1991 Skoda Rapid 135 RiC
Completely original and unmodified, including the original fuel injection system and catalytic converter.
First off - just a few images of the Rapid as of me getting it home after picking it up from Dundee.
29th June 2006 saw my first "proper" entry into a classic car show. Attended this one a couple of years ago with my much missed bright (Snapdragon) yellow 1981 Austin Metro HLE, but this is the first time I'd actually entered. Unsurprisingly, I didn't win anything - but the Rapid attracted far, far more interest than I had expected. Weather held out too, an added bonus.
Since I've got the car, a few little tasks have been undertaken...firstly a good service. When I got it, the engine had almost a litre too much oil in. One oil and filter change later, and I gained about 20bhp, and all the oil leaks stopped. The overfilled oil didn't seem to be hiding anything, or have caused any lasting damage, as it's not used any appreciable amount since, and is running fine.
First task following the discovery that the oil seemed to be staying *inside* the engine, was to get rid of some of the gunk outside. Will take me a while, but at least it's looking halfway respectable in there now. I still have to refit the offside splash guard too, this was missing when I got the car - but I've got a spare from my old 130GL which will fit perfectly.
The only major problem I've had since getting it was a leaky clutch master cylinder - which started as what I thought was an occasional drip - and progressively degenerated. It then left me stranded at the train station when all the fluid leaked out one day...an hour and a half of walking across town later, I returned with fluid, and got home. That weekend I changed it for the one from my 130GL, and order was restored. For once, it was a task that took LESS time than anticipated! 23 minutes in total!
Of course, the clutch fluid dripping into the drivers footwell for who knows how long, had made rather a stain on the carpets - so they had to be cleaned. Upon removing it, I realised that the cylinder must have been leaking for months - the carpets and the padding under them was SATURATED in fluid. I.E. it was actually dripping out of them. The main carpet in the front I attacked with a combination of washing up liquid, a pressure washer, followed by proper carpet shampoo, followed by much, much rinsing. The smaller carpet "border" that is behind the pedals, this being in two parts and much smaller, I just stuffed in the washing machine. I do warn anyone however...that if they have something like this that's had brake fluid on...don't do that! It foams up like you would not believe! I had to run the machine though the cycle no less than TWELVE times to get rid of the soapy white foam. Granted, it didn't do any lasting harm I can see, and the carpets came out looking like new. Of course, at this point, having very clean carpets and padding, but very wet ones...it started raining....heavily...for hours. It actually took me a week to get those carpets dry! Of course...I had to use the car in that time...so I had a very rally-esque interior for that time! Looks cool...but that floor is very, very slippery when your shoes are wet. The bruise on my chin where I smacked it on the door frame when getting out as a result confirms this!
Eventually however, I did get the carpets all dried out, and refitted - which was actually a surprisingly painless proceedure. Looks like new - only drawback of course it it makes me realise that I really should give the rears the same treatment - that means taking the seats out though, so will probably wait until I've got a day off work and no other plans. Was a bit of a time consuming faff taking out cleaning and refitting the carpets - but worth the effort without a doubt - I'll be doing this on all cars when I get them now I think!
The next task was to tackle the rather scabby front wing tops. These were both trying to rust from the inside outwards - the offside by far the most badly. I dug out all of the old sealent from between the two panels, and just about drowned the whole lot in rustkill - then attacked the surrounding area with a wire brush, removing as much surface rust as I could. The result was a rather pitted, but rust free area, which was then sealed, primed, painted and laqured. The finish is far from perfect - but I intend to replace the outer wings at some point in the future, so I'm not too concerned to be honest. Looks a lot better than it did anyway! Plus, the rust hasn't shown any signs of resurfacing in a month, so fingers crossed it doesn't!
The other bodywork task I've done, was to attack a HUGE chunk of filler I spotted on the front valance. I'd had a good poke around behind there, and could see no logical reason for its existence...and it looked a mess. Half an hour with a couple of chisels later, and a chunk of filler a quarter of an inch thick, by six inches, by three inches was removed. This was covering a "ding" about 20mm in diameter and 3mm deep. I sanded the entire lot as flat as I could (not flat enough darnit...need to re-do it), and repainted, figuring that the ding looked far better than flaky filler. Don't have photos available of this project though. Remember taking some, but can't track them down at present. If I find them, they'll go up here.
While I was looking for the laquer, I discovered something I'd forgotten - a can of high temperature red paint...and added one of my silly little touches. Don't know why, but something in my head says the rear engined Skodas should have red exhausts! And why not - not as though it's an un-reversible modification or anything.
Since doing any of the paintwork, or the following polishing, I've not taken any photos...which I shall sort, once it stops raining anyway!
And here we are, nearly a year later...
Late October 2006, two and a bit weeks before I was due to depart to Iowa for the best part of a month for a holiday, the Rapid decided to be downright spiteful, and break down on me. Upon turning out of the carpark, I found myself not in first gear as had been my intention, but in third. Not the first time this had happened, it had always been one of the car's less endearing quirks (especially on busy roundabouts!). However, when I went to rectify this situation, I found that the gear stick no longer appeared to be doing anything.
