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2013 Alpine Road Trip *Pic heavy*


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Over the August bank holiday weekend, me, my brother and a couple of mates embarked on our first Euro Road Trip down to the Alps... Just shy of 2,100 miles in total, from Thursday night to Tuesday night, via France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy... The cars we took were our daily drivers, so my 350z HR, an e46 M3, a Lotus Elise S2 and an RX-8. All in all, I spent about £600 in fuel (the M3 was the same, the Elise about 40% less and the RX8 about 25% more) and about £500 on accommodation, food, beers, etc...


We set off from Bracknell after work on Thursday night and headed to France via the tunnel, with a hotel in Dunkirk as our target. It took less than 2 minutes of driving in France for our convoy to get split up (largely due to being split up on the double-decker train), not a great start, with the M3 (the only one who had a navigator on board, the rest of us driving solo) arriving about half an hour behind everybody else.


In the tunnel I had time to explore more of my car (only having owned it for about a month so far), and I discovered that both in-door cup holders are illuminated, the centre storage bit is illuminated, and also that the Zed has the most pointless coat-hook ever!




Once in France, I also discovered that the onboard Sat Nag's Traffic Alerting thing also works abroad, and even better, the alerts are still in English! This came in useful when trying to get out of a huge traffic jam we found ourselves in and we ended up adding a couple more mountain passes to our check list in the process too :)


The M3 had reported brake problems (pads juddering and sticking) on the drive over but he had a spare set, so before we set out on day 1, we were up at 7am changing the pads, much to the amusement of the locals. The M3 didn't even have a jack in the boot, so it was my Nissan jack to the rescue (the handle for which, is crap by the way)




While we were out there being laughed at, we also met an old boy who was driving down to the south of France in his kit car motor home thing. It looked as rickety as hell and I wasn't sure it'd make it, but at least he left the car park without having to undertake repairs... Here's the line up on 'proper' day 1, just before leaving Dunkirk... We left the cars like this for a bit while we checked out and faffed around - it soon became clear which car the local spectators preferred the most...


... the Lotus! (Well, at least it's an English car)


We left Dunkirk and headed over to the Nurburgring... This was a bit of a 'hopeful' trip as all the calendars we found for the ring for this day didn't actually say if it was open, closed, or otherwise, so we drove over with baited breath, to find out that it was shut :( Because there was racing on :) So, after some food (yes folks, that is a photo of a 1m sausage devoured by just one man, lol) we went to see if we could find a spectator spot



We've no idea what sort of race was going on, certainly seemed to be a multi-class event, but we didn't car much because the McLaren MP4-12C, Porsche GT3 RS, Astons (no idea which ones, they all look the same to me) and Merc SLS beasts that were dominating everything else sounded fantastic. The SLS wins in my book though - fast as owt and it sounded AMAZING!



After the 'ring we took on Germany's finest Autobahns where I was pleasantly surprised to find that my "cheap little Datsun" did a stirling job of slaughtering the Elise and keeping up with the M3 98% of the time. Everybody wants to know how fast we went on the Autobahns.... let's just say we achieved more than double the UK speed limit, and then some! It was here though, that we discovered the RX8 was knackered - unsurprising to most, but disappointing to the driver who was struggling to get past 100 and due to the magical properties of the rotary engine, was still, somehow, using more fuel than either the M3 or the Zed. We ended our day in a small town near Baden-Baden in Germany's Black Forest - lovely scenery, a nice Guesthaus and a great spot for a well earned German beer or two before bed. The morning in Germany felt very similar to the previous day, with another car needing some TLC, but no amount of ECU resets and checking all of the electrical cabling, fuses, etc.. would yield a solution for the RX8, but onwards it would limp anyway.


The Black Forest is a great place, lots of relatively empty and well maintained roads that flow and sweep effortlessly through the countryside.



It was on one of our scheduled "let's wait for the Rex" stops that we hit our next breakdown, and about two hours away from our Hotel in Trafoi (which is just inside Italy via the Stelvio pass). Can you guess which car had the problem?




