ROAD TEST!

3/17/03 -- IT DRIVES!

Today was the day I've been waiting for since the summer of 2000. I actually took the car for a very short test run around the corner and down a cul-de-sac and back home again. I was nervous and apprehensive. Would the brakes work well enough? Would the engine run well under load? Would the speedometer work? Would anything fall off while I was driving? Turns out, something did! The horn push, for some strange reason. I must not have put it back on well after removing it yesterday, trying to see why my horns weren't working. Turns out I had the horn and overdrive relays switched. Once I connected everything back up properly, I came to discover that I must have fried the horn relay when testing the overdrive gearknob switch earlier in the year. The overdrive switch wouldn't disengage before, but it worked great today.

Last evening, I sat in the car for awhile and discovered that the tail lights were wired incorrectly. The brake lights would come on faintly (only one element of the dual filament bulb was coming on), but when I'd turn the light switch on, the tail lights would blaze like a dried out Christmas tree and pressing the brake pedal had no effect since both elements were burning. I had to reverse the hot leads in both fixtures and everything worked fine after that. Thanks to Paul Tegler who helped me out with that one in the middle of the night via e-mail...

So around 1 PM today, after sorting the tail lights, I got up the nerve to try the car around the block. I was dying to see if the clutch was bled properly and to test the rebuilt transmission and overdrive unit.. The gas level was too low to venture out much further than literally around the corner, to the end of the nearest cross street and back, but I was able to get the car up to 3rd in order to test the overdrive. To my utter delight, the mechanics all checked out just fine. Gearbox is good, no gnashing gears, quiet and smooth; overdrive is good, engages fairly quickly with no clunks, and the rear end sounds good (though it's hard to really hear anything over the headers). A gardner turned and stared open mouthed as I slowly roared past him at a about 20 MPH. Had to chuckle over that one... Upon returning home I lifted the bonnet to check for any leaking fluids, but found none. Everything worked great on that little half-mile jaunt.

My plates and registration arrived late this afternoon, so this evening, just after dark, with cell phone in hand and an empty gas can in the boot, I braved the night to drive down the main road a few miles to get some gas. The trip was loud -- and wonderful. The halogen H4 lamps in the Lucas tripod headlamps really light up the road! Only one problem. The odometer on the speedo stopped turning at .5 mile. The speedo needle is working perfectly, but something inside the gauge isn't right. Oh-oh, My first repair!

At the gas station, I was immediately beset upon by two guys in their early 20's, who turned out to be mechanics who had never seen a Triumph Spitfire before in their young lives. I was about ready to bust with pride as they walked around the car, crawled under it, and asked me a dozen questions. When I opened the bonnet to show them the motor, one of them said "Man, the level of detail in here is incredible..." and he said I should show up at the local car gathering on Wednesday nights in the summer by the Chicken Pie Diner. "I know a lot of guys who would love to see this car." It felt so good to hear that from a stranger after all this time, effort and expense.

After checking the tank to make sure there were no leaks from the sender opening (there wasn't any, thank goodness), I enjoyed the cruise home and got up to about 60 MPH. I was very pleased with how well the car tracked, how smooth it was and noted it felt nearly vibration free. Looks like I really lucked out with the prop shaft being in good balance. It was a full moon tonight and about 55 degrees. It felt SO good to be out there, but I didn't want to push my luck since my insurance hasn't kicked in yet. But oh what a night! The rear wheels have settled into a nice straight stance now that I've driven a few miles. I'm thrilled.

3/18/03 -- I neglected to mention yesterday that I'm giving the Bell mid-pipe one more chance after speaking with the merchant I bought it from. Turns out, he forgot to sell me a crucial 12" section of bended pipe that bridges the header and mid-pipe, so with this piece everything should fit correctly. Let's hope so... Then I can decide what to do about a muffler and drive this car in earnest!

