... and you thought I'd forgotten.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Pasadena Reliability Run 2009 ( Part 4 )
... and you thought I'd forgotten.
As far as the day I had going on this run, I have nothing but great things to say about it. Fortunately my co-pilot/navigator seems to feel the same way. We just had a blast, and possibly most important of all, the little red '29 RPU behaved beautifully.
For me, the most hair raising part of the experience happened at the very beginning and the very end of the day. As I think I said earlier, we left at 6am and headed out of North Hollywood. Everything was great. Barely any traffic on the streets, low 60s temps were making the engine happy, and we were packed in and comfortable- looking forward to our full day with the old hot rod. Then it all started to get rather serious.
We were following our friend Vic in his old roadster and I guess it just never crossed my mind that we'd be hopping on the interstate to get over to Pasadena at a decent time. You see, driving around town is exactly what a flathead roadster seems to like best, and after all it is what they and the parts that make them up were designed for. Cruising around at 30-45 mph is plenty exhilarating in one of these but, take it from me, 60-65mph on the interstate can be downright scary if you're not ready for it. And I wasn't. I had never driven one of these, at least not a truly primitive ( and I mean that in a kind way ) early hot rod. I may sound like a pansy to some of you out there right now, but until you've jumped out onto the 210 in LA in one of these vehicles, running old bias-ply tires that are picking up every line in the road, sitting upright in that old cockpit, eyes even with the top of the windshield and knee cap even with the top of the door, bouncing along with no seat belts while SUVs fly by all around you ( with zero regard for anyone else ) going at least 15-20mph faster than your already seemingly way-to-fast 65... well, you get the idea. It'll put some grey hairs in your head.
Fortunately we weren't on the interstate for more than about 20-25 minutes and it was over. I couldn't help notice while hanging onto the old girl, that everything felt and read through the gauges as completely happy. It was running a cool 140 or so on that drive in the morning, and never got above 160 at anytime throughout the day. That's including the Reliability Run itself. Now remember, we climbed up into the mountains above Pasadena and took the car as high as 8,200 feet! And it never missed a beat, not for a moment. I can say this without exaggeration, the car felt so good it gave you the feeling that this was part of its daily commute. And if I'm to be honest with myself, I have to admit that that just shouldn't have been the case. I have such a high opinion of Tom's abilities as a car builder and mechanic that I'm over confident in anything he has touched, but, no one can fight the time factor when a car has been in a long storage. Obviously something he built will have a better chance than most any other, but again, I really did expect something to get cranky at some point. It never happened.
Eventually I just relaxed into the idea that we had the strongest and best built car in attendance and really started to drive with the pack and have fun.
We left off at 30 second intervals but bunched up together somewhat by the time we got into the mountains. The traffic lights in town helped this happen but also I think my fellow roadster drivers had the same feeling I had about it; It was nice to be in with a group. This was one of the more enjoyable experiences about the run. Carving up through mountain passes in a flathead roadster, and seeing a line of similar cars in front and behind us, and more importantly to me- HEARING them working all around was a huge thrill. As we all know, nothing in the world sounds like a well built flathead, and to hear a pack of them accelerate up a grade together with their gurgling pipes reverberating off the rock walls that the road is carved through... well, you can just imagine. When one guy would get into his roadster a bit to really jump up an incline, it would inspire all of us and together some great mechanical music was being made.
We stopped off a few times for breaks, pit-stops, and to help a friend here and there who was overheating ( Did I mention we never broke 160?) but really made good time considering, and always came into the various stop off points when there were quite a few cars in attendance. Tom's car got a good bit of attention, as it was one of the few cars there that was an actual old hot rod from back in the day, and we would always draw a nice little crowd when we parked. This reminds me, I can't remember if I've mentioned this or not, but the long-term ownership award has to go to the gentleman that I approached to compliment on his very smart and clean '32 full fendered roadster. He was an older guy and when I asked him how he's had the car he answered,"Well, I built it in '39 and I've had it ever since."
This is the kind of stuff I think you could only experience with an event like this. As famous as this run is to followers of old Hot Rod magazines and old hot rodding in general, it is still a rather underground, and certainly under publicized, event. Therefore the people who do come out are there because this is their main focus in the hobby. These are the guys who are dedicated to the tradition of the hot rod for life.
For the princely sum of $60 each, oh, and having been invited because of Tom and his car, we and the other 93 cars who showed up had an incredibly unique experience that I can say will go down solidly in my top 5 list of all time greatest car events/activities that I've ever been part of.
And yes, we made it home fine... even in Saturday evening traffic, which was a good bit hairier than the morning. As I pulled into Tom's driveway and let out a sigh, the little flathead was idling smoothly and running cool. Almost as if it were mocking me and my doubt... and I could feel it was ready to go again at that very moment. And you know what?, so was I.