Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Inspector Detector, or here come da Judge!

Fernley Nevada, somewhere out in the Nevada Desert...

Friday morning, 22 May 09, open track day prior to the "Goin for Broken" 24 Hours of Lemons.

We unloaded our LeMons "racecar", one worn out Rubber Bumper '77 MGB and took our trailer down to the lower parking area to save space for the trifecta of crazy MR2 teams we suddenly found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of.

As the remaining members of our team trickled in, we slowly got busy finishing up a bazillion loose ends we had not yet completed; removal of remaining side marker lights, zip tying rollcage padding, bolting or zip tying down anything that moved or clunked. It seemed to be a game of "Whack-a-mole". Everytime I thought we were finished, something else popped up. And it was HOT.

The day rolled on, the temperature went up and the sun began to bake our brains.

Many of the other teams already went through tech and were out on the track testing their rolling rust buckets, but we were stuck in limbo wondering how to get out on the track. Do we tech first? Do we just go pay for track time and go driving? It seemed a bit too easy just go out and start driving. Newbies we most definitely were.

3 of us had decided to pony up and get some track practice time and flog the car for the afternoon to flush out any gremlins. Not knowing what exactly to do, we took a walk down to the track HQ several times and got conflicting info from the man in the trailer.

Turns out it WAS as simple as paying the cash and wheeling out of the paddock. The LeMons race and the track day were separate events and not connected. Passing tech was not needed to test the track. And it only took us half a day to figure that out, ha-ha!

We were about to take a few practice laps, but then realized that the warnings on the P.A. about getting our cars through tech and judging before they closed for the day applied to US. Once they closed for the day, tech was done. There would not be any Saturday Tech inspections.

We came to the conclusion that it would REALLY suck if we went out and practiced now, and then ran into a tech snag later with no time to recover.

So we decided to go ahead and do a test run through tech first and see what we needed to fix, while we still had time thrash on the car.

We began to head over to the lineup, and I realized I had NO IDEA where our tech sheet was.


Luckily my super-astute-and-knows-I-forget-random-things-spouse had printed out extra copies. So I hastily filled out the new form and initialed the line items, double checking to make sure we did not forget something obvious and embarrassing.

I lined up our car behind the HQ tent and waited, trying to keep calm. I felt like I was waiting for test results, Pink or Blue, Plus or Minus, one line or two. Ug.

Then it was our turn. Arnand checked our paperwork, looked over the car for basic items and sent us into the tech area.

The inspector detector looked us over, poked and prodded first the car then my fire suit and gave us a few items he wanted us to adjust - which included cutting a hole in our front seat so the 5th strap or "anti-submarine" strap did not castrate us in case of an accident. But other wise it all went well. The "Kill-switch" killed the car, and the fire extinguisher was easy to reach.

Then he had me sit in the car all suited up, helmet and everything, and made me adjust all the straps nice and snug.

"FIRE-FIRE-FIRE!!!" he yelled at me, "GET OUT OF THE CAR!!!"

Now, in the back of my mind I KNEW this was coming. I had heard it all day going on next to us. But this is not something you ever want to say to an English car owner, especially if he is tightly strapped into his car!

FWOOSH! I was out of that thing in a flash.

"Good job" said the inspector detector.

"Wow!" said lurch. "You were out of there FAST."

I looked back and did not see any flames. And then regained my composure.

He signed us off, and suddenly we were headed towards the "B.S. judging" area. (And I was still secretly looking for any smoke.)

Now previously, my wife went through MUCH time and effort getting our papers in order. While this bucket of bolts is a legit $480 car and very little went into it performance wise, we were still uneasy about the whole judging process. They assign 1 penalty lap for every $10 of perceived value above 500 bucks. It is real easy to start off in the negative, and you could spend all day trying to get back to lap # 1.

I tried to build and enter this car in the spirit of the event, knowing that if I cheated I would only be cheating myself of the satisfaction of finishing a 500 dollar car race in an actual 500 dollar car.

That being said, it has been said there are two types of racers, cheaters and losers.

A stock '77 MGB has no chance in hell against modern Miatas, BMWs or MR2s. But with just a few tweaks we could at least make it somewhat mid-pack competitive.

I threw in a slightly less horrible motor and slapped on every handling trick I could think of. I sold anything that was left over. Luckily the stuff I got was dirt cheap, but even used it looked a little too nice for my comfort. Lots of sandblasting, dragging parts beneath cars, and leaving things under the sprinklers for a few weeks ensured that the replacement parts looked just as bad as the rest of the car.

Plan A, Better to not be noticed than raise an eyebrow. Legit as I was, I was still going in prepared for the worst!

For plan B, we had paperwork to prove every penny we spent, and every penny we made by selling extras.

And for plan C, we had bribes. A local Meadery produces some KICK-ASS honey based booze, which fit in perfectly with our Killer Bee theme.

We rolled up into the B.S. judging area, Johny and Murilee approached me and said "Hey, nice facial hair!" They looked at the car for a quick second, then turned to each other and said "There's really not much to talk about here. Zero laps".

"WHAT?!? Wait a minute! We have Bribes!" I cried...

My team members tried to shut me up.

"No, you don't understand, I'm going to get the full wrath of "squeeky-kick-my-ass-spouse" if you don't look at her paperwork! I spent rent on honey-booze! And we got T-shirts!"

Slightly confused, the judges said "Well, alright" and took our bribes, then painted a couple big red "Bribed" stencils on the car.

Murilee looked at his T-shirt and noticed the name Arraiac on the front.


"Uh, it's just something got off the web" I joked.

He did not know that I did my research. Arriac Murilee is the name of his old garage band, and is where he got his pen name from. He changed it to Murilee Martin because no one could pronounce Arriac. I thought it was a nice obscure touch.

