Pigs Progress
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Part 2. Flame & Thunder.

After the Hot Rod Drags we put the car away for the year, there were two more meets but we were going to be away for one of them and the other was too soon after our return to be viable, we were right outside any of the points chases so there was very little to gain and it would be cold, and I don’t like that.

In the week before we were due to fly, whilst I was wondering whether I had a passport and if so where it was, we had an Email from Claire, the Club organiser, asking us if we would like to go to the Santa Pod Flame and Thunder Show a couple of weeks after we got back. It was to be an invite only, display type meet with no points given, just a bit of fun. I was already regretting not entering the meeting after we got back so after a couple of seconds thought we agreed.
Bakersfield, LA , and Vegas were as good as always and we spent some quality time down in San Clemente talking to Bill Todd at Gary Burgin’s place about the final spec. for the new motor. Looks like I am going to have to live under a stone and eat dirt or find some level of additional funding soon.

Flame and Thnder 06

We had a week to prepare the car for one more trip out, so again it was left to the last day, all made a little more like work due to the mysterious disappearance of the normally ultra reliable crew, no doubt they will return when they’re ready. I had taken the steering box apart and cut the damaged end off of the output shaft, faced it up and bored a half inch hole down it’s length, I then turned up a short stub shaft that was a press fit into the bore and tigged it all together. After some final fitting where the coupling had been damaged by the last breakage, I reassembled it all with two grub screws locating it and a roll pin through it, not having the time to cut a keyway. Now , remember, this is a major component in the steering system and not having time really is a piss poor excuse for second rate work and although I had almost become used to steering being optional it wasn’t the wisest move I’ve made.
We turned up at Santa Pod to find their usual high standard of marshalling and were steered into our spot for the weekend next to Eddie and the “Ramraider“, a really well turned out injected slingshot of the “Dogs B*ll*cks” team. Lucky he was there really as within two minutes I had driven the van up to it’s axle in the mud behind the pit road. Cheers mate . As an aside, the Ramraider got it’s name in a previous guise when they managed to start it up in gear at Long Marston and drove it up the steps into the VIP stand, I’m sure they won’t mind me reminding everyone of that. We set out our pit and grabbed a beer, fired up the heaters and settled in for a quite evening and early night.
I was up early, (relatively speaking), with coffee in hand and sorting the car, giving it a quick wipe down and oil and tyre check and had been merrily chatting to people for an hour or so before I noticed that I was still alone. Checking in the trailer I found the Dearly Beloved still curled up in bed with a cold compress on her head. Ahhhh! Migrane! Not good , not at all good. If it had been another meet I might have been able to stow everything and get us home, but being pitted as we were there was no way we could get out and being totally selfish, no way I could run the car on my own. Still not to worry, she was as comfortable as possible in the circumstances and there were monkies enroute so all was well.
I watched the guys go out on their first run and went down to the start to be part of it. When they got back, one by one, every one of them came across to see if they could help in some way, offering everything from asprin to spare crew. It really is a great little club I race with. Later in the day Paul from our mates the B sting team turned up with his wife, just out for the day, and immediately jumped in to help as there was a distinct lack of monkies at this point. We made it down to the line in time for the second run of the day, but with a colder than ideal motor, not having been able to run it up before hand. This makes a huge difference to the way in which it performs and I very nearly had the embarrassment of both not starting and then stalling on the line but a bit of savage throttle work kept it running and after a somewhat spluttery start it actually pulled rather well, the cooler air seeming to suit it. Not a special run but OK and still in the nines, so that was good. On the tow back to the pits the steering got heavier and heavier and closer inspection showed that it had broken the roll pin. See, it’s not genius to put half fixes on vital components. With a good number of people looking at the pin/shaft/box problem several things became apparent. First, our steering requires no more effort than any of the others and second the components were as good as any other, so the problem must be elsewhere. Whilst standing back a bit giving it a bit of thought I watched as Dave, Welsh Tony’s crew chief, picked some white bits off of the drag link and it was like a light going on ! Where we had fitted the new exhaust system, the collectors were always going to be tight, and they actually touch the body. Not a great concern because there is an ally strip along the bottom edge that protects everything that could be damaged, but when the body is locked down it is forced behind the collectors and this in turn pushes it inwards to rub against the drag link, (Pitman arm), so not only has the steering got to overcome the friction of the system in general but also the force applied by the body, something I would never have seen happening, No wonder it was having such a hard time of it . Now we had 20 minutes to get ready again, so a couple of small packing pieces on the firewall kept the body up half an inch and another one between the body and tinwork kept that off. A new pin driven through on top of the old one and tighten up the grub screws till they cried & we’re ready!
One of the great things about Santa Pod is that they have virtually no curfew and later in the year it is dark before the last runs, With the motor a little warmer , the air a little cooler and the steering working, under multi coloured floods and strobes we headed off into the darkness on our last run of the season, and with it got back to where we were right at that first meeting of the year.
Back in the pits much beer was in evidence, the meeting was a one day thing for us and everyone had decided that it was a good time to use up the surplus stock as there was no rush for anything in the morning. A very pleasant evening spent around Eddie’s brazier -the man’s a fiend for fire and had actually stopped in B&Q to purchase some of their fine prepared timber and put it to the only use it’s really fit for. The only two not drinking earlier were Chris and Ray, who used up their surplus fuel stock by firing their injected meth motors and throwing flames out of the exhausts for a while. All in all not a bad end to an otherwise patchy season.
The car’s back in the shed now and will be getting an end to end service before going out again. I am in the process of tracking down a new steering box for it and another one for the new car -Standard Ten if anyone knows of one, or two, but will rebuild the old one too, although I hope we won’t need it. Other than a complete overhaul and maybe a couple of sensors in the exhausts, I think we will run the car pretty much as it is next year but perhaps not the full season, using the time and money to bring the new one forward. But then again, it’s a long time till April and by then I expect that we will be raring to go break stuff again.
Oh, and the dinner dance and presentation? We went, had a great time, watched our Welsh mates take the trophy for an unprecedented third time, and came home empty-handed. It takes dedication to miss a top ten spot in three different series, but that’s us!!
If it ain’t broke, fix it till it is!