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Blackhawk Classic XXIII

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Blackhawk Classic XXIII

VSCDA

BHF

Sometimes things start off well and go all to hell. Sometimes things start off all to hell and turn out well. The Blackhawk Classic XXIII was pretty much of a mix of these two.

Built in 1967, Blackhawk Farms Raceway is 1.9 miles long, flat as a pancake, and has the very best facilities bar none. Owners Paul and Carol Musschoot have really put a lot of money and effort into it. The chalet serves as an eating area on the lower level, with a very nice spectator tower above. The grill is 3 steps from the chalet, and the food is good. The shower/rest rooms are clean, showers far better than the “name tracks” we have attended. Grounds are meticulouslymaintained, and camping, be it with a tiny tent or a motor home, is welcomed without additional charge. Each year improvements are made.

Blackhawk Farms

Alex Christopher (L) shares some quality time with Blackhawk owners Paul and Carol Musschoot

Following Spring Vintage we decided it was time to find the source of the oil leak and elevated coolant temperature. Suffice it to stay that once one starts heading down this path it becomes a long one, with lots of twists and turns.

Off came the head and down to Competition Specialists it went. The almost inevitable call from Steve Blom came: “Jim, you have a really beat up exhaust valve seat. And the guide is completely destroyed.” This after only three race weekends! Crap.

Well, that was the only good head for that block, and it needs to come out anyway to search for the oil leak. We have two weeks. Wait! Make that 4 days given all the other commitments. Crap. Life became very regimented. Again. Still.

Transportation Coordinator Sam Seward came up from Milwaukee and we lifted Block A from its moorings. Not much sign of a leak from the engine, but there was a transmission cover bolt standing very proud of its seat. And that confirmed Race Coordinator Joy Perry’s sharp olfactory observational skills that we were throwing Mobil 1 gear oil from the top of the ‘new” Sellholm tranny. The bolts went to the drill press for safety wire holes.

safety wire

Racer’s Best Friend

Blawkhawk Farms

And those bolts ain’t goin’ nowhere again!

The car ventral surface (that’s biologist speak for bottom) got a good pressure washing and new coat of Ford Gray paint.

While I was at it, I decided now was the time to get rid of the very heavy driveline spacer made necessary by the ‘new’ Sellholm transmission. Off went an Amazon drive shaft to Appleton Crankshaft to be shortened. Of course that’s not as simple as it sounds because BOTH halves need modification and then because it’s a two piece shaft, it has to be sent out to be balanced. (Don’t trust Internet ads that say “We balance two-piece drive shafts.”) $423 later we had a shiny dandy looking correct length  driveshaft.

Might as well replace the clutch while we’re at it — after 2.5 years and knowing what it has gone through, it must be time. The new Tilton disk and pressure plate arrived from Pegasus in time, Of course, it can’t be just that easy — the new one has a slightly different profile and also, most ominously a different number on the pressure plate, A call to Pegasus ended up in a call to Tilton, which ended up with a consult with their fabricators, and eventually the message that it was indeed the right plate, that the numbering was now a serial number and not a PN. Geez, why cannot they say that up front and save everyone some angst?!

Motor B had been lounging in the trailer for over a year, awaiting its turn. This is the one that was the original creation from bottom to top by Competition Specialists. Thanks to help in my absence from Crew Chief Dave Buettner, we got ‘er done in time to get to Blackhawk Farms for the annual Father’s Day Blackhawk Classic.

As we sat waiting for the track to open for us to cross into the paddock we watched the late morning practice session. Our three Volvo buddies Jeff Babcock (122), Joe Brabender (123) and Alex Christopher (92) were out putting their Swedish Iron through the paces.

VSCDA

On the last lap Alex came around trailing a plume of white smoke., When I got to the paddock Alex’s hood was up and the guys already in discussion. Removal of the valve cover revealed a broken roller rocker . Unfortunately, that was not the extent of the damage as a look inside the cylinder with our ‘protoscope’ showed lots more damage. Well, one did not need to even get in quite that far …

VSCDA

Uh, something doe not look right here. (David Farrington photo)

I really admire (and am jealous of) Alex’s ability to face adversity. While he was disappointed that his weekend had ended before it really even started he made a great weekend of it nonetheless. Class act. VSCDA helped out in this regard too; they refunded much of Alex’s entry and race fees. Thanks VSCDA.

I got out onto the track for the afternoon practice sessions. The new motor had only 20 minutes of break-in run time on it. so I took it easy. But I could tell she was really rarin’ to go! In fact, after the session I texted Buettner that we had one sweet motor.

Volvo P1800

That feeling held up until the cool down lap of the second practice, when very suddenly I lost a cylinder. So now it was my turn to look for issues, and once again it was found under the valve cover.

Vintage Racing

No. 4 exhaust valve spring

Now, I carry just about every spare imaginable. But “my kingdom” for this too!

Vintage Racing

… which, unfortunately, was home on the shop pegboard.

And my buddy Duane Matejka sent me this so I can duplicate it. This is a mechanical engineer’s work at his best! (Well, maybe that’s just a little overstatement.)

Volvo Racing

R Sport Engineering Valve Spring Compressor

I need to give credit here for some really wonderful help that managed to find a way to reinstall a spring to get us back on the track., I went to Autozone and bought a valve spring compressor make for the wimpy stock springs. Ray Freiwald suggested stuffing a rope in the cylinder with the piston at TDC to prevent the valve from falling into the cylinder. Then Dennis Birkholz and Mark School spent hours trying different things, and after a good night’s sleep Dennis used a channel locks to compress the new spring, and Scott Barr suggested wrapping a small hose clamp around the whole mess to keep things from flying apart. Wahla! It worked!

Volvo P1800

It looked a bit like an operating room late into the night.

So how did it all turn out? Pretty darn good! On both Saturday and Sunday we finished first in class and on Sunday second overall, behind only the insanely fast Bugeye of Colin Comer. In the Dad’s Day Handicap Scramble (staggered start with slower cars first) I set a personal Blackhawk best lap and ‘beat’ my buddy Colin, finishing 3rd overall.

Here’s the video of the race that really counted.

Next up: The Hawk with Brian Redman at Road America.