He thought it was surreal. Like, totally weird. And looked at me like I had just appeared from the gates of hell.

"Weird. Totally weird".

Next: Testing, Testing, this thing on?

Previous: Wow. Just freaking wow.

From The beginning of this mess

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wow. Just freaking wow.


Yeay! (The crowd goes wild; roses and kisses from hot chicks... um, cocked-eyebrow-spouse is not amused, scratch that, kisses from super-cute-jubliant-spouse just fine with me)

We surpassed every single one of our goals, and beat all my previous team's records.

A) We got to the track before the race started,
B) We passed Tech without grave warnings of death and mutilation,
C) We stayed out on the track for more than 2 1/2 laps!

Not only that, but we actually FINISHED THE RACE!! HOLY CRAP!

THAT part is what surprised all of us.

I checked the trip odometer which I had reset at the beginning of the race, and assuming it is correct (Not likely, it's is an MG after all) we completed a hair over 506 miles. Not too shabby for a rusty and forgotten project car we found at a closed MG garage.

Friday morning we woke up and stopped off at an auto parts store on the way to the track. Since it was next to Choke in the Box I decided to get myself a breakfast burrito, which apparently is becoming another running gag for me in this whole 24 Hours of LeMons thing.

While waiting for my food I noticed Matt and his Free Range Racing "Stack-o-cars" fueling up at the gas station next door. I recognized his 24 feet of race cars on 20 feet of trailer setup from his blog. That and the Spotted Owl on a stick mounted above the cockpit.

"Hey, it's the Free range Guys" I said to my Groggy teamate, Hey-WOW-man Chong.

"What?" He mumbled back, not really caring what I was talking about. "Hey man, we still need gas."

"RIGHT!" I said.

The events that followed are a little fuzzy in my mind, but we watched Matt pull out onto the highway in one direction, which I had assumed was the another direction, but hey-WOW-man assured me was the right direction.

But then after we fueled up, we got turned around and completely went the wrong direction.

Which, just happened to be the RIGHT direction. I noticed this as we tried to turn around in a tiny used car lot on main street in wonderful Fernley NV. Thinking that the round-a-bout intersection we crossed was a bad sign, we were trying to head back to the freeway. As I finally got our rig turned around, I saw Matt and the free-range-stack-o-cars go zipping by from the other another direction and turn down the road we were facing.

"Huh. That must be the way to the track".

It was a scant 5 minutes earlier that we had realized we knew how to get to Fernley, but had overlooked getting "directions" to the actual race track.

"FOLLOW THAT OWL!" I decreed.

"Hey wait a minute man, those people are waving at us to follow them instead." said Mr. Chong. Several cars going the other way were honking at us and waving.

"WHAT? But those dudes are going the wrong direction!" I said flabbergasted.

"I dunno, but they doo seem pretty insistent, all waving at us and stuff..."

So I pulled over again, and thought to myself... "Self, they did not even have a race car". Hmmm...

Then I decided SCREW them, I'm following the owl. And as I puled back out in front of traffic, I noticed in my mirror what appeared to be a camper door swinging open in the wind.

"Oh... I think I know why they were waving at us..." I said as I pulled over yet AGAIN.

By the time Kevin got back from shutting the rear door on Brownie "The Worlds Greatest Crappy RV", Matt and the Free range racers, the Owl, windmill and stack-o-cars were long gone.

So guessing at which way to go, we headed down the road, on the road to somewhere.

Just as I said to hey-WOW-man that we should just go a few miles further before turning around, we saw what looked like a racetrack up in the hills. Not only that, I saw an OWL perched above a red stack-o-cars going up the driveway.

"YES!" we high fived each other.

Once we got to the gate we checked our names on the list. "Who is driving?" asked the tired lady with the list. "We both are" I replied. But Kevin was not listed. We tried his first name. Nope. We tried his last name. Nope. "Who is driving?" the lady asked again. "We BOTH are" I said in frustration.

"You forgot to pay for him" she said.

"No, I'm broke because I DID pay for him!"

After conferring with the other gate checker for a moment, we were told that we would have to report to LeMons HQ to straighten it out.

So I got my wrist band, and a dirty look from hey-WOW-man, and we proceeded through the paddock looking for a space to set up camp.

But there WERE no spaces. Everything was either occupied or taped off with caution tape. When we got to the end of the pits I realized we were in a bit of a bind. The Last thing I wanted to do was to piss of my pit neighbors, but we REALLY needed a place to park.

Just then I saw a teammate from my previous LeMons race at Thunderhill, who was wearing a "Staff" T-shirt this time around. "Hey Armand! Hows it going?"

We decided to go chit chat, figure out the parking and also the "list thing" when Free-range-Matt came storming up from the other side "THERE'S NO PLACE TO PARK!! *&^% everybody is being a #$^% and #$%^ #^$% #$%^..."

I stood next to him and nodded my head in agreement. "We" were on a roll.

I had not met Matt yet, but had conversed with him through our blogs. We were supposed to wander over and say "Hi" to each other sometime during the race. But this was even better.

The LeMons folk ponderded the problem for a few minutes, then told us we could have the spaces closest to the penalty box. EXCELLENT! They even gave us space for the Snowspeeders and Knights of the Round Table/Stick-figure racing teams who had not arrived yet.

Then we moved on to Kevin's issue of not being on the list.

We found him under Kevin "Hey WOW man".

Ahem. Kevin shot me a look of YOU IDIOT.

Organizer Nick said "I remember you..."

And everyone said "oooOOoooo".

Perhaps not the BEST way to start a LeMons me thinks. Funny, I changed our entry forms right after they sent out the threatening email about nicknames in quotations. Must have been just a moment too late with the last one...

After getting Hey-WOW-man free on bail, we set up camp and I found out that all the MR2 teams were especially cool. We pooled our canopies and made one big common area, which would come into play later in the weekend.

