A Look Back In Banger

The memoires of Wing Commander "The Famous" Muriel Eccles (DSO and bar, bar crawler, and barred from the Bath micro car campsite for disruptive behaviour), looks back on a life of bubbling adventure.

ome people say that bubble cars are dangerous and unstable, but as we all know this is not the case... you've got to put in some real effort to roll one of these cars. Now I have a little red Trojan called Bumbly. He's a right hand drive and therefore male (?huh? --- ed), he's 33 years old and very stubborn.

He's been carrying me around over the last nine years or so and in that time has had his fair share of mishaps though has still managed nearly 40,000 miles. I thought I'd tell you a few cautionary tales, tales of bumps, rolls and split paint, tales of horror and extreme silliness. Tales to make your new coat of paint peel and your engine drip oil (Omigod! It's Vincent Price! --- ed).

The Heinkel Manoeuver

Bumbly's problems started just a few weeks after he had made it back onto the road after a fifteen year holiday. He was undented but still displaying his original faded paint work, and was having difficulties with his dynastart --- too much start and not enough dyna! I was on my way home, and due to an extreme lack of petrol I was forced to stop at a filling station to buy another gallon of their finest. At first all went well --- I filled up, paid up, and was all ready to junp in and start up when suddenly... nothing happened! But it happened suddenly mind you! Bumbly was feeling flat.

Hmmm, this called for the "Heinkel Manoeuver" bubble bump start, a manoeuvre that you can only perform with a car which has a front door at the front (the best place for it). One turns on the ignition, puts the car into gear, and then (and this is the tricky part) one simply runs backwards pulling the car by the clutch pedal until sufficient speed is reached. One then releases the clutch pedal, quickly switching to the accelerator as the engine fires, and in this way the engine may be started single handedly without using the starter.

First attempt, silence! Not to worry, I'll have another go. This time, pull, run, fiddle and "verroom!", Bumbly leapt into life, and now self-propelled and still in gear, began to move faster forward! Before I could pull down the clutch pedal again to stop him, "crunch", followed shortly thereafter by "aaahhhhhhh" and "Aarrgghh!!!".Before I could pull down the clutch pedal again to stop him, "crunch", followed shortly thereafter by "aaahhhhhhh" and "Aarrgghh!!!". Whilst I had been performing this operation a bright minded local chap had decided to park his car in front of Bumbly (but behind me) to pump up his tyres!

Bumbly now stalled, and there I was - legs pinned between an Escort and my own car, with Bumbly's door, which was of cause still open, embedded in the door of the Escort. Well, I pushed Bumbly back and rubbed my bruised shins, and what did this chap say? Wait for it... he said, "I knew you were going to do that!". Why oh why then did you park your car there? Some people are very stupid. Anyway, refraining from giving him the thrashing he deserved, I told him my details, (nutter who lives in next town? --- ed), and pushed Bumbly into the road, where a passing pedestrian, manfully suppressing his own outrage, or possibly laughter, gave me a push. I gave Bumbly a sound talking to on the way home, telling him that this sort of behaviour just would not do, but he didn't listen... they never do you know, although the dented door, which has never been quite the same since, did make him feel a little guilty. After all it was his fault as he could see the other car. Why didn't he tell me?!


Now, one would hope that Bumbly had learnt his lesson, but not so. I attended to his charging problem and arranged for a friend to give him a lovely new coat. Said friend knocked out the dents and painted him so well that you could see your face in the door even before cutting back the paint. He looked a treat, but, alas, was soon up to his old tricks. Loaded up to the sunroof frame and accompanied by Sir Guy of Geezer we set sail for Burford so that Bumbly could meet his friends and we could drink beer and discuss the finer details of life. Bumbly was being silly all the way there --- I was having trouble getting him into gear. This I put down to excitement over the forthcoming weekend, but the problem persisted all through the rally.

Matters came to a head just a mile or so out of the rally site whilst trundling down the busy Oxford road. We were accelerating, and all was going well until I tried selecting third gear... it just wouldn't go in. Suddenly the lever moved forward easily but rather than third gear it had gone into third and forth at the same time, (not an easy thing to do I can tell you!), resulting in the gear box and thus the rear wheel locking solid. At this point Bumbly's rear, tired of following behind, decided to try to overtake the front. The front, not comfortable with this state of affairs, decided to go sideways. There then followed two or three peaceful seconds as the car glided elegantly sideways down the white line in the centre of the road before Bumbly's bottom, also showing signs of discontent, decided to move upwards and all of a sudden he was lying on his side on the opposite carriage way. I myself was left hanging up in the air held by my seat belt and my companion, Sir Guy of Geezer, was gazing at a piece of tarmac which had just appeared outside his window. He opened the door which, due to our angle, fell open, (fortunately stopping just short of the ground), and we got out, righted poor Bumbly and picked up a few odds and ends which had fallen out --- rear window, empty cider bottle, cuddly toy, fondue set. (didn't they do well?)

As luck would have it we had landed (and landed is certainly the right word for it) just outside a bungalow which was occupied by a charming chap who was building an A.C. Cobra in his garage and was decent enough to let us leave Bumbly in his drive. Bumbly was unceremoniously dragged off the road, as his rear wheel would still not move, and a passing Bubbler gave us a lift back to the rally site where the rally organisers were able to give us a lift to Milton Keynes station. We retrieved Bumbly the next day with a trailer. He was now in real trouble, rolling over on his new paint work and then refusing to take us home. Well as punishment I took him to an empty garage in Northamptonshire and left him there for three months before doing any work on him. I feel he was starting to learn that he would be punished for such behaviour, but he didn't get his real lesson until a few months later... but that's another tale.

I've often been given to ponder whether it is just male bubble cars that give this sort of trouble. Are female bubbles better behaved or, as I suspect, just rather more subtle in getting their own way? I suppose that that's just another one of those great questions of life.