Thursday, May 14, 2015

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. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

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 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....

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 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

    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

    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