One of the fears people have about taking an old car out on an extended trip or tour is “what happens if it breaks?” This subject came up a few times on our little Southwest Oil Leak email list, and the consensus came down to: “We’ll all pitch in and help fix it.” Darrell Grimes driving an XJ, volunteered to be “the sag wagon” and generally stayed at the back of the pack. His trunk was filled with tools and supplies. The tour was filled with people who had lots of experience working on these cars, a few of them professionally. Having performed my share of roadside surgery over the years I know I’m pretty confident that I could get my car running again in just about any scenario short of a con rod exiting the XK horizontally. Ironically, short of the Bedell’s failed voltage regulator at the start of the tour, the cars had run great – until yesterday, when Jerry Mouton’s generator failed. He drove on his battery all day and planned to swap it with one he’d been carrying in his boot for twenty years in the morning.
The hotel restaurant was closed for breakfast so we gave up on food and decided to fix Jerry’s generator. As was prearranged, we had more mechanics that the job really required!
My car is the 715th E-type that was built after the change from a generator to an alternator. My struggles with alternators are well-known, having gone through many Lucas and Hitachi units over the years. Jerry’s car is a year older than mine, and it was interesting to note the differences, especially regarding the placement of the electrical drive component: in the early cars it sits down inside the frame rail, rather than above it like my alternator does.
This made removing the generator more time-consuming than originally thought by this group of esteemed mechanics. The “twenty minute job” stretched closer to one hundred and twenty minutes when all was said and done.
I didn’t participate much, beyond shooting photographs and making jokes. So when things got tough I wandered off and admired other cars…
The belt that came off Jerry’s generator seemed to be made of the same low-quality crap that lead me to give up on the double/grooved belt for early E-types and go with a single AC belt for some Ford product. I went through a half-dozen of these bad belts before I switched and have yet to change my single skinny belt.
Once the old generator was out, and the pulley swapped it all went back in a whole lot faster. We walked to the cafeteria near the visitor center and grabbed a meal (it was now “lunch” rather then breakfast time) before we hopped in our cars to tour Mesa Verde.
This was my first visit to Mesa Verde, despite coming close many times over the years. For some reason I thought it was just a single, large cliff-dwelling, but instead it is a rather large, sprawling, complex of them. I’ve visited some of the remote cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness, but until now have not seen the many sites at Mesa Verde. It is a truly impressive place, and I highly suggest a visit if you haven’t been there.
We started with Spruce Tree House, which is a mid-sized cliff dwelling that is a short hike down a canyon.
It is fascinating to see these dwellings. How well they are constructed, and then realize the relatively short period of time that they served their primary purpose.
Half of the park was closed, but we drove around and walked to all of the important sites that were accessible. Much to my surprise there were signs of structures not only in the cliffs, but also along the ridge tops. Some were clearly dwellings, but also there are storehouses and reservoirs. There are also some structures that have no clear purpose.
After a long day of touring these sites and walking through the various museums, we all gathered for a fare-well dinner at the restaurant located at The Far View Lodge. The sun was setting and an evening rain shower approached the mesa, providing a suitably dramatic backdrop for our evening.
We had to wait a bit to be seated, and ended up at three separate tables, but a grand time was had by all, and we ended up closing the place. It was a great end to a fantastic week on the road with these amazing cars.
Finally, here is the full week of time-lapse footage shot from that bizarre camera rig attached to my car: