Mid-Ohio Trip – Denver to Mansfield

Day 1 – Saturday, May 25

Before heading out I was feeling a bit of … trepidation isn’t the right word. More like low-grade anxiety. A good chunk of the center of the country has been getting hit with nasty weather the last several days. Tornadoes, some fatal, have hit Missouri, and that’s where I’m spending the night. I didn’t make hotel reservations because I didn’t know how far I’d get. My goal was Monroe City, and as it turned out I easily made it another 30 miles or so to Hannibal, right on the Mississippi River. Not that I’ve seen it yet; my motel is ten or twelve miles away. So far the weather has been good. My phone tells me no precipitation is expected in the next two hours. We’ll see.

I picked what I thought was a fairly cheap motel, at least according to Google. All I’m after is a bed and shower. When I got here, there were only four rooms left, all smoking. I’m surprised anybody still offers smoking rooms. I’m not happy, but it’s a room, and I’ve been in worse. It turned out to be on the more expensive end, about what I’d expect to pay in these parts for a Marriott property.

I can’t get internet here in the room. It never challenges me for a password. I managed to connect down in the lobby, but shortly after returning to the room I lose it. At least I managed to plan my route for tomorrow.

Today’s route was US 36 the entire way. Here in Missouri it’s four lane divided highway the whole way. Not exactly like an Interstate, as it’s not limited access. And although there were trucks, there weren’t many. Through Colorado and most of Kansas I couldn’t have asked for much better conditions. It’s not hot yet, so the clear blue skies and bright sunshine weren’t a problem. And there was almost no traffic at all. There’s an event going on at HPR, so I followed a Porsche with a giant rear wing from the gas station in Byers to the track, but after the track I didn’t see another vehicle going my direction until I got into the small towns of western Kansas.

Before reaching Kansas, I saw a fox crossing the highway in front of me. Close enough to easily identify it as a fox, but not close enough to worry about hitting it. Shortly after that, I saw a couple of pheasant standing on the shoulder of the road. At first I thought they were turkeys, but they weren’t that big, and were slender. I was a bit surprised they didn’t take off as I passed them.

Nearing the Missouri River there was quite a bit of standing water on the fields. Sometimes just large puddles, other times it was acres of field under water. I didn’t get much of a look at the Missouri and I don’t really know what it normally looks like, but it seemed it was running high. A few of the other smaller rivers I crossed, again just glimpses, looked like the trees along the banks were in the water. Tomorrow I’ll start my day with a short visit to Riverview Park here in Hannibal and get a good look at the Mississippi.

When I do my trip planning, I typically check the box to avoid highways. What I really want is “avoid Interstates”. I didn’t give it much thought, and was under the impression they were the same thing. But the other day when scouting routes for the return trip, I noticed that it was keeping me off US 36 here in Missouri. It’s not an Interstate, but it is a four lane divided highway. I’m not sure they’re consistent on this. I drove quite a few miles on US 20 through Iowa last year on my Road America trip, and that’s more Interstate-like than US 36 is here.

For tomorrow, I could easily take Interstate most of the way. But I find it so much more pleasant to take the smaller roads; I’ll gladly trade some time for the near elimination of traffic. I find it much less stressful to take the scenic route than the super-slab.

I hit another bird today. What is it about this car that causes me to hit so many birds?

Today’s miles: 660

Day 2 – Sunday, May 26

I was awakened by a peal of thunder at 4:15. I didn’t hear any tornado sirens, so that was good. But I wasn’t exactly sure I’d hear any if they were sounding. I glanced out the window and things didn’t look too bad so I went back to bed.

Breakfast wasn’t scheduled to be available until 6:30, so I loaded up the car first. It was raining pretty good. I was in the breakfast area by 6:25 and people were already eating. So I loaded up a plate with sausage gravy and biscuits, some sort of cheesy scrambled eggs, and potatoes. Then back up to the room to brush my teeth and I was on the road by 6:54.

By now the rain had slackened somewhat. But I quickly fogged up the interior of all the cockpit glass. Cracking the windows didn’t help much, and neither did the defroster. Good thing I carry a towel with me. Usually it’s in the boot, but I had anticipated just such a situation and had it in the cab with me.

