Archive for October, 2011

ICCO Fall BBQ – 22 Oct 2011

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

This year’s fall BBQ for the Italian Car Club of Ottawa was a great success, although the weather almost killed it before it got started. It had originally been scheduled for October 15, but as that day approached the weather forecast was not very good. So it was postponed by a week. And then the 15th turned out to be sunny and cool – a typical nice fall day. We had an excellent September, with many crystal clear, warm days. So maybe the club should re-think the timing of this event, which is usually the best attended of all. On the 22nd the morning was damp with heavy overcast and there was even some light Scotch mist around 10 o’clock. Warm clothes would be the order of the day, especially with the top down on the Fiat.

I had spent several hours on the Thursday – while it rained and got very cool outside – washing, waxing and Armor All’ing the Fiat to have it looking its best for this last outing of the year. On Saturday morning I pulled it outside to finish polishing the paint and chrome and I also cleaned the Momo wheels with Meguiar’s Hot Rims spray, which is a great product for their complex shapes. I was a little concerned about the temporary fix that I’d fabricated for the carburetor linkage, after losing one of the two clips that retain little balls in their sockets. On my way back from NAPA (in the Porsche) where I picked up a new bottle of Hot Rims I stopped at my friend Steve’s to trade some stories with him and Morley. While there I mentioned these clips and Steve immediately got down a box of old parts from Weber carburetors – most of them from Volkswagens. Sure enough he had at least a dozen linkages with two of these clips on each! I took one pair home, quickly determined that they were the same size and installed two of them so they would match. What a great guy and resource!

I had been talking to a fellow Fiat enthusiast named Adam who owns a ’74 Spider a few days earlier, at which point I offered to drive him to the BBQ. His car is temporarily off the road while his clutch assembly is being rebuilt. So I left home a little early to pick him up en route, suitably bundled in my winter jacket with three layers underneath – top down, of course. It was pretty cool at about 7-8 C but I reminded myself that if this was March I’d be happy to drive topless in such temperatures. For some reason traffic was very heavy on the surface streets, so we arrived at Marc’s a few minutes later than expected, a little after two o’clock.

When I pulled up to the driveway entrance, I stopped and did some arm waving to get Marc’s attention and to indicate that I wanted to know where to park. He immediately gestured for me to drive right up and into the paved back yard, so I could park right in front of the four-door garage – a place of honour! It’s really a shame that Marc doesn’t do much wrenching on his own cars, since he has such a large garage in which to store and work on cars. With considerable hard cranking of the non-power steering wheel, I was able to get positioned squarely in the middle of the four doors, with lots of space for people to get around both the front and rear of my car. Of course I had a pretty large audience, since a number of people had already arrived but had parked on the street.

I knew most of the people who were already there and more familiar faces continued to arrive over the next hour or so. The garage doors were all closed, since the BBQ is typically an opportunity to unveil new acquisitions or restorations. But the collection of cars parked in the yard and on the street was already pretty impressive. Marc’s Alfa Romeo GTV and Dave’s ’64 Alfa Giulia SS were parked in front of me, while an early Fiat 500 was behind me. Dave’s SS is a beautiful classic in excellent condition, of which there are only six in North America. It is quite valuable and very pretty. In the driveway Marc had parked his Multipla and Stuart’s yellow 1960 Fiat 600. As we all stood around enjoying some wine and trying to warm up, Delio arrived in his Alfa coupe, another old 500 pulled in and then a gorgeous new Maserati GT coupe backed, with both its stereo and its Ferrari engine competing for best sound. Chuck and Marcia filled the end of the driveway in their Lancia Monte Carlo, while several Fiat Spiders (both 124’s and 850’s) were parked on the street. In all, there must have been thirty people and at least 15 cars present – an excellent turn-out.

