Home Page About Us Contribute

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Escort, Inc.

Tweets by @CrittendenAuto

GM Icons
By accessing/using The Crittenden Automotive Library/CarsAndRacingStuff.com, you signify your agreement with the Terms of Use on our Legal Information page. Our Privacy Policy is also available there.

The Blue And White Van Man 11 - Holidays In Pre-EC Europe

The DriveWrite Archives

The Blue And White Van Man 11 - Holidays In Pre-EC Europe

Stan Potter
February 2, 2014

Bedford Van
Stan Potter remembers when everything on a Spanish holiday Costa less:

I am old enough to remember when the government imposed a restriction on how much each person could take out of the country for a holiday at £50 per person. These days that figure seems unbelievable but it was possible then.

Three friends and I decided to go to Spain. The parents of one of us had a Bedford Dormobile motor caravan. This was based on a Bedford van of the 1960’s. It had a 1600cc engine from a Vauxhall Victor and a four speed gearbox with a steering column gear change. The accommodation consisted of four seats that folded flat into two beds and two bunks in the elevating roof. There was also a two burner stove with a grill.

We managed to negotiate the loan of the vehicle for our two week holiday. Fortunately one of our number worked for a travel agency and got us a complimentary return crossing from Dover to Calais with Townsend Thoreson Ferries. At the time France still used the Franc with an exchange rate of 13 to the pound. We set off towards Paris on the Routes National as at that time the French motorway network was not as comprehensive as it is today.

When we got to Paris we were confronted by the Rue Peripherique. A motorway ring road but not as 4 innocent (?) British lads had ever experienced. The description that was banded about was “the North Circular at 60mph with six lanes either way and nobody giving any quarter to anybody” especially a strange looking English van. At one point it looked as if we were doomed to circulate this vehicular maelstrom until our fuel or nerve ran out.

We needed to get in the lane to our left but indicating left and trying to pull out just incensed following drivers and provoked much hooting of horns. I was driving and the guy whose parents had lent us the van was sitting in the passenger seat. He said, “When I say pull out, Don’t argue just do it” There was some clattering and a distant voice yelled “pull out” I did as instructed. He had put his seat belt on loosely and thrown himself partially out of the sliding door with which the van was equipped.

Apparently the look on the face of the driver of the following car was a picture of horror. But he braked allowing us to complete the manoeuvre as intended. We were happy to leave the Rue Horrifique far behind as we proceeded down the N7 route to the sun. Incidentally this area was the scene of the longest traffic jam in Europe when in 1980, 109 miles between Lyon and Paris were snarled up by skiers returning home.

We stopped overnight in Orange where I became acquainted with the vagaries of French plumbing. After an evening of sampling various wines, I needed a pee so finding, as I thought, the dreaded footmarks in the floor, I pulled the chain only to find I was in a shower cubicle. The next day we proceeded onward via Andorra. A remarkable place which consists of one main road with side roads off into the mountains either side. It is the only place I have seen Forward Control Land Rovers used as buses.

We crossed into Spain and headed to the Costa Brava and a town called Rosas. A fascinating place, so far north on the Costa that the most common language is French. None of us were keen on Spanish beer so imagine our delight when we saw a sign saying “Dortmunder Union Vom Fass” (Draught German Beer). Amused by the incongruity of four English lads drinking German beer in a French speaking part of Spain we did our best to encourage European Unity.

Also Rosas has an impressive marina complex and there are many well preserved Roman remains. We also went to Santa Susannah, a typical Costa Brava resort where the beach and campsite are separated from the town by the railway line. This can be quite hazardous when returning to your pitch after an evening of sampling the local facilities. We all survived, but I would think the whole area has changed dramatically in the intervening years. Fuel, campsite, fees, food and entertainment all this and change from £200. I wonder how much it would cost today?

Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library

The Crittenden Automotive Library on Facebook The Crittenden Automotive Library on Instagram The Crittenden Automotive Library at The Internet Archive The Crittenden Automotive Library on Pinterest The Crittenden Automotive Library on Twitter The Crittenden Automotive Library on Tumblr

The Crittenden Automotive Library

Home Page    About Us    Contribute