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Thank God the ammunition pump didn’t abdicate on the aboriginal day. Otherwise, we absolutely would accept been the agitator of a CNN-worthy Artery 80 blow aloof west of the Sierra Nevada mountains’ Donner Pass, where–less than 75 afar into our 2300-mile expedition from California to Michigan–we begin ourselves in the boilerplate of an awkward aboriginal October blizzard. In the January affair of Automobile Magazine [Collectible Classic], I abbreviated the weeklong chance home in my anew purchased, California-clean 1967 MGB/GT Special hardtop. Here’s the broadcast chance of how it went down, forth with added photos.
I begin my San Francisco MG on Craigslist, emailing buyer Thom Fox aural hours of the ad’s posting. A few canicule later, I’d recruited two friends/Bay Breadth car journalists, Lyndon Bell of On Auto Inc. and contributor Scott Corlett, both of whom supplied me with photos and admonition that assertive me that this car was account a academic action and a claimed cruise to Frisco (where best cars in clean, applicable action are commonplace) to booty possession. Fox, a chef who still owns a ’67 MGB auto but replaced the B/GT with a Scion xD, gave me a absolute anniversary on the B/GT Special afore we alive the papers, and afresh he guided me to the Golden Gate Bridge. Afterwards a few photos, I acclimatized myself with my new MG during a ninety-mile bang to Davis, California, breadth I anchored it below a acceptable academy friend’s carport. A few hours afterwards parking the car, I was aback on a alike to Detroit. In apprehension of the awaiting cross-country drive, I bought a aboriginal Michelin additional annoy from The Annoy Rack and a box of side-of-the-road additional genitalia from the Little British Car Co., aircraft these items to the car’s acting address. Meanwhile, my dad alien a CB radio to the car, and my co-driver and I counted bottomward the canicule to our MG chance …
Day 1 (Davis, CA to Soda Springs, CA): Annoy paranoia/weather paranoia
Thursday (intended brief stop: Salt Lake City, Utah; absolute brief stop: Soda Springs, California)
I access to aces up the MG midday on Thursday, October 4, in mild Davis, California, with my co-driver and longtime buddy, Mike McPike. My Mark 1 B/GT has been anchored below my acquaintance Jessica Oster’s barn aback three weeks ago, aback I absurdly collection my new babyish about 100 afar from San Francisco.
We accept about 2300 afar amid Davis and Ann Arbor, Michigan, and we’re on a appealing tight, (what turns out to be ridiculously ambitious) 650-mile-per-day agenda to accomplish it home in time to go to assignment on Monday morning. No sweat, right?! Afore departing, we install halogen head- and taillamps–the bigger to see and be seen–and angle up a CB radio with a weather-band channel; the CB will be our sole antecedent of in-car entertainment, aback the alone reminders of the car’s aboriginal radio are a baby animate apostle and an aeriform fender antenna. That’s OK, though, because McPike and I grew up arena video amateur together, and we’re captivated at the abstraction of a basic, 1960s-style alley trip, afterwards avant-garde crutches such as iPods, accessory radio, aeronautics systems, adequate seats, and so on.
After anxiously packing the tiny aback bench and burden breadth with tools, additional parts, luggage, and cameras, we leave Jessica’s abode at about 2pm and arch beeline for In-N-Out Burger, a California basal that’s a must-have amusement for visiting Midwesterners. Afterward, we absorb a few hours at Sports Cars Limited in Sacramento, breadth Mike Singleton changes the fluids in the engine, the transmission, and the rear end. Singleton (who commutes in a blooming Mark 2 MGB roadster) additionally finds that the left-rear arbor allowance is aperture and has fabricated the brakes greasy, so he replaces the rear shoes on both sides. He additionally rotates the tires and completes a basal checkover, which turns out to be absolutely good. Still, from below the car, we ascertain a absurd elastic steering-rack cossack and arid wheel-hub splines, not to acknowledgment a nail-like article in the footstep of one tire. Thankfully, Singleton observes annihilation trip-cancelingly serious. His recommended bounded annoy store, however, no best casework wire auto and close tubes, so our alone army additional is the vintage, baldheaded Pirelli bias-ply that came with the car; the aboriginal Michelin all-season adorable that I bought to bout the added four tires will aloof booty up amplitude in the block for now.
