In the eight months since my last blog post I have entered my first winter as a Seven owner and come out of the other side. I was a bit worried going into the winter months mainly because I have an unpowered garage and the immobiliser on the Seven would eventually drain the battery if the car sat unused for long enough. Don’t get me wrong, I intended to use the car over winter as much as I could but only in the dry so there could be weeks at a time where she would be left to stand. Turns out about one month was the longest period.
This meant removing the battery, bringing it into the house, and using a CTEK charger on it to keep it well conditioned and topped up. It was a real pain which often took away the spur of the moment drives but it had to be done. Me being me I decided that spring was the time to do something about it.
As I saw it there were three approaches I could take to fix this problem. One, dig up the garden and concrete path so that power could be run to the garage. Two, move home to one with a powered garage. Three, fit a battery isolator switch to the Seven. I’m really lazy so I chose option three. I’m so lazy that I decided to pay someone else to do it. But who?
This lead me onto my other winter dilemma. Who was going to service my Seven when the time came? Who could I rely on to fix her up when she eventually let me down? Who would take enough care when I want this or that other thing done? Not me. I’m lazy. Sure I could take her back to the excellent folks I bought her from but Kent is some considerable distance from the North of Hertfordshire. Even the fabled workshop near Ware was a fair distance from my village. I wanted the convenience of a local garage because, you know, I’m lazy.
I discounted everyone I could find within a convenient distance from my home. Everyone except those exotic car guys in the next village over. These guys are all Ferrari, Lamborghini and the like and specialise in really early model cars. Big ticket ones. Tickets the size of the sun. Surely they know how to treat a car.
I don’t suppose Caterhams are on your radar.
They most certainly are. Why don't you pop in and one of our engineers will sit and have a coffee with you while you discuss what you would like to have done?
Sit and have coffee. Sounds super expensive already. I’m an idiot so I was in.
A week later I was heading towards Big Ticket Autos (I made that up) in the Seven which I reached in about 7 minutes. I was confronted with imposing automatic wrought iron gates and a button on a pedestal. Attached was an intercom. Through the gates I could see approximately 8 million quids worth of old steel and new carbon fibre. It was all on wheels.
I released the harness and swung open the door but it was prevented from opening fully by the pedestal. I drove forward so I could open the door fully but now I can't reach the intercom button. I drove backwards with the door open but even then I can't reach up to the height of the button. I move forward and get out. I hope no one saw that.
"Hello, John here. You're expecting me."
"Hi John, come through."
The gates glide open and I park the Seven next to the cheapest looking thing I could see. Some kind of Porsche. They all look the same to me. (Ed: so do Sevens).
Within one minute two well-dressed engineers are shaking me by the hand and showing me around the showrooms. I mean workshops but they could have been showrooms. I'm underneath a raised Enzo, I'm next to a 1960s racing Lancia, there's an E-Type over there with its engine out, here's a Dino and that looks like a Lamborghini monster truck. You can eat off the floors and there's not an oily rag in sight. The model boat in the window is designed and built by Ferrari. The guys talk like they're in love with the machines and I'm falling for it all hook, line and sinker.
In truth I'm having a ball.
You know that feeling you used to get as a kid when you went to a really good toy shop? You're kind of glazed over and all dreamy? Yeah, that was me.
"So we've removed the engine from the Enzo and have found the oil leak. The replacement part will be here soon. We took the opportunity to check the clutch, given that the engine was out. That vintage Lancia was a bit tricky. We've had to remanufacture part of the <slips my mind> but it's all going back together now. It won a lot of races back in its time. It really is very rare. So the Caterham, what do you need doing?"
"Ummm, mumble mumble"
"Yes, I’d like a battery isolator switch fitted thank you very much"
"Yes Sir, we'll come up with a plan for it. Absolutely no problem. We'd also like to book your car in for a two hour slot. We like to get to know our customer's cars personally. We'll give her a good checking over for you and then let you know about our plan for the switch. How does that sound?"
"Take all my money. Here, just take it!"
Engineer Dennis books me in and we walk outside. It's just the two of us and he seems nice.
"Dennis, I know if I have to ask I can't afford it but how much do you guys charge?"
Turns out it was £10 an hour more expensive than the guys who dealt with my old Audi. Not cheap, but I thought remarkably affordable given my expectations.
I left Big Ticket Autos (I made that up) feeling that I'd just been to the theatre. It was just so utterly entertaining. I never did get a coffee, though one was offered, but I’m willing to bet it was made from some of the best coffee beans money could buy.
Part 2 to follow (possibly). Dropping off the Seven, having her checked over and that isolator switch.