Silence of the Lambs……
This is usually the time of year when I come out of blog-hibernation. Girding my writing loins for the inevitably too few posts I’ll manage, thanks to Copperstate euphoria. Lists are made, mechanic contacted, excitement barely contained, plans finalized etc. etc. However, 2018 promises to be a year of change, thanks to unexpected family circumstances…….
Last year’s vehicular shenanigans resulted in the decision my navigationally challenged cousin would take over all organizational activities for 2018’s entry (optimism is my middle name, clearly). After all, as the Jensen was on track to be finished well in advance, it seemed the most sensible plan. Application time arrived, so I dutifully forwarded the information his way, with a few of those heart-y things to make the handover less formal. Time ticked ever onward, and as the end of 2017 became imminent, I chucked a couple of emails his way to confirm he had all information needed.
The response was muted, to say the least. Actually, the response was non-existent, but England is eight hours ahead of us, and they do like to celebrate Christmas and New Year in a far more exuberant fashion; so I assumed he was recovering from an overdose of Christmas pudding or stuck in a badly fitting, ugly Xmas sweater – rendering it impossible for any keyboard reply action.
I waited until the early days of 2018 and ventured once more with a simple question about the actual state of Orangina (not as pretty as Oregon, lacking in beaches), and less than 24 hours later, an email appeared. Short & sweet, rather like cousin dearest, he laid out a few minor concerns about the car actually reaching it’s first being finished line, and then immediately launched into the real issue.
“We’re expecting 12 lambs this April”.
Suddenly the picture of lederhosen he’d sent last year, and I immediately shared with all of you, made perfect sense. It wasn’t so much of a cultural exchange or appreciation moment, I’d been given the early warning signs of his somewhat existential midlife crisis.
Harry has become a shepherd.
Now, he’s not completely alone in this kind of left field decision – after all, you can have your shoes repaired by Daniel Day Lewis when he’s not winning Oscars, or possibly find out Bruce Dickinson is the pilot for your next package holiday…but I had never pegged dear cuz to have such an alternative streak.
Once I’d wrapped my head around the image of him in a flat cap, whistling off key to a dog called Shep; rather than squeezed into skinny jeans, trying to grow an Oasis ‘do’ to capture his inner child whilst embracing Kale on everything I realized that no Copperstate this year equaled the opportunity to find as many alternative events as possible!
There really is no downside, dear reader. The back end of 2017 included an excellent adventure known as Targa California, followed by the totally insane SoCal TT. Best news of all, I was joined by a REAL navigator. My dear friend Kelly, is both a huge car enthusiast and can tell her left from right…it’s an extraordinary experience. If we found ourselves slightly confused by the directions, it was clearly author error as inevitably we’d be surrounded by a number of other entrants also trying to work out if its not too late to try navigation by constellation.
So, to whet your blog reading appetite, we will be Driving While Awesome in February, exploring the Central Coast of Cali with a bunch of excellent reprobates in April and hopefully back on the list for both Targa and SoCal TT later this year…..stayed tuned!
Would you like a side order of broken fan-belt with your lunch, sir?
Two weeks and counting to Copperstate 2017, and this year’s rally feels less like a well-oiled machine and more like a re-enactment of the Titanic. To say the last few weeks have been interesting, would be a perfect example of English understatement; and to be fair, dear reader, will make little sense if I don’t turn the clock back to 2015.
Two years ago, this particular Copperstate lunch was supposed to be nothing more than very tasty and rather uneventful, somewhere in the backwaters of Northern Arizona. I was enjoying varied conversation with fantastic gearheads, whilst my navigationally challenged cousin was being introduced to the joys of technology and the infamous Bring A Trailer website.
