GT-33 was scheduled to begin on Monday, July 14, 2008. So to accomplish all of the visits that Diane planned en-route to the event, we had to leave on the Tuesday before. PRNCZ had been ready for weeks (as had Steve), but Diane had to finish the packing and all the sundry household preparations.
Finally, it was Tuesday 9:30AM, 75 degrees, and we were on our way to Seven Springs, a winter wonderland in Pennsylvania. We had an uneventful day and stopped in West Lafayette, IN for the night, just as it started to rain. Luckily, we didn't even have to use PRNCZ to get to dinner. There was a very nice restaurant at a hotel about three blocks down the street. The next morning it was still drizzling, so we decided to put the top up. (I guess it's our age.)
By the time we hit Springfield, OH, it was sunny. We arrived early for our tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Westcott House. It didn't start for another hour, so we walked a few blocks to a local Mexican restaurant recommended by a docent for a quick lunch.
Three Classics: PRNCZ, Diane
and the Wescott House
The Frank Lloyd Wright Westcott House had just enjoyed a beautiful restoration. Ah, we know how good that feels — and looks! Diane gets to cross off another site in her Wright houses book. See Diane, PRNCZ and the House — all stunning ladies?
After touring the house, we headed to our final destination for the day: Columbus, OH. En-route we passed an antique mall. We were ahead of time so that necessitated a stop. Here, Steve latched onto some accordion sheet music. We arrived at our friends' house in Columbus, just in time for dinner.
After dinner, the next door neighbor wandered over with his boss from work. Apparently, the neighbor had carried news of our visit back to his shop and that necessitated a visit once we arrived. It turns out that the boss was "restoring" an MGA. With dessert and coffee in hand, the boys chatted about fixing MGAs. While the guys hid their heads in the engine compartment, Diane played with the neighbor's two Chows: Gibson and Logan, the pup.
The Color of Money
After two days visiting, we were back on the road heading towards Lancaster, OH to spend time with our good friend, Dave Ream. The first order of business when we arrived was a tour of Dave's garage. Since our last visit, he had added another MGA, a motorcycle, and a Mercedes to impress the ladies. Not bad for a guy who's near 80! After clean-up and unpacking, we chatted and chatted and chatted. We hadn't seen Dave in a few years, so there was a lot of catching-up to do.
Dave likes to antique: he's the pro. So the next day we headed out of Lancaster a bit to visit an antique mall. On the way, we kept seeing signs with only one word: Lilyfest. That peaked our curiosity, but our goal was the mall.
The antique mall was actually a set of buildings that one needed to run between. We eventually got rained out. But on the return to Dave's house, there were these signs. So we followed them and after driving half-way around the Hocking Hills, we encountered an arts festival with all manner of artists and things for sale. We made the rounds quickly because the recent rains had turned a lot of grass into a lot of mud.
After dinner that evening, we played pool and did some more reminiscing. Too bad Dave's not closer. We had some great times with him and his wife, Barb, when she was still alive, driving our MGAs through the Hocking Hills. The next morning, we said "auf wiedersehen" to Dave and headed towards Pennsylvania.
As we proceeded east, we did shiver a bit when we passed the site of our breakdown on the way to GT-25. That one ended up being a broken crankshaft. Eventually, we stopped at a Mickey D's for some coffee. Steve had noticed, recently, that when he started PRNCZ, there was a burst of white smoke from the tail pipe. A quick examination didn't reveal much. She started, and the smoke eventually went away. If you can't find it, it isn't broken — right?
Steven at one with the
Wright Duncan House
Soon we arrived in Mt. Pleasant, PA in time for our tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright Duncan House which had recently been dismantled and moved there from Lisle, IL and painstakingly reassembled. Another beautiful restoration - with no leftover parts. And, if you're interested, it is available for rental. Another house to cross off the Wright list (nearby Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob were crossed off already, and another one is staged for next year's Adventure).
On The Back
Mouse Over to Read Back
We traveled on. Then, just a few miles from Seven Springs, we came upon a very recent accident. Off the road and partially through a split rail fence was an MGA on a two-wheel trailer. Traffic was backing up, and it was at the apex of a curve on a two lane road. There appeared to be plenty of help, so we went on. Later we found out that it was George Kress's MGA. Eventually, George managed to get the MGA off the trailer, adjust some wing damage and drive the rest of the way to the resort. The trailer was toast. Fortunately there was no loss of life, limb or MGA — whew!!
Monday was the continuation of the Twin Cam 50th Anniversary Weekend. The day after we arrived was a Press Day Reenactment to celebrate the introduction of the MGA Twin Cam. Few people there realized that the re-enactment was scheduled for the precise date and time as the original Press Day fifty years earlier.
Twin Cam 50th Celebration
Diane with "Agent" Bob Vitrikas
Acting as the BMC press agent for the Press Day Reenactment was Bob Vitrikas, author of The MGA Restoration Guide. Diane had schlepped her original of the book along, just so Bob could autograph it. Is there such a thing as an MGA author groupie? There's Diane, with Bob Vitrikas, holding a copy of Bob's book just after it was signed (a few years late - oh, well).
