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May 2015 was to be our first return to France for over 2 years, since Eileen's accident and surgery. Whilst she could get in to the Pembleton (a bit like threading a shepherd's crook through a letter box) and had endured a fair day's motoring, several consecutive days and distance seemed to be pushing the limits. As it happened, the forecast for the Montlhery weekend was huge amounts of rain with equal amounts of glorious sunshine. We decided to go in the "modern" – if it rained and was cold, we'd put the wipers on and turn the heating up (plus, of course, the bonus of extra space)!

Travelling to Dover, we travelled the longest distance I've ever completed in 50 years' motoring using high speed wipers, with surfaces awash, minimal brakes, reduced to a crawl on motorway and dual carriage way. We overnighted near Dover, giving us a full days' motoring in France next day – millpond crossing, dry and sunny; back in France again. Two days later, saw us at le Manoir du Pont Cage, our chamber d'hote for 3 nights. Dave and Nicky had arrived just before us in Silverfish, so unpack, hot bath, find a local restaurant and have a meal made most sense. The modern meant only one needed not to imbibe.

We set off to find the circuit – that involved a short ride up the main A road towards Paris, negotiating the various "clover-leaf/spaghetti" slipways, seeing the circuit "over there" several times from different viewpoints, before we came out of a rondpoint immediately behind four Pembleton "limpers"! Duncan, Colin, Tom and Bill – they having camped in the grounds of a nearby Chateau – plus Vincent.

Montlhery is an amazing circuit – concrete-banked (like Brooklands) it is complete and positively maintained. The weekend included a HUGE array of vintage and veteran vehicles, cars, cyclecars, trikes and motorcycles with an exceptional autojumble (I was VERY tempted to buy a pair of flat-front, clear lensed Marchal headlamps, with centre strut carrying the bulb) and some SERIOUSLY eccentric creations. The Pembletons were directed to one of the "viewing areas" where they attracted attention, like bees round a honey-pot. Interestingly, nearby was the Morgan Club area in which there was a new, French registered Super Sports, powered by a 750, small-block Moto Guzzi.

Once we'd tracked down the owner, it transpired that the car was recently built by Phil G's eldest, Guy and the arrangement was that the car was a complete "turnkey" purchase, having been MSVA'd, UK registered, then re-registered in France, complete with "carte grise". This car was the first we'd seen with the new chassis arrangement, where the frame comes further forward, with the engine suspended on frame mounts via what had been the footrest fixings, through the engine's crankcase, instead of "hangers" on the lampbar. The car also had "skinny wheels", sidepod nacelles carrying the rear LED lights and a revised rear floor arrangement. Needless to say, Pembletoneers were all over the car like a rash (That's Tom and Colin inspecting the underside).

The weekend's activities were truly amazing, all in a haze of caster based oil, noise and "I don't believe it" creations. Interestingly, the French had decreed it was to be an alcohol-free event but made up for that with an array of alternative temptations (38 flavours of sorbet how many did you try Vincent?). Apparently it's a biennial event – I hope to go again, next time in the Pembleton.

A long way to go for a weekend, (we'd already done 750 miles to get there), we opted to drive on to Alsace, whilst the Pembletons made their way north through Normandy. We had managed to find a small gite in the centre of the Grand Cru Wine Route and spent a glorious week, mostly bathed in sunshine and without the need to use the car, but that's another story. On the one day when rain was forecast but didn't actually appear, we visited the Schlumpf Museum in Mulhouse – you DO need a whole day to do this incredible place justice. The scale of the place is incredible, with more Bugattis of every description than I ever knew existed, together with examples of many other marques from all over the world.

Two cars stood out for me, above all the exotica. Duncan's "limper" label for trikes took on a new meaning with the 1923 Scott Sociable in the collection. Built by Scott in Shipley and powered by the ubiquitous 578cc 2 stroke twin, the car looks like a mixture of sidecar (but no bike) and tricycle, with an offset front wheel (the "gap" reputedly being for a front-mounted machine gun!). In "limper" terms, it was positively paraplegic. Our favourite car of the whole collection was a Sandford 4 wheeler, with a Ruby engine – very much a reminder of the Sandfords we had seen haring around the banking at Montlhery the previous weekend.

Icing on the cake? Eileen has always fancied a Healey 3000 – I've invariably said "too heavy, too hot (in the footwells) and too expensive". For her first drive in over 2 years, she was able to drive a Healy 3000 on the small circuit at the Museum. Managing 7 laps easily she achieved a "lifetime moment" (but did get hot feet). Our French trips always manage to include an "off the wall" moment.

We covered 1,680 miles in the fortnight – returning home from Dover in another torrential downpour. Next time we'll go in Bolide.

Regards, Mike


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