And then it happened…. before I could even reach over to pick up the milk for my coffee, said relative had reached into his pocket, found and dialed a phone number and announced triumphantly to some random person at the end of his phone, “well, I think we have a deal!”. The entire table went quiet as we all turned to look at the deliverer of this pronouncement, and my heart missed a beat.Instead of the usually mild mannered face I’ve become used to seeing asleep in the passenger seat, I was presented with the classic symptoms of ‘Buy Now, Think Later’. Slightly myopic grin, mixed with the unmistakable red mist in the eyes that only comes from that first-time adrenaline rush of successfully bidding, sight unseen, on something one REALLY doesn’t need.
I frantically looked at the rest of our table, hoping I was wrong; but their combined expressions of abject horror confirmed my greatest fear. A long, uncomfortable pause followed by closing and re-opening my eyes didn’t produce better results. Nothing else for it, but be strong and look at the iPad to answer the question I did not want to ask. I gripped the table, glanced down, and there, staring defiantly back at me, in all its rumpled, orange glory, was the culprit. One decidedly aging, non-running Jensen Interceptor Mark II.
Having finally snapped out of his dubious purchase love-bubble, H immediately sprang into action; explaining we must leave immediately, so he could complete the transaction. Clearly this item was far more popular than I realized, if there was an actual possibility it would be snapped up by another equally optimistic individual before we could complete the rest of our day. So, as our rally buddies headed for Jerome to experience my favorite section of road in the entire state, we drove through a collection of no-horse towns to find something that resembled a real bank, rather than just ATM’s in liquor stores.
By the time we returned to base that evening (having probably covered more miles that day than most would be enjoying all week), said transaction was complete and Harry had the entire plan mapped out…. ending in our return in 2016 & the great unveiling of his new acquisition (it even included balloons and a marching band).
The only upside I could see, was insisting we show up in period costume. 1971 will never be remembered as a high spot for men’s fashion, but the idea of seeing him in polyester slacks and stick-on mutton chop side burns, as I insisted we listen to the Greatest Hits of The Osmonds on 8-Track, was quietly appealing.
So, why are we now desperately trying to find a lifeboat before the iceberg reaches us? After all, as Harry pointed out, he (translation we, or more likely, me) had a year to complete the task of Jensen resurrection & that date was reached 12 months ago.
Because, as everyone knows…you take the time expected for said project, double it, add the age of your first pet hamster at its sad demise and maybe, if you’re lucky….really lucky……
Fast forward to 2016 Copperstate and the Trusty Egg performed in all her bulletproof glory. The subject of the Jensen a regular discussion over breakfast, lunch & dinner; with a combination of commiseration “aah, English electrics, what could possibly go right?”, confusion “wouldn’t it have been cheaper to buy one already finished?” or fascination “he lives in England and decided to buy a car in America, but not ship it home?”. Harry added to the excitement by buying a gas barbecue in Phoenix and then taking it, boxed,on the entire rally, leading to the mistaken four-day assumption we had the final piece to complete the car, and it was only a matter of hours before Orangina would appear.
And so, moving swiftly along, we come to Copperstate 2017. More than reasonable progress has been made with the Jensen, but my practical nature ensured the smart money was on my application going in with The Egg as car number one, and Orangina as the back-up. Lady Luck decided to smile again, and confirmation arrived in early February that we’d made the cut once more. As this event continues to grow in popularity, and receives unanimous praise whenever featured in articles, I consider our repeat inclusion to be a real compliment. And so, Egg preparation began in earnest.
Opportunities to get out and drive included a fantastic run with the LA Porsche Club last month, that took us up to Ventura and back down to Malibu for an early morning boost, and ensured we easily crossed the threshold of ‘300 miles in 3 months’ requirement. A comprehensive list of possible issues to be checked by the Egg Doctor was made before booking her in for the mechanical inspection, as well as the decision to switch out tyres this year to the Classic Porsche range from Pirelli (reviews are extremely favorable, and they look great!!)
All was good in my world. Enough time to balance a hectic work schedule without additional stress, all signs pointing to go with the car. What could possibly go wrong? Until an email arrived; containing one seemingly innocuous question….