Then we looked at our race car and thought "Holy Shit".

We are Here.

Previous: We made it!

From The Beginning of this Mess:

Friday, May 22, 2009

We made it!

Arrived at the hotel around midnight. Was immediately approached by the judges Murilee Martin and Johnny Lieberman who were apparently wandering the parking lots terrorizing the E30 teams. They liked the Bee and spoke of it's racing lineage. They also were stunned/impressed/snickering that I retained the complete Lucas electrical system for an endurance race. Hey, Time for breakfast!

Next: Wow. Just freaking wow.

Previous: I-80 west @ Sack-O-Tomatoes

From the beginning of this mess

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I-80 west @ Sack-O-Tomatoes, was just passed by Lou Brero of Exoskeleton Jag fame heading towards Reno. Gave me the thumbs-up for the car! Brownie humming along

Our First Mobile Update!

Our first remote update. We are mobile! Only 6 hours late lol! Had our first Electrical gremlin loading the Bee on the trailer.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock...

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”
Albert Einstein

It's 2am, Wednesday night, or Thursday morning depending on if you are a late owl or early bird. Personally I don't understand early-birds. They say early-birds get the worm, but I prefer late night steaks and keggers. That's just me.

My stepfather happens to be one of them weird ass early-birds. And I happen to think he is insane. Coincidence? I think not. But I digress...

So, it's 2 am and I have just quit thrashing on the Killer Bee, our 24 Hours of LeMons MGB race car. It's a giant bee looking thing. And it is sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house as we frantically try to finish the long ass list of tasks before leaving for Fernley Nevada later this morning. And by we I mean me, with major support from she's-so-tired-she's-sleeping-on-the-couch-spouse.

Kevin "Hey-WOW-man" Chong did come over this afternoon and help me thrash on some last minute details which may end up being the push that gets us to the track on time. He brought our revised door numbers over which came out awesome! Seems he happens to have a vinyl plotter at his disposal, which just saved our butts.

I had a cool door number/team logo planned out, but it was "ixnayed" by the powers that be for being slightly unreadable. Yeah, after seeing it on the car I figured as much which is why I submitted a graphic sample for them to check out. So now I am on to plan B, which means we put the Logo on the hood instead and run simpler numbers as per the rules on the door.

Other than that, building and prepping this stupid thing has been a one man show. And it was a LOT more work than I realized. But, it has turned out pretty cool so far if I do say so myself. Er, cool in a LeMons kinda way. Don't get your hopes up.

Unfortunately photos pics and video at this juncture are under the strictest of controls. They have been taken and recorded, but are under tight secrecy. Our plan for world domination is not to be taken lightly. Under penalty of flubbery.

Which brings me back to the fact that the secret weapon (aka one Killer Bee) is sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house. For the world to see. On a busy street.

While I was working on the race car last weekend, one Sweet ass Datsun 510 drove by and yelled "Yeah! Killer Bee!!" Dog walkers and passerby's stop to chat, and hispanic elderly ladies tell me they like my funny car. And, as the final secret touches fall into place, I now have entire families stopping by with their kids just to see the "Bee-Car".

Kabloey... So much for a secret weapon.

So why is the car sitting on the sidewalk? Well, it seems that's just where they ended up.

You remember that little toy puzzle game you played with as a kid, the one where you have 8 or 11 pieces that slide around one piece at a time until you solve the puzzle?

Well, heh-heh-heh, that's my driveway.

And it was more hassle than it was worth to move things around again after our EPIC trip up to Oakland last Friday. Instead I went ahead and finished the build out in the open, much like "Overhaulin" did that build at the SEMA show in Vegas. Only without any of the professional quality or know-how. Perhaps I'm more like the guy in the Mitsubishi commercial... with cars on jack-stands in the front yard...

"I'm a fixing on them!"

So it's 2 am, and I have nearly finished with the list. The blasted list from hell that keeps growing every time I remember things I forgot to put on the last list. Brownie, The worlds greatest Crappy RV is not ready, and I still need supplies. we are in good shape.

I pick up our rental trailer in the morning, and come hell or high water we will be on the road to Reno by 10am. Translated, that means by noon I will be frantically throwing stuff on the floor of the RV, trying to get out of town by 2pm.

That's the plan anyways.

Good god it's here. It's REALLY here.

At this moment, I had second thoughts. Do I really want to do this? I mean, I met the teams of a lot of the other entries. These are not wholly sane people. Hmmm.. ok, in that case, yes. Yes I DO want to do this. These my peeps.

Besides, "sweet-but-make-me-fat-spouse" bought me some new Mother's cookies for the trip. Gotta take a trip to eat trip goodies. Seems my favorite cookies are now back on the market after being saved by Kellogg's. Yeay!

But, I still have a huge stash of expired cookies from when I cleaned out the supermarket when I heard they went bankrupt.

Wanna buy some Halloween edition circus animal cookies?

(Missing Kitty)

Next: Our first remote update

Previous: FLY BEE FLY!!!

From The Beginning of this mess: The Hook

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Friday, 15 MAY 09

4:30 PM.

I am heading north on I-880 towards Oakland in the Killer Bee. Lots of looks. Lots of stares.

Yes. I am driving a giant bee.

And yes, I know it looks stupid. Quit honking. Yes, it's duct tape. Go away damn you rubberneckers!

I had just left the office where I stopped in to get a drink of water and check out the mechanicals before continuing on up to Oakland. Earlier in the day I had waited in line at the DMV to get a one day moving permit for the trip. The plan was to drive up to Gargamel's shop and tweak the roll cage, and continue prep for race day.

What? Only 5 days left?

