Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dragon Humor--And Pain

This was a good week for Killboy's Highlights.  The first two excellent captions were in the Comments on his Facebook page.  I'm hoping to get down to the Dragon again in October.  And, even though I have a file full of Killboy's shots of my car (including a framed print), I'll probably buy another as a remembrance.  "Nobody shoots 'em better..."

"One small ride for man; one great road for mankind."

"Mongo like Dragon..."

A Buick on the Dragon, doin' it quick and right.  Seldom seen simultaneously.

A Miata on the Dragon, did it wrong.  Sometimes seen simultaneously.  A Commenter who claimed to have seen the
"off" said this: "He went straight off on a right-hander, clipped a tree trunk 5 feet above the ground, then slid down
the bank sideways.  He got a bump on the head when the windshield frame folded back on him.  Otherwise he was
OK.  It was his first pass."  First pass!  Respect the road, people.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Anyone besides me remember the Big Daddy Ed Roth "Rat Fink" cartoons?  Somebody actually built one.  Let us
pass lightly over spring rates, weight distribution, handling, and visibility.  I doubt they were the point of the build.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

TR-6 Restoration (#11) & Scirocco Update (A Twofer Post)

Email from Cuz: "Went by the shops to check on status.  Frankly disappointed...  Paint shop has had a rash of other work which was evidently more lucrative than [the] TR.  So here I am a victim of supply and demand.  How Ironic."  (Cuz's politics lean libertarian, mine lean liberal; we sometimes tweak each other and ourselves in these exchanges.)

Further news: the Shelby Mustang GT 350 I blogged about last October has been put up for sale.  But the GT 350 Hertz clone is nearing completion.  (I've been saving a single, long, post on the Hertz until it's finished.)  The Shelby is just too valuable a car to hare around in.  Plus Mr. & Mrs. Cuz want to build a cabin.  This could be a Life Lesson for those of us purists pining after that Vintage Classic Which Pushes Our Buttons.  The Shelby appreciated to the point that it was "too valuable to use."  Thus the Hertz clone, which will be a faster, funner, easier, car to drive and to live with than the classic.

For that matter, having driven the roads of North Georgia, East Tennessee, and Western North Carolina, Pilote's opinion is that the TR will be even funner than the Hertz clone.  It's smaller.  And as the saying goes, "It's more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow."  Those following the TR's progress will have to wait a bit longer for the next set of pix.

*     *     *     *     *

As for the Scirocco.  Hotshoe's expedition to the V.W. Guru in Detroit was a success.  Almost all the parts needed to resurrect the fuel system were in stock or are on the way.  This was not to be expected in dealing with a 32-year-old car (Volkswagen dealers don't want to hear about it).  They include lines, hoses, pump relay, and flex lines for the brakes.  Now for the grunt work of cleaning out the tank...

Out with the old (top), in with the new (bottom).  At left, the old fuel pump enclosure and bracket (beyond help) and
the new fuel pump and (new/used) enclosure/bracket.  At right, the old accumulator and lines, and the new one.
Hotshoe had hoped to save money by buying aftermarket parts from the Guru, but none were available.  These
are o.e.m. Bosch pieces.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fun With Search Terms (#5)

More search terms that got people to this blog.  Some may have found part of what they were looking for.  Others may take what comfort they can from making me smile.

"porsche 917 tails"  Wrote that post for you!

"monza elevation track map"  Do you mean plan view?  Flat.  Always was, still is.

"wire wheel balancing prewar"  They used little lead sleeves that slid over the spokes.

"ford gt 40 family tree"  It was more like a line of descent.  Make that ascent.

"1959 family-owned dealerships"  Most were.  It was the B.S. era (Before Superstores).  Don't think you'll find many Superstores today doing Yenko COPOs.  Or sponsoring Jim Jeffords's Scarab, like Nikey Chevrolet did.  Or backing Arlen Vanke's Tin Indian Superstocks, like Anderson Pontiac did.
Or "inviting" Shelby American to parachute in for USRRC races at Watkins Glen, like Schuyler Motors did.  Them were the days...

"Corvair aerodynamics"  Not so much:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Driving Impressions Video: What I Was Ranting About

Why would you drift a BMW aimed at non-performance oriented customers?  Why would you complain about it being extremely competent, if boring?  Why would you gig it for not being as edgy as the 135i, and then immediately add that its rear wheels are better-controlled?  Why throw it sideways instead of talking about its dynamics on a hot lap?  If the ZF 8-speed gearbox is brilliant, why not tell us how and why, instead of raving about it in passing?

