We won the Rally’s grand prize!
Driving a three-wheeled English car that has been parked since 1991 cross country in February isn’t necessarily the most prudent course of action, but that’s exactly what makes it an adventure! Adding a helicopter to the mix that only survived two laps of racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park before grenading the 30 valve Audi engine is exponentially more stupid, but we did it anyway.
After removing the valve cover to our 1971 Reliant Regal and discovering the incredible sludge buildup just a few days before the start of the rally, we decided our only option was to pull the engine out and pressure wash it internally. That actually worked, and the car ran pretty well for most of the rally. The issue we had was that it refused to stop overheating. We finally resorted to removing the hood and adding a transmission cooler in line with the radiator as an auxiliary engine radiator. There were times during blizzard-like conditions that the car would manage no more than 22 miles per hour uphill on the highway, but we kept driving anyway. The clutch failed in Tennessee, just before we were to do the Tail of the Dragon. We arrived at the start at 5 a.m. in a heavy downpour, napped in the truck for an hour or so, and then removed the transmission to replace the clutch. Being exceedingly tired and working in the damp and cold made the job much more difficult than it should have been. Rally boss Steve McDaniel was patient with us however, and wound up driving down the Tail of the Dragon in the Regal with me. Putting that little car up on two wheels at very low speeds on those tight left hand corners was a rush!
The Chopper, on the other hand, ran beautifully until we got to a very long, steep mountain overpass on a back road in West Virginia. Our transmission had been slipping periodically, but after that it slippped so badly that it could not be safely operated on the highway. We threw it on the trailer and towed it down the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee. We then took it to a Ford dealership in Huntsville, Alabama, on the recommendation of someone we had just met that morning. His buddy at Ford was a true automotive enthusiast and racer, so he was willing to work on our Toyota van based, Audi engined, American Bell attack helicopter bodied creation! The bastard check gave the transmission a thorough flush, and that was enough to let us limp the rest of the way under our own power and make it to the finish line!
These efforts, and the incredible social media saga of our many hellish ordeals and tribulations along the way, earned us the grand prize for the rally—the Organizer’s Choice! We then loaded both cars on the trailers and towed them back to the Maryland, as we were completely worn out. Our celebratory dinner after the rally ended turned disastrous for me personally, as the shrimp chowder I ordered gave me a serious case of food poisoning. It’s not fun being violently ill on a 14-hour road trip, and unable to hold any fluids down. The LeMons rally organizers must agree, because the new rally page advertises it as being shrimp free! It was really nice finally meeting the Roadkill guys and their producer Elana in person. We’re big fans of their show and we often play it in my garage while working on our own builds.