Winding Road

I love the magazine Winding Road. It is an online, PDF distributed magazine for car enthusiasts. They have a very driver focussed view, with an open mind about things like Diesel fuelled passenger cars, and an appreciation for automotive history. Sound familiar? 😉

Anyway, they had a mention in last month’s issue’s editorial that covered both Brock Yates (his recent firing from Car and Driver) and the Going To The Sun Rally. I wrote a letter to them mentioning Mr. Yates and my experiences with him, and the fact that we’re attending the GTTSR too. They printed it – along with a photo of my car, from my diary of the Mille Autunno two years ago. Always cool to see your name in “print”.

Kudos to Steve Mielnicki (MINI driver) for turning me onto Winding Road in April ’05!

Vanishing Point

T-minus 2 days before I point the bonnet of the 65E east and head for Montana.

This photo was taken in Idaho, in the Lemhi valley if I recall correctly due south of Salmon. I’ll be cutting across the horizon left to right a good ways north of here on Highway 12 late afternoon Saturday, or maybe early Sunday as we make our way to Missoula, then on to Red Lodge for the Going To The Sun rally. Should be a blast. The car is all ready to go, and I can barely keep my mind on work. 😉

Purrrring once again…

apoligies for the crappy cell-cam image… I left my good camera at home by mistake!)

I took yesterday off work, with the specific purpose of finishing the prep work for the Going To The Sun Rally (and the nearly 1800 mile round trip there and back.)

At the crack of dawn I drove the 65E, in overcast skies and light mist, up to Chilliwack BC, to visit Geoff Pickard at English Classic Cars. Geoff rebuilt my engine last summer and it had developed a rattle in the head since then. He had also fixed one of my rear hubs in the spring and we wanted to have a look at the opposite one to make sure it had not suffered the same fate as its twin.

The drive was uneventful, and I arrived promtly at 8:45 AM. We went to work on a list of things as the engined cooled. Geoff went into the hubs and I started on my list of things to do.

If you recall, my driver’s side rear hub did not get properly looked at in the post-flood resto by Classic Jaguar and had seen the bronze bushings disintegrate under the lubrication of a fine paste of bayou mud and rainwater. The passenger side hub was just the same, though with less damage. Geoff replaced the chewed up bronze bushings with stock needle bearings and his witches brew of lubricating slippery goo.

I replaced a tie rod gaiter on the passenger-side front wheel. In my winter lubrication routine in March I found a torn gaiter there (a “TeamCJ” mechanic had bent the safety wire back on itself when they snipped it off, eventually causing the wire to puncture the boot), replaced it with a temporary one, and finally had a proper one from SNG to replace it. So Geoff was futzing with the rear hub, I was futzing up front. He finished a full hub rebuild in the time it took me to replace a tie rod gaiter (Geoff is as fast as an F1 pit crew, I’m the world’s slowest mechanic!) so he checked the opposite front wheel and found a significant amount of free play in the ball joint of the top wishbone. He had that apart in no time and found the ball joint was improperly shimmed. We had that sorted out by the time I had my wheel back on.

I then got a bunch of lightbulbs replaced, and my right turn signal working again. As I was sitting on the floor Geoff nearly had an aneurysm when he saw the screws I had pulled out of the signal lamp cover of the car. At first I didn’t know what he was going on about, but he pointed to the three completely different sized, shaped, and colored screws I just had removed from the car and shouted “Those are NOT proper!” (Have I ever mentioned that Geoff is a bit picky about Jaguars?) He rushed off to a parts bin, brought back a box of screws and pulled one out: “This is a proper screw. Find two more and then toss *those three* (he sneered that point) over there on the bench.” I dutifully followed his direction, not wanting to insult him. 😉

A few more minor tasks complete, we took a break for lunch. After lunch the engine had cooled sufficiently to have a look at the head. Not wanting to be in Geoff’s way, I went about the task of changing the oil in the differential. It is the only part of my car that consistently leaks. No matter where I park, it never fails to leave a SINGLE drop of oil. It never leaves two, but I figured one drop here, and one drop there eventually leads to not enough left behind. I crawled under the car and opened it up, to be pleasantly surprised to find a NOT empty diff. 😉 While I was under the car, making unhappy noises (anyone who has ever re-filled an E-type diff knows what I mean by “unhappy noises”), Geoff was above the engine, making happy noises.

Based on the noise the engine was making we both suspected a tappet or tappet shim being loose. As it turns out the tappets were fine, and it fact all still within .0001″ of where they were originally set last summer. The noise was found to be a loose top timing chain on the exhaust side of the bottom chain drive. An easy fix! That was all sorted out by the time I had the diff refilled. While down there I also fixed a broken exhaust hanger. We then flushed and refilled the radiator since my belt-throwing adventure earlier this summer had boiled off quite a bit of coolant and I was unsure of my mixture. Better safe than sorry.

All buttoned up, we took it for a test drive. I insisted Geoff drive since I already know the car but wanted him to get a sense for it. The engine sounded *wonderful!* I haven’t had much time in the passenger seat of the 65E the past few years, but it was fun to be there with Geoff driving. He damn near broke my spine a few times, punching the loud button and snapping my head back!

