Thirty-two of us turned up at Rush Street Grill for the scheduled ABCS meeting. We had one visitor among our number - David Bettis of Johnson City who owns Land Rovers.
After welcoming David, President Allen Calcote asked Ben Bailey, Drives Chairman, to report on the last road trip event. Ben noted that five cars toured to Greeneville, TN and the trip turned into an outlet store and eating tour! Ben further stated that the survey results were in and summarized them. We learned that the club drives continue to be popular with club members as almost all wished to continue them. Answers were split as to the two drives per month schedule so as not to give a clear answer. There was almost total agreement on going to car shows and traveling as a group to them. There was clear agreement on starting the 2nd Saturday morning drives at 9:00 AM and for 1:00 PM as the time for the 4th Sunday drive, so this schedule will be retained. Other things we learned from the survey were that the club should start the drive wherever we meet, so we will start from where we eat breakfast or lunch. This will be the schedule for future drives:
2nd Saturday: Meet at 9:00, depart at 9:30
4th Sunday: Meet at 1:00, depart at 1:30
Ben suggested that the club try to schedule one overnight trip, to the Peaks of Otter Lodge on the Blue Ridge Parkway, for instance, to see how that works.
The program tonight was done by John Baldridge on his racing program. John is known among us for having an airplane and car that match! John and his Bugeye are always welcome sights at our events.
John talked a lot about his former racing days with another Bugeye Sprite and showed some photos of the Sprite and some of the action and also some of the participants. John started racing in the Detroit area and toured to many racing circuits in that vicinity. One trend he had noticed was that the first year racing trainees were forced to display an orange, triangular 'slow vehicle' sign on the rear of the car. The second year racers were faster and the third year racers usually had 'for sale' signs on their cars and divorces pending!
As racing venues, John expressed a definite preference for the Canadian tracks that he frequented over the American ones as the Canadians were less prone to nitpick the cars and their setups. Thus, Minis often would outrun Corvettes on Canadian tracks, but not necessarily on their American counterparts.
John's stories were all very interesting and tales of his racing career abundant. He had some most interesting stories about improvements in tires, ending in the use of very expensive racing tires, and of personalities such as Colin Chapman who attended the races.
Schedule for Upcoming Meeting Programs
Richard Williams, Programs Chairman, has announced the programs schedule for the Spring and Summer ABCS meetings. They are as follows:
March: Video - TBA
April: Tri-City Plating
May: Meet at Gerald Mitchell's house
June: Allen Calcote
July: Mitch Bowerly, Alley's
August: David Gage - Rovers
Richard is still looking for someone to do a program in July, not to mention any of the dates not shown here. If you or someone you know could do a program, arrange it with Richard so he will know when and what. We all know there is hidden talent out there, not to mention photos of old races, hillclimbs and other interesting things that you have done and attended. So come on and tell us all about it!
Another Month, A Different Story.... Joe Bowman
For those of you who expected to turn to these pages and find another tortured rendition of my excruciating XJS story, I am sorry but I must disappoint you for now. For those inquiring minds who really want to know (yes, you are sick, but you know who you are), skip to the end of this missive (the fifth to last paragraph) for a short (and pain-free) update.
This month, I have an entirely different tack (or track) to take. Let me say that I just returned from another Saturday spent on the road and find that it was once again time well spent. I spent five hours driving one way to spend ten minutes riding in a minivan. And, then five hours back. All of this starting off at 5 AM after only five hours sleep. And a most fulfilling trip it was.
Yes, that was all of it...ten hours to drive 498 miles round trip to spend 10 minutes in a mini-van transversing a mere 3.27 miles of pavement. Now, as sports car enthusiasts, I'm sure that many of you can understand my basic feelings about minivans. They are, to me, little more than a total blight on the driving world, a pathetic middle American "status symbol" and a bulbous block to what scenery may be taken upon the average suburban street. But, these few minutes have changed my attitude towards driving.
(No, they have not changed my attitudes towards minivans, just towards driving.) VYou see, I spent ten minutes touring the new Virginia International Raceway. At their first open house this year, there was nothing to see but a newly laid track surface. A track surface that had to be viewed and enjoyed from the passenger side of a Dodge Grand Caravan. (The only redeeming quality that I can impart to it was that it was a dark shade of green....dark enough to be mistook for British Racing Green by the uninformed). But what a view it was from my lounge chair like perch.
The course, which originally opened in 1957, has had its surface completely refinished and widened to 30 to 36 feet in many places. The original 3.27 miles of course are there. The 4000 feet uphill straight and the 3000 foot downhill straight which runs under the Coca-Cola Bridge are there. The full course has all original 19 turns including an incredible hairpin around the original Oak Tree.
I was too young to know anything of this course in its heyday. Carroll Shelby, who won the first professional sports car race there in 1957, said that "one lap here is like 100 at Watkins Glen." In the 1950's and 1960's VIR saw many races including the ISMA GT series and Trans Am. However, it fell into decline in the early 1970's and has been closed since 1974-75. The past 25 years, it has been a 1,200 acre cow pasture.
As part of its renovation and restoration, it has been segmented into two separate courses that can be run year round and simultaneously; however, the main course still remains in its entirety and will be ran at least four times a year. I was able to survey both new short courses and the long course in my ten to fifteen minutes tour and I found that it was all I could do to restrain myself from asking for a turn behind the wheel of the green barge. (It would have been just as quickly declined so why bother).