And here are a few bonus pictures …

Vintage Racing

This racin’ is a tiring business! Jeff Babcock (David Farrington photo)

Vintage Racing

Colin Comer, in his usual position  (David Farrington photo)

Vintage Volvo Racing

Doug Senk was there to help out whoever needed help. (David Farrington photo)

Vintage Racing

Mark School gave me one heck of a run for my money with his Saab Sonnet on Saturday (David Farrington photo)

Spring Vintage 2015 @ Road America

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Spring Vintage 2015 @ Road America

Wisconsin + Early May + Lake Michigan = Unpredictability

Spring Vintage at Road America is an SVRA event. Tony Parella and his crew were out making people feel welcome. The tech sessions were serious, the anticipation for a good weekend high.
SVRA
P and B’s Race Engineer David Farrington flew in from Chattanooga, picked up at what we old timers still call Billy Mitchel Field by our Transportation Coordinator Sam Seward and handed the keys for a TR6.
1st in Class 3DP
Meanwhile, our Race Coordinator (AKA Joy Perry) is addicted to weather, or more specifically, weather forecasts. I start getting the reports a week ahead. As the week wore on this year, I said. “I don’t want to hear it. Tell me if it’s good. otherwise I don’t want to hear it!” But I hear it anyway.
We pretty much had it all. Saturday was beautiful. But the most notable was Sunday morning wind off the big pond 20 miles east of Elkhart Lake..
Spring at Road America. Where’s the tower????(David Farrington photo)

Because Road America has decided to get sticky with competitors camping by their rigs, we decided to drive home Saturday night and enjoy the comforts of home. We left Larsen in sunshine and 70’s and arrived at Road America to fog, wind, damp, chilly. Ugh. But it could have been worse!

You’re really not interested in that, are you?

OK, we had a good weekend. The field was not as deep as in the past; given SVRA’s push, that’s a bit surprising. Too expensive? Too iffy with respect to Wisconsin weather?

Groups 1, 3 and 4 were combined. 1 is the very slow group (there was only 1 car in it) .4 is a whole lot faster than 3, so we got to hear the road of Chevy V8’s as they blurred by on the back or front straight. Group 3 was where the action was for the most part, and we were in the thick of it. More or less.

I never really know exactly how to refer to our car. Farrington calls it No. 1. Something about that bothers me; maybe it seems presumptuous. Well, anyway, the car ran well all weekend, and here’s what I think you might be wanting to know: We placed 1st in class in both the Saturday and Sunday races.

We had lots of friends stop by, including one of our major sponsors. Because the car was running well there was enough down time to really enjoy the weekend, as you will see in the large photo gallery below.

Nothing like having a P and B Motorsports sponsor come to see what is being supported! This is Louise Googins of Googins Advisors, Inc.  (David Farrington photos)
One has to finish in order to come in 1st. On Saturday, On Saturday Pat Star (Class 3DP) and his Morgan had me beat handily. He was racing hard with Dawn Meyer in her Class 3EP ’61 MG but on the next to last lap he suffered ignition issues and, well, I did not. So we ended up 1st in our class.

The only other Volvo there was our good friend Ray Freiwald. Here’s a bit of trackside video of our racing on Friday. (Video length-33 sceonds)And here’s a little of the action (and inaction) on Saturday. Note the beautiful blue sky! (Video length-55 seconds)

CAPTIONED PHOTO GALLERY

 

 
No visit to Elkhart Lake is complete without a visit to one of America’s most iconic racing watering holes, Siebkins
Joy does her 1950’s impression of a Coke Girl.
New Glarus Brewing Company (their beers are not sold outside Wisconsin) has a knack for brew names, and Siebkins has a knack for displaying them.
Race Engineer David Farrington holds courts with Louise Googins, or is it the other way around?
Jim Slapikes brought his new 1800 creation. This started as a basket case, and Jim got into it before he realized just how deep he was, but it turned out great.
The Sign County crew makes these events into a real family affair! Always fun to watch them. 
Saturday night dinner in the cavernous Road America Center, home of America’s worst acoustics.
SVRA honored Gordon “Duck” Waddle  for his decades-long service to our sport.
More video displays around tghe track allow spectators to keep track of the action on the various parts of this 4 mile track. new this year is a screen rotation that shows standings.
Racing and fishing, especially when one is from Montana, is not a bad life. (Phil Koller photo)
Racing can be very very stressful. 
Ray Freiwald and Dale Schmidt catch up (Phil Koller photo)
Must be nice to have a modular car like Rick Phrang’s.
Race photographer/videographer (new job title, only slightly more pay) Phil Koller on the other end of the lens.
Some people arrive in a little more style than others.
One has to see structural beauty here – Gunnar Phrang’s Camero
When Jeff Johnk is contemplating, he sees his daughter Jessica. Does the middle of the steering wheel have any philosophical significance? (Top David Farrington; Left, Phil Koller; Right, David Farrington)
Next up, Blackhawk Classic at Blackhawk Farms Raceway on Father’s Day Weekend. We should have a full complement of Swedish Iron there. Guess I need to get out into the shop and work on that “minor oil leak.”

VSCDA’s GingerMan Spring Brake 2015

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VSCDA’s GingerMan Spring Brake 2015

Here’s a brief report on VSCDA’s 2015 inagural event at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, MI.  Based upon our experience there last year we had packed our down vests and knit hats. Coming from balmy Atlanta, we were pessimistic about the accuracy of the weather forecast for anyplace that was a fly-rod’s cast to Lake Michigan in May. Leaving 70 degrees of Indiana, I reported the temperature drop as we drove along the sand dunes of far western Michigan. It hit 51.

But it was not snowing. Or raining.And there was a great turnout.

This Renault brought lots of smiles, and images of old-time picnics

We were the only Volvo running this year, even thought there was a record turnout. The weekend is referred to as “Spring Brake” and starts with driving school, so there are a goodly number of cars with X’s behind their numbers. One of those was a car that is very familiar – a nice 356 Porsche dubbed ‘Dr. Dreadful” owned an [normally] operated by Rick Gurolnick. The mystery of the X was solved when we learned that Dr. Dreadful’s 17 year old daughter had gone through the school over the weekend with Dad’s car.

