Thursday, July 28, 2011

We need (more) new pumps!


The drive to Colorado Springs is now becoming a routine event for Margo and I, and from Boulder it’s just over 100 miles. Each way! More trips than I had anticipated, of course, but then there are some early signs that progress’ being made. The photo above is of the ‘Vette on the dyno at Rocky Mountain Competitive Research (RMCR), generating some new numbers for us to check out.

So much has happened since the last post that it’s hard to know where to start. Readers may recall however that we had taken the nearly mortally-wounded C6 Corvette Coupe to A&A Corvette Performance, following a rather traumatic incident while on track at Spring Mountain Motorsport Ranch (SMMR), just west of Las Vegas, Nevada. A simple puff of whitish smoke was all that was required to see me heading for the pit lane and as I approached my parking space, I dropped oil everywhere.

The friendly GM mechanics at SMMR, normally assigned to maintaining the Corvettes of the Ron Fellows Corvette performance driving school, inspected the ‘Vette only to detect oil seeping from a seal in the Vortech supercharger. Readers may also recall that we loaded the ‘Vette onto a U Haul trailer and delivered it to Andy at A&A Corvette Performance, in Oxnard, California. It was only a short time later that we heard the news that the last mechanic to work on the ‘Vette had mistakenly swapped out the oil return hose from the supercharger back to the engine block, replacing it with a water pipe rather than an oil pipe. And it had compressed when bent, and pinched off any possibility of oil flowing back to the block.

Rather than enjoying a week touring the California coast in the Corvette, Margo and I ended up making a quick dash up to Palo Alto for a number of business meetings before heading east and home to Boulder, Colorado. In place of the Corvette we had a Chevie Aero, courtesy of Budget car rentals – not exactly a track car, mind you. But we made it home in one piece and, avoiding conversations with our neighbors, we packed for our trip to Europe.

A weekend in Warsaw, Poland, for the memorial service for Margo’s mother, who passed away early last year, was followed by a few days in Paris and a weekend in Frankfurt where we caught up with business clients. However it wasn’t all business, and we did sample a couple of fine restaurants in Paris. The return trip took us back to Los Angeles, where our good friends Brian and Jan picked us up and entertained us until we could return to Oxnard and retrieve the Corvette.

While we had been away, Andy and his team had been busy. The supercharger had been returned to Vortech, where on examination it was determined that it could be repaired. The main seal was replaced but a quick check of the turbine fans showed some fatigue with some chipping so it was replaced. The fan that was installed was a more recent design, what Vortech call the Si trim, and being a little more efficient, produced another couple of pounds of boost. Just perfect! And exactly what we needed – more power! Oh boy …

When it came time to pick up the ‘Vette and begin the drive back to Boulder, Andy was sure we needed another dyno tune as we were certainly going to be a little too lean at high revs, but we assured him it would be a cautious drive home. It was Andy’s offside, Steve, who gave us all the info about RMCR and its proprietor, Mike.

With all the driving that Margo and I have done over the past five years, commuting as we had been doing from our home in Boulder to the townhouse we rented in Simi Valley, you would think that the thought of one more 1,000 mile drive would be anything but a fun drive home. But of late, we have really come to enjoy the solitude of the open road and even though it had only been a few days earlier when we had been strolling down the Champs Elysees, we couldn’t wait to get going.

We overnighted in Las Vegas and were able to easily push through the remaining miles to home the following day. For one reason or another, a 700 mile day on the Interstates is just a normal day’s driving for us these days and with two drivers, there’s little fatigue involved as long as we stay hydrated. This trip however proved to be rather special – whatever Andy and the lads had done, the big ‘Vette was delivering incredible mpg numbers. We watched rather shell-shocked as the range from our measly eighteen gallon tank began stretching from 300 to 400 to well past 500 miles with averages well into the 30 mpg. Unheard of, for a car with a lot more than 600 horsepower at the engine!

