Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

Be Wary of Automotive Forum Advice

Kiwi, the mighty Mini from the Southern Hemisphere is a bit under the weather. The little car has been in my garage for nearly ten years and this is the first time that it's ridden on a roll back carrier. 
That's not my oil on the roll back. Jus' sayin'

While enjoying a drive in this late season warm weather on Sunday, the missus and I were confronted with a sudden case of cylinder deactivation- amazing technology in modern cars but not good at all in our older rides. We pulled over and I verified that I had sparks, fuel and air but the 3 & 4 cylinders were dead. I called Richard Cunningham who runs Classic Motorcar Services in Daphne, Alabama and he surmised that it could be a head gasket failure between the two cylinders. 

Knowing that he was very likely correct, I called the folks at Hagerty Insurance and they arranged a ride for us on Tony's Towing of Fairhope, Alabama. Richard kindly allowed me to drop the wounded car off at his place and he quickly performed a compression test. It went like this:
  • Cylinder 1 - 150 psi
  • Cylinder 2 - 160 psi
  • Cylinder 3 - nuthin' psi
  • Cylinder 4 - still nuthin' psi
Time to pull the head and have a look-see. 

Today, I ordered a head gasket set from the folks at Seven Mini Parts in Northern California. Genuine Payen gaskets come highly recommended so that's what is on the way. Afterwards, I spent a little time browsing some of the Mini forums on the subject of head removal. Many of the members posted helpful information but one stood out as simply asking for trouble. I've included a screenshot below.

Click for a full size image

I'm very far from being an expert in the ways of engine work, but sanding a head sealing surface with 240 grit paper seems to be an almost criminal suggestion. Granted, a plastic scraper and maybe some soft Scotchbrite might be OK but the coarse sandpaper would likely leave deep scratches that could lead to poor sealing. If you have used this practice and had success, please let me know, but for now I think I'll pass.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Give a Cortina a Home

Mark I Ford Cortinas are aren't exactly thick on the ground here in the US. In fact, many of them may have corroded back into the ground waiting to be mined again for some future iron ore use.

An uncommon model of this uncommon car is for sale in Positive Earth's home turf of the American Gulf Coast. A Pensacola, Florida resident has one listed on Craig's List for an unmentioned sum. He claims that it is a 1966 model and the photos show that it is a station wagon (estate car) on Rostyle wheels (mostly).

As to be expected, the car is rather rough with various dents and scrapes. As far as corrosion goes well, you better act quickly while there is still an identifiable car. Yes, it's difficult to make a case for restoration but wouldn't an estate Lotus Cortina clone  be a hoot?  As it is, it would be of value for parts harvesting only.

Check out the Craig's List post here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tom Magliozzi of "Car Talk" Radio Show Dead at 77

Say it ain't so. 

Tom Magliozzi, the tall, lovable goof of National Public Radio's "Car Talk" radio show died 
today according to an announcement by NPR. Dispensing auto repair, car buying and occasional marriage advice on-air since 1977, Tom and his bother Ray made the show one of NPR's most successful ever to air. 

"Car Talk" ended live broadcasts in 2012 and the show continues to run on NPR in a best-of format. The jokes may be old, but the laughs still come easily. 

Tom Magliozzi, MG TD owner and a car guy's Car Guy. 

Tom Magliozzi's laugh boomed in NPR listeners' ears every week as he and his brother, Ray, bantered on Car Talk.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mascots at British Car Festival

The pride of ownership of classic cars is often shown in the accessories intended to personalize those cars- to set them off from similar vehicles. At car shows, stuffed animals and other plush toys are common. We've all seen the pouting toddler doll that is mostly popular with the cruiser set. Thankfully they are rare in our corner of the hobby.

I took a few moments to take a few photos of some of the examples of mascots at British Car Festival 2014. Is yours here?

A Jaguar Napping in a Jaguar Engine Bay

A Very Happy Bulldog in a MINI Engine Engine Bay

A Tiger With a Tail
A Litter of Tiger Cubs in a Tiger
A Brit Bear - OK, It's Mine...


Saturday, October 25, 2014

British Car Festival 2014: An Unqualified Success

Fun Ahead
The 24th annual South Alabama British Car Club's British Car Festival is in the books, and it was the club's most successful to date: 131 cars registered; 126 cars on the field, easily besting last year's record-setting car count. And the day was one that dawned cool, bright and clear - perfect for a car show.

At the conclusion of last year's British Car Festival, the show committee leaders were informed that the South Lawn site at Faulkner State Community College in Fairhope would be unavailable to the club for the event due to the planned construction of a new pavilion and walkway system. While the college regretted the disruption, it simply could not be avoided. Once again, the show was in search of a home. 

The committee heard the participants of previous shows state that they enjoyed the show site closer to the fine shopping and dining district in downtown Fairhope, Alabama. The former site of the show along the shore of Mobile Bay was pleasant, but it was remote from the downtown area. The show committee faced a formidable challenge: find a site large enough to contain the expected entrants while remaining near the desired downtown area. 

