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Old 30th July 2016, 20:52   #1
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Thumbs up Greetings from Great Britain

Hi BHPians, I am Rob from the UK. I am 38 and work as a consultant in the banking industry. I split my time between home in the middle of England and London where I work. Although I am a suit and tie guy in the week, I enjoy working on cars and bikes at weekends.

My current motley collection of vehicles includes:

2010 Lexus GS450h (daily car)
2006 Toyota MR2 (weekend car)
1999 Honda VFR800 (regular bike)
1989 Honda XBR500 (sunny day bike)
1987 Nissan Laurel (project car - put back on the road once but now needs more work)
1980 Honda C90 Super Cub (project bike)
1985 Jaguar XJ6 4.2 (in storage)

I have always been a petrol head. As a small boy of 3, I had a pedal car which I could skid by stamping on the pedals. My father had to rivet the steering back together often due to my exuberance, and nothing much has changed!

After doing a bit of grass track racing in 1999, I took up banger racing in 2004 and travelled around the UK with friends and team mates to race at weekends. This is a type of racing on an oval track of 400m length where you can push and spin other cars aside to get to the front, or if you want to, you can attempt to destroy other cars. Of all the crazy things I have done, nothing gives you quite the same buzz as the moment the green flag drops in a banger race.

However, there is a lot of work involved in banger racing and after a while it gets to be a chore, so I stopped racing in 2011 and took up drifting instead, which kept me entertained for a couple of years and developed some different driving skills. In 2012 I undertook a 2500 mile European road trip in the MR2, taking in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland & Italy. 2013 saw me in Thailand and riding a 125cc Honda scooter - my first time on a motorcycle for a few years. A short break in Morocco later that year saw me quad biking in the Atlas mountains, and I bought my first motorcycle shortly afterwards. No travel in 2014 as I branched out to set up my own company, but 2015 saw a holiday in Barbados with several days exploring the island by motorcycle, and then in December, a trip to India for a whole month.

My fiance had been to India twice before for work, and was in Chennai for 3 months on her longer visit, but I had never been. One of my good friends is an Indian guy who moved to the UK 10 years ago, and when the opportunity arose to join him at his wedding in Gwalior, we jumped at the chance. In India I also visited Delhi, Shimla, Goa & the Andaman Islands. I managed to hire 3 motorcycles whilst I was in India - the best of which was a Bullet 350 Classic hired in dubious circumstances from a guy on a street corner in Panaji!

I fell in love with the Enfield immediately and I will probably buy one as soon as my C90 project is finished. As I have other bikes for practical use, I think it will have to be a cast iron engined one for the proper thump. I also managed to get a ride in India's other favourite vehicle, the Hindustan Ambassador. With a passion for old British cars, I was always going to love the Ambassadors. The guys at the taxi rank thought it was hilarious I would only get in an Ambassador... "but sir, my Suzuki has AC!"

So, as a non-Indian living in the UK, why have I joined Team BHP? It is simple. As I travelled around in your great country it came to me that one day, I must ride there overland from the UK, or back to the UK from India. This has become my dream trip. It won't happen any time soon but one day! I often read this site to learn more about riding and driving in India, and it would be nice to join in now and then.
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Old 30th July 2016, 21:27   #2
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Welcome Rob! You have an enviable collection of rides. Do post your ownership experiences with them.

I wish you many successful miles ahead and may you visit India once more overland! I'd definitely like to host you if you come to Bombay on your overland trip!
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Old 30th July 2016, 21:38   #3
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Welcome to the forum, Rob.

Your wealth of experience coupled with your enthusiasm would help add immense value to the forum. Please feel free to contribute as much as you'd like, but do go through the Announcements before proceeding.

Cheers!
Suhaas
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Old 30th July 2016, 21:49   #4
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And if you got through the words, a few pictures...