Robbie’s “X” did not describe her lack of experience. Youth has its advantage, and she’s gonna be a force to be dealt with. She good and not afraid to keep her foot in it or make a move.  After a couple sessions with her — chasing her, I hasten to say, and truthfully, unsuccessfully, around the track I teased her and Rick that I could see that this was not going to end up as a once car family.

Robbie Gurolnick on the grid

Here’s what Rick had to say about the weekend:

Racer friends:

Thought you might like to share a great “bucket list” event I had last weekend: 17 year old Daughter Robbie Gurolnick took the VSCDA vintage school, passed and raced the weekend in my 1960 Porsche 356 Roadster, her first time driving the car anywhere, some 30 years after I started in it.  And she rocked it! I picked Gingerman as a place for her to start in a rear engine car as it has generous, easy runoffs.  They had races Saturday and Sunday.  Out of about 35 starters she gridded 6th and finished 5th on Saturday with some great dices and a couple racers coming over to shake hands and congratulate her.  On Sunday everyone was gunning for her, but she gridded third and charged on the start up to second and a lap later was heading for first when the car lost midrange and went flat – Darn!  (Not an exhaust leak – I checked that earlier during practice – but maybe a failing mag pickup in  the distributor or dirt in the jets).  Ironically the GoPro mount broke and got run over by one of the following cars – including the SD card – so no videos. Anyway we had a wonderful time, everyone was as nice as could be and very welcoming.

Rick Gurolnick

Robbie and Rick Gurolnick, proudly displaying Robbie’s diploma

Sometimes I wish I were a father.

Race Coordinator (aka my dear wife) Joy Perry was the only formal P and B Motorsports crew for the weekend, and we got on pretty well. Jim Blett, Volvo engine builder/Jeff Babcock 122 crew member came over from his central Michigan home to lend assistance and also delivered a B20 block/crankshaft for Jeff’s next engine build. We were happy to have him, and were able to pick his brain of the considerable knowledge he has as a crew member on a previous LaCarerra Paniamerica team (since we  — that’s the royal “we” – are building a 444 competitor for the 2016 south-of-da -border-down-Mexico way races).

The weekend was pretty uneventful. People behaved themselves. One of my Driver’s Committee comrades remarked that it was early in the season and people did not want to risk messing their cars up so soon.

The Brits celebrated the Queen, or at least celebrated something

As usual, Group 2 was the largest of all, with 39 entrants. At the head of the pack was Colin Comer with his screaming  1959 Bugeye Sprite. Colin pretty much ran away from everyone in every race he was in. He chose to sit out Sunday’s Feature Race, given that it’s about as much fun to run alone as it is to do a track day.

I, on the other hand, did not have that problem. Starting on the inside of the 4th row I had a, ahem — interesting first half lap with a Mini beside me. Now I have a thing about Minis. That is, I loathe don’t like them. They remind me of bees around my head irritating me. That Mini buzzed me good going into the technically, ahem – interesting — Turn 4. I saw enough metal next to my door that I, ahem – decided – to take a brief agricultural excursion. I watched the back of the pack go by and re-entered the track.

Because I had been carrying around a track radio all weekend as part of the Driver’s Committee I imagine what was being said: “Control, Turn 4, 1 Red four wheels off … has re-entered track.” (“Watch ‘im.) But since this was a race there was no black flag infraction, so I started making up time.

Turns out I may have had the best race ever, especially with John Hagen’s and his ’63 TVR. The video will show you all of this; I will save the outcome for you to discover. But I will say that there was only 0.08 seconds between me and the higher finishing car in my class.

So we’re in preparation for SVRA’s Spring Vintage at Road America May 14-17. Yep, this week. I feel I am living, breathing, eating and sleeping raced car prep.

Keep ‘em rolling, and we’ll see you on the flip side of Spring Vintage.

The Mitty 2015

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The Mitty 2015

If there is ever an excuse for a party, the Mitty is great one.

You may recall that all last year we struggled with an intermittent ignition miss. Struggled might be just slightly and understatement. More like, “What’s with this g-d – car????”

Two significant winter changes took place, and at least one of may have them solved that issue, but I am not saying which because I don’t have a clue.  Sorta like your local car dealer: “We’s got no idea what’s wrong wit your car madam, but we’s gonna  replace everyting and charge you until it sure does go away, or you do.”

Sam Seward, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin (OK, Bayside) Volvo chauffeur who lends his 1800 to Race Engineer David Farrington each time he comes out, and a semi-regular visitor to the P and B Motorsports shop, has been pointing out every chance he gets that his fancy distributor is really the cat’s uh, meow. Yep, meow. So I made contact with 123ignitionusa.com and we now are major 123 fans and advocates. This is really state of the art, with the only moving parts being the shaft and rotor.

123 distributor. Ain’t she a beauty?

I want to recognize Ed Madak who is the U.S. distributor of the 123. I had some difficulty, and if there was ever a person who epitomizes “customer service” it is Ed. He responded to text messages in minutes, and walked me though the rather atypical installation.

We also have a dandy new head that our Whidbey Island Volvo guru Phil Singher at VClassics spec’ed out for us, using his secret formula for flow and power. When the old one finally came off the good folks at CompetitionSpecialists Racing Engines noted a tiny crack in one of the ports. Phil’s incorporates years of experience, including the build for the La Carerra Panamericana class-winning Apple Farmer Racing team’s 122 Volvo.

Bottom line, we got ‘er runnin; and gunnin’. Which is a good thing because over the winter I thought I might be losing a crew member due to his frustration with my inability to get it right.  Some people are soooooo  sensitive.

So on to the Mitty 2015. Is there ever too much of a good thing? It  was jammed with entries. Road Atlanta did not help with double booking a track day with load-in day for us, so there were some pretty testy people sitting in haulers and some pretty harried HSR staff workers trying to make nice.

Crew Chief Dave Buettner drove 11 hours from Pine Island, Florida in his Winnebago to join us. And Wednesday was a beautiful day … until the microburst right about the time we were settling down for a good night’s sleep took the Eazy Up for a rib-snapping ride (“This product is meant for shade only. Self destructs in breezes exceeding 3 mph.”).

We’re looking for new shade now.

