|The MGA With An Attitude
Exclusive Society - First all MGA meet
The car owner with priorities all screwed up was terribly busy with WORK responsibilities, so we didn't get to go to the NAMGAR national GT-12 meet in Seattle in 1987 (while the paint was still fresh). But a year and a half after restoration, in 1988 the MGA with an attitude did get to Marietta, Ohio, for GT-13, a Thursday to Sunday gig. Traveling alone I'm sure we could have done the trip there in one 10 hour stint on Thursday, but we decided to be sociable along the way. We had arranged a convoy for half a dozen MGA for the trip starting on Wednesday, about 550 miles each way, and a couple hundred more miles of running about the countryside during the meet.
We started with a few cars in the Chicago area and caravanned down to Indianapolis, met up with a few more MGA there for dinner, and stayed overnight in a motel. The next day the half dozen cars ran the rest of the trip to Marietta, including a few hours for a stop at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.
For the six MGA, no two were exactly the same. There was a near stock 1500, a 1500 with "18" cylinder head, a 1600, a 1600 Mark II, a 1600 with 3.91 final drive gearing transplant, and a 1500 with an 1800 engine. The national speed limit was still 55 MPH then, being ignored by a lot of people, but it didn't make much difference to us anyway. Some of the MGA had wheels that may not have been particularly straight and tended to shake a bit starting around 60 MPH, so the default caravan speed was exactly 59 MPH. At such a stately pace the fuel mileage for all cars was about the same, all in the range of 30.0-31.5 miles per gallon. The 1800 engine was very worn and spewing oil at an alarming rate. Any car following was subject to having oil droplets spattered on the windscreen, so the 1800 was relegated to the rear position in line. Number one rule of a convoy is "don't lose the car behind you", so we all got to stop every 100 miles while the 1800 topped up the engine with two quarts of fresh oil. On the 200 mile stops we would all top off the fuel tank, whether we needed it or not.
After Dayton we ran a nice bit of very pleasant side roads through mild mountain hills of southern Ohio to finish the trip to Marietta. This was (rather surprisingly in retrospect) a fairly uneventful road trip, with no significant car problems along the way (except for the 11 quarts of oil ran through the 1800). Then we stopped in front of the host hotel Thursday evening to register at the font desk, at which time the Mark II jammed the starter pinion in the ring gear, requiring a little nudge backward in top gear to free it up before moving around to the car park in back. The balance of the evening was spent around the hospitality room meeting new friends and stringing tall tales, followed by some midnight tire kicking tech sessions in the car park (and more tall tales).
The big do of the day on Friday was a road rally for 100 miles or so around some very nice mountain back roads. One of our club members, Jim Parsons, whose MGA was still in restoration (translation: disassembled) drove down in something unspeakably big which wouldn't qualify for entry in the MGA car show. In the heat of mid July the ladies preferred to hold up in the air conditioned hotel with the swimming pool, so I drafted Jim to be navigator for the rally (which didn't take much arm twisting). About half way through the rally we lost the specified route, something about a "paved" road that looked a lot like gravel near the intersection. But that only provided a good excuse to ditch the question and answer sheet in the door pocket so we could pick up the pace a bit and enjoy a little more spirited driving. Some of the rally roads weren't on the Ohio state road map, but within ten minutes or so we found one that was on the map. Once we knew where we were, the next hour or so was a real hoot, just turn off onto any small twisty road that wasn't on the map and have a blast.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, as an excuse we spun our story of grief about not being able to follow the route instructions. The rally master must have thought that was a crying shame, not intending that anyone should be misled by the instructions. So after we got an explanation of where the route was supposed to go, we also got a fresh blank answer sheet and an offer to run it again. We looked at the ladies who just shrugged and said "Sure, why not, we're doing fine at the pool". Jim said, "You want to go again?", and I said, "Okay, but you gotta drive", after which he was in the car before I could turn around to see where he went in such a flash.
Having been through half the route before, and knowing where the roads went and some of the answers in advance, there wasn't much need to dawdle. So Jim was having a blast, just getting a good feel for the car with Michelin radial tires, TWO newly installed sway bars, crisp turn in, slight oversteer, and a little tail out on faster corners. I was just reminding him to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel, just point the front wheels in the direction he wanted to go, and the rest of the car would follow (after a fashion). Then we crested a hill with a falling away tight right hand turn as a surprise. There was a local farmer standing on the outside edge of the turn, and I swear he had a pitchfork in his hand and a straw hat. No time to hit the brakes, Jim turned in dutifully keeping the nose just to the right of the (imaginary) centerline, with the tail hanging out precipitously somewhere t'other side of center and the expected amount of dust and tire noise. I have never seen an old geezer move so fast in my life, and I'm pretty sure the farmer was across the ditch and over the fence before we got there. I don't suppose we would have come close to hitting him, but under the circumstances I certainly didn't blame him for moving. With as reassuring a voice as I could muster I just said, "You did that very well".
After that Jim settled down to take things a bit more conservative. Things were notably quiet for a couple of minutes, after which we both nearly cracked up laughing. As much as we tried we couldn't keep our concentration on the rally questions, so we turned in a more or less average answer sheet. But at least we did get to enjoy those wonderful roads in the hills on the second half of the rally route. Back at the hotel it was a quick dash and splash at the pool, then back to the hospitality room for more reminiscing.
