperature gauge…
Words: John Simister