Let’s do the Thursday Test Day!  See what we can do and play with the carb jetting. Groups 2 and 3 tested together. With over 70 cars on a 2.5 mile track, it’s bound to get messy. All three test sessions were cut short by the black flag all. Pretty much what we tested was our patience.

Volvos attract each other. And so do their owners. Melvin Hodges II brought this nice 122 by, and we created yet another new friend. (David Farrington photo)

Friday was a beautiful day with good track time. Both qualifying sessions resulted in new personal bests for me, and placed me second in class for Saturday’s races. I entered the evening feeling pretty hopeful. Did I mention that the Mitty is a good excuse for a party? They line up a s—t boat load full of sponsors and treat the teams to some southern hospitality of food and drink. Tim Stoddard from Classic Motorports, one of the big-name sponsors, was on hand to introduce BMW legend Boris Said. BMW was the featured marque. Could that be why Buettner came 11 hours?.

HSR’s James Redman (yes, Brian’s son)brought a group by to look at our car. (Dave Buttner photo)
Also as usual Farrington was making children’s days by inviting them to sit in a race car.

This young lady was thrilled (David Farrington photo)

The paddack was in a highly visible corner and thus the car had a lot of people coming to check it all out. Farrington even parked his ES behind #1 so it could also have admirers. (David Farrington photo)

And then the rains came.  The tinkle on the roof of the motorhome was persistent from 10 p.m. throughout the night. My mind’s eye could see the river of water flowing across the track at Turn 5. So as Saturday dawned grey and wet, we decided it best to stand pat in favor of going out on a very wet track.  And the gods were once again with us, because all day on Friday the announcers had said they were taking credit for the great day and Saturday was going to be someone else’s fault. But the skies broke and Saturday just got better and better. Accu-Weather was watched and the rain tires came off.

Andrea Nichelson and her husband Alan from California stopped by. Andrea loves 1800s. Nothing quite like a pretty woman who loves 1800s. (David Farrington photo)

Hot digity dog, we is goin’ raicn’ boys. And then the car crapped out.

So Saturday evening was one of those “We don’t wanna be around Jim” evenings. Neither did Jim, but I’m stuck with the SOB. We fiddled a bit and I tried to drive it around the paddock and on the access roads but the myriad of slightly inebriated race fans acting like slightly inebriated race fans did not help the cause. I.e. I could just imagine one across the hood in my personal testing session. And what the inside of a Georgia jail cell looks like.

There nothing short of worrying about Wisconsin politics  that keeps this good ‘ol boy awake more than a car that ran well one day and then acts like it’s been parked with the mother-in-law for too long the next.

Porsche City. But the Mustang won.

Our Sunday race was not until 3 p.m. so I had plenty of time think on it and stew. And by golly I ain’t telling you what took care of the problem, but the problem got taken care of. Sometimes it’s best just to not tell the whole truth, lest you all know what a complete dipshit I can be.

You’ve read that some F1 cars used the engine as a structural element holding the car together?

 

 

Now here’s the way to change a motor! (David Farrington photos)

Thanks to my Saturday non-start, Sunday’s race began with no one in my rear view mirrors, but we had one hell of a good time changing all of that.  I had listened closely at the drivers’ meeting about how no one sitting as a back marker at race start should jump on the gas when others in the front were just getting the green flag at the front. So coming under the bridge I did just what I needed to do – jumped on the gas while the others were just picking up steam at the front.  Hey, I take advice. Here’s the video.

All’s well that ends well, and I managed third in class and another personal Road Atlanta best.

I love Road Atlanta. I love the big courses. I love the warm weather and southern friendliness, and the way HSR treats the entrants. Life can’t get much better folks. Next weekend we are on to Michigan and GingerMan Raceway. Stay tuned.

Where’s the Crew Chief Shop Teacher when you need him?

We got a nice surprise when Sports Car Digest used us as part of thier April 30 Mitty Report too!

Oh, and lest I forget, I want to point you to the blog of next year’s great adventure creator, Cameron Lovre, who is putting the pieces together for the Chihuahua Express and La Carerra Panamericana Volvo 444 that is going to thrust us into fame and fortune with wins in the 2016 Mexican races. (Not only does is this turkey building a kick-butt car, he writes better than I do too.) Take a look at Cam’s most excellent blog at SwedishRelics. I relish the opportunity to drive it fast….

Anticipating 2015 and Beyond

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Anticipating 2015 and Beyond

“Have a nice day!” That retail shopping phrase is usually returned to its sender by “I already have – I woke up!” I guess it’s my feeble effort brought on by the late great John Fritch’s comment several years ago at Road America when, after being introduced and welcomed, he quipped at his age it was good to be seen anywhere. So assuming that I continue to use that smart aleck refrain (and if I can’t, I won’t care what you think), my intention is to have a nice 2015.

 

Since last you read, lots of water has gone under the bridge or over the dam. Lots of snow has fallen. Lots of plans have been made.

While I have been struggling a bit to deal with a new head, we are anticipating  the opening of the season  at Road Atlanta’s big party called “The Mitty” in late-April.  It might be fun to run there if there are not monsoon rains filling the gully at the entrance to the Esses. But we’ll deal with if needed.

Here’s the anticipated 2015 schedule:

  • April 23-26 – HSR Mitty   Road Atlanta, Braselton, GA
  • May 1-3 – VSCDA Spring Brake  GingerMan Raceway, South Haven, MI
  • May 16-19 – SVRA Spring Vintage Weekend   Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI
  • June 19-21 – VSCDA Blackhawk Vintage Classic   Blackhawk Farms Raceway, South Beloit, IL
  • July 9-11 – Racecars and Pacecars, Iola Old Car Show, Iola, WI
  • July 16-19 — The Hawk with Brian Redman   Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI
  • September 17-20 – VSCDA Elkhart Lake Vintage Festiva   Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI

Hibernation Haven

 

Only one significant long trip this year, but here’s some additional news – we may be able to extend the season by racing in the Southwest as we are going to spend part of the winter in southern Arizona.  For the first time in my life I will be living, at least temporarily, in a HOA. I’m getting the old folks lingo. HOA is a Home Owner’s Association, one of those places where everyone inserts their nose into your business and decides that you are deviant just because you have a race car that has no muffler that you want to start up at the late hour of 7 p.m. when they are just settling down for the night. Gosh, it’s almost as bad as having someone’s dog make a deposit on your lawn. Or putting solar panels on your roof 150 feet in front of the artist neighbor whose view you have soiled. All will end you up before the firing squad. Good thing – the musketeers are too old to see and are just as likely to shoot themselves.

