A Customer's view of a Go LPG conversion and driving in France

A Special Brief

There is no doubt that we are well known for conversion of the XJ8 model. We were amongst the first to do the job in collaboration with Jaguar themselves.

This particular job was a little more demanding as the car 'lives' in France. The French take a quite different approach to modification of a car, the process is very tough. First, the French Authorities take away the car's registration documents and will only replace them with new ones when the rigorous inpections made by the DRIRE (The Govt. Agency that inspects all modified cars in France) have been undertaken and all of their requirements have been satisifed. As you'd expect, the car cannot be used until it has been re-registered and this does not happen until they are certain that the job has been done perfectly.

We were pleased to learn that although the paperwork and certification part of the DRIRE process took a long time, our conversion passed all inspections with no problems of any kind. The car is now re-registered for use on French roads.

The Car's owner had this to say in his letter to Jaguar Enthusiast Magazine (October 2008);

“Last Summer (2007) I joined the LPG fraternity by having my 1997 X308 (one of the first and still with its Nikasil engine) converted to LPG. Living in France, I decided to have the installation done in the UK where there is considerably more experience in converting Jaguars. I selected Steve Sparrow of GO-LPG. His no-nonsense website attracted me and when I visited his premises near Worcester and saw the magnificent steam locomotives he had made, I knew he was an engineer to whom I could entrust my car.

The installation has performed perfectly. I have driven 12,000 kms/7,200 miles since on LPG and have been very pleased with my investment. I had the conversion done to save money, and not because I am a convert to the new religion of manmade carbon emissions/global warming/etc. (see “The arguments”, Channel 4 website “The great global warming swindle”). I have enjoyed considerable fuel savings, probably about 45%, but also a quieter and smoother engine. The oil after this mileage is still a golden colour with hardly a trace of black, hopefully a sign of longer engine and exhaust life.

As a number of UK resident JEC members will be driving to or through France this year, may I offer a few words to the uninitiated?

Do not expect to see a 50 mph/50 kph limit sign when entering French towns, villages and hamlets. Unless otherwise marked, the limit starts at the name sign and finishes at the crossed out name sign.

If you have heard stories that the gendarmes and police in France turn a blind eye to speeding, think again. If this was once true, it no longer applies. The French government is determined to cut down the slaughter on French roads (almost twice as many deaths compared with UK roads for the same population!). Growing numbers of fixed speed cameras are evident and random roadside checks are commonplace in even the quietest of villages. With a UK registration and licence you may be lucky in the case of a fixed camera (there are initiatives within Europe to change this) but cash will be taken from you in the event you are stopped by gendarmes or police, even if it means travelling to a cash point.

I recently purchased a very useful software programme for my PDA/GPS. At a cost of US$ 11.00, I downloaded GPS Speed Sentry from website http://www.tchartdev.com/. This gizmo provides a large digital readout of speed in mph or kph together with warning noises should the selected speed be exceeded. I find it very handy as my XJ8 has a deeply inset speedometer in MPH with the KPH less easily readable. Speed Sentry allows “heads up” control of speed. I would recommend it as an aid in the battle against the anti-speed lobby in their determination to have us focus our attention inside the cockpit.

In my experience of living in South-West France for more than five years, French drivers are no worse than British, it is just that France has a greater percentage of homicidal maniacs than in Britain. Overtaking habits on quiet country roads can be eye-watering! At any time expect to look in your rear view mirror and see it filled with the radiator of a huge lorry. Don’t worry, you are not inadvertently towing, it is just the French habit of tailgating. But on the positive side, this practice should not be taken as aggressive or intimidating as would be implied in the UK. Although drivers in the city are probably as obnoxious as in the UK, out in the country, most are very tolerant. Rude gestures and unpleasant use of the horn would be exceptional behaviour. Do not stop too close behind a French driver on an uphill gradient. Most French drivers roll backwards on a hill start. Unlike the UK, where women drivers are generally careful, it seems that in France most of them go to the same driving school. At graduation they are given a yellow scarf and a licence stamped “007”! If you have to stop and ask the way, be prepared for exceptional courtesy and kindness from your typical French man or woman who might well take 20 minutes giving directions or even leading you to your destination.

If you have an LPG conversion (GPL in France) you will find that prices are a similar percentage to those of petrol, i.e. about 55%. Unfortunately, the recent devaluation of the £ versus € (1.20 at the time of writing) means that fuel prices are not much cheaper than those in the UK. Prices in supermarkets are typically 10 cents below those at motorway outlets but beware of relying on supermarkets during the late evening or on Sundays. You may see their advertising panel with a sign showing the fuel pump icon and 24/7, also the letters GPL, but you will probably find that the GPL pump does not offer the facility of self-service with a credit card when the attendant is not on duty in the kiosk. Very frustrating if you have run low!

If you have problems with the car then Jaguar concessionaires are to be found in most large towns. It is said that French mechanics love working on Jaguars and you can expect very competent attention. I wish you happy motoring in this very beautiful country with its pleasant people, many of whom can speak a little English but, like us, are shy to attempt a foreign tongue.”

Bill Ashpole

If anyone interested has a legitimate reason for wanting to contact Bill, we can pass on a request to him.

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