Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Raising the Roof... or maybe not...

A few weeks ago, we decided, sadly, it would be for the best to sell our lovely SAAB cabriolet. We had bought it two years earlier and had enjoyed many nice drives in the French countryside, the wind, hornets and mosquitoes in our hair.

Declining finances means we are trying to downsize, but unfortunately, I am the sort of person who finds a use for everything even if I have not seen it, or used it, for many years.

One slight problem with the SAAB was the inability to open the roof. Oh dear. The message panel blipped repeatedly at us every time we tried to open it and eventually in desperation, it told us, in its own intimidating way, to check the corresponding message in the handbook. In fear and trepidation, we did this and we were told it would be necessary to seek guidance from a SAAB dealer. It failed to add it was highly likely be at enormous expense.

Monsieur Darling, God bless him, faffed and fannied around for a long time trying to understand what was wrong, scratching his head, which is a dangerous pastime, as he is follickly challenged at the best of times. I eventually googled the problem and came up with interesting SAAB forums where all sorts of highly technical waffle explained the problem.

It appeared a new motor/oil pump for the roof moving business was expensive; also, it was advisable to check the level of the hydraulic oil. Next problem, where did this oil live? Or not, as was possibly and probably the case.

Further googling shenanigans explained about removing backseats, bolts and screws of varying sizes and descriptions. Brilliant, we now we had a hole to look in, could see the oil reservoir but the no oil appeared to be lurking in the dark recesses. Not much help.

Monsieur Darling starts taking other parts of the seat apart; he likes taking things apart, and in fact actually puts them together again. He saw that some oil was there, but way below the lower level line, whatever that is. Anyway, HE said we needed more oil. I agreed it was worth a wobble to increase the oil deficiency.

Next stop was to visit a French equivalent of UK motor parts store, Halfords. We searched the shelves for something that looked as though it may do the job, but no luck. Eventually I knew I was faced with the challenge of asking for the relevant oil.

It was a hot day and we stood in the queue for ages. The CCTV camera monitor showed our image and I spent many minutes trying out new alluring smiles, all of which were obliterated by my gaze being drawn to a misrepresentation of my weight. Now I know all cameras make you gain pounds, but this one was definitely in threatening mode.

Eventually it was our turn and I asked the lady behind the counter, about the oil. She was not totally focused on my needs and kept answering the ‘phone, as I tried to explain I wanted to get the car roof down and up. I felt I was doing a fairly good impersonation of Girls Aloud with my arm above my head and popping my hand up and down, but a glance at the dreaded CCTV monitor made me realise it was more a Rod Hull and Emu impression

The lady asked for the Carte Gris (French logbook) for the car. I told her that was not relevant as the car was still on English plates. This obviously threw her a bit, as the Carte Gris appears to be the compulsory piece of paper to produce for the slightest thing to do with cars.

She asked the make, so I told her and she checked numerous books, computer screens and tutted a lot. She finally decided they were not SAAB dealers so could not order the oil for us.

“No worries” I say, “any old car roof oil will do”; “oh no” says lady, “it has to be for a SAAB” apparently they cannot sell for another make.

She then informed me the nearest dealer was a two hour drive away. I muttered to the queue building up behind us that next time I would buy a Citroen or Renault, although they were pretty boring and ugly (the cars, not the French people behind us, I hasten to add).

I gave myself a small wave good bye into the CCTV camera, nearly falling over as I flamboyantly flaunted out of the shop and we returned to the car. Blimey what to do next.

I found a car supplier French website, which seemed to sell everything for every car in the world and asked for a quote, with delivery, for the required hydraulique oil. I received a reply a week later saying it was not in their catalogue.

A few days later, and the solution was simple. M. Darling discussed the problem with a friend who also likes tinkering and messing with cars and he suggested trying automatic gearbox oil.

I was a bit concerned about this, after all gear box oil is not meant for a roof, is it? Anyway, we went back to the same shop and found the relevant oil for €5. Fortunately, the lady on the till did not recognise us so we were not subject to another lecture, and fortunately not asked for the Carte Gris.

I could not bear to watch whilst the back seat was dismantled and the bolts and screws a~plenty were removed. But hey presto it worked, and we are just hoping no~one wants to buy it. So a few pleasant drives have been undertaken with my fabby baseball cap “Old Speckled Hen” which either promotes a beer, or describes me, you decide

So I guess the moral is, improvisation is alive and well in France.