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
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 😉
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.
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!
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 overcast day here in Los Angeles, which seems sadly fitting. In the early hours of this morning, we lost a quiet gentleman, and I can’t help feeling the sun has chosen not to shine as a mark of respect.
Drino Miller was born in 1941. A Los Angeles native, who ventured up to Monterey in Northern California for Junior College at a time when the area was known for its rural charm rather than a valley of silicon. His fascination with engines appeared at an early age; purchasing his first car before the age of eleven, determined to understand how it worked. This passing phase never completely disappeared; and by the time he reached his late teens, Drino was exploring the South Pacific with his brother, following a year spent in Tahiti working on a not so large yacht they intended to sail back to California.
Returning back to Newport Beach, Drino continued to work with boats until he decided it was time to finish school.
A remarkably clever man, who never forced his opinions on others. Drino was well-read & well-traveled, with a wealth of knowledge and information. His educational background reflecting all of those attributes as he first studied Political Science at UCLA, and once he’d graduated then turned to Law School. Despite his intellectual interests, he combined his love of vehicles and travelling whenever possible; exploring such areas as Baja when there was a break in the educational action. The terrain was grueling and regarded as motorcycle, rather than car friendly. However, in 1967, the off-road racer Ed Pearlman invited Drino to join him in the attempt to set a new speed record through Baja. Although the plan to beat any records was thwarted, their experience set wheels in motion for what was to become the Baja 1000.
Drino’s involvement with Pearlman led to a meeting with Vic Hickey; a designer at GM who was to become synonymous with such iconic vehicles as the Chevy Blazer and Humvee. This was 1967 however, and Hickey in the early stages of developing his future. He offered Drino a job, to join the GM team as they started development of the first purpose built off-road racing vehicle. A temporary blip on the horizon, when General Motors decided not to move forward with the project – however Hickey managed to obtain private funding and immediately called Drino to rejoin his team. The result of their partnership was to become known as the infamous Baja Boot.
Drino’s involvement with this new approach to off-roading sparked more of his own ideas for designs, and was to be the beginning of a remarkable career. He also met world class motorcycle racer, Bud Ekins; and the two men enjoyed a friendship that lasted until we watch Bud ride off into the sunset in 2007.
Drino was an engineer, an enthusiast and a racer. That combination ensured he both continued his development, and tested his theories off-road. By 1970’s he not only entered the Baja 1000, but earned overall victories in that race as well as Baja 500 and Mint 400. This passion for success expanded into his own business, Miller-Havens Enterprises. Working with another engineer, Stanford Haven; they specialized in engine, transmission and conversion kits for Baja Bugs (the Boot being a based on the VW Beetle). Their idea was clearly successful, as it spawned a number of other companies offering similar kits for other cars. The off-road market has continued to grow and develop, without question owing a great deal of thanks to Drino’s early imagination and determination.
In less than a decade, Drino’s business & expertise had expanded to include sports cars and midgets; as he worked towards his plan to build Indy Cars. By the mid 80’s, it became apparent to his peers that Drino had as much talent with people as vehicles; and based on his success at Le Mans and Indianapolis 500 he was invited by Andial, the high performance Porsche tuners, to join their sports car program. From Germany to Japan, joining the team at Toyota to manage their TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Program. Here, Drino joined forces with Dan Gurney; supporting his race wins in the four main categories of motorsports – Grand Prix, Indy, NASCAR & Sports Car.
Leaving Toyota in 1996, Drino focused his attention back towards motorcycles, working with ProCircuit to develop engine parts, and support a number of successful riders. It also gave him more time to enjoy the other aspects of his life – exploring Europe with his wife, Lisa; heading over to Ireland with Bud to explore the delights of the Irish Rally, racing in a more gentlemanly style.
So, why am I sharing this story with you? Because Drino was always so humble about his experiences, knowledge and success; and because I was lucky enough to consider him a friend. Sadly, the more recent times we spent together were overshadowed with his illness; but both he and Lisa shared enthusiasm and support for my small attempts to contribute to automotive history with the Egg. Hanging with Drino and Bud, listening to them recount their stories and adventures? Truly special memories indeed.