I found my way to Riverview Park easily enough. It’s a dark forest early in the morning in the rain. I found a place with a view of the river (not as obvious as you might think, given the park’s name) and took a look around. It was still raining, so I didn’t hang around. Had it been nicer, I’d have explored the park a bit more. I was hoping to see some barges on the river. I did see some when I was back on the highway, crossing the bridge, but they weren’t visible from the overlook I visited.

Mississippi River, Riverview Park, Hannibal, MO

The first section of the drive was on the Interstate. My biggest issue with interstate highways is the truck traffic. There was none this morning, so I was unbothered.

My planned route had me heading north on I-172, but Navigator decided to send me farther east on I-72 instead. This turned out to be an interesting route. My first intermediate destination was Havana, IL, on the Illinois River. The route I ended up following was IL 100, along the western shore of the river from Beardstown to Havana. The river was well outside its banks through here, but it looks to me like they’re prepared for this and perhaps it’s a regular occurrence. One house on the river side of the road was built on stilts, and many of the trees along here were standing in water.

As it was, I crossed the Illinois River three times. Once on the interstate and twice on US routes. These two bridges are older, steel girder bridges. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so I won’t say these old bridges are more beautiful. It could be argued that the newer bridges have a simplistic beauty to them. But I find these steel girder bridges more interesting.

Writing up these notes and referring to the map, I see that I narrowly missed visiting Lotus, Illinois. I passed within a few miles of it, but it’s so small it never appeared on any signs. Had I been on the correct road I’d have had to make a short detour. I doubt it is big enough to merit a post office; from the satellite photo it looks to be a grain elevator and about six houses, about a thousand feet from the highway. Presumably, there’d have been at least a sign of some sort. Oh, well, I’ll never know.

My third intermediate navigation point was Logansport. (The second wasn’t interesting enough to get a comment.) I generally edit my route for these navigation points so that I stay on the highway rather than detouring through town. I’m glad for this one that I didn’t. Logansport sits beside the Wabash river and my route was on a side street on the south bank of the river. It, too, is running high, submerging one of the islands in the middle of the river.

The rest of the trip was fairly boring. US 24 and US 30, with a short shot on I-469. Both 24 and 30 may as well have been interstates, being four-lane divided highway, often limited access. In Ohio the speed limit was 70.

I made good time. Rather than having the motel as my destination, I had the track. Chin Motorsports does registration and tech the night before, but I figured I’d miss that, arriving after 6. But today’s event there (either NASA or PCA, I heard both) went late due to some weather and when I arrived I found myself at the end of a long line waiting to get in. So rather than just taking a picture of the sign and heading to the motel, I waited around, got registered and teched. Tech inspection amounted to me giving them my completed form and them checking that the number on the car matches the number on the form.

After checking in at the hotel, I found a gas station and a restaurant. So I’m all ready to go in the morning. It’s about a 20 minute drive to the track, and the drivers meeting is scheduled for 7:10, so I’ll try to be out the door by 6:30. That should give me time to find a spot in the paddock.

Today’s miles: 557 Total miles: 1,217

Photo Gallery

Even long-time readers of this blog may not have known I have an accompanying gallery of photos. Actually, the gallery predates the blog by a long time. I first started it when my website was self-hosted. When I moved to hosting by Godaddy, I had to stop using the software that ran the gallery and convert to one of Godaddy’s canned solutions. Then that solution had a major upgrade and I faced a manual migration.

I looked at the available choices and decided to go with the new version of the one I’d been using for a while. That was several years ago. In the interim, that one got abandoned by the developers and has been “in hibernation”. I’m not sure what that really means, other than it’s no longer supported. But it has been working, so I haven’t been too worried about it.

Bottom line, I have been neglecting the gallery. For the most part, it was just pictures of places I’ve been in RMNP. I’ve failed to update it with photos from many of my recent hikes there. And I’ve been to lots of other places and I want the gallery to reflect that. I had some nebulous plans as to how I’d organize it, but inertia was difficult to overcome. Also, what I had was inconsistently titled and tagged and I’d provided only about half the descriptive information I wanted.

I finally overcame the inertia. My first decision was whether to migrate to a new solution or not. I am accustomed to the old system, but it had a time worn appearance. Sure, it was unsupported, but one of the realities of using free solutions is that I could switch to something else and there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t be in the same situation tomorrow. I had a good idea of how much effort it would take to get the current one updated but I didn’t want to think about how much more it would take to migrate.

