Behind the Steering Wheel [Courtesy of Rovers Magazine, November 2012]
By Jeffrey Aronson
Scanning the Land Rover event calendar last September I found myself with two options for the same weekend: I could accept a generous invitation to attend a special dinner and presentation of the 2013 Range Rover in Pennsylvania, or I could travel to Vermont for the 22nd British Invasion weekend in Stowe. The Range Rover preview, held at a luxurious locale, promised a menu of “oven poached halibut with a lemon-butter vinaigrette, twice cooked fennel with fine herbed couscous;” the likely menu at Stowe would be burgers and beer.
For nostalgic reasons the British Invasion lured me into attendance. Each year 40-50 Land Rovers attend amidst the 500+ other British cars. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of some significant British cars: the Triumph Spitfire, MGB, Lotus Elan and AC Cobra. It’s also the Golden Jubilee of the Ford Cortina, MG 1100/Austin America and the 25th anniversary of the ill-fated Rover-based Sterling.
Proving that “pride goeth before the fall” I felt quite chuffed by all the maintenance work I’d done on the QE I; the drive would be joyful, I insisted to myself. The car idled nicely thanks to an ignition tune-up and Weber carburetor adjustment and pulled rather smartly. I even removed the bag of fix-a-car magic elixirs I always carry. “Who would need them,” I wondered dismissively. “After all, I tuned the car up myself.” I felt so confident that I concentrated my attention on replacing the rivnuts [“Klik Poly-Nuts” at Carquest] that help secure the Land Rover escutcheon to the front grill, then washing and waxing the car with Waxoyl products. It gleamed nicely and I beamed in its reflective glory.
The weather looked promising as I boarded the ferry to begin the 240 mile trip. As is often the case in rural parts of the country you can drive for hours and hundreds of miles without spotting another Land Rover. About 30 miles from Stowe, in West Danville, I stepped out of a rest stop and waved madly at three Land Rovers turning onto Rte 15 for the final leg of the trip. I jumped into the QE I and took off in pursuit; a short distance later, I found John Vallerand, Greene, ME, Mike Capozza, Portland, ME and Vince Vallerand, Auburn, ME, all with families waiting for me on the side of the road. The three Series Rovers and the Discovery I made for a powerful convoy heading onto Stowe’s main street.
I arrived in time to register on site. The organizers attracted a wide range of automotive parts and regalia vendors housed under circus tents and surrounding the large field. They also managed to skirt some unpromising weather and promised a fine show. Dinner that night with CT enthusiast Kevin Murphy and Rovers North’s Arthur Patsouris just added to the promise of the weekend.
The next morning the QE I would not idle; it stalled out every time I let up on the throttle. Settling into my spot on the field in the middle of a host of Series Rovers, I began the all-too-familiar disassembly. Off came the cover of the carb bowl so I could examine the bowl’s fuel level [plenty] and search for crud [very little]. I removed the two idle jets and found that in my hubris, I’d brought only a can of brake cleaner. A search around me uncovered that Rover owners could only offer beer, coffee or water as cleaning fluids, so I sprayed brake cleaner through every jet and every orifice. I put it all back together, started the car and found it still refused to idle.
Nothing attracts a crowd at a Land Rover event than the opportunity to work on someone else’s Rover. While John and Mike consulted, Kris Heikkila, Mason, NH and Dan Foley, Milton, VT took turns assisting me. Suddenly the waters parted and Mark Letorney stepped up to the QE I. It’s like you’re having chest pains and the surgeon who performed the first heart transplant swings by to see what’s up. Now the crowd grew bigger as Mark performed the delicate surgery. He worked methodically [unlike me], thoughtfully [unlike me], and precisely [unlike me], modeling for everyone present the proper techniques and approaches to a Series Rover. John, Mike and Mark snaked some wire through orifices in an effort to find the blockage. With everything back together the QE I responded by refusing to idle – a sort of “Sod you,” like The Sex Pistols singing “God Save the Queen.” After delivering last rites on the carburetor Mark offered to drive me to Rovers North to get a new Weber: Barry Enis and Dermot Harvey provided the return to Stowe. I installed the new Weber in the motel parking lot on Sunday morning and the Rover purred contentedly.
