Moblogging – On The Road Archive

Sports Car Digest posted an excellent report with stunning photos of this year’s California Mille today in which I found a great photo of us in the ’27 Rally taken by Sports Car Digest Contributor/Photographer Dennis Gray

© 2013 Dennis Gray & Sports Car Digest

and another beautiful photo taken by Bob Ross (also of Sports Car Digest)

© 2013 Bob Ross

© 2013 Bob Ross & Sports Car Digest

you can read Dennis’s excellent Califonia Mille Report at Sports Car Digest

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This video gives you a feel for the wind noise in the Rally. We had absolutely spectacular sunny weather on the coast. This was shot on the second day as we were driving South on the coast towards Mendocino.

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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.

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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).

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

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

 

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Balloons over the vineyards on our way home

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Day 3: depart Little River Inn (sadly)

lunch at Boonville

finish at Solage Hotel in Calistoga

total distance: 189 miles

We were up quite late last night implementing a McGyver style fix for the gear oil leaking out of our differential and all over my right rear brake drum. Mike and I filled the hole that was missing a threaded plug with Permatex Gasket silicone while Jack preformed his nightly ritual of adding 16 ounces of gear oil to the leaking differential. The entire time Will illuminated our work area with his ’57 Porsche Speedster headlights (which sounded like it ran with a diesel engine) and continuously asked us if we needed any duct tape.

In the morning, a section of the hotel parking lot had been coverted into a makeshift garage. The Yoshida Pre-War Jaguar SS-100 (all the way from Tokyo) was getting a new Fuel pump while the ’57 light weight Giuletta was getting some attention as well.   We needed to swap the right front wheel with our spare because we had worn the tire bald, but since the floor jacks were being used I decided to join my Jack for a quick breakfast.  When learned upon our return 30 minutes later that Mark (co-driver of the spectacular ’42 Alfa Romeo 6C2500 SS) had gratiously changed our wheel for us while we were eating.  He reminded us to check that the knock-off was really well seated after driving 5-10 miles.  We did and it was.

I don’t want to forget to mention Jeff Walker & Bill Crowley, who represented Chubb Collector Car (a major sponsor of the California Mille) providing mechanical support.  It was really helpful that they are true gear heads (Bill has several hot rods that keep him busy while Jeff is a muscle car and motorcycle fanatic whose dad was a drag racer and auto restorer). Together with the incomparable Conrad Stevenson & Jere Brown (Cal Mille mobile mechanics extraordinaire), their tireless and heroic wrenching assistance helped keep the 70 entrant cars on the road. Jack and I are especially grateful for Jeff & Bill’s assistance because they transported our spare wheel & tires for the entire route–without which we would have been side-lined after the second day–while Jere hauled our tool bags.

I encourage you to check out Jeff Walker’s Cal Mille blog on the Chubb Collector Car Insurance site.

After a brief drivers meeting, the 65-or-so cars still running departed the Little River Inn on a beautiful but warm drive through Ukiah, Comptche & Navarro then throught the Hendy Woods State Park on our way back to the coast.  Jack and I really enjoyed the cooler coastal temperature through Greenwood, Elk and all the way down to Manchester (just before Point Arena) and then headed inland with ambient temperature steadily rising to the 90s on our way to lunch in Boonville.  We arrived at the Boonville  Hotel totally dehydrated from riding in the Rally cockpit enduring a constant temperature in the 150 degree range and were thrilled to be offered two cups of cold cider as soon as we walked in.

The afternoon run was a relatively short but challening 91 miles from Boonville to Calistoga via routes 128, 175 and 29.  Once we arrived in Calistoga, it was time to change our left front tire which was now worn bald.  Since we used the spare wheel in the morning, we would have to change the tire and tube tonight.  We decided to put off maintenance until after dinner.

When we returned to our car after dinner, I also noticed that 2/3 of the body fasteners holding the lower front side panels had fallen off on the rough drive of the past two days!  Alex (on the Engineering crew at the Solage) generously gave us all the fasteners we needed to get the Rally back together and road-worthy for the last day of driving.

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Make-shift garage in the Little River Inn parking lot. Site of our early morning bonding session with the mechanics (Jere Brown & Conrad Stevenson) and other entrants

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1937 Jaguar SS-100 from Tokyo gets a new fuel pump

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our Rally (at left) waits for a jack to free up so we can change the first of our three tires worn bald by the hard driving on rough roads

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Time Warp: we stopped in Elk at the Greenwood Pier Inn to show Jack where his mom & dad honeymooned long before he joined the family

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Jack in front of the Greenwood Pier Inn. If his mom and I hadn’t honeymooned there, it’s possible that YOU WOULDN’T KNOW JACK

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Jack and I enjoy the view from the Cliff House at the Greenwood Pier Inn

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Jack’s expression in anticipation of the heat we’re about to endure when we leave the coast to head towards Boonville

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Late night tire surgery in the Engineer’s shed at the Solage Hotel. I was not only grateful to have Bill, Mike & Jeff’s company, but Mike & Jeff’s motorcycle racing experience was invaluable. Their helpful tips dramatically reduced the time it would have taken me to change the 5 x 19 Rally tire on my own.

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I think the engineer’s shed was my favorite facility at the Solage Hotel. Midnight tool time with Bill & Jeff (the Chubb Insurance guys) and Mike.

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new front left wheel mounted and missing body bolts replaced. Just need to top up the Engine and Differential Oil and we’ll be ready for another day.

