Friday, October 30, 2009

What We Did on Our Holidays. Part 3: The other "Monte"

If you've been reading my previous posts, you will know that I spent much of July of this year preparing for the NW Classic Rally. This event is run by the Oregon Alfa Romeo club and has established itself as one of the most popular Time Speed Distance or Regularity rallys for classic cars in the US. The objective is not to race but maintain precise average speeds (although I can't deny a little, er hum, spirited driving does occur). Overall, while being a serious event, it's great fun and has none of the brutal challenges of something like the Monte Carlo Historique. Interestingly the rally's major sponsor is Portland Jaguar dealer, Monte Shelton, so I came to refer to it as "The other Monte...". Below is a photo essay of this year's 21st NW Classic. The less said about the results the better, but it was Olivia's first rally and our first together as a team. In addition the rules are a lot different from the Monte Carlo and we were on a steep learning curve. But we had a great time, made new friends and most of all zoomed about with the spectacularly beautiful Oregon countryside with great panache in our Great Green Cat...

Note: additional photos from Chuck Goolsbee, Olivia Morrow and the NW Classic Rally organization.

The "Shaguar" dressed up to prior to leaving for Portland

We meet up with another E type custodian and blogger from the Seattle area, Chuck Goolsbee, along with his co-driver father, and drive to Portland in convoy

scrutineering i
MD applies stickers prior to technical scrutineering. Olivia supervises

Mel Muzio and team did a great job in preparing the car -thanks again, Mel

Stickered up and ready for the start

olivia in e
Olivia is excited

Start finish
The Start in downtown Portland

looking mean
Off and running at last -the E type is moody and purposeful

Fighting the elements and motoring hard behind the clock

Olivia is determined to make up time

O on gas
Her right foot is well in...

Getting ready for a loop around the high desert on Day 2

clipping the apex
Clipping an apex

Lunch break
Lunch stop (i)

Lunch stop (ii) -that gorge is spectacular

Lunch break 2
Lunch stop (iii) -how many cars can you name? [Not you, CG]

at roadside
Waiting for our off time at the start of yet another regularity section

E with BNSF
If a train leaves a station and travels at an average speed of 50mh and a car driving in the opposite direction leaves a checkpoint at 47mph, at what time will they...?

MD team happy
MD team happy: we'll be back next year!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Denial is not Just a River in Egypt

I swear that if I read another story about Influenza Denial, Vaccine Denial, Climate Change Denial or HIV/AIDS Denial my brain is going to explode!

Please pass the ibuprofen...I'm trying to remain functional!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Music Blogging: Ray Brown Trio

Before we disappear into the depths of winter take a listen to this -possibly one of the finest renditions of "Summertime" ever. Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What We Did on Our Holidays. Part 3: NW Classic Rally -Final Preparations

E 7.30
Friendly old cat ready to leave California, July 2009

At noon on Wednesday 29th July the E type was delivered to my humble abode by a nice man with a huge truck. And if you hadn't guessed, it turned out splendidly. Mel and Gary and Tina down in sunny Southern California had done a terrific job and the car looked and sounded fabulous. A quick drive around the neighbourhood put a huge grin on my face. The new suspension had improved the handling immeasurably and I felt that I could throw the car into corners with abandon. Gone was the awful understeer, woolly steering and poor braking. It also sounded magnificent. Fantastic! Now I had one week to prepare for the rally.
E 3 quarter
It turned out splendidly after its re-restoration

Before paint 2
It had come along way from this condition when I first acquired it in 1992: believe it or not the previous owner was driving it around in this state!

At a local automotive accessories store I loaded up on some basic tools, engine and hydraulic fluids and repair items. I then thrashed the car around for a few days looking for any post-restoration problems to emerge. The only problem was a clutch slave cylinder that appeared to be on the way out but this was quickly rectified by a visit to Seattle area independent-Jaguar mechanic and E type racer, Rick Korn. Rick also provided a set of essential spare parts. I pulled out my navigator's bag from the basement. This rally would be very different from the Monte Carlo Historique but demanding nevertheless. At least I wouldn't be needing maps of France, pace notes or road book thus co-driver clutter could be greatly reduced. I did need an additional set of speed tables, however as the ones I had were in Km and didn't cover the range of speeds we would be likely to encounter on the NW Classic (generally faster on open straight roads) -a quick call Don Barrow in the UK and the engagement of FEDEX remedied this situation.

