This GT was totally different than any that preceded it. It's GT-21, divisible by 7, so it must be we're headed towards Indianapolis and the Indy 500 Track once again. For the first time in North America, the five major MG clubs, The New England MG T Register, The North American MGA Register, The North American MGB Register, The American MGB Association and The American MGC Register, hosted a combined event: MG-96.
The registration form stated that "only the first 1000 cars to register will get to tour the Motor Speedway Track". Our registration was #80. This event was so big that it was really hard to keep track of NAMGAR activities, running concurrently with MG-96.
The restoration on NAMGAR Registration #541 was now complete, and she was officially christened PRNCZ. When we sent out our "birth announcements" the previous October, we received congratulations and a concession from Bill Ludtke. We'd won the restoration challenge. As far as we know, he's still working on the white coupe. We hope to be surprised at GT-25. With the exception of some short drives around the neighborhood, this trip would be PRNCZ's maiden voyage.
After eight years without a drivable MGA, we were ready for some more MGAdventures. It's only a day's drive from Chicago to Indy, so our plans were to leave early, use the two-lanes, and take it easy. The morning was brisk and sunny. It looked like a great motoring day. About an hour out, we had a "hat overboard-drill" — no sweat. Then a while later, after coming around a curve, there was a horrendous thumping — one loose wheel — no sweat. But after a rest break about an hour outside of Indianapolis, an oil check revealed that PRNCZ was down over two quarts. Two quarts in less than 300 miles was not a good sign — time to sweat. For us, "Quarts of Oil" turned out to be the major theme of the entire GT. Just before we arrived at our hotel, across the street from the host Holiday Inn, we made a gas and a NAPA (not for wine) stop. We'd already depleted our entire oil reserves. Hello, OPEC...
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We refreshed and walked over to the Inn and saw tons of MGs of every kind and a few hot-rods. Diane especially liked the one with the neon lighting along the running boards! What an interesting opportunity for Tom Ball. We scheduled PRNCZ for a slot in the Safety Fast Inspection the next day and then moved on to the Bombay Bicycle Club for dinner, only to run into Rick Green and members of the Speckled Hen Car Club from Michigan. Then back to the Inn for the parking lot party which was this GT's version of the stay vertical and hospitality suite rolled into one.
The next day at the safety inspection, Steven got an opportunity to get PRNCZ in the air to see where the oil leak might be originating. It turned out to be the new oil filter conversion kit he'd had put on before the trip down. Although it did not show any signs of leaking driving around the neighborhood, the extended drive made it stand out like a neon sign. To add insult to injury, we didn't pass the Safety Fast Inspection because we didn't have a fire extinguisher in the A, and the tyres weren't in good condition. OK, no fire extinguisher, but we did have a couple of beers handy. The tyres were almost new (16 years ago). They were 650 bias–plys that had less than 5,000 miles on them. They were $5 each, and the proceeds went to "Cat Welfare," which is a bona fide charity, so we got a tax break to-boot.
Car Show: 1500 Tail Lights
The car show was held at an Armory Museum in a huge field. Diane helped at the NAMGAR registration desk for a few hours and then joined Steven walking around the cars and the vendor areas. We saw cars that we had only read about and seen pictures of in books. Set amongst old airplanes and tanks, the setting was somewhat surreal. Although grateful to see the wide variety of MGs, the meet was really too big.
After the car show, the next stop was the trip around the Track. The trip from the field to the Track was pure agony for PRNCZ. It was hot, and by the time we reached the line to enter the Track, PRNCZ was running through oil at the rate of 1 quart every ten miles. Crawling to the Track with such a huge group of cars made the whole experience even worse, so we pulled off at a gas station and waited for the end of the line: we had several MGs for company.
The line was moving so slowly that we even turned off the engine and pushed PRNCZ for a ways. Eventually we had our turn on the Track. Both Virgin (wherever she is) and PRNCZ have now had the privilege. It was still a thrill, even the second time around. Before the Track lap, John Twist, the Chairman of MG-96, had arranged for a "Cavalcade of MGs" photo of all the cars: there must have been 1500.
Steven managed to track down Bill and Trudy Gallihugh, who live near Indianapolis. We left the track with Bill and Trudy and located some air conditioning and a public house to wash away the track dust. Then we headed over to their place, where they were very gracious to share their garage and tools. After pulling the conversion kit off, Steven found two oil seals between the kit and the block - a definite no-no. Bill lent Steven an original oil filter set up and filter: that leak was stopped.
The awards were presented at the Track, not our usual awards banquet. That was held at the zoo! Actually, it was a very unusual evening. The zoo was closed to the public, so we had our own viewing, while we waited in line for dinner. There was a dolphin show and drums for entertainment. We think we shared dinner conversation with the Housers; Joyce Hart and Bruce Nichols; and a baby walrus?
The return trip the next morning turned out to be more eventful than the trip down. After an early breakfast, we headed back. The brakes only seized up three times. Each time Steven would dutifully get out and reset the adjustment. By mid-afternoon, it was 100 degrees. So we stopped in the parking lot of a funeral parlor, the only place around with a shade tree, to cool off and rest awhile. How prophetic. When we got back in, PRNCZ wouldn't start. Investigation revealed that the top bolt of the starter had fallen out and wedged itself between the block and the starter. This caused the starter to be cockeyed, which jammed the pinion against the fly-wheel. Neither one of us could get our hands down between the starter and the hot engine block to retrieve the bolt and free the starter. After a "now what?" query from Diane, Steven removed the plug wires, the distributor cap, and the distributor, to make enough space to correct the problem. Thirty minutes later, we were on the road again. (shades of Kenny Rogers and GT-11).
When we finally arrived home, totally spent and cramped, we found a case of oil sitting on our doorstep, a kind gift from friends. Other than the oil consumption, brake problems and the starter jam, we were pleased that a car with 17- year-old, new parts ran so well. More than we can say for our bodies: these cars have shrunk!!! That was our biggest adjustment after such a long restoration: we had forgotten how small they are.
Steven had PRNCZ torn apart the next day. Besides the oil seal problem, the conversion kit was defective. The center bolt was too long, so we could never get a really tight fit. A double whammy.
All would be fixed by next year — hopefully.