The Land Rover Writer

Friday, December 25, 2009

29 Year Old Road Trip

At 29 I loved taking road trips. I've aged, but one car, my 1980 Triumph TR-7, is 29 and still eager to take a ride.

I hadn't the driven the TR much over the early winter, but when an invitation came to visit friends in Connecticut, I decided to make the drive south. The total time each way would be 90 minutes aboard the ferry and 6 1/2 hours on the highways to Fairfield County, CT. The weather forecasts called for sharply decreasing temperatures but unlikely precipitation.

The '66 Land Rover will always make the trip and get you home, but the QE I still has its canvas top [still waiting for a rear door before installing the hard top]. That makes it cold, in addition to noisy and 18 mpg. The TR-7 still gets 26-30 mpg even with 109,000 miles on the odometer, and unlike other TR's, has a real heater and ventilation system. Even with its convertible top, it's fairly tight and warm. I didn't have snow tires, but without a prediction of snow, all should be fine.

So I started up the Triumph and found that, after sitting for a few weeks, it would not idle. It also stalled out a lot. I limped to the local gas station, threw in some dry gas and fresh fuel, and ran the car around the island on a few errands. My trip was to start the next day, so I really hoped this was a temporary condition. I threw the toolkit in from the Corvair and got aboard the ferry the next day.

What could go wrong?

I decided to wash the car when I got to the mainland. After all, every enthusiast knows that a car runs better when it's clean. That night, the temperature dropped precipitously and a fierce wind picked up. So when I parked the car at a motel in Portland, the cold breezes froze up the door locks.

The next morning, I could not unlock the car. I bummed a book of matches from the desk clerk, wrapped a bunch of napkins into a wick and lit the whole thing like a Molotov cocktail. I held it under the key until it singed my fingers. No luck. I ran upstairs to the motel room, aimed the hair dryer at the key until the circuit breaker shut down, and then ran back downstairs with the flaming hot key. Finally, it melted the ice and let me unlock the doors.

On the 4 1/2 trip south, the car ran so well that even the FM radio suddenly started working again! That euphoria lasted until central MA when all radio signals seemed to fade away. I would not pick up a signal again until I crossed into Connecticut.

The last 50 miles of the trip was on the Merritt Parkway, one of the precursors to the interstate highway system. There it appears that the speed limit signs are only decorative; their numbers bear no resemblance to actual traveling speeds. Driving the stated speed limit is an open invitation to be run over.

The TR-7 does not have a GPS so I had to use directions written out on paper in order to find my friend's house. How quaint!

The trip back was a full 6 1/2 hours of relative comfort, stuffed into a TR-7. No wonder that Car and Driver magazine called it "the only sports car we would take on a long trip." For a British sports car without the name "Jaguar" on it, the wedge was remarkably comfortable.

Oh, yes, the car actually ran without incident for the full 600 miles and 13 hours of road time. Triumph used to say the TR-7 was "out to steal the American road." It certainly stole my heart again!

Saab: An oddball in peril - The Boston Globe

I can't think of a better way to writing my opinions about the demise of Saab than this editorial from the Boston Globe of Christmas Day, 2009:

Saab: An oddball in peril - The Boston Globe

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