If ever I needed proof he’s the yin to my yang, Ringo to my George or Abbot to my Costello, it arrived this morning.
In response to my kindly forwarding of the latest participant update from Copperstate HQ, and my inclusion (warning) that the Blog was firing on at least as many, and possibly more cylinders than the Triumph, I received an email confirming he was already on US soil…
Yes, currently untwisting by the pool. Car being delivered at 4pm by Matt’s Dad whom I understand to have been polishing it all morning.
“The buttes are alive with sound of lambs wool bonnets”
See, oh worrisome one, it all turns out beautifully
Creeping ever closer to our deadline; we reached mid-March with the TR6 lurching ever forward in much the same way I imagine 1960’s advertising executives walked, following yet another boozy lunch. Apparent progress but no real sense of the final destination in terms of time or location.
Meanwhile, in my corner of the world, rally back-up plans were being wrapped up. The Egg returned from her doctor with a clean bill of health and re-balanced wheels. We’d also begun the conversation about future improvements to consider – replacing the Fuchs wheels with something as interesting to look at, but lighter in weight and better in performance, and the reality of fifty-one-year-old metal bodywork. She still looks great, but much like her owner, needs a more comprehensive ‘skincare’ routine these days. For the Egg, I’m looking at moving ahead with at least a partial restoration come 2018. For myself? A similar plan seems more and more likely with each year that goes by!
Cousin Harry continued to insist that all would be well and yet seemed to be doing little else than directing the rest of us to complete various tasks…..a situation I realized was completely and utterly of my own making. After all, until now his only job was to show up, look pretty and try not to fall asleep before we made it out of the stadium car park. Everything else had been taken care of, with almost military precision, by yours truly; the family Rally Fairy. The wings are clearly optional, but the ability to sprinkle my fairy dust has become second nature over the past 5 Copperstate years. I reminded him we still had Plan B waiting in the wings, should she be needed; but my suggestion we ship The Egg over to AZ, just in case, was rejected outright with no chance of renegotiation.
So, I opted for a slightly different tactic and made sure to send reminder emails and texts every couple of days until we reached last Friday, and the collective sigh of relief could happen. Boxes ticked, mechanical updates finished, paperwork completed and submitted; all signs are hopefully go.
Early on, during one of his super-enthusiastic phases about the TR6, we’d had a discussion about goggles, and how we probably needed matching pairs. However, I require prescription lenses and the options he’d found seemed to have more in common with a swimming pool than automobile. Instead, I decided to tread a somewhat different sartorial path, and can report with confidence that I’m going to look fabulous, even on the back of a tow-truck. Cream coloured Davida Helmet, vintage style mirrored (prescription) sun-glasses, my fabulous driving gloves and scarf thanks to the team at Autodromo. I may be missing the Egg this year, but I’ll be representing her in style!!
And so, with two days left before I fly to Phoenix, I’m happy to report I’m really looking forward to this year’s event. I’ve made a couple of appropriate offerings to the rally gods in the hope they’ll smile kindly on dear cousin Harry’s endevour. The Copperstate app has been updated (available for free download on either iPhone or Android), and we have another collection of spectacular cars and fantastic people to explore the back roads of Arizona, with. There will be photos, hopefully a few blog posts and the guarantee of some really wonderful memories, again!
We may share similar sized ears, but there are some fundamental differences between dearest cousin H, and myself. One, in particular, which has become extremely apparent in the past couple of weeks.
He’s smart, enthusiastic, and would probably agree with the ‘big picture’ description. I certainly share those traits, but prefer to take a more detailed approach. He’s macro (or is that macaroni) to my micro, ready to see the end result with only a cursory glance or two at the interim steps. I, on the other hand, live in a world of schedules that will change in an instant, only too aware the phrase “they’re planning a re-cut” does not involve a hair stylist and prefer to have a minimum of three contingencies at any one time to ensure release dates are always met. For Harry, it’s a much simpler three step process: Imagine it, assume it will happen and head straight to the mountains for a rendition of “The Sound of Music” (lederhosen optional).
All of which, dear reader, brings us to an email on February 17th.
In the office, juggling coffee with deadlines, when his name and a link to eBay shows up in my in-box. One click later, and I’m presented with an apparently respectable 1970 Triumph TR6, currently for sale in Arizona. Additionally, a few notes explaining H’s plan of purchase to drive on this year’s Copperstate, so I don’t have to ship The Egg.
The Egg…The Egg that applied for, and was accepted into the 2017 Copperstate. That one. Bulletproof reliability, perfect for the weather we’ll encounter this year, the whole reason I even considered vintage rallies in the first place? Yes, still that one.
So, I gently remind dear cuz there’s already an Orange Jensen in AZ being diligently worked on, for him. Initial plan of it making this year, now looking more realistic as the 2018 entrant, but nevertheless, acquiring another vehicle so I don’t have to ship the car I applied with? Dubious logic, even for him. However, I can’t help feeling I’m in a ‘stable door shut after horse bolted’ conversation as my additional comments about what’s actually involved to get any car rally-ready (least of all one that’s currently sight unseen, with only sunny photos and confidence in the description to go on) seem to be falling on deaf ears.
Stubbornness also seems to be a shared family trait.
Three days later, he’s now the proud owner of said TR6 and a recommended list of important things to take care of pre-Copperstate, arrive. I remain skeptical as I realise his primary concerns are the possibility of new tyres and having the car polished. Trying not to thwart this new-found enthusiasm, or to get in the way of his solo rendition of “My Favourite Things”, I recommend adding how to register the car (required), a mechanical inspection (required) & what will be required to follow through on his now plan of selling the car post-rally (recommended).
My skepticism increases.
The end of February appears on the horizon in the form of Monday 27th as he resurfaces to confirm what I already know (the car has been purchased) and what I suspect (nothing much else seems to have occurred). We discuss the inspection, which has remained noticeably absent in any updates or planning, and I’m reassured Harry can take care of it himself, as he’s rather “mechanical”. The image of our sixth form production for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ flashes by, as I respond with, “No, you’re a hobbyist, there’s a distinct and not so subtle difference”. Still at a loss as to HOW exactly he would manage to oversee the actual inspection from another continent, I decide to reiterate the importance of this document by forwarding again and insisting he opens it whilst we’re both on the phone.
Silence….more silence..a couple of ‘blimey’s’ followed by a ‘this is serious’ and finally I sense a glimmer of hope at the other end. Momentary success notwithstanding, I silently decide to move ahead with my plans to have the annual check-up from the Egg Doctor, because she’s still looking like my safest bet. Julie Andrews continues to yodel in the background, it’s really annoying.
Seven days later and a rather polite email from a very nice young man, who until recently owned a Triumph TR6, appears. It’s hard not to notice the slightly plaintive tone in his opening lines, “This is my direct email. Please let me know how we should proceed with the car.”, and my only comfort is I’m clearly not the only one being ignored. Fortunately, this seems to set off an alarm somewhere in the British Isles as we have a sudden flurry of activity from dear H, with instructions to send the car to a mechanic, confirmation tyres are needed and the recognition that insurance should be a primary concern. Unable to hold back, I immediately join the fray and offer my own list of requirements regarding registration & insurance, as we’re now less than a month from kick-off and this is all beginning to feel like the Wacky Races without comedic timing. When checking separately with dearest cuz to confirm that the mechanic IS expecting the car, the inevitable reply comes through, and I gently remind him that trying to drop an unscheduled project into any shop without checking first, is a tad optimistic.
I call the Egg Doctor to confirm drop off for the upcoming weekend.
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 😉
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!
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!
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?!!
…..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.
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!