Featured Sunbeam Tigers
Several committee members were associated with the leadership of Fairhope United Methodist Church and mentioned our plight to them. After a few conversations, the club had an invitation to conduct the show on the lovely campus of the church. And as a bonus, it is located just one block south of the Faulkner campus site- still close to the downtown area that the show participants enjoy so much. Once the site was confirmed, committee volunteers were solicited and planning began in earnest.   

Big Healeys a Crowd Favorite
The show committee was made up of volunteers who had served in positions on previous shows along with some newcomers wanting to help out. The experienced show committee chairs set to work with their groups to prepare for the day.

Late MGBs
First and foremost, the field layout required some professional help and we got it in the form of club member and civil engineer, Fletcher Thompson. Fletcher measured the site's various parking areas and drew up detailed drawings showing the committee how many cars could be parked in a given area. His professional opinion said we had room for 141 cars.

Now we needed to get the word out to public at large and SABCC'er Myra Evans worked with local media to make sure that our event was on the calendars of the many newspapers and magazines that serve the Mobile and Baldwin County area of south Alabama.

Registration is the most crucial part of the event and the committee ably lead by charter member Jack Ross kept the records correct for those pre-registered for the event and for those who chose to register on site. Registration is a daunting responsibility, and this year's field was set with little delay. 

TR6s in Attendance
Of course, it's always fun to win a drawing for something and door prizes have become a tradition of the show. Robb Ogletree worked with the club's membership to obtain a number of interesting gifts that were drawn for during the show. 

Another tradition is the souvenir photo taken at the field entrance. David Turnipseed once again volunteered to shoot photos of the cars as they arrived. Since photos don't print themselves, Ron
The High Rent District
Wolverton played runner to the print shop and then organized their distribution to the participants.

Becky Kramer stepped up to manage the sale of the event souvenir T-shirts along with a committee of able volunteers. 

Every event needs a "fixer"and SABCC's is in the form of Dick Bishop. Dick became the club's representative to city officials and the neighbors that surround the normally-quiet church campus. Of course,
Title Sponsor MINI of Pensacola's Display
Dick was supported by a number of volunteers that assisted him in his tasks. 

If it's a car club event we will be eating and Frank Stabler raised his hand to take on the role organizing the day's cookout menu. Burgers, ribs and sides were available for purchase by the hungry show attendees. About a half dozen SABCC'ers worked all day cooking, serving,cleaning or making supply runs. Those who purchased lunch at the show were highly complimentary of the food.

Good Food Here
The show committee was stunned by both the number and quality of the cars on the show field this year. Several pre-war vehicles were on display which, for this show, is unusual.  It was a real delight to welcome no fewer than six Sunbeam Tigers- this year's  honored car in observance of its 50th  anniversary. Reflecting their popularity with American drivers, Triumphs and MGs were out in force, making up almost 50% of the total cars registered.

Lovely MGAs
Jaguar, too, was well represented with a couple new classes dedicated to the luxury performance marque. For the first time in several years, modern MINIs were numerous on the show field. The show included representatives of nearly all MINI models sold today.

If unusual is more to your liking, we had a Caterham 7, Morgan Aero 8 and a Bentley Continental to name but a few. 

Modern MINIs on the Field
There was a constant stream of visitors walking through the show area and the car owners were there to answer questions and perhaps listen to a couple of  "I had one like that..." stories. Most gratifying was the large number of young people who toured the site. Some of them found the cars on display fascinating. One young teen was overheard asking, "What's a Sunbeam car, dad? I've never heard of it." Speaking of young people, SABCC's highly creative Don Pritchett devised a Kid's Choice prize that was determined by the number of votes cast by kids visiting the show. The award went to the Caterham 7.

Pre-War MG M-Type
The afternoon sun was still high when the awards for the popular choice balloting were presented. Delighted owners were given a trophy in the form of a heavy glass double photo frame where a place placard and the souvenir photo can be displayed. These unique trophies have been an SABCC signature item for a number of years.

After the awards ceremony, goodbyes and promises of getting together again soon were passed around by the participants. This was the signal for the tired but happy SABCC team to start cleaning up the area and packing away the show equipment until it is needed next year. 

It cannot be said strongly enough that without the unselfish volunteers that step up to own a task this event could not be possible. I ask you to think of it this way: While others all around are relaxing and enjoying the events of the day, these generous people willingly miss out just to make sure that the show participants are able to have a great time. From the guys in yellow vests directing cars to their spot to those who made sure that there was a pot of coffee on, we as club members and show entrants owe them a debt of gratitude.

Thank you for making our day so successful!     

Check back for links to the winners list and more photo albums. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

British Car Festival Preparations Going Strong

"Goodies" Laid Out for the Bag Stuffing
In any organization, the strength of the group lies within those who unselfishly offer their time and efforts in achieving the goals set. South Alabama British Car Club's British Car Festival is one of those events that runs solely on support of its members who volunteer.

A Stool on the Assembly Line?
At the event this coming Saturday, October 25, you'll see many people doing tasks that they raised their hand to assume, but keep in mind that for every hour that the show runs, many more hours were spent in planning and performing tasks in preparation for the day. Dozens of SABCC'ers rounded up door prizes, solicited class sponsors, arranged printing or worked to obtain publicity. Tonight was one event that supports THE event.

