A Nordic 'safari (part 2)


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Meanwhile, back in Gloucestershire (SW UK) Ms Sweden checked the Swedish weather forecast which, at this time of the year (February), the temperature was around -12. during the day with plenty of white stuff. But being Sweden, the roads were clear and uncongested. Besides, hadn't those hard working Swedish council lads staked off both sides EVERY road in Sweden on Oct 1 with plastic, reflector poles. The idea being that when it snows, and believe me lads, it does snow up there, drivers will know where the road is! No sooner had Ms Sweden checked the weather then it was a quick call to her Swedish insurance broker for a quote - $326 a year for fully comp EU insurance, activated as soon as my wife bought the Westy. She then called the owner, telling him that she'd see him at 7.05 the following night. Next morning she disappeared on the 9.10 train to Bristol airport!

On route over the bridge, between Denmark & Sweden (longest in Europe) up to Northern Sweden, the owner called her to say the engine was 'spluttering (hence my post!) . Somewhat disappointed, she told him that she'd come up anyway and, if his description was accurate,, she give him a deposit and pick up the Westy in June. He mentioned that she was not the only one interested - 10 other callers were keen but the good news was, she was numero uno! In the meantime, he said he'd take the Westy to the local VW garage to sort out the 'spluttering' problem which the mechanic did by racing the engine and taking it for a test drive. The owner again texted my wife to say the problem was solved and she promptly texted me! If there's one thing that is vital in any business 'deal' or relationship, tis 'communication!' Something Ms. Sweden and Paddy here understand! Curious to know what the problem was, I posted 2 queries on a few VW forums and received many helpful tips.

Arriving at the small town of Tranas in a snowstorm, it wasn't difficult for the elderly owner to spot my petite wife - there were only 2 passengers hopping out. After a brief introduction, he very kindly offered to put her up for the night. In my many Swedish classic car 'deals' (I used to live there), if a Swede says they'll hold the car or item, they do just that. Honour & integrity are alive and practiced in Sweden!

After much storytelling - my wife is a seasoned traveller, having lived & worked in many interesting places & jobs, the car seller and his wife seemed to enjoy her many adventures (Cape Town knife mugging / T2 breakdown on route from Ireland - Sweden where, just outside Cambridge, on route to the Harwich - Gothenburg ferry, she broke down in her '70 T2 van. A local 'mechanic' came out to fix VW (smoke coming through the dashboard). Your man, the 'mechanic' said the engine was overheating and promptly removed the fan belt! A few miles up the road 'BANG' and I'll leave it up to your good selves to work out wot happened!

Frantically, my wife called me, explained what happened and, after I discovered it was an AA approved garage, I got on the blower to AA head office telling them what happened and if the matter wasn't sorted fast, the AA (UK breakdown) could be assured of a lot of bad press from my Irish Times colleagues. Amazing how far a little bullshit and a firm manner can get you! Immediately, the AA dude made a call to the garage and confirmed to me that the problem was on it's way to being sorted. The next day, the dopey, sheepish mechanic produced a '79 double wheel Transit bus which he'd removed all the seats. He explained it was a loan to get her + belongings back to Sweden and that sometime, he'd like it back. 'Sure pal but you can collect it' the wife thought to herself! Ok sorry, back to the Nordic safari!

Early the next morning, my wife stepped outside in the thick snow, fired up a fag (cigarette) and inspected the exterior - magnet in hand! All looked good. No dreaded filler and the two tone dark/light blue paint glistened in the bright sunshine. Back inside, the owner produced a thick, neat file of receipts on his 9 year ownership. The 2.1 engine had been rebuilt in Germany (2008) a recent new water pump has been fitted and there was a 'bible' of service records + some parts. After a little haggling, no problem for herself the 'deal' was done and it was off to the bank. Before leaving, she called me with an update and I told her to make sure she had coolant and to check the oil + water after 50 miles and, a few times before she got down South. At 1.10, she headed South, passing along Sweden's biggest Lake Vatten. In spite of heavy snow, she wasn't too worried about skidding off the freeway as 'Sven' the owner had recently put on 4 new all year round tyres. After each km, her confidence in her new Westy increased. Passing by the huge lake, two friendly, Swedish cops waved - a highly unusual occurrence in Sweden!

After a 250 mile drive, with the heater + drivers heated seat on full whack, she pulled in to a small village to visit a friend. Just as she was about to pull in to the narrow driveway, the Westy lost power and began to 'splutter'. Not one to panic, my wife spotted a 'Daycare' large parking area, pulled in and walked the 100 yards back to her friend's house. After an hour, she texted me to tell me her of her problem. I dropped everything and focused on the problem. I was sure it was a 'dead' plug but of course, removing all plugs & cleaning each one was beyond my wife's capabilities and besides, she hadn't even a plug spanner or knew where they were! I told her to remove the engine lid and check all leads the next morning.

In the meantime, I got on to the Brick-Yard / Just Kamper / Samba forums for a similar 'spluttering' problem. I thought it could be a number of problems - dirty contact points / cracked distributor / faulty rotor or ??? One kind Brick-Yard member mentioned that it could be a worn resister on the Air Flow Meter (amazing what you learn from VW posts!) I checked You Tube on how to check a fault on an Air Flow Meter and followed the steps but when I told my wife, she was somewhat weary of removing the plastic cover to inspect it.

I called my wife again and said that another Samba member posted to say that based upon a full tank + 250 miles on a 2.1 engine, there would only be about 5-10 litres of petrol in the tank and it was possible that because the vehicle had been unused for 5 months, there could be water in the old petrol - petrol now in the fuel line. I told her to go to the nearest petrol station, fill a 5 litre can, buy some K-Sprit (a gas treatment with an alcohol content) widely used in Sweden, and dump the petrol + half of the small plastic bottle into the tank, wait 5 minutes then try the engine again.

Back in Gloucestershire, I tracked down the chairman of the Swedish VW club who gave me a local VW contact. Not only that, but I just remembered an old classic car enthusiast friend who lived nearby who could certainly help my wife. It took me the best part of 2 hours to track him down and he readily agreed to go to my old mechanic and see if he could help her. But hey, although my old mechanic was a wiz under the bonnet, the lad was impossible to contact. He rarely picked up his mobile and didn't even respond to any texts, yet he still had a motley crew of customers! My friend suggested the only way was to go out to his place in the country which he said he would the next day.

Suddenly, there was a beep on my phone from my wife. ''It worked, the engine idles perfectly, call me' Relieved, I called and told her to drive it to the nearest petrol station, fill the tank and throw in more K-Sprit, then take it for a drive. 30 minutes later, she texted me to say the problem was solved and asked me if she should continue her journey. But considering 2 helpful VW enthusiasts were coming out the next day, I told her to wait.

The next day, Sven & Lars arrived, sprayed WD40 all over the engine bay and disappeared with $30 for their trouble. My wife too disappeared and arrived at my storage barn where she disconnected the battery, released the handbrake and stuck it in neutral, before taking the train over to Copenhagen airport to catch a flight to Bristol, She called me from the train to say her 'Nordic safari' was well & truly over and we could look forward to enjoying many magical, summer vacations! Relieved, I tidied up all my notes/addresses scattered all over my desk and decided to go across the road for a well deserved Guinness! After all, didn't this 'Paddy' (Irish) deserve a pint of the black stuff!

Look after yourselves and do hope some of you liked this Nordic 'safari' tale. If you did and you'd like another - an African Chevy 'Safari' + pics of other old 'Bush' classics ( 1935-'67) or, indeed this Swedish Westy (Caravelle) PM me your email and I'll send some pics to you.