Pssst! Hear that? I think we have a Problem…

June 23, 2014

Well, we’ve got a perfect record so far – not a single day without some problem. There’s a reason the Great Race Rule is “Ride, Repair, Repeat.” We’re Livin’ the Dream!

We had a good run in the morning, but the subtle clicking of the loose wheel spokes seemed to get more insistent as the run progressed. Then, just before lunch we started to hear some random PSSST sounds, like an air brake letting down. Spoiler Alert: we DON’T have air brakes on the Imperial, even if it IS as big as a truck.  I thought maybe it was a transmission issue – some overpressure in the slushbox, but it was still shifting normally. Hmmm…. That’s weird….

At lunch, I looked at the tires: pressures OK. Then I looked at the wheels, lovely chrome wires. On the loudest-clicking wheel, I found a number of loose spokes. Then, I found some broken ones! That’s not good. In 2012, the last time the big Imperial was out in the Great Race, it acquired some looseness in the spokes of one of its wire wheels. It’s my general belief that loose parts are not a Good Thing on a machine, especially one you ride.

Today, those Loose Part chickens came home to roost. I tightened the loose spokes, but there’s no way to fix the busted ones. Well, I figured, they got this far, we’ll keep going, with the loose ones tightened it can’t be worse than it was. Wrong again, John-boy. Not long after we got out on the highway for a transit, at about 55 mph; we got a heavy vibration and then it was Very Clear we had a real problem. The wheel came apart, busted spokes poking into the tire’s private spaces and providing it with rapid weight loss of about 35 lbs of air. Houston, we do have a problem…

Now, if you know Pennsylvania’s highways, you know they’re eternally under construction and continuously packed with bumper-to-bumper, side-by-side semis at 60-70 mph. The shoulder is about 6.3 inches wide and there’s either a concrete barrier or a precipitous cliff at its outer edge. We pulled the big Imp as far over as we could and surveyed the damage.  Quickly.  It was fortunately on the curb side.  In the roar and blast of the 18-wheelers in formation flight just feet away, Dave loosened the nuts while I pulled out the bumper jack (the car being too low in its damaged corner to fit the better lifter). Alas, in our haste to get this car in the race, once the 32 Buick died, we didn’t check to see if the jack HANDLE was in the car, too. Improvising, we used a splayed-open pair of channel-lock pliers as a jack handle. We got it up enough, barely, to free the flat. Did you know that a semi passing within a foot at 60 mph can actually shake a 5,000 lb car on a bumper jack?  I know that now. We slipped the dead body off the drum, replacing it with the spare (a nice, previously unused Coker radial bought with the main four, but solidly mounted on an OEM steelie).

Just then a trooper pulled up behind us. More trouble? No, he was just protecting our behinds. Nice, thanks. Dave went to speak to him while I torqued up the lugs and let it all back down. Dave said the trooper’s only comment was “Better hurry, you’re losing time!”  I guess he knew about the Great Race.

Back on four rounds, our ride was viable once more.  I clambered in from the curb side and Dave hopped in after. With a wave to the trooper, we hit the gas and shot off in hopes of maybe still making our re-start time. How much time had we lost in the roadside change? We made it, arriving at the appointed firehouse just two minutes before our go moment. Ta-da!

We ran a decent day, all things considered, placing upper third in the field despite the troubles. We toured the Valley Forge Battlefield Park; ran along some lovely creeks in cool green glades; and apparently knocked the wheels off (OK, just one).  The boys made it through, too, though with some brake issues.  Tonight before writing this, we bled their brakes and pumped up the Imperial’s spare-now running as we have no other replacement tire or wheel – yet.

Ride, Repair, Repeat.  Every Blooming Day!  That left no time to do pix for this posting.  Well maybe just one.  Here’s the driver’s eye view of the road in our Imperial: it’s all about holding that speed!  Note the fuel level.  No worries – that gauge died, too.  We probably did still have fuel.

Drivers ViewSM

The boys (team 63 in the stepdown Hudson) DID run dry – fortunately they carried a spare 2-gallon can!  Once again, they’re running more reliably than we are!  But Old Age & Treachery can overcome Youth & Skill every time.  We still posted a better score today.  They had trouble holding speed on today’s long hills (much as we have trouble on the 10 mph sections in the big Imp).  They almost met a deer.  We almost met a turkey.  All creatures survived to tell the tales.

Tomorrow is another chance to drive and win!  jc


7 comments about “Pssst! Hear that? I think we have a Problem…”

  • Love your posts, we are following along and wishing you well! YOur writing makes us feel like we are right there with you. Hope Delaware is kinder to the Imperial. Stay Safe!

  • Pleased that the problems are just minor. The “novice” and Hudson seem to be dong very well, no surprise. Get Rob to go for lunch. Enjoy.

  • Great updates. Good luck the rest of the way.
    I followed along on the 2011 race, from Chattanooga, all the way to Vermont, driving a little ’85 Dodge 600 K-car convertible. I remember some hot days, but great scenery!
    The Imperial looked great then and it still does. Wish I was along this year.

  • Great updates. Like the saying goes “If everything went as planned, it wouldn’t be an adventure.” LOL Be safe!

  • This was my first race as I am a Nationwide agent and Kori invited me . Absolutely loved watching the cars roll in and surely going to bring my young boys next yr . You could tell from the crowd ,we all love the smell of an old car and to see them being driven is a testament to the quality of the cars and the strong willed drivers and co-pilots who make it all happen . Safe travels to all the racers etc.

  • Tell Rita ,Frank and John Buonano and all the Blackhorse Garage team we said hello from Muskrat Flats in Sandy Hook CT.
    Great picture of Frank and Chris, the navigator in todays Danbury Newstimes. Looking forward to any updated on how they are doing.

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