First thought: Oh my god, my gearbox!
However, the lack of any sounds of mechanical agony (the perpetually rattly clutch release bearing aside), and the fact that there was no loss of drive led me to believe that it was merely something amiss with the gear linkage. Probably had just come off at one end or the other. I limped the car to a parking space in third, and parked up, with a bit sign in the front window reading "Broken down - will remove tomorrow morning!" in the window, crossing my fingers that I wouldn't get a parking ticket. Giving the RAC their due - they were with me within ten minutes of me calling them on a Sunday - and the Rapid made a journey back home on the back of a truck. This is certainly the most unnervingly bouncy car that I've seen on the back of a truck! Excuse the fuzzy picture, this was taken with my phone.
Upon getting the car back home, it turned out that the gear linkage had not come off, but had actually sheared clean off at the gear lever end. Getting the old linkage out without dismantling two thirds of the car (including removing the gearbox...not a task I wanted to attempt!), required both the help of a friend, and to temporarily suspend the laws of trigonometry to get the end clear of the gearbox mountings. Somehow, it was achieved though - was actually my friend who got it off, with considerably less effort than I had expended while trying to get it off. Tracking down a replacement was easy enough, and someone from The Skoda Community Forum kindly helped me out by supplying a linkage. Getting the new one on again proved to be even more of a pig of a job than getting the old one off - and things which should not have been forgotten got postponed...again, and again, and again. Until a couple of weeks back, when in a fit of determination, I finally managed to get the pest of a thing in. That's one job which while really simple, is made a complete pain in the tail by requiring just that little bit too much space...that little bit more space than you actually have to work with. Getting it to go in without catching on the handbrake mechanism was the biggest problem - which I eventually managed to do by removing that, then having my father guide the linkage (using a large - 24mm if I remember rightly - spanner) in the right general direction, while I lay under the car and fought it into place. This process involved an improbable amount of cursing and making noises which I'm sure people haven't even discovered that the human voicebox is capable of making. The one bit I'm still a bit puzzled about is connecting the linkage to the selector at the cabin end - you have to do it after the linkage is pushed into the tunnel...but you can only reach to do it at an angle...I'm a bit worried that this might leave tension on the linkage - which may be why it snapped in the first place. That said, the original one was bent as well - and with the new not-bent one in place, the gear linkage is an awful lot better. It has not however stopped the car from jumping out of reverse whenever it feels like it. Must assume that this is a rather deeper issue then. Unfortunately I don't have the resources to remove and rebuild a gearbox - so unless it actually does go bang, that's an issue I'll just have to put up with.
Needless to say, the car was just a little annoyed with me for having neglected it for ten months, and I had to use some "gentle persuasion" - the sort involving a large hammer - to get the front brakes to free off. Surprisingly the drums at the back just shrugged it off and seem to have accepted that it's back to business as usual. The front brakes after a bit of exercise around the yard seem to be back to their old selves.
Cosmetically however, the car seemed to have suffered far more over the time than mechanically. Now the paintwork is far from Regal Red as it is called - it's more like Baby Pink. The picture below was taken just after I'd first moved it (and turned it around). All I'd done cosmetically was remove the grass which had attached itself to the front bumper. The slightly shiny patch by the fuel cap was me experimenting (pretty unsuccessfully) a couple of weeks back with a new sort of polish.
Salvation it would appear is at hand though - I've just discovered a new sort of paint renovator from Auto Glym, which unlike most of the polishes I've tried actually seems to work well with the Rapid's paint. The wing shown below was done in about ten minutes, and just given a very quick wax afterward. This stuff's just designed to remove severe oxidation and such, not to be used as a regular polish - so I'm guessing that it's pretty strong stuff. The colour of the rag afterward gives me that impression too! Fingers crossed it'll work as well as first indications suggest, and I should have a presentable looking car again before long. Next weekend I'm planning to finish bolting all the things I've taken off over the last ten months back on, and start writing up a proper list of pre-MOT tasks.
It's worth noting the colour of the bonnet in the image above - that's what I started out with on the wing more or less! Yes there are bits I've gone over more than others there too - this was just a very quick experiment - a successful one I think.
Shortly after this photograph was taken, the car was moved into a friends garage to avoid the worst of the winter weather. The garage, while one of the most chaotic places on the planet, is at least weatherproof and secure - and once I've tidied the place up (which I think may require a very large skip and/or bonfire!) is well big enough to comfortably work on the car, it has power, and there's a large workbench at the back...you just can't see it yet.
The good thing about being in here as well, is that it's given me a good chance to examine the car in reasonable depth. This has allowed me to discover that in a few places that seventeen Scottish years have indeed taken their toll on the bodywork. Thankfully the floor in general is solid, I've not had a VERY through look yet, but I've not been able to poke any holes in it so far. The same unfortunately cannot be said of the sills!
Passenger side isn't too bad really. Couple of 10p sized holes and a rather crusty looking section around the jacking point. The sill certainly isn't pretty, but it should be easily enough sorted.
