Departure from France (October 2006)
The story begins with the purchase of the car, of course. We are around mid October 2006. After having inspected a few SMs, this is this one my father and me decide to chose. My father goes one more time to the car’s location, in the Paris region, buys the car, do all the required paper work and leaves, driving the car to the shipping company.
The car works well and my father arrives at the shipping company subsidiaries with no troubles, still around Paris. The french transporter acknowledges the reception of the car, does the required paper work, again, and I’m informed by the canadian transporter that departure is scheduled around end of October.
So far, so good.
A few days before the expected arrival date, the canadian transporters tells me that the french shipper found water below the car when he moves it to load it into the container. I’m also told that the alternator belt is missing.
It’s just the first of many hassles 😉
For the belt problem, I hope that he was speaking about the belt of the air conditioning compressor, which I know is missing, but for the water problem, I have no idea because my father drove the car just fine to the transporter.
So far, not so good, but I don’t worry too much.
The fake arrival (November 2006)
On November 3rd, the canadian transporter tells me that the container arrived in Montreal.
As it was when I received the SM body early the same year, I then wait for news to know when the car will be released from customs and when I will be able to get it.
But each container has to pass a sanitary inspection, ensuring that it didn’t bring any vegetal or animal dangerous for the environment. More that one week after the container arrived, I’m told that it failed the inspection and it has to be shipped back to France.
What the hell is that mess?
The SM is not the cause of the problem but a 2CV and a Méhari (belonging to other persons) were in the same container and these two cars were found dangerous because they showed traces of soil. I asked to the previous owner to do a good cleaning to avoid this kind of problem and, fortunately, I’m clear. The dirt on these two cars is a first problem. There is also a problem with the wooden pieces used to secure the cars inside the container, that have been found not conform and so, also dangerous. That’s the second problem. When there is a dirt problem with a car, they just clean it and then you get a big invoice for that. When there is a problem with the securing wood, they just treat the inside of the container by fumigation and you also get a big invoice for that. But when there is two simultaneous problems, the sanitary inspectors say that they cannot fix the problem because each problem interact with the other one and the wooden pieces could infect the clean car or the dirty car could infect the treated wood (depending in which order they plan to give you the invoices 😉
Anyway, the transporter didn’t have more choice than sending back the container to France, to fix these problems there. I’m not asked to pay anything, I didn’t even pay my initial invoice and I don’t plan to pay anything before having the car back. The transporter is supposed to be a professional, so it’s his job to use approved wood. The return and second expedition fees are for him.
During November, the container is shipped back to France and its return is planned for end of December. I tell the transporter that I will be away for vacations at that time, so he planned to delay the second departure to synchronize the second arrival.
At this moment, I seriously begin to worry. Three transatlantic trips instead of one, that means three times more chances to damage the car, three times more salt and humidity during the trip… not good news. Fortunately, I’m so busy at work that I don’t really have time to think about that 😉
I initially planned to use the car before winter, I already know that I can forget that idea.
The actual arrival (January 2007)
The container return is announced for January 12th. Then I wait for the result of the sanitary inspection. On January 16th, the transporter tells me that the inspection went well. Yes ! 3 days later he tells me that the car is in its warehouse, ready for customs and then delivery.
Is it the end of hassles? NO! The Murphy’s Law applies.
On January 22nd, I have an appointment to do the customs paper work and get the car. Everything goes well for the customs, a customs officer fills the required paper work, I pay all taxes and I leave with an official authorization to take delivery of the car. I finally arrive at the transporter warehouse to actually see the car.
So the cooling circuit is down and so is the charging circuit. I think that if the engine would start, I could use it for loading the car on the tow truck and then unloading it to its parking space. I try and the engine starts very easily. Great! But good news end there.
After a few seconds working, the engine shows some troubles, it stall on idle. I don’t want to use more revs, the engine is cold and is known to not appreciate. There are two persons in the transporter warehouse and the towing guy arrived to load the car, so we decide to push the car to align it with the tow truck platform.
At that moment, the Murphy’s Law strikes again!
