GTTSR: Day Three (a day of rest… yeah right.)

E-type and Crowfoot Glacier

Today was supposed to be a rest day. A chance for the ladies to do some shopping in Banff. Spend the day in the spa. Go horseback riding. Maybe go see Lake Louise, whatever.

But we are not men of leisure, we are men of action!

We got way too much action today.

Our plan was to drive up to Jasper. I’ve never been to Jasper, and I’ve really wanted to go. We found some folks willing to go with us, Philippe & Francoise Reyns and their Jaguar XKSS. We eat breakfast, and pack the camera and laptop, and hit the road. We aren’t more than a few miles out of Banff when my alternator belt start chattering and squealing… again (we fixed it on Day One before Browning.) Oh yeah, and the JagCam mount fell off. I pull over and open the bonnet… only to find the whole alternator loose. The bracket is broken. I am really ticked off. I tighten it up as best I can and go back to Banff.

My camera batteries are dead, so I’ll have to wait for Shaun’s photos to show the broken bracket gore.

Speak of the devil! (Shaun just sent me the photos…)

Philippe and Francoise carry on northwards without us… but not before I grab a photo of them with Shaun in front of the broken E-type:

We pull into a service station and ask the mechanic if he knows how to weld. He answers affirmatively and we show him the bracket that needs fixing, pull into the side of the service area and start dismantling it. As I pull the belt off, the whole alternator falls off. Good thing we stopped when we did!

Photo by Shaun Redmond

That’s me, preparing to fish the fallen alternator out of the hole it fell into between the frame and the front suspension.

We sit and wait for several hours while the Mechanic tends to other customers ahead of us. I relax in the front seat of the Jaguar and try not to stress. The JagCam sits behind me “booping” (the software makes an audible “boop” sound whenever it performs an image capture.) I can imagine what the day’s footage will look like… the Jaguar still, pointing westwards, not much movement beyond cars in the street ahead of us, and puffy white clouds scudding across the sky. I even have a nice ethereal sound track picked out in my mind. Unfortunately it was not to be… in yet another JagCam glitch we lost all the non-moving footage from the day at the point when I removed the alternator. Even though it happily kept “booping” along all day. Go figure.

You see I made a classic moron mechanic maneuver. As I went to remove the alternator I neglected to disconnect the battery. The wrench I was holding, an 8mm combination, arced between the main wire bolt and the alternator housing, in the process welding itself to the housing. Thankfully I was wearing gloves and did not get seriously electrocuted. D’oh! I reached for the battery disconnect as it crackled away next to my head. Perhaps in that miniature incident something went awry with the video… who knows. We lost the entire several hours spent in Banff. It spontaneously restarted as we pulled away from the NAPA store in Canmore, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

Eventually the mechanic finishes welding the bracket back together and we re-mount the alternator. Unfortunately he does not have a replacement for our missing bolt, so we have to find the nearest auto parts store, which is in Canmore. The car starts up fine, and we drive the short way down the canyon to Canmore with only two bolts holding our alternator bracket in place.

We make it to the NAPA in Canmore just fine, remove the bolt we needed to buy a match for, and much to our dismay they have a shorter bolt, and a longer bolt, but not the Goldilocks Bolt we needed. We take the longer one and a stack of washers to take up the slack. It looks odd, but it works. (I’ll have to get a photo of this rube goldberg setup later.)

The car starts and we stop at a drive-through for a small bite of lunch and drive up 1, then 1A past the point where we aborted the trip in the morning. We drive past Lake Louise and the road up Kicking Horse Pass… we reach a big turnout near the Crowfoot Glacier and stop for photos. The valley is very cold, due to cold air flowing off the big ice fields to our west, but hidden by the mountains.

Shaun, no doubt still in fear after our earlier starting issues looks like this when he realizes that if we have to push-start the Jaguar, it is ALL UPHILL. I’m confident however that my fix in Browning, Montana has sorted out our difficulties. I’m proven correct later when Shaun gets behind the wheel, pushes the starter button and the big XK roars into life. It would have been my turn to push anyway, so of COURSE it starts! 😉

We decide to head back to Banff.

As we’re coming into town the radar detector goes wonky, which is my canary in the coal mine for voltage issues on the car. We turn it off and I note the Ammeter on the dash is curiously static. We come to a stop on the shoulder of the road and some other rally cars, who happen to be coming by stop as well to check on us. I’ve got my head under the bonnet checking connections and all seems well, but my gut tells me something is amiss. We try to start the car and sure enough, nothing. My brain tells me my earlier electrical pyrotechnics with the wrench has damaged the alternator and it is not charging properly. We push start the car with the help of the collected rally folks and get it to the hotel parking lot where I pull out the voltmeter and confirm the voltage assumptions… the battery reads 10.5 V. Undaunted we grab the spare alternator from the boot, the tools, and the (presumed) dead alternator up to the room.

