Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 5 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

11 October 2004 Falling at the first hurdle…

Sharon, the most patient person in the world, has for the last couple of months kindly been letting us store Beauty in the garage beneath her flat. In doing so she has risked inciting hatred from her neighbours and ridicule from her friends. We’re extremely grateful.

This week, however, Beauty needed to find a new home, as Sharon needs her space back. Not a problem, we thought, she can go out the back of Gav’s flat for a while. So Gav went round on Sunday morning to move her. Now Beauty hasn’t been driven in a few months, so she didn’t quite share Gav’s optimism that she would start first time…

After a bit of a push start, with the long-suffering Karly at the wheel, the engine caught on the second (third… fourth…) attempt. 

“Hmmm, I’m not sure she’s meant to sound like that.”
“Why is she revving so hard?” 
“Sounds like the accelerator pedal is stuck. Can you smell burning…?” 
“Ok, turn it off.”

A brief inspection under the hood later, and Gavin “The Car Doctor” McGinty offers a diagnosis. The accelerator cable is definitely jammed. If only we knew which one the accelerator cable was, and how to unjam it. Also, there appeared to be a mysterious green liquid leaking from one of the hoses. Looks like coolant. Or Limeade. If the car has an automatic Limeade dispenser it’ll be mighty handy, but we’ve yet to find it.

We put a call in to the RAC (who I suspect are going to get to know this car quite well between now and Christmas). A short time later our mechanic, Emma, turns up. She agrees with Gav’s diagnosis, but fortunately she also has the skills to heal Beauty. Actually, within 2 minutes, she’s got her purring like a kitten again, and has fixed the leaky coolant hose. Hmmm, I’m sure we could have done that if we really put our mind to it. As first tests go, then, maybe we should have done better… there won’t be an Emma in the middle of the desert (unless we kidnap her).

23 October 2004 – A Very Bandit Christmas

Countering years of popular belief, Historians have today announced that the date of birth of Jesus, commonly thought to be 25 December, is in fact wrong. They have revised previous schedules and announced that the correct date is in fact closer to 23 October, bringing the popular feast of Christmas forward by some two months.

Or, at least, that’s the way things are in the McGinty household today, we’re taking a rare opportunity that we’re together to have christmas dinner, as Gav will probably be somewhere south of Casablanca on Christmas day.

Merry Christmas, one and all!

24 October 2004 – Does Beauty know what you have planned for her?

A copy of Mr Smokey’s email to the Bandit tonight. Beauty won’t know what’s about to hit her.

And now a guide to what we need to do to the car courtesy of my paranoia about breaking down in the middle of the Sahara: 
1. Beauty needs to be in sound mechanical order i.e. engine, cooling system, fuel system, suspension, gearbox, transfer box, clutch (or whatever the automatic equivalent is), brakes, steering etc. This is what the garage should do.

2. Drive beauty repeatedly and for long trips to see if she’s up for the journey. 

3. Add bash plate to protect sump and gearbox and cover the tie rods. 

4. Add new springs and shock absorbers.

5. Check battery.

6. New all terrain tires all round. Keep two of the old ones as spares.

7. Have 2-3 spares inner tubes for the tires

8. Miscellaneous equipment: High lift jack, sand ladders, towing strap, shovel or sand spade, spare engine oil, brake oil, warning triangles (these are compulsory in some countries but not sure if it applies to our ones), foot pump, tyre repair kit, block of wood to place under jack, pressure gauge to check tyre pressure when adjusting it for different terrain

Not much really!”

25 October 2004 –

A reply

And now for the Bandit’s response:

“That all seems to make sense Mr T, and good to have it in a list form. Some
comments per your numbering.

1. Hopefully we’ll get a garage to do all this stuff, Alan is going to chase his
guys today, and we’ll see where that takes us, otherwise I’ll start to push on with that.