Chris Harris is a good and fast driver, as shown by his racing videos.  And his driving impressions videos are sometimes informative and entertaining--especially when he's not trying too hard to be entertaining. His work is, generally, more insightful and interesting than most of what's on YouTube of this ilk.  So my expectations of him are higher.  But this video is a perfect example of what I was ranting about in my recent Nissan GT-R post: too much gee-whiz footage, and not enough discussion of the car's technical characteristics.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breathing Fire On The Dragon

I could claim to enjoy this video because it's visually spectacular, including the background (it is).  Or because it reminds me of the old, and hugely successful, Racing Beat RX-7's (it does).  But partly it's just the show-offyness appealing to my inner teenaged boy.  Killboy said (Comments section of the video post) that the "built" 400 h.p. engine had just been installed and hadn't yet had its final tune. The implication was that the flames would disappear.

Street RX-7 rotaries did not, of course, pump huge amounts of unburned gas through their catalytic converters and out their tailpipes.  They did pump unburned gas into the converter, as the 20+ m.p.g. my car got proved.  That butter-smooth 7000 r.p.m. zoom-zoom came at a cost.  How many 1.3 liter engines need a 4-barrel carb?  But racing RX-7's like the one below were the first racing cars to use noise suppression even before courses had decibel limits.  A racing rotary going by at high revs was above the pain threshold unless it was slightly muffled.

And before that, flames out the exhaust were the signatures of turbo racing Porsches.  In road racing, from the early '70's to the mid '80's (before electronic engine management), flaming exhausts after a shut throttle were a visual cue to Big Performance.  Thanks for reminding me, Killboy.  We see some interesting stuff on the Tail of the Dragon in your videos.

The Racing Beat RX-7's (notably Jack Baldwin-driven) ruled the roost in IMSA'S GTU class at the turn of the 1980's.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Off Topic: Yet Mo' Mies

This is for Mies Freaks like me (the blog gets some hits on the Farnsworth House).  A definite yawn for others.  It's a link to the website for The Mies van der Rohe Society in Chicago, and a further direct link to a good video on that site (the July 19, 2013 entry in the blog):

 IBM Building in Chicago, one of Pilote's Mies favorites.

Oops (240 Z Transplant)

Pete Wood photo

I put this pic of a 240 Z/American V-8 transplant up for blog member Chris, so he could do a screen grab.  Then I took it down.  Putting it back up because he was disappointed to see it go.  Props to
240 Z's, original and otherwise!  And I guess this is a relief from the blog's Euro-centrism...

The Sublime Birdcage (Again)

I've posted about the Tipo 60/61 Birdcage Maserati before, but can't resist putting up these pictures. When you see pictures of most of the racing sports cars of the late 1950's, you want to jump in and drive them.  At least I do.  It's a long list: Aston Martin DB3S and DBR1, Ferrari 250 TR, Jaguar D-Type, Maserati 300 S, Mercedes 300 SLR.  I wouldn't kick the big-engine Ferraris out of the garage either (290MM, 315 and 335 S).  None gives me that feeling more than the small and agile Birdcage.

Sport car: nothing here that you don't need to drive it.  Oh, and a straight pipe ending at the driver's door is required.

Pause to enjoy the visual feast--then close the hood, settle in, and push the starter button...

A bit smaller than a modern hot hatch,  with 50% of the weight and 50% more power.  (Pic is from the Targa Florio.) 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Touring: Mo' Mustang And Mies (And Koolhaas)

Having another occasion to be downtown and to kill some time with friends, I put together a mini Mies van der Rohe tour of only two stops: 860-880 North Lakeshore Drive and the Illinois Institute of Technology campus.  The weather forecast was for low 80's with reduced humidity, so I put the top down on the Mustang.  It turned out to be 89 with high humidity.  We broiled, or broasted, or whatever you do in that weather, sitting in traffic on leather seats.  New Rule: never when the forecast is above the low 80's and/or the humidity is above 50%.

Modernism, especially in its most minimalist interpretations, is apparently a "love it or hate it" thing.  I love it.  Here's a link to the Wikipedia discussion of 860-880 North Lakeshore:–880_Lake_Shore_Drive_Apartments

Lobby, 860 North Lakeshore Drive.  860-880 are two condo buildings put up 1949-1951, the earliest skyscrapers after
World War Two in Chicago.  A real-estate developer interested in architecture and looking to make a splash hired Mies
to do them.  They were his first cut at minimalism for a large, tall building.  Although their exterior appearance and
height is identical, their shapes in plan view are slightly different to accommodate the trapezoidal lot. 

