By Rush to Chamonix 2001
Words and pictures by Rick Clapham
As all plans go, the more you think about it the more ambitious you get. What we ended with was an 8 day trip from Manchester to the Alps and back, in a gas guzzling V8 Dax Rush. Just me and my 18 year old nephew (who had never been abroad before) and no support vehicle, just my AA 5 star insurance.
We stuffed the boot with a tent, tools and spare bits & pieces (what do you take?) Then I removed the spare tyre and cabled, chained and locked 2 medium rucksacks on the back. We set off after a hard day at work, by Birmingham we were overheating! I'd changed the water & summer coolant a couple of days before. Airlock, lump of crud in the system, who knows? We drove in worried silence until the sun came up, stopping at every services on the way (thank god we decided to leave really early).
We got on the Hover craft at Dover without ripping the sump off. After a few miles in France I got worried because everyone was pointing and flashing their lights. I pulled over and checked everything out, nothing wrong. I soon realised that the French just love the car, the old, the young and the beautiful went mad every time they saw it. If you stop the car you have to be patient and try and answer a hundred questions, and not knowing how to speak French it was sometimes frustrating. It makes you realise how repressed and jealous the British are.
We found an amazing campsite from the Michelin camping guide, it's the 'Berny-Rivre' 50 miles NE of Paris. We pitched the tent by the river and I sat stunned after the driving & lack of sleep. The next day I got the car up on the steepest ramp of grass I could find and jacked the front up as high as I could. I then raised the water resevoir up and managed to burp out some of the 'air lock'.
After an extra day of rest and mad back road ripping (they didn't have the British hedgerow / wall problem so you could see way ahead, fantastic!) we spent two more days driving down stopping for the occasional overheating rest, gorgeous weather, give me a roadster every time.
Chamonix in the French Alps is the extreme sport Mecca, so we stopped for a couple of days and mixed it with the climbers. I've got to come back and hit the rock, not enough time or boot space for my climbing gear. Instead we screamed up and down the Alpine switchbacks, god this is what these cars were designed for, they'll power up anything and stick to those hairpins on the way back down.
Another great campsite is 'La Mer de Glace' in Chamonix. Well, back on the road we mixed motorway & back roads on the way back. We suffered the last two days in torrential rain. The hood & doors stood up to the onslaught well, with some draft excluder to keep the spray down. I had to push the speed to make up time, I'm amazed how my old Proxy tyres behaved in the wash out.
We got back home after 2300 miles, £285 on petrol, roughly 26 MPG. Excellent! I usually get about 20 MPG. The car held together with just a cracked Perspex side door, over heating worries and a rewire of the cooling fan at the roadside.
I fully recommend the adventure, you just have to be prepared to adapt your plan, realise that it could all get messy, and just go with it.
Rick Clapham 3.5 Litre V8 De-Dion Rush