Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Convention Vacation – Part 2

Since last Wednesday was the first day of CORSA's national convention and also autocross day, last Wednesday was also a day of firsts for me. I'd never attended a CORSA convention nor had I ever competed in an autocross. It was, therefore, no trouble for me to hop out of bed at 6:30 AM. Even though I arrived at Stafford Motor Speedway right at the 7:30 start time, there were already at least a dozen Corvairs parked in the paddock. My experience with NECC's track events paid off and after emptying Lucy of all loose items as well as her spare tire and jack, I was able to find John Egerton, the NECC member who'd inspected Lucy at my first track day. He was inspecting for this event as well, so I asked him to sign her off again. After a thorough going-over, I was only lacking my number. A quick phone call to the convention registration desk and I found out I was #276. Once I'd artistically used masking tape on Lucy's driver's side rear window, John applied the green approval sticker to the corner of her windshield. Since I'd stupidly forgotten my helmet, I asked John about borrowing one. He assured me there'd be some loaners available on the grid.

With that hurdle out of the way, I made my way into the speedway to walk the track. Now would be a good time to educate those of you readers who've no idea what an autocross is. Unlike a roadcourse where the pavement indicates where you're supposed to drive, an autocross uses orange construction cones to mark out the turns and thus the course. Sometimes the turn is marked with a single cone at the apex, and sometimes two cones form a gate you have to pass through. The rules are simple: you knock over a cone or hit it out of the square it's sitting in, you get a two second penalty added to your lap time. Since I would only get four laps, it was VERY important that I memorize all the twists and turns defined by the dozens of cones and have some idea of driving lines before I strapped myself behind the wheel.

Next up was the driver's meeting where the organizers shared all the rules for the day. I was placed in the second of three sessions which meant I got to spectate first, drive next, and, finally, put in my time working a corner (more on that later). Out of the sixty or so drivers, only a handful of us were rookies. We got a special talking to by the head official. It was the basic don't-be-an-idiot-since-you're-here-to-have-fun-and-wrecking-your-car-would-not-be-fun spiel I'd heard at previous NECC events. Always good to be reminded to keep the red mist tightly boxed up.

As the first group headed onto the track, I grabbed our video camera and attempted to find a perch where the high catch-fence wouldn't block my view of the action. Sadly, I was unsuccessful, so I put the camera away and just watched and enjoyed the sights and sounds. Since this first group was almost all stock vehicles, the sound part was greatly lacking compared to the track days I've been to. After each of the sixteen cars had made two runs, I headed back to the paddock to make sure Lucy was ready to go. Per the veteran EM racer Terry Stafford's recommendation, I added about 5 psi of air to each of Lucy's tires, so she was at 25 front and 35 rear. After the announcement for all session 2 cars to line up, on an impulse and hoping I wouldn't need them, I grabbed my 9/16ths wrenches (one short and one long) and the spare fanbelt and safely tucked them away in the car before getting in line.

Even though I'd taken my time, I still ended up fourth in line. I really would have preferred to be farther back, but figured fourth car out wasn't so bad. Then I found out all cars with multiple drivers would line up in one line and those with a single driver would line up next to them. Departures would alternate, and since the three cars ahead of me were going to have two drivers, I was going to be the second car off. Needless to say my heart-rate was up a bit as we trooped onto pit lane – our grid for the event. It didn't slow down as I hopped out, grabbed one of the spare helmets, and then buckled myself in.

Having seen the first driver in session one completely miss one of the gates, I told myself to take it easy on my first lap. I had no idea where I'd be shifting either – another reason not to go all out. As I was sent to the starting line, I tightened my shoulder belts and reminded myself to breath. The starter waved me onto the course and then, magically, it was all over. Nearly forty-eight seconds had passed and I didn't remember a thing. I had been concentrating so hard on each turn, I'd actually forgotten doing the driving. I honestly don't remember going through all the turns, but a few minutes later, I received my time-slip and there were no penalties. I pulled off the helmet, unbuckled the belts, and climbed out, knees feeling a little weak. After I calmed down a bit, I was able to dredge up some memories of the run. I recalled shifting into second gear as I left the front straight and headed into the first infield turn, shifting into third going into the apex of the large back-stretch turn, and then immediately shifting back into second. Finally, I remembered I'd just kept it in second gear for the rest of the run being very careful to keep my speed down through the banked turns three and four of the main track.