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The Lexus & MR2 after a wash

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Crossing the Swiss Alps in 2012

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That's me in the yellow one pounding the opposition in the "destruction derby". This was a special championship meeting for cars made up to 1975, I came 2nd in the main race. My car is a 1960's Austin Cambridge estate. The car I'm hitting is a saloon from the same series. This series of cars were sold as Austin, Morris, Riley, Wolesley & MG. The Morris Oxford version directly replaced the Oxford III which the Hindustan Ambassador is based on. They either have the 1500cc B series like the Ambassadors, or the slightly uprated 1622cc version. These cars are iconic in banger racing and many ex-racers have restored them for the road too. I raced 5 of these in my career. This one had not run for 15 years when I bought it and it was quite rotten - it needed a fair bit of preparation to be race worthy.

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In India on the mighty 350 Bullet!

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My fiance with our rented Honda Phantom 200 in Barbados

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Drifting a few years ago. The car is a Ford Scorpio, built very cheaply & just for fun! It wasn't remotely road legal so we used to take it to the track on my friends truck. I became competent at drifting fairly easily with a racing background, and was put in the fast group after a few sessions.

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My XBR500. This is an air-cooled 500cc single with kick & electric starts. With 44bhp, it will hit about 170kph and would smoke a Bullet, not as comfortable and less thump though!

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My VFR800 on a tour of Northern England. I love this bike. It is comfortable enough to ride all day, the V4 engine sounds fantastic, and it is pretty fast with 108bhp.
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Old 31st July 2016, 03:28   #5
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Hello Rob, and welcome.

I used to live in London. I'm a Brit that moved to India about eleven years ago. I'm not a serious car person like many of our members, but it wouldn't seem right not to have one outside, and it wouldn't seem right not to drive myself.

I've been driving here (almost all urban, not much really adventurous stuff) for ten years now. I was back in UK last year, first time in five years. Had planned to hire a car, but chickened out: I am now scared to drive in your country!
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Old 31st July 2016, 05:53   #6
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Thanks for the welcome guys

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Originally Posted by Thad E Ginathom View Post
I was back in UK last year, first time in five years. Had planned to hire a car, but chickened out: I am now scared to drive in your country!
Ah! You'd have been OK, we have some of the safest roads in the world. If I lived in India I wouldn't be afraid to drive, I'd just be afraid to have a new expensive car! If I lived there I'd probably run an old Maruti 800 AC as my everyday ride to keep the Ambassador for special occasions
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Old 31st July 2016, 05:54   #7
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the best of which was a Bullet 350 Classic hired in dubious circumstances from a guy on a street corner in Panaji!
If it is just the street corner bit that you are referring to, be assured that this is quite normal for hiring a bike - or even a car - in Goa:-)

Goa has some resort state friendly traffic rule enforcement, that isn't the safest. Speed limits and no overtaking is enforced on quite wide bridges on the roads connecting cities, but nowhere else - not on the narrower roads connecting beaches or villages/towns just inland of these. Helmets are a legal requirement, but this is enforced only on the same roads where speed limits are enforced on bridges.

Enjoy your driving in India, but be aware that it now has the most hazardous roads in the world. Defensive driving skills are vital for survival.
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Old 31st July 2016, 06:35   #8
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Enjoy your driving in India, but be aware that it now has the most hazardous roads in the world. Defensive driving skills are vital for survival.
Having been by road from Delhi-Gwalior, Gwalior-Agra-Shimla, and Shimla-Delhi, much of it at night, I've seen some "interesting" driving already. I don't wish to offend anybody, but many of the most moronic things I've seen on the road in 20 years driving were in those 3 journeys. The main highways that are not barrier equipped toll roads were the worst, especially after dark.

The standards are so low and the rules so completely ignored I'm not sure where India would need to start to deal with it... Does it even matter if one guy was speeding and another wasn't wearing a helmet when some idiot is going the wrong way up a dual laned highway on a tractor in the dark with no lights on?

The death toll is shocking - I suspect that part of that is due to emergency response services as well, not just the crashes?

None of this puts me off India, it just makes me appropriately cautious and alert.
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Old 31st July 2016, 07:12   #9
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Hey Rob!

Welcome aboard!
How nice to read your post.

By God that yellow car looks like it came off rather scathed, after your bout of real-life dodgem cars!
Interesting to note you have been "mad about cars since 3" - Me too.

My Dad got me a little Bright Red Pedal car with fat grey white wall tyres (which car also had a battery and real, working lights and horn and things) and had (of all things) 007 emblazoned proudly in white on the sides!