When Mies left Nazi Germany, he needed a job.  He was able to generate several offers in the U.K. and the States, although the top architecture and civil engineering departments were not beating down his door.  The Ivy League schools said "...meh..." and Purdue failed to make him an offer too.  He ultimately chose the Illinois Institute of Technology (formerly the Armour Institute, a trade school) because he was not only hired to chair the architecture department but also invited to design an entirely new campus covering about 3 city blocks.  It went up in the early 1950's.  The iconic building of that project is Crown Hall.  (The best biography of Mies, in my opinion, is Mies van der Rohe by Franz Schulze, University of Chicago Press, 1985, ISBN 0-226-74060-9.  He didn't have to leave Germany because he was Jewish, or persecuted.  The Nazis simply saw to it that his commissions dried up.  To understand their beef with Mies, consider those faux Romanesque concrete clunkers designed by Albert Speer, Hitler's favorite architect.)

South Entrance, Crown Hall.  This is a very large 3-storey building (about half a block wide).  The exterior girders seen
here permit an entirely clear span on the main floor.  There are no load-bearing walls, and few interior walls period on
the main floor.  This building houses the Architecture Department at I.I.T. and was where Mies taught.  The north face
of the building is identical.  The stairs reprise the way he handled them in the Farnsworth House.

In the early 2000's, I.I.T.'s building program crept east, across State Street (formerly parking lots).  Rem Koolhaus, a Dutch Modernist, won the competition for a new Student Center (formally called the McCormick Tribune Campus Center), which partially encloses an El station.  Since then a dormitory south of this building has gone up, designed by Helmut Jahn, a famous post-Modernist practicing in Chicago.  (I didn't take pictures of it...because I didn't like it...)

The floors in a good part of the Student Center are brushed stainless steel.  This works quite well, aesthetically and
practically.  This is a diagram of the building embossed into the floor.  While there are some rectangular rooms, and
some rooflines parallel to grade, the building features many acute and obtuse angles in the floor plan and also some

South face of the Student Center.  The corrugated stainless steel tube (with sound-deadening materials) encloses the El
tracks and 35th Street Station.  We had an enjoyable lunch in the student dining room; trains passing overhead are
barely heard as a distant, muffled, rumble.  They passed unnoticed by the students.

Student Center, interior, looking toward the Welcome Center and State Street doors.  The orange is pretty intense when
you're in the corner.  That aside, most features of the building follow Mies's dictum: "Less is more."

Exterior, looking north on State Street toward the interior pictured above.  Overall, I like this building: no Frank Geary
flights-of-fancy, or Helmut Jahn beating you to death with a thematic interpretation.  It's definitely "post-modern," but
respectful and in many cases referential to Mies's brand of Modernist minimalism.

The Motorsport Collector

Here's the web address:

If you are into model racing cars, motorsports books, posters, etc., this is a good resource.  Hotshoe and I took a break from dealership showrooms to visit it before our Monthly Pasta Blowout.  I chatted with the owner a bit.  Very knowledgable: "No, Pilote, there is no 1/12 or 1/18 scale model of the Porsche 917K that's better on detail than Autoart's.  If you want to spend over $4000, there's a good 1/8 scale one..."

TMC is "all model race cars, all the time," (and books and memorabilia) with an emphasis on road racing. The upside of this is a good inventory.  The downside, for some, is that it's just that: no trains,
planes, or slot cars.  I've visited hobby shops in Cleveland and Minneapolis that were pretty good on collectible model race cars, and usually stroll "vendors' row" when I go to a pro race.  TMC is better.  But no "toys."  (Of course TMC lacks the range of some internet vendors.  But if you need a live human, or are on a scavenger hunt, TMC can help.)

We walked out empty-handed.  I have too many books and model cars already, and need to downsize further.  But we agreed we'd go back.  TMC had four scrumptious models: a CMC Ferrari 250 TR, a ditto Maserati 300 S, a Lola T-330 Formula 5000 car (Vern Schuppan "colors"), and Bobby Unser's Indy 500-winning Gurney Eagle.  Oh.... and Jim Clark's Nurburgring-winning Lotus 33.  All had excellent proportion and detail.  TMC has a good supply of 1/43 models for those feeling less spendy.

Bobby Unser's Indy 500-winning Gurney Eagle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.  OK, the detail on the
1/18 scale model in TMC's store wasn't this good, but it was very good...  (On the real car above, note the trick rear
hydraulically-adjustable anti-roll bar, which I gather allowed for weight-jacking from side to side.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Great Sound

Here's Porsche 917-025 getting some exercise at a vintage race at Monza just six weeks ago.  Bless hi-def digital audio!  Stumbled across a blog comment that claims that Dominique Martin/Zitro Racing (first owner) sold this car to the Fittipaldi brothers in 1972.  That rings a distant bell: think I read (or heard Emerson say on TV) that he and Wilson owned and raced a 917 in Brazil for off-season jollies after it was no longer eligible for international events.  Some weekend toy!

