Jack Ledingham

My 1986 944 was my daily driver as well as being a part time van, part time Sunday car and part time project. I can’t really afford the luxury of having umpteen different things to drive whenever it suits but I feel it's quite rewarding as I've developed a bit of a bond (as sad as that may be) between it and I.
Me and a group of friends had recently completed the 'North Coast 500', which is apparently Scotland's answer to 'Route 66'. Naturally I took my jack of all trades 944 and it performed admirably for all 800 miles through the miserable weather and tatty roads on a blown suspension. 

The short of it is that there were three downsides to this trip. First; the roads absolutely peppered the front of my car with stone chips (although the bumper to bumper racing didn’t help). Second; the group was huge and trying to arrange stopping points was a nightmare. Third...me and my mates all immediately wanted to do another one.

That’s when my technology-apt mate Craig started a group chat and got the ball rolling by building a route. We tried to figure out places that we'd all never been before but have always wanted to go. The Isle of Skye was top of the list. 

It's a small Isle on the West coast of Scotland which is accessible by bridge or ferry (weather dependent) and the roads were said to be incredible for driving. This expanded into a trip that involved 3 ferries and included the Isle of Mull, an even smaller Isle further South of Skye. What first seemed like a bit of a pipe dream turned into reality when dates were set. I'd booked the dates off work and immediately realised I was under-equipped for the journey.
My car at that point in time had blown suspension, spongey brakes, door cards that were so soaked that you could properly wring them out, some electrical gremlins which I'd need to sort and finally it needed a service after the previous 1000 or so miles of pure abuse! 

The weather in Scotland was fantastic so I did the service and bled the brakes in a day. I attacked the door cards and made some RS style ones with tartan fabric door pulls which I am still amazed I managed to do. I fixed all of the electrickery and put life back into the electric seats — at last a comfortable seating position. Finally I fitted some GAZ fully adjustable coilovers to replace the abysmally soft suspension along with thicker ARBs and stiffener brackets. These were really the cherry on top of my now excellent 944. 

All the work had let the trip date draw closer and the next thing I knew it was the night before and I was frantically packing away. In a last ditch attempt at some hilarity, I removed the rear seats and rear carpets. The gearbox noise resulting from this is absolutely comical and I advise any enthusiastic 944 owner to try the same.

We all met in Banchory, about 15 miles out of Aberdeen, and headed from there. All of us had, with varying degrees of skill, fitted CB Radios to our cars; essential when travelling in a group and handy for me who was driving alone when I wanted some company! 

Craig had a MK3 VR6 Golf, and Pete had a MK2 VR6 Converted Golf. Rather roarty engines but the 944 kept up without a hitch. The first day was a long haul to Portree, the main town in Skye. To get there was about 250 miles and we didn’t take an easy route. From Banchory we headed through the Cairngorms and over the Lecht. In retrospect its actually an incredible mix of tight, steep and technical corners with huge sweeping straights thrown in, all with picturesque scenery to match. These were roads that we have all driven many times before however so we were more concerned about who could get to the next way point on the sat-nav first than the views outside. 

We stopped at a few picture points on the way and eventually landed ourselves as far West on the mainland we could go. From here we took the bridge onto Skye and followed the epic winding road towards Portree. We were booked to camp and despite the grumpy campsite owner putting us off when we turned up, it was actually a great night.
The next day we woke up to a downpour of heavy rain. 

Packing away tents in the rain is not one of my favourite pass times, but we scurried everything into the cars and quickly set off. This day ended with a Ferry. We didn’t see a problem with this when we got going, but as the day went on we quickly realised that we would be very tight for time! The plan for this day was to drive completely around Skye and visit a series of waterfalls and pools that come down from a mountain called Fairy Pools — they have turned into quite a tourist attraction. The day would end at the very South East of Skye for the Ferry to Mallaig, back on the Mainland.

Due to the poor weather this day, we didn't make as many stops for scenery as we'd liked. The roads were like a roller coaster but billiard table smooth. The steep roads were draped in clouds which occasionally opened up for a glimpse of landscape. Up to this point in my life I'd never driven on anything like it. The mega scenery that kept opening up around every bend was enough to put a smile on anyone's face. Did I mention I got to do this in my 30 year old Porsche? 