My car looked perfect and was not upstaged by any of the other classic Italian iron in the yard. Adam found a new guy named Jay whom I had invited on the forum and he came over to look at my car and to ask about recommended paint shops. Of course I told him about having my car done at Milano Body Shop in 2006 and he couldn’t believe the quality of the paint – not to mention the condition of the car – especially when I told him how little it had cost. A little later I introduced him to Tony from Milano and they agreed on a plan to provide Jay with a quotation for repainting his black 1980 Spider.

Around 3 o’clock Marc called the meeting to order, because one of our objectives this day was to honour and thank Delio and Giovanni for their years of support in maintaining our cars at Frank’s Auto Centre in Little Italy. They have decided to retire after 38 years and have sold the building to a real estate developer. Sadly that means that Frank (not the owner) and Hugo (their mechanics) will be out of work, so they must decide what to do next. It also means that several ICCO members who are not mechanically inclined must find someone else to help them with their cars, which could be problematic. There are no other Italian car specialists in Ottawa, although a few small garages seem to be willing to help some of the members successfully. By the way, Giovanni’s car was a classic 1960’s Lancia Aprelia four-door sedan, which he parked at the foot of the driveway. Delio was the founder of the Italian Car Club.

Marc had pulled together some gifts and mementos of Delio and Giovanni’s years with us, including two nice photo albums assembled by the club’s resident photographer, in which we were all asked to find our cars and autograph the page(s) where they appeared. He also had gifts for Frank and Hugo, which was a nice touch and a few remarks from other club members. After this small ceremony, it was time to open the garage doors and unveil the cars hidden from view. Marc began with Door #1, commenting that the club is not only about vintage Italian cars as he revealed Sandra’s new red Fiat 500. Next came Alex’s beautiful 1967 Fiat Dino coupe, which we had seen before but which had never before been introduced formally to the group. Behind Door #3 was another Fiat Mulitpla which Stuart had just finished restoring in a lovely two-tone blue paint scheme, as well as a Fiat 500 Abarth in race trim which Joe (the owner of a popular pub) had recently acquired. Finally, behind Door #4 was yet another old Fiat 500 which a different Joe (one of the Carguys group) had just restored, after buying the car for a mere $250.

All this while Lucio had been grilling the usual Italian sausages and from then on people enjoyed a sausage, some meat balls, salad and desserts contributed by the members, along with numerous bottles of wine and Italian beer. There were lots of clusters of people engaged in lively conversation and examination of the cars – both revealed and simply parked – so it was easy to move among them and have a rich experience of friendship and fellowship. The enthusiasm of this group for their cars and the Italian spirit is quite amazing and very enjoyable.

As the sun got lower in the sky, people began to leave and the temperature began to drop noticeably. I realized that it would be getting dark by the time I could expect to get home, so I raised the top on my car in the interest of comfort for both me and Adam. After a bit of a wait for the driveway to clear, I manoeuvred the car out of its tight spot with some help from Terry and other onlookers and then picked Adam up at the street. We left around 4:45 and once again the traffic was very heavy for some unknown reason, but eventually I got home around 5:30. The day had been very enjoyable; the car ran very well; the carburetor fix remained intact and I had a great time. That’s about it for this season though.

ORRC Not the President’s Prize Rally – 15 Oct 2011

Monday, October 17th, 2011

This year the President’s Prize was temporarily renamed the “Not”, since the fellow designing it is not the President of the Peterborough club and the club has been without a president all year long. But he’s an experienced rallyist, so I expected a challenging and long route (at 300 km). The rally would start in Peterborough at 11 o’clock Saturday, so we had to leave at 6 AM to get there in time, especially since we’d have to hunt a bit for a suitable place to leave the truck and trailer. At the end of the event, I’d be driving the Mazda directly to Kingston for my 40th anniversary university reunion, while Gary would drive the truck and trailer back to my house and retrieve his car. I’d been watching the weather forecast for the weekend closely, since I was hoping to get up to Calabogie for a few more laps on Sunday afternoon. But as of Friday evening, it didn’t look promising, with rain being forecast for the whole weekend, both in the Ottawa area as well in Peterborough. It wouldn’t be a President’s Prize without a big mud bath anyway.

