Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Fleet Will Lose a Member

Last evening Ariel and I had a short conversation regarding Ringo. While she isn’t emotionally ready to be rid of him, she shared that: 1) she had no desire to work on him, and 2) she couldn’t come up with a scenario where she would choose to drive him over her modern car. We agreed we both have many great Ringo memories, but we don’t need the car sitting in our driveway to keep those memories.

So, it is time for me to put a few hours into prepping him for sale. The to-do list needs to be kept short since my curtailed car-time is currently spread across the fleet plus my truck. Here’s the list as it stands today.
  • Replace the black GM deluxe seatbelts with GUPs from my stash since they belong to my LeMans
  • Get the driver’s door to open and reliably latch again
  • Put the battery back and make sure the engine starts and runs reliably
My hope is the door fix will be easily accomplished. The other two tasks will take no time at all. Then he’ll go up for sale via the usual places: Craigslist, CORSA website, VirtualVairs, CorvairCenter forum, and Facebook.

Monday, June 8, 2015

It’ll Buff Out

I’m headed into Turn 18 – the left-hander before the long, uphill straight. My brain has convinced my body that this time I could drive a little deeper and accelerate a little sooner. I waited a split second too long before coming off the gas, so I was at the turn-in cone before I’d suitably whoa’d the car. I cranked the wheel to the left, and the tires squealed in objection as I tried to get the front end close to the apex cone. Right then I felt the rear of the car start to slide out. I’d overcooked it. I spun the steering wheel to the right to try and catch the spin. The car went into the grass at about a thirty degree angle to the track. After taking out a two-foot high sign, I finally got the car pointed straight. Rather than going back on-track, I bounced through the lawn to the nearby pit entrance to get the car checked. As I passed a spectator, he yelled out, “Get that guy a new pair of shorts.” Such was my one and only four wheel foray into the agricultural side of this NECC high-speed driving event, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

To begin at the beginning, my wonderful weekend started with a Friday afternoon drive to Cobleskill, NY that, thanks to construction and idiot drivers, took over six-and-half hours. My ‘vair-buddy Jonathan with his trailered Corsa and I caravanned up there and we rolled into the hotel’s parking lot right around 6:30. Hoping to find a tech inspector to check out our cars, we soon found out that they’d gone inside to get ready for dinner. So we checked in, dumped our luggage in our room, and headed to the lobby where a dozen or so Corvair folks awaited the supper call. All of us then trooped past the pool, through the restaurant and bar, and into the attached bowling alley (it was the only space they had that could accommodate all of us for the meal). A lively time of good food, great beer and even better conversation ensued.

The next morning a six AM alarm and rain greeted us. assured us the day would not be a washout and we’d be seeing zero percent precipitation by 9 AM. We made the forty-five minute drive to the track over bumpy New York backroads and parked in the paddock behind a guy backing his Maserati out of a trailer. We then got our cars inspected with both passing – although Jonathan’s required a replacement lightbulb to get both brake lights to come on. After sitting through the efficiently-run driver’s meeting where it was announced there’d be three hot laps, rather than two, I checked the lists posted on the wall and discovered I had been placed in Group B for the initial track session. That gave me time to mooch a couple donuts from Jonathan, grab my video camera, and stroll through the paddock to record all the participating vehicles.

Finally, the call went out for Group B drivers to get lined up. I climbed in to Glinda, put on my helmet, and buckled up. Glinda’s engine fired right up and we rolled through the paddock to take our place near the track entrance. At roughly twenty second intervals the cars were sent out onto the track for a couple low-speed yellow flag laps. Once the yellow flags were stowed by the corner workers, we could run at speed. This first session was for learning the track, not for pushing our cars hard, and the twenty minutes had flown by when the checkered flags started flying to get us off the track so the last group could go on.

After Group C had their turn, it was open track for everyone, and I wasted no time getting back out. I have no idea how many 2.1 mile laps I put in before the lunchtime shutdown at noon. During my time on the track, I experienced something new - turning laps faster than other cars. This was happening even though the engine was still not pulling hard at high rpm. So, even though I couldn’t top 70 on the long straight, I was making up for that on the rest of the track. The way the circuit is setup – a very long, uphill front stretch followed by mostly downhill and level turns – masked the lack of power, and Glinda was handling exceptionally well – great grip getting me through the turns and brakes that would test the strength of my five-point harness. I guess my reign as the keeper of the STD (slow time of the day) has come to an end.

During the lunch hour, one of the track operators took us on an informative tour of the track. A bunch of the drivers piled into an open trailer and we were slowly towed around the circuit. At each turn, the guy thoroughly explained how we should be driving through that corner. He really tried to impress upon us that taking straight lines was far faster than swooping (making the turn longer by rounding it off). He liked the word “swooping” using it at least ten times, but it got my attention.