Deep Winter 2015-16 Home of P and B Motorsports West

Ah, but there is better news. My Volvo buddy Cameron Lovre from Portland, OR, drank the Kool-aide that I past beneath his lips last summer and got out his drill, Sawzall, flaring tools … and has torn asunder his perfectly fine ’57 Volvo 444 to convert it to a race car for us to throw around the roads of Mexico in 2016. Yep, we’re headed for the land of bandidos, marguaritas, sopapillas, and muchachas muy hermosas to run the Chihuahua Express next April and, assuming we and the car survive that, the LaCarerra Panamerica in October.

Some people just can’t stay out of the car … Cam in his slightly younger days (Cameron Lovre photo)

Here’s the 444 just before the surgery began. (Cameron Lovre photo)

There are only a handful of wrenches that I will trust my own car with; Cameron is one of them. Whether I trust him with my life as we alternate roles as navigator and driver in these events I have not decided. Saving grace – Cam is married to a real Italian woman who will kill him if he does anything to kill us. Come to think of it, I don’t think she would discriminate in my favor either.

We need to keep this gal smilin’ (Cameron Lovre/David Farrington Photo)

Cam’s not only a great wrench (not to mention one of the few guys I can count on for a full hour, he’s also a very entertaining writer who has done his own blog about ‘our,’ ahem, adventure.  You can find it at http://swedishrelics.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-volvo-444.html. Come to think of it, Cam’s blog is a illustrated seminar in how to build a race car. Maybe I need to read some …

‘Til next time, keep ‘em between the fenceposts.

Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2014 – Road America

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Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2014 – Road America

To say that VSCDA’s Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2014 was interesting is a bit of an understatement. The weather varied from tolerable, to terrible, to nice. The-on-track activities varied from tolerable, to terrible, to … tolerable.

Last you heard from me we had come off a 32 day West Coast road trip in which the car was my least favorite thing. I never posted about the Portland Historics because I was too darn busy trying to track down the source of the intermittent miss and finishing the 3-year screened room project at home. I did better with the latter than the former.

The following short clip from the Portland Historics in July tells both visually and audibly what was so frustrating for us. It features Californian 544 Volvo racer Alan Berry.

Regardless of car performance we had a great time with Alan and another new friend, Gil Stuart from British Columbia, who races a 444 Volvo, a car I might add, that is also street legal!  And then there were all the other Left Coast friends, especially the PDXVolvos group. We also got to jump out of a plane from 13,000 feet and tell about it!

This is Gil Stuart with us in Portland (David Farrington photo)

Alan Berry, Phil Singher and Cameron Lovre with Alan’s 544 in Portland (David Farrington photo)

Not Nomex, we’re in jump suits at the Kawpowsin Airsports jump center in Shelton, WA – 
A Farrington-owned business (David Farrington photo)

……..

We thought we had the solution to “The Miss” when we found cracks in the epoxy filler than covers the distributor rotor resistor. Replaced the rotor, took the car to a local private airport and it ran perfectly. Put in the trailer and did nothing more. Pulled it out of the trailer on Friday morning and the damn miss was back. So the saga continues, still unanswered but this motor seems to have an accommodating personality because the miss will disappear if we let it warm up before heading out. So run wise, our weekend was great.

Do you want to be an arm-chair diagnostician? See the very bottom of this post where I chronicle what has been tried and what has failed to identify the source of “The Miss.” Warning: It has befuddled the best of automotive minds. But maybe you have the solution!

We got a good practice run in Friday before the cold drizzle started and did not end. By 4 p.m. it was time to find someplace warm and dry. So we headed for Siebkins, Elkhart Lake’s iconic racing watering hole. I love this place. If you have not read The Last Open Road you should, because Siebkins is prominent in this fictionalized history of the early road racing days.

No place in North America is more iconic for sports car fans than Siebkins, and the thousands of racing decals adorning the walls and ceilings proves that.

The weather was so miserable the P and B Motorsports team of the Perrys and Farringtons headed back home for the evening. Sleeping in a warm, dry bed was just too appealing. So we got up early and headed back in the cold to the track for Qualifying.

Wisconsin’s version of mountains — cloud bank at sunrise on Saturday morning
The well-dressed Race Coordinator on Saturday morning. Brrr…

Sue Farrington, Peter Tan and Rachel Durfee seem to think it’s winter
We had a reasonable run, turning a decent but unspectacular. 2:55.539 on a cold but dry track.

I am still pondering what happened in Saturday’s race sessions, wondering if Friday’s miserable afternoon had some drivers a little overly keyed up, because, in a word, Saturday’s races were a mess.

We added to our video capabilities with a Contour suction cup mount on the fender.

Our Group 2/3B Qualifying Sprint Race was cut short by a major shunt at the approach to Turn 5. It all started with a rather harmless spin by a very fast, race-leading Lotus driven by Rick Balsley. He was unable to restart the car and sat in the middle of the track at the 4 Marker for a long time. That’s a bad place to be because cars cresting the hill cannot see that part of the track. The waving yellow was out at Turn 4, and cars should have slowed and stopped racing, but it appears what shoulda and what dida were not the same. The Number 34 Porsche 356 hit the Lotus at near top speed just fore of the cockpit and the Lotus came apart in an explosion of fiberglass and metal. Balsley was beyond lucky to come out of this with only bruised ribs. Another meter back toward the cockpit and he may have been killed.

Here’s the video from that race, ending with the incident. And if you want to see it from another car or what my driving looks like, take a gander at Tony Drews’ fine video at http://youtu.be/I6YHtqFVd-o

That was just the worst of many incidents throughout the day. I agreed to be on VSCDA’s Driver’s Committee this year. We’re charged with sorting things out. This was initiation by fire. Editorializing here, we MUST have some changes and drivers have to pay more attention.