We lived on a tea estate in a nice large bungalow with a circular drive all around the house and I used to fly around in that car (much like you've described). I clearly remember all of this even though, like you, I was only 3. Also had a little pedal jeep at the same time so clearly, my madness for cars (like yours) was born quite early.

Even today, I collect 1:43 scale models but I only keep one vehicle for our personal use - a 5 year old Silver Skoda Yeti which only I drive since my wife doesn't like driving geared vehicles.

I was particularly happy to note you have an XJ6. As you say it is in storage but I would dearly love to see some pictures of it. The XJ6 is delicious and I love those cars.

I quite agree that the Ambassador is probably one of the nicest cars out here - sadly they stopped production. We had one for 25-26 years. It did yeoman service for our family, ferrying us all (4 kids including cousins) and all our luggage up and down the hilly roads to our Boarding School and back. (Very Harry Potter/ Ron Weasley-esque with their old Ford Anglia going up to Hogwarts and back except that our Amby wasn't capable of flight...)

It was amongst the most comfy and spacious cars available at the time and still can give a lot of these modern cars a run for their money, especially when loaded with that nice powerful 2000 cc Isuzu Diesel engine with plenty of torque, bucket seats and floor shift gears along with some good fat radial tyres. Lovely suspension on that Amby - most excellent and one can really ride about in great cosseting comfort rather like an Emperor surveying his dominions, waving gently to his subjects along the wayside...

Hope to see you sometime in India or maybe in the UK and swap car related yarns...

Whenever you're in India you should visit Ooty and the Nilgiris - the hilly landscape, while clad with acres and acres of tea plantations is a lot like Yorkshire in the James Herriot stories, with its dry stone walls and all the rest of it. The roads are fun to drive, like your B roads in the countryside and largely, people are significantly more polite and disciplined than in the cities of India, so riding a bike or driving a car in the hills, is a happy experience.
Let me know if you're coming and I'll make arrangements for you to stay in Ooty at one of the Clubs there - the last bastions of the erstwhile Colonial Era with plenty of old world charm thrown in...

Cheers

Last edited by shankar.balan : 31st July 2016 at 07:22.
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Old 31st July 2016, 07:20   #10
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Like everything else in India, it starts with education, attention to civic sense and looking beyond me, myself, and mine. Nothing will be sustainable unless that foundation has been built.

All of us thinking Indians know that it is going to get a lot worse before it starts to get better. Hopefully, that last bit.

On many of these fronts, things are a lot better in rural India - and I don't have any reason to be politically correct, so I can say that things deteriorate as you move from south to north, as a general rule. As in the case of all such rules, there will always be a few exceptions, honourable and otherwise.

With all that said and kept in mind, there is a lot the country has to offer; enjoy your stays and good luck!
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Old 31st July 2016, 08:15   #11
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Rob, where automobiles go you are a very rich man. Just to let you know I am available for adoption
welcome to Team BHP. I look forward to your posts.
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Old 31st July 2016, 08:27   #12
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Hey Rob,

Fantastic intro! Its been some time since I last encountered someone with such a varied experience on automobiles..ownership as well motorsports.

Having always seen the British motoring scene through the (tinted?) Top-Gear glasses, I am surprised to see a garage full of Japanese .

Great to have you here. Would look forward to your posts and threads on the forum!

Regards
SDP
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Old 31st July 2016, 09:19   #13
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Having always seen the British motoring scene through the (tinted?) Top-Gear glasses, I am surprised to see a garage full of Japanese .
With the bikes, I have been buying cheap old bikes that I can play about with, and pretty much everything 1975-2000 in the UK is either Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha or Honda so it's almost Japan or nothing!

With the cars, it is a bit of a coincidence really... I have owned a couple of BMWs (an '84 735i and a 2001 330 coupe) and I was a Ford guy for several years. I just got rid of a fabulous old '98 diesel automatic CitroŽn with hydraulic suspension too. That was bought as a workhorse for £450 and was the most comfortable riding car I've ever driven.

