The Little Redbrier watched as Bryan, Stefan, and Trevor carried bags and suitcases out of the house and started piling them up behind her. Soon Bryan was loading all the luggage into her. "My Goodness," thought Red, "I think we're going somewhere. How exciting!"
And Red was right. On Sunday the 22nd of July, we loaded her up and set off on this year's convention trip. Last year we went to Daytona on a relatively flat route and couldn't keep up with traffic so I'd spent a fair amount of time looking for the missing horsepower. We'd also had the van painted, and had taken the opportunity to replace many loose, rusty, or missing fasteners. The result was a much quieter, less "rattley" ride, an honest 70 MPH on the flats, and far better speed up grades. We were off to a great start!
The Little Redbrier was having a great trip - she had been washed and waxed the day before, and she felt so much stronger than the year before. Soon she was through Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Now the Little Redbrier had been to Gettysburg before, but had never climbed the big grade outside Pittsburgh. She went up and up. "My, this is a big hill, I'm getting awfully hot. I'd better stop partway up and cool off a little." So the Little Redbrier turned on her Temp/Press light to let Bryan know she needed a rest.
I'll tell you what, that light coming on got my attention right now! We pulled over and the first thing I thought of was Bob Marlow's engine at Lime Rock. I listened for valve noise and since I didn't hear any, left the engine running. After a couple minutes, blipping the throttle made the light go off, then a bit more turned it off for good. Another ten and we were back on the road. Once we hit Ohio, things got a lot easier and it was a pretty good drive the rest of the way.
Monday we stopped in Chicago and picked up my mom, then on to Beloit to spend the night. The following morning I got a ride over to the track with Brian O'Niell and spectated. One car that really caught my attention was Bill Bertram's Corv6, it's got a 350HP 4.3 liter Chevy V6 in it. From the outside the car looks to be a very clean street car, and on the track it really moved. At one point during a practice session Bill was running behind 3 Stingers, with Warren's in the lead. The Stingers would pull ahead in the corners, but on the main straight Bill would get right back to the end of the pack. Wow! It was *very* cool to see 20 or so Corvairs on the track at speed.
"Look there's a Corvair!" exclaimed Trevor. "Hey, there's more!" said Stefan. When they stopped at the entrance to Pheasant Run on tuesday afternoon, the Little Redbrier saw several Corvairs. "Oh boy," she thought, "we must be at a Corvair convention." By the following day, there were Corvairs everywhere - early models and lates, coupes, wagons, convertibles, and lots of FC's. Why, it was the most Corvairs like her the Little Redbrier had ever seen!
It was really strange, for once we had to look carefully to make sure it was our van - there were three other red and white Greenbriers at the convention. We counted 15 FCs in the display, and there were a few others that didn't enter. Wednesday night I washed the bugs off the front of Red, and the oil off her rear so we could put her in the display on Thursday. We looked at the schedule and saw the setup was from 7 until 8 a.m., so the question was, what time to get up? Hey, it's not like we're in the concours, we don't have to stay up cleaning like those folks over there. When Ellie saw her in the morning, all that changed. "Look at all these water spots! Look at all this dirt on the carpet!" I was told. Out came the Windex and the towels. "Uh, honey, we have to move the van over there, it's almost 8." I thought lining the van up would make Ellie stop. Oh no, not at all. Doug Mackintosh stopped by as Ellie was trying to get some of the loose dirt off the carpet. "I have a carpet brush" he offered. "That would be terrific!" Ellie said. Soon the carpets showed no trace of 900 miles worth of child inhabitation.
It was just too cute :-)
The Little Redbrier wondered what people would think. "There are lots of great looking vans and trucks here, I wonder if anyone will say anything nice about me." Soon people were walking around looking at all the Corvairs in the display. "Hey, it looks really good." "Wow, is this the same van as last year? Looks great!" The Little Redbrier felt much better. She wasn't the best looking van there, but most everyone was happy to see her.
In the end, over 200 Corvairs were shown in either the Concours or the Car Display. It was probably the best Corvair show I've ever seen in person. It was great to see so many great ideas and modifications in one place, especially since we're new to the FC world. Backup lights, front spoilers, 140 installations. Lots of things to ponder.
Friday was autocross day. I got up at about 7 and drove over to the lot, teched some cars, then walked the lot. I hadn't gotten there early enough, so I was a little frazzled from tech, and then found out IS was running first. Hmm. Ellie had unpacked the van and was adjusting the tire pressures when I got there - good news. Had to find class numbers, a little more chaos. Soon we were lining up.
Now I've never really autocrossed an FC of any kind before - I'd run at Daytona, but the turns just weren't as tight there as on a normal parking lot event. On top of that, I'm running against Richard Jenkins, who has a pretty good idea of how to get his GB through the cones. So, forget the trophy, we're here for the learning experience, right? First run, I'm all over the place, trying to make sure I'm not getting lost, and figuring out how a Greenbrier handles. Try some late braking, it doesn't really work well. Mess up the apexes on at least two corners. Richard has a mid 40, I get a 42.9. Ok, not too bad. Go watch some runs. Ellie pulls away on her first run, staying true to her "Don't get lost on the first run" credo. She comes in at a 50-something, but sure enough doesn't get lost. Second run, way too agressive on the brakes, I find out that a Greenbrier really is quite predictable when it breaks away, a good lesson even though I'm sliding far too much, get a 42.7. I adjust the tire pressures to 40f/45r in hopes of a little better balance. Ellie runs with a little speed this time, and finds the van pretty good too, turning a 46.
Photo courtesy Tim Schwartz
Now the Little Redbrier knows what's going on, as she gets back in line for Bryan's third and final run. "I hope he smoothes out this time. I'm really not a car, no matter what Chevrolet said about being a station wagon."