3/21/03 -- The proof of insurance cards came over my fax machine early this afternoon, so another huge hurdle has been crossed. I can now drive with no fear, as the car is legally registered and officially insured. I spent about 45 minutes under the car, jockeying the tailpipe sections into place and then clamped the connections. The other day, I installed the window regulators, remote door linkage (inside handle to latch) and door panels, though I did not use all 22 clips per door as the panels will be coming off again for some corrective work with the window tracks on the passenger side, and the fitment of the male snaps for the tonneau cover.

I drove the car over to my favorite local auto parts store, where the two guys that run it have been hearing about this car for the last couple of years. I purchased a set of Koni's from them for my last car a few years ago, and bought the brake and fuel lines from them this time around. Gary and Duane (pictured left to right) were very complimentary about Mrs. Jones, but Gary pointed out that I'd better get some air cleaners on those carbs, and he's right. I'll be trimming down the intake hoses on the Keihin's this weekend, so I can fit my K&N filters and still clear the inner wheel arch. I asked them about my idea of possibly connecting a solenoid of some sort to the choke lever on my carbs. It's possible. I just have to decided on whether or not I want to go that route.

Not everything is perfect. I sometimes get a bit of a grind getting into first or second, but it's a dull, soft feel, not a hard gear gnashing. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't, which leads me to wonder if I did a good enough job of bleeding the clutch. I also noticed what sounds like a loose u-joint clunking once per revolution on the right rear axle as I decelerate to a stop. I seem to recall a circlip on one of those uj's that didn't look quite right. I'm going to check tomorrow to see if maybe I lost the circlip or there's excessive clearance between the uj cap and the groove in the flange that holds the circlip in place.I'd be very surprised if the u-joints are worn, since every other chassis component was either new or rebuilt.

The tachometer is also doing something very strange. At the higher RPM range, it's actually reading higher than normal! At 3400 RPM, the instrument reports that I'm doing 4000! Now while in theory, this is probably helpful as I'm breaking in my engine, helping me keep the RPMs artificially low, the innacuracy is really disconcerting. I have a few spare tachometers, so I'll swap it out today and hope for the best. Take a look at the temp gauge above. Right in the middle. Let's hope it stays that way during the heat of summer. If not, that will give me the incentive I need to install the electric fan.

3/23/03 -- Six days after my first tentative drive, I invited my 14-year-old daughter Katie for a drive around the block, after being rebuffed by my 10-year-old son who tried to negotiate the drive into a trip to the mall. Sorry Mac, there's no way I was going to leave this car sitting in the mall parking lot... Funny kid. I'll catch him with a ride home from school next week. We get our haircut at the same place on the same day. My barber, who's very much into cars, has been anxious to see Mrs. Jones, so we'll park in the back and let him have a look.

We took a nice, meandering drive around the neighborhood, and that gave me an adequate opportunity to test out the different tachometer that I installed to replace the first one that was giving me false high readings. It performed perfectly. Katie was clearly delighted and I let her switch on the overdrive once or twice. As we approached our house, she asked if we could take a ride around the block again, and I gladly obliged. On the final leg home, I noted a rattling sound coming from the left rear wheel well. Knowing that there is nothing that could be loose behind the rear quarter trim panel, I was a little concerned, but hoped it might just be the jack hold down bracket that I haven't put back on yet, rattling around in the trunk,

I parked the car in the driveway to take a few pictures, since it was such a beautiful day and this is one of the first chances I've had to take pictures of the nearly completed car out in the sun.

Getting back into the car to pull it into the garage, I was shocked and alarmed when I let my foot off the clutch and the car wouldn't move. No RPM drop, and the clutch was clearly working correctly. What the? I tried it in reverse, fearing some strange transmission problem. No movement. Tried 2nd gear. Nope! Taking a look around back, I immediately saw the problem, though at the time, I certainly didn't understand it.

After consulting with the TTN membership and Spitfire list members, I came to understand that the circlip that should be fitting into the groove you see above, was gone. The inner bearing of the axle stub is supposed to be to the left of that groove pictured above, or to the right in the photo below, which I took directly under the differential, laying on my back after getting the car up on jack stands.