Not continued afterwards abrogation Singleton’s boutique at about 7pm, we atom an alive admonishing assurance on I-80: “Snowing over Donner Pass. Carry Chains.” What?! Soon, we’re bent in a crazy Sierra Nevada snowstorm. Temperatures are abreast freezing, snow and bribery accomplish the artery lanes about visible, and I feel added fatigued than the San Andreas Fault. Afterwards what seems like an aeon but afore admiral shut bottomward I-80, we acquisition a animated beacon: the Rainbow Lodge in Soda Springs. Blessedly, they accept apartment available. We accommodated addition beat cross-country crusader, Derek Desjardins, who’s active his aboriginal Mazda MX-5 from Connecticut to San Francisco. Desjardins joins us in added than one stress-relieving pint of beer as added snowbound travelers access at the hotel, one car abaft a tow truck.
Miles flown: 2028; afar driven: 95
Day 2 (Soda Springs, CA to Carlin, NV): Acclimate paranoia/hood paranoia
Friday (intended brief stop: Kearney, Nebraska; absolute brief stop: Carlin, Nevada)
In the morning, my archetypal car has seven inches of heavy, wet snow accoutrement it. Afterwards mauling plates of the Rainbow Lodge’s absurd French toast, we delay about for crews to bright the alley to the interstate. We assuredly hit the alley at 11am and drive through added algid acclimate and different abominable conditions. In Nevada, an angel at Reno Annoy mounts the new Michelin adorable in abode of the age-old bias-ply (which we accumulate for sentiment’s sake). I’d advanced had no clue how few annoy shops are accommodating to assignment with inner-tubed, wire wheels. Now I know.
After cafeteria in Reno, I about clay myself aback the B/GT‘s ailing applicable awning ancestor itself afterwards we bisect a bang on the artery abreast Valmy, Nevada. (After analytical the well-engineered assurance catch, we amusement the two-dozen consecutive reoccurrences as accepted nuisances.) We accomplish it to Carlin, Nevada, afore altitude became too aphotic (how abhorrent charge those aboriginal headlights be if the upgraded halogens will about admittance safe artery speeds afterwards dark?) and too algid (how can the temperatures be near-freezing; isn’t Nevada in the desert?) to absolve acute on into the barren, hotel-less Salt Flats.
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Miles driven: 318 (414 afar in two canicule … so how ’bout that 650-miles-per-day average?)
Day 3 (Carlin, NV to Rawlins, WY): Acclimate paranoia/fuel-pump paranoia
Saturday (intended brief stop: Chicago, Illinois; absolute brief stop: Rawlins, Wyoming)
At breakfast, we appallingly eavesdrop some truckers administration roadkill abhorrence belief (bear, moose, elk, cow) of the American West. Nonetheless, we accomplish acceptable time through the blow of Nevada and Utah, the MG’s 98-hp, 1.8-liter in-line four-cylinder affective us to canoeing speeds up to 80 mph (at agent speeds able-bodied over 4000 rpm) aback we aren’t traveling through added snow flurries, which are absolutely abundant abreast Salt Lake City. To Michiganders, the Salt Flats and the Abundant Salt Lake are added adopted than Jupiter. Wyoming turns out to be windy, abnormally from abaft the caster of a 2200-pound antique, but a Welcome Center agent disagrees (“This is jeest a geeen-tle breeeeze,” he calmly drawls) and says that we’ll breach advanced of the storm if we accumulate hustling.
Which we’re accomplishing aloof accomplished until until until … McPike is activity about 70 mph aback the car starts bogging and not responding to his prods of the gas pedal. Aural seconds, as he’s affairs assimilate the accept of I-80, the MG stalls. Upon the cell-phone advocacy of Automobile Magazine accessory editor Sam Smith, who basically grew up in an MG shop, we analysis the carburetor float bowls, which about-face out to be empty, advertence that the ammunition pump chock-full accomplishing its job. So, on Sam’s advice, we agilely tap the pump with a screwdriver handle, briefly awakening the pump.
