Driving in a winter wonderland


Author: Martin PortPublished:

I know winter is properly here because this morning I had to scrape the ice from the inside of the Scimitar’s windscreen as well as the outside.

Easier said than done and the result is a dashtop that looks like it has a very bad case of dandruff until the ice flakes then melt and disappear through the heater vents and into the dash wiring.

Fortunately the GTE has a decent heater. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a decent blower, so unless you are moving fast enough to utilise the macho-named RAM AIR function, you are faced with an impossible task: trying to defrost/demist the windscreen with a quantity of air-flow that could easily be outdone by trying to exhale through your ears.

I’ve never tried that and it’s probably impossible, but I have a feeling that it would generate more huff than the Scimitar blower does.

Then there’s the rear 'screen that, fortunately, has an electric demister. Unfortunately it doesn’t work, but that’s okay – if I open one of the side windows then the resultant air flow will clear the rear ‘screen… in about 35 minutes.

Of course, being minus five degrees though, I couldn’t get the electric windows to operate, so that theory was useless. All this of course only occurred once I’d spent several minutes crouched down by the side of the car, ‘huffing’ on the door lock and trying to de-ice it through the power of breath.

Of course then I had to try and actually start the car. I should probably go and buy another battery – one with better cold cranking power, or replace/add even more earth leads to give it a fighting chance, but the GTE is always rubbish at spinning over unless it’s shorts and flip-flops weather.

I have a jump pack of course and that will get it going a bit quicker, but once it’s running it will just stall the moment I take my foot off the throttle so I can’t go and disconnect the power pack and get on my way because the damn auto-choke won’t actually help me out until the car is warmed up by which time I’ve woken the rest of the house up and created a smog blanket that extends over the whole estate.

And by estate, I don’t mean the ‘lower field, duck pond and gate house’ type of place. I’m not that posh, or posh at all. I went to a state school, don’t have a brother called Tarquin and I have a Mum rather than a Mama.

So, push pedal to reset the choke. Pump, pump, pump, pump. Turn key. Chug chug chug chug. Pause. Chug chug chug chug. Pause. Pump, pump. Chug chug, splutter. It’s going to go. Chug, chug, chug, chug, chug, chug. Pause. Chug, fire. Stall. Chug, chug, fire. Success. Reverse out of drive, realise I’m about to hit the van parked on the road because I can’t see out of my iced up rear window, hit the brakes and the engine dies again. Swear profusely and profanely.

Of course, 15 minutes down the road I’m going fast enough to use RAM AIR (which has to be said in some superhero movie voice) and the front windscreen is almost clear and the heat is definitely reaching my toes. Success. By the time I’ve completed the 50-odd miles and am pulling into the office car park, nearly all of the glass is clear and I’ve actually had to open a window slightly to let some of that hot air out.

Compare this to the bloke next door. Gets into his new Volvo estate. Turns it on. It starts straight away. Like a pilot preparing for take off he flicks an array of switches: front demist, rear demist, heated wing mirrors, seat warmer, and in the time it’s taken him to peruse his appointments diary, he’s clear to pull out of the driveway and be on his way.

Coffee in the cup holder and blanket in the boot just in case the weather turns worse. Of course, he’s slightly earlier than he’s supposed to be, but some git in a 38-year-old car woke him up trying to get it started at 6.30am.

And would I change any of this? You must be joking. Wouldn’t life be boring?



Many thanks for relating the trials and tribulations of classic ownership at this time of year Martin. I've been a subscriber to C and SC for many years and though I have owned a number of classics in my youth, for the last 20 years I've been a sell them before they need a first MOT man. I'm as happy to live the classic lifestyle vicariously through your pages and blogs as it seems you are to be out there doing it for us, and long may it continue.

Right, the sun's out so I'm off for a drive. Think of me as I agonise over the climate control settings, which throttle map to select and what temperature to have the seat elements at before I even set off!

In 37 years time my car will be as old as yours. I hope someone like you owns it then and treats whatever foibles it has developed as endearing character traits.

Merry Christmas and safe motoring.