We stopped at a pub for lunch and made haste for the Fairly Pools. Thankfully as we neared the attraction the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and gave us all a bit of a break. The Fairy Pools are a postcard; pretty much as you'd imagine anything called the 'Fairy Pools' would be to be honest. We took the time to walk up and see what all the fuss was about. A decision I'd later regret as my wet shoes and sore feet resulted in an impromptu Croc purchase...pretty worthy heel-toe shoes actually. In fact I'd only just recently removed my soaking wet socks from the depths of the boot of my car, and yes that was as horrible as it sounds.

Looking at our watches as we sat at the Fairy Pools we realised we had 50 minutes to make it to the ferry port; the sat-nav, however, was telling us just over an hour. 

Craig and I put our feet down (In my new racing crocs) once we had left the small road leaving the Fairy Pools. The sun was out and the roads were dry. This was the first real chance we could stretch the cars legs and good God did we stretch them. Pete's girlfriend was driving his Golf at this point and didn’t have the driving experience to keep up with us. Some would probably call it stupidity, but if I pass it off as experience it makes me look much better for it. 

The road to the Ferry Port was the highlight of the trip for me. Beautifully smooth flowing roads that allowed the Porsche and the MK3 to really show their true colours. The coilovers on my 944 were coming into their own here, letting me knuckle down into corners harder than I'd ever done before. The car was performing amazingly and it could have stayed up at 4-6500 rpm all day. The roads were sunken in between two low hills and as we edged closer on the sat-nav, we had already shaved 5 minutes from the time. 

"People that are interested in cars know that there will eventually be a car that they just 'click' with and this is mine."

A sign saying 'Road Closed at 18:00' was displayed a few times and we knew if we didn't make it at this point we were going to completely miss the ferries for the day. We both flew round a corner and passed two police cars at the side of the road. Thinking we'd just been caught going far too quick we slowed down but they didn’t bother us at all. It turns out that they were filming a movie along this road at 18:00, made more so apparent by the cameramen atop every hill and huge boom jigs. 

We made it to the ferry port with minutes to spare. We could both breathe a sigh of relief and revel to each other about how good we both drove the road and how lucky we were. The ferry called and as we were boarding Pete's MK2 turned up. It was very close. Luckily this ferry only lasted an hour or so and we were soon dropped off in Mallaig.
The campsite in Mallaig was owned by quite an eclectic campsite owner who didn’t mind a bit of a drink. In fact he was completely up for us staying up late drinking into the early morning! As far as campsites go it was pretty epic and even had its own beach. We spent most of the night sitting on the beach drinking beer. Unfortunately as nice as the photos look, it was absolutely freezing. After fixing the seemingly endless amount of holes on my air mattress with duct tape we finally got to sleep.
After getting up the next day and packing up shop, I decided it might be a good idea to do the token oil and water check to make sure the old Porker was running tip top. 

I had to get to flat ground so drove out of the campsite and reversed back onto the road. It was at this point a huge white boulder stepped out behind my car. I heard quite an unsatisfying crunch, which happened to be the offending white boulder poking a hole in my rear valance. Luckily it was an aftermarket fibreglass job so I wasn't too miffed. It did however set me up for a day of abuse from my mates. (In fact they still make comments about it). 

After the toast rack destruction comedy had worn off a bit, we all set off on another leg. This day was quite interesting as we were getting 2 ferries in one day. The first ferry left from Kilchoan which was a short drive from Mallaig through exceptionally paved twisty roads. The roads were beautifully smooth in fact and it was a welcoming break due to having the coilovers set fairly stiff. We took a detour to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct. This is the bridge you'll see in Harry Potter. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and it made for an excellent pitstop. We carried on to Kilchoan however and all boarded the ferry towards the Isle of Mull and more importantly, Tobermory.
I don't suppose anyone from anywhere other than Britain will appreciate the significance of Tobermory, or as its better known "Balamory". 

Balamory was a very popular kids TV programme that was set in Tobermory and was predominantly known for its multicoloured buildings. We took a tour around to see if we could recognise some of the buildings and we were pleasantly surprised to find that everything looked the same as it did in the show. 

