My Vincent has been away a long time. The bottom end bearings were toast and I didn’t feel competent to replace them. Crankshaft work is notoriously tricky on a Vincent, as is nearly everything. Remarkably complex motor. So I brought it to a guy who does a lot of motorcycle restorations. He hung onto it for about two years and didn’t get much done. I took it back from him and brought it to a specialist and it took another two years to get it back. But at least this time it’s back together and runs nice. Still needs a few things done but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

It’s a pretty thing.





Peyote is coming along nicely at Tony’s shop. I haven’t been up to visit the ailing paitient, but Tony sent some pictures. Pretty cool looking.

A bit too pretty for Peyote, though this is exactly what I was aiming for when I made those ugly fenders.

After I dropped Peyote off the stands and discovered a bevy of new problems the air kind of came out of my sails. Tony Garmey and Horizon Racing to the rescue. I asked Tony if he’d be willing to “finish up” Peyote, which has to be the worst thing you can ever ask a talented fabricator and mechanic like Tony. When I was a motorcycle mechanic my nightmare was the guy who rebuilt his motorcycle but now wanted me to “finish up” by doing little things like getting it to start.

Who knows what crappy work lies inside? How could a guy who can rebuild his engine not be able to time it? And if you touch that little tar baby and something goes wrong, guess who is now responsible for making it right?

To my surprise,  Tony was willing to do it. So Peyote is at Horizon Racing, getting it’s rear suspension sorted out, the extreme camber in the front right corner fixed (hey, it hit the wall dummy, didn’t you think the upright might be bent?), and the very ugly fenders I made replaced. As any of you alert readers recall, I was nervous about making the fenders. With good reason: they looked stupid.

If you need work done on your race car, you can’t go wrong talking to Tony. He does everything right. There’s a good reason SOVREN just voted him Mechanic of the Year.  Here’s a couple of pictures of the nose Tony has mocked up in carboard. Looks wonderful. He’s even willing to do what he can to save the original tin.

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There has been a lot going on, and I haven’t posted here for a dogs age. I’m going to start again since I’m doing stuff to both Peyote and Peyote’s little brother–the Ambro 001 that I’m calling Mescal.

For those of you saying Huh?  I should explain that Bill Ames, the guy who built Peyote teamed up with his friend Dewey Brohaugh about a year later (roughly 1960) to start building fiberglass bodies to sell–a popular thing in the early sixties (Devin, Kellison, Meyers, etc.). When the first body came out of the mold they built a car for Dewey from a TR3 donor. This is that first car.

So why did I buy a car so similar to Peyote? (more…)

Moving right along, I spent all day yesterday getting the nose pinned down, I’m dreading fabricating the fenders, but it will probably go easier than I think it will. I’m going to wheel them a little to give them some shape, but they will still look like they have no compound curves, even though they’ll have a little crown.

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I had to stretch the aluminum tightly against the frame–it barely fit from side to side.

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The nose tilts forward a little more on the new frame. I’ll have to fill this gap. One side of the front wing is mostly formed, the other is just cleco’ed in place. I didn’t have good templates for the wings so it’s kind of cut n’ try.

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The wing has a nice subtle shape. The dash will fit nicely. I’m going to make the bulkhead and firewall seal better between me and the engine room.

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It’s looking pretty good considering all the crushed beercans I’m reusing.

I’m making pretty good progress on Peyote. Okay, it’s more like three steps forward, two back, but it’s coming together. I made a set of decisions that were kind of painful. Mainly, that I would try to use as much of the damaged body as possible, since the frame couldn’t be saved. It’s a kind of silly thought, since Peyote has been reskinned at least three times that I know of–four if you count Peyote MkI, so it’s not like I’m preserving much of the original body (though there are three pieces of metal that I’m fairly certain come from the original incarnation). But the body skin from the roll cage forward is from the Peyote that I’ve had so much fun with over the past eight years, so I’m determined to save as much of that mojo as I can. Turns out of course that saving original bodywork with a new frame is twice the work of simply reskinning, but I’m glad that I’m doing it.

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Here’s the new frame with some rear skin on. The old rear skin was too thin and oilcanned badly. I made this out of .040 aluminum and rolled a little crown into the aluminum with my new english wheel. You can barely see the crown but it makes the panels much more rigid and makes the entire structure far stronger. I’m not very good with the wheel yet, so the metal looks like an aluminum sack full of walnuts, but for now it’s done and in place so it’s going to stay.