So the decision point comes down to how much effort do I want to put into this project to a) get on a supported product, and b) improve the look and feel and perhaps functionality of it. My choices are pretty limited: Coppermine, Koken, Piwigo, TinyWebGallery, and Zenphoto. After looking at some examples and some documentation, I fired up an instance of Koken and started playing around with it. It didn’t take long to decide to go with it.

I now have everything migrated, and have filled in most of the gaps that I had in my legacy project. I figure I’m somewhere between two-thirds and four-fifths complete. It will have three main areas: Landscapes, Cityscapes, and Machines. The first two are fundamentally complete. I still need to put some thought into how to organize, categorize, and tag the Machine area.

I’ve updated the blog pages that link to the gallery, but I haven’t done much more than test the links the other way, from the gallery to the blog. It has a look and feel that’s much closer to the blog than before, and I do like a few of the new features that are available, even though I did have to give up some minor functionality.

If you’re so inclined, poke around the new gallery. Feel free to leave a note here if you have any suggestions or complaints.

Emich Rant

Sunday, April 28

I registered for the afternoon session of the most recent Emich sponsored track day. After all the changes we made to the car, it’s only prudent to get her out on the track before I drive cross-country for events at Mid-Ohio and Autobahn.

I’ve done a few Emich days before. In fact, my last track day was an Emich day. That didn’t end well. I was running on slicks, made a minor driver error, spun the car and broke the motor mounts. Aside from that, I thought it was a pretty good day: everyone was fairly well-behaved and each track session had less traffic than the one before as many of the folks who registered for the full day got tired and left.

But this may be the last.

When I picked up my wristband I asked about the car count. “Seventy or so. Not too bad.” If equally divided between novice and experienced, that’s three dozen cars on track at the same time. That’s a traffic jam. Oh well, it will get better as folks leave.

But my assumption is that the guys (and it was all guys) running in the experienced group are actually experienced and not novices.

I’ve been to so many drivers meetings at HPR I could easily run them. All the usual stuff gets covered: how to get on and off the track, what the lights and flags mean, and passing rules. For the experienced group, we have open passing. Meaning you don’t need a point-by to pass, and you can do it wherever you think it’s safe. There are two things of particular interest to me, and if Glen doesn’t mention them, I’ll raise my hand. First is reminding the high horsepower cars that if they see a low horsepower car in their mirrors, please don’t race down the straight and that they’ll need to lift to let us by. Second is that it’s the responsibility of the passing car to go around the slower car. It’s not the responsibility of the slower car to get out of the way.

I brought up the first one, and somebody else brought up the second. When I made my comment about horsepower differences, Glen reinforced it by saying that horsepower doesn’t matter: if somebody caught up to you, they’re faster. Let them by. The other point was reiterated as well. The slower car should not deviate from his line.

I Lose My Composure

In my second session I caught up to a silver Corvette. I was faster everywhere on the track except the straights, where he used his horsepower to get away. I was behind him for nearly a lap, and when we got onto the long straight I expected him to let me by. Instead, he hauled ass ahead only for me to catch him in the next turn. Later that lap, I pointed Dave Green by me. At the start of the straight Dave pulls out to pass, but the Corvette hauls ass again, totally unaware he is now holding up two Lotus behind him. We finally get around him after turn 5.

Next time around there are flashing yellow lights: said silver Corvette is stopped on the inside of turn seven. Well, he won’t be holding anybody up any longer. But he is there for the rest of the session while the tow truck deals with him. So we have yellow flag (actually, flashing yellow lights) conditions there: get off the throttle until you pass the incident.

Meanwhile, in my mirrors I see a brown Cadillac catching me. Sort of. He’s not making any headway at all in the turns but is much faster on the straights. On the highway straight he gets optimistic and pulls to the inside thinking he’ll outbrake me into 4. He’s not even close. He doesn’t see that I’m braking much later than he is.

Next time around, he’s still quite a ways back. He dive bombs me again and is able to sneak inside. He doesn’t remember the comment during the meeting that “there are no F1 scouts here today. Nobody will be impressed by dive bombing somebody into a turn.” Under ideal conditions, he can’t take the turn as fast as I can, and it’s even worse for him because he’s way to the inside. So we go through the turn about 20 mph slower than normal for me. But he’s ahead now, so he’s happy.