Ok, it is officially time to panic. (AAAAHHHH!!!!! Ok. I'm better)

A week ago I finally got Brownie, the world's greatest crappy RV, a new set of shoes and resolved his flooding issue. Then I was ready to figure out what was causing the Killer Bee to crap out on the road. It would run great sitting in the driveway, and when I decided to take it for a spin around the block it took of like a bat out of hell. (Or, a Bee FROM hell, ha-ha!)

But a block and a half later, it would cut out and start sputtering. This kept going on over and over, and I was getting a little crazy trying to figure it out. At one point the car stalled next to a local park, where there just happened to be a bunch of little league games being played. I got a LOT of looks and fingers pointed at me.

(Yah. Come-on car, lets GO!)

Then it started sputtering and flooding again in the driveway. Turns out I had several issues all going on at the same time. So, you mean I spent 480 bucks, and ended up with a frigging LEMON?!?!?!

Oh wait, Right.

Anywho, it turns out I had a flaky distributor that liked to jump timing back and forth about 20 degrees at random. Ok, swap it with leftovers from another old engine.

Then the rear carb had a new float which turned out to be more of a "sink". I pulled it out and found it was full of fuel. ARG! So, back in went the better of the two old floats. Who cares what the float height is. There is no time for this crap. In it went. Good enough.

Now the car was idling nicely again, but steadily missed above 2000 rpm. Huh.

While adjusting the front carb, which seemed to be needing a LOT of enrichment, I noticed something shiny in the carb throat. Upon closer inspection, I realized the jet needle had left it's captive holder and was sitting in the jet!! DOUGH! Well blow me down! Nyuck-nyuck-nyuck. You piece of crap.

I removed the offending pieces and stuck them back together, then gave it a good squeeze with some vice-grips for good measure. Back in it went and...


It suddenly ran like a scaled ape. Or a grape cat.. uh whatever, it was good!

As the sun faded for the evening I was finally able to take off down the street and got chirps on every shift. YEEEHAAA!! Down the road I went until I realized I was near Lurch's house, so I stopped by to show it off.

Against his better judgment, he decided to take it for a spin around the block too. The two of us shoehorned him into the car and off he went, giddy and looking like a gorilla stuffed into a yellow Barbie car.

When he got back we exchanged High-Fives... and realized we were in WAY over our heads.

Not to be deterred the next step was to bring it up to Gargamel's shop for the roll-cage tweaking.

Which brings us back to last Friday, as I was driving the stupid thing up to Oakland.

It ran great, and included a Friday evening bout of commute traffic. Lurch had mentioned "You picked a hell of a time and place to test the car!"

"Pish-posh! It's perfect! Friday evening stop and go on northbound 880? If that does not kill it nothing will!"

The car performed well, stopped well, occasionally cruised at 75, and when traffic permitted even sprinted faster. Half tank, good temp, the gauges seem to work. (Either that or I was about to experience MAJOR surprise.)

The Oakland Coliseum was a triumphant sight. Jack Murphy square, how you doin? The car and I continued on to our destination. We made it. Yes! I even parked at a Subway and got a sandwich to see what the car would do after sitting for 10 minutes. It started right back up.

I was visiting Gargamel's shop when I received the phone call...

... from my super-sad-spouse...

"It's kitty... she's..."

The day before she had stopped eating and drinking. Her condition had worsened suddenly, and we were looking for signs that could mean we should take her to the vet one-last-time. Friday afternoon it was not looking real good. I had the day off, and my always-a-big-heart-spouse came home for lunch to check on her. We knew it was close.

I wanted to wait till Saturday so that I could play guitar for her that evening one last time, but my super-in-tune-spouse suggested I should play for kitty before leaving for Oakland.

So after she left back to work I grabbed my trusty 6-string and played Tigger a song that did not really have a name. It started off as a mish-mash of experimental sounds that kitty had guided me on, and evolved into something beautiful, based mostly on her quirky inputs.

As I played she stopped twitching, which had started the previous evening. Her front paw stretched out as if beckoning, or trying to catch the notes. She seemed peaceful.

At that moment I finally knew what to name the song. It's called, "The Song that My Cat Wrote." There are no words. Just her favorite sounds. And I had never played it so softly or with as much purpose.

As the final notes of the song got nearer, I began to plead that the end would never come. But the tears which were now streaming down my face and dripping onto the guitar failed to stop time... and the song gently came to a soft end... and as the last notes hung in the air I kissed her head and whispered "Thank you Tigger for all the years of being there, and for all the laughs, and for being my best friend."

She died shortly thereafter...

Godspeed little buddy. You are missed.

(Kitty gone...)

To my wife: Thank you sweetie, for giving me that gift of playing for her one last song. I love you.

Next: Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

Previous: Lambo

From the beginning of this mess: The Hook

Friday, May 8, 2009

I passed that Lambo like he was standin STILL!

Last week I was on the way to work in my old 1967 Datsun SSS, and I passed a yellow Lambo Gallardo like he was standing still.

It felt GOOOOD.

The fact that I was floored and doing a top speed not much better than a downhill mountain biker, while he was apparently texting that evening's date really do not spoil the moment for me.

I blew by a Lambo in my Datsun.

Mostly because I was late for work.


I found a Gremlin road test on youtube! It gives an idea what trying to canyon race a Gremlin up in the mountains was like as a kid... Boy was I young and stupid.

This car looks a LOT like mine did before I got a hold of it. Fast forward to the 1:35 minute mark for all the tire squealing action. The panic braking portion is exactly what I remember.

Gremlin Road test

I love the handling comments too, like the rear end has "a light squirrely feel while cornering.."

No kidding. Ya think?!?!

(Kitty Fading)

Next: FLY BEE FLY!!!

Previous: So I picked up my RV from a speed shop...

From the Beginning of this mess: The Hook... (Part 1)

So, I picked up my RV from the speed shop...

Just before Arse-Freeze-Apalooza 08, I pulled Brownie the worlds greatest crappy old RV out of cryogenic storage in a town about an hour away from us.