Ok, I'll give you a clue!




In pulling over to wait for the Rex, the M3 encountered an SMG problem which left the car in neutral, and not able to start. Apparently it's a common problem and usually electrical, but after checking all the fuses we could find, and even after borrowing 14v from the Zed (which we figured is a better 14v than the BMW :)), we deemed it kaput and began the 2.5hr wait in the rain for recovery... An hour's drive later we finished up here, :lol:




After 10 minutes with a multimeter we found the M had blown a 40Amp(!!) fuse that runs the SMG pump. A quick swap over and we were back on our way to go up the Umbrailpass and then down the Stelvio Pass, in to Trafoi for our hotel... Not before I had time to grab some more photos though;






On paper this route seemed a good idea, but it was now night time, raining, and we'd been up for about 16 hours... It was quite a long drive and despite the rain, tiredness, and rocks strewn over the road from the bad weather, we made it to Hotel Post in Trafoi having completed the Stelvio with all cars in one piece again.


We couldn't really take in any scenery driving over Stelvio the night before, but after a good night's sleep, today's route would take us back up Stelvio and down the other side. I got chatting to the receptionist as we were waiting for everybody in the morning and she looked horrified when I explained the days route - I didn't really understand why until she showed us a web cam of the top... 4 inches of snow had fallen in about 8 hours! We contemplated this, along with the prospect of crashing our RHD, FR cars, all running on summer tyres, and we concluded we'd have a crack at driving over it again anyway. I'm glad we did because the scenary was amazing... we even added a German E92 M3 to our little convoy as well :)


Going up the Stelvio from Trafoi;



In to the snow zone we go...




Zero degrees at the top... In August!




Our temporary new convoy, minus the still-ailing RX8 that was slowly winding its way up the hill



Fortunately (Surprisingly?!) the Italians had been out all night gritting and clearing the roads, so although slushy in places, they weren't as bad as we had feared.



The views continued to be breathtaking once we'd got over the summit and started to drive down the other side as well...


Looking East towards the stelvio that we'd just come down








And the roads just got better and better...



Our route took us West from the Stelvio and we stopped in St Moritz for lunch, it having a posh reputation and all... Well after an hour of getting lost, losing the Elise in traffic and wandering around town, St Moritz was looking like a bit of a duff choice as there didn't seem much to do at all. Just as we were losing hope however, we stumbled across the Italian National Car Club displaying their cars in the town... We took too many photos to post here, but we reckon there was about £50m of cars out in the street. Here's a few for you;














Feeling pretty happy with our selves, we left St Moritz and proceeded to crack on with the San Bernadino Pass, St Gotthard Pass, and Furka Pass (Videos to follow for most of these), and we kipped in Obergoms (Switzerland). All I can say is that all of the passes were BRILLIANT! They're all different, some very twisty and others more flowing, but BRILLIANT is the only word for it. We got lost a few times but I can honestly say nobody cared as the roads were all amazing.


The next day (no repairs for once, hooray!) we did the Furka Pass again (the other way), St Gotthard Pass, Nufenenstrasse, Grand Saint Bernard, and avoiding the Mont Blanc tunnel, we took the SS26/D1090 in to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. (More videos to follow again). BSM is a dump, but the roads leading down to it were brilliant. We finished the day in Chambery (France).


Our last day of driving, Chambery to home in one go (about 650miles), was a long day, made longer by crazy French drivers speeding in some of the heaviest rain I've ever seen. We got out of the storms eventually, the 'Bip and go' toll tags we installed making a huge difference at the toll points (you can do 30kph through them, instead of stopping and paying cash via the passenger window) and by the time we stopped at Reims for lunch, it was nice and sunny.






And from Reims, it was a relatively easy drive to Calais, in time for some shopping and food around City of Europe before getting the train back to mightly blighty.


