So after struggling with the SC/Rambler in the 2016 event, we went to work on our list of things that needed improvement without deviating too far from the intended barn find original presentation. We put in a more modern power steering box with current steering ratio, traded out the air bags for coil inserts and added a skid plate. BFG AT tires were on the list but i really hated to go away from the awesome bias tires of the 60's LOL. We made some corrections to front shock mounting and called it good. The changes paid off big time right away as we ran clean all day one and two and at average speeds fast enough to get us to dinner during day light on these two shorter mileage days. However, an inspection of the car in Bof LA revealed that our previously thought to be indestructible coil inserts were not so indestructible. It was de ja vu all over again.
Just not enough spring rate or height without the helpers. I started day three having lost a few inches of ground clearance. Thank God for a good skip plate. Dale in the chase truck had a shopping list of parts we needed to get the front end fixed and found everything we needed at the big junk yard at the junction of hiway 1 and the BofLA hiway. Meanwhile I'm cruising in limp mode on stage one of the longest day of the rally racing for last place against my good friend Ned Bacon in his goofy Vanagen RV who is also nursing suspension issues. I slowed to crawl around a big rock in the center of the road and as soon as my right front hit the sandy fluff on the edge of the road the right front wheel went full lock to the right. A quick inspection revealed that i had a broken steering arm bolt and that had allowed the steering arm to bent to about a 45 degree angle. Sweep wasn't too far behind(common for us) us and he pulled us out the fluff and back up the hill and off the course. I tore the corner down to the spindle and swapped some bolts around so we could drive the car to Rosarito. By this time Dale, with some coil alignment parts and springs out of a tundra in hand had found Carlos, who was fabricating a trailer at his shop. Carlos spoke no English but was on point in the art of internationally know fabrication hand signals.
I tore the car down again and Carlos cut off, aligned and welded the steering arm while we pulled the coil out of the same corner. Carlos whipped up some coil locators out of an old swing set and we put the tundra springs in, and then repeated the process on the other side. The tundra springs are just about right, maybe 50 lbs to heavy but no need for the inserts now. We were 8 hours from the time we limp out to Rosarito to finishing up with repairs, it's now 7:30pm and we're 435 km from Loreto, ugh. Thanks so much to Carlos' wife who brought a big plate of tacos out for us. We went to put the car on the trailer and yikes, one ramp is missing!!!. Damn Portashakus road again. One whole ramp slider assembly is missing under the trailer. So Carlos fires up the welder again and finds enough scrap to weld us up another ramp. Now it's 8:30 and we head south, having taken the full penalty on the two stages of the day.
Wednesday morning, day 4. The car is good to go and feeling sporty with it's new front end. Dale is driving today and while he has 40 plus years putting around the northwest in jeeps, this is his first participation in a sanctioned race and his first time in a worn in desert track. I gave him the 5 minute pitch on getting out of Loreto's dunes and through the silt on the west side. He got stuck in the sand but got quick help from the locals and completed Stage 1 with a half hour to spare. The silt however grabbed him three different times and we were going to time out on on stage 2. We put the car on the trailer and headed to La Paz in time for dinner with friends.
So Day 5 is here. The car is ready although we have to adjust the toe every day due to the steering arms continuing to flex. For two years I've been worried about getting through the riverbed sand near the finish as this car is NOT set up for sand with it's very correct tiny bias ply tires, but hey, we made it through the dunes at the end of the lakebed on day one and did get out of Loreto without too much trouble on day 4 so who knows. We get through the first two stages with no problem and head to the Super Secret Stage. Hammer down and determined to get through the sand and end on a high note............then bam, the throttle cable snaps!!! Yikes!!! only 4 miles into a 24 mile stage and with no GPS! I jump out and run a piece of electrical wire through the firewall and tie it to the throttle. Now we're going to attempt the sand while steering with one hand and shifting and throttling with the other. Glad I added power steering!! We did it, almost got stuck a couple times and definitely had the whole car off the ground in some whoops several more, but we made it to the finish with all the wheels pointed in the right direction this time! Now, this rally owes me 4 stages. I've said before that I'll keep bringing it back until we run every mile. This year we found out the car is capable of that. Just need a little more prep and a little luck. So already planning to return for 2020.