Friday, July 19, 2013

One More Bite At The Apple

I've been though all the episodes of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.  Most of them are unfunny (it turns out).  This one is funny:

The cross-cultural references are spot-on.  Gad Elmaleh uses physical comedy based in gestures and expressions that the French love so much (think Jerry Lewis and Marcel Marceau).  And the Citroen 2CV was an expression of French culture in clever engineering when national cultures were very different (compare it to the Volkswagen Beetle or the Morris Minor or a 1952 Chevy).  The French have LeMans, but they really don't care about it.  At least not as much as Brits, Germans, and Americans do.

Citroen 2CV: the French take on basic transportation in the 1950's.  If you have a chance to look one over closely or
get a ride in it, don't pass it up.  These cars are fun.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

This is delightful.  Seth Meyers and Tina Fey on Weekend Update were one of my favorite things, and Porsche Carrera RS's are another.  If you have a taste for more of this Seinfeld YouTube series, go there and search on the title.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Modern Times In The Windy

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who has a condo in the Old Town section of Chicago.  His main residence is in Phoenix; he visits Chicago for a week or two 4-6 times per year.  I hadn't seen him (or been in downtown Chicago, for that matter) for a year.  I saved $16-24 in on-street parking meter costs by using his condo's garage.  You surrender your key to the attendant, who parks and retrieves your car (so don't take your 458 Italia ;-)).

Parking meters have joined the digital age.  You park, walk to one of 2-3 meters per block, insert your coins or swipe your credit card, get a bar-coded chit, walk back to your car, and place it in clear view on the passenger's side of the dash.  (This is a worldwide phenomenon: meters in France worked the same way when I was last there in 2010.)  About a year ago, Chicago privatized its parking meters.  The rates have skyrocketed, of course (see: Indiana Turnpike.)

We ate at the Plum Market, an upscale grocery/deli that specializes in organic/fresh.  I was surprised that the prices were no higher than other in-town eateries (and lower, for that matter, than my favorite Italian place in St. Charles, IL).  We dined al fresco, so I had a chance to observe street life in the neighborhood.  It was colorful.  What recent recession?  Yet another high-rise condo was going up across the street from Plum Market.

Old Town has changed in the year since I was last there.  Bike paths in the roadway have reduced the main streets from 2 lanes or a lane and a half to 1.  (I ranted about this in a post about Minneapolis last winter.)  And they are used.  Maybe 15% of the people we saw were on bicycles--and it was a hot, muggy, day.  You have to look hard to find a Crown Vic cab any more, at least in Old Town.  We saw plenty of cabs.  But they were mostly small, economical, Japanese 4-doors.  Probably 30% of them were Toyota Priuses.  I can't imagine a better use for a Prius than in-town like this.  Plenty of regenerative braking.  They surely get north of 50 m.p.g. in hard, commercial use.

Minivan cabs may rule at airports, but in-town this is becoming the standard.  And it makes perfect economic sense for
the operators.

State-Of-The-Art And A Challenge To Say The Least

BARCBoys photo

Above: Dr. Dick Thompson's Sting Ray arrives for the SCCA National at Cumberland, MD, on May 15, 1960.  He won the Championship for the C Modified class that year, in the Sting Ray on the trailer.  This rig was state-of-the art for a national campaign at the time.  Briggs Cunningham and Lance Reventlow had transporters, but few others did.  Enclosed trailers were just as rare.

Below: to borrow from Bob Dylan, "You can do what you want, Abe, but... the next time [I wouldn't pull a 2500 lb. tow with a 2500 lb. Corvair]."  Bonus Difficulty Points if the Corvair was on cross-ply tires.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nissan GT-R And A Mini-Rant

The styling doesn't work for me.  While the overall shape and proportions are fine, the details are ill-proportioned and
busy (tail lights, quarter window, front fender line) and the front itself is downright ugly.  Nissan says that every detail
down to the shape of the side mirrors, needs to be as it is to maximize air flow to the rear wing.  (The front no doubt
needs to provide plenty of air for the intercooler.)  So I guess I could live with it--if I could afford one.  ;-)   Nobody
has complained about the interior, ergonomics, or instruments and controls.