The stub axle pulled clear from the gear cluster in the carrier to the point where the drive component was eliminated from the final drive! I find it extraordinary that this failure took place between the time the car was parked and started up again -- in my own driveway no less -- just 30 feet from my garage. Incredible.

After removing the left side rear suspension (first time I've ever done that)...

...I removed the four allen head bolts that hold the bearing retention plate for the stub axle, and withdrew that assembly from the carrier. I could see no evidence of damage around the circlip area, and the bearing is also fine. I used a three-jawed puller held tight against the inner race of the bearing to remove and re-install it. One of our TTN members has a spare 4.11 rear end with the the smaller axles and was kind enough to mail me the circlip I need after discovering that no Spitfire parts suppliers stock the 5/8" inner diameter "wire type" circlip any longer. Just my luck that I have the earlier 4.11 diff. A couple of thousand cars after mine, Triumph beefed up the axles of the 4.11 diffs from a .75" to 1" a diameter size after the earlier diffs proved problematic with those thinner inner axles.

There's a Triumph Tech show that I've been invited to in about 10 days and with any luck, we'll be back on the road long before that.

3/26/03 -- Well, we're back on the road this evening. The donated circlip arrived in the mail this afternoon and I set about putting the rear suspension on the left side back together again, making one error that set me back a couple of hours and caused a bit of concern and confusion.

When I inserted the stub axle back into the differential, and locked down the bearing retention plate with the four hex head bolts, I didn't realize that the cover was not perfectly square. The holes line up square, but the plate itself has tapered sides, which matches a corresponding taper on the diff body. This proves critical, since it is impossible to refit the axle bolts without the extra clearance that the tapered sides provide.

Some time ago, I purchased a special tool for working on these cars. It's a long handled spring tool, which allows you to provide tension on the spring for the removal and installation of the vertical link. Today it came in very handy.

It was dusk when I took Mrs. Jones out for another spin, to see if the differential repair was going to hold. I drove a few miles and didn't note any problems. There are a few rattles I need to address. The bonnet cones and/or latches needs adjustment to tighten things up a bit, and there are threaded metal plates, just behind the sheetmetal to the rear of the seats that need to be isolated. Basically, I just need to cut through the new vinyl obstructing the top frame mounting holes, and put a few bolts in there to snug the plates against the sheetmetal frame on each side. That'll keep them from rattling.

One minor, almost silly note. All the gauges looked great as darkness fell with the exception of the tach. Some PO reassembled it with the lamp at the bottom of the case instead of the top. I'll have to remedy that so the light distribution will be more consistent, but it isn't a priority right now...

3/28/03 -- I actually resisted the temptation to go out for another drive today, as I sit here looking at a mystery nut that dropped out of the engine compartment and onto the drip pan on the floor yesterday. It's a large one, 9/16ths maybe, and not a nyloc nut, and I have no idea where it goes. I've solicited suggestions from my fellow TTN members, but so far, nobody has been able to nail it. There's a chance that it's just a stray left over from the rebuild, but after seeing the havoc that a missing circlip can wreak, I'm not in a gambling mood.

Today, I removed the speedometer and tach after removing the ground lead from the battery -- just in case -- and opened up the speedometer to try and determine why the odometer failed after half a mile. I determined that the pin that holds the number wheels in place drifted out of position preventing the gearing mechanism from engaging, but could see no way to keep the pin from moving laterally, until I dismantled a broken speedometer that I have as a spare -- and you guessed it -- extracted a small circlip to fit to the end of the pin. I don't recall there ever being one when I first dismantled this unit, but there is one now. I went ahead and reset the clock to read 32 miles, about as good a guess as I could come up with of the actual miles I've put on the car so far. As for the tach, I simply flipped the case, so the illumination is up top as it's supposed to be. It's worthy to note that Spitfire speedometers, though identical in appearance from '62 to '72 (trim ring excepted), went through some internal mechanism design changes, incorporating more plastic in later versions.

I'm going to make a real solid effort to solve the mystery surrounding that nut that dropped out of nowhere, but then I think I'll tackle the audio installation.