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Original nose skin laid in place. As you can see, there’s not a lot to work with here, but I’ll make it come together.

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My el cheapo harbor freight english wheel. I reinforced it with a lot of added steel and it’s still one fourth the cost of anyone other source I found.

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Borgeson steering shaft with telescoping section–no more Zulu spear pointed at my chest.

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The “wideboy” chassis. These tubes used to be straight back to the rollbar which resulted in a seating position tilted to the right. Just like my politics–rigid, but uncomfortable.

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I checked”everything” on the front suspension for bends and cracks, found one lower arm was bent, no cracks.When installed the suspension the right side (the one that hit the tire wall) I could feel binding and the lower arms moved apart when I stroked the suspension. Turns out the lower trunnion axle was bent. So now I’m waiting for a new one. Late TR4-TR6 trunnions (with 3 degrees of caster) are not interchangeable side to side, so my big stack of TR3 suspension stuff was worthless. I do, however, strongly endorse caster in TR3/4 race cars.

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Someone needs to clean this shop. Ah well, back to it. More pictures later. I’m getting kind of frantic, I only have until Jan 3rd, and there’s a few days in the middle when I can’t work–like Christmas, and a trip to Yosemite for a ridiculously decadent dinner put on by a good friend.

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I’ve been super busy, I thought this time before the holidays would be nice and lazy, instead I’m working my tail off. I don’t know if I’m going to have Peyote back together before we leave for Maui. I’ve got the new frame done. Now I need to paint it and start building. I tried hard to save the old frame, but it was just too far gone. And once we cut some of the tubes to straighten the TR3 part of the frame I discovered that the original frame welds were not well penetrated, the tubing wall thickness was a bit on the skimpy side (.860 everywhere), and the rust monster had been hard at work. I’m glad I never stuck this thing on it’s lid.

Click any thumbnail to view these as a slide show. If you move you mouse to the right or left edge you can browse to the next or previous picture

The new frame weighs about the same (28 pounds heavier). We went down a little on the tubing diameter (to 1 1/2″ from 1 5/8*) and used .134 wall for the roll hoop, brace, and driver’s side intrusion bars. The rest is 1 1/2″ .860 wall. I made the driver’s compartment a little bigger by cheating the side brace out with a curve at the end, and added footwell intrusion protection. My little friend in the Corvette demonstrated how important that is. Another inch or so and my feet would have lacked wiggle room.

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Thought you might also like to see the new transmission Tony Garmey (Horizon Racing) built for me. It’s almost too pretty to stick in a car. Dog box guts. I like the little temperature gauge labels. Much prettier than my usual splash of temperature sensing paint.

Peyote is in little bits in my shop. I wheeled it in on Monday and turned it into a bare frame (which is now at the frame straightening shop). With the frame gone from the shop it looks like Peyote disappeared ito a bunch of boxes. I have a lot of work to do to turn it back into a car, but it will be ready for spring. Not the CSRG Charity Challenge race I’m afraid. It’s going to take all the time I have before I head to Maui.

I’m working on a complete story of the trip. I’ll post it here when I finish it. I decided to make it half real and half fictional since my memory won’t permit anything more substantial. Should be an interesting exercise. I started something similar with Peyote’s history but never got that into it. This will be easier. The tough part will be separating truth from fiction, but I’ll leave that to the readers.

Here’s a gallery of pictures from the tour: http://gallery.mac.com/billbab I haven’t had any chance to add captions, so you’re kind of on your own. The new version of iPhoto lets you separate your library into events–nice feature.

Thanks for all the supportive emails and comments, and the offers of rides at both Road America and Sovren’s Fall Finale. I’m not taking anyone up on that kind offer. I’m not comfortable racing other people’s cars, but most of all, now that I’m on the way, I’m pretty excited about being home. Four months in the front 16 feet of a trailer is a long time.

One phone caller was not so pleased, I heard from Carl Jensen, the competition director of SVRA. He was pretty pissed that I said in my article it was the stewards that would be making the decision about any sanctions (they don’t, he does), that I expected politics would be involved, and the reason I hadn’t heard any result was so the decision to do nothing could be announced after everyone was safely gone.

Not only did Carl make his determination before the end of the race weekend, but he also came looking for me to tell me about it. It must have been fairly late on Sunday, I was at the track until almost noon. The decision was a penalty for the Corvette driver, none for me.