I had shuffled him around the county for several years prior, parking it wherever I saw old RVs congregating and then checking on him on a semi-regular basis until parking tickets or "PLEASE REMOVE YOUR VEHICLE" stickers started to plaster the windows. Then I would clean him up, move him to the next location and the waiting game began again.

I hadn't actually intended to keep the thing actually. I was gonna fix it up and sell it for some extra cash, but as things turned out, after the last dot-com bust Tigger-cat and I ended up taking a sabbatical and traveling in it for about a year, writing music and traveling wherever the steering wandered. And I kinda grew attached to the vagabond thing.

Then when my melt-your-heart-girlfriend-not-yet-spouse finally convinced me it was time to get a real doorbell and a set of matching towels, I decided to hang on to it "just in case". Maybe even put a sign over the door that says "The Dog-House".

And so it ended up at first dominating our driveway, and then went to the RV-kennel for the last few years.

The time it spent sitting was not kind to it. When we picked it up to take to Thunderhill, it seemed to have flat spots in a few of it's tires. I checked them over for any signs of dry rot or cracking and found none, so I drove him. The adventure that followed prompted an email to my father one evening:

Hey Pops,

Thanks to the current economic crisis and meltdown, gas sank to 1.63 a gal last week down from a high of 4.59 just a few months ago.

That means it was finally time to dig the RV out of storage and fill the tank while I can afford it, and might as well take it in for a smog check too. I even drove it to work a few days just because I could. My co-workers loved it. Driving home from storage after I picked it up there was a steady bounce from the flat spots in the tires, which I figured would eventually either subside or destroy something.

On the way to work that first Monday the oldest tire (right rear outer, grey rim) decided it was past the "Use By Date" and elected to take the second path mentioned above of "Destroy something". Half the tread separated from the tire, which caused enough NEW noise for me to pull over at the freeway interchange.

Crap, I'm late for work... hey someone stole the tire iron... hmmm... it's a dually.... fuckit, this thing is old... I got back on the freeway in the slow lane and drove carefully on the shoulder another mile. That's when things got REALLY noisy.

I could hear the remaining pieces slapping the coach as they came loose, and quieting when they departed out the rear as seen by my mirrors... roar to a crescendo, and sudden quiet... roar to a crescendo, sudden quiet. Then finally a steady wire wheel (pun intended) whizzing.

I pulled over a second time and marveled at the inner construction of 6 ply light truck tires, and also how neatly the passenger side exhaust tip was sliced off, then continued on my happy way, taking the next exit and slowly making my way to work. The tire held amazingly, and looked like a used Brillo-pad by the time I arrived.

Interestingly I saved enough money on gas to afford the new tire I ordered from Discount tires. They even put the spare on for me, forgetting to check the tire pressure. This became apparent when I got it back to work and noticed that tire was just along for the ride. By the time I went to pick up the new tire the spare had separated it's bead from the rim. I mentioned this to the rocket scientist/tire salesman, and they nodded in understanding. They then put it back on the spare mount for me... still flat and loose... and still said nothing.

Say Hi to Ma.


After Thunderhill I got the surprise suggestion from changed-her-mind-spouse that we should keep Brownie. That set us off on a mission to find replacement parts at salvage yards, and on our way up to a breaker near Sac-O-tomatoes, the second tire gave up the ghost.

This blowout however was MUCH less amusing, as I had a lovely little "are-we-gonna-die-spouse" riding with me. Worse yet, as I shopped around they seem to have obsoleted the 8-16.5 tire size, and very few choices remain. I lucked out at a random Big-O tire store and picked up two more tires that only cost me a leg.

I decided to bite the bullet and order the last 4 online via tire-rack while I still could, and they had a list of recommended installers, including Goodie's Speed Shop. I chose the speed shop!

You should have seen their faces when I showed up with a 27 foot camper...

They hemmed and hawed, said they had never tried to do an RV before but they would try. And sure enough, they got-er-done. While I was there I asked about the zoomies on their awesome Dodge A-100 shop van, which they said it was done in house.

Excellent. I will be back with the RV/shaggin-waggin after the race, lol!

On the way home that evening the truck ran horribly. It sounded like it both had a vacuum leak and was flooding.

Again with the flooding? Sheesh!

Usually that combo indicates a cracked thermoquad. The thing had not run correctly since last smog check, but now it was getting bad.

Rather than mess with worn out Thermoquad any more, I ordered a Holley manufactured unit from Summit racing, and put it on last Wednesday night. There I found the basis of my vacuum leak which was a cooked and crumbling base gasket.

"Well there's your problem."

I was still tired from staying up late working on the Killer Bee the night before, so I decided to decided to call it a night, get some rest and test it out the next morning.

The next morning I went to fire it up and FLOODING! MORE FLOODING!?!?!? This must be my week.

I removed the carb and inspected it carefully. Turns out the plastic fuel bowl has a corner piece missing, that looks like it was sawed off.

Nice. I assumed they would have tested it before shipping...

So back on went my old carb, along with a new base gasket. Lo and behold, it actually runs pretty good, though it still tends to flood when you shut it off. I've got a rebuild kit on the way from Mancinni Racing and will just epoxy the plastic body.

But this will have to wait till AFTER the Reno race.

Holy crap... HOW many days are left???

The Killer Bee is still not running correctly. It still has "FLOODING ISSUES."

[Slaps forehead]

(Kittty Still Here)

Next: Lambo

Previous: Oh... DUH.

From the Beginning of this mess: The Hook... (Part 1)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Oh... DUH.

So like, I found the flooding problem.

And all I can say is "DUH".

Earlier on Wednesday I stopped off and picked up a half dozen "shims" from the MG supplier to try and fix this persistent flooding issue on my EvilBay sourced S.U. carbs. He didn't actually have any shims in stock, but he found some float needle gaskets we thought might work that he gave me for gratis, free.