A few seconds later we’re in the yellow flag area, passing the tow truck and the stricken Corvette. At the hairpin we are good to go to full throttle again, and we do. We’re headed through the downhill esses, a right-left-right combination under full throttle. A glance in the mirror and what do I see? A Camaro moving to my left, attempting to pass here. This is the second worst place to try to pass on this track. Where does he think I’m going to go? Does he expect me to just disappear?

It’s the faster driver’s responsibility to make a safe pass, and the slower driver should keep on his line. My line goes apex to apex to apex, crossing the entire width of the track twice through here. And this guy is going to pass?

The Corvette driver was being oblivious and rude by not paying attention to his mirrors. But he wasn’t dangerous. The Cadillac driver was overly optimistic and in a hurry; couldn’t wait to actually catch me. He didn’t understand the differences in our cars and abilities but because he did this at the end of the straight, I had no trouble seeing him and knowing where he was. He could easily have put me off by forcing me to slow down so much more than usual; I couldn’t take my line because he stole it. If I couldn’t slow down enough I’d have gone off.

Where the Camaro wanted to pass me is a different story. It’s not straight. He put himself in my blind spot; I couldn’t tell where he was going. I have a split second to act. The only sensible thing to do is to stay on my line. If he presses his pass, either we collide or he goes off. Any experienced driver knows this is a bad place to pass and will wait the few seconds to pass.

He passes me after the turns. And I express my displeasure with an extended middle finger. I lost my composure. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m generally pretty good about not doing that on the streets, and I’ve never done it before on the track. I was wrong.

But the Camaro driver was a dangerous idiot.

Who promptly found me in the paddock. If I’d have been able to track him down to chat, I’d have started by apologizing for flipping him off. But instead I got a face full of belligerence. “You got a problem with my driving?” and “I’m allowed to pass anywhere” and “I’m going to wrap your head around your steering wheel” and “I’ll kick your ass”. My response to the last was “Bring it on.” I figure if he assaults me, he goes to jail. Then he changed tack from threatening to insulting: “You’re a shitty driver”, “Your car is stupid”, “Your jumpsuit is stupid”. He continues: “I’ve been here several times, you don’t know what you’re doing out there.” He finally decides to walk away, but keeps turning around and continuing: “You’re shaking your head. You’re shaking! You’re a coward!”

Obviously, I’m writing this a couple days later. Yesterday I looked at the video. Should I have seen him before I did? It turns out that he showed up behind me because he didn’t slow down for the tow truck. I don’t know if he was on full throttle up the hill, but he caught me and the Cadillac from a great distance. We didn’t slow to a crawl, and I’d guess the Camaro was doing 15 or 20 mph more than us. That might not have been full throttle, but it was way too fast with the tow truck right there.

I lost my composure because these three things happened back to back to back. It’s not the first time for any of these things but the combination made me lose my cool. I will learn from it. But I really don’t think the other drivers will. I’m reasonably certain none of them knows that they did anything wrong.

So my self-defense will be to avoid HPR track days where I expect a big car count. CECA days may be more expensive, but there aren’t as many cars and the core group is pretty steady, so we know each other and have some built-in expectations that we can rely on.

Okay, enough navel-gazing.

Aside from that drama, it was a good day. The car worked well. No problems with the clutch, motor mounts, wheel studs, or battery tie-down. A pair of new tires for the front and an oil change and I’ll be ready for my big trip.

And there was one lap where it was rather fun to be in traffic. Here I am, for a time sandwiched between a McLaren and a Ferrari.


Helmet Art

I’ve been wanting to do something special with my helmet for quite a while. I figured a Colorado flag, but with the Lotus roundel in the center of the C instead of plain yellow. A couple years ago I had somebody lined up to do it, but he was always too busy. Six months ago or so I had somebody else slated, but that didn’t work out either. A few weeks ago I decided I’d do it myself. What’s the worst that can happen?

Two weeks ago I stopped by the Man Cave to purchase some vinyl. One of the guys asked what I wanted to do. I explained it to him and he went over to a rack of giant vinyl rolls. “I don’t have any yellow, but here’s some blue. And I have red in here.” I told him I didn’t need the yellow because I’d be using a sticker. He just gave me some scraps, no charge. Can’t beat that.