2. I do need to get Beauty out and about more than she is, alhtough in part I’m reluctant to do so due to lack of MOT / Tax, and the consequences that getting caught could have on my licence… So 2 maybe has to come after 1, and we’ve got her an MOT. I was thinking about a long trip up to Glasgow one weekend, to give us an opportunity to do some scottish PR work.

3. This will either be done as part of 1, or alternatively we’ll sort out the
parts we need and then get it done in Morocco. The cost of a day’s labour from a mechanic down there is £5…

4. This would be nice, is perhaps more of a Could have than a Must have, but if we can get them as part of 1 then all the better.

5. The battery is strong, but it wouldn’t hurt to get a new one, or at least to
carry a spare.

6. Yep, that would be good too, we might need to get onto some kwik-fit style people and start begging 🙂

7. Inner tubes is a good idea, the other thing we’ll try and get is some instant foam sealant stuff, in case we get really stuck.

8. High lift jack (got) 
sand ladders (need to get – though would prefer some sand waffles – their about £70 a pair)
towing strap (need to get)
shovel or sand spade (need to get, will get a snowboarding one that I’ll buy
myself, and then probably an ex-army folding one)
spare engine oil, brake oil (also need spare air filter (at least one) spare oil
filter, and petrol treatment (the further we go the lower the octane rating
gets, and you get a lot of very watered down petrol, we need to keep her running sweet 🙂
warning triangles (we’ll need for France, and useful to have anyway), 
foot pump (got), 
tyre repair kit (need to get) 
block of wood to place under the jack (got), 
pressure gauge to check tyre pressure when adjusting it for different terrain
(is a part of the foot pump).
Also need a decent tool kit.

A lot of this stuff is relatively cheap and easy to buy, but I’m keen that we
get some corporate sponsorship to help us out with this.”

And how many weeks are there to go again…?

Balloch To Clydebank Half Marathon 2022 (Iain)

I have always enjoyed the Balloch to Clydebank half marathon. Which is a strange think to say about a race that is usually held in questionable weather, has a route that only a blind man might describe as scenic, and it had one of the worst finish lines in racing – the bins at the back of a shopping center.

You can read about my last attempt at the race here.

This year the race took place in September rather than March. And the route was altered to have a new much improved finish line, and a more scenic route. Although there was still a section down the lane at the back of someone house. It wouldn’t be the B2C race if it didn’t incorporate some questionable views!

But the biggest shock was that they even had new buses to take everyone to the start. These ones had brakes and heating. It was a real treat.

There wasn’t many racers at the start line. A combination of the change of date, the late race announcement and some bigger races occurring the week after meant there wasn’t as many folk as usual doing it. Which was nice as it meant the route wasn’t crowded.

I hadn’t run much since Celtman. I had an achilles injury going into that race and its taken a few months to fix. So my goal was just to make it round in under 2 hours. I managed 1hr 55min which I was happy with.

At the end of the race we got a medal from 2020. I wonder what caused that race to be cancelled? Some poor soul spent lock-down with boxes of medals!

We also got a t shirt from the Polaris 10k series. The organizers had some spare so they were giving them away. They also handed out a t-shirt for the race. Which meant I gained 2 t-shirts. Result!

I know some people don’t like getting t-shirts but I use mine all the time. I’m always happy to receive one.

The Sound of Football: Celtic Football Club (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here


Nickname: The Bhoys

Ground: Celtic Park

Stadium Capacity: 60,355

Song: The Fields Of Athenry

In 2012 Celtic celebrated its 125th anniversary.  Yet the Celtic club badge has 1888 on it. So if you do the maths, that would make the 125th anniversary… 2013, So why celebrate in 2012?

The club’s founder, Brother Walfrid, formally constituted the club at a meeting in St. Mary’s church hall in East Rose Street (now Forbes Street), Calton, Glasgow, on 6 November 1887. However, Celtic played its first match in 1888: a 5 – 2 victory against Old Firm rivals Rangers, so the badge honours this date – and the club’s 125th anniversary is 2012 and not 2013.