When I got home I took the front float chamber lid off to do some tweaking and noticed the fuel level in the float chamber was a little low. Heck, with all that geyser action on Tuesday I expected it to be completely full of gas! This also struck me as odd... which usually means I am overlooking something.

I started to remove the fuel and breather lines to make monkeying with things easier, and it dawned on me that I had not yet installed the "Y" fitting that connects the breather to the charcoal canister. Which meant the breathers for both carbs were tied to each other instead of atmosphere.

"AHA!" I yelled to myself. Shortly followed by "You big dumbass."

In effect I had created a big fuel system "loop" that gave the air trapped inside the carbs no place to vent and ensured the floats would never close. I cut the line to insert a "Y" fitting and tried it again.

The fuel pump clicked and filled the carbs, then settled down and waited. Beautiful. Everything is finally back to normal. Perhaps my fuel flooding issues are behind me now.

On a positive note, I think I inadvertently pressure tested the entire fuel system. The only holes in the entire fuel system seem to be the gas cap and the main jets.

So for big moment #2, I jimmied the choke on with a pair of vice grips and prepared to start the car again. I held my breath, turned the key, and ZROOM! the car started right up!!!

YEE-HAA! WHAA-HOO!! It kept running, and kept running some more!

"What's wrong?" I heard my ready-to-dial-911-spouse call out the window.

Nothing! It works! It actually works!

"Okay, just be careful out there, promise?" she replied.

Yeah yeah yeah... "Sorry, can't hear you" I mimed as I pointed at my ears then went right back to playing with the engine.

I tried not to get TOO excited though. This is when all the little things you did wrong tend to crop up and make themselves known. I watched that little 1800cc motor like a father watches his kid, looking for signs of distress or impending doom. But there were no leaks, no fire, no mysterious puddles of black dino-juice oozing down the driveway.

Holy cow... We have officially crossed the point from where "it ran", to "it runs".

Because my neighbors had not gotten home yet, I took advantage of the opportunity and let the car warm up and idle for about a half hour to observe the temp and make sure the oil pressure stays above 0. Low and behold, not only did we have good oil pressure, the car eventually quit smoking!

I eventually shut it down and let it cool, then took a few moments to install what I have come to call my "Facesaver".

This little contraption is what makes working on a late model MGB just mildly frustrating, instead of outright deadly.

These late versions of the MGB have a stupid electric fan switch in the radiator that likes to pop out and scald your face with 180 deg coolant every time you go under the hood, especially if you are on your way to a show like the Palo Alto British Car Meet, and it's several days before your Anniversary cruise to Alaska.

It's no fun to be sitting at a formal dinner on some ship in pain with the skin of your nose falling off. People don't say anything, but you know they are wondering...

(Sidenote: I went home and took some advil, got a washcloth and a handful of ice cubes to cool the burn and drove the car back to Palo Alto out of spite and determination. We caught the last 45 min of the show as I ran around taking photos and holding a cold rag to my head. Terribly-worried-spouse kept insisting I go to the emergency room, but it really did not seem that bad. That is until she made me look at my face in a Triumph mirror, and I saw the skin was falling off my nose. Ah well, skins gone, too late now. But no WONDER people won't talk to me.)

As a result of all this I created this "facesaver" safety fix involving some crap I had laying around the shop like some safety wire and a flatwasher, and it works beautifully. Tonight I installed said contraption on our race car so that our pretty mugs will all stay safe come raceday.

The large washer goes over the temp switch, and the safety wire runs a loop behind the washer, through the radiator and again looping around the switch before twisting the ends together to tension and secure the mess. Simple. And since then I have seen others who had the same idea.

There is a clip available that was supposed to rectify the design flaw, but it does not always fit every car, and was designed by the same people that put that switch there, and also tried to kill us yanks with that Zenith Stromberg "Firepot" sitting right above the catalytic converter...

I'll go with the safety wire thank you.

(Kitty still here)

Next: So, I picked up my RV from the speed shop...

Previous: The Great Flood...

From the beginning of this mess: The Hook... (Part 1)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Great Flood...

When we last left our hapless heroes, they were struggling with a pair of flooding S.U. carbs on their 24 Hours of Lemons entry, the "Killer Bee" MBG.

I took the float lids back off to inspect and adjust the float. One look at them and I knew it was futile; The float hinges were worn beyond use. So I threw the lids and metering valves into some solvent to soak overnight.

The next day a quick trip to the local MG supplier revealed that the superior floats with an adjustable brass arm were NLA. The only version available anymore are the all plastic versions, that are non adjustable, but they do sell .015 shims to adjust the needle valve instead if needed.

I bought the floats and of course I forgot to get shims before I left.

Both the floats were a little tight around the float pin, which kept them from falling freely to let gas in. A little magic with a brass wire wheel cleaned up the pins. Working the pins them in and out of the float hinges reamed the floats so they were nice and free to open and close with gravity.

The MGB bible (IMHO) is the Haynes MGB repair manual. According to that book, the correct float height is about 1/8th of an inch, or .125. A good starting point.

The new floats come with instructions that claim anything between .062 and .187 is fine (1/16 to 3/16). Previous experience tells me that is horse puckey. At 1/16ths you'll flood around every corner, and 3/16ths it will sputter.

I set up my floats to measure them, and found the front float was at .136, and the rear was at .179. I'd prefer them to be about the same, and slightly high if possible to prevent flooding under hard cornering.

Test A) I swapped the float pins, slight improvement.

Test B) I returned the float pin and swapped floats, results were worse, further apart.

test C) I returned the floats and swapped the needle valves. MUCH worse.

Test D) I returned the needle valves, and this time swapped the floats AND float pins.