Third run, brake a little earlier, trail off the brakes sooner to let the suspension settle before the corner. Smooth steering, get in closer to the apex cones, don't insist on full throttle if it leads to jerkiness. Smooth, smooth, smooth. Everyone says I look slower, but the clocks don't lie, stop the timer at 42.5. Richard has a 40.09, we improved about the same amount, so I'm happy, I feel much better about the van's handling and add a couple things to my to do list. Ellie's final run gets her a 43 and change, she looks pleased as well. As it turns out, it's a very good thing I'm more comfortable with the vans handling, but that part is a little later in the story.
Saturday was Rally day - we're going to compete again in Touring class, the class for those folks with more than just a driver and navigator. That's right, load up the kids and head off armed only with a sense of direction and Ellie's navigation skills that won us the class last year (no pressure, dear).
Since they weren't in Primary class, Bryan and Ellie took the family to breakfast first, then got at the end of the line for the Rally. Finally the Little Redbrier felt a little less nervous, since she had been on the rally in Daytona. "Good, none of that screeching tires nonsense and no sitting around, either. Just a good drive around the countryside." The Little Redbrier purred up to the start line "this will be fun!" she thought.
Opening the route instructions, we find that this is a classic TSD rally: The rallymaster tells you how to get somewhere and gives an average speed, and it's the team's job to arrive at the checkpoint on time. Not late, not early, but precisely on time, with a penalty of one point per hundredth minute error. There are two basic ways to run such a rally. The first way is to calculate how far one has gone, take the average speed, do some math, then arrive at a correct time to be at any given place on the rally. Then there's "seat of the pants" where one takes the average speed, adds a "fudge factor", adds a speedo correction, and then drives that fast until the navigator says it's time to change speed. Since this method makes for a more exciting trip - imagine maintaining one's 42 MPH average down a twisty road in a Greenbrier with three children and my mom in the back - that's of course the method we chose. Good thing we'd been in the autocross.
So, we're driving along, and things seem to be going fairly well. We were the last Corvair onto the course and we'd so far found all the directions pretty much where we expected them. "Um, Ellie, you sure we've stayed on course?" "Yes, pretty sure" she replies. "Well, then they're really off" I say. "Who's really off?" she asks. "Those two guys behind us." After a while they get tired of following us at 42 in a 55 and pass by.
The route took us through a nice section of small farms and towns, and eventually we came to the lunch break. Over lunch, we were asked "So, the rally is a nice tour through the country with the family?" "Not a chance" I replied, "we're in this to win!" Unfortunately, the folks at the eating establishment didn't share our enthusiasm, and we took more than the alloted 30 minutes for lunch. So we loaded up the family as quickly as we could and set off again. The final leg we debate calculating the time to figure out our exact correct time in, but in the end we decide to stay with our plan and ask for a time allowance based on how late we left.
That night, we attend the awards banquet, seeing many of the folks who we know from other events or from on-line exchanges. The meal is great - probably the best food we've ever had at a banquet - and the awards are announced. We didn't really expect to win the Car Display, and we knew the autocross times at the event. Ellie has found out that, much to her dismay, Sharon Bybee ran the Jenkin's Greenbrier in the autocross, very nearly beating Richard, not to mention Ellie. I had already heard Richard's times, so no surprises at the winner of IS-4. So, any trophy hopes rest with the Rally. This year all the trophy winners were called up at once, but not in order. Yes! We get called. But for what spot? Soon Bob Marlow calls fifth, then fourth - oh, boy - then third, then us! Second, not bad for the seats of our pants!
Sunday is a little bittersweet. It was a great time, but the time is at an end. Now we have to get all the stuff we brought with us, along with the treasures from the swap meet, into the van. The boys and I do the same drill as the day we left, piling everything up behind the van in quite an impressive load. Then we're off for another week of vacation, driving to Norway. Norway, Illinois, that is. We visit the Field Musem and see Sue, the T-Rex, drive a combine in the Science and Technology museum, play with planetary orbits at the Adler Planeterium (the planets are much better at it than we are) and see the flood stages of the Amazon at the Shedd Aquarium. To cap it off, we get to observe the city from 1,400 feet at the Sears Tower.
On our way home, we decided to stop in Dayton Ohio and visit the Air Force Museum. Our route takes us through Indianapolis and since it's relatively late on Friday, we drive through rather than around the city. As we're driving along, Ellie sees some tents in people's front yards. How strange! Soon we're in traffic caused by a twenty block party. There are folks with barbeques and lawn chairs set up right on the road side. Well, it turns out the Brickyard 400 is that weekend. People holler and wave as we go by, we have a real good time passing through. The next morning we go to the Air Force Museum and it is incredible, several folks who've been there said it was great and it sure lives up to the billing.
Instead of taking the highway home, we take one of the state routes that will take us to Charleston, WVa. It's a more pleasant drive and we stop just outside of Charleston for dinner. "Well, that was such a nice drive, let's follow this one through to Virginia" we say. Turns out that the longest straight on one 20 mile section is about 500 feet, It's a good thing we autocrossed the van, I was especially pleased that when they got the opportunity the locals didn't pass us, so we were going along ok. The only downside was that Ellie's glowing knuckles were kind of distracting. Did I mention it was also dark and there were no streetlights?
Finally, we reached I-64 and headed into Virginia. One interesting thing about driving the GB is that there's so much frontal area it slows down when you take your foot off the gas at 65, even on an 8 percent grade. We get home a little later than expected, but safe and sound - the Little Redbrier's latest trip is over and she did it again.