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!
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
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!
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.
Obesity – it’s not just a people problem!
With a week to go, the Copperstate excitement is inevitably mounting. I collected the Egg last Saturday, following her quick once/twice maybe thrice over to ensure that all aspects of the Safety check would be passed, and enjoyed a glorious drive back from Klasse 356 (more of that in another post!)
Wanting as much driving as possible before the event, I pulled her out again for a quick jaunt over the hill, today. Traffic reasonable, weather idyllic, it was almost possible to forget we had another earthquake here a couple of days ago! Waiting to pull away from an intersection, I was suddenly overtaken by a really unattractive, big, black, thing. Unfortunately for the car, I then spotted the unmistakable prancing horse in the middle of the boot….and mild amusement was immediately replaced with abject horror. THAT was a Ferrari??
In less than a couple of blocks, I found myself sitting behind this automotive mistake. The tail lights glared accusingly as I mouthed “UG-ER-LEE” in response. Clearly the designer had been quietly and unsuccessfully breeding BMW Z4’s with Jaguar F Type’s in his garden shed. And then I saw it…the worst angle of all!
Car and driver turned left and, for a moment, I had a perfect shot of the three quarter, haunch to nose. Except, the length and rather odd curves immediately made me think of a low rider jeans and muffin tops….probably not the image one should attach to a $300k plus price-tag. I realized I was looking at their contribution to the family hatchback four door market, which is supposed to take you from grocery shopping to racetrack without breaking a sweat; but this thing seemed as uncomfortable as middle aged men still trying to pull of skinny jeans when they are not fit, thin or in a really successful rock band (and even then, it’s a stretch). Worse still, it’s called the FF; which I can only translate into “F***ing Fail”
Fortunately I was able to re-calibrate my Ferrari world a couple of hours later, when I updated the brilliant Copperstate app (available for iPhone and Android – check it out) and viewed a collection of fabulous models that will be enjoying the roads of Arizona with the Egg, next week. Call me a traditionalist, or maybe a car design Luddite; but there is something so elegant and timeless when you combine Pininfarina with the mid 60’s!
It’s an “Egg Carton”, dear….
“I popped my toolkit cherry under the hood of a Ferrari”
The plan every morning has been to start an hour earlier than everyone else, just to ensure that I have some feeling of distance (if not accomplishment) by the time the pack starts hurtling past. Although I’m driving a 356 Porsche with the larger 1600cc engine; in the company of the other 74 entrants I’m in the automotive equivalent of a lawnmower! However, please don’t think this is a complaint, because there really is a perverse kind of pleasure when a 911S, any number of Ferrari’s, Shelby Cobra…..and the list goes on…..roars past. The sound of engines against the relative silence of our surroundings is a automotive audiophile’s dream!
So, Tuesday’s driving consisted of a 300 mile loop from Tucson, south towards the Mexico border and then back again. Within 15 minutes of leaving our hotel, the roads were taking us through national parkland. The only proof of local residence was occasional lines of mailboxes in line on the roadside, and the terrain was a collection of mesquite trees and high desert scrub. I had assumed, wrongly, that Arizona would resemble California, so the varieties of different plants and colours have been a continued surprise throughout this trip.
Heading through a corner, we came to a sadly familiar sight; one vintage car, mechanics truck and collection of heads in a downward direction around an open bonnet (hood). This particular entrant was a 330 Ferrari…that was usually only spotted in the car park at either end of the day. Mark, the driver, waved us down; and in my typical English fashion I politely asked if there was anything we could do to help. With the collection brain trust around the car already, and my technical knowledge limited to being able to recognize the difference between a spark-plug and a distributor cap, this was probably a stretch…but the Copperstate engenders a sense of camaraderie and support that’s as much a part of the event as the road under rubber. Mark nodded, and then announced loudly, “we need your toolkit!!”
The remaining brain trust looked a little mystified, until I produced my treasure. Nods of appreciation, followed by assurances that “this will do” confirmed the words of wisdom I’d been given by the boys at TRE…I may not have the remotest idea what’s in my bag of tricks, but the professionals will, and we just received two thumbs up!
The car was soon running again, and so we all headed on together towards our lunch break at Sonita. Heading towards Nogales, the presence of Border Patrol started in to noticeably increase. Initially there would be the occasional van parked on the side of the road, but as the ranch country expanded into even greater swathes of nothingness, we suddenly found ourselves being required to stop for a full scale border patrol check. Serious looking men with guns and dogs watched as we slowly crept through their checkpoint; and I had to hold back the overwhelming desire to confess to something, anything; simply because they were SO scary!
Unfortunately the dulcet tones of the Egg started to take on a slightly more “too much curry last night” tone as we drove towards Patagonia. Backfiring and burping, and then finally just gliding to an elegant stop. By this time Mark and the Ferrari had become Mark and the Lexus, as his car had also stopped again not to be easily revived; so he kindly collected us and the Egg continued the rest of her journey on the back of a tow truck.
Our afternoon took us through the barren wasteland that is Fort Huachuca. A fully functional fort, its also some of the most desolate scenery we had for the entire trip. The Fort’s history is varied, as it was the headquarters for the famed Buffalo Soldiers as well as the training base for U-2 pilots. For us it took a slightly more entertaining turn, when coming down a particularly windy road, we found the real-life equivalent of the wacky races. At the bottom of a t-junction we found the D-Type, GTO, one of the 911’s and Shelby GT350 all parked in different directions. Some were holding maps, the others waving smart phones helplessly begging the Googlemap gods to answer…everyone was lost! The fort seems to take stealth training very seriously as road signs are virtually non-existent, so in the end we opted for the low tech version of GPS – coin flip and people’s vote. Not technical, but eventually successful!
My day ended with a mechanical conflab. Again, these guys are all volunteers, and they are total rock stars. A combination of experience from Hot Rods to high end restoration, which ensures no car is too complicated to be dealt with. Chad assured me that they’d look over the Egg and do everything possible to have her ready to drive the next morning. Unfortunately the late night update wasn’t so good. A combination of aluminium (AL–OOO-MIN-EE-UM) on one of the plugs and arcing ignition wires suggested something a little more serious than the blocked oil filter or carb gasket problem I’d been wishing for. Once again, Copperstate to the rescue. Although it wasn’t part of my plan, they had a number of loaner cars that are available for participants; so we’d have a Lexus available to complete the last day and reach our return destination of Phoenix. My trusty Triple A card ensured that the Egg had a flatbed trip all the way back to our final location, which she shared with a rather handsome Italian, so she couldn’t really complain either!