Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2012 at Road America

Introducing the newest member of P and B Motorsports-Phil Koller, Official Team Photographer (Pay is the same as other team members – no discrimination!) (Joy Perry Photo)
Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival 2012 brought out a great contingent of Volvos. (L to R, Joe Brabender, Jeff Babcock, Alex Christopher, Todd Jongen, Jim Perry, Ray Freiwald) (Phil Koller Photo)
How do you spell relief? For us it was a weekend of almost perfect running in VSCDA's Elkhart Lake Vintage Festival. Or to use a play on baseball language, six runs, no dents, no errors, and nothing left on base. After a mighty long year of being frustrated by overheating and stumbling problems, we finally found ourselves with the Mobil 1 P1800 living up to its storied reputation.
You may have looked at the short video of the Friday Practice Session in which the doubts remained. But let’s back up a bit.
The timing issue discovered after the “Return to Road America Double Race Weekend” was solved the overheating but we were still experiencing a mid-range rpm stumble. We decided to look at the way we had the ignition set up. A call to MSD by erstwhile Crew Chief Buettner resulted in the rather interesting response “the car won’t run that way.”  A year ago we had removed the Crane igniter so the MSD was running on its own. That’s what elicited the comment. Well, sorry MSD, but it does run, but we will admit that maybe it was short sighted to remove that Crane.
While I was off attending to some duties in northern Wisconsin Dave Buettner hooked up a new MSD box, reinstalled the Crane, built up and installed a “new” Bosch JF-4 distributor I extracted from the Volvo 145 that had been purchased as a donor vehicle. And did a bit of in-shop tuning. I replaced the 4.56 rear end with the taller 4.1 more suitable for the 4+ mile Road America. I must admit I am feeling like I could change these rear axles with my eyes closed after a year of practice.
We headed for RA early on Thursday, set up, and went to tech in preparation for Friday’s start. On my way back from tech I got behind some slow moving vehicles going up the hill and the car stalled. And did not want to restart. A little embarrassing to say the least. Eventually it fired up, only to stall again. After waiting a couple of minutes it came to life again and I made my way back to the paddock with a little suspicion that all was not perfect, but I’d have to wait until morning to find out.
The Swedish Pavilion was packed with three P1800s (Alex Christopher, Ray Freiwald, and me), two Amazons (Jeff Babcock and Joe Brabender) and Todd Jongen’s 142.  Jeff’s 122 was touch and go but made it sans some of its usual ornamentation due to some bodywork that needed to be done. It was especially nice to see Todd, even if he was recovering from a freak accident in which he severed a tendon in his elbow when he slipped working on the B20 oil pan.  “They don’t look like they have sharp edges, but they sure as heck do!” It certainly did not affect Todd’s driving though – he was great all weekend.
Todd Jongen (David Farrington photo)
It was a very special weekend because of the many friends who came to be part of the action as well. Sue Farrington flew in from Rhode Island to become part of Team Farrington (and just maybe to spend a little time with her Chattanooga, TN-relocated hubby). Sue Christopher came all the way from Reno with Alex, and Colleen Brabender joined Joe and son Brandon. We were surprised when Bob Wilson, an 1800 owner Joy and I met at the early summer St. Louis Volvo Club of America National Meet came tooling in with his beautiful “Saint” from far northern Minnesota. Lornie Haugen from Tomahawk, WI brought his 245 and Scamp camper. And St. Louis organizer Glen McMillin came to see what all of this racing stuff was all about; here’s a portion of the message I got from him a couple days later: “Just wanted to say thank you again for letting me roam the paddock and covet all the well-prepared Volvos :-)  I've got to say, I had high expectations of the weekend, and those expectations were far exceeded.  It was fantastic to watch all the work going on to prepare the cars and then watch them represent Volvo well in the competition.  What a beautiful course.  I can only imagine the thrill you get by pushing that car around it :-)
 The first time an 1800 shows up at the Swedish Pavilion it is sure to attract a crowd of admirers, as did Bob Wilson’s (L to R: Bob Wilson, David Farrington, Todd Jongen, Doug Senk [leaning], Jim Blett
Brigitte Babcock threw her usual spectacular Pavilion Party, making sure everyone was well fueled

The Vintage Sports Car Driver Association-sanctioned ELVF is a great event. Milwaukee’s Comer’s Classic Automobiles is its primary sponsor. Colin Comer brought a new ground pounder that walked away from everyone in his class. Unfortunately (?), Cana Comer was not entered, as she is “working on [their] first offspring,” as she told me at Saturday night’s reception.

The event attracts many classic cars, on the track, in the paddocks, and in Elkhart Lake, the latter being the site of VSCDA’s “Gathering on the Green” of outstanding collector cars at the beautiful Osthoff Resort. Unfortunately, the rains came again and chased everyone away, us to the VSCDA Banquet.

Among the many notables was a beautiful ’51 Cunningham that took my mind right back to BJ Levy’s semi-fictionalized accounts of road racing’s early days.

And then there was also the eclectic

Beautiful location, beautiful automobiles. "On the Green" at the Osthoff (Lornie Haugen photo)
Racing legend Augie Pabst entertained the VSCDA crowd with stories of by-gone days, including his car- in-the-pool car stunt

But back to the main event ...

Halfway through the first practice lap I got my answer about how the car was going to behave when the engine started to lose power, misfire and just generally go south. I pulled into the hot pits, and … well, that’s what the previous post’s video showed. We had to be towed back to the paddock this time.
Diagnosis time once again, but now the engine refused to start, backfiring through the intake. We had suggestions from people with lots of experience, suggestions I just found too complex with the KISS principle fresh in my mind from the overheating debacle. Dave was out in Bonneville watching cars go very fast in a straight line on the salt. But as usual he was immediately available via cell phone. After I described the situation it took him all of ten seconds to say that the timing had jumped and the solution was to reinstall the original distributor. David Farrington and I set to work doing some soldering and had it done in 45 minutes. Hit the under-hood starter and, hot dog, we were back in business.
This has become an all too familiar view under our canopy. Fortunately this time is all worked out!
We ran Practice 2 in the rain, carefully, because it was pretty darn greasy out there, but the elation of pulling into the pits at the end of the session having run with everything firing on all fours, literally and figuratively was indescribable. And this time we had solved the disappearing wiper arm problem, permanently!
May not be show quality, but it ain’t goin’ anywhere
The rest of the weekend just kept getting better and better for us. By the time we were finished on Sunday I had turned three successive personal bests in the last three runs, with a 2:52.8 lap in the final session.  There were a lot of cars, and even with the improvement I still was only 4th in class. But no matter, we had a car that ran really well.

There is a lot of track time at VSCDA events, including two “cup races,” the Kimberly Cup for cars that typically run 3 minute lap times and over and the Sheldon Cup for those a little faster. Ray and Todd had outstanding runs in the Kimberly Cup finishing First and Second. Here are two short videos of that race with yours truly as the very amateur announcer.

Race Engineer Farrington is working on videos of the entire ELVF event, so stay tuned. This might have been the last run for us for the season. Nothing like ending up on a high note, so we can look forward to Road Atlanta and The Mitty next spring.
Jeff Babcock finally figures out how to run a jack! Farrington's changing tires again.


  1. What's that fella doing with that car jack?

  2. Jim; Nice record of the event. I request permission to repost Wiper Post repair pic in an article I'm compiling for Sw-Em site. Please give photographer so I can attribute. Tnx, Ron