While Shaun tends to dinner details I prepare to swap the funky Jaguar grooved pulley onto the spare alternator. Allow me to provide you with a primer on my alternator setup. This car eats alternators. I suspect that it has to do with my stainless steel exhaust. It provides just enough hot air in close proximity of the alternator’s air intake (at the back of the alternator!) to cook the internals. Since 2003 I have used roughly one alternator per year. Back when it was a Lucas alternator, that was a scary situation. The Lucas model used by the S1 E-type is not exactly a common part in auto supply stores here in America. If you can find one, they are expensive… usually around $300. With the help of two guys on the Jag-Lovers E-type List I adapted a readily available Hitachi alternator to my car. Now if it dies on the road, I can grab one at virtually ANY NAPA or similar parts store for about $60. In most places they carry a warranty, so I can hand them my cooked one and anywhere from $25 to $40 and get a new one. Gotta love that. The Purists (that means you Roger!) may cringe, but I’d rather have a part that I can replace virtually anywhere on the continent in hours than have to be stranded for days waiting for a Lucas… which my car will just cook anyway. (I really should fabricate a heat shield.) The only issue with the Hitachi is fitting the pulley and fan. The one that comes with the Hitachi will not work. I have a VW fan, and a Jaguar pulley, and I adapted them to fit. Unfortunately the past two Hitachis I’ve bought had a slightly different housing and required modification of the bushing that sits between the fan and the housing. In other words, they require cutting. The last time this happened, I was near my office and had a nearby shop cut the bushing for me… it took about 2 minutes. When I bought this spare I figured the bushing would work on it too. Oh NO… that would be TOO EASY!!

In my toolbox I carry a hacksaw blade just for situations like this. While Shaun made our dinner arrangements and tried to find somebody to join us, I started hacking the bushing. I built a jig on the target alternator to make sure my cut was in the right location and started sawing. Shaun showered, I kept sawing. Dinner time came and I put down the saw and we walked down into town.

I had posted to the Jag-Lovers E-type list that I was going to be in Banff. List member Randall Harris suggested that I dine at the Maple Leaf Grill. He said:

“Here’s another food tip for Banff: Maple Leaf Grill – order the chef’s special Bison Tenderloin (best steak I have ever eaten – anywhere). Keep the progress reports coming in. Quite enjoyable.”

We took him for his word, made 7 PM reservations, walk down there, and order up a couple of Bison Tenderloins. Shaun orders a trio of dips for his starter, and I order some prawns. We also peruse the excellent wine list and after some debate order a Pinot Noir from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. (It is awesome and an excellent accompaniment to the meal!)

Thanks Randall!

Let me tell you about the Bison Tenderloin. Randall is right, but his “best steak I have ever eaten – anywhere” does NOT do it justice. This meat is so good. It is spec-effing-tactular! It is the tastiest, most wonderful… oh my… words just do not do it justice. As I was finishing it our waitress came over and asks us how it was… I tell her that I would prefer that she just kill me now because that way I know I’d die happy. She just smiled. I am serious!

Shaun & I linger over our meal. Partly because it is SOOO good, but also because we know we have a huge task ahead of us, cutting a hardened metal bushing with just a hacksaw blade. A couple, obviously from California by their accents, come and sit two tables away from us. I overhear our waitress talking to them and describing the specials when they interrupt and loudly proclaim that they’re vegetarians. Shaun remarks “boy, are they in the wrong place.” heh… truer words were never spoken. If you are a carnivore, I highly suggest a trip to Banff, and the Maple Leaf Grill. Order the Bison. You too can die happy.

The walk back to the hotel is all uphill and we’re not particularly motivated, so it goes by slowly. Once we arrive we take it in shifts to saw away at the bushing. Each of us go at it for 15 minutes or so, seated at the windowsill. The location is chosen for two reasons, it is the most comfortable spot (I had started the task on the floor and when I got up to head to dinner my bad knee reminded me about proper ergonomics for bench work!); but also to keep an eye out for the rally mechanics. We hoped to catch them upon their return from Calgary and the XKSS head gasket repair. If they had a battery charger, we’d grab it; and if they had a cutting tool better than our hacksaw blade, we’d happily use it.

above 2 photos by Shaun Redmond

We saw. And saw. And saw some more. I’m sawing away when I spot the Mechanics arrive and Shaun goes running off to catch them. Meanwhile I make this:

Pretty much sums up the let down after the fine Bison Tenderloin and Pinot Noir high!

My time prediction is off though, we finish sawing the bushing not long after I shot that and I assemble the new alternator for installation in the morning. Shaun did catch the Rally Mechanics. They did not fix the XKSS, despite having sourced a head gasket via one of the channels we provided. The issue seems elsewhere in the head… maybe the same butchers that built my head did this one? Who knows. They don’t have a trickle charger, but they do have a boost starter device, so we go to bed happy that all will be well in the morning.

5 thoughts on “GTTSR: Day Three (a day of rest… yeah right.)”

  1. It’s a message from your car: “Please put the normal Lucas gear back!” You’ve had more trouble with the Himitsutoyonda alternator on your car than I’ve had with all of the Lucas alternators and generators I’ve ever owned.

    This is the special bracket you had made for you in Arlington, eh? Anyway, glad you found someone to weld it. I hope to join you in my car one of these years on one of these expeditions.

  2. Not to be a spoiler here and what I’m about to say has little or no relevance to today but..that weld was broken not only because of a missing bolt: that weld was a BAD weld. I can tell from the fracture line. It broke along a part of the weld bead that got too hot, relative to the ‘parent’ metal and/or some bonehead cooled the weld off with water….
    Glad it’s fixed! Hope the new weld was normalized!

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