When you think something is too good to be true, then it usually is, or so the old saying goes. As I stood next to Mike’s offside, Mark, as he wound up the revs of the ‘Vette now firmly tied-down on RMCR’s dyno, the lines on the graph produced some odd wiggles. And it was proving difficult to maintain fuel pressure at 60 pounds – it was dropping down to as low as 24 pounds. After all those miles across the desert and the excitement from getting 30+ mpg, it was pretty obvious we had a fuel pump on its last legs.

The drive down to Colorado Springs I had done myself and the ‘Vette was my ride back home, so I was going to have to return to RMCR as soon as I could set aside time for the return trip. I was also going to have to coordinate with Margo for the ride back, as Mike would need the car for a couple of days. All because we replaced the water pump and the power steering pump and, with oil apparently seeping from a hose attached to the supercharger, replacing it as well.

With a folder full of paperwork, and a picture, I returned to the GM dealership where the original maintenance work had been done. It was my local Cadillac / Buick / GMC dealer and much to my surprise, they listened and then read the reports and the next day the service director phoned me to tell me a check was ready for me to pick up! I have been a customer of this dealership, McCadden of Boulder, for more than 15 years but all the same, this was a fantastic response – all the work done by Andy as well as the tuning by Mike! Fully paid for, by the McCadden services team!

I still recall as we left SMMR a few months back a fellow participant saying “don’t worry, it’s only money!” But at this point, I have to admit, the well is beginning to run dry. Like many other participants, Margo and I are looking to curtail one of our favorite pastimes. In the last post, readers may recall me writing of how NASA Rocky Mountains looks increasingly as if it will become our new home. With an event coming up in August and at the High Plains Raceway, this will more than likely be our one big weekend for the year. The Friday preceding the NASA event is an open track day and another good opportunity to get a little seat time under my belt. No question at all, I need the time!

My enthusiasm for this pastime remains but I also recognize that Margo has been hard done by for most of this year. When I look back at the last event of 2010, when the track conditions were miserable, it was Margo who gave up her allotted sessions on the Sunday after the Saturday sessions were cancelled. And it was Margo left standing in the bitterly cold winds of late spring as I put down laps at High Plains Raceway. Yes, it was Margo who was left without a car to drive at Spring Mountain. I feel quite the cad!

I have had a number of emails and a couple of phone calls where I was asked about our future plans and whether we would continue. Of course, everything will be predicated on us having a reliable vehicle and on that count, I have my fingers crossed that finally, after nearly two months of poking, prodding and in general, hammering away, our beautiful ‘Vette will be ready to go. I never want to hear anything more about new pumps – we’ve replaced them all! Well, perhaps with the exception of Margo’s pumps, those with the really high heels … now, Margo does likes pumps!

But when it comes to future events in California, at tracks we have come to enjoy so much, perhaps I need to become a little more realistic. We have so many friends supporting these events that it will be difficult to stay away, but that may end up being the case. Perhaps we will figure out a way to drop in on perhaps just one event – Laguna Seca will always be a draw card, as Margo and I just love the Monterrey peninsular. And maybe, just maybe, a quick trip for old time’s sake to Willow Springs – the very first track we placed a timid wheel on!

Margo is still quicker than I am through turns 8 and 9, and I just need to work on that for a bit longer. Then again, the recipient of instructor Fulton Haight’s award of a pair of driving gloves for the most improved driver at the track in 2009, perhaps Willow Springs is Margo’s special track and maybe I will never scale to the heights she’s managed to reach no matter how many laps around the track I complete. Carrying 130+ mph into turn 8? Truly remarkable! After all, the ‘Vette is just a coupe and there’s been nothing done to the suspension or brakes other than adding Hawk pads …

As I scan my emails, other options are opening up and they are all offers to participate in events here, in Colorado. Perhaps it is time to take stock and to be just a little more realistic. I will never become a racer but that was never part of the plan. For as long as Margo and I have talked about taking a car to the track the overriding objective was to simply be safe, and to have fun! I’m thinking long and hard that this is perhaps the best advice any participant has even given me so yes, it is time to put the fun back into our track weekends and adjusting to the tracks of Colorado looks like it will fit with our plans perfectly.

1 comment:

mike said...

This is a great post guys! I went to the car show at the christmas markets in berlin last year and saw some amazing concepts! definitely worth going to!