Brother Walfrid aimed to tackle poverty in the east end of Glasgow by using the club to raise money for his charity, the Poor Children’s Dinner Table  At that time, Glasgow had a large Irish immigrant population, and the club and charity were set up to provide a focus for help.

Today, the club still has solid Irish links, and one of the fan’s most popular songs commemorates the Irish immigration experience.

‘The Fields Of Athenry’ was written by Irish singer-songwriter Pete St John in the early 1970s. Pete St John was Irish born but had lived abroad for many years, emigrating first to Canada before moving on to Alaska, Central America, and the West Indies, where he worked as a professional athlete, truck driver, logging camp labourer, PR/Sales Official, and finally electrical contracting executive in the U.S.A.

‘The Fields of Athenry’ is a song about a fictional character called Michael, from Athenry in County Galway, Ireland  Michael is convicted and sentenced to transportation to Botany Bay, Australia because he stole food to feed his starving family. The song is set between 1845 and 1850, during the Great Irish Famine.

The song is a love song and mourns the separation between Michael and his wife Mary back in Ireland.

The Fields of Athenry is now more than just a popular Irish song. After its adoption by sports fans, it’s become an unofficial anthem for Ireland, sung by fans at rugby and football matches for teams such as Connaught and Munster alongside Celtic.

The song’s association with Celtic is partly down to the sizeable Irish-Scottish community in Glasgow, many of whom are descended from the thousands of people who went to Scotland in the 1840s to escape the famine. Among them were 15,000 famine victims who were suffering from fever.

Today, the song is regularly heard at matches along with ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone.’ Still, just as Celtic has adopted ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ from Liverpool, Liverpool has also adopted ‘The Fields of Athenry.’ With many residents of Liverpool claiming Irish heritage, it is now one of Liverpool’s most famous songs, too. And it seems fitting that a song about immigration should find a home across the Irish Sea in both Glasgow and Liverpool.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 4 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

25 August 2004 – What Mr Smokey don’t know can’t hurt him…right?

Q. So, Mr. Smokey, what do you know about cars?

A. They can help you pull chicks, oh yeah!

Q. Chicks?

A. You know, birds, babes… the lay-deez! Uh huh – They love the ride!


Q. Right. So what you’re saying is you know nothing about cars?

A. Well…

Q. About engines and bearings and filters and exhausts.

A. Of course I do, guys just know all that kind of stuff naturally.

Q. Have you ever changed a tire?

A. Come on, give me a hard question, I’ve changed hundreds of tires.

Q. Name one?

A. Why?

Q. I’m just curious that’s all. Name one time when you changed a tire.

Q. Well, there was this one time – this was years ago – when my dad asked for a hand with a really fiddly tire and I mean it was a beaut. This was the Mount Everest of tire changes. A real humdinger.

Q. What did you do?

A. It was easy. It was too easy! It was nothing. Click my fingers, just like that, it was done.

Q. Yes, but what did you do?

A. We changed the tire.

Q. What specific things did you do? The lugnuts, the hupcap, come on man, give me details!

A. Don’t want to.

Q. Why not?

A. I’ve got nothing to prove. I’m a guy. We fix things. It’s as simple as that. Change a plug, fix a light bulb, repair a car, it’s all good.

Q. Then why won’t you answer my questions?

A. Okay, okay. One question though, that’s all your getting.

Q. How did you change the tire?

A. Well first I got a spanner – 

Q. Surely you mean a lugwrench?

A. Yeah, of course. So, I got the lugwrench and I start to unscrew those big screw things – 

Q. Sorry to interrupt again, but what about the hubcaps?

A. The hubcaps?

Q. You did leave the hubcaps on, didn’t you? It’s not like you’d want to start to change the tire with the hubcaps still on.