I was apprehensive about how to cut the vinyl so I watched some you tube videos. I learned about knifeless tape. It’s a kevlar strand you lay down, then put the vinyl over the top. Yank the strand out and it makes a nice cut. So I found some on eBay. 3M makes some, and somebody on eBay was selling a knock-off (made by 5M!). I found some genuine stuff and placed the order. Finally, I borrowed a heat gun and was ready.

First thing was to peel all the stickers off, take off the visor and HANS hardware, and clean it up as much as possible. It’s a bit scuffed up, but so it goes. Then apply the tape to get the blue stripes about right. I found a tiny frying pan the right size for the outside circumference of the C and used that as a pattern and cut it out with an xacto knife. All this was sized based on the size of my sticker.

I needed three hands to do this, so Michael helped. He worked the heat gun as necessary while I stretched the vinyl out. I’ve never worked with this stuff before, and I’m not a particularly artistic guy. But I figured the worst that would happen would be I waste some free vinyl and a sticker. I could always give it another shot later if I got close, or give up entirely if I did a horrible job.

The first stripe came out pretty good, until it came time to pull the kevlar thread through to make the cuts. It wasn’t quite as easy as the pro on you tube made it look. But I managed to get it to work before I gave up. The second stripe was a bit easier.

I cut my red circle in the shape of a Pac-Man. The Lotus Colorado sticker would cover the center part so I didn’t bother with any further cuts. Stretching the red (almost) circle didn’t go as smoothly as the stripes, but it’s not bad. There are a couple of small wrinkles and I had to do a little trimming because after stretching it, it was no longer perfectly circular. And the LoCo sticker has a wrinkle in it, too. But considering it’s my first time trying any of this, I’m quite happy with the results. It’s a helmet, and it will get more scuffed up in the years to come, so I wasn’t looking for perfection.

Yeah, I know the blue is the wrong color. I don’t care. I’m quite happy with the results.

Battery Tie-down

Twice now I’ve had the battery break loose at the track. It’s held down by two small clamps that clearly aren’t up to the job. I’ve searched high and low for a solution, but nothing looked good to me. I found a couple of commercial solutions, but they are for the small marine or race batteries. I don’t want to downsize the battery because I don’t want to be forced to keep the car on a battery tender all the time. I want to be free to take my road trips that span as much as two weeks.

I found a couple of DIY solutions that looked promising. These were variations on using an aluminum bar. I found something at Home Depot that might serve: an aluminum bar 36″ long, 1 1/2″ wide, and 1/8″ thick. But I don’t have a vice, so it might be tricky to bend. A similar bar 1/16″ thick might be better, but I didn’t see one.

Instead, I picked up a tow strap. I looked for some material like this, but I couldn’t find anything that was just the strap material. Seems a bit of a waste to spend $20 for the little bit I need, but at least this way if I mess it up I have plenty of material to give it a second shot.

First, I measured the battery to figure how much strap I’d need, and added a couple of inches for safety margin. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to cut this strap, or how much it would want to unravel. So I started by taping both sides of my cuts. I mounted a fresh blade in my utility knife and started cutting. It was pretty easy, just five or six passes and I cut through.

To keep the thing from unraveling, I hit the cut ends with a torch to melt the material, cauterizing it, if you will. Sorry for the poor picture. A few seconds on each cut and it was a nice solid end.

Next problem was how to put holes in for the bolts. I picked a drill bit just smaller than the bolt diameter and went for it, one person working the drill and another holding the strap in place. Then we cauterized the holes. They’re just about perfect; you actually have to thread the bolt through.

The photo above shows the finished strap. The bolts and washers shown are the original equipment. We found a couple of bolts a little longer and with bigger heads, and an assortment of larger washers so there’s much more surface area holding the strap.

The finished product

I’ve had it installed two ways. One with the “5000 LBS” showing and one all black. Obviously, the two bolts won’t hold 5,000 pounds, but I think the strap is a big improvement over the stock batter restraints.

Shakedown Cruise

Sunday, April 7

After a ship gets a major overhaul or a crew change, it goes on a “shakedown cruise” to simulate working conditions and insure that all the ship’s systems are functional. Today I went with a small group of fellow LoCos on a pleasant little drive south and west of Denver to give the Elise a little shakedown.