Saturday dawned cloudy but not raining and we made it to Peterborough around 9:45. We easily found a place to park the truck on the street near the registration spot and took care of the necessary business with lots of time to spare. They had a good turn-out of about 15 cars and we were assigned car number 11. There was only one other car in Intermediate class – our main rivals and friends, Tim and Perry.

Things got off to a pretty good start as we headed south of town into the hilly countryside. The first couple of sections were fairly straightforward tulips with multiple speed changes. But soon we came to a section that had problems. Near the end of section there was an instruction that showed a T intersection where we should turn left. But when we got there, we found about 8 other teams stopped and discussing what to do. The intersection was a four-way and the distance did not coincide with the instruction! We tried going both left and straight but neither led to the next and last instruction on the page. Several others turned right, so we did too, but with the same result. So we decided to go to the end of the new sew section, concluding that the entire section would have to be scrubbed from the scoring, due to the massive error. And so it was.

Shortly afterwards we finished the first leg with only one other small error in the instructions and stopped for a break. Everyone was milling around, discussing the frustration of the errors. I sympathized with the organizer, who had received no help in checking the route against the instructions and who had completed the rally’s design in a very short period of time.

After the break, things got a little more interesting. The first section, as well as the second last one, was in the form of a story about the travels of US presidents, both living and dead.  Each had attributes, based on his politics or reputation. For example, when Obama spoke, it represented a left turn. When George W. Bush spoke, we should ignore it because you couldn’t believe anything he said. The first section began with a tricky series of turns that required a map to sort out. Fortunately, I had brought a large scale, coloured highway map that Gary had to use because the photocopy we were given was hard to read and had an End of Section sticker in precisely the worst place.

In the remaining sections, there were numerous speed changes and it was difficult to maintain the correct speed when, for example, we had to average 76 km/h for only a kilometre or less, between two lower speed sections. After a while Gary got behind on the calculation of estimated times of arrival, so we were early at a couple of checkpoints. I haven’t seen the detailed scoring yet, but overall we accumulated 4.5 points, which isn’t bad. But Tim and Perry somehow got only 1.9 points, so they finished first in our class. I’m curious about the details though, because I understand that nine out of twenty checkpoints had to be scrubbed from the scoring due to mistakes in the instructions or in the location of the checkpoint workers.

I left as soon as the rally ended and drove to Kingston, where I arrived in time for the entire supper with my classmates from Queen’s. I visited with several guys that I wanted to see and had a good conversation at the table where I sat with people I knew but who had been in different streams of engineering. When the disc jockey appeared and the dancing started, I headed for my room, since it had already been a long day. In the last rally of the season, I will have to finish first and Tim will have to finish third or worse in class for me to have a chance at the championship. It doesn’t look too likely, but stranger things have happened.

Video is available at:

ORRC TAC August Challenge Rally – 6 Aug 2011

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

In August, the Toronto Autosport Club put on a new rally, called the TAC August Challenge – how appropriate. It was intended to replace the Infinite Monkeys, because its organizers had resigned from rally activities over a personal conflict with the Rallysport Ontario President. Such is life.

The start of the rally was at a shopping mall in northern Mississauga at 10:30 AM, so Gary and I drove to Pickering the night before and had a great visit at my friend Les’s home, with him and Maureen. If memory serves, we left his house around 8 AM to allow for Saturday morning Toronto traffic and arrived safely at the start with plenty of time to spare. We found a corner of the shopping centre parking lot in which to leave the truck and trailer and joined everyone else in Timmie’s for snacks and coffee.