……

Saturday is always a special day for anyone who loves vintage sports cars. The “Gathering on the Green” of some cars that go beyond spectacular took place at Victorian Village this year. Despite the cool weather is was a wonderful assemblage. Unfortunately, the one Volvo that we all thought would represent us was a “Did Not Appear.” Thank you, Bob Prince, for your organization.

Gathering on the Green car field

Even old car lovers have a sense of humor. ”Doc Brown” brought his Back to the Future DeLorean.

After the GOG, the members of the “Swedish Pavilion” — 25 strong — gathered at Lake Street Café for Saturday dinner. Great food, great service, great conversation with lots of laughter. This could become an annual event!
Ashley, Mike Senk, Dan, Ray Freiwald, Doug Senk
The Babcock Table
Back row left to right:  Jan & Jim Blett, Larry & Ellie Kenyon, Alex Christopher Foreground: Jeff & Brigette Babcock, Rich & Barb Board

Sunday proved to be a much better day all the way around! And we had some great racing.

Now this is more like it! Sunday in the Swedish Pavilion

Catchin’ air. If I have to get up on three wheels to stay in front of a pesky Porsche 356, I will. (David Farrington photo)

Alex Christopher  (David Farrington photo)

A beautiful classic paddocked with the Volvos is Chuck  R’s 
Jaguar XK120  (David Farrington photo)

Joe Brabender in his ’68 Amazon (David Farrington photo)

Saab Sonnet guru Mark School races hard  (David Farrington photo)

Todd Jongen represents the Volvo 140 series well  (David Farrington photo)

Jeff Babcock leads the Swedish line dancin’. That’s Mark School and Ray Freiwald behind

(David Farrington photo)
We took first in class in Sunday morning’s Group [Feature] race.

Here’s some video of the Group Race.

ELVF has several “Cup Races” commemorating the earlier days of sports cars racing. Cars are gridded by expected laps times. We fall into the Sheldon Cup, for cars that normally turn laps between 2:45 and 3 minutes. All of the other Volvos were in the Kimberly Cup with times over 3:00.

Given the 1st place finish earlier in the day, I was pretty satisfied at this point of the weekend and told Joy to not expect any record laps. Gridded in the 29th position I finished 7th overall and first in class with a best lap time of 2:50.874. There was some really good racing in that session.

Check out the video of the Sheldon Cup here. (The speedometer and tachometer are accurate. Disregard the recalcitrant Lap Counter/Timer.)

In the Kimberly Cup the Volvos were 1-2-3, Ray Friewald’s ‘61 1800 finishing seconds ahead of Alex Christopher’s ‘64 1800 finishing seconds ahead of Todd Jongen’s ‘67 142. This was Ray’s second year of being atop the podium for the Cup. (A special note: There were two cars that finished in front of Ray, but they were way too fast and should not have been in the Kimberley Cup, and as a consequence were disqualified.)

Honored Guest and racing legend Tony Adamowicz presented Ray with his Kimberly Cup “trophy”—a bottle of fine wine.

This looks to be the end of our 2014 racing season. So let me end by recognizing in print the people and organizations that helped us this year.

  • iRoll Motors, San Martin, CA
  • Googins and Anton, Investment Advisors, Middleton, WI
  • PDXVolvos, Portland, OR
  • Jim Fisher Volvo, Portland, OR
  • Turbo Blue Racing Fuels/Dale Gas and Oil, Dale, WI
  • Automotive Supply-Federated Auto Parts, Appleton, WI
  • Mueller Motorwerks, Sheboygan Falls, WI
  • US Ceramic Coatings, Neenah, WI
  • Bosch Spark Plugs, Raleigh, NC
  • Contour Cameras, Orem, UT
  • R Sport Engineering, Pipersville, PA

And then there are the people who are there getting me in and out of the car, torquing the wheels, keeping track of all the aspects of car setup and performance, working on the daily issues, doing video and data downloads, and sometimes changing axles or transmission on the asphalt or grass. Thanks, Joy and David and Dave!

…..

The Miss

 

When the engine is missing, the LED light on the Crane box is unsteady. When it is not missing it’s completely steady with no hint of flash.

A chronology of attempts at solving “The Miss.”

  •  Checked all electrical connections beneath the dash – no issues
  •  Cleaned and checked chassis ground – no change
  •  Changed distributor  (with new optical trigger)– no change
  •  New MSD AL6 – no change
  •  New Crane 700 ignition box – no change
  •  Ran MSD ground wire directly to negative battery terminal (MSD’s suggestion) – no change
  •  New distributor cap – no change
  •  New rotor – no change
  •  Changed plug wires – no change
  • By-passed fuse block/relay/circuit breaker, running hot wire directly from power lug to MSD box – no change
  • Weber carbs tested by Pierce Manifolds – no change
  • Replaced manifold gasket — no change
  • Oh, and checked timing, compression and valve lash

Pacific Northwest Historics 2014 – Kent, WA

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Pacific Northwest Historics 2014 – Kent, WA

2200 miles and one new transmission after the Blackhawk Classic found us on the Left Coast among the conifers and those awaiting the opening day of a new era – marijuana sales were about to become legal for public consumption in Washington. It was also 4th of July weekend, so the natives were in high gear for celebration.

Pacific Raceways is an old, ‘50s style track with a very interesting layout. A long straight with a full throttle kink leads to a sweeping left-hander onto the back stretch that drops down to a set of REALLY tight S’s. A good runner could keep up with the cars there, it’s so slow. Then it’s power on through some interesting turns with the car loading and unloading in rapid progression. Lots of fun here. Then we come up hill and onto a new patch of asphalt to the final sweeper.  Perhaps most curious is that the timing point and start/finish line are separated by about ½ mile.

Friday morning’s practice session was pretty eventful. Lots of vibration  caused me to come in after a single lap. When we got the car up on the jack I found a front U-joint without a cap. Just about that time Portland Volvo Guru Cameron Lovre showed up to join the P and B Motorsports Crew. Cam got handed the driveshaft while David Farrington drained the rear axle upon my request to check it out.

It’s a bad sign when the first thing one hears as the gear oil flows into the pan is “clank.” That was our first indication that we had transported a big problem 2200 miles. I was so busy with the transmission before we left that I did not have time to check the differential.  So most of Friday was spent entertaining the spectators as we changed from the 4.88 limited slip to a welded 4.56.