With that first run out of the way, I told myself I'd do better of paying attention on the second lap. While waiting for the rest of the field to make their first run, I spent the time chatting with the guys lined up around me. Al, a NECC regular, was lined up in front of me in his drop-dead gorgeous LM, while in front of him was a Virginian in the only other stock-looking EM in my group. When he introduced himself, I knew him as one of the other crazies that had restored a Corvair with his daughter. We had plenty to talk about. The guy behind me was from KY and had a beautiful Corsa. Next to me was a racy sounding LM piloted by a pair of brothers that told me of their childhood start in car racing driving around their dad's farm on a dirt track they'd laid out themselves.

In no time, it was my turn again. I'd decided that once I'd shifted into second I'd keep it there for the entire run. That worked until I was in the banked turn and Lucy's engine started cutting out around 5300 rpm. I ignored it and kept my foot down until I got to the last set of gates. Pulling onto pit lane, I actually did remember a bunch of what had just happened. I got my time-slip and I'd been able to shave three seconds off my first run with a 44.98 second lap.

While waiting for my third run, I learned that the Aston’s car had flipped a belt and they’d left the spare and tools in the paddock. I was glad to come to their rescue with the wrenches and belt I’d brought, but warned them I was unsure about the belt being right. Wouldn’t you know it, the belt was too long, but Al grabbed his spare belt and within a couple minutes Brett had the car race-ready again.

Lap number three was a lot more exciting since I'd decided to shift into third as the tach passed five grand coming out of the backstretch turn. Doing around sixty on the banked turn seemed a lot faster as I felt Lucy's rear end want to come around and I prepared myself to have to catch it all the while knowing letting up on the throttle would hasten a spin-out. As I neared the gate at the end of the banked turn, I had waited too long before slamming on the brakes so I was going too fast to make the subsequent turn cleanly. Her rear end started to come around as I cranked hard on wheel while braking (a no-no), but I quickly steered back into the spin and straightened her out. At that point, though, my line to the next turn was all screwed up and I hit that cone. With the two second penalty my lap time was 46.45, so I was going faster. Now I just needed to go faster AND not hit a cone.

And that's exactly what happened on my final lap. I had the same exhilaration going through banked turns, but remembered to whoa down soon enough that I could properly negotiate the last turns. My last time-slip read 43.89.

After everyone had made their four passes, we all drove back to the paddock and then some of us walked back to the track to work the corners. I was responsible for re-setting any the cones in the banked turns that got hit and I had a couple opportunities when a couple of the faster 'vairs spun trying too hard through the turn.

Click here to see the photos I snapped in the paddock.

Click here if you'd like to see how all the participants did (more on my finish tomorrow since the results weren't available until the next day of the convention).

Around 4:30 it was over. I drove back to the campsite via the grocery store where I got the task of grocery shopping for that evening's meal. The gals had gone to Salem that day and I'd be beating them back by at least an hour, so I got kitchen duty.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Convention Vacation – Part 1

A week ago Saturday, we strapped the cargo carrier to the Suburban's roof and packed it with suitcases, then filled the back of the Suburban with camping gear, and finally hitched Lucy up to the loaded vehicle. By 11 AM we were on the road, and after 480 miles of driving and a couple meal stops, we arrived at Shawme-Crowell State Forest in Sandwich, MA. Setting up camp in the dark is never fun, but my four experienced Girl Scouts made short work of it, and we were in bed well before midnight.

The family got a real kick out of all the signs bearing the Sandwich town name. The best quip came after sighting a local cop car: "Who do you think you are, the Sandwich police?" Hmm, guess you had to have been there.

Sunday's two highlights were a trip to Plymouth's Super Wal-Mart to get everything we'd forgotten, and then spending the afternoon swimming in the cold water and lying on the warm sand of Scusset Beach.

Monday we played tourist visiting the Sandwich Glass Museum and the old part of Plymouth which included seeing Plymouth Rock, the oldest cemetery, and the replica of the Mayflower. After the lovely Loriann splurged on five soft-shelled, fresh-off-the-boat lobsters, we dined like royalty at our humble campsite.

Tuesday morning we struck camp and headed west for Southwick Zoo. In the middle of nowhere, this modest-sized zoo met the hype of its fine website. We had to dodge a few thunderstorms, but thoroughly enjoyed our two hours seeing a lot of very active and entertaining animals. To continue on to our next campsite, Google Maps had us navigate some wonderful (at least to me because I wasn't driving) country roads. We checked in at Wells State Park early enough to set up camp before eating another delicious meal.