There were three of us competing in Intermediate class and we were given car number 5. So we set out at 10:35 and headed northwest towards the Caledon Hills. There were two Legs in the rally with a one-hour break in the middle. During Leg A, one section required us to find the names of small villages on a photocopy of an area map. Then we had to connect the two points with a straight line and find the route which crossed that line the least number of times. Because the map was a grey photocopy and the village names were in small print, it took us quite a while to find them and plot our route, while parked beside the road. I had to take a Time Allowance at the next checkpoint to compensate. Later in this Leg there were more complex instructions which took extra time and effort to sort out. Along the way we got crossed up and missed two checkpoints. However, we found out at the break that Chris and Jon, also in Intermediate, had missed four! So we didn’t feel so bad. One checkpoint was in a small siding road, between the main road and some railway tracks. Both times we were supposed to get on the siding road to stop at the checkpoint and both times we drove a few hundred yards past it before realizing our mistake. It wasn’t turning out to be our day.

In Leg B after the break, the instructions didn’t get any easier and we missed five checkpoints. I can’t remember the instructions now, which is probably just as well. In one of them there was a tulip diagram which had been reversed intentionally and this threw us off, as well as several other teams. There was also a line map and we couldn’t figure out which end of it was the beginning, so that also set us back. We used our entire allotment of Time Allowances and wound up finishing in third place with 170 points. We took little comfort in knowing that a lot of the scores were high, since we lost points to Tim and Perry, our chief rivals in the class championship race.

But the best was yet to come. On the way home, we pulled off Highway 401 into a service centre near Kingston, to stretch our legs and make a pit stop. When we walked around the trailer I saw that the front right wheel was covered in some rusty coloured substance and the rear wheel had grease all over it. On closer inspection we found that the wheel bearing on the front wheel had disintegrated completely and the wheel was held on only by gravity! The rear wheel bearing was loose, but we were able to tighten it up. So we removed the car and the heavy steel ramps from the trailer and took off the front wheel. I couldn’t get the hub and retaining nut off because they were jammed by something. So Gary drove the truck with the trailer on three tires while I followed in the Mazda. Just a few hundred feet after we pulled back onto the highway, I saw the hub fly off the damaged wheel and roll along the shoulder, missing me by only a few feet. There was following traffic and I couldn’t stop to retrieve it, so we just kept on going. We took Highway 15 from Kingston to Ottawa to keep the speed down and avoid the major traffic on 401. All the way home I was seeing sparks every time the trailer hit a bump, when the bolts on the right side shackle hit the roadway.

When we eventually made it to my driveway, we could see that the shackle bolt was ground down and bent as a result of all the contact. A few days later I replaced all four of the wheel bearings, plus the missing hub. This time I made sure that the retaining clips were properly in place on all four wheels, to avoid another similar incident. This has definitely been the year for wheel bearing replacements!

MCO Open Road Rally #5 – May 25, 2011

Friday, October 7th, 2011

There was a very small turn-out for the fourth rally in the MCO Open Road series – about seven cars, four of them in Expert class. We started at Tim Horton’s in Stittsville and would finish at the Cheshire Cat pub on Carp Rd. After Gary and I arrived at the start, I had a good chat with Glen about my trip to OH and VA, and about the performance and tuning of the Porsche’s engine. Glen was curious about the reason for old “what’s his name” to have trouble with engines blowing up, which I was able to talk about with some level of confidence!

When we got started, the first section was simple distance to turns, incorporating the odometer check. I had pre-set the rally computer calibration wheels to match the rally organizer’s odometer, based on previous experience. So we didn’t have to make any adjustment at the 15 km odo check. That gave us extra time to try to figure out the instructions for Section 2, which were a bit tricky.

The section was based on a photocopy of a map on which several sections of road had been erased, along with the end-of-section map, which was in a different scale. We were supposed to follow the shortest possible route from start to end by using each missing section only once. Gary struggled for a long time, trying to plot the correct path, and never did figure it out. We took a Time Allowance of 3.5 minutes at the first checkpoint in the section, to compensate for this period spent puzzling over the route. Then we followed Gary’s best guess as to the correct route, until we were obviously off track. So we went to the end of section and started fresh on Section 3. When we arrived at a checkpoint, we assumed that we must have missed one and expected a 20 minute penalty as a result.