Meanwhile, though, the aforementioned storm has bent up, afresh subjecting us to added algid and rain, additional bristles account of barrage while we’re alfresco troubleshooting. Because of the moisture, the car’s windows fog about anon already we get rolling again, so McPike–now aback in the commuter seat–must consistently apple-pie them apple-pie with a rag. By this time, the precipitation has angry to snow and aurora has angry to night. Soon, the wipers coil because the passenger-side brand has slid apart and refuses to breach bound in its track. McPike yanks off the absolute wiper arm. Cue an alike added disturbing drive through a aphotic snowstorm, but this time, the ammunition pump could abdicate at any time, we’ve got alone one wiper, and the awning still isn’t latching absolute reliably. Did I acknowledgment that this car additionally lacks four-way flashers? We stick a cogitating aflame assurance triangle in the rear window, leave the appropriate about-face arresting on, and bend forth in the apathetic lane at 30 mph, acquisitive that we don’t get rear-ended by a semitruck. (That wouldn’t be pretty, aback the car additionally has basal lap belts and a metal dashboard with lots of pointy protrusions.)
The ammunition pump fails three added times afore we ability the Best Western in Rawlins, Wyoming, twenty disturbing afar from our antecedent failure. Instead of decompressing with booze, we appraise the MGB account chiral and the additional fuel-pump credibility that I’d brought along.
Miles driven: 549 (ironically, the accomplished of the trip)
Day 4 (Rawlins, WY to Sidney, NE): Fuel-pump paranoia
Sunday (intended brief stop: home–Ann Arbor, Michigan; absolute brief stop: Sidney, Nebraska)
Rather than blend with the choosy ammunition system’s ancient (moisture weary?) credibility in the auberge parking lot on a windy, frigid Sunday morning in Rawlins, we acquisition an accessible auto genitalia abundance in town. They accept several avant-garde cyberbanking ammunition pumps for sale–just the ticket–but we can’t get ahold of anyone who knows the MG’s breeze rate. While we’re active about boondocks analytic for parts, however, the car is active fine, so we abide our apathetic expedition eastward.
The ammunition pump continues its bloodless behavior, but it’s abundant nicer to fix your car on the accept of the artery aback it’s brilliant and 52 degrees outside, as against to backing and 34 degrees–even with eighteen-wheelers whizzing past. Afterwards charwoman the leads to the fuel-pump wires, we adore 150-plus afar of cruising, including a attractive amplitude through the Medicine Bow National Forest, afore the botheration reappears–this time with adverse frequency. We reroute to the slower (and added interesting) Lincoln Artery to abate appeal on the bedridden ammunition system. In Sidney, Nebraska (home of Cabela’s), we acquisition a Wal-Mart and acquirement acquaintance cleaner and a backup changeable lead, in hopes that these changes will acquiesce us to columnist on.
No dice! The additional accepted to the ammunition pump allegedly arcs the points, and it will pump alone abundant ammunition to ample the curve once, and afresh it’s quitsville. Our day ends in Sidney with the car active worse than anytime and our back-home ETA accepting passed, about center through the journey. The ammunition pump abdicate ten times today, but the awning popped alone twice.
Miles driven: 255
Day 5 (Sidney, NE to Underwood, IA): What-could-possibly-go-wrong-next paranoia
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Monday (intended brief stop: home; absolute brief stop: Underwood, Iowa)
First affair in the morning, we alarm John Twist, University Motors’ administrator of best MGs. He reveals the appropriate fuel-flow amount and gives us some of the best account of the trip: the new ammunition pump can be installed below the awning so that it pulls ammunition through the aboriginal pump abreast the appropriate rear wheel, aspersing the charge for alive below the car and angry with abominable ammunition lines.
This is abundant account because we’ll be alive in the alluvium parking lot of Sidney’s NAPA store, breadth two Montana-bound hunters accumulate us aggregation while they alter the baptize pump in their astern ’90s Dodge Ram. It’s a acceptable affair that my co-driver is an electrical architect at Corrsys-Datron, an automotive-sensor company, and has bags of acquaintance alive on his dad’s 1954 Ford tractor–this accomplishment set is awful advantageous for alive with the MG’s Lucas electrical system. Not absent to decay time appropriately base the new pump to the ignition, we affix it appropriate to the array and arise a toggle about-face below the dash. Because the car uses a positive–not negative–ground, we wire the pump astern so that the ammunition flows the absolute direction, and we superinsulate the answerable pump from the fender with a allotment of elastic cut from the old bias-ply’s close tube.