Since I saw two GT-R's run HSAX at Autobahn Country Club, I've been looking for a video which conveys how awesome the car is at a track day.  As previously posted, it just tore the Corvettes up.
And the reason for that is that it does everything better: braking, transitions, acceleration.  As Randy Pobst says in the video, the GT-R makes an average weekend warrior look good.  It makes a really good driver look even better.  Pobst mentions how composed the GT-R is and how well it gets the power down in tight corners.  Tight corners are, of course, the signature feature of club circuits.  This Motor Trend video runs 21 minutes and is quite good on its comparative evaluations:

The mini-rant is this: there are far too many videos that show the GT-R drifting, throwing off massive clouds of tire smoke, with the driver gee-whizzing about how much power it has.  This is true of the legion of "comparison" videos too.  Same driving style, commentary, and video footage.  Even Tiff Needell gets into the act in an EVOTV video, drifting a Porsche Carrera S, for heaven's sake.  Needell has driven just about everything, everywhere, including FIA events and vintage race cars with vicious handling.  He can stay ahead of any street car.  But he descends into the same breathless, counter-steering commentary.  There is way too much of this stuff on YouTube for someone looking for straightforward evaluations and a true feel for what the cars would be like at a track day.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 Mille in a C-Type (Harris/Drive Video)

Some good scenery, great car "for the purposes intended," and the organizers replicated the starting ramp from the real Mille Miglia (a nice touch).  Doubtless Chris Harris and Alex Buncombe weren't the only ones to blow off the rally bogey times and regularity runs.  If I had a chance to drive a Jaguar C-Type in Tuscany, I would too.  The video runs 19 minutes:

Contemporary (1952) picture of a Mille Miglia spec C-Type, although it is not prepared for the Mille.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Scirocco Update

Fuel accumulator and the in-and-out lines.  Ugh.

Little progress, I suppose, except that the worst was confirmed.  After days/weeks of soaking in WD-40, and gentle pressure with wrenches, the fuel accumulator was broken/hacksawed free.  Including the flare nut on the steel line going to the engine.  So the entire line may need replacement.

Next: clean the gas tank in the car, via the top (fuel gauge sending unit) and bottom (filler neck) holes. Next after that: a run to to the Detroit VW Guru's parts store.  Hang in there, Hotshoe...  It'll be sweet when it's running again.

911 3.2 Self-Teardown

This video is so cool that I had to post a link to another great find by The Chicane Blog.  Finally, a techno music piece that's fun to listen to.   ;-)

The producers say (see comments on YouTube) that they shot 4000 stills for 8 minutes of film, and boiled that down to 1500 stills and 3 minutes.  The rebuild video is promised for this fall.  I will be looking for it and will post another link.  The new engine will have increased displacement, lots of internal goodies, and a projected 100+ b.h.p. increase.  Hope we get some audio at the end!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Sweet Little B

My own file of "Killboy's British Roadsters" finally includes an MGB, as of his 07/03/13 Highlights.  As usual, he
captures the look and feel of the car so well.  This is a 1971 Mark II, perfectly restored.  Alloy wheels are the only
deviation from stock.  The B makes a fine Dragon car.  Not in Lotus/Caterham 7 territory, but better than most.

The MGB was introduced in 1962, a year before my own summer jobs with a sports car store.  In that job, I had a chance to drive many of the sports cars of the late '50's and early '60's, from MGA's and Sprites and Triumph TR-3's, through Alfa Spiders to Porsche 356's.  Without a doubt, the B was the best value for money.  It sold for about $2500, compared to $4000+ for the Alfa Giulia Veloce, my favorite "affordable" car then.  (I had champagne taste and no savings: easy for me to opine.)  The 356 was even more expensive than the Alfa, about as much as a no-options Corvette Stingray.  (There was no Mustang, of any specification, yet.)

The B's great advance over its predecessor, the MGA, was its unit body with a roomy cockpit and roll-up windows.  While the B retained a "some assembly required" roadster top, anyone who has fooled with side-curtains regrets not their passing.  Its chassis was stiffer than the A's and Triumph's body-on-frame construction, but with softer suspension.  It didn't squeak or rattle.  The unit body also made possible a lower seating position and center of gravity compared to the A and the TR-3.  It held a line through a bumpy corner better.  This was in spite of a solid rear axle hung from semi-eliptic springs (no improvement over the A's or the TR-3's rear end).  The bucket seats without bolsters were nothing to write home about.  But the rest of the cockpit's ergonomics were faultless.  The B lacked the TR-3's torque--and its shortcomings too.

The B's shortcomings, compared to an Alfa Spider or a Porsche 356 were in the grand touring department.  The Alfa handled better because its rear axle was better-located.  It was far more sophisticated technically and had an engine that delivered power right up to its 6500 r.p.m. red line.  The B's pushrod valve train in a non-crossflow head was red-lined at 5500 r.p.m. and ran out of breath before that.  The 356 was quieter.  Both had longer legs for Interstates and the Alfa had an overdrive 5th gear.  The B's 4-speed and 3.90 rear axle ratio made it buzzy at high speeds.

