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!
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.