By 1pm, afterwards blockage our accomplishment and affairs a blaze extinguisher aloof in case, we’re eastbound and bottomward on I-80. The temperatures are warm, the sun is shining, the windows are down, the boiler is off, and our speeds are fast. This is what we’d absurdly accepted for the absolute trip. The alone map we brought along–a U.S. alley album about 1974–inhales baby Nebraska towns, and our affection improves exponentially. We alike adore a sightseeing breach at an aboriginal Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska.
Once admired aurora goes away, we barbecue on the Lincoln, Nebraska, Cracker Barrel’s appetizing craven ‘n’ dumplin’ dinner. For the aboriginal time this week, we abide active afterwards dinner, with renewed ability and abounding stomachs. Nearby Omaha is the aboriginal big burghal we’ve apparent aback Salt Lake, and dicing with cartage on I-80’s rutted lanes keeps us attentive. Strangely, the lanes assume rutted east of Omaha, too, and the MG isn’t responding absolute able-bodied to these conditions. No worries. We’ve accomplished the Iowa accompaniment line, and we’ve got lots of time to accomplish up, so the drivers shall adjudge aback to stop active today, rather than accepting our arrange dictated by Mother Attributes or Father MG …
KA-WHAM! The larboard rear annoy aback goes flat, and I bound assimilate the avenue access for Underwood, Iowa, endlessly afore any caster accident can occur. The emergency triangle reappears, and we bandy out the spare, application the car’s advance bang to alleviate and afresh retighten the caster knockoff. It’s absolutely time to alarm it a night, because aback the annoy (which had apparently been aperture aback Omaha) aboriginal went, we’d afraid that the complete ability accept absolutely resulted from one of those archaic knockoffs advancing apart (which they’re accepted for), liberating a caster to go bouncing into the darkness. Instead of attempting any added miles, we promptly ensure the binding of all four knockoffs. Later, we alleviate the caps on some Pabst Blue Ribbons at the Underwood Motel’s bar, breadth we accommodated a tough, adolescent Iowan called Joel who says that the boutique breadth he works can adjustment our close tube in the morning.
Miles driven: 417
Day 6 (Underwood, IA to West Liberty, IA): Annoy paranoia/brake paranoia/tire paranoia
Tuesday (intended brief stop: home; absolute brief stop: West Liberty, Iowa)
At the able of dawn, we amend annoy pressures and knockoffs security, bead off our collapsed at Joel’s employer, Doug’s Auto Diesel, afresh arch beyond the artery for a delicious Prairie breakfast at Shelby, Iowa’s Cornstalk Restaurant. Upon abiding to Doug’s for our repaired tire, we apprentice that they can’t advice us: “I won’t blow accurate wire wheels,” says the man. “I’m not gonna be liable; if one batten is messed up, those auto will be no good.”
“Hmm,” I say to McPike as we amount the still-flat additional aback in the trunk. “I achievement the burst batten I begin this morning on the larboard advanced doesn’t beggarly that wheel’s no acceptable …”
Luckily, fate doesn’t accomplish us pay for proceeding beyond best of Iowa with a bankrupt batten and no anatomic spare. In Iowa City, Bud’s Annoy replaces the tube in our flat, so we assume set for a 450-mile bang to the finish, odd-hour-of-the-morning-arrival be damned.
Not so fast. As anon as we’re aback on the highway, I aroma article peculiar. At the abutting exit, West Branch, we ascertain smoke wisping from the appropriate advanced wheel. Its spokes are so hot that you could barbecue craven on them. The anchor is blind up. Empathetic samaritan Tim Arkebauer leads us to Parkside Service, but the guys there can’t advice and absolute us to Noel’s Automotive Repair. Postponing his added projects (which accommodate the apology of a attractive 1970 ), buyer Keith Noel finds that the appropriate advanced rotor is actively angled and the caliper’s agent is absolutely blind up. He turns the rotor aural a millimeter of its activity and frees up the adhesive caliper piston.
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“Now, these brakes ability be OK for aloof one agitation stop, but you should be accomplished aloof activity bottomward the road,” Noel says, affirmation the acting attributes of the fix. “Be very, absolute accessible on the account brakes unless absolutely necessary.”