Tune in next week for the next episode 😉
Mammoth’s missing its mountain
Our morning started fresh but overcast, as late spring clouds rolled slowly across the sky. Waiting for The Egg to warm fully before heading off, we were greeted with a sight that exemplifies the eccentric charm of Copperstate. The throaty snarl of a 1951 Cunningham C2 racecar (and 2015 Pebble Beach
winner), whose provenance includes Le Mans and Mulsanne, accompanied by the rainbow coloured sombrero and perfectly tuned maracas, modeled as a perfect driving ensemble by one of my favourite co-drivers. Other car rallies may offer more exclusive settings (Mille Miglia) or limited attendance (Race to the Sun), but none of them can beat the wonderful camaraderie and gentle eccentricity Copperstate inspires!
Today’s journey would take us south again, finishing outside the city of Tucson. The route included a stretch of road I implore anyone reading this, to consider. Fifty plus miles of sweeping bends and glorious vistas known as Lake Mary Road. The combination of tall ponderosa pines, and wind etched sandstone with dramatic cloudscapes as a backdrop, made me half expect to see Heathcliffe’s swarthy cousin ride across on our horizon. It may be April, but the colours and temperature could be mistaken for an early Autumn day.
Cars this year are, as ever, a fabulous selection of familiar and unusual. Everyone a winner, but we had the chance to watch, see, chase and be chased by some real stunners on this section. One of our younger applicants this year is an electric blue 1973 Lancia Stratos, which the owner affectionately describes as ‘barking mad’. Briefly spotted in the rear view mirror, Harry desperately tried to find, point and shoot his camera before the blue peril disappeared out of sight around the next bend.
Top of the list for me, this year, a 1968 Iso Rivolta, painted fly yellow. Gorgeous to look at in the car park, but seeing this perfect shock of colour winding along the road, interspersed against the red sandstone rocks and lush green base of a long dry lake, was breath taking. History for the marquee is almost as interesting as the vehicle’s look. Renzo Rivolta was known for building fridges before WWII and expanded (or maybe that should be shrunk) into the iconic Isetta bubble car. Wanting to add a Grand Tourer to the portfolio, he smartly took the best aspects of various international components – American muscle in the Chevy small and big block engines, timeless elegance of Italian design by Giorgetto Giugiaro and French suspension from De Dion. This model’s provenance is particularly noteworthy as it was owned by a Dutch real estate mogul who was not only kidnapped, but negotiated his own $4M ransom payment!
Our route continued through a selection of little towns, including the affectionately named Strawberry, famous for being home to the oldest standing schoolhouse in Arizona.
Lunch stop by the Roosevelt Lake, and a chance to compare adoration for the morning run before heading on to our afternoon. The roads continued to offer a glorious combination of twisties, sweeping bends and gorgeous vistas across lush high desert. Recommended gas stop in Mammoth, which unlike its California cousin is small and has no sign of any skiing in the vicinity. The afternoon is usually my time to navigate ( as it’s the only way I’ve found to stop dear cousin from taking an afternoon nap) so we were actually running ahead of schedule and able to take a quick detour to check out Biosphere Two before reaching Monday night’s rest stop. Unfortunately our timing was not good enough to manage a tour, but the information centre provided enough fascinating detail to ensure we’ll be back!
Summer Camp for grown-ups
Realising I’m the least consistent blogger I (and probably you) know, it seems appropriate’s I squeeze a few excuses into the mix before we head back to AZ together. It’s not that I dislike blogging, actually the reverse is true, I just forget it requires both focus and attention to maintain. Despite that, my passion for The Egg and her adventures continues, and we had some great post-Copperstate jaunts last year. I was lucky enough to introduce her to Rod Emory, had the opportunity to tour the Singer factory and headed out to Palm Springs on a road trip after Christmas with perfect driving conditions. All great experiences I had every intention of sharing; but, when the option to sit down and type or grab my keys and head out again are presented…well, hopefully you understand.
