Rob Norman and Sophie Parker were just a young couple from a small town with a big dream, which little did they know, would eventually become reality with the help of a number of mechanics, countless hours on repairs and the funding from  the Performance Direct Non Standard Awards.

Their dream began when Robs love, if not obsession of Skoda (not only cars but any kind of memorabilia attached to the brand) urged him to take a long awaited road trip in his 1989 Skoda Rapid 136.

At first a reluctant Sophie suggested a possible trip to Scotland or somewhere in the British Isles. It wasn’t until the couple realised that they had a rather large 6 week gap in both of their schedules (which was rare as Rob was in the merchant navy and Sophie was studying at University) that they could possibly plan something much bigger.

Sunbathing with the Skoda

With Rob’s love of Skoda so apparent, it made sense for the couple to plan a trip to the Skoda factory in the Czech Republic, the place where Rob’s beloved Rapid was born 21 years earlier. They had 6 weeks, 9 countries and 3,000 miles to travel to reach their chosen destination but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Trouble began before the pair had even started their ambitious venture, in a car older than both of them. Just two days before the date due to set off across the channel, Rob found that there had been a coolant leak soaking the interior of the front seats. After struggling to work out the issue, Sophie kindly agreed (was slightly forced) to drive 200 miles to pick up a spare part in time for their departure.

Monday July 26th, departure day, the Rapid was fit and ready to go. It was all looking good, until disaster struck before they had even travelled 40 miles. The pair heard a faint rumbling which got progressively worse, eventually becoming a deafening boom. They pulled over to find that two of the three studs attaching the exhaust to the manifold had detached themselves, turning their dream into a nightmare.

The only time constraint of the whole trip was the ferry across to Belgium so they took the brave decision to continue on and deal with the problem on the other side. However, once the ferry had ported at the other end, they also noticed that the coolant pipes leading to the radiator had burst. This was another problem that needed to be fixed urgently if the trip was to be continued.  After a wild goose chase to find somewhere for the Rapid to be repaired they set off again. It was not until the Czech town of Plzen that they were confronted with the final issue when they found that they could not take the car out 5th gear. This lead to Rob, very reluctantly contacting the AA for a rescue and the car spent a short while in a local garage being tended to.

Rob lost in the boot

Thankfully, this was the last mechanical issue of adventure. Rob and Sophie eventually reached the Skoda factory and despite some struggles along the way, they saw some amazing sights. With funds only coming from Sophie’s student loan and Rob’s low sponsorship cadet training, this was all made possible through Performance Direct Non Standard Awards.

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