The highlight of the drive was Tarryall Road. The club has driven this road several times recently but somehow I’ve never gone with them until now. Tarryall Road runs about thirty miles, from the little town of Jefferson on US 285 at the foot of Kenosha Pass to a junction with US 24 at Lake George. It’s a nice Lotus road – curvy rather than straight, featuring beautiful scenery and little traffic.

I very nearly described the town of Jefferson as “not much more than a wide spot in the road.” That would be incorrect. The word “town” is an overstatement. It’s one of those places on US 285 that is best described as “blink and you miss it.” It was founded in 1879 and in its heyday had a population of 55 and even had a hotel. Today, I conjecture that the only people who go to Jefferson on purpose, people who aren’t just blasting through on the highway, are hikers on the nearby Colorado Trail who come here to get provisions.

I understand the name “Tarryall” was coined by a group who discovered gold in the area. They thought there was enough for everyone and called their camp “Tarry-all”. I saw no sign of gold mining. In other streams around South Park there was extensive dredging in placer mines, but none here. And there were no tailings piles from hard rock mining. In the end it appears there wasn’t that much gold here after all.

Jefferson was founded by ranchers, and serves ranchers today. Driving the thirty miles of Tarryall Road we pass by dozens of ranches. Some are obviously thriving operations today, others are rustic to the point of near total decay.

Our lunch stop for the day was the Iron Tree Restaurant and Funky Town Brewery. The menu we ordered from was the brunch menu, featuring a number of variations on Eggs Benedict. I had their “Country” version: English muffin, sausage, poached egg, hollandaise sauce, with country potatoes. Quite tasty. None of us was daring enough to order beer with brunch.

Europa, Elan, 3 Elises. Not pictured: Esprit and Triumph TR 6

Okay, so what about the shakedown?

This was my first real drive with the car after our extensive repairs. I’d taken it around the block a couple of times and down to Ferrari of Denver for Ryan to do an alignment. But that was all city driving and not typical of how I drive it.

In my trips around the block, my first impression of the new motor mounts was mostly negative. The shifting is much improved, but the vibration of the engine isn’t absorbed by the motor mounts at all. It all goes into the car. My first joke was that it wouldn’t be long before the fillings got vibrated out of my teeth. I was sure Genae would never want to ride in the car again.

The trip across town did show me that it’s not as bad as I first thought. Once you get it above about 3500 rpm it gets, well, not exactly civilized, but certainly much quieter. When I first bought the car I had to train myself to keep the revs up over 3000 as it doesn’t do well at low revs. Now I have incentive to keep the revs above 3500.

Below 3500, you see, the car plays a symphony of rattles and buzzes. Every part of the car vibrates, and everything within it. All engine speeds between idle and 3500 set various bits going; as you run the speed up some rattles go away and other vibrations start. Think of it like an orchestra. Before the symphony begins, all the players tune their instruments; an unpleasant cacophony. But when the orchestra is in full song, it’s marvelous. Above 3500 rpm, to be sure, the car isn’t quiet, but it’s in full song – the players have stopped tuning and the music starts. I can’t wait to get it onto the track.

The other major work was the clutch. I will admit that I was somewhat concerned that I’d end up with a much stiffer pedal. But my worries were baseless. The new clutch feels pretty much the same as the original equipment. I’m quite happy with it.

So I’d say the shakedown cruise was a success. The car works wonderfully (if a bit of a rattletrap at low rpms) and I had a pleasant drive on some beautiful Colorado roads and had a nice meal with friends.

Maximum Distress, Part Last

Saturday, March 30

Technically, I may be premature in saying “Part Last”. We still have a few items on the punch list, but I’m happy to say that my level of distress is no longer at maximum: the car is put back together, sits on her four wheels, and has even been around the block. She both goes and stops.

Michael and Daniel spent quite a bit of time over the last week, most of it without my presence in the garage. Not surprisingly, things went much quicker. I’d like to chalk it up to my absence. At the grocery store, no matter which line I choose to stand in, it will be the slowest moving. In traffic, the lane I’m in is slowest and changing to a different lane won’t help: the slowness property follows me. So I say they could work faster without me in the room, but they tell me that things went faster because all the hard work was already done and all they had left was the easy bits.