Best news of January 2016 was confirmation our application to Copperstate 2016 had been accepted. With every year the event continues, their number of applicants and great cars increases, & with it the possibility we may not make final selection. Fortunately the combination of my cheeky little car, English accent and hapless navigator scored high enough again that we all reached Phoenix in a state of mild euphoria, yesterday.
There’s a total of 87 cars on the rally this time, and I’m thrilled to report an excellent turnout on the 356 front. Of particular note, two gorgeous examples painted in an extremely rare colour known as Smyrna Green, a triumvirate of absolutely perfect Speedsters and a bullish Pre-A that started life as a Carrera Panamerica race car, but was sadly never raced. It’s worth being on the rally this year just to hear the exhaust
Coming back for year five, my excitement has morphed into something different. The mix of great driving roads and stunning vistas never stops inspiring, but as I scroll through the app (simply called copperstate 1000, absolutely worth the download) and see so many familiar names, there’s a sense of “family” reconnection that’s irresistible……this is the best not-quite summer camp for adults, evah!
Our first day was a total of 231 miles and took us from the glorious sunshine of Phoenix to the colder, wetter climate of Flagstaff. Gentle stretches of comfortable undulations in the morning, giving all cars a chance to reconnect with the Arizona tarmac, and then more challenging twisties as we headed from Prescott, through Jerome and Sedona, until we reached our final destination.
With altitude increasing so did the rain, but The Egg continued un-phased. It may be 50 plus years since she left Germany, but the combination of damp and wet are stamped into her vehicular DNA. Plus, the Egg Doctor’s decision to replace bushes and king pins following last year’s event provided additional grip and tension to every turn of the wheel, allowing us to drive every corner with confidence and precision.
Suffice to say all is just as consistent on the navigation front. He’s back, he’s family and he may well be for sale on eBay with no reserve before the end of the week! I adore my cousin, truly….but when his plan for the afternoon starts with a quick nap, I find myself not only remembering the cat’s attempt to smuggle himself into my suitcase fondly, but wondering how quickly felines could learn to map read.
We depart on Saturday
95 cars filled the Tempe stadium by early Friday evening. Another great selection, with a few wonderfully idiosyncratic inclusions to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Copperstate 1000. As we caught up with friends, and watched the sun go down across third base, the general consensus was this could only be another fantastic event.
An early start today, thanks in equal part to excitement and sun creeping through window blinds I’d forgotten to close properly. The stadium car park was equally full of interesting cars, as this event has become a great reason for all the local gear heads and enthusiasts to bring their own vehicles out for inspection. Hot rods, muscle cars, genteel vintage and tricked out modern all played happily together as mutual appreciation conversations surrounded them.
At midday, we had the first drivers meeting; and within 30 minutes all engines were running & cars began their slow procession towards the starting flags. Although the run was shorter than usual, the organizers ensured that what we lacked in mileage would be more then made up for in variety of scenery & ideal highways.
Within ten minutes we were heading away from Phoenix and out towards long sweeping bends that would take us into the Ponderosa. The Egg was more than happy to keep up with her larger engined companions, however our joint enthusiasm was slightly dampened as I noticed the temperature gauge needle climbing a little too close to the redline for comfort. As she runs so smoothly now, it’s become almost impossible to remember that she’s a middle aged lady, and there’s always a little more acceleration available it seems! However, dropping back to a slower speed, and letting her coast down the hills as we enjoyed the quickly changing scenery soon resolved the problem. Unfortunately not everyone was quite so lucky, and we saluted a few other vehicles on the side of the road as we cruised along.
I continue to be surprised by how quickly the environment changes in this small state, and today’s journey was no exception. Sandstone oranges and reds soon replaced with gorgeous shades of green and purple as we headed to higher altitudes, and through little towns like Peyson & Strawberry. This was ranch land, as proven by some really impressive log cabins, and long dirt roads that seemed to lead nowhere!
