£18.35 a mile. That’s how much it has cost to keep ‘Elaine Beige’ on the road in 2020. In case you missed it, Elaine Beige is the stage name for the FFB Classic 570.
Don’t cry for me, PetrolBlog readers. The truth is, 2020 has been a miserable year for all of us. However, 70 measly miles is a poor return for a vehicle that takes up the equivalent of four parking spaces on the fleet. Forget beige motorhome, the FFB Classic 570 has become a white elephant.
Things were different in 2019. Multiple trips to Exmoor and an extended break in Brittany meant that Ms Beige more than justified her existence. She even spent a night on a manicured lane in West Sussex, just a few doors down from Mike Rutherford. We didn’t need to call on his mechanics.
We had high hopes for more adventures in 2020. Another trip to France, plus more long weekends in the UK were on the cards. Having used 2019 as a kind of ‘nursery slopes’ introduction to motorhoming, this year would have seen us tackle some ‘black runs’ in the form of wild camping. Right now, going off-grid sounds very appealing.
It wasn’t to be. Lockdown measures meant that we were unable to collect Elaine Beige from her winter hibernation until the end of May. From the storage yard, she would make the short six-mile trip to the garage for an MOT, before heading home.
Elaine Beige had other ideas. A small fuel leak turned out to be a faulty diesel pump, which resulted in a lengthy wait for a reconditioned unit. Having fitted the new pump, and sorted a few minor electrical issues for the MOT, she threw another hissy fit when we arrived to collect her. New starter motor required.
Two months after leaving storage, she made it home. The bill: just shy of £1,000. Ouch. That’s on top of the £200 it cost for her extended winter slumber.
Still, rather the starter motor went at the garage than next to a remote beach in Brittany, we thought. Looking back, maybe being marooned between a patisserie and the Atlantic wouldn’t be so bad. Is it possible to claim squatters’ rights in Brittany?
Fast forward to the end of August, the plan was to grab a few single nights away in Ms Beige. Once again, she had other ideas. Within a few miles of home, the auxiliary belt started squealing like a pig. Seconds later, the noise was replaced by a battery warning light on the dashboard. With the battery not charging and the water pump not working, we were left with little choice but to turn around and head home.
That was it. Aside from some wild camping in the stable yard, and playing host to family members as a kind of mobile Airbnb, Elaine Beige has failed to live up to her role as a motorhome. She’s now in storage, where she’ll remain until spring 2021.
Of the 70 miles she has completed in 2020, 20 were travelling from the garage to the MOT testing station – twice. Taking into account the cost of storage, fuel, insurance, repairs and tax, she has cost us £1,285. That’s enough for a pretty decent holiday in the sun.
It’s worth noting that being under Elaine Beige isn’t a pleasurable experience. Changing the auxiliary belt on a coach-built German motorhome with an Italian engine isn’t a fun job. It’s just as well I’m thin enough to crawl underneath Elaine in my retro Citroën overalls.
Not that I regret the purchase of Elaine Beige. On the contrary, we have many fond memories from 2019. To borrow a line from an Elaine Paige song, let the memories live again. If you’re thinking of investing in a retro motorhome, do it. We wish we had done it sooner.
Sleep well, Elaine Beige. Roll on 2021.