Wednesday the convention started for me, so this is a good spot to end Part 1.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stick a Fork In Her ... For Now

I had a busy evening in the garage yesterday. I was able to, by the time I turned the lights off, tell the lovely Loriann Lucy was ready to go. By 9:30 I'd finished the following tasks:

  • Pulled the second race carburetor and swapped it with the non-race one Lucy'd been sporting. Now she's got both racing carbs.
  • Balanced the carbs.
  • Checked tranny oil level and added about a ½ pint.
  • Removed the bottom shrouds.
  • Washed the engine, engine bay, and the underside of the engine lid.
  • Straightened out the lower corner of the car's right rear panel.
  • Cleaned and installed a LM air cleaner setup in place of the EM setup that was damaged when I ran over it a couple years ago
  • Waxed the hood (what an improvement; prompting me to make sure wax and rags are packed so I can finish the job while I'm in Massachusetts.

Swapping in the new air cleaner assembly was not without a few challenges. The scheme for routing the PCV hose is different, as is the size of the hose. I ended up clamping one end of a rubber hose to the metal outlet of the PCV plumbing and pushing the other end through the grommet in the bottom of the air cleaner. It was a snug fit, so I'm not concerned about it working itself loose. The other challenge (well maybe not a challenge as much as an annoyance) was the throttle spring. On EMs it attaches to the support for the left air cleaner canister. I initially removed both supports when removing the EM setup. Then I had to reinstall the left one so I had a place to properly secure the spring. Oh well, it kinda' looks like it belongs.

Throughout this thrashing, I was gathering tools and stuff and packing them in Lucy's trunk. Jack, jackstands, a bulging toolbag, and a few quarts of motor oil all contributed to make Lucy's front sit a couple inches lower.

This morning on my drive in to work, I wrung out her motor taking it up to five grand in the first three gears. No missing or hesitation. She's good-to-go.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Paint’s On

Tuesday evening quite the cavalcade of Corvairs required attention. First, Glinda was pinging, so I checked the timing which had bumped up from 14 to around 16 deg BTDC. I then checked the dwell and found it had moved down to 27 degrees from its set 32 degree. Once I re-set the dwell to 32, the timing came back down to where it belonged.

Next, I was able to knock a few more items off Lucy's to-do list: five-point harness installation, passenger kick panel installation, and clutch cable lubrication. The last Lucy task was wet sanding the primer I'd applied that morning.

Once Ariel got home, I pulled Ringo into the driveway since I'd seen he'd deposited quite a prodigious puddle on the pavement during his few day sit at our front curb. While there was still some ATF on the dipstick, it was down a pint, so I topped it off. Ariel had told me about the steering feeling like it had a catch in it. We spent some time trying to figure out where the catch was occurring and decided it was in the area of the blinker actuator. I'll have to pull the steering wheel to get to the root of that problem.

Yesterday morning I got up early and spent a cooler couple of hours in the garage. Then I wiped down the areas to be painted with wax and grease remover. Next I masked off newly sanded area again using the technique of the keeping the facing edge of the masking tape rolled up. This results in a less abrupt paint line by letting the paint haze into the area under the rolled up portion (easier to blend-sand afterwards). Finally, three coats of red Rustoleum were rattle-canned onto the affected spots. I'm finally getting the hang of this since there were no runs (and that's a first for me).

I've given up swapping the short steering arms before the convention due to a lack of time, but it'll be okay since the National Autocross will be a more flowing course set up at Stafford Motor Speedway. It's been promised that cone memorization will not rule the day. That's a huge relief to my recall-challenged brain. Still left to do before Saturday morning's departure is swapping the one race carburetor off Heidi and onto Lucy, checking Lucy's brakes and transmission oil level, cleaning the engine compartment, remove the lower shrouds, and wet sand, buff, and polish the new paint into the old.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Luna’s Roadworthy

Saturday Victoria and I spent a big chunk of the day working on our Corvairs. She painted the two sheetmetal pieces that would go in to patch Luna's driver's footwell. Once the paint was dried, she and I installed them using 3/16ths rivets. With the patches in place, she applied a coat of primer before laying down a couple coats of gloss-black Rustoleum. While waiting for the paint to dry, she vacuumed out the passenger's airvent and reassembled the vent door, kick panel, and door sill. With the floor coating set, she rolled the carpet back into place and reinstalled the driver's kick panel and sill. Then I put the gas pedal back where it belonged. After bolting in the driver's seat, we were ready for a test drive. It first took a trip to the fillin' station for five gallons of eighty-seven octane so the gastank had something in it to burn. Once that was complete, the engine fired up after pouring a few tablespoons of gas down the carburetors' thirsty throats. The exhaust leak on the left side of the engine was still there, but it wasn't bad enough to prevent Victoria from backing Luna out of the garage and down the driveway. A short trip around the neighborhood by herself was followed by a longer drive at highway speeds (yes, on the highway, not in the neighborhood) to make sure she was working well enough to warrant the expense of finally titling and tagging.