4/1/03 -- A bit more progress, a slight (hopefully) setback. I wound up having to pull the speedometer again after the odometer worked for a few miles and quit. That was the other day, and it seems to be working just fine now, with over 100 miles now put on the clock. I think that I finally got it fixed correctly this time.

Yesterday, I shortened the intake hoses on the carbs so the K&N filters can clear the inner wheel arch, and the operation went well. I managed to cram some very thin heat shields that Carter Shore included with my intake manifolds between the outer tubes and the headers, where there had been direct contact between the header and the hoses.

Bad news on the "rebuilt" overdrive. Something is out of whack and the O/D is slipping when under load, which is pretty much whenever I press on the gas pedal to accelerate. Terrific. At least this provides me with another learning opportunity. Gotta look at the bright side. Right.

4/2/03 -- I called the gent who rebuilt the transmission and asked him if I should try a thinner viscosity oil in the gearbox, since the hydraulics seem to be the problem. He thought it would be a good idea. This is a hot topic of debate among enthusiasts. Triumph specified 90w Hypoid gear oil, which is what I started out with, but other manufactures using the same gearboxes and overdrive units like MG specified 30w non-detergent. I decided to split the difference and went with 50w racing oil. I haven't been back on the freeway yet, but the O/D seems to be functioning better now, though it still slow to engage. Maybe even slower than it was with the 90w, which could be indicating a different kind of problem. But I don't think it's got the same slippage under load. I'll have to check it tomorrow...

4/3/03 -- Well, the O/D is pretty much useless. I was hoping that changing the oil would have helped, but if anything, it's gotten progressively worse to the point where the only time the O/D works is if I'm going downhill!

4/5/03 -- Mrs. Jones passed an extended road test today as I took the car on a 100 mile round trip up the coast to a Triumph gathering in Mission Viejo. While the speedometer failed on the first leg of the trip (broken cable?), the engine ran great and briefly, while going down an incline, I punched the gas and before I knew it, I was hitting 90 MPH!

The morning started out a little rough, when while installing more suspension shims up front, I noticed a large amount of play in one of the wheels and came to discover that the PO neglected to insert cotter pins in the slotted nuts that hold the wheels on the axles! Near-certain disaster averted, thanks to a bit of positive camber still in the front that I wanted to correct before my long drive. Still, this discovery nearly made me sick when I remembered how hard I'd been throwing the car into the curvy turns on the backroad. I'm beginning to really believe in guardian angels...

5/15/03 -- After a long delay with the painter to address some imperfections (he had the car for three weeks!), I briefly enjoyed the car before removing the transmission today to have the D-type overdrive unit repaired. Over the last several days I checked everything I could while it was still in the car with no success. I'm hoping that the mechanic who rebuilt it for the previous owner will take care of it under warranty. After all, it worked for less than 600 miles or so... 500 from the previous owner and about 100 from me.

I've noticed a very slow leak under the brake M/C where the reservoir is screwed onto the base. Argh. Fortunately, DOT 5 doesn't harm the paint, so no worries there. There's also a "clack" coming from the rear axle under normal to moderate acceleration that I'll need to chase down as well. I've been meaning to tighten up the handbrake, and this seems like as good a time as any, so I'll probably tackle both that and the leaking M/C this weekend. A new speedometer cable has been ordered, and I'm looking forward to getting the car put back together. Although I hated having to remove the gearbox assembly because it is so blasted heavy and awkward to lift out of the passenger compartment, this also gives me a good excuse to re-weld the rear arch piece to the passenger side seat track that came off.