After lunch there was about an hour more free track time during which I tried hard to remember all the instructions I’d been given during the trailer ride and felt like I was really pushing the car. It was during this session the aforementioned agricultural adventure took place. Thankfully Glinda survived that folly undamaged.

We were flagged off the track around two so the timed laps could begin. I took a short break to let the tires and me cool down before getting in line for my turn. Even though I try to tell myself to just drive the timed laps like I’d driven the practice ones, there’s still a little more adrenaline flowing when I know I’m under the clock.

When it was my turn to be one of the two cars on track – my heart rate was up a bit as I took the warm-up lap. In third gear and trying to maximize my straightaway speed, I did my best to nail Turn 18 and then kept the pedal to the metal shifting into fourth as the tach showed 4000 rpm. Then, just past the one-hundred foot marker, I stomped on the brakes, shifted into third, let off the brake, and immediately steered left to negotiate Turn 1. At the apex cone, I was hard on the gas, aimed straight for the apex of Turn 2 and then making a beeline for the drift-out cone on the track’s right edge. I waited a little too long to nail the brakes prior to the first of the two Turn 3 apexes, so I drifted out a little too far adding precious time to my lap. Hard on the gas I carved past the second apex marker and drifted out to the left edge of the track. Turn 4 isn’t anything more than a slight kink, but Turn 5 is the first of two turns that are basically one sweeping hairpin. Aimed right at the turn-in cone, I got on the brakes and turned left. Once I hit the apex for 5, I floored it through 6 and up a slight hill shifting into fourth as I crested at the Turn 7 slight right hander. I was still WOT through Turn 8, but let off the gas as I neared the turn-in for Turn 9. Trying to keep to the right after passing 9’s apex, I shifted back into third, nailed the gas, and headed for the Turn 10 apex. For me, it took some fortitude, but I kept the hammer down through 11 and headed straight for 12’s turn-in cone. Hard on the brakes– almost to the point of lock-up - before going through the long, tight right-hander. Following instruction, just at 12’s apex I went WOT and turned the wheel from right to left to head straight for the apex of 13. After which I was again hard on the brakes to negotiate 14 which, for me, felt like the slowest corner on the track. Coasting through a slight right-hander I then floored it as I passed the apex of Turn 15, drifting dangerously close to the gravel as I began my favorite section of the track. If I could come out of 15 correctly, the beginning of 16’s ess-turn could almost be taken straight and the left-hander that completes the turn has just enough camber for carving hard through it. 17 is just a flick to the right, but 18 needed my full attention to have the most momentum to battle the runway-length main stretch.

As I mentioned, Turn 3 stole time from lap number one, and it was Turn 12 that bit me on the second lap. I pushed too hard and couldn’t make the apex which ruined my entrance into 13. At that point I was grateful for that additional hot lap which I ended up running mistake-free. I did, however, ease through that last turn not wanting to ruin the otherwise good lap.

As I’d expected, my lowest time came on my last hot lap – 2:03.85. While that wasn’t good enough to beat the other car in my class – the ALWAYS fast Brett Aston – it did put me right in the middle of the eighteen timed drivers. , I even came out ahead of some more powerful cars [some 140 HP Corvairs and some higher-rated water-pumpers (non-Corvairs)].

After everyone had their chances to race against the clock, it was open track again, and I took full advantage of it. I must’ve done at least another dozen laps when a basically empty gas tank forced me to head for the paddock. I’m sure the huge smile was still on my face as I was hooking Glinda back up to the truck.

Dinner at a local Italian restaurant and the nightcap in hotel’s bar were made better by great conversation. I’m trying to figure out if there’s any way I can make it to the next event – New Jersey Motorsports Park – in August. The issue is the Monday it’ll be run is my second day of vacation with the family. Just not looking good.

Thankfully, the drive home Sunday morning was basically traffic-free and uneventful for both Jonathan and I – a good way to end a great weekend.

By the way, the title of this missive – It’ll Buff Out – came about when the lovely Loriann saw the scuffs on Glinda’s right side - incurred when I’d taken out the off-track sign. Oh yeah, one other thing. The tools never came out of the bag the entire weekend - TYL.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Hit the Road Jack

I awoke today to a misty morning. Regardless, I wanted to do all I could to bring a decently performing Corvair to tomorrow’s track event, so I backed Glinda up to the open garage door and pulled all six spark plugs from the engine. They were all black with soot. I’m going to attribute this condition to the forty or so miles I drove before swapping out the Ignitor II. I cleaned all the plugs and checked gaps before reinstalling. I’m still hoping I don't need to swap carbs and plugs Saturday at the track.

With the drizzle dampening only my grungies, I continued to gather and pack tools, parts, and supplies as I crossed off items on my checklist. The truck-bed's contents now includes three nearly full five gallon jugs of 93 octane, two spare tires (borrowed from Luna), a bulging bag of tools, a couple milk crates filled with assorted parts and fluids, jack and jackstands, and a couple large pieces of cardboard. Most of these items I pray will stay in the bed for the entire weekend.