A few days ago I had to go buy the fluid for the gearbox. Google told me it was available any number of places, but calling around the first place that actually had what I wanted was Peak Eurosport. So I headed down and picked it up. While there, I had a brief chat with Ernie. He had recently replaced the clutch in an Elise. He said it was hard enough with the car on a lift and couldn’t imagine having to do it on the floor. He told me the car he worked on had relatively few miles, only 20,000 or so, but it was a track-only car. He also said the clutch he replaced was in worse shape than mine was. I find that hard to believe, but Ernie’s a straight shooter.

So here’s a recap of what we’ve done since about the end of November:

  • Replaced the motor mounts
  • Replaced the clutch
  • New ball joints on the rear lower control arms
  • New hub carrier plinth bolts

Although maximum distress is over, we still have some work to do:

  • Fabricate an improved battery tie-down
  • Replace the wheel studs, all four wheels
  • Get an alignment

I’ll take the car to the track at the end of April for an afternoon of lapping. Need to get refamiliarized with her at speed before I hit the road for points east in May.

She’s back on terra firma!

Shortly after this picture was taken, I went around the block a couple of times for a quick test. When idling, the vibration from the solid mounts is… extreme. But once you’re moving it’s not nearly as bad as my first impression was last time I took it around the block. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been so long since I’ve driven it that I can’t make a proper comparison, or that it actually is better with all four new mounts than with just the fore and aft mounts. It also seems that the clutch feel isn’t noticeably different than the stock clutch (which is good) and that the gear shift is much improved (also good).

My crack team of mechanics has already identified a list of additional work we’ll need to do after the summer driving season. We’re thinking stainless steel brake lines and new rear rotors.

The only niggling item at this point is the one extra bolt we have left. The three of us looked the car over for about half an hour and can’t find anything amiss. In the end I found a cover for one of the motor mounts that we neglected to put back in. We’re thinking the bolt is for that. But I’m thinking we should have two bolts for that, not just one. Hmmm.

Scuderia Rampante

Saturday, March 30

This month’s Lotus Colorado meeting was held in Erie at Scuderia Rampante, a high-end Ferrari restoration shop. Calling the place a high-end Ferrari restoration shop is a bit redundant, I guess, but I think I can get away with it. If you had a Ferrari and wanted some work done on it, how far would you be willing to send it? They’re working on a car that, when they’re done, will go back to Hong Kong. I’m not sure there is anywhere farther from Hong Kong than Erie, Colorado.

They called the event a “shop tour”. That probably overstates it. To me, a tour implies some sort of guide telling us what we’re seeing: what’s important or interesting. Nothing like that today, we just wandered around the place. Several employees were there to answer questions, so we weren’t completely on our own.

This was not our first visit. We were here a few years ago. Not much has changed, and for somebody not very interested in cars it might be fair to ask what there is to see a second time. For those of us quite interested in cars, there’s always something to see. I’m not particularly a Ferrari fan – I’ll never own one and probably never drive one – but I think they’re fascinating examples of engineering and technology.

And it’s not just Ferraris. There are a variety of other cars there as well. Most are stored in a giant rack but a number are in various states of disassembly. To do engine work on most of the Ferraris, they simply remove the entire engine, transmission, and rear suspension and put that assembly on a table or rack.

As I said, I’m not that into Ferraris. For the most part, I can’t look at one and say, “That one is a 430 and that one is a California.” I don’t know what any of them is worth (other than more than I’ll ever spend on a car) or how much it might cost to have one worked on. On many of them, I’d guess a clutch service would go for perhaps as much as I paid for the Elise. So I won’t go into any detail on any of the cars I saw.

F40 and F50

On prominent display were an F40 and an F50 side by side. The F40 is the red one, the F50 is the black one. The F40 was built between 1987 and 1992. I have no idea how many of these they made. A quick look on the internet tells me if you want one today, you can expect to spend about $1.6 million. The F50 dates from 1995-1997. You’d need to sell two F-40’s and kick in an extra few hundred thousand dollars beside to pick one up. I’m guessing you don’t get to see these cars side by side very often.

Lamborghini 350GT

I know even less about Lamborghinis than I do Ferraris. This one is an example of the first Lamborghini model made. It’s a 350GT. They hadn’t yet started naming their cars after bulls. There was a 350GT and a 400GT. If I understood correctly, this car was an interim car – a 350GT with the motor from a 400GT, which makes it quite rare. Even so, it probably could be had (were you to find one for sale) for somewhere in the neighborhood of a million.

