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TravelRant - San Diego to Compton 88mph Death Run 
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Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2008 9:15 am
Posts: 1974
Car(s): 1965 Wasp, 1966 Bellett sedan, 1966 RatBellett sedan, 1967 Bellett GT, 1978 Gemini van, 1994 LS400, 2004 VY SS Sandman
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Strange how the mind works. The thought of driving a Lincoln Continental two suburbs did not worry me, despite in retrospect the realisaton that the suburb of destination was also the one that every rapper raps about when they rap about the pimps, hoes and shootings that they are so fond of.

Yet the thought of driving a Cadillac half way across town frightened me greatly. I felt I was no match for the freeways with six lanes, esoteric signage and kamikaze SUV drivers. I felt the Cadillac would also be no match for these freeways. Large, soft and docile, it would be a lovable, drooling shaggy cow amongst a very large herd of angry, mutant, meth-amphetamine-crazed, murderous bison. I couldn’t ask the car to do it.

She was built for the boulevards of Los Angeles c.1963, not the madness of the freeways c.2010. She would have blind spots, Achilles heels and would need to fill up with petrol between cats eyes on the road. And the insurance had run out.

No, I wasn’t going to do the freeway. So I got her freighted. At some expense, because she was as long as a small train.

But then we had the issue of the Chrysler New Yorker 440ci Big Block. In San Diego. Freight would be even more costly; San Diego is not part of the greater LA area (which, as an aside, is home to 17,000,000 people), so when the chipper SuperTony of San Diego mentioned the insurance on the car was still valid, the decision was made to pick it up.

Sounds simple; a bit like living in Salisbury (SA) and picking up a car from Victor Harbor. Half a day of driving, a splash of juice, should be no worries.

Needless to say, one lesson learned about LA is that everything takes longer than you expect. Even if the freeway is beautiful, wide and open, the odds are you are driving a billion miles, so it will take time anyway.

We got to SuperTony’s house at about 1:00pm. The drive was uneventful; we saw some phone towers and accidentally found and toured the USS Midway, a retired aircraft carrier and now museum. Nothing special, really. Just everyday stuff you do at home.

SuperTony was stoked to see us and was amazed his car would be going to Australia. In the metal, the paint was disappointing; however the interior was immaculate and more than made up for it. Importantly the underside was solid, the spats were on and the wheelcovers were all there.

We had been taking our time and couldn’t be at Tony’s before 1:00pm anyway, shot the breeze with him for a bit an then proceeded to make our way back to Compton. We had three hours set aside to do a two-hour trip, but about 2 minutes into the drive, I hit the gas hard and the front end made a sort of shudder, like it was going to fall off, out and under the car. The steering wheel lurched. The front left wheel felt like it was being run over by the car itself. Shit.

We pulled over in a sidestreet which turned out to be about twelve metres long and proceeded to try to diagnose the problem. Giving the car hard gassings, then pulling up on drum brakes the size and consistency of a CD spindle case wasn’t really getting us anywhere and the residents thought we were trying to put on an impromptu low-rider display.

After several minutes of frustrated revving, mis-communications and attempts to get back in the passenger side to drive, I made the call; if the front falls out I will attempt to bail out through one of the Starship-Enterprise-shuttle-bay-opening-sized windows or hide in the glovebox.

We then hit the freeway. It was pretty congested from San Diego to LA on our way down to San Diego, however upon the return, it was clear. The traffic was flowing quickly, so quickly, in fact, that we were doing a good 80mph. The lanes were wide and mostly clear and after about an hour, the paralyzing fear of driving an unfamiliar, unrestored old car on an unfamiliar freeway on the unfamiliar side of the road started to abate. I even put my headphones on and listed to The Doors and The Beatles. Only stuff that was available with that car, in that moment of time.

I felt, momentarily, that it could have been 1968. I had a hat on my head. The windows were down, there was no aircon and the music was just right. Then, however, the lanes started to constrict, the neighbouring traffic was closer, larger and frighteningly, faster. Furthermore, time was against us. Aside from having to check the suspension, we also fed the car with fuel before he hit the Interstate. Our 3-hour window for a 2-hour drive had reduced to 2.5 hours.

Fairly soon, we were actually doing 88 miles per hour, which is, aside from being the standard speed that time machines operate at, is also 142km/h. Normally this is enjoyable in a late-model, fat-tyred, sports-sprung SS Commodore, but feels like light speed in a 1968 Chrysler New Yorker with suspension made from girders and fluff, buffeting wind spilling in through the pillarless sides and tyres the size of those fitted to a new golf cart.

