Reno-Fernley-Raceway, Nevada Desert, 8am
Kevin Hey-WOW-man Chong and I stopped off at a local generic auto-parts store to grab a few last minute items for our wanna-bee race car like hose clamps, a fuel filter and a vacuum t-fitting. I wanted to try and solve our high speed miss before the race (which started in 2 hours!) but first needed to eliminate any obvious possible causes. I figured changing the fuel filter and hooking up the carb float vents to the stock system would not hurt.
After paying for our grab bag of goodies, we again wandered next door to choke-in-the-box for yet another breakfast burrito, then went to fire up Brownie, the world's-greatest-crappy-old-RV and head back to the track in time for the morning driver's meeting.
But Brownie would not start. Again. A turn of the key got me a nice loud "CLICK" and nothing more.
I have gotten pretty used to this recently. In fact, this is why I got the dang RV in the first place. My stepfather got tired of trying to fix it and dropped it off at my house one unexpected day.
The temporary cure is easy... turn on electric fuel pump, stomp on pedal 3 times, pop hood, remove wire from starter relay and touch it to the hot post on the battery. a few cranks and Vrooom!! Works every time.
The actual problem is kinda murky though, as everything in the starter system checks out fine and has been replaced at LEAST twice. Starter, solenoid, relay, key stitch, wiring, grounds, connectors, nothing has cured it. There is a HIGH probability that a bad part was replaced with another bad part, but I'm tired of messing with it and got good at hot wiring the starter.
It gets cantankerous on me at random and that's the way it is. Hot, cold, sunny, rain. It does not matter. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't.
Which is fine unless you are at 4500 feet in the Nevada desert and the engine wants to stall at every intersection because it's running too rich. Thus I have also gotten good at 2 footed driving. One foot on the gas to keep it from stalling, one on the brake to keep us out of traffic, and the right hand shifting us in and out of gear whenever traffic clears enough for us to cross.
And this is how we made our way back to the paddocks at Reno-Fernley-Raceway just in the nick of time. People were bustling all over the pits and we had just enough time to do a quick tune up after the filter change and vent modification.
Everyone got busy with their assigned tasks and the car got poked, prodded, checked, filled and rechecked high and low. The radiator water was a little low but much better than the day before.
I threw on a new distributor cap, rotor and plug wires then went to change the plugs for good measure. I had brought lots of new spares I stole from my MGBGT restoration, and my thinking was that I would just swap things until I found the miss-fire culprit, then put the rest of the crap back the way it was.
As I went to install the first plug however, disaster struck.
The old plug looked fine with a nice light tan tint so I set it aside and started to install a new one. It went in fine and seated by hand, but when I went to torque it down it just started to spin.
"OH CRAP!" %^*&@#$ I yelled at the Lucas/Leyland gods.
I had turned it barely a quarter turn when the threads on the aluminum head galled up and let loose.
I started cursing the previous owner of this piece of crap, lord only knows what kind of damage he inflicted on it.
Still, the previous plug came out without any indication of trouble so I was pretty stunned by the situation. I thought for a second if I got it threaded in just right the plug may hold for a while. But then I realized the situation was hopeless... It would just pop out eventually. And the only real solution was for it to be taken apart and fixed correctly.
"Hey Pete, we gotta get going on down to the driver's meeting" Gargamel said.
"We are not going to make it to the starting grid!" I snapped. "We got a bunged up spark plug thread!"
Visions of yet another aborted LeMons race filled my head. "Sonofa..." I was pretty mad and disappointed...
Then as I looked around, I noticed I was surrounded by 106 really crappy cars that may or may not be running on all cylinders, and some did not run at all. This was the essence of LeMons. This is what it was all about.
"SCREW IT!" I laughed, "Lets go on what's left and run it till it blows, see how far we get!"
I took out the new plug and went to smash in the old one best I could, but lo-and-behold, it seated and torqued down correctly!!
Huh. What the hell?
I looked at the new plugs in the boxes, looked at the old plugs in the motor, then back at the new plugs and wondered if it was the right part number. "BAH! WHO CARES!" I shrugged and threw them into the parts box just in time for the drivers meeting.
Jay Lamm gave us the spiel about how crappy the drivers were, no contact etc etc etc. When he asked "How many first timers do we have?" I rolled my eyes and lifted my hand. Really depends on how you define first timer I guess. With any luck, this may finally be the last time I raise my hand.
After the meeting I suited up and chugged 2 more bottles of water. Many of the other cars were lining up for the start, but we decided to hang back and enjoy the shade of our tents for a while longer. The temp was already beginning to rise, although it seemed less evil than the day before.
Funny-cute-but-sleepy-spouse came up from behind and threw her arms around me, scaring the living bejeezus outta me. "Hey Squeeky! You made it!" I hugged her back. She had driven all night to get here after staying behind to take care of our gaggle of animals. Turtles, fish and a crazy dog. She also brought a handful of things I had forgotten, like toothpaste and Tigger's favorite toy, leaving the house at zero dark thirty to get here in time.
I strapped Tigger's toy onto the camera mount and stared at it for a moment. This was to be our mascot as Tigger-cat had passed away the week Before. It was also the second toy we mounted on the car, the first being a tiny toy horse that we mounted on the hood, given to us by fellow competitors from team Pony Express for good luck.
When Matt our pit neighbor from Free Range Racing pulled out we decided it was time to go. There were a steady stream of bubbles floating up from the back of his car which helped him stand out in case you missed the windmill.
The camera was on, I was strapped into the car and the motor started up. 4 cylinders, yeay! My team guided and backed me out of our pit and into line. As we waited and made our way to the track entrance I noticed another yellow car that appeared to be a Honda with the same bumblebee stripe livery slip in front of me.
Well whadayaknow... Traffic cone stinger and everything.
Guess I'm not as clever as I thought I was...
I made my way to the safety equipment checkpoint and showed him my stickers and shoes, and he waved me onto the track. I floored it and suddenly noticed a fluffy little bunny sitting in the grass below the flag tower.
Sure enough, as I approached him he darted out in front of me zigging and zagging for his life down the ramp, as little kids pointed at him from behind the fence.
I hit the brakes hard and swerved to avoid him, and watched him scamper off behind me.
Yes, I know. Shut up.
Some killer Bee we turned out to be. "Oh a fluffy bunny! AHHHH!"
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From The beginning of this mess: The Hook
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