Playing chase and be chased by a variety of other entrants, we both agreed the high spot of the journey was sitting behind a 1932 Lincoln Boattail speedster. The car was immaculate, with gorgeous sweeping lines that shouted Art Deco at the top of their lungs. Chatting with the owner later in the afternoon, I discovered that the coachwork was new and had been done in the style of two renowned american custom builders, Hibbard and Darrin, who worked in Paris in the late 20’s and early 30’s. Not only was the restoration stylistically correct, all materials used were correct for the period. It really is a piece of industrial art.
As the temperature continued to slowly drop, The Egg’s mood was unmistakably exuberant. This is her type of driving conditions, and we were rewarded with smooth handling at every corner and a final bug count on the bonnet, that easily ran into triple digits.
By the time we arrived at our final destination in Flagstaff, it was a case of follow the sunlight to ensure the remaining not so warm temperatures could be appreciated. Swapping stories, I was given a simple but worthwhile tip regarding engine temperature. If you’re concerned, rather than reading the gauge, stop and see how long you can hold the dipstick. More than 3 seconds, nothing to worry about. Hopefully I won’t need to test the theory tomorrow, but it’s good to know!
Really, I can’t make this stuff up
With The Egg happily packed in its carton and heading to AZ by yesterday lunchtime, I didn’t have much reason to update my blog before kick-off. Until, that is, hapless cousin arrived; and bought with him yet more internet gold.
Returning home last night I found his trousers on the driveway, iPad on the deck and an otherwise quiet house. Confused, I checked the garden shed (usual location for most lost Englishmen), but still no luck. As I reached for my cellphone, he bumbled into the kitchen, munching his way through a bag of crisps (US translation: chips) and proceeded to share his woeful tale of a lost iPhone. However, before you hit the “oh no” button, dear reader; I have to mention this is actually a replay of a conversation we had when he visited a couple of years ago.
My perfectly pre-ordered super shuttle picked him up and deposited him to the final destination. Unfortunately, the excitement to actually experience sunshine first hand was so great, he didn’t notice his phone sitting on the seat as he climbed out. Desperate to change into shorts and a dubious ensemble of purple socks and checked shirt (clearly doesn’t pay any attention to the Instagram reposts of great menswear looks I share with the world), his entire focus was Vitamin D.
The only glimmer of hope on the horizon was Apple’s genius development of GPS & synching. Forlornly he stared at the iPad, now taunting him with confirmation said phone was sitting somewhere in Glendale, as I called customer service to explain “our” predicament. One extremely helpful lady, later, and we had reassurance they’d do everything possible to reach the driver and make arrangements for a later return.
Jetlag provided Harry with an early morning start, and he was horrified to realise the phone had managed a round trip to both Burbank and LAX airport before 6:30am. With a quick nod of thanks to Apple, he used another apparently useful feature and made the thing start beeping as loudly as possible.
Which is why my morning started at 6:37am, with a call from a complete stranger, informing me had my phone. An interesting statement as I’d grumpily answered the thing 5 seconds earlier until he explained there was a message flashing to inform it was lost and who to contact. An electronic version of Paddington’s label, really.
The Rally Gods were fortunately smiling on us as man, phone and super shuttle were literally (if the iPad GPS was to be trusted) now less than a mile away en route to their next pick-up before heading back to LAX. I reassured the very nice voice at the end of my phone, we could be wherever they were in under 4 minutes, if only they would wait.
Which is why by 6:45am, I was driving through my neighbourhood in my PJ’s. In no mood for red lights before my first coffee, I opted for a couple of quick U-turns and reached our destination with almost 30 seconds to spare.
Back home, coffee in progress, and dearest cousin Harry mentions he’d travelled to Atlanta in February, and had managed to do the exact same thing AGAIN before returning to London.
Before I could deafen him with my silence, he smilingly pointed out, “look on the bright side; we’ve already had a quick practice run of dodgy navigation requires quick driving reflexes, just before this year’s event”
…..Remind me again, what would we do without family?!!
Good grief, is that the time? I’ve been gone for ages!!