The drivers side on the other hand is going to require a bit more in the way of repair work. A few seconds with my hand...never mind before I got the handle of the screwdriver involved, and I ended up with a four inch long by inch wide gash just in front of the rear wheel. Looks like the tin-worm's had a bit of a go at the inner sill as well....some creative welding may be required here. Sure it can be sorted though - just hoping that when deeper investigation starts I don't find that the entire inner sill needs to be rebuilt...that would be rather a drag.
The rear wheel arch also contained (note - containED) a significant amount of filler, masking an old scrape. Said filler was in a little pile on the ground by the rear wheel a couple of minutes later. Both of these repairs will be made rather easier by the fact that I have an almost entirely rust-free Skoda 130GL at my disposal - rather than manufacture rather elaborate repair sections, good metal shall probably be cut from there and welded in as necessary. I can't remember off the top of my head if the wheel arches on the Estelle are the same as on the Rapid - but will measure next weekend to find out. Yes, I also realise you can see the little retaining clip for the various pipes under the car hanging down - I still need to tidy things up under there again following the gear-linkage saga. At this point in time it hasn't been decided for certain that the engine and/or box don't need to come out in the near future yet - so I'm not wasting time on details like that just now. I can quite happily deal with detail stuff like that at my leisure.
Quite possibly the worst corrosion however has taken place at the base of the inside front wing on the offside. This is going to be a real pig to get to, quite awkward to repair in itself - only further investigation will show how deeply into the front of the sill the rot actually goes. It's solid underneath there, which is something at least. The outer wing will of course have to come off - and as you can see above it's in less than tip-top condition - and I think may well come apart in the process. Looks like I'll be after another one - getting the "135RiC" vinyls reproduced should be an interesting challenge.
Because I know someone will point out that a car should be clean and dry when put into storage - I'm going to point out that the mud dates from the blast up and down the farm road that the garage is on after its five month incarceration. It was spotless and dry when put away.
You may note above that I said that it hasn't been decided that the engine and/or box don't need to come out in the near future yet - though this would probably happen after the MOT - as I'm aiming to get the car ready for an event at the end of June, and it's going to be tighter than I'd like to get it ready for then anyway. The reasons for this are twofold.
A, or one: That the emission control problems persist. I've still not managed to track down a suitable replacement lambda sensor - also following a hole appearing in the silencer, it's had a standard Estelle/Rapid exhaust fitted as nobody in my local area could source one for a 135. This of course lacks the casting into which the lambda sensor is meant to fasten. It does however not buzz loudly enough to hear in the next county at 2750rpm as the old system did! This leaves me with an interesting conundrum. Option 1 is to source a 136 manifold and fit a carburettor. Option 2 is to replace the entire power unit with a low mileage 130 engine which I know is a good one (assuming that it hasn't seized up in its two year hibernation anyway). If it weren't for the fact that the 135 has 68K on the clock and the 130 has just under 26K on the clock, it would be a clear decision. As it stands, the car will just manage to pass an emissions test now, but it's close to the limit, and never runs as well as it should do - especially overfuelling at idle.
B, or two: Reverse. The main problem with this car since the day I picked it up was a persistent tendency to jump out of reverse gear under load. In general use it's not really a problem, as it's fine when reversing into parking spaced and the like. It is an absolute pain however if you meet a tractor halfway down a really narrow road and have to reverse half a mile...or, as I wanted to shortly before writing this page, reverse up a somewhat steep driveway into a garage. I eventually gave up on that plan and went back in forwards. It behaves impeccably in all forward gears (touches wood - they all whine a bit in top, don't they?), but persistently jumps out of reverse - particularly at lower revs. This is the sort of problem which I worry that will get worse at some point, and would like to deal with. The box in the 130GL generally behaves itself (assuming it has survived the crash which took the car off the road unscathed anyway) though it does have some syncromesh issues on second - I don't know how much an oil change would be likely to help that though. It completely eliminated it on a Lada Niva I also owned anyway. Being a 130GL, it also has a taller 5th gear I believe, a bonus for cruising. I tend to think that I'd rather take my chances with a box I need to double de-clutch into one gear and be careful with than one that jumps out of any gears - even reverse. I did get a spare (albeit unproven) gearbox with the car. However in the foolish belief that the problem was selector related - and a requirement to thin out a large stock of junk - it was sold. Oh how dumb I feel now. Given that the bellhousing in the 135 is tapped for kit for the injection system, I can't really put the 130 box in with the 135 engine - so both would have to be swapped really. Never taken a box out of a rear engined Skoda before...if it happens, should be interesting!
Getting behind the wheel again has made me realise both how much I miss driving the Rapid, and how ridiculously comfortable those seats in the Rapid are...
Time and tide
wait for no one...and as I had to let my first Saab go, I also had to
let the Rapid go. Ironically however it's actually gone back to
its previous owner! He'll be nursing it back to health over the
coming months, and hopefully we'll see it back on the road in the near
If I hear any updates on how it's going, I'll be sure to put that information up here. From my side however, aside from boxing up a few bits and pieces and forwarding them to the new owner, this story's finished I think.
Here she is, just about to depart to its new home. Just hope the new owner is more able to find time than I was to sort things out.
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