My first Japanese car was a disaster. I had already owned 2 Fords - one was crashed into at a junction by the local priest and written off and the other was stolen and set on fire, so I got myself a 1988 Nissan Sunny 1.6 in 1999. The engine went bang on the motorway after only 600kms or so ownership - head gasket failure. I took it to bits, had the head skimmed and put it back together but it had annoyed me so I sold it and bought another Ford which I kept for 7 years! I've only had 5 Japanese cars in total, I just happen to still own 3 of them
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Old 31st July 2016, 12:20   #14
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Welcome Rob

I am also from the UK but I landed here back in 1994 and merely visit. Driving here is ...well interesting! At least, I dont have to worry about speed cameras.

Banger racing must have been interesting.We should introduce it here as a way of scrapping old cars, our taxi drivers would make it a spectator sport to die for! Yes, the A60 Farina was the banger racers choice. I would have thought a few volvo 240's would have appeared. Back in 1975 during the height of the fuel crisis, my mums friend sold her immaculate navy blue Rover P4. She was horrified to learn that it was to be used for banger racing.

The Ford Scorpio was actually a frog prince. A fun car underneath. Got to drive my boss's Cosworth powered once. It was very competent.
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Old 31st July 2016, 16:16   #15
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Banger racing must have been interesting.We should introduce it here as a way of scrapping old cars, our taxi drivers would make it a spectator sport to die for! Yes, the A60 Farina was the banger racers choice. I would have thought a few volvo 240's would have appeared. Back in 1975 during the height of the fuel crisis, my mums friend sold her immaculate navy blue Rover P4. She was horrified to learn that it was to be used for banger racing.

The Ford Scorpio was actually a frog prince. A fun car underneath. Got to drive my boss's Cosworth powered once. It was very competent.
The 240 was a decent banger racer. It was popular to fit a Ford 2.8 litre engine from a Granada to them for a while as the original engine is vulnerable.

The 95-98 Scorpio was indeed a competent car. The rear suspension is a direct carry over from the old models but the front end was a complete redesign very similar to a BMW E36. The 24v Cosworth engine is a beast! We never ran one in the drift car because they all came as automatics and they shred the manual gearboxes that fit them if used hard. The drifter was a 2.0 16v with a 2.3 inlet manifold and ECU.

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Originally Posted by shankar.balan View Post
I was particularly happy to note you have an XJ6. As you say it is in storage but I would dearly love to see some pictures of it. The XJ6 is delicious and I love those cars.

I quite agree that the Ambassador is probably one of the nicest cars out here - sadly they stopped production.
I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't even LOOKED at the XJ6 for about 18 months. I rent a garage to keep her safe. She is fairly solid but really needs a full restoration which I am considering paying a professional to complete as realistically I will never get the time to do it properly for many years. This XJ6 is a series 3, one of the run of the last 100 cars built for the UK market in the classic style with the XK engine, sage green metallic paint with gold coach lining and pepperpot wheels.

I bought the car when I was 29 to fulfil my childhood dream of owning a proper Jaguar. It had been traded in by the previous owner, sold on to a backstreet car dealer and advertised for £1500, with no takers. The price was dropped to £1000, which was cheap and I went to look. I drove the car and noticed 2 things - it had a knocking driveshaft, and the engine was breaking down under load at 2800rpm+. It had 6 months road tax and roadworthiness certificate left. I came back, told the guy of my observations and offered him £800. A deal was made. I changed the driveshaft the following week (a pig of a job in these old girls) and I traced the engine problem to a hairline crack in the distributor cap. I drove the car for the next year and felt like the king of the road. These cars are so good to drive on fast sweeping roads but 6km per litre is quite typical, so they are an expensive passion! I started having problems with the engine and decided to retire her for a while. She had to live in a barn for a few years until I found a garage and has deteriorated a bit but there is good spares support for these cars so I know one day she can go again.

I think it's amazing the Ambassador lasted so long in production & outlasted the Contessa by many years! The highest concentration of Ambassadors I saw in India was on South Andaman, although many were no longer in use. I hardly saw any up in Shimla but I did spot a Contessa there parked up and looking forlorn, the only one I saw on my whole trip.


Thanks again for the warm welcome guys
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