A VERY eventful day today. We were up early and out in the parking lot (in glorious if chilly daylight), fighting to remove the ruined cam gear. It meant drilling it to weakened segments and splitting it off with a chisel! Curtis Graf lent us a power drill. Steve Keller drove me to the auto shop to get prybars and drill bits. We laid out the tarp and set to it. We got it off! It was messy but we managed without notable ancillary damage. The replacement gear arrived at the front desk by express as promised abut 8 AM, so we were all prepared for a reassembly and resuscitated engine. But it was not to be. With the gear off, we could put a wrench on the end of the cam and turn it. Very tight and scrapey-sounding, with one very tight place in each revolution. Clearly the death of the old fiber gear was murder, not suicide, and failed cam bushings were the perpetrators (with oil starvation or poor dimensioning as likely unindicted co-conspirators). After careful consideration, we recognized this engine and this car were not going to be in this Great Race this year.
Sigh. Sigh again. Curse a bit. Slump shoulders.
Then, Deep breath.
Time for Plan J (having already gone through A, B, C…G, H, and I). Plan J is also known as Jeff, as in Jeff Stumb, our fearless race director. The day before, when we first told him of our troubles, he foolishly offered to help us find another car if needed. So we called on Plan J. Pat King helped us get our dead car on his trailer and he dragged it and us over to the main hotel where the Reliable haulers (Mike and Cindy) could load it for the quiet ride home. Meanwhile, Jeff suggested we try Craigslist for a local car suitable for the event (and WHY NOT?!). He also brought me to Charlie Goodman, local car hero/collector. Charlie called around a bit, while Ethan shopped on his phone on Craigslist. Before long, we had two good leads: a 1969 Fiat 850 Spider (so cute, maybe even capable), and a 1965 Volvo 122. Ethan much favored the Fiat (And I admit to a soft spot), but it was 90 minutes away (if the ever-present freeway traffic here were not too fierce). So we decided to check out the Volvo first, right in San Rafael. Plan J was looking good. Jeff also lent us a staff car to go make it real!
The Volvo’s current owner, Rhody Ringrose, has an autobody shop right in San Rafael, and in the back were some interesting Hudsons, a nice Alfa coupe, and a little blue 2-door Volvo, still caked with mud from a mountain rally in the past winter. Rhody bought the car on Bring-A-Trailer for that very purpose, and had added to the conditioning of the car since, with period-style aluminum wheels, Cibié rally lamps, and a thorough going-over for brakes, fluids, etc. While no show car, it is totally rust-free – not even a bubble or flake below – and fairly SCREAMED rally car.
We went for it. While Rhody fixed a broken taillight lens and pulled out his papers, we went downtown to convert credit card to cashier’s check to trade for our new ride (Citibank said no, weirdly – but Wells Fargo was perfectly helpful). Then we rolled on over to Charlie’s collection in it’s new HQ (since I had been there way back in 2006). Just beautiful.
Back to Rhody’s and we collected the car, paid for it, and collected the original wheels and caps, and a file of service records. Top dollar maybe ($3K over his buy price on Bring-A-Trailer), but still under my limit, and I figure it’s just like buying a gallon of milk at the convenience store when that’s all you need (and you need it now) – you have to pay a bit more for the convenience, right? AND we get the original black California plates!
I called Jeff to see where to return the staff car and we agreed to meet at the pier for our evening dinner cruise. Meanwhile, I gassed it up and Ethan gave the Volvo a quick de-mudding at the spray wash so it could be stickered up. We got to the pier and collected bundles of high-fives and the like from all our friends. They’re as glad to see us back in as they are to be in, too, I think. They named the car Sven.
We enjoyed a cruise on the bay, out and under the Golden Gate bridge, very relaxing after a long, incredibly hectic, and pressure-filled day for us. We sat with one of the rookie teams we are mentors to; though they have also suffered – their Mk VII Jaguar did not make it to California at all. They drove out anyway: that’s the spirit! I think we convinced them to stick with us through the rally, though, so they’ll be properly motivated to come back next year!
After the cruise, we headed back to the Reliable truck, where Mike and Cindy were so kind to come out and help us pull the Timewise speedo and our tools from the Speedster, up on the dark second deck of their truck. Tomorrow, we’ll try to install that digital speedo on the Volvo, so we have a chance at accurate running.
We’re BACK! Never Say DIE! Of course, we just might have to change the Race motto from “Ride, Repair, Repeat” to “Repair, Despair, Regroup, Replace, Return, and THEN Race”
Now, have you noticed a strong theme in this posting? I don’t mean about the cars or our troubles with them. I mean the number of people here who have been kind and generous to fellow racers in need (that would be us). I have often said that Great Race folks are a kind of second family that we see once a year. And here’s that in deeds! Thank you!
So tomorrow, first thing, it’s stickers and tech. With just the littlest bit of added luck, we’ll be really ready to roll, in time for the Hagerty Trophy Run in the Afternoon! Yeehah!