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Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline
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  Chicagoland MG Club:Driveline
Grand Lake Tour Mk XIII
By Reinout Vogt

When I saw the Grand Lake Tour Mk XIII report in the last DRIVELINE, I was at first a little bit surprised. Why did the editor place this generic article on the rally around Lake Michigan; it was almost like a press release, not even written by a Chicagoland MG Club member? Well, then it dawned on me, there were not too many of our members in the event. Actually it was just Team '51. I am making this name up as I write, because as it turned out the MG, a TD, the driver, Curt Bork, and the navigator, myself, were all three of the same vintage, 1951.

Kurt and Reinout with the TD We left Wednesday afternoon, to be in Grand Rapids at dinnertime so we could be at the drivers meeting the next morning at 7 AM. Curt drove the TD, and I was with Henneke, towing our 1932 M-Type for the other events of the University Motors Summer Party 2005. You have read all about that in Co-chairman John Schroeder's Left Hand Drive. Thursday morning, drivers' meeting, odometer check and then we received the list of checkpoints. Most of these were racetracks; a bunch along the western coast of the lower half of Michigan and a bunch in northwest Wisconsin, between Green Bay and Road America in Elkhart Lake. There were 8 teams in the rally, our '51 TD, and MGA with a V8 motor from St. Louis, and 6 B's and B-GT's. Can you believe that the team that turned out to become the winner the next day came in all the way from Kansas City, swapped engines the night before they left, and then was fit enough to go around Lake Michigan? A truly remarkable endeavor. Anyway, I just said "around the lake", as the organizers again made very clear; NO ferries. Which to us is actually not a problem at all. We came to participate in a 1,000 miles plus rally "around the lake" and would really be very disappointed if we were not to go "around", not being able to drive the favorite stretch through the UP in the middle of the night. Therefore the idea of 'teasing' us by making three or four (old) ferry landings also a checkpoint did not bother us a bit. The rally by itself is a great adventure, in any MG, period. And everybody who even thinks he can do it is a winner. Everybody who finishes is an even bigger winner, and every team that finishes with a smile on their face, tired, a little bit dirty, but still good friends are even bigger winners. To take a bunch of old cars and go on a 1,000-mile journey around Lake Michigan is something most people can't even envision. When I talk about it at work, the first question my colleagues ask is "in how many days?" When I explain that we go non-stop, they think that that means that you don't stop to buy souvenirs and visit some museum or so, but "you certainly halt for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sleep in a hotel, don't you?" No, we go and stop only for gas, fast food, emergency repairs, scheduled car maintenance, and to put the top up when it starts to rain. As it did shortly after we went on our way to the first checkpoint.

I have done this rally several times in a MGB and my own MGC. But never in an old MG. Since most of our members have newer MG's, let me explain a few things. A TD is a remarkable car. In order to assist in the cooling of the engine it has a huge heater. Right under the dash, smack in the middle of the tunnel. It blows hot air just as a paint stripper. And since there is no paint on your leg, it strips everything else off your leg, hair and the first few layers of skin. But it works; our 51 TD never overheated, before the rain, in the rain, and after the rain. It ran like a clock. The top of a TD is something else again, since it is really just a top. Nothing on the side of the car where more modern MG's have windows etc. In a TD those are called side screens but you actually don't need them. A TD has sun visors made out of clear glass on the side of the windshield. They stand out and deflect the rain so you don't get wet. I sat just about the whole night in the car, reading the maps and having my elbow at times even outside of the car to fold a map, without getting wet. (Ever tried folding a map in TD without side screens!) And because the heater blows it is actually hot. Never before have I had it so warm on any of these rallies.

The checkpoints were all easy to find, although some of the answers took a bit longer. We wondered why you need to answer 4, 5, or even 6 questions to proof that you were at the intended checkpoint. And what would happen if you miss one of the answers; would the whole checkpoint not count? We lost considerable amounts of time here and there, but I guess that counts for everyone. After the Mackinaw Bridge, there was not much to it than just following the main highway to Green Bay. Curt took a rest and I took the wheel for the best leg in the rally. I love driving at night through that part. Pitch dark, the full moon behind a thick rainy cloud cover, and very fast. OK, forget the fast thing this time around. In my C we did well over 100 MPH here, in a B it is still 80+, but in a TD it's about 55-60 MPH. Oh well, that gave Curt some extra time to recover for the section in Wisconsin with lots of little roads, and some navigational challenges and some serious night driving. Here is also where the second problem with these rallies came about. On the map we found the shortest route to some of the checkpoints. Not very obvious because it was just off from some of the easier to plot main roads. We even gambled a bit with unpaved roads. We were lucky at first and the unpaved roads were hard gravel so we thought we made good decisions and were actually shaving of some miles. Then came the famous "Road Work Ahead" sign and the detour took us back to the main roads, but not after a second detour (while we were still on the first). So all together we ran up more miles than we would have if we had just followed the most obvious route.

As I said earlier, we started with 8 MG's and we could go clockwise or counter clockwise around the lake. We all spend different amounts of time plotting our routes and we drove with very different speeds. And still 6 of the 8 cars were at the same checkpoint just east of Green Bay, looking for the answers on a racetrack at 3 or 4 in the morning. That means 6 roaring MG's, 12 people with flashlights looking for somewhat hidden clues. Luckily the owner who lived there had some sense of humor and didn't come out with a gun and didn't call the police. In all the rallies I never saw more than one or maybe two cars at the same time; six must be a record!

Right after the last checkpoint in Wisconsin we stopped at a gas station in Plymouth. In all the previous rallies we saw Curt doing some early morning scheduled maintenance on his TD. And 2005 was no exception. After 24 hours of running, Curt's expert ear hears some minor timing problems and some sensitive ignition and carburetor fine-tuning needs to be performed. We filled the tank up and changed the whole ignition (easier than just the points) and checked everything out. Curt started the TD back up and it ran beautiful before we went inside the gas station to wash our hands and eat some breakfast. Back in the car for the final leg through Illinois and up to Grand Rapids the TD sounded horrible. As if it ran on only three cylinders, but never the same three every time around. It turned out to be the capacitor inside the spare ignition; basically we repeated the whole exercise once more. When we were done (after 45 minutes or so) we again had to wash our hands but Curt did not accept my suggestion to repeat breakfast as well. I drove the main expressways to and through Chicago. And when it was time again for serious navigation, right along the lake in Indiana and southern Michigan Curt, was again well rested.

We opened the top, did a few more checkpoints, and made it back to Grand Rapids with 20 minutes to spare before the 6 PM deadline. Usually the deadline is a little bit earlier, but this year the layout of the checkpoints required using a lot of small roads where you can't make much progress. The total miles were still about 1,100; it just took 3-6 more hours to cover them. The fastest team finished about 2 hours earlier than we did and the remaining teams (except the MGA V8 that broke a u-joint) came in just minutes after us. Everybody was real tired after being out on the road for almost 35 hours.
Reinout and Kurt opening a cold one
The final score was in the last newsletter and I already forgot, because it really doesn't matter. The mission was accomplished; the TD ran flawless (the only time it broke was when it wasn't running); we started with 8 cars (all winners); seven made it around (big winners). All of us had a great time and a big smile on our faces (bigger winners). We were still good friends and thirstier than .!

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