Ah, but on a country road on a sunny day!  The B had better low-end torque than any other car, the TR-3 excepted.  It had the best shift linkage, a short throw, and a light, progressive, clutch.  Its rack-and-pinion steering was precise and made it easy to set and hold a cornering line.  In tight quarters like the Tail of the Dragon, the B would be my choice among the vintage affordables.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fond Memories...

...of when I understood how Formula 1 cars worked...  mostly...   Not to mention the thing-of-beauty-is-a-joy-to-behold part.  This is a McLaren MP 4/1 (1982).  Gurneyflap has high quality pictures of historic road racing cars. Most were taken in garages when the cars were partially torn down; many focus on corners or sub-assemblies.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Flagging Autobahn (2013)

Working my club's event at Autobahn Country Club is how I compensate for not working the vintage sports car races I posted about in June.  My conscience-clearing deal with myself is that working the former allows me to wander the paddock and take snapshots and chat up owner/drivers at the latter. So I worked two solid days this weekend, corner flagging.  A 20-something may be able to spend 9+ hours a day on his feet and feel fine, but my ancien legs are aching as I type this.

Turn 6 on ACC's South Loop was the spectating "find" of the weekend.  The actual corner
station is on the outside of the turn, not the inside as shown here.  Which makes for more
interesting viewing--and a higher likelihood that an errant race car will head your way.
Fortunately for us, most of the drama involving the exit of Turn 5 involved spinouts.

The "find" of this weekend was Corner 6 on ACC's South Loop.  I liked it so much on Saturday that Hotshoe and I requested it again on Sunday.  On the track map, it appears to be a double apex turn.  Until you look closer: the second apex is tighter, so in reality 6 is a medium speed decreasing-radius bend.  Which makes for some fascinating spectating.  On entry, it looks wide enough for two cars if they're heads-up and giving each other room.  It's not: "two-into-one won't go" at the second apex. Slower cars were trying to let faster ones by, sometimes, on the inside or the outside.  But the overtaking rate is a finely-judged thing.  The faster car must be clearly "through" by the second apex.  If it's not, and on the inside, the passee on the outside is inevitably forced into "two wheels off, driver's left."  If the faster car is on the outside, the passee runs out of road, must hit the brakes, blow the turn, and again run wide on driver's left.  Or go straight off, or spin, if he puts late rotation into the car to try to make the corner.

A related learning experience for me was the quicker vs. the slower line, arising from the same mis-reading of Turn 6.  It's illustrated below.  A lot of drivers (including me, in wannabe conga lines, until now) take the pink line--which is slower, even though the illustration suggests a wider, smoother arc. The quick line is shown in black.  Even though it's a tighter arc, your braking is completed sooner, without trail-braking (or the temptation thereof) and you're back on the power sooner.

The two basic options for a line through Turn 6 at ACC.  Competitors use both, but the black one is
quicker than the pink one.  This illustration is "upside down" from the track map above because it is
easier to orient yourself in a direction of travel that's "up."  The "power down" points are closer to each
other than shown here, but the point is that you can get back into the gas sooner using the black line,
without giving up significant cornering velocity.  This is important because Turn 6 feeds onto the
long straight with a dogleg in it.

Well, enough of that: on to the "race report."  ACC is where the rich play with their toys, so I include a picture of their Garage Mahals.  Enlarge it by clicking if you want to see how the other half lives.  I was amused to be told by an ACC employee that most members have Spec Miatas for beater cars.  Beater in the sense that they beat on the Miatas all day long for track fun.  The rare and valuable stuff stays in the garages except on special occasions.

Turn 6 flag station on the South Loop, "Garage Mahals" in background.  Some are three stories.  Some have basements!
The dent in the guardrail shows that an errant car can hit the Armco even at Station 6.  I'd have thought that to be very
unlikely, if not impossible.  Maybe a right front suspension or brake failure...

Both HSAX and W2W entries for this event were rather small.  Holiday weekend?  The "find" of the HSAX entry was the Nissan GT-R.  I had not seen one in the flesh until now.  Its an awesomely fast street car, which I suppose is not news.  The revelation, to me, was that a GT-R can pound a Corvette to dust in HSAX.  Any Corvette: big-block 454 C3, C5, C6, Z-06--doesn't matter.  The GT-R we watched upshifted three times between Turn 6 and and braking for Turn 8.  Lightning fast paddle shifts, of course.  It may have been a modified car, with more turbo boost, because the driver was into the pop-off valve all the time.  (I was unable to find out if it was trick or not.)   But there was another, less well-driven GT-R, that looked to be just as fast as the Corvettes too (as opposed to stomping them).

My favorite wheel-to-wheel entry: a Mustang squareback prepared to vintage (SCCA B Production) specs.  The X on
the hood signifies novice status.  He didn't drive like a novice.  This is the short straight between Turns 5 and 6.