Saturday morning brought out the best of the spit shiners and polishers for the car show. I didn't bother to wash the road dust off the car, not having any aspirations of grandeur along those lines. I just tore the "Please do not touch" sign in half and stuck it upside down under a wiper arm. While most people were ogling the show cars and trying to decide how to cast their "exhibitor's choice" votes, I had a chance to lend a hand with a few small repairs. A 1600 car with disk brakes had some rattling brake pads at one front wheel, missing the pad retainer anti-rattle plate. The required part was procured from a parts vendor on site, but the matching retaining pin was not to be found. So we casually pirated a heavy wire clothes hanger from a hotel room, and proceeded to fashion a reasonable facsimile which would hold the situation well in hand for the rest of the trip. Another MGA had a rattling crankshaft pulley, where rivets had worked loose to allow the sheet metal pulley halves to wobble about on the steel hub. That replacement part was also procured on site, but repair took a little longer, as the coolant had to be drained and the radiator removed for access to the crank pulley. It would be noticed with time that quite a few of these cars have the crankshaft pulley parts welded or brazed together for exactly the same problem.
About noonish, right after the car show, the cars were all arranged for a photo-op on the lawn at Marietta College. The picture above is a (small) digital snap of a 4-1/2 foot long panoramic photo. You can click for a larger image, but don't expect too much. It's tough to get 97 MGA and a dozen other MGs into just 1180 pixels of image width.
Saturday afternoon brought us a funkhana event not to believe. A blindfolded driver had to take an MGA through an obstacle course with guidance from the navigator. This was jolly good amusement for the spectators. Occasionally (more often than we like to admit) the navigator would yell "Turn here", the driver would counter with "Which way", and the navigator would point and scream, "That way, that way!". If that's not tough enough try backing around a corner into a "garage" without knocking down any pylons, and at the finish line stop with the front bumper within one inch of a tape line on the ground. Two seconds penalty for each pylon hit, and one second for each inch of error at the finish. Finishing times were running from 1 minute 45 seconds to about 7 minutes (with a few DNF's).
For this event I teamed up with Dennis Neuwirth from Schererville, Indiana. We took his car with me navigating and Dennis driving blind. We did okay, taking over first place for a while with a time around 1 minute 45 seconds. Within 20 minutes or so our time was bested by several seconds, so we talked it over and decided to have another go at it with my car and Dennis navigating. That may have been the longest minute of my life, for one of the slowest drives ever. We did get it into 2nd gear just off idle for most of the run, except for the backing up bit. I guess I clipped a couple of cones and missed the finish tape by about 6 inches, but we finished with a very respectable time of 1 minute 15 seconds including penalties. Woohoo, and cheers all around!
After another half hour of watching it didn't look like anyone else was coming close. About that time Jim Parsons wandered in and thought this looked like fun. Now Jim and I are a couple of mechanical engineers who communicate well on the same wavelength. So after watching for a while, and talking over a bit of strategy, we decided to give it a whirl. Since he didn't have an MGA there, we would take my car, he would drive, and I would navigate. To make a short story shorter, 45 seconds with no cones and a stop dead on the finish line with no penalties. That was followed by lots of ooh's and ah's, and immediately by a serious check of the blindfold by the event officials. All was judged in order, and the time was certified.
Saturday evening awards banquet followed with lots of trophies for all classes. Unfortunately, by that time Jim was disqualified by the powers that be. Although he was a NAMGAR member properly registered for the event, he did not have his own MGA entered in the show, so the event managers decided he was not eligible for any event awards. And maybe it had something to do with that being my third run on the funkhana course (which no one else did). Bummer. But the earlier score with myself driving did stand, and I was awarded 1st place for the Funkhana with Dennis Neuwirth as navigator. All in all it was a real treat meeting and trying to remember a couple hundred new friends in just a few days time. After the awards festivities the hospitality room was fair game again, as well as the late night tech (BS) sessions in the car park. For sure we slept well that night, even if it was only for a few hours.
Then came Sunday morning breakfast and farewell, and our little convoy was off for home by 9:00 AM, having exchanged a couple of cars but still a half dozen strong. Back though some of those wonderful "mountain" roads for a hundred miles or so, then on to a more direct state highway, and finally onto interstate highways for the rest of the trip. Dropping a car near home here or there along the way, we were finally running up I-65 north of Indianapolis with three cars remaining, and ours in the lead. The trailing MGA was suddenly flashing headlights and pulling off onto the shoulder, so we hauled it over and waited. Surprisingly, the third car came puttering along slowly on the shoulder to catch up and stop behind us, engine still running, but no throttle response.
Diagnosis was simple. The cable stop on the front end of the throttle cable was disconnected from the throttle arm, just missing a cotter pin. I had tools, but no cotter pin. Ladies in attendance could not produce a safety pin or a hair pin. For a short moment I had a notion to clip a wire out of the woven wire fence along the highway, but ultimately figured it wasn't nice to abuse public property. So we just moved the flat washer and cotter pin from the choke cable connector to the throttle cable, and we were on the way again in a few minutes.
Dropping off the other two MGA in northwest Indiana, we ran the last 75 miles solo at a "slightly" more brisk pace, keeping up with whatever was moving in the fast lane, and making it home before sun down. The MGA with an attitude had by that time developed a rattle in the generator pulley. Here the rivets had worked loose to allow the two piece stamped steel pulley to move about on the aluminum hub. Unfortunately no chance of welding or brazing the steel shells to the aluminum hub, so a new pulley was on order post haste. But no problem, as the car had made it home under it's own power. By the end of the five day 1300 trip we had about doubled the miles on the car since restoration, which was a harbinger of things to come, but just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.