Before checking in with the control worker, I should have asked him which checkpoint number he was. When I looked at the sticker he gave me, I found that we had not missed a checkpoint and I could have simply requested a Time Allowance for about 10 minutes and been close to correct! That mistake basically determined our losing score for the entire rally. We finished Sections 3, 4 and 5 almost penalty-free, which were based on tulip diagrams and distance to turn type instructions. It turned out that the solution for Section 2 was simply to approach each intersection and look for the turning direction that would require us to take a road with a missing section. We ended up with a score of about 12.5, which was fourth in Expert class – not very satisfying, but it was a fun night regardless. Now we’re a little better prepared for the next ORRC event on June 4.

This turned out to be the last MCO rally of the season, because the organizer – Open Road Motorsports – cancelled the June and July events due to low attendance. Personally, I believe he should have warned people first that the series was in jeopardy, before cancelling the events. It would have given people a chance to declare their interest before pulling the rug out from under those who like these events.

ORRC No Winter Maintenance Rally – October 1, 2011

Friday, October 7th, 2011

The No Winter Maintenance rally was organized by the Subaru Performance Driving Association as a replacement for the First Frost rally held the last couple of Decembers. It is the eighth rally of the 2011 provincial season. The objective was to utilize better roads (i.e. more gravel), in a more rural setting and I’d say they succeeded admirably. The rally was centred in Flesherton, ON, which is only 40 km south of Georgian Bay and very rural in character. It’s hard to believe, but the Niagara Escarpment stretches all the way to this area and we were also on the back side of Blue Mountain, resulting in some excellent gravel side roads with lots of elevation changes and twisty bits.

Flesherton is almost 540 km from home in Ottawa, so we left Friday afternoon and went to stay at my friend’s house in Pickering – a drive of about four hours. He and his wife are very gracious and welcome us into their home whenever we need a rest stop en route to these distant ORRC events. After arriving there about 9:30 Friday night, we enjoyed some good cheer and chatter before retiring fairly early to rest up for a long day ahead. Saturday morning came pretty quickly and after a cup of coffee and more cheerful banter, we hit the road about 7:30 for the remaining two-hour drive. En route we passed through a huge wind farm, just north of Shelburne, which we had no idea existed. It was pretty impressive and led to all kinds of speculation about how much power was generated there, cost of construction, etc. When we arrived at Flesherton a little after 9:30, there was already a large crowd of rallyists lined up registration and staying warm inside the restaurant, since it was only 3 Celsius!

My chief competition for the Intermediate class crown could not attend due to some family commitments, but his co-driver (Perry) did come, with a new driver who had a lovely new Lotus Evora. They used Perry’s Ford Focus wagon in the rally, but we had a chance to examine the Evora before starting out. Although it’s cool that Lotus has a new model, I can’t say I’m in love with the styling – it’s an odd combination of curves and straight lines that doesn’t work for me.

Because they had twelve new teams entered in Novice class, they put both the Expert and Intermediate teams at the front, so we wouldn’t be held up along the way. We were given car number 3, so we got away at 11:03. We promptly missed the first turn, which came up quickly after the first side road! After turning around and undoing the odometer appropriately, we had no trouble reaching the odo check at around 13 kms. But the odometer correction factor was large, so I had to estimate how much to include for the mistake at the beginning. It turned out all right and the correction factor meant that I could run at, say, 70 km/h to achieve an average calibrated speed of about 65 km/h, which helped us avoid speeding tickets whenever I had to make up time. At the break, Perry told us that he was having a lot of trouble with their Terratrip rally computer, since it seemed to be malfunctioning and their distances and speeds were all off. This may have helped us in the end.