We ate lunch in a small café at the harbour and after buying some souvenir tat we took a drive across Mull to the next ferry. The roads on Mull were different to the roads we'd all gotten used to the last couple of days. There were a lot of blind corners and deceptively tight bends but it made for an interesting drive. We stopped for a snack at the only shop we'd seen in at least 40 miles. 

For some reason this small news agents stocked the best pies I've ever had and we all had about three each. The remaining drive from here was very much single track road with minimal traffic. We cruised towards the ferry port as we had plenty time to spare. 
This ferry would take us back to the mainland once more to Oban. We had all booked hotels in Oban to give ourselves a welcome camping break. We decided to make the most of our last night with a slap up meal and drinks, followed by accidentally crashing a pub quiz. It was actually refreshing to have a proper bed too because I don’t think I've ever spent a night on an air mattress and ended up still 'on air' in the morning. 
The last day of our trip was long — VERY long. 

We left Oban at around  7:30 in the morning and we had all estimated to arrive home in Aberdeen at 9:00pm. Just because this was our last day didn’t mean we were taking it easy however. The route Craig had masterfully put together took us through more mad highlands with equally mad roads. Another day and another change of driving style. 

The roads on this day involved long straight in wide open expanses. This meant that even though the volume of traffic was higher we had no issue zipping passed for a more enjoyable drive. The day was so nice in fact that I even took the roof out of the 944; something I never bother doing because of the hassle. Plus it's sods law that as soon as I take the roof out it will chuck it down with rain. Luckily for me the rain stayed off and having the open roof made me really realise how versatile the 944 is. 
The first stop of the day was at Glencoe, another television diversion! We took a narrow road off of the main road through Glencoe and followed it for a couple of miles. Where we ended up was the scene from Skyfall where Bond and M stood with the DB5. It would be silly for us all not to recreate the photo wouldn’t it?
The road took us south and we followed the perimeter of Loch Lomond. Again, the sun glaring through the massive hole in my roof. The tourist traffic had died down and we found ourselves again with a bit of extra time. Once again Craig and I utilised the limitless visibility that the road gave and really got stuck in. 

We raced with gritted teeth, keeping eachother on our toes. The road felt like a sort of huge go-kart track with lots of camber and altitude changes and we were both utilising the imaginary apex in the grass before the verge. The 944 was once again in it's element, with the open roof only accentuating the exhaust note of the 2.5 lump in front. 

The tyres were holding on exceptionally well actually when aggressively transferring the 944s weight through the bends. An hour of so of this proved tiring and with no A/C I was sweating like a pig. We stopped at a waterfall to cool off and laugh at my expense once again for falling in and looking like a total berk. 

After some calmer driving, we finished the sight seeing for the day by hiring a paddle boat and drifting into Lock Lomond. There's something about 3 blokes in a paddle boat that just doesn't work. Craig kept trying to get out to get a photo and just about capsizing us in the process.

The return drive was rather underwhelming after the experience we'd all just had. Everyone wanted to just get home and have some rest and despite being a couple of hours drive on main roads it felt like the longest drive of the trip. I had furthest to go and as we drew closer to home Pete dropped off, followed by Craig. It is always a bummer when you are calling on the CB radio and nobody responds. It more or less signaled the end of our little holiday and what had turned into an incredibly worthwhile experience. By the time we had gotten home I had done about 850 miles, in 4 days. I was exhausted as was the car I'm sure.
Not only did the trip bring us closer together as friends, but it brought me an my little 944 closer together too.

I'd never put so much faith in it before and it paid me back by begging for more. I've never really felt this 'relationship' build between a car and I because I never keep them for long enough, but I've had the Porsche almost 2 years now and I don’t think I could sell it. I've taken it everywhere with me and its done whatever I've needed it to do. It's huge boot has made it handy when I need to carry sets of wheels or huge bits of wood or rubbish to the tip. It is a comfortable cruiser when I need to do a couple of hundred miles in one go and is quick enough to be fun but not too quick that I am afraid to touch the throttle. It handles excellently but can also be softened for a daily drive. People that are interested in cars know that there will eventually be a car that they just 'click' with and this is mine.

Thankfully, the trips aren't stopping. Not only is Craig planning another trip this year to Ireland, I'm also planning my own trip to Germany. Hopefully 2017 will be just as good, if not, better than 2016.

Peace
 


Comments


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.


Leave a Reply