The short courses include the North Course - a 2.25 mile high speed course with 15 turns, the majority of the straights and the main start/finish line. The South Course covers 1.6 miles and 8 turns. But what turns they are - the Oak Tree and a special blind curve (which drops off below your line of sight before it turns) where if you don't run into it before you can even see it, you will be off the road before you know where you are. Approximately 80 percent of the South Course can be viewed from the spectator area which should make for a rare treat for those who tire of wondering where the cars are in order to know how the race is going.
Now you should ask, what am I doing there in the first place? Well, you see, as many things go with me, its a rather long path around, but here goes.....
I do not take vacations. This is a function of working for myself (where you are free to come and go as you please, but when you are not there, you are not getting paid), traveling too much for work anyway (35,000 miles a year or more), not liking to spend money and, now, living alone. What would be the point? I can't very well get away from myself can I?
This year, I had planned something different though. I have had a desire to do some sort of amateur racing all of my life. Yes, I know, I complain about spending money on my Jaguar, so I'll really be throwing it away if I want to race. You'll notice that I don't have a dream of "winning" races, just racing. Thus, the price of failure is a little bit more within my reach. So I contacted the Car Guys who were scheduling a SCCA approved two day driving school at VIR. $400 for two days and bring your own car.
Hmm, sounds intriguing...two days of racing, three 30 minute track sessions per day, classes, and watching others. Bring your own car sticks in my throat though because their event was scheduled for June. I have since given up predicting when I may complete my Jaguar, but June does not sound feasible. (Oops, I wasn't going to mention my Jag until the end.)
So I started searching around for a suitable vehicle (I'm also working on Chris Bordwine's Spitfire with my brother but it won't be done until at least June, too.) . . . and the only other vehicle I own is sitting in my driveway and is an SOB (Some Other Brand). Now, mind you, I have always liked British Sports Cars, but I have built other cars for racing and sporting purposes (mainly VW Rabbit GTI's during my German phase). And, so a quick glance at the SCCA On-Line Rules showed me that Hyundai's compete in the same class as Spitfires and Midgets (both of which I am intimately familiar with in terms of their performance abilities). A quick glance out my window showed a 1999 Hyundai Accent two door still sitting rather unassumingly in the driveway....
Now, I put two and two together, $1,000 for parts on the charge card, and assessed my situation. I couldn't find a reason to do this, but then again, I couldn't find a reason (mainly a spouse who wouldn't understand modifying your daily driver for club racing) not too. Wheels, tires, struts, springs, strut bars, intake and exhaust systems were soon on the way to me. Two weeks later I have the fastest Hyundai in the Tri-Cities (not exactly a matter of bragging rights, but who cares?)
While contemplating my weekend of racing to come, I scan over to the VIR website (www.virclub.com) and try to see what the track looks like. To my surprise, I find that you can enroll as a member of the course and are entitled to 10 hours of track time and ten hours of solo time each year. Now, the price seems steep ($1,200 per year and a non-refundable initialization fee of $1,000 plus a deposit of $360) but if you join for three years, they waive the initialization fee. The mere mention of a discount is enough motivation for me to call for more information. And to my surprise, I find that they are waiving the $1,200 fee for this year. So, for the deposit of $360 you get your 20 hours this year. Then you owe $1,200 each for the next two years for a total of $2,760 over three years. As well as getting your own racing time, the VIR Club provides passes to each of their eight sanctioned races of the season. This gives a club member the opportunity to run your own car as an amateur and watch the pros do it right.
Sounds like a deal, right? I sent in my 2000 dues of $360 without much thought in the matter. Then, I decided to see what I had bought (or leased as the case may be) and so I made the trip to their first open house. And I wasn't disappointed.
Speaking of disappointment, I am no closer to having my Jaguar complete. I have taken it to an automotive electrical and fuel injection specialist. I doubted that he could do anything for it. But, I went to see the mechanic and the car anyway.
I walked into the shop and it looked all modern, clean and busy. I noticed my car parked near the front in a group of cars which appeared to be undergoing various levels of restoration. This seemed like a good thing and I walked past the only car parked in front of mine to admire the Jaguar. Since looking at it is the only pleasure it gives me these days, I try to make the most of it.
Now, back to the counter to speak with the owner. I wait while he completes a phone conversation. While waiting, I overhear two guys talking about a V12. I naturally assume they are admiring my XJS so I turn around and notice for the first time a bright red XJS Convertible parked in front of my car. Despite having walked past it twice, I didn't even realize that it was there. While this doesn't bode well for my powers of observation, it is a good sign for my car. Here is someone who has actually worked on an XJS and been successful as this car is being prepared to be picked up by its owner even as I watch.
A brief conversation with the owner and I realize what I am up against. He will work on the car and thinks that it can be fixed; however, he will only work on it if I can provide him with a new wiring harness. And, he cannot even start until April. Once again, my hopes rose and fell within the space of a few minutes because I had already checked on wiring harnesses and not even Jaguar supplies them anymore.
So I became determined to locate a harness and after an afternoon of calling (and an overseas call to England to the original manufacturer Lucas) I had obtained what every Jaguar supplier said doesn't exist - a new OEM XJS fuel injection wiring harness. Well, obtained isn't the right term, paid for is. We shall see if it arrives as promised in two to three weeks....