We discover that the rear wheels are almost jammed. By pushing the car, we can barely move it. I (too) quickly diagnose a rear brake calipers problem. I try to move the car using the engine but by doing that I kill the battery because I have to restart the engine very often, after it stalls (and the alternator doesn’t work without its belt).
I ask the towing guy to tale the car from its rear end, the only place on the car where there are some towing hooks, but this guy make me understand that I don’t know anything about towing and so it’s better to tale the car from its front end. We eventually succeeded in placing the car in the loading position we wanted, pushing it and making a U-turn.
The towing guy then pulls the car with his winch to load it on the truck platform. I’m not so disappointed about the result, it seems that his chains didn’t damage the car. We finally can go to deliver the car to its winter resting place.
But the Murphy’s Law strikes back, with maximum intensity 😉
After just a few kilometers, I almost get a heart attack when I suddenly see that the car almost fell from the truck. I have a good view of the disaster because I’m just behind the truck with my personal car.
So we are in the middle of a crossroad, there are cars everywhere, temperature is around -10 Celsius and we have a car lying on its body, ready to fall down.
I quickly check under the car to see that she’s lying on the center part of its body, I don’t see any damage. This is almost miraculous. The car was in its lower position, so she didn’t fall high, but when I will be able to do a deeper inspection, I will for sure discover some damage. But for now, we have to find a way to put the car back onto the truck, in the middle of the road and under freezing conditions.
The towing guy finds a way to put the car back on the truck. He’s going to put wooden pieces on the road and tilt the truck platform to put the rear wheels of the car on the wood. With multiple steps, he eventually succeeded in pulling back the car without too much trouble and without causing more damage to the car.
At this moment, I think about burning the car, she’s damned and must be destroyed 😉
After pulling back the car on the truck, we continue our trip and finally arrive to destination without more trouble. But the car is not yet in its parking space. The garage is the basement of a building, its access way is a slope. We try to put the truck into the slope but it doesn’t help so we decide to unload the car on the road and I hope that the battery has enough power to start the engine to help us. And yes, I succeed in starting the engine but battery is so low that I have to keep 2500 RPM’s to keep the engine alive and hope to not have to start it again.
I finally put the car in the garage with a lot of gas, it makes me sick but we are all fed up so she has to go. Of course, the suspension is in its lowest position. I don’t know if there is a hydraulic problem but the short period of engine power are not sufficient to bring the suspension to its regular position. With this low position, the car rubs the ground at the beginning of the slope. Too bad, I go on to take benefit of the running engine and I “throw” the car into its parking space. Rear wheels are still almost jammed, but snow is helping, allowing the wheels to slip and follow the move any way.
At this time, my earth beat begins to slow down.
The towing guy tells me that he doesn’t want to hear about this car any more. I don’t want to hear about him any more, that’s for sure.
What an adventure! I’m writing these lines the day it happened and I’m still in shock.
I’m not authorized to do any mechanical work in the garage the car is parked, that’s another problem. I’ll have to negotiate to be able to put the suspension to its upper position before trying to get the car out. To artificially obtain the upper position, I’ll put wooden pieces in the suspension cylinders, it will fix the main problem, temporary.
I’m thinking that there is perhaps no problem with rear brakes. If the rear suspension buffers are dead, it’s often the case, the rear wheels are coming to deep in the wheel arches and so they perhaps simply touch somewhere inside. Tires are not originals, so they are perhaps too wide or too high and are part of the problem. I’ll confirm these thoughts when the car will be in upper position.
The alternator belt and cooling circuit problems are perhaps linked. It’s strange that these two problems happened at the same time. So I guess, or I dream (because it’s perhaps too simple), that perhaps the alternator belt damaged a nearby cooling duct when it broke. To be confirmed.
Next step is planned for spring. I’ll have to bring the car to my home and do whatever needed to make this drivable, because I plan to use it during summer. I’ll go take the car with a trailer and I’ll take my time to do a good job. I’ll not call again a towing guy whose going to do a bad job to free himself as fast as he can.
This story should not discourage anybody, everything usually goes well and in this case I’ve been remarkably bad lucked. We’ll say that the container could have been on the ship that recently ran into a reef (it was named Napoli I think). Let’s be positive 😉