SUCCESS! Now the front was reading .152 and the rear .163. Pretty close, but they are both a bit too high, which will lower the fuel level in the chamber by a bit too much for comfort. I'll have to keep this in mind if it shows any gremlins on the road.

For now, back on the car they went, and I turned on the key for testing.

All this work resulted in MASSIVE FLOODING. Oh the fun we have.

4 year old gas was spurting EVERYWHERE, pouring right out of the carb throats! I lifted the chamber piston and gas began spewing like a geyser!


I turned off the key and scratched my head...

That does not seem right.

I troubleshot the fuel system for a while longer until those bloodthirsty mosquitoes drove me indoors. The pressure was good, not too high, not too low, started and stopped ok. The float needles were functioning, and the float level should keep the fuel level below normal if anything... yet it is still flooding. The "Generic" floats were looking MIGHTY suspect as I retired for the night.

Back to the store for a whopping $1 worth of adjustment shims I guess.

"You smell like gas" my Cute-But-To-The-Point-Spouse said. "Stay off the couch".

Well, at least I'm not sleeping on it, har-har! (Considering my antics, as she says...)

(Kitty Still Here)

Next: Oh... DUH.

Previous: It lives... IT LIVES, BWAA-HAA-HAA!!

From the beginning of this mess: The Hook... (Part 1)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

It lives... IT LIVES, BWAA-HAA-HAA!!

Igor, throw the switch!! NOW IGOR!! NOW!!

Our engine transplant and carb conversion on the Killer Bee racecar was a screaming success, and the patient is recouperating outside my neighbor's bedroom window. And by recuperating I mean the smoke is still clearing after it finally fired up this afternoon.

And it sounds gooooooood.

We have good oil pressure, and minimal leakage (it's an MGB, and just like an F14 Tomcat, if it's not leaking it's out of fluid!).

Earlier this weekend I finally removed what was left of the old rusty exhaust system, still hanging in the rear by a very rusted out U-bolt clamp and heavy duty hanger. The U-bolt was rusted beyond being able to break the nuts loose, even after 3 months of soaking in penetrating fluid. The positioning of the hanger prevented me from just cutting it off with a sawzall as well. The whole thing only vibrated and created a plume of rust dust that screwed up my sinuses for a week. Not a good time to be sneezing with the world afraid of sick pigs.

The answer came in the form of a Dremel tool with a cutoff disc. One surgical cut and the whole thing came crashing down and went into the scrap metal bin. Yahoo!

While installing the $20 swapmeet header and EvilBay intake, I realized my header was intended for a 72 and later S.U. HIF4, and/or or Webber DGV equipped car, which both have a thicker flange than my early S.U. HS4s. This results in bent studs and vacuum leaks if you try to use them anyways. (Allegedly - No comment).

I had measured the flange thickness before, but failed to notice there were spacers made out of what appeared to be flat washers cut in half, and welded to the mounting flange. "Huh. Interesting"

Once again the Dremel came to the rescue, making short work of the raised mounting surface. After they were removed and smoothed out the manifolds fit perfect.

Next onto the car went a nice new cherrybomb glasspack I had been saving for a special occasion. It has resided on display in my "muffler rack of shame" for about 3 years now. I have a whole wall section of the garage dedicated to exhaust parts and systems that have fallen off MGBs, and of course emergency replacement parts you need in order to get to work the next day.

When I went to put the Cherrybomb on, I realized that the glasspack slightly interfered with the transmission cross member. "WHY YOU SONOFA..." That's the last thing I needed to see, after the same cross member kicked my ass last week. Putting in a small section of pipe to clear it would place the muffler too far back to get a graceful exit out in front of the rear tire like I envision.

Not to be deterred, I set about formfitting the muffler to sit nicely in the stock exhaust route by sticking a jack under the muffler and raising the car off the ground with it. The result was a mirror image dent of the cross member on top of the muffler. Then I removed it and a few whacks with a half-jack later (2 1/2 lb mallet) it fits like OJ's glove.

The rest of the conversion from Zenith Stromberg "Firepot" to dual S.U.s went slowly and tediously, but luckily I had done this once before and still had the previous car sitting around as an example. What took months of scrounging and fabricating last time only took me a few days for this one. As a bonus, I was able to use up a lot of discard-bucket-parts in the process.

The gearshift lever went in, the wires got hooked up, and the hoses got hooked back up. The fuel lines were connected, and I turned the key on to test for leaks - amazingly there were none!

By this time the mosquitoes were sucking the life fluids out of me so I quit for the night and got an early start the next morning. And by early start I mean sitting in front of the computer eating granola till 10am, while my "Why-you-still-sitting-there" spouse kept asking me "why you still sitting there?"

Back out I went armed with unwarranted optimism. I figured that after double checking all my work I might actually get it started before lunch.

As usual I was wrong.

To make a long story a little shorter, a few weeks ago while having the rollcage installed, John Condren noticed the remaining headlight was on which was weird because the switch was removed and sitting in the back of the car. Figuring I would troubleshoot it later, I removed wires at random until I got to the offending circuit and the light went off, and I forgot all about it. Turns out the light was on because the "flash-to-pass" switch on the turn signal stalk is shorted out. Disconnecting that wire also disconnects the ignition relay, which is not shown in the schematics for this year car.

Freakin Lucas Leyland Limeys!!! This took entirely too long to figure out.

The big clue was that I had an ignition relay, and the schematics didn't. I ended up using a combination of 2 different schematics in order to get things going again. I then jammed something I picked up off the driveway concrete into the switch to disable it, hooked the wire back up, and I finally had juice to the ignition.

Lunch came at 2pm.

After lunch I tried to fire the engine, found Top Dead Center, adjusted the distributor, swapped distributor leads, tried to fire, swapped distributor and ignition module back to the one that came with the car, found TDC again, adjusted the distributor, swapped leads again, and "Rumble-rumble-bleh". (Giggle) I tried it again: "Rumble-rumble-bleh".