6/4/03 -- Last Friday, I received the repaired O/D back from a specialist in Washington, who deterimened that there was leakage around the pump, so he replaced the main O/D case. He felt confident that would solve my hydraulic problem, but told me to hold off paying him until I was certain. Whudda guy. Getting the O/D mated up to the gearbox again can be quite an ordeal -- all the splines inside the O/D have to be lined up perfectly, then a bit of force (by way of a shot hammer or what have you) is required to drive down the unit onto the input shaft for the last 3/4" or so. Also, the cam lobe on the transmission input shaft must have the thickest part facing topside, otherwise the cam lobe (which drives the oil pump) will get hung up on the pump assembly. After laboring to get the whole lump back into place, I filled it with 80/90w GL4 and took the car for a test drive. The O/D worked perfectly, for awhile, but then quit. The next day, I traced this problem to a loose inhibitor (aka "kill") switch that prevents the O/D from engaging in any gear except 3rd and 4th. The switch was loose on it's mounting and that was causing the switch to remain "off" at all times. Glad this came to light BEFORE I re-installed the interior.

I also replaced the speedometer cable while the cover was off. Replacing the entire cable became mandatory once I discovered that the outer sheath had been damaged during the initial installation, when I accidentally crimped the cable between the firewall and the heater box.

In addition to the upper bulkead grommet, the cable must pass through two additional grommets -- one on each side of the heater box. These heater box grommets are absolutely necessary to contain the heat from the heater core. Since the grommets are designed to fit snugly around the cable, getting the knurled cable fasteners through those tiny grommet holes is a real ordeal. Next to impossible, and certainly not possible with the grommets installed on the box.

Faced with the prospect of having to remove the heater box again simply to rout the outer speedometer cable sheath, I came up with an alternate plan, which I've detailed here...Turned out to be a real time-saver.

Before I re-installed the passenger seat, I took the opportunity to go ahead and weld up the rear arch piece on the seat track again. This time I did a much better job and it turned out nicely. I used an angle grinder to clean up the job before painting and installing.

It's wonderful having everything working on the car, and after I track down some strange noises eminating from the rear end, I think I'll be ready to simply enjoy this car for awhile. In my recent work on the differential, I re-used all the old nyloc nuts (which everyone says is a no-no), so yesterday, I went to my local industrial hardware store and spent about $48 on various Grade 8 nyloc nuts and lock washers. Those suckers are expensive! But cheap in the long run... I'm going to crawl under the car this afternoon and replace ALL the fasteners on the propshaft flanges and axle flanges in an effort to eliminate some vibration and make certain that everything is going to stay put.

I've also discovered the source of part of the vibration and some very annoying sounds. In my zeal to tuck away as much of the mid-pipe silencer on my exhaust system as possible for the greatest ground clearance, I inadvertently placed it against the frame on one side. This results in vibration and noise transfer from the exhaust to the frame, and hence, the whole car. It really makes an unholy racket around 2800-3200 RPM in particular and I'm hoping to eliminate a lot of noise by getting that pipe off the frame.

6/6/03 -- Putting the car as high as I could get it on jackstands, and placing the floor jack under the differential as a safety precaution, I crawled under the car and laid on my back to analyze the problem. A local muffler shop quoted me $73 to loosen the pipes and try and jockey them into position, and said they didn't have the equipment needed to bend stainless steel pipe. Finances being what they are these days, I opted to do the same thing myself, and keep the money.

After a short time, the problem I'm having became apparent. The bracket that hangs down from the differential mount was loose, allowing the tailpipe to pull away slightly, where it was then able to rub against the inside frame on one side. If I could pull the bracket in so that it's hanging straight up and down, then tighten it so it will not budge under any circumstances, then I could attach the pipe clamp to it and everything will be fine. But concerned that the hanger would not stay in position when tightened with a muffler pipe that's wanting to pull away from it, I opted to relocate the hanger bracket to the rear frame crossmember, where there happened to already be a handy hole drilled through the frame. With a long bolt going through the pipe clamp on the tailpipe, then through the hanger, I was able to tighten the bolt, drawing the piple closer to the hanger, until the mid pipe silencer was pulled clear and set between the frame rails with no contact on either side. Voila! No more bad vibrations!

7/4/03 -- This may or may not be my last entry... With a heavy heart and great reluctance, I've placed the car on eBay, owing to continuing financial problems and a family that I must put first. But let's not dwell on that unhappy news. My reserve may not be met, or I might win the lottery and not have to part company with the car at all. I can always hope.