I attached Glinda to the tow-bar and the tow-bar to the truck’s hitch before pulling out onto the road. Thanks to the text from the lovely Loriann I forgot the sunscreen I’d put on the dining room table. I pray that’s all I’ve forgot.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Success Of Sorts

While I was driving Glinda home from work yesterday, I noticed the tachometer needle would jump up while accelerating (even slight acceleration). The needle jumps up a few hundred rpm and then quickly falls back. It happened quite frequently and it appeared to have a slight miss when it did it. Soon after arriving home, I grabbed my tablet and posted my problem on Virtual Vairs. Within minutes, I received a reply from Mark Durham positing a faulty points plate. As soon as dinner was over, I donned grungies and headed out to the driveway where Glinda awaited.

Diving into the distributor, I pulled the plate and confirmed it was unmodified – no provisions to improve grounding. Ringo gave up his points plate – one that a ‘vair vendor had modified with a wire brush around the pivot to improve grounding. Before installing the replacement plate I cleaned the points with a quick swipe of fine sandpaper. Once the plate was in place, I adjusted the dwell to 32 degrees, put the rest of the distributor together, and set the timing to 16 degrees BTDC.

The subsequent test drive showed smooth action by the tach needle – success. There was still some hesitation under WOT at higher rpms in third gear. It wasn’t until this morning’s commute that I could check out the performance in fourth gear. There's still hesitation in fourth gear preventing me from getting much above four grand in the short bursts available to me.

Also somewhat disconcerting is the steady drop of the fuel gauge needle. Granted I’m doing a lot of WOT runs, but I’m still thinking the engine’s running rich. While I’ll be taking a pair of carburetors with me to New York, it’s doubtful I’ll do the swap until after the weekend.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Better, But Not Great

Going against the best evidence (crappy gas mileage, sooty spark plugs), I decided I’d focus on ignition (Ignitor II) over the fuel (rich carburetors).

Last night I backed Glinda up to the open garage door with the intention of reverting back to stock points to see if the poor performance can be remedied. After removing the distributor cap, rotor, and dust cover, I took out the two screws holding the Ignitor II in place, and zip-tied it out of the way. The stock points plate took its place and the rest of the distributor assembly was buttoned up. I borrowed the new-looking coil from Scarlett and zip-tied it to the engine for temporary testing purposes. With the leads in place, I fired up the engine and checked the timing. Since it was close to twelve degrees BTDC, I called it good enough for my purposes.

The subsequent test drive indicated the engine would pull in first and second gears without hesitation. Problem solved. Back to the driveway.

I removed and stored the Ignitor II and Flame-thrower coil and bolted the stock coil into place. After re-hooking up the wiring, I shut the engine lid and went inside for dinner.

This morning, once on the highway, I did a few WOT runs in 4th. Sadly, all was not well. As the rpms went up, the tach needle started occasionally bouncing around and the engine didn't seem to be pulling as hard. I was, however, able to get up to around 4000 rpm, but not much more. I still need to check the plugs (sooty or not) and tweak the timing, but I'm disappointed. I'll be taking different carburetors with me to the track. I don't want to swap carbs while at the track, but I'll try anything now.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Fork In The Road

Saturday morning I was out in the driveway early attacking Glinda’s carburetors. I pulled the right one off the engine first. A hex wrench twisted out the plug giving me access to remove the jet. Once out, I could read the “52” stamped on the head. I’d thought I’d see a “53”. Knowing I needed to make a significant change, I screwed in a #50 jet, reinstalled the plug with some pipe sealant, and placed the carb base back on then engine. The same operations were performed on the other carb before pouring some gas into both bases. The the lids in place and the linkage all connected, I turned the key and the engine started right up and settled into a 600 rpm loping idle. Throttle response seemed acceptable with each blip of the throttle, so I left the engine running while I lowered the front end off the jackstands. Unusually, the driveway was clear, so I rolled Glinda off the ramps and out onto the street for a quick spin around the neighborhood. Sadly, the wide-open-throttle performance is still lacking – won’t pull strongly above 3500 rpm. I’ve driven the car a few times since (about 40 miles) and the gas gauge needle is already indicating I’ve burned about 4 gallons. Easy to do the math to see that estimated ten miles per gallon isn’t acceptable.

What to do now? I could still try to go against my belief that the carburetors are to blame and focus on the ignition. That would mean swapping out the used Ignitor II and new Flamethrower coil for the stock points and an old coil – roughly an hour of my time. Or I could go with all the evidence and replace the modified carbs with either Ringo’s proven ones or Scarlett’s recently rebuilt ones – again about an hour of work. Neither of the replacement sets of carbs have had the jets relocated. If the swap cures the mileage and WOT issues, I’ll still be faced with fuel cutout after high speed turns – and there are seven of them at the track I’m heading to in a few days. With rain in the forecast for this evening, I’ve got another day to make the decision.