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 😉
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.
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.
Of course I know what I’m doing??!
I’m a great believer in asking the experts, so I’ve sent a few emails out to men with far greater driving skill and expertise than I’ll ever manage to acquire. The responses so far have added to the enthusiasm and slight concern about our upcoming adventure!
Steve Wheeler, ex-racer, car enthusiast & jolly good chap started the ball rolling………”I suggest be gentle on your little egg at first, until you both become acclimatised to the new regime, let the tyres and brakes ‘scrub in’, be easy on her, always (ALWAYS) change gear like you’re going to Sainsbury’s! If your pedal setup allows it, practise heel & toe on change down, to save both Gearbox and engine stress and avoid locking the rear brakes (If they’re good enough to lock!).
At the end of the first couple of stages, gauge your pace against those in your class, or those against whom you feel the need to compete / BEAT! Then adjust your pace from there, not all of your competitors will finish… and as you know ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’!”
Alain de Cadenet – Alfa aficionado, Vintage car enthusiast & Le Mans racer generouslyoffered the following comments………….”Such a good idea for you to be doing all this; perfect car too. Make sure your people change out your brake fluid for fresh before you go. It’s hygroscopic and can be nasty when it gets hot if it’s old; bit like us too!
I only run a 165 section tyre myself with a 1720cc big bore engine. Have good run on your 195’s to feel the steering isn’t too heavy etc. The folk on the run are a good lot and not in the least intimidating. Also, take plenty of water in the car as it gets bloody hot out there!!! Maybe a quart or two of whatever oil they put in too. I run Pennzoil 20/50 that Dave’s Lube uses. You might seek a GPS on board just in case your co-pilot gets you lost.”
So – on the plus side, I have the right vehicle. On the slightly more negative……I have absolutely no idea how to heel/toe, need to be thinking about avoiding shopping carts every time I gear change, anticipate recurring nightmares of us lost amongst the tumbleweeds desperately looking for cell-phone coverage as the desert sun beats down & feel duty bound not to let these guys down by coming last.
No pressure there, then!!!
Last year I came across a great event called the Copperstate 1000 (http://www.mensartscouncil.com/cs/) …an excuse for 75 vintage cars to drive around various roads in Arizona, under the watchful jurisdiction of an organisation called the Men’s Arts Council. It’s been running since 1990, and seems to attract a pretty sensational collection of cars. Four days, 1000 miles…and some great photo opportunities.
As the very lucky owner of a 1964 Porsche 356C, that I affectionately call “The Egg”, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to give her something more inspiring than the usual LA driving we encounter. Not quite confident (yet) to consider vintage car racing, and a little intimidated by some of the more “macho” events that seem to be on offer here; Copperstate seemed to be an interesting option. If nothing else, I could apply and be politely turned down!
So late last year, I sent my application in and then started to run through the information available on their website to work out just what I was possibly letting myself in for. Three things stood out immediately:
- Mechanical inspection
Although I wasn’t a girl guide, and I’m not sure I’ve ever dated an ex-scout; these items made me realise that being at least somewhat prepared would be worth exploring. The mechanical inspection was pretty overwhelming, and included lists of requirements that made me question every creak & groan I’ve come to love when driving the Egg. Maybe that wasn’t just a little bit of old age and appreciation as she took the corner for me? Was it possible that differentials were loose, or cables were unthreading? Does she even have differentials or cables come to that?
Fortunately, the Egg has been lovingly looked after by the brilliant team at TRE Racing in Van Nuys. We’re a little lower on the racing evolutionary scale than most clientele, but the Egg holds her own when she’s there, and seems to gain plenty of points for her beguiling rear end. Quick call to Jeremy and Dave, who reassured me that my lack of diff knowledge and inability to select new tyres based on anything other than tread pattern, would not be insurmountable issues to overcome…all we’d need to do was run through the mechanical check list, and address anything that may come up.
I’ve come to look at the Egg in the same way as I’m sure friends and relatives look at their kids. There are no issues, we just have challenges (this is my way of willing the problems to be cheaper; which I’m happy to report has been pretty successful so far) Obviously its helped by the fact that despite her iconic shape, she’s a pretty simple little beastie overall… essentially a VW Bug with pretensions….and there’s nothing wrong with that! I duly crossed my fingers that the trend would continue should we reach the mechanical check list stage and moved on to #2.
Co-driver…..this required some serious consideration.
- Need someone who can drive, obviously
- Not likely to reduce me to cringe position as passenger
- Tolerable for long periods of time, or just as easy to ignore
- A level of mechanical understanding that will make up for my distinct lack of same
- See point #4
- See point #4
I really didn’t that many options, & figured that I’d have to leave this question unanswered until the very last moment……and then a flash of genius occurred over a canapé last September. Auntie Colleen’s surprise 80th birthday resulted in a number of family all coming together for the celebration. The party included cousin Harry. He’s my charmingly nerdy “older brother by another mother”, who just happens to have an impressive history of restoring, building, playing around with and owning old cars. There was a minor aberration when he acquired a mid 90″s Subaru SVX….but we try to skirt around that whenever possible. Clutching my hors d’œuvre I suddenly realised I was looking at the perfect victim….and proceeded to make my pitch.
Moment of thought, eyebrow raised, slight smile…I had him 🙂
Which of course brought me to point #3 – as we both share one very particular family trait. We are absolutely hopeless at giving or following directions.
You tell me left. I will nod in full agreement and understanding….and then turn right. Can’t help it, don’t take it personally….its just an inbuilt inability for the eyes, brain and direction to all work seemlessly together.
Clearly this will need some more planning…..