DRINO MILLER July 30, 1941 – March 4, 2014
Wednesday arrived, and with it the final leg of the 1000 miles of this year’s Copperstate. We had almost made it out of the hotel car park before the mechanical cousin realized he’d left his cell phone happily charging in the breakfast room. Fortunately I have excellent turning and reversing skills, so we returned, retrieved…and headed off again.
Through Sedona, only to be met with extremely bad traffic. Living in LA, this is not an unusual experience; unfortunately we soon discovered the cause was not regular congestion, but an accident involving one of the Copperstate Highway Patrol. All emergency services had come out to help one of their own, a reassuring but still worrying sight. We later discovered what had happened – turning into a forecourt to check on another entrant, the Patrol officer was hit by a driver who decided to pull straight into traffic without stopping to look first. There was no time to take any avoiding action, and serious injuries were sustained. A situation I’ll revisit later.
Our ultimate destination was Scottsdale, and the morning route took us out to and through Prescott, and with it more stunning scenery, charming old towns and happy waving people as we drove through. The weather couldn’t have been better if we’d special ordered it. Moderate temperatures meant the Egg’s “two windows down” air conditioner was all we needed, as we meandered along small single track roads with only other Copperstaters for company. It was difficult to believe we’d already covered almost 800 miles in a 49 year old car, she was literally singing like Maria as we cornered every bend; and everything about the performance continued to improve the further we drove. We kept pushing the distance between gas stops, for no other reason than she was running more and more efficiently; maintaining a speed of anything from 65 – 80 mph was simple, because that’s where the car wanted to be. “She’ll be bulletproof”, the Egg Doctor told me, and he was absolutely correct!
The last stretch of the morning took us up and down and through switchbacks coming into Bagdad. As this section had been included last year, I was delighted to see it again, and just as happy to let my mechanical cousin drive, and enjoy watching him enjoy the experience. He smiles a great deal anyway, but by the time we reached our lunch spot, I was sharing the car with a human equivalent of the Cheshire Cat. Good times.
There are some great cars, and some really great drivers on this event. One of which was a professional Porsche racing instructor/racer; who very generously offered to let Harry ride shotgun for the afternoon in his exquisite Jaguar XK150 OTS. The remainder of the route was easy enough for me to navigate and drive, so I reassured him that I’d be fine. He left, I continued chatting with friends…but there was just something that didn’t feel quite right. Sipping coffee, I replayed the late morning….switchbacks, happy cousin, pull into car park, get out of passenger seat…happy cousin locks car and we walk into restaurant…happy cousin has my car keys. Happy cousin has gone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In less time than it takes to shout “get out of my way”; I left my seat, sprinted (much to my amazement, had absolutely no idea I could move that fast) and found the Jag literally about to disappear into the wild blue yonder. One “oops” later from the family member, before they disappeared in a roar of engine, and normal service was resumed.
The final leg from Bagdad to Scottsdale was a great combination of open scenery that stretched for low desert miles in either direction, with occasional bursts of small towns. At one point it was just me and the Egg, cruising happily along a route that was so quiet, I wondered if maybe I’d accidentally taken a wrong turning and stumbled into somewhere the world had forgotten about. Time has a different meaning in this situation. No radio, no need or desire to be glued to some electronic device, a watch that I inevitably forget to wind most mornings…all I could do was just enjoy the moment and the environment. Through Wickenberg, every speed limit was fastidiously observed – as the local constabulary had politely alerted us that any decision not to do that would be dealt with appropriately. The Copperstate isn’t a race, it’s a rally – but when you’re presented with perfect driving conditions, and long inviting roads, it’s easy to forget that there are limits we’re expected to maintain!
One final section before reaching the outskirts of Scottsdale included another change of scenery; driving through Peoria and the tall pines were back. A few miles that reminded me again of Europe, before coming back into the early afternoon heat and sunshine that everyone associates with AZ. I pulled into the car park, and was quickly amused to discover that I’d beaten the XK150….which explained the stationary flash of red I’d spotted on the way out of Wickenberg!! My tortoise to their hare, clearly benefitting from the classic F1 move of the when to fuel. How often it all comes down to time spent (or not) in the pits 🙂