Jensen Monday Club

Istanbul!

 

Most of you probably know the story of how this little adventure came about, but for those not paying attention at the back...

Preamble

"Like most things, it started small; a Monday Club day at Steve Payne’s house at the edge of the English Cotswolds, just like any other meeting we had arranged.

The traditional hymn “Jerusalem”, written by William Blake, refers to “England’s green and pleasant lands”, but in the grip of winter only skeletal branches were visible on the trees, and the normally verdant fields were hard packed earth, and so without the usual breathtaking scenery to distract me, I considered my experiences of Jensen ownership.

These cars were the product of a bygone age. An age of cheap, high octane fuel, where the threats of Middle East conflicts, sky high oil prices and global warming were unheard of, and the notion of cheap air travel to distant locations were no more than a dream. In this spirit Jensen had build luxurious high performance cars whose sole purpose was to cross entire continents in speed, comfort, and no little style. Why else would you shoe horn 6 and 7 litre engines into cars designed in the best Italian styling houses, and built to the highest standards by English craftsmen?

But what was I, and most other Jensen owners doing with these inter-continental ballistic missiles? Polishing them like soldiers boots, for the concours Sergeant Majors to inspect on parade? Turning them into little more than show poodles at car shows? I had taken 136-8779 on track days to race tracks, and drag raced it a Santa Pod drag strip, but even this seemed pretty lame compared to the design brief of these vehicles.

And so, as things always seem to do, it started small. An idea of a road trip in keeping with the design brief of the definitive English Gran Tourisimo car, and a trip which would bring these cars to life, a trip that would push man and machine to the limits.

But where?

Istanbul!

Once called Constantinople, where the continents of Europe and Asia meet, where once the Byzantine Empire ruled, only to be replaced by the Ottoman; once a Christian city, and now a Muslim, and standing on the shores of the river Boshorus, steeped in history, culture, and adventure.

And so September 2006 was decided on. Time to fettle machinery: time to save the cash for the huge fuel bills; time to research the logistics of a proper, proper road trip for a proper, proper English GT".

And so, in early 2005, it started.

It seemed a long way away 18 months, but other than bits of car tinkering here, and route planning there, we pretty much ignored it, and like anything you ignore, it sort of creeps up on you when you least expect it.

The internet was invaluable. We planned routes, came up with new ideas and re-planned them, contact British Embassies in the proposed countries, checked currencies, re-planned it again, got drunk, and generally had a good time playing with the idea. We never really stuck to plans as one of us would then come up with something else, and we would start again.

Russia was the first plan, but corrupt police and border guard's put us off that idea.

The Pink Floyd track "Time" from "Dark Side of the Moon" contains the lines "And then one day you find, 10 years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you' missed the starting gun..."

With us it was "And then one day you find, 18 months have got behind you, mucking about and having fun, yer off next month!" Doesn't quite scan as well, but you get the idea.

So we eventually got organised. We had folders with all the British Consulates contact details, we had breakdown coverage on the car, we had international driving licenses, we had medical insurance, we had insurance to provide us with a flight home if the car was knackered, etc, etc, etc.

In short, we had a bandage for every sore.

All that was left to do was to inform the car insurance company, out of mere courtesy if nothing else, of the mere formality that we would be taking the car to Istanbul. What could go wrong?

Except absolutely everything.

When, after trawling the internet for days trying to find ANYONE who would entertain the idea of insuring the car for the trip we were making, I asked one insurer what the Bulgarians had ever done to upset him? He replied "They beat us at football once".

That was the most sense I got out of the whole affair.

I had met a guy who organised classic car rallies, and rang him in Italy where he was on a rally, and he couldn't help us. Chris e-mailed the leading classic car magazine in the UK, and they not only couldn't help, but didn't even get back to us (more of this later).

Eventually, after advice from various embassies (who were excellent, always replying within 24 hours, and some getting very excited about the car and the trip), a King's ransom exchanged hands and we were sorted; we were insured.

Maybe; ish; sort of if you squinted in a poor light and didn't look at it directly, or actually want to use it as any sort of insurance or any non sense like that. Heaven forbid. Really. I ask you. Diabolical liberty. Who would have thunk it?

But we were going anyway.

We had decided on a course of not taking too many spares to save space and so we had a budget for replacing all the stuff we might have taken spares for, such as hoses, drive belts, bulbs, etc. We would have been unlucky to have any new parts fail, so the car was fettled and serviced and pronounced fit for purpose.

Except for the gearbox, which "Might need a bit of nursing" (more of this later).

And so we found our selves with 5 days to go. And didn't they just take the longest time? They crawled by, and for both Chris and myself the pressures of work just seemed to get worse and worse...

It was about now that the nerves began to kick in (for me anyway). My girlfriend Kate had been convinced from the start that we would both be killed. So much so she insured me for 100 grand. Never been worth so much. In fairness I insured her for 100 grand, and left a roller skate on the stairs...

And so we found ourselves, on Friday 29th of September 2006, suited and booted, and ready to rock and roll!

P.S. We kept a bit of a diary of what happened and when. We also noted anything that made us laugh (lot's!) and any odd phrases that cropped up. These became know as "Unquotable quotes" and I have added them at intervals during the following pages. We offer no explanation or context, just use your imagination ;0

 

Go To Day 1: Ice Cold in Ulm

Or Day 6: Och, Ma Heed!