I’m not the world’s worst blogger, but after seeing how long it’s been since my last post, I may deserve the title of “World’s Second Worst Blogger”
It’s not that I don’t enjoy this pastime, the complete opposite is actually true….I just feel obligated to have something exciting to report to my three regular readers (Auntie Colleen, the Cat and some very nice person in the Los Feliz area) to warrant their ongoing support.
Fortunately they are in luck (although with said cat staring at the computer as I type, there is additional pressure to make this entry both interesting and typo free (extremely difficult when feline’s head seems to be constantly moving in time to the Stereophonics track playing in the background), as the automotive updates are considerable.
In no particular order –
Copperstate 2015. We’re in!! Again!! Woohoo, I AM Penelope Pitstop!!! Navigationally challenged cousin has already booked his flight from England and I’m considering purchasing socks with L & R stitched into them to help with this year’s map reading. Or, glue the map book to my arm in a slightly McGuyver fashion whilst he recounts stories of all the really interesting things he can see out of the window that are totally irrelevant to our journey. Better still, it’s 25th anniversary for the event, so an extra driving day has been added. What more could a girl ask for?!
Talking of anniversaries – The Egg and I hit a pretty impressive milestone in the past few months, as we’re both 50. I know this to be true as I treated her to a certificate of authenticity last year, and I had a big party this past January. Happy to report that other than minor modifications for each of us (she’s been painted a couple of times since new, I now consider the hair salon a necessity rather than an option), we’re both essentially factory originals. Can’t help feeling the gap will start to widen in her favour over the next few years, but c’est la vie!
Following Copperstate 2014, I planned to start fixing some of the more cosmetic issues (after all, we are – sorry, SHE IS 50). Fortunately our Egg Doctor decided to check her in case any other problems may have appeared following the 1000 miles we added to the engine. After a thorough examination he subsequently made an executive decision to replace the kingpins, due to concern there was just a little too much play as we took the corners. Knowing enough to appreciate the importance of a round hole versus an oval where this particular car part is concerned, I was only too happy to support the plan. Once I had the keys back, I was completely overjoyed….because, I love The Egg; and have forced my closer friends to suffer the song I wrote to celebrate this particular fact.
It’s a simple song, consisting of that one line repeated over and over, at the top of my voice with no discernible note in tune and clearly I should not be giving up my day job anytime soon. On the drive back from Torrence, I not only sang this catchy little number, but had added enough choruses to justify a 12″ extended remix with possibly a second version from Mark Ronson chucked in for good measure…the difference was INCREDIBLE.
Faster, more responsive, no slight wandering irrespective of speed or road surface, she now glides round the corners better than I could ever have imagined. It’s as if I have my own Outlaw – a brand new car in a vintage body. The Egg Doctor assured me she was now bullet proof, and with every additional mile I’ve added since; he’s been proven 110% correct. The only thing stopping me from considering more road trips is finding people to join me, as this car is unstoppable!!!
Additional highlights of the past few months also included a couple of fantastic driving events by the most exciting addition to the automotive magazine world; Petrolicious. If you are not familiar, please check them out at http://www.petrolicious.com – as the variety of articles, information and fabulous car photos are superb. Better still, they not only like to write about driving, they’re happy to organize it for the rest of us! I’ll expand on both events in future posts, but in the meantime – please give them some support.
Maximus Felines is now sitting asleep next to me, so I’m tentatively hopeful he considers my return to the digital age worthwhile. Auntie Colleen is currently asleep in England (& ” you know how much I hate those computer things, so don’t forget to post me a copy”), so thanks in advance my dear Los Feliz reader and I hope this made you smile.
Better late than never……
…..due to this year’s Copperstate being so much fun, with longer driving days and more conversational nights, my plan to blog during the event disappeared almost as soon as we arrived at the Tempe stadium on Saturday afternoon. However, knowing the cat and Auntie Colleen are still expecting an update, I’ll be playing apologetic catch-up over the upcoming days!