Throughout the whole trip we only found two places that didn't do 98 RON. In the first case there was another place just down the road that had 98 on pump, and the other place had 100 RON :)


An excellent trip that we're definitely doing again next year, and my (totally standard) Zed never missed a beat. Sure, the guys behind me complained that my brake pads stunk to high heaven when going full-chat down the twisties (but never any fade for me), and yes the M3 won the 'best noise in the tunnel' competitions, and yes the Elise get far more appreciation from the locals than the rest of our cars put together, but I don't care... 350Z FTW. :teeth:


(PS - Yes, next year may well see some HFCs, an induction kit, a new exhaust, a remap, some ARBs, 20mm spacers and 20mm lower, but don't tell them that!)

Edited by Commander
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Awesome trip and some cool pics, love the lambo shot. I'm off to Switzerland shortly (no Zed sadly as flying) but I've got a similar route to yours planned for next summer in the Zed, hopefully slightly fewer mechanicals though.

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Looks like lots of fun. We went on a similar run last year, only to snap a camber arm on the first leg in Belgium and the car end up stuck there for a week while we awaited parts. Lessons learned:


1) Don't drive through Belgium, there are better places to break down

2) Don't let the AA drop you at a Belgian Nissan garage, they haven't a clue and don't take credit cards

3) Don't let Germans persuade you to start drinking with them whilst you're in Cologne unless you genuinely want to feel like someone has smashed you over the head with a sledge hammer the next morning




We'd love to go on another one of these runs, maybe next year we'll be lucky enough, but sadly this year the 'zrun' just didn't happen.

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Fantastic trip and some awesome looking roads. Would love to do something similar.


What's your current set up, is she standard?


The car is totally standard, it's even still running on BP RE050 rubbers. The only prep work it had before the run was a service - changed all the oils and filters.


Awesome post, 350z ftw. Poor RX-8..


Thanks. Yeah, the RX8 was a bit poorly, we thought it was a malfunctioning secondary air-inlet valve but it turned out to be a clogged-up Cat. We got stuck in traffic on one of the passes from Switzerland to Italy and it took a wee all over the road while it cooled down. Fortunately, it died right next to an ice-cold mountain spring so there was plenty of cold water to re-fill it with, and after half an hour or so, we managed to limp it to the top of the hill for more water and cooling down time. Fortunately it only pulled this stunt once the whole trip - I think the combination of really slow moving traffic, pulling up hill and a warm day with a partially blocked Cat, was just too much for it.




It actually got even worse for the RX8 driver because not too long after this, he got pulled over by the Italian Police for a spot check, which I gather was a pretty stressful 20 minutes as we'd all left him to it :lol: The irony is that his car was probably the quietest, slowest and least likely to break any kind of traffic laws whatsoever, but he got pulled and we all sailed through the checkpoint no problem :D


Great write up, thanks.


Looks like you had a lot of fun :thumbs:


Thanks Bems, we did, it was brilliant fun and I'd recommend anybody who's got half a chance of doing similar, to do so.


My advice to anybody doing similar though - be prepared for all your plans to change! We worked out our route to the finite degree before we left, but various road closures, tunnel closures, navigational errors and traffic jams threw all that out the window on occasion and we ended up having even more fun as a result.

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I did a similar trip at the end of June this year, went from folkstone to calais then through belgium to strasbourg, then through Switzerland then onto stelvio italy. From there back through Switzerland and onto stuttgart then from stuttgart to the ring for 2 days. 2000 miles and a properly epic trip. Our cars were my Z, 46 m3, 63 m6, rs4, ttrs, 46 330ci, 36 323 with m3 engine and a 38 728i


Going again next year although doing a different route cannot wait



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This looks awesome, what a trip! My buddies and I have been talking about doing a European road trip for some time. As of Wednesday we will all own Z's so it's time to get planning ;)


BTW get your mate to swap the RX-8 for a 350, I did that a year ago and will never look back! Changing to a Z actually saved me money too. In fuel and oddly enough insurance.