On Sunday morning a Porsche 944 did a "ka-BLAM-o" on the short straight between Turns 5 and 6.  To our astonishment, he managed to limp around the course on three cylinders, thoroughly oiling it from 6 all the way to 11.  This is a no-no, of course.  Drivers' Meetings include a standard reminder to switch off and pull off the racing surface ASAP if your engine blows.  But people forget in the heat of battle, or they want to get back to the pits to see if the day can be salvaged.  So the ACC staff spent 40 minutes laying down buckets and buckets of Oil Dri, and sweeping it up.  There was far too much oil for us to handle, even in our own little corner of the world at Turn 6.  We retrieved the pieces in the second picture before the ACC crew went to work.

The 944 driver would easily have won a Least Popular Driver Of The Weekend Award.  There was much cutting-and-
pasting of Sunday's schedule, including 10 minutes for lunch for corner workers, to get everything in.

Aluminum no longer part of the oil sump on the plywood floor of our corner station.  And a fragment of rod-bearing.
And a small piece (bottom) we couldn't identify.  One corner workers' duty is to police the course after an "event" to
make sure debris like this doesn't wind up in other competitors' tires.

Well-to-do Garage Mahal types are not the only people who beat on Miatas.  "The Miatia race" is a well-worn butt of club racing jokes.  There always seems to be a 30-car field which subscribes to the NASCAR proposition that rubbin' is racin' (some more, some less).  From a worker's viewpoint, and often from the drivers', these races can be predicable mini-disasters.  This time, the race was relatively clean with more "oops" spinouts than avoidable contact.  We saw some two-wheels-off, but the Miata race was surprisingly and gratifyingly boring.

To finish up what seems to have become a Miata-themed post, I followed two Miata racers out of ACC onto the public roads in my street car.  They were obviously street-legal, if a bit loud.  (I suspect some parts are changed-out to pass the Illinois Emission Test.)  They made me smile: throwbacks to that mythical era in the 1950's when you were supposed to be able to drive your sports car to the track, race, and drive home.  It happened rarely, of course.  Even then, most cars were race-prepared and trailered in.  But, if you just want to race for hits and giggles, it's still possible to run a Miata with a license plate in wheel-to-wheel racing.

A good time was had by all.  Except maybe the owners of some bent cars, the ACC track maintenance crew, and the 944 driver who doubtless got a talking-to by the Chief Steward to add insult to the injury of his, for now, door-stop of a race car.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

TR-6 Restoration (#10)

The o.e.m. steeting wheel cleaned up pretty well, don't you think?  On the left, the Mota-Lita wood-rim wheel.  Wonder
which one they'll decide to install to go with the new tan leather interior?

The wire wheels have arrived.  Old School: 15 X 6, chromed, cross-laced, tubes for tires required.

Now that the induction side of the engine is ready to go, the block, valve-cover, etc., will be painted next week.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Touring: Ordinary Cemeteries

Above and below A small 200+ year-old cemetery.

When you're out tooling around in your sporty car on a fun run, you might want to stop at a rural cemetery.  It's a nice change of pace from the Dairy Queen (or whatever your standard fun run breaker-upper is).

Cemeteries don't creep me out.  They're local history museums.  There's a small one several miles from my house full of Irishmen and women who died from the 1850's to the 1890's.  It's on a lovely hillside, overlooking the town of Deselm, which no longer exists.  Deselm was a way-station on the Illinois & Michigan Canal.  The I&M was dug mostly by immigrant Irishmen.  With picks and shovels.  The work was hard, the working conditions were awful, and many died from malaria.  Some settled in Deselm to become farmers or storekeepers.  When the I&M Canal dried up metaphorically, Deselm dried up literally.

There are two large cemeteries in Morris, IL.  One on each side of town.  Both are still in use.  One was "the Protestant cemetery" and the other was "the Catholic cemetery."  My detached sense of amusement at this probably wasn't shared by the inhabitants.  Seven Civil War veterans are buried together in the Protestant cemetery, in a wagon-spoke pattern, with their heads near each other and the marker for their unit.  Their feet are equidistant points on a circle maybe 18 feet in diameter, around which a cemetery road turns.  They died at different times in the 1880's and 1890's. Why are they are buried this way?  I haven't found any Morrisites who know, or many who even know they're there.  Other Civil War veterans are buried in the same cemetery in the conventional way, with their family members.