The club has always put together a hospitality bag of items of interest to visitors in our area and classic car enthusiasts in particular. Members contact business that they patronize to seek donations of small gift items or brochures that show participants would find interesting. And then the time comes to actually get the items in the bags. What better way than to call it a party and invite members to help?

Not Up to Henry Ford's Standards
This evening, about 20 members of the club got together in the spacious garage at the home of Richard and Donna Cunningham in Daphne, Alabama to assemble the guest bags. Folding tables were arranged in a line and the items to be stuffed were laid out. After a couple of announcements (and several stops at the snack table), the line workers stepped up to their stations and the empty bags started their trip up one side of the row of tables, then across to the other side and back down to the end where they were boxed up. 

During the proceedings, conversation about the upcoming show, British cars and inquiries about family took place while the "goodies" were loaded in the bags. Eventually, good natured ribbing about a co-worker's work ethic or filling technique broke out to much laughter all around. With friends and fellow enthusiasts, a task like this is never "work". 

British Car Festival 2014 is on track to absolutely smash all previous participation records. The club is truly excited and looks forward to a fine event.  

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is an American-Built Jaguar in the Future?

Jaguar XE- To be American Built? - JLR Image
Reports out of the UK indicate that Jaguar-Land Rover is in talks with several southern US states about the construction of a new assembly plant. The Liverpool Echo said that a mooted Jaguar-Land Rover production facility in Saudi Arabia would be shelved in favor of the American plant.

Currently, the southeast US is the home of several assembly plants, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and Honda. The supplier infrastructure that supports these facilities is robust and their proximity would be of interest to Jaguar-Land Rover. 

The Echo reports that South Carolina is currently the odds-on favorite. Read the full story here.    

Friday, October 17, 2014


The 2011 Geneva Motor Show was the site for the unveiling of MINI's Rocketman ultracompact concept car. This four seater, with innovations to make driving (and living) in congested cities easier, was one of the few "smaller" MINI concepts up to that point.

All: BMW- Click for Larger Images
The MINI product line (and the MINI Hardtop itself) has grown over the years and enthusiasts asked for a model closer in size to the classic 1959-2000 Mini. 

Now, Motoring File is reporting that the Rocketman is a go for production. Their inside sources tell them that a production version could be ready for sale around 2018 and could possibly share its unseen bits with another manufacturer's small city car. 

Get the full story from Motoring File.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Behind the Scenes at a Magazine Photo Shoot

As British car enthusiasts, many of us subscribe to one or more magazines that cover the classic car scene. One of my favorites is Hemmings Sports and Exotic magazine - a title from the Hemmings  Motor News family of publications.

Richard Lentinello and Tony McLaughlin's Morgan Plus 8
Richard Shoots the Cunningham Jaguar E-Type
SABCC members may recall the fine coverage of British Car Festival 2013 in the pages of Hemmings Motor News. The May, 2014 issue carried an account of the event written by Executive Editor Richard Lentinello along with some photos provided by club members. Richard asked us to stay in touch and keep him up to date about club happenings and possible stories of interest to Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car readers.  

Mike Darby's Jaguar 240 Gets its Turn
I wrote to him in July with the dates for BCF 2014 in case he was interested in covering the show. Replying that he was booked elsewhere that weekend, he mentioned that he was looking for story suggestions to present to Sports and Exotic Car Editor David LaChance and did I have any ideas that fit the magazine's editorial criteria? I submitted several suggestions and he said he would be in touch.

A few weeks ago, Richard emailed me saying that he would be covering an auction in Biloxi, Mississippi and he would be passing through South Alabama and gave me the list of story suggestions approved for publication. Could I contact the owners, find an appropriate location for a photo shoot and get everyone together for the day?

After a few phone calls, the group was on board and we waited for the day arrive. In the end, Richard planned to photograph and write up stories about Tony McLaughlin's owned-from-new Morgan Plus 8, Richard Cunningham's recently restored Jaguar E-Type, Mike Darby's highly original Jaguar 240 saloon and Bill Silhan's rare AC Ace roadster.  

Frantic detailing of the chosen cars commenced as we watched the weather report in hope that we would have the kind of weather perfect for a photo shoot. It had been decided that everyone but Bill Silhan would meet at the 5 Rivers Delta Center in Spanish Fort for photos. Richard would shoot Bill's car in Pensacola the next day on his way back to his home in South Florida. 

We gathered at the appointed place and hour and Richard scouted out the spots he thought would serve his needs. Selecting his location, he began his methodical photo session. With an eye for minute detail, he requested parking angles, backgrounds and helped the owners with removing personal items from the frame. It was an education to watch him at work. 

With the photo shoot's end, we caravaned to Richard Cunningham's home in Daphne where we cooled off from the heat of the day and shared in conversation about the old car hobby. Richard Lentinello is truly knowledgeable and passionate about classic cars. We certainly look forward to welcoming him back to our area again soon.

For those that do not subscribe to any of the Hemmings titles, I recommend that you check them out.