Thursday, March 12, 2015

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.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

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

                                                                       Sam Seward , Joy Perry, Sue Farrington, 
                                                                           David Farrington, Peter Tan, Rachel Durfee and boys


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
Here’s what the tach looks like when the engine is missing
video


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


Sunday, July 20, 2014

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.
                    Ugh!



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 ...

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

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!