Over land and sea to Sweden in a 15 year old Toyota Corolla…part one

Yes you read that headline correctly. Oh and I should have added “in time for Christmas!”

It’s a long shot but we know a man who can…

So what do you do when you have to visit the “outlaws” in Sweden for Christmas and you’ve missed the cheapo fares at your favourite budget airline?

Simple, pick up 15 year old Toyota Corolla that has not seen the wrong side of 60mph in the past 10 years, borrow a top box and head for Harwich.

As my wife’s family are from Sweden, as a family we spend a lot of time flying from Stanstead to Stockholm South and every other year the obligatory migration for Christmas comes round, Cheap flights have to be booked about three months before departure, but with redundancies announced in my place of work, uncertainty meant I missed the cheap flights. My wife, Marie first brought up the subject of an alternative saying she had been online and it looked like it might be cheaper to take the Harwich to Esbjerg ferry, so we started looking into things a little further.

The options for the trip were to fly with Ryan Air from Stanstead, flying SAS from Heathrow, the Eurostar (Take a lunchtime Eurostar to Brussels, a high-speed train to Cologne, the excellent City Night Line overnight sleeper train to Copenhagen then a fast X2000 train to Stockholm), Harwich to Esjeberg with Stena Line or Harwich to the Hook of Holland with Stena or a quick hop over the channel at Dover and a long drive.

At the time the costs stacked up as below.

Driving UKDriving EuropeTotal mileageTicketsFuelParkingSnow TyresAA coverTotal
Ryanair (Stanstead)170 miles80 miles250 miles£782£40£88£910
Eurostar12 miles12 miles24 miles£1,000£40£1,040
Dover - Calais346 miles2120 miles2466 miles£100£300£300£120£820
Harwich - Esbjerg144 miles976 miles1120 miles£780£128£300£120£1,328
Harwich - Hook of Holland144 miles1830 miles1974 miles£280£250£300£120£950
SAS (Heathrow)280 miles250 miles530 miles£893£80£91£1,053

There may not be a lot in it but we love a challenge and, dare I say it, an adventure so Dover to Calais and a long drive it is!

When I bought her “Jenny” was heading for the scrap yard. 146,000 odd miles on the clock, looking rather more black than white and imbued with a quite horrible smell. Remarkably she sailed through her MOT just needing some new fixed brake lines to the back. On her first trip home my son Simon took one look at her and said “You don’t expect me to get in that!” and sat down in his mother’s car refusing to budge– I relented. Later the same weekend, armed with some upholstery cleaner and a scrubbing brush I persuaded my daughter Julia to assist in a general clean up and after vacuuming Jenny was starting to lose a little of her “old lady funk”.

The trip to Sweden is going to need a few “extras” to make life aboard bearable. We have been used to SAAB boots and so decided that a top box would be a cunning plan. An email at work brought a number of offers. Another colleague had an old roof rack. With everything was mounted up, on the road it sounded like you are driving through a hurricane and the fuel economy was shot so badly to hell that I stopped worrying about it altogether, went back to the spreadsheet and doubled up on my petrol allowance. Then I took the thing off the roof until it was really needed.

Overall Jenny was mechanically OK if not entirely sound. A full service and new cam belt at City Tyres on Kings Street, Norwich seemed a sensible option, followed by a short trip to a small local garage Abigail’s in Acle to replace a number of inoperative dashboard lights.

This left only three major problems. Snow tyres, a problem with the engine which meant it was idling at 1100rpm and the small matter of a defective heater. The snow tyres came from Mytyres.com. I spent more than strictly necessary but then this is supposed to be an adventure not a kamikaze run. Abigail’s sorted out the thermostat which was a huge relief as the car would warm up at a standstill, but after a 10 mile run round the Norwich southern bypass the temperature gauge was still below minimum – in fact it looked like it actually couldn’t get any lower!

As things stand at the 13th December, the snow tyres are on their way from Germany and should be here by the 16th. The car is going in for another session at Abigail’s to see if they can find out why we can’t slow the idle down, but as I hope not to be spending too much time in traffic will chance it if they can find no obvious solution. Packing has started in earnest and vast piles of clothes and presents are lying around the house as I type (yes I really should pitch in and help).

My worry now is the forecast for Friday is for winds up to 30 mph for the ferry crossing and very low temperatures again.

If the snow tyres do not get here in time we could be in for a bit of trouble.

Come back for regular updates as we report on the progress.


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8 Responses to Over land and sea to Sweden in a 15 year old Toyota Corolla…part one

  1. Pee-Wee Trinidad December 16, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    Good luck dude. I think you’re gonna need it!

  2. Atsuhama Inachiki December 16, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Good luck. Here is a Haiku for your journey…

    No one travels
    Along this way but I,
    This winter evening.

  3. Simon December 16, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    He’s a madman – and I should know. But that’s why we love him. Best of luck for the next 1100 miles or 20 hours with your wife and children for travelling companions in a very confined space. \Are we nearly there yet? I’ve already re-read the entire Harry Potter series since we left Norfolk!\ Go man go…..

  4. Paul December 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    Go for it buddy, that old jap stuff goes on forever, i should know ive got an old honda civic that starts on the button and goes anywhere i point it in all weathers, id love to do that journey, get the snow tyres though for safetys sake!

  5. waddington minge December 16, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    Brilliant adventure but far too much prep. Lead up to mission should simply read “got passport, popped on favourite travelling cravat and headed for Stockholm”.

    Also – car needs more stickers, but i’m sure you know that :)

  6. steven cushing December 16, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    this could be just what Toyota needs to repair it battered reputation,good luck fella and god speed,and make sure you got your thermals on

  7. Jordan December 17, 2010 at 11:10 am #

    Good luck Nick, I hope the weather is on your side.

  8. Mark Robbins December 17, 2010 at 6:40 pm #

    It’s going to make it easily, it’s a japanese Toyota Corrola not a Renault !!! Good Weather but I wont say Good Luck, you are not going to need it in one of these. I would’nt even worry………………………

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