Engine fires, leather drive-trains, road-side oil changes…today certainly turned out to be exciting!
After our final driver’s meeting for the event, we all eagerly headed off to our cars in anticipation of the roads to come. Engines were fired and warmed, people began departing…and my car just cranked and cranked. A few cars hung around, a weak spark was diagnosed a new coil tried. No luck, and we had flooded the engine making attempts. As a last-resort option, a tow rope was called in so we could clear the Weber-style throttle bodies quickly. Not more than 10ft later and we were in business! A group of about six of us departed almost an hour late, but we were rolling…
As we headed out of Grand Junction, we rolled through Fruita before turning left towards Rangley. The highway starts off straight, but soon you’re climbing up and over Douglas pass. It may not have the allure, or challenge, of some of Colorado’s big passes…but the turns are fantastic, and the views are unique to the area. One view we didn’t expect, however, was Sean and Andrew standing beside their Datsun with burnt components on the ground. A battery fire had taken out some ignition cables (and the battery), and the guys were very lucky to be saved by Tabetha and Lilly who arrived moments after the fire was discovered with charged extinguishers at the ready. While they would endure a wait at the side of the road for Ryan to arrive, there was no tow truck involved. They McGyver’d a repair, drove to a local auto parts store, and were able to make it to the finish under their own power!
While the guys were on the side of the road contemplating how to make Datsun parts from thin air, the rest of us were in Rangley touring the new Rangley Auto Museum. Opened in 2016 by long-time resident Bud Striegel, the museum features roughly 35 vehicles from Bud’s collection. They are regularly rotated to keep the display fresh, and our group was given a personal tour by Bud himself…sharing stories on what makes each vehicle unique, or why he’s chosen it for the collection. The leather ‘chain’ on one motorcycle was a particular crowd favourite! With our museum stop complete, and our potential “hard luck” award winners becoming obvious, it was time to head to our final destination, and the lunch hosted by Hagerty. Fate, it would seem, did not want us to end the event early.
The Hard Luck Award, traditionally given to the entrants who experience a catastrophic failure, is not an award you would think anyone sets out to win. The McGyver, award, given to the entrants with the “best fix” throughout the weekend, is held in high-honour. The difference between a brilliant fix, and a disastrous day is sometimes found in the narrowest of margins.
Leaving the museum the Rally Bug fired up via a bump start, and was heard to be running on just three cylinders. “No worries,” I thought, “it will clear up in a moment. Sure enough, by the time we were getting gas two blocks away it was sounding a touch smoother. At the end of town, it smoothed out, we made some fuel-injection adjustments on the laptop and began sailing towards the finish. What we didn’t know, however, is that cylinder miss was actually a misdiagnosed failing exhaust gasket. Hot gases were being thrown direction onto the rear apron, and by the time we turned past Zac and Mason who had stopped to check the route book…our rear end was in flames! While Michael and I unstrapped and jumped out of the car, Mason and Zac grabbed water and helped douse the flames. Fortunetly it was just paintwork, some wiring and some rubber bits…the flames hadn’t reached anything fuel related. Our McGyver fix was to simply “remove damaged components” and drive without! We zip-tied the engine lid open, and continued to dinner. A few miles away a Triangle placed on the side of the road suggested we weren’t the only ones having trouble. The dark line that began on the pavement a hundred feet later confirmed it.
As we rounded the corner, and dropped down a slight rise the dark line turned to a wet dark line, ending in a large pool of oil. An Italian was parked nearby, with a crowd of entrants gathered. The Malibu, oval beetle, a Porsche 911 Targa, and 914 were all assisting in surgery, which was occurring on the Italian motor. It would seem that as they began descending down the hill, the smell of oil began to hit the two pilots. Just as one was about to ask the other “do you smell oil?”, the driver wisely shut off the engine so a proper diagnosis could be done. As the two coasted to a safe spot down the hill, the drain plug decided it was done with rallying, and left to go and find new friends in the desert scrub.
The collected group was rooting through tool bags and spare parts to try and find anything that would fit. Doug, fearing the worst, was whittling a new artisanal plug from a locally sourced wood-grained product. In the end, neither stick nor JB-Weld would be required. The pair were carrying a spare rad fan sensor, that just happened to fit the hole perfectly! The engine was refilled with oil, and started as though it was fresh from the factory. Later, contemplating the event over lunch, one of the entrants was heard explaining that they were quite happy with the whole experience, as far as they were concerned they had just finished the post-event oil change!
And so, the McGyver award was presented to our first entrants to vie for the title, Aaron and Marie Axelrod. Their Pantera rattled some shift linkage bits loose, and they were lost to wilderness…no doubt to start a school for oil pan plugs. Regardless, without the ability to shift, a Pantera isn’t much fun…and their tool bag didn’t have a cotter pin inside it. Instead, they found some twist-ties, like you would normally use on garbage bags, or to hold a spool of wire together. The ties were put into action, and worked so well they didn’t even bother to change them out for the rest of the event. A DeTomaso part number would be pending, if the company were still active.
At the end of the day, every one of our cars which began the event had made it to the finish…under it’s own power. We figured the Datsun guys probably had it the worst, and awarded them the Hard Luck Award. To help ease the pain of the restoration work and repairs ahead, we also awarded them each a Roue Watch, helping to ensure their bad day was going to get better!
The Spirit of the Summit award was given to Jeff and Robin Sykes for 2018. They’ve piloted their yellow Pantera in each of the four Silver Summits, and regale the Pantera club each year with photographs and stories of their adventures. This year, they managed to finally convince the club that trying the event out was a great idea, and we had four more club members join the Silver Summit in 2018. Jeff and Robin convinced their friends that driving classic cars is simply the best activity ever, and that fits the Spirit of our events in the best way possible.
Once again, the stunning photography has been provided by Andrew Snucins and Dan Evans.