I took another look at what I said and how I said it. I was talking about my assumptions. They weren’t unreasonable, but they were wrong. I’m not going to change the article because then this apology wouldn’t make sense: I’m sorry Carl, I shouldn’t have sold you short. And I should have come looking for you or called before I made assumptions about how you run your show. Thanks for getting in touch with me and giving me the chance to set it straight.

I don’t know what penalty you assessed, and I don’t really care that much. I remain unimpressed at the character and integrity of the driver, but how you deal with him is your business. All the best.

Incidentally, the sour ending aside, SVRA runs a pretty neat event. All the races went off on time until it started raining insanely hard. The off-track re-enactment tours were great fun, very well coordinated and handled (I know firsthand how hard that is), the registration and logistics were flawless and painless, and they got people pretty much into the right groups (though I’m still wondering about those MGA’s in group four). Watkins Glen is definitely one of my favorite tracks to race. Next time I’ll try to bring a little more horsepower so I don’t give away so much in the straights.

“Noo0, you idiot” I groaned as the Corvette bashed into Peyote’s left rear corner, pivoting the car sideways onto it’s massive bumper. I slid along sideways at sixty MPH and I stared up the hood five inches from my elbow. The big car was pushing me towards the tire wall. I had just enough time to think “you jerk”, and then I hit the wall. Peyote’s right front wheel smashed into the rubber, aluminum crumpled and I could actually see the wheel move backward as the suspension mounts bent. I knew the All Aluminum Tour was over.

Rewind.

(more…)

Well, not all Babcocks, but thirty relatives showed up at Limerock to watch Peyote and I do our thing. Im originally from Boston, and the only black sheep to actually leave the east coast permanently. So my brothers, sisters and Mom planned to come see me race, and it blossomed into a mini-reunion and campout with wads of nieces and nephews as well. My daughter Cassie and her two boys James and Shea drove down from Michigan.

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Twenty one adults and nine kids. What fun. It was great to see them all, but I didnt get to spend as much time as I hoped to catching up because…

…Naturally Peyote had its first serious mechanical problem of the entire trip. The quartermaster clutch and Saab throwout bearing I use in Peyote packed it in.

(more…)

So we left the Chicago Four Seasons on Monday, headed for Limerock Raceway in Connecticut. Last time I saw Limerock I was about fifteen and it was a dust bowl as I recall. Pretty spiffy looking now. The roads leading south out of Chicago are not exactly scenic, we drove to Indiana to pick up Nero, then headed for Connecticut. I wasn’t particularly sleepy or hungry so we pressed on, finally stopping in the outskirts of Toledo, Ohio for dinner at a Lebanese place. It wasn’t bad, but I ate a little too much. So once we hit the road I started getting the nods. We were on a toll road, so there wasn’t much to choose from for places to stay. We finally wound up stopping at a travel plaza and just crashing in Nero. Sometime in the night the parking lot filled with big diesels, including one that parked about ten inches from Nero, idling it’s engine all night.

(more…)

So it’s 3:54 AM and I’m compelled to write. I woke up at two with all this stuff in my head. The only way I’ll get some sleep is to reel it out of my mind and onto “paper”. Driving around the country endlessly is a serious education. Most of what I’ve learned I don’t like much. We have a wonderful country and we’re doing a lousy job with it.

I’m going to excuse one group from this rant: Farmers. Great job guys. Not only are most farms beautiful, they also appear to be run with pride, not only in the product, but also for the land. Remarkable, I’m honored to have seen your work.

The rest of you I’m not so impressed with. (more…)

This is out of sequence, I wrote it last week but didn’t post it.

We had an interesting race weekend at Grattan. The track is fun, bumpy and swoopy with lots of elevation changes and some interesting corners. The weather looked threatening, and ultimately cut my participation short, but we had a good weekend.

My daughter Cassie joined us at the track, along with grandsons James and Shea. They were camping in a tent, which seemed like an iffy proposition considering the threatening weather and Cassie’s bad back. But it’s less than an hour to their house, so it wouldn’t be that much challenge if it didn’t work out. As it turned out, Cassie’s back was fine and their tent was snug. (more…)

I’ve said before that Tony Garmey can be competitive in a shopping cart with a bad wheel. Here’s a picture I just recieved from Art Redmond, the owner of this Corvette, of Tony driving it at Monterrey this August, heading inch-perfect for the apex of the corkscrew, airborne.