Familiar faces, another collection of impressive cars eager to hit the road, smiles, handshakes and welcomes to the newbies. As this year’s rally number was added to the Egg, my cousin and I found ourselves enjoying the realization of what was to come. We spent the afternoon wandering the field and taking in the combination of vehicles we’d be sharing the roads with; before heading off to dinner.
Yet again, the event started with a wonderful evening at the Phoenix Art museum, where the successful exhibition “Hollywood Costume” was on display and available for us to enjoy at a leisurely pace; before dinner and happy reconnections with fellow Copperstaters. Although I’ve worked in the film business for over two decades, I still appreciate the elements involved to create that wonderful make-believe world, and the selection of costumes on show bought back some great cinematic memories.
Our co-chairmen for this year’s event gave an overview of the upcoming few days. As ever, the driving routes promised to give us plenty of switchbacks, undulating curves, spectacular scenery and FUN! The Highway Patrol officers who keep a quiet eye on us and the roads we’ll be enjoying were introduced, and I could sense everyone slipping into Copperstate mode as smiles grew more apparent. It was going to be another great event.
The team involved to give us this amazing opportunity, are truly fantastic. The Men’s Arts Council pulls together an extraordinary group of volunteers – mechanics, luggage transport & tow drivers – some at least we all hope we’re not going to need the support of, but are so grateful to have! A team of enthusiasts, who help to remind all of us how lucky we are to be able to enjoy Arizona in such a unique way.
Days to go, and we’re looking good!
Happy to confirm my navigationally challenged cousin made it through immigration and was lucky enough to add the delightfully slow combination of a super shuttle and the 405 freeway to his LA experience. Better still, he discovered the delights of our newfound sponsorship as soon as he reached his bedroom! Yes, you read correctly, ’S-P-O-N-S-O-R’. I’m moving into the big leagues and finally being taken almost seriously in my driving ability.
This momentous occasion was actually the pinnacle to an already excellent adventure I had a couple of weeks ago. Due to the retirement of my previous Egg Doctor, another one was necessary to seek out. Luckily for me, they may be rare but not completely extinct; and I have to say this one could be more of a surgeon than GP. Down behind the Orange Curtain, yet remarkably accessible thanks to the LA Underground from North Hollywood – Redondo Beach, I discovered KLASSE 356, and Doctor Rutherford. Although I can call him, Ed!
Ed Rutherford has been working on 356’s since his teenage years, and probably knows them better than the back of his hand. He has a sense of humour that could be mistaken for English (another big plus in this Brit’s book), and was not only intent on ensuring the Egg would pass the safety check with flying colours, but wanted to ensure I had a full understanding of her overall condition. Waiting at my final station for him to collect me, it was only a couple of minutes before I heard the familiar sound of the Egg’s engine. On the way back to his workshop, Ed explained how the car had been factory fitted with a larger sized gas tank, and happily demonstrated the cornering advantages I have with my 911 wheels!
His overall prognosis was reasonably positive. Unsurprisingly for the age, there are three areas of rust we need to address. Not extremely serious, but the kind of maintenance to pay dividends. Additionally , there are rubber sills and boots that have reached expiration; and he’s determined to give me a horn that works consistently!! Options such as a vintage style radio, with modern innards, is something to consider in future, and he’s prepared a list of longer term remediations to ensure plenty of road trips in our future. I love the fact this car is clean enough to warrant a second look a we pootle along the road, but not so shiny I worry about driving her. For me, it’s mechanics over cosmetics…we’re about the same age, and I believe diet, exercise and a smile is a far healthier option than plastic surgery, for both of us, at this point.
About to leave, I spotted the supercool Klasse hats that are for sale. Requesting a couple of those to be added to my bill, I was extremely appreciative when Ed decided to supply us with not only the hats, but matching t-shirts to wear on the event. I may not have the most competent navigator, but at least I know he’ll look good!
A Quiet Gentleman
It’s an overcast day here in Los Angeles, which seems sadly fitting. In the early hours of this morning, we lost a quiet gentleman, and I can’t help feeling the sun has chosen not to shine as a mark of respect.