When Victoria didn't need my help toiling away on Luna, I was doing bodywork on Lucy. About four coats of filler each followed by smoothing with my dying random orbital sander (you need to hold it JUST right to keep it running – quite annoying). With the last coat sanded, I gave her an overdue bath finally washing away all the oil that had coated her rear during the oil filter blowouts.

Also, I pulled Mikhaila into the party by having her mask off, prime, and paint the center portion of Lucy's front grill bar.

This morning I got up early, cleaned off and masked around the affected areas, and shot three coats of primer.

Finally, this afternoon, I spent a surprisingly short time at the MVA making Luna legal.

Friday, July 13, 2012

An Evening of Dodging Drops of POR-15

And I was more successful than Victoria. After dinner I pulled Lucy into the driveway and attached the wire wheel to my grinder so I could pop a bunch of bubbles - paint bubbles that is. As seen in the accompanying photos, ignoring Lucy's body for many years of daily driving has resulted in rust; rust that's bubbled her shiny red finish. Ideally, I would take the take the time and spend the money and weld in new patch panels, but since I have neither the hours nor the funds, I’m taking the quick and easy and completely unacceptable rust repair route. I’m brushing off the paint, Bondo, and loose rust from the solid metal, coating as much as possible of the remaining, exposed sheetmetal with POR-15, filling the holes with Bondo, sanding, priming, and locally painting the areas affected. Yeah, yeah, I hear all of you yelling at me that this is NOT the way to do it. Suffice it to say, this is a temporary repair. It's just that I don't want to drive an obvious rust buck in convention events I've entered. With the brushing complete, I opened up the new quart can of POR-15 and divided it into smaller jam jars; each sealed and turned upside down to preserve as much as possible the quick-curing contents. The residue in the bottom of the can was used to begin coating Lucy's brushed off areas. Then Victoria joined me and we split up the smallest jar of the black liquid and I went back to Lucy and she proceeded to coat Luna's floor pieces in preparation for the floor patching that will occur Saturday.

At the end of the night, Victoria and I compared spots of POR-15 on our skin and she was in far worse shape than I. A few minutes with lacquer thinner and rags and we were clean - stinging, but clean.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Back From Vacation

After a week in the mountains away from the fleet, it was time to return to reality; only the reality was that all the daily-driven Corvairs were running basically trouble-free. TYL!

Regardless, I was able to find some car stuff to do the last few days. Ringo required some transmission fluid since he’d sat the entire week we were gone and leaked a pint onto the driveway from his cracked shifter cable. Glinda needed some motor oil and the muffler strap bolt tightened again. Lucy finally got her blinker switch reconditioned so I now can let drivers behind know when I’m turning right. I also began the pre-convention work on her that will eventually include some rust repair (read “temporary hiding”), shorter quick-steer arms for the autocross, and the installation of the driver’s five-point harness (also for the autocross). The work I did accomplish was to Scotch-brite off the flaking paint from the front grill-bar and then attempt to put a shine on it with the polishing wheel on my grinder.

Last night I spent an hour or so in the garage working on Luna. I finished removing the rusted metal from the driver’s footwell with the cutoff wheel on my grinder. And then, with the wire wheel attached, I de-scaled the leftover metal before vacuuming out the rusty residue. Finally, I began formulating a plan to rivet in a temporary floor. I gathered the available sheetmetal pieces that included an odd-shaped piece of hood leftover from Ringo’s re-flooring and a couple pieces two thin to be permanent. Since this is a temporary fix to get Victoria through the rest of summer and early fall and now is not the time to drop a couple hundred dollars on a tank of CO2 and welding garb and accoutrements, I’m going to rivet the pieces into place. First, however, Victoria is going to lay down a coat or two of POR-15 tonight. Hopefully, we’ll get the car on the road by the end of Saturday.