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I’m pretty sure I could get the front wheels of Peyote off the ground in the corkscrew, but I’d be headed for the hospital right afterward.

I got a call this morning from a guy in Chicago that reads the blog–called the four Seasons and asked for me I guess. I’m sorry that I don’t recall his name. I have such a FIFO memory. He just wanted to let me know that it would be a good idea to stay out of the water near Montrose today because the city was “opening the locks” which translates to “dumping raw sewage” after the big rain. I have a problem with chasing those blind snakes around, so I heeded his warning. He also told me how to avoid the lifeguards –valuable information if I was staying a little longer. Apparently they don’t have constant coverage, so you just leave when they aren’t there and hope your return is equally well timed.

Since I’m leaving on Monday, and Diane gets back tonight, I’m afraid I won’t get to experiment with that technique, but it’s nice to know there’s folks around that are ready and willing to lend good advice. Thanks a lot. Leave me your name in a comment and I’ll try to connect for a paddle next time I’m in town with my board. Might be a while, but you never know–I like Chicago a great deal. I’m really surprised at that. it’s a great city.

I’m in Chicago for a few days, waiting for Diane to return from a “girl trip” to Colorado. I’m holed up at the Four Seasons which is a short distance from the beach on Lake Michigan. So I planned to do a lot of paddling. Turns out that you can’t launch a surfboard from the beach that’s right at the north end of Michigan Avenue. I carried my Starboard 12’6″ down the tail end of the “Magnificent Mile” past Bloomingdales and Chanel, the Hotel Drake and onto the beach. Walked across the sand, tossed the board in and jumped on. I planned to paddle out to the breakwater and perhaps the big water intake that’s way out in the lake–they looked interesting. As I paddled I heard faint noises behind me, turned around and saw a flotilla of lifeguards in rowboats chasing after me, rowing as hard as they could. (more…)

We’ve kind of sucked at taking pictures this trip–not that we haven’t done it, but it’s very clumped. Diane will take the camera and shoot 126 pictures in an hour, and then put it away for two weeks. I’m even worse. I constantly carry a cell phone that takes superb pictures and I have 41 pictures covering two months.

Then there’s the challenge of stuffing pictures into the blog. With a high speed Internet connection it takes a minute per picture, but through my cell phone it’s ten minutes. I just got an unpleasant surprise on my cell phone bill–on our trip to Mosport I used my cell phone data connection and incurred $850 worth of roaming data charges. I have an “all you can eat” data plan through Cingular (the NEW AT&T, whoopee!), and never thought about roaming, but the folks at AT&T did a nice job of negotiating that charge down to about $250. Still unpleasant, but not quite the Royal Canadian screwing I was queued up to receive.

So anyway, here’s a gallery of some photos from the journey.

There’s something wrong with the software I’m using–it’s scrambling some of the captions I wrote, and every time I go back and delete the ones that hook to the wrong pictures, it screws up a few more. I’ll try to fix it later, but if the caption looks inappropriate, that might be the reason. The order of the pictures also gets screwed up sometimes and a lot of pictures are skipped. I’m working on it.

I’m going to go back and stuff some photos into the posts, but thought I’d collect them here for the regular readers. And we’ll do better as we go along, honest

I really have my doubts about writing this–I’m feeling a bit superstitious about how good this trip has been going. But I’ll knock on wood and toss some Heineken over my shoulder.

Okay, that didn’t work very well.

What an amazing car Peyote has been. I can’t think of another car that could have done this expedition with such grace. Not only is the car welcomed anywhere, and our paddock constantly visited by people fascinated by the car and it’s history, but it’s performed beyond anyone’s expectations. Even mine, and I started off amazed by it. It’s pretty much flogged every competing car it possibly could have beaten, and many, many cars that it should not have stood a chance against. (more…)

Well, not really, but I’m not used to being so constrained. You pretty much need to watch kids all the time or they’ll disappear and go play with an electrical distribution panel or find a circular saw somewhere. I don’t remember my Mom worrying this much about us–she’d shove us out the door about age two and say “be back for the first day of school”.

I don’t know why that seemed so safe and acceptable then. We played cowboys and indians in the back of Ringers Playground, on rock outcroppings that people would use for technical climbing today. (more…)

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