North Coast 500 – before the start

Strictly speaking this first post about our Scottish trip is about getting to the NC 500. We live a good few hours away from the Scottish border and so as the North Coast 500 starts at Inverness we did not want to feel like chewed cardboard by dashing up there to start (besides Hilma doesn’t go that fast anyway).
The panic set in the week before when we had an ‘injector’ light on Hilma’s dashboard stay on permanently. I didn’t fancy 3 weeks and 1500 miles of wondering what might happen if I ignored it. So I had a cunning plan, ask our usual MOT chap to plug her in to his fancy computer ‘thingymajigg’.
Cunning plan A goes wrong, “no can do” says MOT man, “can’t get a readout, let me try ‘supercomputer 2′”, he says. plan B goes wrong, – supercomputer 2 says “NO”.

On to plan C – contact the people who serviced, MOT’d and swapped all the lights when she became a UK citizen, “No problem – yes we can sort that for you”.
Plan C slightly thwarted as it was a bank holiday – had to wait 72 hrs.
Plan C was now in full operation with me driving 1.5hrs to get Hilma to the workshop. I was there 15mins and techy workshop man come out and says their ‘superdooper diagnostic thingy’ wouldn’t plug in – Hilma was too old! What an insult! I told her not to listen and I would help her feel young again.
Plan D immediately came in to play, I would visit a FIAT commercial dealership on the way home, find out what they could do for – things were getting a little close by now, we now only had 3 days before we were setting off.

Great news, Mr.FIAT commercial with a lot of intakes of breath and hurrumphing finally ‘mangaged’ to squeeze Hilma in – the day before we were due to go to Scotland – last chance saloon. Still, it would be worth waiting another 24hrs for the professionals to give her some tlc and get her right before our trip.
Plan D was only a 40 minute drive this time (good job I filled Hilma’s fuel tank a few days ago ready for the NC 500). Up early, on the road before 7:15am in order to get her to Mr.FIAT on time. Yep – you guessed it – same result as Plan B – Hilma was ‘too old’, poor girl, by now she was really starting to get a complex. Needless to say the air at Mr.FIAT’s ‘professional’ dealership was fairly blue for a while – they did mange to print out a list of all dealers between home and Inverness for me – I was getting to feel I might be visiting a few of them at this rate – and if anyone called Hilma too old again I felt like I would ‘lamp them one’.

Well feeling pretty despondent by now I was getting a little tired of all this, we had not even packed yet! Home – think, what next? OK – ring nearest other expert Mr.FIAT commercial. Una answered, what a nice lady, “yes of course we can help” (this phrase was starting to wear a little thin by now), I explained our predicament and covered the delicate subject of Hilma’s age. It was at this point Una said, “aahh – I’ll go and ask our Senior Technician” – my heart was in my mouth whilst the canned muzak was playing. Una came back on the phone “Can you bring it in today?” (I resisted the temptation to say Hilma was NOT an IT – sad I know) – I nearly leapt down the phone “Yes, of course I can – now?”, “1:30” Una replied. This was it, I could feel it in my bones, Hilma was being looked after, nothing could stop us now.

So off Hilma and I trotted, another 90mins to another Mr.FIAT professional who seemed to know that she was a bit of an ‘old girl’ and needed specialist care. Upon arrival I was ushered to a nice seating area, coffee, newspapers and a television, things were feeling better (although I wasn’t sure how my wallet would feel afterwards). After reading some news, looking around the showroom and 2 cups of coffee later I was getting worried, we were due to set off to Scotland within 18hrs and Hilma was stuck in a workshop. Una came around the corner, I couldn’t read her face but I was sure it was bad news. She said (with a blank look on her face) that the technician (here we go I thought) had managed to clear the fault, had driven Hilma up the road and the light had not come back on. HURRAH I nearly jumped for joy and kissed Una – but the usual English conservative attitude kicked in and all I could say was “thankyou”.
Sigh – what a relief. It turned out to be a faulty cooling fan relay. And the wallet was only £85 lighter (I must have spent that much on fuel following Plan A to Plan E).
Still, can’t complain, eh?!

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