The steering had more play in it than an ABC Childcare Centre and while the brakes were adequate at walking speed, the likelihood of them stopping the car from 88mph in one hit was as likely as them stopping a bridge, which weighs about the same.

The lane changing on the Interstate is mandatory. Trucks, thankfully, can only travel in two of the lanes, unless they need to merge on or off the freeway. Freeway entry lanes will often just disappear and the expectation is to merge or die, or they will continue on for some time, only to become the exit lane for the next ramp. It works fairly well, however you need some time to study it, keep your eyes on the indicators and be prepared to stomp, rather than brush the brakes.

I was in the middle lane; safe ground. No trucks, not the fast lane but not much merging either, doing said 88mph when the traditional, strangely familiar and somewhat comical sound of a hubcap flinging off at high speed echoed in from the right.

Due to poor placement on the road, I’d had to adjust on a bend, mid-course, this coupled with a dab of brakes and a slight dip in the road caused the New Yorker to lurch down on the front right-hand suspension. The wheel was momentarily slowed but the hubcap was not, literally unscrewing itself off the wheel and flying down the interstate.

It cut a lady off who, to my surprise, did not even register the slightest acknowledgment that there was 12 kilograms of die-cast, tin and plastic slewing wildly in front of her. It cleared two more lanes and hit the guardrail on the side of the road. The odds of being able to merge, pull over, come to a halt and walk back to the roadside and search for it were slim given we were still going at the Speed of Time and so it was lost. Forever etched in my memory as both tragic and hilarious and quite simply the closest I’ll ever come to being in the Steve McQueen movie Bullitt.

The drive eventually slowed to a grind. By the latter stages, 40mph was the norm. Pulling off the Interstate, the roads were almost gridlocked; it was 4:45pm on a Friday evening, we had 15 minutes to get to the shipping company in Compton and our 2-hour drive had now taken close to 3 hours. For a stage, the forward motion was almost imperceptible and at the time I wondered how the Big Block would cope. It was in a rhythm on the Interstate; it liked doing Warp 7 with some in reserve. It did not enjoy impulse power and would stutter a bit before moving. And big moves would result in that almost complete loss of front suspension.

We had rung the shippers and they were willing to stay open for us… until 5pm, which is when they opened to anyway. And at 4:57pm, with nary 3 minutes to spare, we swung that big blocked bastard into the docking bay and they pulled down the doors. The elation was massive, the relief; audible.

We’d had a mad, mad run. A slightly faulty car, a nation of crazed drivers and a lost hubcap. But we’d gained so much; more respect for the freeway system, more knowledge of how it worked, we’d toured a proper aircraft carrier and had even spied those buildings seen in the Naked Gun that look like boobies.

Part of me thinks if we’d not lost the hubcap the drive would have been perfect, but the reality is that losing the hubcap was an essential part of the experience. No US movie set in the last 30 years is complete without a car chase and no US car chase is complete without the loss of at least one hubcap (or five, in the case of the Dodge Charger in Bullitt), so the experience as a whole has to be looked at and embraced. Something I’ve never done before. Something I don’t think I’ll do again. The hubcap is gone. But there is another.

Help me Ebay-wan-Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

Cheers,

Dave

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Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:07 pm
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Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 10:21 pm
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Location: Darwin NT
Car(s): Isuzu Bellett, VG Commodore Ute, Custom Chopper
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Nice - I am still laughing.......


Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:35 pm
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Joined: Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:52 am
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Car(s): 66 GTPR90
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nice rant Dave good luck with the hubby

? how many Bellett 1300 2 doors fit in a 40' shipping container ?

Answer -------

See you & New Yorker at Coona


Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:25 pm
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Joined: Thu Sep 11, 2008 9:15 am
Posts: 1974
Car(s): 1965 Wasp, 1966 Bellett sedan, 1966 RatBellett sedan, 1967 Bellett GT, 1978 Gemini van, 1994 LS400, 2004 VY SS Sandman
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Plenty if they're all the same shape as the one that was here. I spoke to Jeff's Bellett and he advised it has been flattened. Poo bum bugger shiz!

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Wed Sep 22, 2010 4:27 am
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Joined: Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:52 am
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Car(s): 66 GTPR90
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sad news dave


Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:52 am
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Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:51 am
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Car(s): 1964 GT Isuzu Bellett
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Bellett loooooww rider ? Double shiz !!

Not laughing Dave....holding the edges of my seat in fact. Phew...got there in the end sans hubbie !!

B.


Wed Sep 22, 2010 2:18 pm
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