That spare axle came in handy

Being the 4th of July, the local neighborhoods adjacent to the track seemed to have their own competition for who could set off the most, biggest and loudest fireworks. You had to be there to really get the feeling that this was better than 90% of the public (AKA legal) fireworks displays most of us have ever seen. It extended from before dusk to at least 2 a.m. Not a lot of restful sleep was had by the campers (AKA, us!)

Saturday …

And we were not done messing with the car. We ended up chasing a periodic misfire the entire weekend. It would come, and then go. Changing the coil, MSD box, coil wire, and distributor cap could not completely solve it. But it would go away and the car would really motor.

I spent a fair amount of time under the dash, looking for “the issue.” (David Farrington photo)

Saturday morning we experienced our first ever bit of on-track body modification as a Bug Eye Sprite imagined a hole where there was none. There is nothing quite so nice as having good rear video  to allow the Race Steward to determine that I was on the line and not the problem.

A short video from our rear Contour camera …

Cam trying to erase the damge

The Saturday afternoon race was perhaps the best of the weekend. We started at the back of the pack and were to move up through the pack quite effectively.

Very satisfying passing a Corvette, among a bunch of other cars. I was also able to out-duel a Porsche 356. (David Farrington photo)

SOVREN is a first rate sanctioning body. Everyone was exceptionally welcoming, and made us feel like we were genuinely appreciated. Throughout the event, organizers stopped by our paddock to ask us how we were doing  and thank us for participating. We often talk about Midwest hospitality; well, let’s just say we should walk the talk a little better. We had a great dinner Saturday night, complete with a silent auction designed for guys.

It was not the greatest nor the worst weekend. Among the highs were meeting and paddocking next to British Columbians Gil Stuart (left) and and Gregg Morris (right). Gil drives a nice Group 1 Volvo 444. Once again we came racing and found new friends.

We also renewed a friendship with Portland’s Mike Mehl that had started last year at Road America when he brought his “Fast TR” to the Triumph race. Mike is a true gentleman – he continually checked to see how we were doing and if we needed anything. This is what our form of racing is really all about.

Gil Stuart and his 544 in action (David Farrington photo)

On Sunday we had a brief good race with Mike Denman in his B18 Volvo-powered Marcos. The Marcos weighs about 700 pounds less than our P1800, and has just about the same power, so you can guess who pulled away into the wild blue yonder.

Mike Denman Marcos (David Farrington photo)

Gil Stuart and I got into the Car Corral action with a bunch of really nice vintage Volvos (David Farrington photo)

A whole bevy of BMWs came out to play.

Nice car shows both Saturday and Sunday.
 
Next up: Portland Historics …

Blackhawk Classic 2014 (And its Aftermath)

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Blackhawk Classic 2014 (And its Aftermath)

Sometimes is seems it would be a lot easier to be running a Ford or a Chevy …

After some really good outings, the Blackhawk Classic was, shall we say, less than stellar. The weekend at Blackhawk Farms Raceway started out plagued with electrical gremlins of the worst king – intermittent. The car would run fine and then sputter and cut out, just dying. And then would not restart. Let it set for a while to cool off and we would be back in business.  That usually sounds like a coil issue, but changing the coil did nothing.  After lots of messing around all day Saturday with the distributor, former Volvo-now-MG racer Dale Schmidt wandered by and said “I have another Crane box and distributor in the trailer if you want it.”

Good times Friday night at the ice cream social. Ray Freiwald, Rick Kardos, Dale Schmidt, Alex Christopher and Joy Perry.

Kennedy Coryell came by with her brother Truman and dad Dean (Dean Coryell photo)

So in went a new Crane and distributor. This time it seemed like we were set to go. Driving around the paddock was successful, so we lined up at the back of the pack for Sunday’s feature race, as we had not qualified on Saturday.

Lots of good zoom zoom in that race, passing many slower cars and doing well enough to set a new . personal best Blackhawk lap. Unfortunately, my lap record was not the only thing I broke.

Periodically I have been having a hard time downshifting into 3rd gear. In the past, including during this race, I have been able to get it in eventually, but going into Turn 6 this time went it went in the rear wheels locked up and we went for a spin in the middle of the track. I was able to back up onto the grass and wait for the traffic to clear, but as soon as I started moving again, I knew we had some pretty significant problem with the transmission. After nursing it for a lap in 4th a downshift into 3 convinced me we were done for the day.

Here’s the video of the race — good, bad and ugly.

When I got into the paddock there was a stream of transmission fluid flowing out the bottom of the case.

Doug Senk had been our crew member for the weekend and came home with us to help remove the transmission. That started an odyssey of getting a new transmission from Sellholm Tuning AB in Sweden.

This included driving down to O’Hare to pick up it up (received 3 days after ordering), and especially learning why parts made in the U.S. of A. are a lot easier to deal with than anything that has to go through Customs. Had to hire a broker to fill out the paperwork because Customs inasmuch  told me I would never be able to figure out their paperwork in the time I had.

One could never expect that this was going to be a bolt-up job, even if it was supposed to be. Because the new M4700 transmission is taller than the old M47, the rear transmission mount needed modification – thanks Dave Buettner for the quick welding job – and it’s an inch shorter than the M47, so it was either create a new driveshaft or a spacer. The spacer seemed like the more expedient idea given the amount of time I had to get ready for the West Coast trip. Sellholm sent an adapter and new flange, but between DHL and Customs, the delivery was delayed and I ended up going to Competition Specialists for help. Three hours later I had a new spacer and modified flange.

 New M4700 on the bench

Output flange problems – M4700 on left, M47 on right

Sellholm M4700 vs. M47

 Original rear transmission mount is too short for M4700

Installed M4700 with Buettner-modified rear mount

Competition Specialist’s solution to output flange problems

We were delayed three days in getting off, and as I type this, we are in North Dakota hoping everything works when we get to Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington.

Meanwhile, the M47 is trash. I had purchased another broken M47 form SCCA 1800 racer Rob Keller, so maybe – maybe – I can recreate one M47 using the case of a stock M47 I had purchased on the last trip to Oregon.

So, there were six Volvos at Blackhawk. Misery loves company. The only Volvo that seemed to make it through the Blackhawk weekend relatively trouble free was Joe Brabender.