The brakes initially assume normal, maybe aloof a bit added pedal biking than usual, during a amber analysis run through West Branch, so we get aback on the artery as the sun is setting. Engineer/co-driver McPike suggests that we booty the aboriginal avenue to double-check that the anchor lights (which are triggered by a burden switch) are alive properly.
Plus, the added I assignment the anchor pedal, the softer it gets. Soon, it’s all I can do to accompany the car from 10 mph to a stop in this truck-stop parking lot. There’s no way I’d be able to reel in this car from 70 mph for a Chicago-area tollbooth. Somehow air has gotten into the anchor lines. Whether the agent has a aperture or Noel let air into the system, we’re not sure. All that’s bright is that the MG isn’t safe to drive any further afterwards some austere work, and there’s no cogent what genitalia we’ll need, but they’re apparently not abounding at the abutting NAPA, wherever the heck that is.
While we’re debating about what to do next, McPike notices that addition annoy is audibly aperture air from the valve stem, the accepted aftermost straw. We’re smarter than we are proud, so we bandy in the anhydrate afore article absolutely austere happens. We’ve been advantageous abundant to persevere through snowstorms, ice, an electromechanical failure, freezing temperatures, collapsed tires, and a automated failure; it wouldn’t be astute to arch against Chicagoland in this condition. I buzz a benevolent ancestors acquaintance in Michigan, and he agrees to aces us up in the morning.
Thankfully, there’s a bargain EconoLodge appropriate about the corner, and the barter stop has forty ouncers of MGD and vending-machine sandwiches. Banquet is served.
Miles driven: 242
Day 7 (West Liberty, IA to Chelsea, MI): Don’t-roll-off-the-trailer paranoia
Wednesday (intended brief stop: home; absolute brief stop: home–finally!)
Next aperture to the EconoLodge, Mom’s Kitchen (a restaurant/laundromat/general store) serves up a absolute meal while we delay for our ride. While we’re loitering, we account that the MG averaged 22 mpg and 760 mpq (miles per quart of oil) over about 1900 miles–not bad.
Gracious acquaintance John Bishop arrives about 1pm with his Sport Trac and his aboriginal trailer. We acceleration beyond the Mississippi River, brim about the southern bend of Chicago, and by 11pm, the car is anchored cautiously at Bishop’s abode in Chelsea, Michigan (where we eventually drain the brakes and apprentice that my compassionate wife absolutely brand the B/GT aback she sees it in person).
This alley cruise was a blast. But for our abutting cross-country excursion, I’m appealing abiding that McPike and I will booty a new car. Maybe alike article comfortable, quiet, and arid abundant to accreditation alert to the radio.
Miles driven: 0.2; afar trailered: 456
Click actuality to see a map of the route. Also, accomplish abiding to analysis out the finds that could accept been on the abutting page.
The Search/False Starts
My wife blames Automobile Magazine’s car-collecting addict, Jamie Kitman. He’s the one who buried this vintage-British-car abstraction in my head, during the 2005 copy of America’s British Reliability Run, for which Kitman alien seven of his best British cars to Michigan for the anniversary assemblage for charity. I collection all seven, and the Blackwells were hooked. Sure, endless best American monsters accept alarming appearance and power, but there’s aloof article about the added nimble, added ammunition economical, and beneath big-ticket British cars that I couldn’t resist.
After months of browsing eBay, Craigslist, hemmings.com, traderonline.com, and added cars-for-sale Web sites, I assuredly begin The One, acknowledgment abundantly to the abetment of endless bodies whom I relentlessly pestered, including Kitman; Automobilers Sam Smith, Don Sherman, Marc Noordeloos, Richard Eccleston, and Joe Lorio; Richard Truett from Automotive News; Stuart Fowle from Motive Mag; Reliability Run arbiter Blake Discher; University Motors’ MG administrator John Twist; associates of the Sacramento British car club and the North American MGB Register; and a host of added accompany and family. False starts assorted broadly in price, condition, and area and featured two ’69 MG B/GTs, a ’73 B/GT, an ‘80 Triumph Dolomite Sprint, a ’67 Triumph TR4-A, a ’66 Triumph Herald, two ’67 Sunbeam Alpines, a ’70 Alpine hardtop, a aboriginal ’59 Hillman Minx (not pictured), a ’74 Hillman Imp, and a Mark 2 English Ford Cortina.
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