Mission accomplished! (Subtitle: Grand Theft Trailer)

We did it! The oldest car to run the 2013 California Mille finished the 1,000 miles without any major problems. Since this event was a “shakeout” run for us in preparation for Vintage racing, we intentionally drove the car hard and very fast.

Thursday night I was thrilled that we decided to have our pickup truck delivered to us at the Solage Hotel in Calistoga, where the California Mille ended yesterday.  After the closing banquet dinner, Jack and I drove the 30 minutes to Middletown to “steal” a U-Haul trailer (more on that below) and then drove 30 minutes back to the Solage.  We finished loading the Rally onto the stolen U-Haul trailer at the Solage, packed our gear into the truck and climbed into our beds at approximately 2:00 a.m.

The 5:30 alarm and back-up wake up call were most unwelcome but necessary.  We had to leave the hotel by 6:00 am to get Jack to school by 8:45 because he committed to give a speech about the inherent unfairness of voting systems on Friday morning.

It was on our way home at approximately 7am that we learned that we had stolen the U-Haul trailer.  That was when the Owner of the Middletown U-Haul branch called, returning the messages I left for him the previous night as we were hitching the trailer we reserved to our truck, and informed us that we have stolen his trailer because we didn’t sign a contract.  The fact that 1) we couldn’t sign a contract because his office was closed by the time we arrived and 2) that we didn’t hide our faces from the security cameras either when we relieved ourselves in the planters outside his front door nor when we hitched the trailer to our truck and 3) that we took the trailer which seemed to have been pulled out and left out for us didn’t persuade him at all and we were developing the impression during the call that he was quite serious.  I took the opportunity to remind him that if we were going to steal his trailer we wouldn’t have left several messages for him with our phone number, nor would we have made a reservation held with our credit card.  He seemed quite reluctant to see the situation from our perspective.  In any case, we had the trailer we needed and would be able to return home driving 90 miles through rush hour traffic in the comfort of our air conditioned truck cabin towing the Rally.

After dropping Jack at school, I delivered the Rally back to Rene and Al at Burlingame Motors for its post-Mille service & repairs.  If it wasn’t for these two mechanical wizards (as well as our nightly maintenance rituals), there’s no way our nickel-era racing machine would have made it for the duration of the California Mille.

I don’t know how Jack survived the school day on Friday.  When I arrived at home, I climbed into bed for a 2 hour nap.  Not only was a totally knackered, but I thought it might be prudent to “lay low” and stay off the road for a couple of hours while U-Haul sorted out the trailer trouble and to give them sufficient time to call off the authorities.

Now that the Mille is over, it’s clear to me we’ll have to address the heat situation in the cockpit.  It’s simply unbearable–and dangerous.  During our drive on Thursday, Jack touched the aluminum dash briefly and burned his finger!

We now have a number of (mostly minor) issues to address over the next few weeks:

1. New body fasteners (period-correct and anchored with safety wire) because most of the bolts holding the lower front side panels were rattled right off the car on the rough roads somewhere along the route
2. Check front wheel alignment; we went through three front tires over the 1,000 miles.  I was really glad that I brought the spare wheel and purchased spare tires and tubes on a whim last  week becuase without them we couldn’t have finished the event.
3. Fix tachometer; it simply stopped working at some point on day 2 or 3
4. Check noise in right rear brake drum; I noticed a pinging rattle which seemed to come from the drivers side rear brake drum when we were on bumpy roads on the last day.  I’m really curious to know what’s causing it.
5. Mount the proper Marchal headlamps I purchased at Retromobile; I didn’t want to replace my generic “Marchal-look” headlamps until after the 1,000 mile rally, but now that the Mille is behind us, it’s time.

Not quite Carol Merrill: Chris modeling treasure found at RetroMobile Paris 2013
Not quite Carol Merrill: Chris modeling treasure found at RetroMobile Paris 2013




6. Replace broken rear lower brake adjustment bar; we only noticed the bent and broken bar hanging below the differential when we were loading the Rally on the trailer in Calistoga late last night.  Enquiring minds want to know what happened.

7. Fix leak in the (Bugatti) differential; we added 16 ounces of heavy gear oil into the differential each night as part of our nightly maintenance routine.  It’s time to fix the problem.

8. Replace the incorrect grease nipples; there’s an odd assortment of correct and incorrect grease fittings on the car and we’re going to remove the ones that don’t belong.

9. Fix rear brake light; it stopped working somewhere along the route.
10. Replace threaded hood latch cap that shook out somewhere between San Francisco and Redding; bummer!
11. Replace missing threaded plug in right rear wheel hub; the plug was missing from the start of the event and the hole allowed differential oil to seep out all over the outside of the rear drum which then splattered the oil all over the back of the car. We plugged the hole temporarily with black Permatex silicone gasket sealer and silicone tape, but now that we’re back we need to fix it.
12. Replace mirror mounts with ones made from more substantial aluminum to reduce vibration.
13. FABRICATE FIREWALL and/or fabricate air vents which direct cool air into the cockpit.


Suffering through the 150 degrees in the cockpit on the final stretch back to the Solage Inn. The white clown lips are from the 50 SPF face stick I needed to keep my lips from chapping any worse than they already had (which would have made eating and speaking unbearable).


Jack enjoys the cool wine cave at Keller Estates Winery (our final day lunch stop)


early morning view of Balloon event from the Pickup truck while towing the Rally on the stolen trailer



Balloons over the vineyards on our way home