July 14, 2009
Lemons New England: TTTOS: All About the Team, the Car, and the Challenge
By Jim Brennan
While Katherine has been busy posting all about our exploits in the 24 Hours of LeMons New England, I was steadily recovering from the event. Well, now that I’m back (with more Obscure Muscle Car Postings, I promise) let me tell you how this whole episode came together.
Continue reading after the jump!
It was in November of 2008 that I spotted this very Corvair on a Craigslist ad, located in Vermont. The owner just wanted it gone, because it was sitting on his property for the better part of 15 years. It wasn’t driven, or even moved very far after a barn collapsed on top of this poor little car. The ad stated that it was a 1964, and that it had 40,000 miles on the odometer. What the ad failed to explain was that the car wasn’t running at the time, and that in fact it was a 1963. So, I contacted the owner, and started to negotiate a reasonable price with him. He told me it hasn’t been running for at least 14 or 15 years, that it needed at least a starter, and that the back window was shattered (because of said barn accident). I countered with a $400 price tag, and he agreed.
I went to pick up the car with a rented U-Haul truck and trailer, and the temperatures just started to turn really cold. What I didn’t do was ask him if any of the tires held air, and well, they were 15 year old Bias Ply tires that suffered dry rot at least a decade ago. Well, I called a tow service to crank up the car onto the trailer, and towed it to my Connecticut home. By the way, don’t fall for the U-Haul $19.99 price display, as that doesn’t include mileage……
The easy part was done (choosing the car), however, the next part seemed to fall into place even faster than choosing and picking up the car. I took two routes, soliciting team members from the internet, and asking some of my CarDomain brethren. I asked Katherine Helmetag if she was interested because she did a posting on forming her own team using something that is VW related. To my absolute surprise, she agreed. Next, I asked Mike Musto when I met him at the New York International Auto Show that we were covering (along with Rob Einaudi) for CarDomain, and he jumped at the opportunity, along with bringing along some of his closest friends to be on the team. Another spot was filled with a Jalopnik commenter named Andy Sarkozi, who happened to own a couple of Corvairs (one is an especially nasty 455 V-8 conversion), and used to race them. So the team came together rather quickly, but with the members spread from California, to Long Island, and everywhere between, the logistics was proving to be challenging.
The third leg of the challenge proved to be almost my undoing. I took the Corvair to a friends garage, but he has never worked on a Corvair. However, we dove in. We yanked the starter, and replaced it with one from Clarks Corvair Parts. Once installed, a new battery was connected, and new plugs, wires, distributor, coil, and a new fuel pump were also added. The oil and the transmission fluid were drained (Yes, they were refilled), ran a fuel line to a gas can, and cranked the engine. What do you know, after about 4 cranks of the starter, the engined started running, not well, but it was running.
It was at that time I suggested that the carbs needed to be rebuilt. It still didn’t seem to run top flite, but it was enough to move the car. By this time I was thinking about the brakes, as the brake lines broke when I first brought it home. I had the brake lines replaced, along with new brake shoes, and machined the drums (yes, it’s a 4 drum brake setup!). The Master cylinder was replaced some time ago, so no need to do that again. It was running, it did stop, but it was no where near ready. The interior was stripped, with usable items auctioned on Ebay, and it was time to call for help.
Luckily, Mike had an ace up his sleeve, and his name is Johnny Sigismondi (Ladies, he is single, and available, so write us if you want to meet him). Mike and Johnny met me in Connecticut 6 weeks before the event, and took the ‘Vair down to Long Island where Johnny could work his magic, with a few key components. The Rollcage needed to be installed, the fuel tank was a disaster, fuel lines needed replacing, a Master Kill Switch needed installation, and the car needed to be tuned badly, and Johnny took care of it all. I sourced the Rollcage Kit, and those wheels are vintage aftermarket Datsun 240Z Rims that are 14″ in diameter (rather than the stock 13″). All was going well, when two nights before the event, the stock Generator crapped out, as did the starter. The starter was rebuilt the next day, and Johnny installed an Alternator instead of using a Generator. Most of the decals were installed that night, and we were on our way.
Friday night we rendezvoused at the motel I made arrangements with, and it was decided to make a reconnaissance run to the track. I said that we need to be there early in the morning to grab decent pit location, so the trailer was coupled to my Van, and left at the track. (Johnny’s tools were packed in the back of his pickup, and while I doubt they would have been stolen, you don’t want to tempt fate). We left the van and the car next to another team who decided to camp at the track (Team Jackal and Hyde, with this really radical Volvo Wagon, with a monster of a Roll-cage that was installed by cutting off the roof of the wagon, and then welding it back on!) and they agreed to watch the car and the van.
What happened during the weekend? Ahh, tune in later to find out.
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