I enjoyed another trip to the show grounds and started the long drive home. Shortly into the trip I noticed an unusual vibration coming through the throttle pedal and underneath the Rover. It continued unabated throughout the drive and seemed the same whether accelerating or decelerating. Naturally it rained hard for a couple of days afterwards; checking underneath the car had to wait for dry ground. Two days later I gave the rear driveshaft a careful look and discovered that two of the four bolts holding the propshaft to the rear flange had disappeared during the trip. See, there’s a reason you shouldn’t reuse nyloc nuts on those bolts; since installing new ones the bolts haven’t loosened at all.
New Year’s Resolution – forget the waxing and concentrate on proper maintenance.
In 1995 Michael Lendvoyi, Vancouver, WA, decided he absolutely, positively needed a Series Land Rover. Although still a student at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater he took the train from Wisconsin to Stowe, VT, where he had located a Series II-A 88” for sale. He bought it on the spot and took it to Rovers North for an inspection. Together they agreed that working brakes and a frame without large holes would be nice; Michael waited a couple of extra days and started on his 1,200 mile drive home.
What stands out here is that Michael (now a Discovery owner) knew next to nothing about Land Rovers prior to his departure. He left Rovers North with the home phone of a few staff technicians. In a Rovers North News article, he wrote that when a green lamp lit up on the dashboard he called one to ask what that meant. He was instructed to add oil. A few minutes later he called back to inquire “where do you put in the oil?” Other than a failed windshield wiper, forcing operation by hand, the car ran flawlessly. With this adventure behind him Michael remains a confirmed Land Rover enthusiast.
Like Bobby and Rebekah Sanderlin’s story in the last issue of Rovers Magazine these Land Rover owners just did what their hearts told them to do, and as a result, they enjoyed a richer and fuller experience through their Land Rovers. This brings me to the remarkable travels of Ian Yanagisawa, Houston, TX. Last June Ian found himself laid off from his position as an Environmental Engineer. Most of us would immediately search for another position, maybe hunker down and grimly face an uncertain future. Not Ian; he took the opportunity to do something special.
Back in 1981 Ian's mother, Fern, bought herself a 1981 Delorean. She proceeded to drive it daily and logged 164,000 miles on it. When she reached an age at which she though she should no longer drive, she gave it to Ian. Jump ahead to June 2012 and Ian decides now is the perfect time for a “Have Delorean Will Travel” road trip.
Prior to departure he swapped out the fuel injection system for a more contemporary one and went through the hydraulics and electrics to make certain they would prove reliable for the journey. He replaced the steering rack, installed LED lights and halogen headlights. As he lived in Texas he got the air conditioning system working with new refrigerant. And, of course, since it's a Delorean, he had to install a "flux capacitor."
I met up with Ian and his friend, Lisa Schreiner, when they traveled through Maine camping and enjoying the fall foliage. Ian said that "I'm interested in how others are faring in today's world. My layoff left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I wanted to know about the prevailing attitudes of others. My brother thought I was nuts to make this trip but the people I've met have been very friendly."
Ian’s road trip of discovery and exploration has taken him to the four corners of the United States, visiting natural and man-made wonders that have expanded his world and brought him great satisfaction. Along the way he’s met some remarkable people eager to hear of his travels and share their section of the country with him. As Bobby and Rebekah Sanderlin demonstrated in their Maine – South Carolina trip, enthusiasts always stand ready to help another enthusiast. Ian’s doing what every Land Rover enthusiast really desires; he’s getting behind the steering wheel and driving.
Now there’s the perfect holiday gift – a road trip!