I have been driving my MGA year round for almost 20 years now and I have to say that I am slowly coming round to the fact that a more winter oriented car would be nice!!
Okay, I also have a new BMW with winter tyres for when the white stuff falls but otherwise I drive each day in my A. If the sun shines the roof is down, even in negative temperatures. The heater is great as long as the split tonneau is left on the passanger side.
My one luxury is that the car is garaged at both ends of my journey so it is always clear of ice when it starts off.
The worst experience I have had is when I once left the car at the airport only to return and find it was snowing (and not just a little). I had to get home as I had to rapidly turn around and drive to Germany to catch another flight!! It took 3 hours to drive 20 kms and I had to rig a string to the wipers to keep them moving as snow built up on the windscreen!! Having passed some abandoned cars on my way home I felt quite smug on entering my garage.
As long as the tyres have good grip then it should be possible to proceed. ABS, ESP and all the other electronic aids are great but my feeleing is that they give a false sense of security to the driver. 4x4 drivers especially think they are invincible in snow and seem totally unaware that their brakes are working exactly the same as on any other car?

Neil in Brussels

Neil in Brussels
MGA1600, E-type S1 2+2

Lancia 2000 Coupe

Dear Martin,

I moved from moderns to classic-daily-drivers a few years back - in the last ten years I've used various what would be called young timers through the winter - a BMW 635CSi (which had a winter function on its automatic transmission) that allowed it to set off in a locked, higher gear, a Mercedes-Benz 500SEC, Opel Monza, BMW M635CSi, Saab 9000 Aero - all over 25 years old so not quite in your league - not sure I could cope with scraping ice off the inside! I remember this from early days in Triumph Herald, MGB, Volvo 1800E - I remember the Volvo's heater was formidable though!


Hi Martin.
The photo brings back memories I lived not far from where the photo was taken and recall driving a Morris Minor van with no heater having to scrap the ice of the inside of the windscreen with a scraper supplied free with petrol purchases , the floor of the van had long since parted company with floor due to rust , driver and passenger were sprayed by whatever the rear wheels threw through the gap , circa 1964/5 a far cry from Western Australia 2012 with a SAAB 9-3 & Hyundai Terrecan

Martin Port

Great stories! Thanks!

Neil - hats off to you for using your MGA through the thick of it. My old MGB was the same - passenger side covered up with the tonneau helped keep what little heat came out of the heater inside the otherwise open cabin. I too drove mine top down as long as it wasn't raining heavily and remember reaching over the top of the windscreen to pour what was left of my flask of coffee over the glass to try and get rid of the ice that was still forming on the way to work!

ipor45 - the back axle/rear brakes used to regularly freeze up overnight on my Morris Traveller so before I could leave in the morning I would have to get under there with a hairdryer and heat various bits up before the car would physically move off the drive! Obviously that points to something not being quite right, but as a poor art student at the team it was much cheaper/easier to ignore the underlying cause and just borrow my mum's hairdryer!

Art Editor, C&SC


In the late fifties I owned a 1935 Riley Kestrel 12/4, I well remember having a rug tucked around my legs for the journey from Oswestry to Coventry where I was a trainee at Humber Ltd., replacing a frost plug in a freezing car park, and driving at undiminished speed on ice and snow.....very few modern cars of that era could keep up, the Kestrel was such a well balanced car.
Nowadays I have the luxury of living in the subtropical climate of Northland New Zealand, frost, sometimes, snow never.


My Scimitar starting procedure commences the night before, spraying de-icer just before hitting the sack. That magic stuff you apply to the inside of your windscreen & rear window which stops it misting up. Unlike most things it actually works and stops you hitting your neighbours car in those critical first few minutes. My other half is always bending my ear about the noisy start up, but still wouldn’t change the car. Scimitars are great cars to drive but I will be taking the bus if it snows.

Simmons Butler

 Winter Season is the most beautiful season of all season.But in United States it is always winter and more snowfall takes place during winters.As all it becomes difficult while driving.But Martin Port becomes more curious of driving in the snow clad roads.As seating in the car with a cup of coffee and enjoying the scenario.He also recalls in past experiences while he was driving caught in heay snowfall.

BMW mechanic


The nature of climates is different in all over the world. Driving a car in cold or humidity area is really enjoyable but it become head ache for a regular driver who faced many problems. Gradually he/she habituated with it. Basically in our pole region such type of situations comes to vision. Take proper care of car in this type of area is very important.

Jaguar Repair Apple Valley


Driving in snow especially in places like Moscow and Berlin is a very nice experience and I have seen many people go on special weekends to experience fun and expedition. I don't think that the US falls under that category you are talking about. Russia and parts of China bordering Russia, in my opinion, are more entertaining. arsenal

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