After installing a replacement angle drive a couple of weeks ago (the cause of the speedometer failure -- or was it?), lubing the speedometer cable, all was right with this car, but then the speedo stopped working again after about ten miles. A very strange thing happened with the replacement angle drive. It too was destroyed. I hadn't thought to check the speedometer, since it was NOS, but sure enough,the speedo was seized tightly where the cable enters the drive. This in turn, snapped the cable in the angle drive. I was slightly amazed that the speedometer cable seemed fine. I've since learned that it is not uncommon at all for NOS speedos and tachs that have been on the shelf for 30 years to fail this way.

After ordering yet another angle drive, I set out to repair the speedometer and felt very lucky to be able to do so. I bench tested the speedo with a short length of cable (left over from the previous broken one) and it seemed just fine. Since that time, I've put about 25 miles on the car since the replacement angle drive was installed, and all seems very, very well. I hope to be able to write more about my challenges and triumphs of owning this car, but at this writing, that fate has not yet been determined.

7/13/03 -- With less than 24 hours to go, for the sake of my heart, health and happiness, I cancelled the eBay auction and have decided to keep Mrs. Jones for the duration. I'm more relieved than I can really articulate. The bidding had gotten as high as $12,200 and probably would have gone even higher -- and even though that's a terrific price for a Spitfire (and I was quite flattered), I'm just not ready to part with the car. I received some very nice notes of encouragement and support from both TTN members and total strangers. One of them referred me to autorestorer.com and suggested that I submit my restoration site to them, which I've done. Recent drives have been wonderful and the temperature hasn't gone above the halfway mark on the gauge, even on the hottest summer days in San Diego at idle.

10/5/03 -- The car has been running well with the exception of two "incidents" in the last few weeks. The first came on a warm summer morning as I decided to take the car out for an extended test drive on the San Diego freeways. I headed up I-15 and everything was fine. I pushed the RPM up to about 4250 and heard a "pop" sound under the bonnet, followed by a rapid increase in engine temperature. I was sort of in between communities at the time (a.k.a. middle of nowhere), so I took the first exit ramp, turned around and started making my way back home. Keeping an eye on the gauge and noting my sluggish performance, I took the next exit heading back where I knew there was a gas station. As I approached a stop on the offramp, the engine stalled and I could not restart it. Vapor lock.

Fortunately, the gas station was very close by and I was able to push it most of the way, and received a hand from a good samaritan to get it the rest of the way into the lot. I rolled up to the water and air station, popped the bonnet and noticed that the cap had come off my radiator overflow bottle (the pop I heard, perhaps?) and the water line disconnected from it. This more or less explained the overheating problem -- my first since completing the rebuild. After the engine cooled off sufficiently, I topped it off with fresh water, and drove home -- still with reduced power and a gauge that was still reading hotter than it should. So what happened?

I pulled the plugs, ran a compression check and found good readings across all four cylinders. 163-160-160-160. I checked my ignition wires (the touted green ones from The Roadster Factory) and noticed that one of them had a broken connector. Aha! Now I can't blame a manufacturing defect, because I could have damaged the wire when pulling it, but I really can't be certain. But once I replaced the wire with an old spare (and replaced the plugs for good measure), the engine performance was back to where it ought to be again.

I added more Xerex Super Racing Coolant to the radiator, and this time, I topped up the radiator after starting the engine, opening the heater valve and increasing the RPM to about 2000, thus removing as much air from the system as possible. The results have been stupendous. At idle and driving around town, the needle never gets much past the first third of the gauge, and even pulling hard on long freeway grades, doesn't go past the halfway mark. Amazing, I know, but true.

This past week was a very exciting one for me. San Diego British Car Day came 'round again, and unlike last year, this time I was ready. I spent a couple of days really detailing Mrs. Jones for her first real British Car Show.