A. [Laughs] Of course I left them on, any idiot knows that.

Q. HA! Got you! You can’t leave the hubcaps on, you fool, they cover the nuts and the wheel.

A. Well, I…

Q. You don’t know the first thing about cars at all do you?

A. …….


Q. So what really happened?

A. I passed my dad a spanner.

Q. A spanner. 


Q. And was that it?

A. It was the wrong size. 

Q. You don’t know the first thing about cars do you?

A. No.

19 September 2004 – Children’s Hospice Week

Today marks the start of Children’s Hospice Week in the UK – a week-long celebration of the fantastic work that Children’s Hospices do, and a good time for fundraising.You can find out more about Children’s Hospice Week at the swanky new ACH website – are all sorts of events going on – you can hold your own Butterfly Tea Party to help raise money. We did think of holding one ourselves, but the last time we did any home baking the emergency services had to be called…There will also be collections at Somerfield supermarkets, and indeed you can meet Gavin at Somerfield on Old Street, London, a couple of nights this week. Please talk to him, he doesn’t bite (as long as you donate some money).We’re also using Children’s Hospice Week to launch our own fundraising part of the site – and you can now donate quickly and easily online using credit or debit cards by visiting There are links to our fundraising page all over the site, and to find out more about the different things that your donations will get you visit the “Help us” page.

28 September 2004 – Gentlemen, start your engines

It is with great pleasure that we can officially declare the Pit Lane open. We thought about doing a proper opening ceremony, you know, putting up some red ribbon, hiring a former soap opera actor to come and cut it, and handing out fizzy wine in plastic cups. Unfortunately Dirty Den from Eastenders claimed to have a ‘prior engagement’.

Anyway, you can now access the Pit Lane from the menu bar, and you get to use our super-sophisticated password protected entry system, meaning that only those who have donated some money to our charity get access to the Pit Lane. Massive thanks to Alan Woolston for writing the code for the password, his IT prowess may make him slightly geeky, but he knows 47 ways to kill you with his little finger, so much respect is due.

What are you gonna find in the pit lane, then? Well, at the moment there’s some useful answers to questions which everyone seems to want to ask us. There’s also some comedy coincidences between us and the film Smokey and the Bandit. There are some choice photos going up, including pictures of Beauty as she’s appeared in a number of films – some of which may come as a surprise. There will also be a live daily journal which we’ll update as we embark on our adventure. Basically, then, its ram-jammed full of great stuff, is guaranteed to be much funnier than the main site, and is yours from the take-home price of just £5 (although don’t be ashamed to give more…).

So ladies and gentlemen, start your engines please, the Pit Lane is now open…

[2022 Note – I have no memory of doing this or inventing OnlyFans in 2004!]

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 3 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

11 August 2004 – Version 2.0

The world wide web just got a new addition courtesay of Mr Smokey. Version 2 of is now up and running. It ain’t porn, but it’ll do.

16 August 2004 As one legend dies so another is born

Memphis, Tennesee, 16 August 1977

It was another sweltering Tennessee night in the capital of Blues. As children in the street play stick and ball, and ceiling-fans in bars gently whir in the stagnant southern air, a rumour starts to spread. The King is dead. Done in by one burger too many, those a-hips, they ain’t a-gonna swing no more…

Glasgow, Scotland, 16 August 1977

Rottenrow maternity hospital has seen its fair share of pain and joy. Tonight was to be no different. Exhausted but overjoyed at the birth of their twin boys, the tired parents look proudly on the new life they have brought into the world. “This one,” they say to each other “this one we will call Andrew. And when he grows up he will make us so proud, and never do anything foolish or life threatening.”

Yes my friends, it’s all gone downhill since then. Born on the day that Elvis died, Mr Andrew Todd, the Arbroath Smokey, turns 27 today. Happy Birthday Smokey lad!

18 August 2004 – Show us your love

With a massive thanks to Pete and all at Label Graphics (undoubtedly the finest suppliers of quality self adhesive/pressure sensitive plain and printed labels and labelling equipment the world has ever seen) we will soon take delivery of some fantastic new Team Bandit Bumper Stickers! Complete with comedy slogan and the website address, these are the ideal way to show how much you love us.