Finally I picked up daughter, Olivia, from the airport.

Now Mad Dog rallying was ready for another adventure.

There's nothing like a well-sorted E type to put a smile on your face!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What We Did on Our Holidays. Part 2: Getting Ready to Rally

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was delighted to to be reunited with an old feline friend at the end of July. The 'cat' in question was a 1966 Jaguar E type, or XKE as it's know in the US, that sojourned in a garage in Southern California for a decade. The reason for the Jag's hibernation are complex and I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say that about 18 months ago I made the decision to wake it up from its overly long slumber and prowl around with it on the roads of the Pacific North West.

Now when a car has been laid up for such a long time, even when it's been kept warm, dry and started on occasions, it can't just have a battery charge and be off and running as normal. Rubber and plastic parts go brittle and degrade, metal to metal components get gummed together, fuel degrades, hydraulic systems leak and fail, tyres harden and generally everything becomes stiff and creakey. So back in the spring of 2008 I asked friend and ace Jag mechanic, Mel Muzio, to bring the car back to life. My intention was to compete in the 2009 NW Classic Rally held in Oregon every August. I though this would be a good goal to aim for so work was duly started. The process was meticulous, methodical and turned out to be much more involved that I imagined. Here's an abridged account of the story:

The first job was to replace all the sealing rubbers which had become brittle and useless. The general consensus is that they last for four years. Great! I sourced a supposedly superior brand in the UK but now, a year and a half after being fitted, are already showing signs of degeneration. Oh well...! The chrome bullet mirrors and roof antenna had become quite tarnished and were replaced with new shiny items.
New mirrors looked fantastic and unlike the originals which could never be adjusted correctley, these actually worked

Brakes, Suspension and Handling
Truth be told, the Old Girl never handled that well. It didn't corner impressively, the steering was as vague as a politician making election promises and the brakes were mediocre at best and had a tendency to fade horribly. But now there were more problems. All the suspension bushes had cracked and broken up: this meant that both front and rear subframes had to be taken down and rebuilt (in the case of the rear, twice -I'll get to that): long and laborious jobs on the complex mechanisms. So while everything was apart I thought it sensible to make a few upgrades. I added much more efficient Wilwood four pot calipers to the front brakes and XJ6 series I front calipers and vented discs to the rear. Braided stainless steel hydraulic hoses were added to give a firmer feel to the pedal and in theory should last forever.
Oversize Wilwood four pot alloy brake calipers now pull up the car at the front

Jag RB
The rear brakes received an upgrade too: to balance the Wilwoods, Jaguar XJ6 front calipers were fitted. The disks are vented which helps keep heat away from the differential. The complexity of the rear subframe IRS suspension assembly can be seen -this is no haycart back axle as were most British and American sports cars of this vintage.

Now the car could stop properly, attention was turned to the suspension. Apart from new bushes throughout, I fitted a stiffer, adjustable, front anti-roll bar. When I first restored the car in the early 90's, I'd equipped it with much superior Koni shock absorbers. They were still in good condition so no modifications were needed in that department. After talking to numerous experts I declined to fit hard polyurethane bushes, uprated torsion bars or heavy duty rear springs as they can render the car undriveable by making it too stiff. This was a good decision as the overall feel came out just right. Solid aluminium rack mounts replaced the standard floppy rubber items: these parts vastly improve the precision of the steering and while they transmit a little more road noise back to the driver, I think this is a good trade off.
Solid aluminium rack mounts give the steering a much more precise feel. Parts and photo from Ray Livingston. Unlike claims by others, these items actually fit correctly and are truly 'bolt on' replacements.

The last item in the handling department was an adjustable torsion bar reaction plate that allows the front suspension to be lowered with relative ease (we dropped the front about 1" which gives the car a very mean look). There is a long, painful and expensive saga about this part. I can't relate it here as ultimately it's a tedious story and I'd run the risk of being sued. All I'll say is "Shame on you for selling junky dangerous products" to a California based purveyor of aftermarket Jag parts -you know who you are and karma will take its course. If you want to fit one of these parts, get an original from Rob Beere Racing in the UK. Finally a new set of Pirelli P4000 tyres was purchased to replace the barely worn but dangerously hardened Avons that I had originally obtained back in 1992.