Cadillac Fleetwood

I thought the Fleetwood was interesting. I don’t know what year it was, but it was a giant. I believe this one is a 1952 Fleetwood Seventy Five limousine. It’s about a mile long and has more chrome on one car than on all Cadillacs built in the last decade. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the thing weighed. I was guessing it might be 6,000 pounds. That was way off. In fact, these cars were closer to 4,700. For comparison, my 1967 Imperial was 4,900. The Imperial had a giant 440cid engine, while this Fleetwood was motivated by an eight cylinder 331cid motor that cranked out 190hp. Again, for comparison, my Elise generates 190hp.

They don’t just work on cars here, they store them as well. I didn’t count them, but they can probably stack something like forty cars in this giant rack. I’m sure it’s quite the operation to get one off the top: move the bottom one out of the way, rotate the stack down, take the next one out, repeat. Every car in there looked to be hooked up to a battery tender, so you could just jump right in and drive them off, once you managed to get to the one that belongs to you. Not all of them are super-exotics. In this photo, the car on the other side of the Testarossa is a modern Ford Mustang. And there were a few examples of Detroit iron from the same era as the Fleetwood above.

Engine test

Here’s one of the engines they had taken out of the car. It’s the engine, transmission, and suspension. This one was hooked up to a device that lets them run the thing. I wasn’t in the room when they fired it up, but it was much quieter than I expected. I guess you’ll get that, given the size of the muffler hanging off the back.

It wasn’t just cars. In the back corner they had a little sitting area with a couple of stuffed bears (including a polar bear smoking a cigar and holding a pool cue), a couple of cabinets filled with knick-knacks, and some vintage race posters on the walls. This portrait of Steve McQueen caught my eye. It’s made up of articles, photos, and advertisements from magazines.

Not a bad place to spend a Saturday morning.

Maximum Distress, Part 4

Here we are, four weeks into a planned two week operation, and still plenty of work yet to come. I think I can safely say that “maximum distress” now relates more to Fripp’s sense of the term (Murphy’s Law) than my own distress at seeing my car in parts on the floor of the garage. It could be that I’m just becoming used to it in that state, or it could be that we’re finally making some progress at putting the thing back together.

Today we actually accomplished a few things. The transmission is married to the motor, the starter and master cylinder are installed, and although the car is still on jack stands, the motor and trans are supported by (half) the motor mounts instead of floor jacks.

Engine and transmission, not supported by jacks

It took a bit of jockeying to get the transmission attached to the motor. We had one floor jack supporting the motor and used two smaller ones to levitate the transmission into place. This was a bit of a challenge, given the cramped quarters. But when we finally managed to apply the correct roll, yaw, and pitch and got things lined up there was much rejoicing!

Michael announced that we’d just completed the hardest part of the operation. Then we went to work on installing the starter. We used various English swear words (English, not American) on the previous step but now upped our game. A quick search of the internet got us the proper Japanese swear words and we were able to compose an incantation that did the trick on the starter.

Both Michael and Daniel think we can get the rest of the work done in one more day, but I’ll believe it when I see it. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and what makes them think we’ll be any more efficient at reassembly next weekend than we’ve been the last two? We still need to replace the passenger side motor mount and install the trans studs for the fore and aft motor mounts. And we need to borrow the use of a press to remove and replace two ball joints before we can reassemble the suspension. When that’s all done, we can replace the wheel studs.

I’m happy that positive things are happening, however slowly. Distress is being replaced by anticipation.

Maximum Distress, Part 3

Just a quick update to the clutch job. We spent about four hours but made very little progress. We officially began putting things back together today, which is a milestone. The clutch assembly went into the car, and we replaced the driver’s side motor mount (three down, one to go).

The stumbling block today was mating the transmission to the engine. Because the car is so low to the ground, there’s no room to manoeuver. If we put the transmission on a jack, it’s too tall to get under the frame. If we try to put the tranny on a jack while it’s under the car, we can’t get enough leverage to lift it up. And it’s all too low to the ground for somebody to put his body under the thing to lift it up. We will reconvene next week for another go, adding another jack to the mix.

New clutch, installed.

At one point today, I expressed my amusement that even the internals of my car are green and yellow. The axles are green, and the new clutch is yellow.