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The 2CV Alaska Challenge
Bulletin No.8 Saturday 31st July 1999.
IT IS BETTER TO TRAVEL HOPEFULLY...
We decided to drive up to Canada via the inland route from Savannah, on Interstate Highways 26 and 77, up through the Carolina's and on to the back roads of West Virginia. Our goal was to escape from the suffocating summer heat of the south east USA and to head for the cooler air of the Appalatian Mountains.
Well, that was the plan: we left Savannah on the morning of 30th July, but within 30 minutes the No.1 car (the yellow 2CV) started to develop problems. Citroen 2CV's can bowl along at 65mph for hour after hour, but whenever I eased off on the No.1 car's accelarator its engine started stuttering. A pitstop for petrol then showed that the No.1 car's engine died at low revs. It could be started again without difficulty, but the engine would only keep going if high revs were maintained. Hmm, figure that one out.
We decided to keep going, since I had no desire to start working on the engine in that heat - yep, I was the mechanic on this little jaunt to Alaska, since Jose still hadn't figured out how to open the bonnet on a 2CV. Everything was ok, as long as I could drive the No.1 car at high revs; problem was, we hit heavy traffic around Charlotte, North Carolina, stopping and starting all the while, and it was an ordeal to keep the car moving in such conditions, what with its engine roaring all the time. Well, we roared up to the Virginia State line, where we thought it best to call it a day.
'Ah, you'll be alright,' said my mechanics, John and Chris, in London before we left for the USA. It's the sort of thing people say to you before you go into hospital for an operation. John and Chris weren't in America, where a 600cc air cooled French car designed in the 1940's belongs only in a Disney cartoon, where the name 'Citroen' has not even been heard of, where a 2CV is looked upon as an alien apparition. That's right, if you break down in a Citroen 2CV in the USA you're in BIG trouble.
Best to sleep on it, but the next morning I had to fix the No.1 car, armed only with a rudmentary knowledge of car mechanics, a Haynes workshop manual and lots of optomism. Jose and I flicked through the battered workshop manual. What the hell is a coil doing under the bonnet? roadside contraception?