How do you get your hands on one of these bad boys? Well, the easiest way is to join the Pit Crew! The Bumper Stickers are sent out as part of the exclusive and very sought after Pit Crew Membership pack. You could always try being very nice to the boys, in the hope that they might just give you one for free, but there are no guarantees…

The supplier of these labels is Peter, one of the finest (and funniest) men on the planet. His company, Label Graphics, do all sorts of amazing labelling wizardry, supplying food and beverage labels, pharmaceutical labels, barcode labels, and I’m quite sure every other kind of labelling stuff imaginable, to some of the biggest companies in the world. Check out their website at – why not start a raging discussion at the Labelling Forum, or pick your favourite Label of the Month (which all seem to be alcohol related – good work fellas!).

22 August 2004Beauty Tips : Number One

Like any good looking gal, our car, Beauty, requires a little bit of protection when she’s out and about. She needs to know that, despite flaunting her bodywork from Plymouth to Dakar, those foreign fellas will only be able to look and not touch.

In no particular order, here are her top personal safety tips for hitting the streets: 

1. Padlocks

Lock everything – Doors, sunroof, the rear boot and anything else you can possibly think off. Remember though that hasps can be forced open so back up your padlocks, by, yep, even more padlocks. Make those fellas work if they want to get their hands on the goods.

2. Curtains

While Mr Bandit has already immersed himself in the latest catalog from Ikea at the very thought of adding curtains to Beauty; Mr Smokey suspects some newspaper and tape to cover the windows will protect her (and Messrs Bandit and Smokey) from both prying eyes and the strong African sun. NB – Covering the front windscreen is a beginners error (unless of course you plan to reverse all the way to dakar in which case – go right ahead).

3. Windows

Finally, if the soaraway Sun or swedish soft furnishings ain’t your thing then how about some metal grilles over the windows? At night these grilles will let you sleep while keeping the windows open but any inquistive visitor out. Perversely though, having metal grilles will make you look like a security van and thus more likely to be robbed (or at least poked at with a stick though the metal grille while you dream about the day you can take a Sherman Tank to Dakar instead).

The Sound of Football: Carlisle United (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Carlisle United

Nickname: The Cumbrians/The Blues/The Foxes

Ground: Brunton Park

Stadium Capacity: 16,683

Song: Looking Good (We’re Carlisle United)

Carlisle United is the smallest team by population (100k) in the football league. It is also the only side to have once been owned by a man visited by aliens. It was close encounters of the third division kind.

In the mid-1990s, Michael Knighton owned 90 per cent of Carlisle United. He was an unpopular chairman and became a figure of fun when the local Carlisle News & Star newspaper splashed the story “Knighton: Aliens Spoke To Me”.

In the 1970s, the paper said Knighton watched an alien craft perform a range of “impossible” aero-gymnastics moves. Before the craft disappeared into the stratosphere, he claimed he’d received a telepathic message urging him: “Don’t be afraid, Michael“.

However, the story was a stitch-up, and Knighton offered to resign over it until the paper published a semi-apology a few days later asking him to stay  Today, Michael is philosophical. When he discussed the story on his blog in 2013, he wrote:

Do aliens exist? Who knows, I haven’t spoken to any recently!

Carlisle’s nickname is The Foxes due to the most famous English huntsman of all times – John Peel.  John was born in Cumbria and kept a pack of foxhounds. He was immortalized in song:

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so gay?

D’ye ken John Peel at the break o’ day?

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far, far a-way.”

(Source: trad.)

Peel’s legacy lived on in the exploits of a Carlisle club mascot called ‘Twinkletoes.’ He would dress in a blue and white top hat and tails and go onto the pitch before home games carrying a stuffed fox named Olga. Sadly, this tradition has ended, and the stuffed fox is only on display inside the stadium.