On the way back he went to honk the horn (at a driver backing an SUV out of a blind parking space) and found it inoperative. So we fixed that when we arrived back at the shop. Troubleshooting from the horns back to the steering column, where we finally found the fault in the contact between the button and the inside metal of the steering wheel hub… literally the last place we could have looked! I climbed back behind the wheel and pointed the car south towards home around 3pm.

The fine US customs people at Sumas decided to inspect every fricking nook at cranny of the car! =\ I have never had a problem with the Jag at the border, but I must have fallen on the random “search this car” number this time. They looked in the boot, under the boot, though my toolbox, the interior of the car, etc. What a PITA!

In Sedro-Woolley, an oddly named town in Skagit county, I nearly had an accident when a person in a complete beater pulled out in front of me making a left turn out of a grocery store onto SR 20/9, where I was driving along at 45 MPH or so. I came within inches of hitting them, the brakes locked and me skidding in a cloud of smoke. The experience shook me up pretty bad and I had to pull off into a gas station and try to calm myself down.

I was hoping for an uneventful rest of my ride, but it was not to be… as I approached Arlington the skies opened up and I found myself in a downpour! I had nowhere to pull over and raise the top, but the tonneau cover was on, at least covering the passenger side. I just kept on driving. Unfortunately as I arrived in town, the traffic thickened up to where the speed-effect of the OTS shape no longer kept me out of the rain. 🙁 I called home and asked my son to have the barn door open for me when I arrived so I could at least get under cover swiftly.

After my arrival, I did a quick oil and filter change, along with replacing my temporary fuel pump with the native-pressure Facet pump recommended by my friends on the I pulled the problematic pressure regulator off the car for good. I started packing the boot with spares and whatnot for the trip. I’m almost ready to go!

GOES Satellite image

So, it isn’t a car picture I know… but I like it.

This is an image captured via the GOES widget yesterday morning. I love several things about this image… The coastal fog, and how it describes the valleys along Gray’s Harbor and the Columbia River so well. There is also morning fog through the Snohomish River valley. Most impressive though is the massive bulk of Mt. Rainier, rising up and dominating its corner of Pierce county, the rising sun illuminating the glaciated eastern slopes, and casting a dark shadow to the west.

If you look closely you can make out the forms of other mountains; Olympus, Baker, Shuksan, Glacier Peak, Mt. Adams, and even Hood and Jefferson in Oregon, but none stand out like Rainier.

I spent yesterday travelling from our house to Roche Harbor on San Juan Island (and back) to attend a wedding of a friend and colleague at digital.forest. Dave & Tanya Anderson married each other on a the day that dawned in the image above… in perhaps one of the most beautiful places in the world.

We drove out to Anacortes, and boarded the 11 am ferry to Friday Harbor, where we enjoyed a lunch, had a brief stop at the “English Encampment (from the “Pig War” that established the final boundary between the US & Canada. We’ve been to the American Camp before, but had never yet visited the English one.) Then on to the wedding ceremony and reception in the garden of the Hotel de Haro at Roche Harbor. It was a truly wonderful day. We returned via the 10PM ferry which stops at every ferry-serviced island in the San Juans, which allowed us a nice car-deck nap of two hours, interrupted only by the occasional docking and an idiot in an Audi who set his frigging car alarm when he wandered off to the passenger deck. (Thankfully the WSF tracks these idiots down and delivers public embarrassment.)


I’ve always liked this photo, I have it framed on my office wall. Of course I have lost the original high-res version of it… I took it, did my editing for my website, and threw away the original – which was stupid… because only afterward did I realize what a great shot it is! It is a wonderfully captured moment with nice composition and lighting.

This was taken on the New England 1000 rally, in 99 or 2000, (I’m too lazy too look it up at the moment.) On the first or second day of the rally the car broke. A clutch hinge pin fell out to be exact. The rally has the good forture of having the Markowski’s as the official rally mechanics. The Markowski’s run RPM, one of the best restoration shops on the planet. On the right is my father, and he is talking to (standing) Steve Markowski and if I recall correctly the kid leaning against the wall of the trailer is named Eben. The E-type has just been pulled into the trailer and my father is describing what happened.

What ensued was a miracle. I firmly believed that the rally was over for us. Anyone that knows e-types understands that clutch and transmission problems are impossible to address in a swift fashion. But somehow … using flashlights and surgical tools these two mechanical geniuses who were weren’t even old enough to drink at the time, managed to re-insert a clutch hinge pin through a hole in the bellhousing and get us back in the rally again the next morning.

I recently fixed the car’s latest ill, and am humbled by the abilities of these guys. I am the world’s slowest mechanic… I do not rush things and really don’t mind taking forever to address an issue. To me working on cars is a thing to be savored and enjoyed. I could never do it for a living, because I’m just too damn slow. These kids (who are now grown men) were born for the task. Good to have people like that around. Yin & Yang.