I’m not ready to switch to a Ford or Chevy – yet.

P.S. The Contour cameras worked beautifully, thanks to a lot of effort on the part of Contour!

SVRA Spring Vintage 2014 at Road America

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SVRA Spring Vintage 2014 at Road America

IT’S SPRING IN WISCONSIN!

(Jan Efverlund photo)

It was a balmy 44F on Friday as we took to the track for our first practice Road America practice lap of 2014. Where’s my “warm shirt?!” Ah, well, it was not raining, or snowing as it was just south of the Illinois border. (Seriously!)

The Swedish contingent was limited to us and Mark School, my friend from the Wisconsin Fox Cities, with his gleeeming white Saab Sonnet. (Top, Phil  Koller photo, below, David Farrington photo)

Last year my Road America goal was to break the 2:50 lap mark. My best time came at the Elkhart Lake Fall Festival with a 2:50.226. I had come close but, as they say that only works in horseshoes and hand grenades.

2014 is beginning in a promising fashion. Here are my session best lap times:

Practice 1: 2:51.713
Qualifying 1: 2:50.290
Qualifying 2: 2:50.114
Race 1: 2:49.510
Race 2: 2:48.726
Yes!
Overall it was a great weekend. The car ran well, I drove reasonably well, the crew of Joy Perry and David Farrington did a great job, and the weather even improved.

We finished second in class in both Race 1 and Race 2. Not too shabby.

Race Engineer Farrington working on last minute efforts with the data aquisition (Phil Koller photo)

During Saturday’s Race 1 I was in quite a duel with a 1960 Corvette. He ended up with a faster lap, but being only 0.007 seconds behind with a two-liter four-banger isn’t bad! Remember that’s a 5.4 liter (327) V8 versus a 2 liter car.

Without question the best race of the weekend was the Sunday “Race 2.” On the pace lap a front-running Corvette dropped out at Turn 5 leaving a shaken tarting position. I should have been able to move to the inside for the green flag but due to some confusion on the part of others a slower MG managed to pull into that spot. As we entered Turn 1 I was caught behind it. I had to wait until the back straight going into 5 before I was able to get around the MG and by that time the front runners had quite a run on us.

But in the end the real race came down to a real duel between me and a Datsun. We went back and forth several times, until I decided to fall back and bide my time. I could out-power him on the straight. My plan was to wait until the last lap and then do a race to the finish line. Unfortunately, the Bridge Flagman never gave a “1 lap remaining” indication and the next thing I knew the checkered flag was out with the Datsun in front.

Frankly, I saw some uncharacteristically shoddy corner work while watching other races, including when a Sports 2000 racer brushed the wall in Turn 12. The driver pulled back onto the track and the flagman just stood with his hands in his pockets without waving the yellow flag while a Mercury Cougar came flying into the corner.

Courting disaster in Canada Corner
 

The one major disappointment of the weekend was the failure of both of our in-car video cameras. A message to Contour’s new CEO has resulted in some significant attention from their technical support people. They are working hard to solve this problem, for which I am grateful.

Jan Evfverlund has an incredible smartphone that he used to record a little of the action. Click on the arrow in the picture below for a little Turn 5 action.

Turn 5 action (Jan Efverlund video)
 

John Johnk is also sending some video from his in-car camera. I’ll post that when we get it. Always nice (and instructive) to see one’s own driving from another perspective.

It was also quite a show event at Road America as the Shelby and Cobra owners were out in force in the lower paddock. Nothing like a 50 year celebration to bring out some really really nice cars. I knew it was a special weekend as we rolled in on Thursday next to a Cobra inside a glass-sided hauler. (Sort of reminded me of the Harley guy who was stuffed, mounted on his beloved Harley and buried in a glass sided coffin …)

Here’s the rest of the report in pictures.

Shelby and Cobra owners were out in force celebrating anniversaries. (Jan Efverlund photo)
The first and second ever produced Mustang Shelbys were there, as were several nice GT40’s (P and B Race Coordinator’s Dream Car, which will always remain just that I fear) 
Insert might be a little small — it says “$150,000.” Sorry, Joy. (David Farrington photo)
P and B Motorsports Photographer Phil Koller says “What else do you want??? (David Farrington photo)
Race Coordinator Joy Perry and Hospitality Coordinator Pam Buettner conferrng (Phil Koller photo)
Jan Efverlund came over from Sweden, and Chris Clemmer came up from Chicago in “Buttercup,” Chris’s ’72 1800ES 
Volvo 1800 buddy Jan Efverlund  is the creator of the Face Book 1800 Fan Club site (David Farrington photo)
Crew Chief Dave Buettner finally came back to reality (from Florida). So he needed to check things out. (David Farrington photos)
I used Farrington’s new Canon 300mm lens to capture Mark School in a  contemplative Sunday morning moment. Sometimes it’s just nice to be by onesself.
This Audi RS8, a 2005 LeMans winner, and the Indy car had quite a race in the two-hour Sunday enduro. Guess which car previaled. 
Pam Buettner always makes the paddock a brighter place just with her smile. That’s Ex-1800 racer Dale Schmidt in the background. (One gets a little out of focus when you switch from Volvo to MG. David Farrington photo)
Is that Danica Patrick??? Guess not, but this young woman made the car a bit more photogenic, and as usual Farrington got her to climb into the car. (David Farrington photo)
The Road America Center was the site of Saturday’s catered gala. Wonderful racing art adorns the building. Now only if they could do someting about the acoustics during drivers’ meetings for my misfiring ears.
Evening data analysis. A glass of wine helps!
These two Group 4 V8 powered Corvettes ran in the same session as we did. I was within sight of their rear bumpers … for about 1/2 lap. (David Farrington photos)
Joy and I got to share a pre-race light-hearted momemt with Group 3 Austin Healey 100/6 Fast Guy Jeff Johnk (Phil Koller photo)
B.S. Levy was caught in a candid moment looking for new material for his next Vintage Motorsports article, or maybe his next book.
These are the folks who help us spend a lot of time at the track.
George Balbach the elder (above) and son George Balbach (below). George the senior celebrated his 80th birthday at Mid Ohio last summer. They ran up front in my class.
The Grid.