November 8th

So, I got up early and sorted the kids out. I then took the Westfield for a preliminary zoom around the village to check that nothing had dropped off. It hadn't and the car looked rather fine in some weak sunshine.

Dean came round at 11:30, he is going to ride shotgun, and after filling his car up with my junk we set off for Norwich.

The journey there had some good bits--mostly blasting round things at roundabouts--and some rotten bits which were all to do with lorries on the A11.

I was quite glad that I had persuaded Dean to come with me as his TVR didn't slow me up very much!

We got to the SVA station at about 1:00 and set about removing the tonneau and covering up the hood poppers and so on. The car here is denuded of such things.

That's Dean (yet another Isocrat) in the photo by the way.

The Norwich testing station is fairly easy to find--the maps provided by them worked rather well but the place is rather inauspicious looking when you get there.

So, we drove in and went and announced ourselves. While waiting for something to happen we lolled around by the car having a cup of coffee. Someone came up for a chat about the car. He later turned out to be the inspector's familiar so I hope we hadn't said anything silly to him.

After a while the inspector came out. I'm not sure what his name was but he had a huge beard. This was obviously to aid his facial expression. He must have been on a poker player's course recently as all through the test I was completely unable to read him. I had no idea what was happening until the very end.

First of all Mr B checked the chassis number and idly strolled around the car checking the protusions. He was pretty uninterested in this really, presumably because it was just another Westfield. At no point did the balls, 30° cone and curvature gauges appear. He then got me to yank up and down on the steering wheel while he and his earthly presence poked around in the engine compartment. This was the first problem as the wheel moved in and out a bit! Mr B pointed out that one of the bolts on the UJ at the bottom of the lower steering column was not tight enough. Dooooh... He said "Have you got any tools?" I had, and I fixed it. I have the impression that if I didn't have any tools then that would have been it. I thought I had checked every single bolt on the blasted car and in a way you could say that just this makes the entire SVA process worthwhile.

Next we checked the lights and came to the next problem. The rear fog light didn't work. As I had checked this 47 times this was a little annoying. However, I was allowed to open up the light and it was obvious that the problem was that the bulb wasn't making good enough contact with the mounting. This is pretty annoying as this is directly a result of the naff lights that Westfield supply--and moaned about here before. Luckily, I was able to bend some contacts and make the light work.

Next it was round to the mirror test and the noise test. This was carried out and was either OK or not--it was hard to tell as the po-faced Mr B just carried on plodding around.

Then I had to drive the car all around the building and go into one of the two testing lanes that they have. First thing was to stop the car over a pit and Mr B and X went underneath and poked around in some indeterminate manner. During this, and later similar procedures Mr B shouted instructions to me over a loudspeaker. This louspeaker is positioned on a big stick and is at just the right height to poke in through the window of a 38 tonne truck. This is slightly higher than the driver's seat of a Westfield and it has to be said that it was very hard to hear what was going on. The other lane in the building and the rest of my lane was filled with several large trucks which were having all sorts of tests. Many of these seem to consist of using a large hydraulic ram to press down on the truck and check how it's brakes worked at the same time. This made a lot of noise. Anyway, it as then on to a lights test, no worries here as I had had it checked before and then the emissions, which similarly held no horrors for me.

Then the car was up onto some scales--although I never did find out what it actually weighed--and was then driven forward onto the brake rollers after Mr B measured what appeared to be the length, overhangs and wheelbase. Not sure why they need this, but it could be something to do with the brake tests.

This is not Mr BThen it was onto the brake rollers and a great deal of messing around with full pressure, half pressure, forwards, backwards, both wheels, one wheel, each axle stuff. I was beginning to think that the mysterious foot pressure gauge was not going to make and appearance but it finally did. This is a device that is intended to clamp to the driver's foot so that he can press the pedal with a defined force. The problem here is that I just could not make effective contact with the pedal with the gadget, mainly due to the lack of room. I had a brainwave and asked if it was acceptable to use my hand instead. Mr B thought that this wouldn't work as I couldn't press hard enough but that turned out not to be the case. The largest force required was 40 kg. (At least that's what it said on the gauge, it clearly should have said 40 kgf but this wasn't the time to be picky.) I had to press the brakes at various defined levels while the rollers were messed about with in various unclear ways.

After that the car was back around to the front of the building and Mr B and his daemon went to put their numbers into a PC. A while later he came back out with the measuring gadget than is specified in the SVA manual. (You can see this thing in the photo here--which is from a book not a photo of the real living and kicking Mr B.) It turns out that B was concerned about the height of the shoulder mountings for the harnesses. He was happy with the central ones which are mounted on the "cotton reel" mountings that are used for inertia reel seatbelts. However, he thought the outer one was too low. I had thought that having the central one high enough somehow exempted the outer one, at least that's what Westfield told me. Later on I looked at the manual and I couldn't see whose view is correct.

Anyway, I told Mr B that I had inserted some spacers in the mountings and moved the spacer from the inner mounting to the outer one, making two at the outside and none on the inside. He seemed happy with this, and unimpressed with my argument that if Willans reckon the belt should go down from the shoulder and the DoT reckon it should go up then I would prefer to believe Willans.

Still, he disappeared again and, after a rather gruesome wait, reappeared with the MAC!The only problem with this very expensive piece of paper, which I didn't notice until I got home, is that it says that the car is an SE whereas in actual fact it's an SEi. (The "i" standing for independent rear suspension.) With any luck this won't matter. In retrospect I think Mr B actually told me about everything that was wrong as it cropped up and gave me a chance to fix it, it's just that the complete straight face all the time meant it was hard to see what was going on. Still, I bet when he gets to his macrame class he's the life and soul of the party.

After that, it was off home. By now it was 4 pm and I realised that I'd been operating on nervous energy all day and had not eaten anything at all, so Dean and I retired to a Little Chef (uch) and availed ourselves of an all-day breakfast. As it was the first thing that I had eaten that day it seems appropriate somehow. I noticed during the meal that Mr B had given me two bits of paper about the brake tests. They both said: "Test failed" all over them! I can only assume that this paper assumes that I was an HGV...

After that things got worse. By now it was dark and it had started to rain. Hence I had my first experience of driving the Westfield in these conditions. It was absolutely horrible, made worse by the naff lighting. I think I will have to invest in some better headlights at least, as these ones are really useless on dipped beam. I have noted that a set of Cibié Oscars is about £120. The Westfield list price for the things that I have is £140 which seems pretty tough. However, we got home safely and I wasn't too wet.

There were two problems though. The first is that there seemed to be a lot of water inside the scuttle, as if it was leaking from the wiper shafts or something. This could have been due to water coming over the top though so I can't be sure. Perhaps worse is that the engine seems to be almost over cooled. Most of the way back the temperature gauge didn't get above 55°. Hence I'm wondering if the engine thermostat is working properly (or is even there at all?). According to my Ford Mondeo manual the thermostat should open at 88°, which is rather different from where I am.

To cap it all, when I got home the fog light didn't work again. Oh, and no-one even thought about asking me about speedo calibration!

So, that's it. Now I need to register the thing. This involves filling in two forms: V627 (the "build-up report") and V55 (the application for a registration number). Tomorrow I'll try and phone the VRO (for the 8478th time) and find out what the best procedure is.

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