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This looks awesome, what a trip! My buddies and I have been talking about doing a European road trip for some time. As of Wednesday we will all own Z's so it's time to get planning ;)


BTW get your mate to swap the RX-8 for a 350, I did that a year ago and will never look back! Changing to a Z actually saved me money too. In fuel and oddly enough insurance.


And repairs!


Well jelly of the trip. Good write up too :thumbs:

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This looks awesome, what a trip! My buddies and I have been talking about doing a European road trip for some time. As of Wednesday we will all own Z's so it's time to get planning ;)


BTW get your mate to swap the RX-8 for a 350, I did that a year ago and will never look back! Changing to a Z actually saved me money too. In fuel and oddly enough insurance.




Believe me I've tried, but as he's just bought a 4-bed detached house and his Mrs is pregnant with their first, I don't think he's really got the funds for a Zed at the moment.


Well jelly of the trip. Good write up too :thumbs:



Thanks :)


For anybody that's interested, this is what our original route plan looked like. It turned out that we underestimated the driving times for almost every day - TomTom did a better travel-time estimate than Google Maps, but even that was still out by the time we'd had our various (mis)adventures,




158 miles


  • Bracknell
  • ct18 8xx Folkstone Chunnel UK Terminal
  • 6 Rue du 8 Mai 1945, 59760 Grande-Synthe, France (Best Hotel Dunkerque, Dunkirk)



467 Miles

7 Hrs

  • Best Hotel Dunkerque
  • 53520 Nürburg, Germany - Nurburgring (Lunch)
  • Gasthaus Linde - YburgstraBe 79, Steinbach, 76534, Germany



296 miles


  • Gasthaus Linde
  • Route 500 to Kniebis-Alexanderschanze (kniebis, baden-wurttemberg, Freudenstadt)
  • Davos Switzerland (Davos Platz, via konstanz entering switzerland and then via vaduz ) Lunch on Lake Davos
  • fluela pass (fluelapassstrasse)
  • stelvio national park via Zernez then Santa Maria val mustair, then south on the Sassabinghel road (Umbrail Pass) to Stelvio natioan park and the stelvio pass.
  • Hotel Post, trafoi, Italy. (Trafoi 7,, bolzano, stelvio. 39029)

Sunday: (various short-cuts possible if progress is slow / day is too long)


287 Miles

7 hours

  • Stelvio Pass (back up and down the other side)
  • Lago di Livigno (via south side of stelvio staying in Italy)
  • st moritz (7500 st.moritz)
  • Silvaplana
  • julier pass
  • Rongellen. Blue 13 Jiggle to:
  • san bernardino. Blue 13 Jiggle to:
  • arbedo-castione. Red 2 to:
  • Wassen
  • susten pass
  • Innerkirchen. Blue 6 Grimsel Pass
  • grimsel pas
  • Obergoms - Hotel Alpenhof - Ifangstrasse 25, Oberwald 3999, Switzerland

Monday: (Couple of short-cuts possible if progress is slow / day is too long)


331 miles

7 Hrs

  • North to Furka Pass to:
  • Hospental. Blue 2 south (Saint Gotthard Pass)
  • Saint Gotthard Pass to Airolo
  • Airolo west towards Bedretto leading onto Nufenen Pass. (UNKNOWN SAT NAV)
  • Nufenen Pass west towards Blue 19 (UNKOWN TOWN NAME)
  • Head towards Martigny.
  • Head Towards Sembracnher. Blue 21 (Route du Grand Saint-Bernard, 1933 Sembrancher, Valais, Switzerland)
  • Route du Grand Saint Bernard (Blue 21) down to Aosta
  • Aosta to Pre Saint Didier
  • Pre Saint Didier to La Thuile
  • little Saint Bernard Pass to:
  • Val D'isere. Back up the pass towards:
  • Chambery
  • Best Western Alexander Park - 51 rue Alexander Fleming, Chambery, 7300, France


692 Miles

10hrs 25 min

  • Chambery,
  • REIMS (D27)
  • Calais
  • Home

Edited by Commander
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