The club anthem dated back to the 1970s and was recorded after Carlisle United gained promotion to Division 1. It’s called ‘Looking Good (We’re Carlisle United)’.

And, for a few years, things did look good for Carlisle. In 1974 the club briefly topped the first division Bill Shankly, the famous Liverpool manager and a former Carlisle player, even said this was “the greatest feat in the history of the game“.  Unfortunately, due to its small size, they lacked consistency, fell away and the club was relegated at the end of the season.

The club’s anthem was supposed to feature the team singing, but its management refused to send them to the recording studio in London.

The song features crowd noises, which you would assume are the Carlisle fans; however, the composer revealed that Carlisle’s fans were too quiet. He wanted the crowd to sound louder, so he replaced the fans with stock sound effects from a bull-fighting track, which is why if you listen closely, you might just hear “Ole,  Ole,  Ole!“.

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 2 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

27 July 2004Crossing the sahara: The first warning

Despite careful planning, despite all his claims of undying love, Arbroath Smokey failed to turn up and meet our fine, fine lady.

Was she upset? Did she care? 

She’s not said anything, she taken on that whole indifferent ‘couldn’t care less attitude’ but Mr Bandit said that in the days running up to Mr Smokey’s visit our lady had thrown away the mouldy (and rather smelly) foot mats and acquired some rather funky new indicators. 

Yet despite these signals Mr Smokey failed to appear.

What was his excuse?

He says he was stuck in the desert. Well, a metaphorical one, anyway.

Attending a management seminar in London, he had to classify 15 items (such as water, a knife and a large orange kite) in order of importance for surviving being stranded deep in the heart of the Sahara.

Just your average typical office problem.

Mr Smoky considered the options and thought he’d chosen wisely. He is after all a Plymouth/Dakar rally driver in training.

At the session’s end the instructor asked if anyone had ever been to an actual desert before.

Mr Smokey said no, but that he would be crossing the Sahara in a £100 car in just a few short months.

The instructor looked at Mr Smokey’s results. He compared them with the correct answers recommended by the US air force. After reading Mr Smokey’s first answer he started to shake his head. After reading the last one he said: – 

“You’re not going to make it home, are you?”

28 July 2004The full spa treatment…

To help our beautiful car get over the disappointment of not meeting Arbroath Smokey last week, the Bandit decided to go to town and give her the full luxury spa treatment. Every girl loves a nice bath, but most girls would baulk at the thought of a sweaty man (I was just out of the gym) rubbing them down with a big yellow sponge lathered up in Fairy Liquid. Not our lady though – she loved every minute of it.

Sparkling like a diamond in the rough, it was time to get handy with the wax. Turtle Wax, that is – no need for a ‘Brazilian’ where she’s going. A quick polish and buff, and she’s as good as new. Tomorrow she’s getting the car equivalent of a nail-job: we’re going to start polishing up that Chrome until we can see our reflections in it. Actually, on second thoughts, we might stop just before that point.

As every Miss World contestant will tell you, however, real beauty isn’t just skin deep. So we’ve got a bit of work to do to the interior – we’ve already had to rip out the carpets from the front, as they were just too darn smelly. It’s not a huge loss, though – inch thick shag-pile carpeting is not such a good idea when we’ll be tramping in and out with sandy boots. However, fear not – we have a cunning plan to replace it. We’re going to put in some wood flooring. No, trust us, you know what that car really needs? More wood…

31 July 2022 – Happy Birthday, Mr Bandit!

Today, Mr Bandit turns the ripe old age of 27. With a £100 – well, £205 to be exact – car, scant knowledge of the inner workings of an automative engine, nevermind the clutch, the gears or the mystery that is the camshaft (wasn’t he the private eye who got all the girls?), and the whole of the Sahara desert to cross, will he live to see his 28th? 

Only time, and a lack of updates around Christmas, will tell.

To be continued….

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