The Europe 2011 Road Trip

7 countries, 3 friends, just one 1998 Renault Scenic

Day 0 - Car Purchase and Prep

4 August ’11

The Day 0 post is really dedicated to the car purchase and prep for the trip. Partly because the story of getting it is fun. Partly because it was such a key part to the adventure. No one really goes out of their way to drive a '98 Scenic thousands of miles in summer in Europe, but that's what happened.

The intention behind the trip was to travel some of Europe and ride our bikes on amazing trails. I'd actually forgotten how much the original focus was on cycling, but looking through my shoebox of trip memorabilia reminded me. Near the start of the planning I recall we talked about doing the trip in Joe's car. He was rocking a mk2 Nissan Micra at the time. We hadn't quite got as far as figuring out the logistics of three adults with gear for a month plus three mountain bikes before the idea was vetoed.

Needing to buy a car specifically for the task at hand, we each put in £150, giving us a generous £450. For this budget it had to be (mostly) road worthy, not crazy expensive to insure, and capable of getting us to Europe and back. The local paper classified section wasn't presenting loads of options and so we moved on to car auctions. Mikey was actually away at the time leaving Joe and myself in charge of the purchase. A trip to St Austell's car auction and we were in business!

We'd never been to an in-person auction before. This showed as we arrived too late to actually open the car doors and start it up. I think we had a couple of possibilities after surveying the available selection, something like a Peugeot 306, plus the Renault we ended up buying. When it came to bidding, they did drive the car through the auction industrial unit so we knew it really did move OK on its own power.

Joe and I went to collect the car after successfully 'winning' it. My main memory is that as we drove away, Joe driving his Micra, myself in the 'new' Renault, we got about 2 miles and then the passenger window just suddenly dropped. I couldn't seem to move it back up, the window control button did nothing. I pulled over. I think we managed to move it up by hand and wedge it so I could get home.

The first fix therefore became the passenger window. Once back at my parent's house I took the door card off and to my surprise the glass was just wedged from underneath with a piece of wood! The wires had been clean cut to that door, so the window and mirror motors weren't working because they weren't connected to anything. I got on eBay and ordered a new window motor mechanism. For the door mirror I just used a terminal block to join the wires together again and that was job done, mirror and window good as new!

We'd agreed to have the brakes on the car checked over by a professional garage before departing to keep our respective parents happy. We ended up doing this the day before going. The garage thought the brakes were some of the worst they'd ever seen and very much in a dangerous state! That's both front and back sets! We had them fix and replace the drums on the rear (none of us were super confident about taking that on), meanwhile we bought a new set of front discs and pads and fitted those over at Mikey's farm. Images below show before and after for the front discs, quite something!

What about the specs? It was a 1.6 Petrol 1998 Renault Megane Scenic. It had a tape deck, so we used an 3.5mm aux to tape adaptor that worked well. It didn't have aircon, which was a luxury we just couldn't afford but would have loved! The car drove through temperatures well in the 40s, so inside, especially after being parked up for a while, things got pretty hot!

Here is final car preparation anecdote. We took out two of the three rear seats to allow us to fit in more stuff (we didn't have a bike rack). We took out those seats behind the passenger front seat, thinking this would give us better visibility whilst driving for pulling onto motorways etc. Except on the continent they drive on the other side of the road! We didn't realise the flaw here until we'd started driving in France.