As Steve and Diane were walking around enjoying the festivities and talking with friends, Diane was tapped on the shoulder and presented with a winning ticket for a ride in a Twinkie, as Twin Cams are affectionately called.
In a Twinkie with Don Haynam
Here she is just getting ready to go out with Don Haynam, the owner. I don't know about Diane, but if the guy sitting next to me was wearing a five-point seat harness, and I only had a lap belt, I'd be extremely worried. When Diane returned, she said that Don gave her one helluva ride over the hills surrounding the Resort. Thanks, Don for the ride and the picture!
After the press release activity, we starting working our way back to the main part of the lodge. We stopped in the "Display Room" once again to view all the MGAs there.
The display room was set up to resemble a dealership show room. All the MGAs there represented MGAs built on the Twin-Cam: the Twin Cam itself, the Mk II and the Mk II Deluxe, in addition to current Twin Cams active on the racing circuit and, seen here, four of the five MGA Twin Cams that raced at Sebring. There was a lot of very nice metal standing in that room. Steven made an offer, but the "salesman" turned him down.
We moved on to prepare for dinner at the lodge eatery with Mike and Jennifer Ash. Mike is the current Technical Editor for MGA! Magazine, and Jennifer is Diane's Indian spice guru. We talked more about preparing spices than automobiles at dinner.
Twin Cam Show Room
Normal GT Activities Continue
On Tuesday, after washing PRNCZ, we attended several of the tech sessions, including the "Certificate of Originality" discussion. Diane was asked to document the decisions of an ad hoc committee which has continued to investigate the idea of originality. After several more conference calls throughout the fall, the committee agreed to publish a list of resources on the NAMGAR website and to write occasional articles in MGA! magazine. That evening we also participated in the Chapter Contacts' Meeting held by the Niners.
Immediately after the Chapter Contacts' Meeting was the First Timers' Reception. As with most parties, someone or something has to start breaking the ice. With the exception of the NAMGAR Board and Staff, no one knew anyone else. This year, the organizers put together a list of questions to get answered, but the only people who knew the answers were the Board and Staff because the questions were based on their lives. Not even the Board and Staff knew all the answers to all the questions, because they hadn't seen the questions either. Diane and Steve talked to a lot of people that night.
And after all of that, we attended the first NAMGAR event meal: a fabulous BBQ. Where did all of that good food come from?
Small Part of the Car Show
Wednesday was the Car Show at nearby Laurel Hill State Park, a really ideal location for the car show: it had food, potties and SHADE.
Just after all the cars in the show were parked for the day, the MGA race cars pulled in and took two roaring laps around the grounds before settling into a special area. Talk about sites and sounds!
With available food, drink, shade and potties, the venue was quite bearable this year, and we hung around for the entire event. We have a panorama photograph of the field, but we're pretty sure your screen isn't wide enough, so this picture will have to do. Is that PRNCZ back there? Duh!
PRNCZ at the Show
That evening, it was dinner with Bruce, and afterwards we attended the Member Appreciation Night which was a new addition to the GT schedule — and such a nice touch. There was a live band and dancing.
Thursday morning was the NAMGAR Staff Breakfast. Since Diane (MGA! copy editor) and Steve (MGA! editor) are on staff, we attended: a quick meeting, words of appreciation, and food!
The rest of the day was kind of a free day so we gathered up Bruce and headed for the Fort Ligonier Museum, which was recommended by Kathy & Ken Nelson.
As noted on the museum website: "The history of Fort Ligonier began in September 1758 and was concluded in March 1766, embracing the period of the French and Indian War and Pontiac's War. The revival of interest in the fort began in the twentieth century and continues with a modern museum and a fully reconstructed/restored fortification within the current property limits."
Fort Ligonier Museum
There were other bits of trivia inside, like the fact that World War I was not the "first world war." And information on Russia's role in the earlier wars fought here. Out back was a partial reconstruction of the fort and buildings representing its infirmary, arsenal, post exchanges and sleeping quarters: "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite!"
The staff at the Museum loved our cars and took the picture of us in front of the museum. It's a very nicely recreated site.
We took the "scenic" route back to the resort. The county had this huge truck with a blower and was cleaning the roads. With two lane roads and a fair amount of traffic, trucks traveling at 10 mph accumulate a lot of cars behind them. At the first opportunity, we turned and headed off in another direction.
We weren't exactly lost; we knew about where we were, but we needed to know exactly where we were. We didn't want to miss the Awards Banquet that evening. So we stopped at a gas station to ensure we were going the right way. While Steve was inside, a good ole boy walked over to Diane and PRNCZ, looked at Diane, and said "has anyone ever told you that you're cuter than a new born speckled puppy?" She replied "no...” Just then Steve came back to the car, and she said, under her breath, "get the hell out of here, now!"
We headed back to the resort but decided to drive to the top of the hill where the condos are located to enjoy a stupendous view — must be where the picture for the postcard was shot.
