Today dawned bright and sunny here, with a strong onshore wind. We collected our car and set about the last minute tasks on our list, beginning with a quick run into town and the local auto parts store for hex keys and oil, then changing the jet needles in the carbs to improve top-end mixture and performance. We had to be done by 11:45, as we were due to ride a few miles up the coast to see a famed local collection of classic cars.
(Ethan re-jetting the four SU carbs)
All done with 10 minutes to spare, we decide to start early, so as to take it easy, even on the bit of busy freeway we needed to cover. The replacement needles were great – nice throttle response and lots of oomph. And we almost made it. We were about 16 miles into a 20 mile ride when we had a sudden and total loss of power. We coasted to a stop by a shared driveway and took stock. Guess what – no distributor rotation and no valve action when we cranked the engine. The cam had gone on strike again! We called for the sweep truck but it’s not even in town yet (we’re still a few days before the official race). So we called our insurance company for a tow. While we waited, we went through the stages of grief: denial, anger, etc. – then set to figuring what to do next. Ethan called home and my ever-patient and tolerant wife (and Ethan’s Mom) Sue, back home in NY, agreed to overnight express the NOS gear there that hadn’t arrived in time for this engine build.
After a very long delay, we heard there was a tow on the way, but then that truck broke down before arriving! We were very glad there was a small mail shed where we had stopped, as it was the only shelter from the strong wind that seemed awfully cold after a few hours standing there. The Hagerty teams came by, returning from their visit to that same collection, and they stayed with us, even bringing us snacks and water. Thanks, Brad. Thanks all of you! Eventually (5 hours or so after the breakdown and first call), a truck appeared and our dead ride was hoisted up for a trip back to the hotel.
(Onto the Flatbed for the sad ride back)
Once there, we were graciously lent another racer’s car for a run back into town for expected repair supplies (Peter LeMountain, thank YOU! – awesome Impala: we owe you a couple bucks for gas!). Back in the parking lot, we drained the coolant, removed the hood, pulled the radiator off, and dug our way into the front cover of the engine to find the cam gear had again met death, but in a very strange way. Teeth were shorn off at both the crank-engagement zone (as if the cam had seized and the crank had ripped them off in trying to turn it further) – but weirdly, the distributor drive region of the cam gear also had sheared teeth! How can that driven load shear teeth on the cam gear??? The distributor shaft could be turned freely by hand, and the crank turns freely. We’re not sure about the cam, though. I think not. And though we tried, we couldn’t get the gear off the camshaft, managing only to rip out more chunks of the fiber-phenolic material. I fear that the cam itself has seized, and that it happened suddenly, enough that both other shafts spent their remaining spin energy ripping out the teeth at their respective engagements.
(two zones of stripped teeth – this couldn’t happen if the cam gear were turning, too!).
What does it mean? Are our gooses cooked? Can we get the dead gear out and the new one on tomorrow? If we do, will it run? If it runs again, will it have a repeat of the same problem? Will our heroes get to the Start, much less the Finish of this year’s Great Race??? Stay tuned, for the next cliff-hanging episode in The MYSTERY of MELROSE!