Although he is a veteran, the neighbor mentioned in my previous post about the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery will not be buried there.  Intstead, he'll join four previous generations of extended family buried in Kankakee, IL.  He was the first boy in his family to go college, which got him off the farm (fine with him!) and into a career with Caterpillar.  The first of those four generations bought 40 acres (or more) when Federal land in northern Illinois was opened to homesteading.  They've been here ever since.  His brother still operates the family farm (but the next generation won't).  There are two very small cemeteries near the farms, where some of the first generations were buried.  I've visited both with him, and seen the restored one-room school house where he got his elementary education.  Before automobiles, he says, there used to be small General Stores within a 5-mile walk of your farm where County Roads intersected.  They're been gone for 90 years.  His grandchildren grew up in modern cities, all 200 miles or more away from him.  If any of them return to northeastern Illinois, it will be to a fancy job in Chicago.

My own family reflects a similar diaspora.  In the 1830's, an extended family of farmers moved from New England to Upstate New York, where they remained for two generations.  In the 1870's, many of them acquired a college education and disbursed.  The next three generations disbursed further.  We are now spread out from coast to coast, north to south.  Two people in my kids' generation have dual citizenship (U.S. and Italian).  One of my grandsons has dual citizenship (U.S. and Irish.)  We long ago lost our roots in, and connection to, Upstate New York.  The only time I've been there was to watch sports car races at Watkins Glen.

One reason cemeteries don't creep me out is that I grew up next to one.  Again: it illustrates the history of northeastern Ohio in one acre.  At the end of the Revolutionary War, Connecticut could not afford to pay its veterans in cash.  But it had a questionable western lands claim.  Its price for signing on to the Constitution was free farmland for its vets in "The Connecticut Western Reserve"--northeastern Ohio. Thus the name of the University in Cleveland.  The earliest graves in the cemetery are those of a handful of families who homesteaded the village.  For them, and for succeeding generations of additional families, there was heartbreak we've been spared by modern medicine.  You find headstones with born/died dates of women who died young, probably in or as a result of childbirth, and children who lived for months or a few years.

So it is impressive to me to visit a cemetery where several generations of extended family are buried near each other.  Rural cemeteries tell a tale and are pleasant, peaceful, places to contemplate the past.  I haven't yet exhausted this resource in northern Illinois.  But I've already noticed on Google Map that there are half a dozen similar cemeteries tucked into valleys near the Tail of the Dragon.  I plan to visit them.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Touring: Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery

The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is a small part of the redevelopment of the old Joliet Arsenal.  In 1940, 450 farms totaling 40,000 acres were taken over by the Federal government to create the Arsenal.  It produced raw TNT, and all kinds of bullets, shells, and bombs during World War Two.  It remained in operation (off and on) into the late 1970s.  After that, until the early years of this century,  the Arsenal was an abandoned EPA "brownfield site."  Although pollution clean-up was not, in itself, a major undertaking, the "attractive nuisance" aspect (bunkers and deteriorating roads) and the sheer size of the place stalled various redevelopment proposals.  Eventually the Federal government bit the bullet (ahem) and did a joint redevelopment project with State and local governments, and private interests, at very low cost to the non-Federal entities.

About 10% of the Arsenal became two industrial parks, one of which is a huge BNSF intermodal freight facility. About 85% of the site is the Midewin Tall Grass Prairie, which is a Federal Park.  It features grasses and plants that were indigenous to the Great Plains before they were farmed.  Trees and invasive species are being cleared out, biking and hiking trails are going in, and storage bunkers and crumbled pavement are being removed.  The remaining 5% of the site is the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

My neighbor and friend, a Korean War Era veteran, and I visited the Cemetery recently because we hadn't seen it since it was under construction.  The contractors are mostly finished, and the Cemetery is a going concern.  I've never visited Arlington, and do not consider myself especially patriotic or sentimental.  But I found Abraham Lincoln dignified and moving.  It reminds me of the American Cemetery at Colleville, France (the "D-Day Cemetery").

The Entrance Gate, off U.S. Route 53, about 6 miles south of Joliet, IL.

The "Welcome Gate" landscape feature.  The stone used in the Cemetery is indigenous limestone and sandstone, and
 many of the plantings are indigenous species, mirroring the efforts at Midewin Tall Grass Prairie.

The Visitors' and Information Center.  Power lines run along the northern border of the site.  But they are not intrusive.
You tend to forget about them.  If that fails, face south and ignore them.

The "central landscape feature" (all roads meet here) with the emblems of the various service branches
attached to a chest-high semi-circular sandstone wall.

This is one of several large plots that are filling up rapidly, but there's plenty of room left.  My neighbor said he'd read
that there are "up to 10" burials per day at Abraham Lincoln.

A smaller plot with a more intimate setting along a creek bed.

One of several "Committal Pavilions."

A Committal Pavilion surrounded by cremated veterans.

Or ashes can be scattered into a creek bed from a deck adjacent to the Memorial Walk, which has both shade and
benches.  The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery is park-like and encourages a contemplative stay.