L-R: Nikki, Rebecca, Cecilia, Celia, Diane
Now it was time for the banquet. We grabbed a table big enough for our regulars: Cecilia Bruce, her mother Rebecca, her Aunts Nikki and Celia, and, of course, our Bruce.
We had a joyful time, talking about the week, our plans for next year (GT-34 anyone?) and taking pictures. After all of the awards for the car show, Steve was recognized for his work as the new Editor of MGA!, and Diane was one of the winners of the Shopper's Rallye. She was so pleased with her prize - a stylish NAMGAR shirt and the NAMGAR carryall that she was ogling at the Regalia Table. We missed the Crossword Puzzle by one point (rats! - and congrats Dave & Rita Houser). We were also recognized for attending all 33 GTs. Where have the years gone? Ken & Iris Langford enticed us to continue our MGAdventures next July in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Out hotel reservations have been made, and the registration form is already in the mail.
On Friday we started off for Corning, NY in a dense fog. By about 11AM that white smoke became a real problem, and PRNCZ was losing power, fast. We stopped at a gas station to fuel up and investigate.
Steve quickly determined that cylinders #2 and #3 weren't firing most of the time. When he removed the spark plugs, there was a suggestion of coolant on them. Then he cranked the engine over and was promptly hit in the face with a blast of coolant mist from #3. It didn't take a genius to figure this one out: head gasket. But how bad? There wasn't much in the burg: a convenience store with gas pumps, some houses, a church and directly across the street a building that advertised itself as a truck repair facility — loosely. Steve walked across the street. All the bays were bare: not a good sign. He did manage to find the owner and after ten minutes of rooting around the shop, he came up with a can of Bars Leak, which Steve purchased. After dumping the appropriate amount, half the can, into the radiator, the white smoke diminished, and some power returned. But the fix was less than temporary. After twenty miles, we were almost back to the same situation and still two hundred miles from our destination.
The nice thing about MGAs is that they will run on two cylinders. Steve's even seen one run on a single good cylinder. They just don't run well. We bit the bullet and decided to forge ahead. We got off of the back roads and onto the interstate, in case of a complete failure. Steve has family in Corning, so we knew if we got there, we'd have a place to either fix PRNCZ or leave her, if need be.
The interesting thing about being in this situation is the experience. In a modern automobile, with the windows up, the radio on and running at 70 mph, you don't notice the hills. The five mile long, seven percent grades in an MGA running on two cylinders, you notice that you have to be in second gear to get enough power to climb; you notice that it takes 20 minutes to climb the hill, not five; you notice the heat; you notice dust from the other cars whizzing by. A pioneer experience, to be sure.
We arrived in Corning, hot, exhausted and hungry. We had a room at a local inn for the visit. But we were going to need wheels to get around. Steve's aunt kindly lent him her car for our visit. We gathered up the clan and headed off to dinner and catching up. After dinner, back at the inn, we discussed our options: 1) wait around a couple extra days for our head gasket and fix it there; facilities were available to us; 2) rent a car, and have a hauler take PRNCZ home; 3) rent a U-haul and trailer, and take her home ourselves.
Uncle John Supervises the Loading
While option one was tempting, there were some mitigating issues with the engine that might have stranded us there even longer than our worst case scenario. We opted to cut the trip short one day and take option three. It was cheaper than option two, even with gas at $4.00 a gallon.
On Saturday we drove to Ithaca to pick up the truck and trailer: another fiasco that would take two more pages of text.
When we returned, Steve's Uncle John helped Steve maneuver PRNCZ onto the trailer.
That afternoon, we visited Corning Glass Works and the local wine shop to load up on Glenora "Bobsled Red." That evening we spent a way too short, enjoyable dinner with Steve's aunts, uncles, cousins and second cousins. It's a good group, and we don't get an opportunity to visit with them enough.
After coffee with Aunt Martha, Uncle John and Cousin Jamie on Sunday morning, we started off for home. The trip was fairly uneventful, but once the rain started, we knew we wouldn't be home that evening. Driving that truck and trailer on the tollway in the rain is as much fun as driving the MGA on the tollway in the rain. So we called ahead to Bruce and finagled a bed for the night in Three Rivers, MI. We also had Bruce gather up a number of heads from his collection on the outside chance that the engine problem was a bit more complex. We loaded those up prior to our departure the next morning.
Home and None-The-Worse-for-Wear
Big Hole Between Two Pistons
We arrived home late Monday morning. After unloading PRNCZ, unpacking and returning the truck and trailer to the local U-Haul, we started fixing PRNCZ.
Steve had enough time on the trip to plan his repair. He was fairly certain that it was a failed head gasket. We could have repaired it on the road, but you just never know...
Ultimately, the head was pulled and, sure enough, head gasket failure: the worst Steve's ever seen. The cause: likely a defective gasket. The block and the head weren't warped. The head had been torqued several times since the gasket had been installed. Who knows…
Well, we've put a few hundred miles on PRNCZ since then, and she is ready. Steve's ready. Bruce's ready. Diane's still packing. But we're all psyched for the next journey. GT-34, here we come!