Section 2 was all simple tulip diagrams, in the correct sequence, so we had no trouble zeroing the first few controls. Or I thought we had. In the final scoring, I saw that we had been a minute early at the second one, which I don’t believe. The sub-section was only 5.2 minutes long and they claim that we finished it in 4.2 minutes. That suggests a 20% average speed error, which is highly unlikely. They also scored us one minute late at the next control, but that turned out to a scoring error, which didn’t affect the results. I must ensure in the future that I verify our “in times” at each checkpoint before I leave the checkpoint worker’s car. The third section was a series of tulip diagrams where we had to choose from three different tulips once we arrived at the intersection, which slowed us down a bit. They had put on intersection out of sequence, which caught us, and the intersection didn’t match any of the related diagrams in our opinion, so we got turned around a bit until we figured out where to go. Then we came to another intersection where none of the diagrams worked, but we kept going straight and it was the correct choice. In fact, they’d intentionally reversed the symbol for the stop sign at that corner, which we didn’t notice! I took a Time Allowance at the next control, which was enough to minimize the damage, as it turned out. Section four was a single large tulip diagram, covering about 20 kms, with which we had no trouble, as soon as we verified that we’d chosen the correct end of the diagram as the starting point.

There was a 45-minute break at the restaurant at the halfway point, at which we had time to learn that Perry and his partner were struggling with their odometer. But you can never be sure that Perry isn’t pulling your leg, crafty Englishman that he is. So we pressed on in the assumption that we had to continue to do our best in order to beat them. The rally organizers had provided free sandwiches and veggies, which was a nice treat. So were able to rest and re-fuel our bodies indoors (to stay warm), and get ready to leave again in relative comfort.

The first section after the break was a hand-drawn map without distances or road names, showing a symbol at each intersection – one each for straight, left and right. It was a simple matter of interpreting the symbols and following the directions at each intersection once we arrived at it. There was one intersection where the reality did not match the map, so we just kept going straight and it worked out fine.

Section 6 was a complex system of using map coordinates to identify certain points and then connecting them with a line. The place where the line crossed a road indicated where we should be going. It took Gary a while to figure it out and plot our route, so I waited after a checkpoint to give him time to do this, planning to take a corresponding Time Allowance at the next control.  That was fine, except that somehow we missed one of the turns, resulting in us driving around a bit before we got back on route. Then we came to a junction where it appeared that we had two equivalent choices, both of which would lead to the same place. So we and the car in front of us both took the first choice, which turned out to be the wrong one. We both missed a checkpoint on the second path! By the time we reached the next control, I had to take the maximum Time Allowance that we could, since we’d used up our allotment by then. It turned out to about 3 minutes short, but better than 18 minutes late.

The final section involved road counting, where each intersection carries a special number representing the number of roads you count – starting at zero for the road you’re on and proceeding clockwise (in this case), until you reach the number. As we progressed, the numbers got bigger and bigger, but there’s an easy way around this. At a four way intersection, the road you’re on is zero, four, eight and so on, so it’s easy to account for a number like 53. Likewise, at a three-way intersection, the road you’re on when you approach it is zero, three, six, etc., so it simplifies the math for a large number. Near the end of this section, we passed Perry and his driver going the wrong way, so we knew we might have a good chance of coming out ahead.

After checking in at the restaurant, we had loaded the car and chatted with a number of people before we left, and there was still no sign of Perry. We were given some brownies and cookies baked by one of the organizer’s mothers and hit the road a little after five o’clock. A couple of hours later we phoned him and got the results – we had won our class! Later I was able to look at the detailed results and found that Perry had a score almost three times as high as ours, so I guess they had major problems. We got home a little after eleven o’clock, after a 535 km drive – tired but satisfied with our performance. Next up is the President’s Prize rally in Peterborough in two weeks. We are still in the hunt for the championship, but we must win both of the remaining rallies to come out ahead, assuming that my chief competitor attends both.