Drino Miller was born in 1941. A Los Angeles native, who ventured up to Monterey in Northern California for Junior College at a time when the area was known for its rural charm rather than a valley of silicon. His fascination with engines appeared at an early age; purchasing his first car before the age of eleven, determined to understand how it worked. This passing phase never completely disappeared; and by the time he reached his late teens, Drino was exploring the South Pacific with his brother, following a year spent in Tahiti working on a not so large yacht they intended to sail back to California.
Returning back to Newport Beach, Drino continued to work with boats until he decided it was time to finish school.
A remarkably clever man, who never forced his opinions on others. Drino was well-read & well-traveled, with a wealth of knowledge and information. His educational background reflecting all of those attributes as he first studied Political Science at UCLA, and once he’d graduated then turned to Law School. Despite his intellectual interests, he combined his love of vehicles and travelling whenever possible; exploring such areas as Baja when there was a break in the educational action. The terrain was grueling and regarded as motorcycle, rather than car friendly. However, in 1967, the off-road racer Ed Pearlman invited Drino to join him in the attempt to set a new speed record through Baja. Although the plan to beat any records was thwarted, their experience set wheels in motion for what was to become the Baja 1000.
Drino’s involvement with Pearlman led to a meeting with Vic Hickey; a designer at GM who was to become synonymous with such iconic vehicles as the Chevy Blazer and Humvee. This was 1967 however, and Hickey in the early stages of developing his future. He offered Drino a job, to join the GM team as they started development of the first purpose built off-road racing vehicle. A temporary blip on the horizon, when General Motors decided not to move forward with the project – however Hickey managed to obtain private funding and immediately called Drino to rejoin his team. The result of their partnership was to become known as the infamous Baja Boot.
Drino’s involvement with this new approach to off-roading sparked more of his own ideas for designs, and was to be the beginning of a remarkable career. He also met world class motorcycle racer, Bud Ekins; and the two men enjoyed a friendship that lasted until we watch Bud ride off into the sunset in 2007.
Drino was an engineer, an enthusiast and a racer. That combination ensured he both continued his development, and tested his theories off-road. By 1970’s he not only entered the Baja 1000, but earned overall victories in that race as well as Baja 500 and Mint 400. This passion for success expanded into his own business, Miller-Havens Enterprises. Working with another engineer, Stanford Haven; they specialized in engine, transmission and conversion kits for Baja Bugs (the Boot being a based on the VW Beetle). Their idea was clearly successful, as it spawned a number of other companies offering similar kits for other cars. The off-road market has continued to grow and develop, without question owing a great deal of thanks to Drino’s early imagination and determination.
In less than a decade, Drino’s business & expertise had expanded to include sports cars and midgets; as he worked towards his plan to build Indy Cars. By the mid 80’s, it became apparent to his peers that Drino had as much talent with people as vehicles; and based on his success at Le Mans and Indianapolis 500 he was invited by Andial, the high performance Porsche tuners, to join their sports car program. From Germany to Japan, joining the team at Toyota to manage their TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Program. Here, Drino joined forces with Dan Gurney; supporting his race wins in the four main categories of motorsports – Grand Prix, Indy, NASCAR & Sports Car.
Leaving Toyota in 1996, Drino focused his attention back towards motorcycles, working with ProCircuit to develop engine parts, and support a number of successful riders. It also gave him more time to enjoy the other aspects of his life – exploring Europe with his wife, Lisa; heading over to Ireland with Bud to explore the delights of the Irish Rally, racing in a more gentlemanly style.
So, why am I sharing this story with you? Because Drino was always so humble about his experiences, knowledge and success; and because I was lucky enough to consider him a friend. Sadly, the more recent times we spent together were overshadowed with his illness; but both he and Lisa shared enthusiasm and support for my small attempts to contribute to automotive history with the Egg. Hanging with Drino and Bud, listening to them recount their stories and adventures? Truly special memories indeed.
DRINO MILLER July 30, 1941 – March 4, 2014