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Half way there…

Posted April 30, 2013 By dad

Left the Redding Holiday Inn in the morning,
lunched at Benbow Inn
finished the day in room 123 at the Little River Inn (our favorite stop along the entire route)

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last gas for 60 miles

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waiting for gas

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waiting for our turn at the pump

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relaxin’ before gassin’

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in the queue; the black hot rod was Newport Beach’s Steve Schmidt’s last minute substitution for his 1957 Porsche 356GT, which was disabled just before the event

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Our intrepid team arrives hot and weary at Benbow Inn

enjoying a relaxing lunch at Benbow Inn

enjoying a relaxing lunch at Benbow Inn

view from the back patio at Benbow Inn

view from the back patio at Benbow Inn

somewhere along the Mendocino coast line

somewhere along the Mendocino coast line

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much needed break to cool off

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Home of the best rubber duck collection we’ve ever seen.

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Jack needed some “convincing” before he agreed drive the Rally across coast highway between two blind turns to get gas when we arrived at Little River Inn

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happy to make it alive to dinner at Little River Inn

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late night McGyver fix for our differential oil leak; this photo is just before we wrapped it with Silicone Tape (in French Racing Blue of course!)

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If it’s Monday, this must be Redding

Posted April 29, 2013 By dad

Day one is complete and it was BRUTAL! We covered 300 miles in 8 hours of driving.

The start was very exciting. As the oldest car in the event, we were assigned car # 1 and were the first to depart the San Francisco Fairmont, waved off by the Italian Vice Consul in San Francisco.

moments before the start

moments before the start

We turned north on Van Ness, left on Lombard and within minutes were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on an beautifully clear and Sunny day.  In the morning, we covered 160 miles (averaging almost 20 mpg!) to get to our lunch in Williams. The road noise is really loud, but the wind noise is deafening.  Even worse is the constant flow of 200 degree air mixed with some burnt oil billowing into the cockpit from the engine compartment because there is no firewall. It is INTENSELY HOT. Driving this car feels like stoking coal for a huge steam locomotive. I would estimate the temperature at our seats to be approximately 150 degrees for the duration of our drive. Our legs and arms felt almost burned. We were so dehydrated, we drank at least 8 bottles of water (and a delicious bottle of Mexican Coca Cola–the one with real sugar!).  No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t drink enough to satiate my intense thirst.

The Rally performed like a champ and delivered us to our lunch and dinner destinations without any drama. It handled winding country roads and 80 mph amidst the big rigs on Highway 5 without complaint. The afternoon drive, however, took us on some much rougher roads which together with wind advisory-level cross winds were knocking us around like a ping pong ball in a washing machine. The scenery was beautiful, but I was eager to get to our final destination in Redding. When we arrived, we cleaned the bugs off the headlights and wind screens, checked and cleaned the fuel filters, replaced about 16 oz. of differential oil we have lost over the last two days, and checked to make sure all the bits that were supposed to be on the car were still there. It appears we only lost a threaded cap to one of the hood latches (which we can get by without for the remainder of the event).

Several of our fellow participants retired today, including the #2 car, the 1928 Bugatti driven by the two Martins from England. They get to finish the event in an air-conditioned rental car. I’m SOOOOOO jealous. The cold shower in our hotel at the end of the day may have been my best shower EVER!

We are back in our room after a banquet dinner with all the participants. It’s 9:30pm and I can barely keep my eyes open. We are going to sleep SO WELL tonight.

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our intrepid companions Mike, Peggy, Linda and Will

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“Must be in the front row!”

Posted April 28, 2013 By dad

It’s Sunday, the day before the start of the California Mille. Jack and I arrived to learn we have roundel #1, because we will be driving the oldest car in this year’s event. We beat the 1928 Bugatti by one year! Of the 70 cars which participated in the 2013 California Mille, only the first 6 were pre-war cars.  Stay posted for some other interesting stats on the distribution of cars after the event. For more information, you may wish to check out:

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best dressed entrants at the opening banquet Sunday night

Our route for the next four days: Day 1: Lunch in Williams & finish in Redding (300 mi) Day 2: Lunch in Benbow, Mendocino coast & finish in Mendocino (236 mi) Day 3: Lunch in Boonville, finish in Calistoga (189 mi) Day 4: Sonoma Coast, lunch in Petaluma, back to Calistoga for end of California Mille (224 mi) We’ll keep you posted…

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BOSS!

Posted September 18, 2011 By jack

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of stopping by the 55th annual Hillsborough Concours d’Elegance with my camera. The range of cars was incredible, but one in particular caught my eye:

Beautiful plumage!

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Ain’t nothing going on but the rent

Posted August 22, 2011 By dad

It’s sad how quiet things are at the Three Lions Garage right now.  Jack and Charlie started school this week while I was in Monterey for my annual pilgrimage to the holiest of holy sites for gear heads.  Consequently, the lights were off all weekend.  It wasn’t all bad, however, as I had the pleasure of seeing the Pebble Beach tour commence, preview the Gooding & Co auction (big thanks to Bart), Concourso Italiano, a great dinner with Jim, Payton and Catherine @ Tarpy’s, the Monterey Historics (just can’t get used to  the new name) where we watched a dozen $25 million PLUS Ferrari 250 GTOs race on the track, attend the RM and Gooding auctions and then join the Hagerty Dawn Patrol at the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance where we saw twenty-two (!) GTOs lined up along the coast (collectively worth more than one half BILLION dollars) and a stunning group of arguably the sexiest vehicles ever manufactured)

 

Could be a picture from Sebring in the early 60′s if there weren’t so many of them!

Over the past several weeks while Jack and Charlie were away diving on the Kona coast, I had the opportunity to change the hood hinges on the London Taxi and properly align the hood so it now closes effortlessly.  Now I’m just waiting for a replacement grill because I broke out the old one to get the stuck hood unlatched so I could perform my repairs.  I think it’s safe to consider this two steps forward and only one back considering how nicely the front panels are now aligned.

Watch for Monterey photos coming soon…

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