Under the Bonnet
I did a few things under the bonnet, too. In addition to a general tune up, replacement of plugs and dodgy looking HT wires (it seems rats have an appetite for the plastic insulation -don't ask me why), the always marginal cooling was improved by fitting an aluminium radiator and matching header tank.
Al rad
Aluminium radiator and header tank keep the cool cat cool

The unreliable contact breakers (points) were junked and a Pertronix electronic ignition system was fitted unobtrusively in the distributor. Engine breathing was improved with a ceramic coated (JetHot) exhaust manifold ("headers" in the US) and much more efficient ITG air filter. The latter does not look particularly period correct but I always hated the huge ugly 'dustbin' filter fitted by the factory and besides, the ITG system reveals some very cool looking ram stacks if the cover is popped off. The SU carbs were rebuilt and uprated neeedles were fitted to deal with the improved airflow. Finally, the center expansion boxes of the stainless steel exhaust system were removed and replaced with less restrictive Cherry Bomb glass pack mufflers which in addition to improving gas flow, give the exhaust a wonderfully deep sonorous note.

Ceramic coated headers improve exhalation and sound fantastic

Contemporary high efficiency air filter. It will not be loved by purists but I always hated the OEM setup

In any case if the foam cover is removed for display purposes, some very purposeful ram stacks are revealed

The interior also received a few modifications. The most significant was the fabrication of a retaining bar that permitted the fitting of competition 4 point quick release harnesses (design courtesy Chuck Anderson, Port Orchard, WA). The old lap only belts were downright dangerous and offered little or no protection. In addition the new Simpson belts look wonderfully retro.
Interior from rear
Interior viewed from rear showing custom fabricated harness attachment bar

The Simpson 4 point competition harness is a huge safety improvement over original equipment lap belts; they look great too

The original British Radiomobile AM/Long wave (remember that, anybody?) radio was sent off for a service -up to then I could only receive religious stations on the AM band -perhaps somebody was trying to tell me something! It came back with FM replacing the defunct long wave band and a small input jack plug (subtly concelaed in the ash tray) that allowed for an iPod connection. All this is mostly academic as beyond 30mph all anyone can hear is the lovely song of the straight six motor but at least I can have a few wafts of music as I drive around town. The final touch to the interior was another safety feature: a nice period looking fire extinguisher installed in the passenger footwell.
Original British Radiomobile radio subtly converted to FM and now has an iPod connector

Fire extinguisher in passenger footwell is another safety feature

So how did the finished product turn out? You'll have to wait until the next post to sate your curiosity.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What We Did on Our Holidays. Part 1: Rocking Out

I'm still breathless after my summer's non-stop running around but as promised I'm going to dedicate a series of posts to my frolics of the past few months. My first trip was to the UK at the end of July. It was only for six days and included some business, a family reunion and party, a night out in London's West End and a rock concert. Even casual readers of this blog have probably realised that I've been a lifelong fan of Jethro Tull. So I took myself off to one of their gigs in Doncaster (yes, I know...!). JT were one of the acts in a stellar line up of dinosaurs that included The Strawbs, Steeleye Span, and Curved Air. Back in my youth, these were some of my favourite bands and it felt like 1972 all over again. Almost. Well it was quite a good concert. The music was excellent although the frailty of the flesh was very evident in some of the aging musicians and to say they had lost the bloom of youth was an understatement at the very least. Jethro Tull, however excelled. They had some temporary new blood in the form of the lead guitarist and drummer who seemed to invigorate the band. I seem to be collecting performances of their old warhorse, Bourée, so here's the latest for your enjoyment:

Jethro Tull at the Doncaster Dome, July 25th, 2009

Friday, October 09, 2009

Postcards fromThe Road. 3.

Sign spotted just off Interstate-5 between Tacoma and Seattle.

I'm still a bit backed up in other areas to complete a full post today, so here's a snapshot to make you smile. Have a wonderful weekend, everybody!