30 Babcocks

Well, not all Babcocks, but thirty relatives showed up at Limerock to watch Peyote and I do our thing. I’m 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.

Twenty one adults and nine kids. What fun. It was great to see them all, but I didn’t get to spend as much time as I hoped to catching up because…

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

I assumed I was screwed, but I asked around the paddock to see if anyone knew where I could get parts–turns out J.R. Mitchell of GMT racing had some–at his shop in Danbury, about 40 miles away. Off I went, and amazingly they had exactly what I needed. What a shop by the way, and what a great guy J.R. is.

I started to reassemble the clutch but a helicoil in the flywheel backed out. I fiddled with the helicoil trying to reuse it, but in the process a second helicoil backed out. Turns out I had a bit of metal stuck in the third thread of one bolt. A little more pit scrambling and J.R. helped me find a guy that had a full set of fine thread helicoils and insertion tools. My only regret is that J.R. is on the wrong coast for me to give him regular business–not that he needs my piddling custom, his shop is full to the rafters with exotic iron.

I replaced all the helicoils and found the bolts wouldn’t thread into them.

Quit for the night, mumbling and cursing. About 1:30 AM I woke up realizing I hadn’t chased the holes with the helicoil tap and crud in the threads was shrinking the minor diameter. Sure enough, chased the holes, refit the helicoils and the bolts turned smoothly in. I was in biz. Sort of.

I had lost reverse a few weeks earlier, and since the transmission was out I decided to pull the cover and see what was happening. I could immediately see that the reverse shaft was floating around. In the Limerock swap meet that was going on a few steps away was the very knowledgeable owner of Quantum Mechanics (those of you that know my lame compensatory circumlocutions know that I can’t remember his name). He told me my wayward reverse shaft meant the retainer that holds the layshaft and reverse shaft in place was probably broken. I swiped the one from the spare transmission I have (which was otherwise useless since it’s set up for a different clutch and a conventional throwout system) and got that replaced, though the extraordinarily helpful but unnamed owner of Quantum Mechanics told me the retainer usually breaks because the layshaft outer bearing is going bad. Pleasant thought.

When I put the transmission back it wouldn’t press home the last quarter inch. I pulled it back out and could see that the center hub of the clutch was very close to the diaphragm spring. The throwout bearing pilot tube was fouling it. Inspecting the broken clutch parts showed that was the case with it as well. And the pilot tube showed hard rubbing wear.

Turns out I didn’t space the throwout bearing guide bushing appropriately when I assembled the transmission to the engine, and it was pressing hard on the hub of the first clutch plate (I use a quartermaster double plate 7.5 inch clutch). Over time the hub broke away from the plate and I had a single plate clutch that dragged a lot. Somewhere in the middle of all this the throwout bearing came apart too. With all that stuff screwed up the clutch still worked middling well through more than fifteen events until friday when the splines spun out of the second hub. Bingo–a box full of neutrals.
I changed the spacing of the annular bearing, put it all back together, took a long cold shower in the crappy Limerock shower facilities, and drank a bunch of beers.

Good thing they don’t run on Sunday. What first seemed to be a one hour job took all of Saturday afternoon and almost all of Sunday.

I took brother Bob down to the local lake to let him try my Starboard Stand Up Board. He’s interested in learning to do it, and I think it would be good for his balance issues and general health if he could manage to stand on the board. Turns out he can do it just fine, in fact a local reporter caught his maiden flight on Video. I was so pleased for him that I gave him my Starboard SUP board.

Monday morning I prepped the car and did the warmup–it ran fine though it shifted a little rough. For the feature race I was gridded dead last (19th)–no qualifying time on Saturday. I figured I’d have my work cut out for me, lots of high horsepower and high performance cars in Group four. A very fast Elva, lots of Loti, two birdcage Maseratis, three Listers, a Lola and Peyote’s big brother, the Filson Falcon as well as a few other specials. I got a decent start, passed a Tipo 61 and a Lister coming into turn one, and started working on the field.

I had to pass most of the cars twice, since most had more beans than Peyote. They’d be too far ahead at the end of the straight to pass them in turn one, so I’d chase them down in the tight stuff and pass them about turn three or four, then they’d repass me in the straight, but I’d be close enough to repass in turn one, then I’d have enough lead by the time we got back to the straight so they couldn’t repass. In this “ahead three, back two” manner I worked my way up steadily until I got to John Harden in a Lister. I was all over his tail but couldn’t slip by. He admitted to me later that he was “getting a little wide” in the corners. I absolutely don’t blame him, I wouldn’t make it easy for a bucket of bolts like Peyote to pass me either.

While John was holding me up, Mike Silverman in another Lister caught up and started working on me. Since I couldn’t go fast where I was faster, he finally got me in the straight. John wouldn’t let Michael by either, and on the last lap I repassed Mike and took seventh place. I actually hesitated before I passed Mike. I know he would have been tickled to beat Peyote. I must be getting soft. He’s improving dramatically as a driver and there will come a day when he kicks my ass. Of course I should point out that in the end, I DIDN’T cut him any slack.
A very fun race and a good result for a thoroughly broken car. The turn workers invited me to their party after the race. I thought it was because of all the hard work I did, but it was really because they liked Diane and Sam. Figures.

I couldn’t have gotten all that work done (and redone, and redone) without my two brothers, who helped out all Saturday and Sunday. Even though it turns out that their memories are actually worse than mine. Hard to believe.

It was really fun having all the family there. I wished I could have spent more time with them, or had more time to talk with all the Friends of Triumph folks that dropped by, but I was elbows deep in busted Peyote all weekend.

After the race I went into Nero to change into shorts, and came out to a huge crowd of cheering Babcocks. I guess they liked the show. Thanks for coming you guys, I actually misted up for a second there.


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1 thought on “30 Babcocks”

  1. I learned a lot about historic racing at Lime Rock. First, it’s a whole lot of fun. With friends, competitors, other racers, joining together for advice on how to fix things, help locating parts, offering encouragement, and even grabbing the occasional tool to help put a injured race car back together…..it’s a close group, with lots of great people…….but as Bill wrote, they still won’t cut you any slack on the race course.
    Secondly, having been a mechanic in a previous life….I sort of enjoyed thrashing with my brothers for two days of replacing a destroyed clutch, installing helicoles, fixing leaking hydraulic lines, and removing/installing a transmission around a half dozen times…….well the last one I could have handled better just once, but when a racing car burps parts, it always seems to be one thing leads to another.
    Historic racing is exactly that…racing one minute, fixing the next, and then racing again……going to have to talk to my wife about doing some of this, should I ever hit the lottery!
    And lastly….despite the roughness (some will say ugliness) of Peyote, this crude little race car draws a big crowd…..most want to know what it is…..some who recognize parts (like the subframe, or the engine) want to know how it goes. To that my answer is “it goes pretty good” Bill will tell you it’s the car that is the reason it runs well, but because he won’t say it, I will, “Bill drives extremely well, and is a talented driver” He and Peyote consistently take on more powerful, more sophisticated, purely designed race cars, and not only give them all they can handle, but also beats their $500,000 exotics pretty regularly…..which as you can imagine, pisses them off a great deal.
    So to a little underpowered 4 cylinder ugly Peyote, and to a brother that is all of the above other than 4 cylindered, but drives his car with enthusiasm, courage, enlarged testicles, it was a blast to race with you, thrash a transmission alongside you and Bob, and spend the weekend with an excited, extended family, getting most of the hillside above the Limerock esses cheering for not only #222, but for the underdog driver in his little exciting race car.

    See you in Watkins Glen…..but we’ll save that story til later.

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