We had a running engine for about 3 seconds at a time. This went on forever as I monkeyed with various bits until I had it narrowed down to the carbs. The front float needle was varnished shut, starving the front carb, and the rear float was worn to the point it could not meter the fuel, flooding the rear.

Ah! Just like an MG! Now I was REALLY in my element. I have 4 cars and one motorcycle that run S.U. carbs, and by run I mean catch fire at random or sit on the side of the road with the hood up.

After a soak in solvent the front float was freed up and flooding as well. They are both in bad shape, so it looks like another trip to see Brian at the local MG supplier O'Connor Classics is in order, expecting it to cost another 25 bucks.

But the car does run really well above 2000rpm! And it sounds freaking awesome! So good in fact that I got another angry-neighbor-face peek from behind the window next door. So I ran back to my "muffler-rack-of-shame" and grabbed a few lengths of pipe and another muffler to quiet it down while testing outside their bedroom window. I even grabbed a fan to blow the smoke away into our back yards.

Ain't I a great neighbor?

As a bonus, we got mention in Jalopnik again Sunday. We are the first of a 2 part tiebreaker, in the "Guess How Many BMW E30s This Peugeot Will Beat At LeMons Reno, Win Fabulous Prizes!" contest, referring to team Cheese eating Surrender Monkeys

In case of a tie, you also have to make a guess at how many Miatas team Killer Bees will beat, and how many MR2s the Unsafe At Any Speed Corvair will beat.

Beat? Hell, I'd be happy to get to the track for once!

(Kitty Still Here)

Next: The Great Flood...

Previous: Another guy, Another motor

From The Beginning: The Hook... (Part 1)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Another guy, Another motor

We have a new team member! I'm a little late in announcing this due to a busy schedule both at work and wrenching on the Killer bee, but our newest new team member is Peter S, aka “Gargamel!”

Formerly a driver for team “The Dead Smurfs” who ran at the Freezarseapalooza 08, he comes to us in response to our posting on Yahoo groups, due to our umpteenth 4th seat dropout.

Our latest "4th team member" drama involved his wife insisting he needed to attend a wedding instead, and so once again we had a vacancy. We are required to have a minimum of 4 drivers, so our line was cast yet again. This time we hooked Gargamel who came to see the car and was crazy enough to join our team anyways. So welcome to the Killer Bees!

With any luck this guy will be our last. He also happens to be in danger of the dreaded “Last one to pay up wears the stupid bee mascot costume” clause. Yeay.

I tried talking my "Not-on-your-life-spouse" into wearing the bee outfit because she would look REALLY cute. She said "Not on your life buster. Not unless you pay me a hundred dollars."


Progress over the last 2 weeks included finally deciding on the best location to mount the safety electrical cutoff switch and then getting it installed.

Next I got the engine started again, and the same god awful squeal/scream was still there. Every dog in town was barking when I shut it down. I'm sure I endear myself to my neighbors. Come to think of it, we never get any trick or treaters...

Anyways, it seemed to originate from the clutch area, pointing towards a bad throwout bushing. But to know for sure the engine and tranny needed to come out. Damn.

So, I yanked the motor – and found a totally wasted aftermarket throwout bearing.

Stock MGBs have a solid bushing instead of a roller bearing. It is similar to a mini brake shoe that wears over time. This is why you hear MG folks say “Keep your foot off the @#$% clutch pedal!” because resting your foot on it will prematurely wear out the bushing – and the only way to fix it is to pull the motor and transmission. This design dates back to the beginnings of MG, and was still there with the end of line for MGBs in 1980.

There was an aftermarket throwout "bearing" available some years ago, but it got a bad rap because some of them would come apart and grenade themselves. I had never seen that in person, and used one in my MGBGT for over 250k miles without a problem. Still, they seemed to have been quietly pulled from the market a while back.

Few things surprise me on an MG anymore, but this was one of them. This appeared to have had what was left of an aftermarket bearing inside, however it REALLY self destructed. Both the mounting ears were snapped off, and the rest of it was hanging off the pilot shaft in a heap of broken silver rings.


I figured the clutch was probably questionable as well, and rather than spend money on a new set, I decided to just throw in another used motor with a decent clutch I picked up for 500 bucks. After I sold the Webber DGV setup that came on it for $215 to some guy in Arcata, the motor only cost me $285.

I will try to sell the old motor for 350, which could hopefully leave me with a 65 dollar profit! And I still have the intake/exhaust manifold, smog pump and firepot Zenith Stromberg carb I can pawn on EvilBay.

I plan on running a set of early dual S.U.s I scored for $125 that “came off a running car”. Yeah, sure they did. Lets just hope they "kinda work".

The new motor went in on Sunday pretty easily, but then I spent an entire week on a whacked rear Transmission mount. I think I pissed off they Leyland gods, because this contraption was not going together without a fight, and I ended up bunging up some threads in the process. Crap.

After several hours each night fighting 4 stupid bolts for an entire week, I needed a mental break from wrenching and decided to lay out the bee livery and door number.

Man it looks like crap, and it's freaking awesome! (But still top secret)

The next day I went back to rear mount – tapped out/cleaned the threads, used a 3 pound mallet to adjust the angle on the upper wing mount, and it FINALLY went together...

Damn! Time for a cold one.

I was going to bring a spare motor with us just in case, but this excursion changed my mind. If we have any problems, by the time we got the motor changed everyone else would be long gone from the track.

So if it blows, we are done...

(Kitty still here)

Next: It lives... IT LIVES, BWAA-HAA-HAA!!

Previous: Brakes, and other things that break.

From The Beginning of this crazy adventure: The Hook... (Part 1)