What Are Those Two Guys Doing In That Old Car...?
If you are entered in the Hemming's Great Race, you paid your entry fee back in January, and as I often tell my Great Race customers..."you are like the pig at breakfast...you are committed..." While that usually gets a good laugh it is meant to also make them stop and realize that time has a way of slipping away and they need to allow time to repair any last minute defects.
Just because their car ran fine last year when they parked it, does not mean it will run fine this year. That advice applies to all of us by the way. Most Great Race entrants will disassemble their car and check everything, replace any worn parts and pieces then have the car back together and running by no later than the first of March. Now they have a car in good shape mechanically, it is time to put some miles on and practice and find any defects like oil leaks, or coolant leaks. Then its practice, and practice some more.
You would not think that just replacing parts and adjusting things would change the personality and how the car drives and stops. But I am here to tell you it does. While it might not change much if you are just driving your antique vehicle for fun...if you are a Great Race entrant, seconds count so knowing the character of your car, and how it will react in different situations is a must.
That is why you will see the Great Race entrants both the driver and navigator out practicing with the car. They will practice on a lonely stretch of road accelerating to 10 mph, 15 mph, 20 mph, 25 mph, and so on up to 50 mph from a dead stop. They will do those same tests over and over until they get the same consistent time for each speed. They may have to practice a speed over a dozen times before they get a consistent time.
The same will happen for stopping. They will practice coming to a dead stop from 50 mph, 45 mph, 40 mph all the way down to 10 mph and like the acceleration practice they are looking for consistent times. They need to be able to stop and accelerate the exact same way each and every time. Then they will make a chart with the times they have established. That will become their "cheat sheet," and in most cases it will be slightly different from last year due to things like tire wear or replacement, anything that changes the diameter of a tire will affect the numbers for example.
The "cheat sheet" is a must have to Great Race entrants because in the directions the entrants receive every day they will have to figure a time correction to most all of the instructions they receive, based on their car and their "cheat sheet" numbers and their driving skills.
For example, an instruction will say maintain 30 mph to the next stop sign, wait eleven seconds then accelerate to 40 mph. No time is allowed to slow from 30 mph to a complete stop because every car is different. So the navigator will look at the "cheat sheet" they made, to determine how long it takes in seconds for their car to go from 30 mph to a complete stop, then how long it should take the vehicle to accelerate from a dead stop up to 40 mph. He will then deduct that amount of time from the eleven seconds shown in the instructions, and they will leave from the stop sign much sooner.
Because every car is different all of the wait times will be different. There is the difference between manual and hydraulic brakes, a difference between the model years of cars, and the types of brakes, how well they are adjusted, the response time of the driver, and the weather conditions. It could be raining, the wind could be blowing 30 mph and could be either a headwind, a tailwind, or a side wind, all of which will affect the time on their "cheat sheet". The navigator will have to make a metal correction to the "cheat sheet" time based on these factors in order to stay on time.
This time of year is where I get especially busy and explains why I have not updated this blog. While the Great Race are out practicing they are also driving in the real world conditions that they will experience on the race. I work on the electrical cooling and fuel so if vapor lock is an issue I fix that. If overheating is an issue, I fix that. If dead batteries and dim headlights are an issue I fix that. Problems with the overdrive transmission, I fix that.
A car entered in the Great Race MUST be reliable so the driver and navigator can focus on the job at hand. The teams are not allowed any outside help during the day while they are on the clock. As you might imagine just keeping track of the navigation and the speed will keep two people busy without much free time to spare. Great Race entrants are scored down to the hundredth of a second.
If you are thinking that what I and learning during this practice time and thru out the rest of the year working on Great Race vehicles would make your antique vehicle more reliable and fun to drive...you would be correct! The Great Race entrants will drive 2500 plus miles in about two weeks time, along with another 500-1000 practice miles before the race. For me that is like an accelerated course in Antique Vehicle 101.
I have been preparing Great Race cars every year since 1989 and it has taught me a lot about what works in theory and what works in real life. So when you order parts from Fifth Avenue chances are you will talk to me on the phone and because I manufacture most of the parts I sell I know first hand exactly how they work. I also know what you need to make your antique vehicle just as reliable as those entered in the Great Race. I install everything I manufacture onto a Great Race car first before I sell it to my regular customers. I know it what I build survives on a Great Race car, it will easily survive in the everyday world.
My job is the same today as it was 30 years ago when I started...to make all types of antique vehicles more reliable and fun to drive., It doesn't matter if you are entering the Great Race or taking a tour with the local car club. Having a reliable car is just as important in either case. I work for the Great Race entrants, I work for the movie studios, and I even worked for the Queen of England...and I will work for you.