The morning was overcast, but about 12:30, the sun started shining through and it really brought out the sparkle from the metallic flakes in the paint. The car drew quite a few lingering stares and a great many questions. Especially about the paint and the quad carbs. It looks like even Al Gore stopped by to take a gander...

The greatest surprise of the day came when they announced the awards.

What a great feeling after all that work! And another reason that I'm REALLY glad I didn't sell this car! Triumphest is happening in Riverside is this weekend, and I'm all set after the little scare I had driving home from British Car Day... All was going terrific again, until I heard another "pop-pop" from under the bonnet -- and you guessed it -- a dramatic loss of power. But this time, the engine temp was just fine. Perplexed, worried and wondering about all sorts of potential problems (blown head gasket? Blown manifold gasket? Clogged fuel line?), it came down to a very simple problem that was quite obvious when I popped the bonnet. The night before the show, I had replaced all the TRF ignition wires with a new generic set and didn't seat the #2 wire fully into the distributor cap. It simply popped off the cap, so I had been running on just three cylinders!!

Discovered something quite disturbing upon lowering my bonnet at the show, just before I drove up to the berm to pose with the trophy and my car... One of the vintage Lucas PL700 headlamps I'm so smitten with felt apart when two of the tripod legs snapped in the center, causing the reflector with the "Lucas PL" logo to go crashing to the bottom of the dish. I have no idea why these pieces would have failed, but it necessitated me purchasing a new set of PL700 reproductions, which have now been installed. These are in fact, genuine Lucas recreations, using the same tooling. The newly manufactured bulbs can be distinguished by their silver (intstead of bronze) colored back sides. Another nice attribute is the rubber dust shields which snug up around the bulb bases. I elected to remove the 45/40w Halogen bulbs that came with the repro lights and install the 65/50w quartz halogens I've been running, which are nothing short of superb.

I had attempted to repair the original PL700 first (to save all that money!) but failed when I accidentally cracked the lens while trying to pry up the crimped metal that holds it in place. It was my fault for being too impatient. As it turns out, I never would have been able to repair the tripod legs anyway.

I'm keeping a close eye on the weather, hoping for rain-free skies this Saturday for Triumphest -- which will represent the longest, single journey I'll have attempted so far. Considering I have no spare tire, I'd better pick up a can of Fix-A-Flat just in case... I've dropped off a tatty, old Spitfire armrest that was generously donated to me and I'm having it refinished in black leather with white piping to match the seats and the tunnel cover. It should really set off the interior nicely...

2/20/04 -- It's been several months since my last entry, but here's the latest: I took home a Gold Award from Triumphest, which was a real honor and thrill for me. I had to leave before the awards banquet, so the plaque was mailed to me last month. One of the judges, who had informed me of the pending prize, told me that my car had "gotten the highest possible score in every category". I only lost points for not having my top up and my boot lid closed. "But my lunch is in there!", I protested. Truth be known, I didn't even have the soft top installed (and still don't). The weather at Triumphest was a searing 105 degrees and I had feared that the car would overheat on the way home, but it didn't, which frankly, amazed me. Came close, though.

As it turns out, the editor of Triumph World magazine spotted Mrs. Jones at Triumphest and has assigned a writer to pen a feature article on my car for a future issue. Again, I was flattered, humbled and thrilled to receive the e-mail from the writer who is flying into Los Angeles this week to cover the Winternational Drag Races in Pomona and will be making a pit stop here in San Diego to see the car sometime soon.

As for Mrs. Jones, the drive to and from Triumphest was the longest journey I've made to date and it was a wonderful drive, particularly getting there. I left San Diego before dawn; a mild Santa Ana condition was blowing warm air in from the desert, and the drive to Riverside was both comfortable and breathtaking as I observed the sun rising out of the East during my drive. Upon arriving home, however, I discovered the damage done to my front tires due to misalignment. I had realized that I had a positive camber issue (which I had solved with suspension shims), but I didn't not realize that my toe-in was way off. This contributed to some squirrly steering under hard acceleration and after observing the severe wear on the outer edges of my tire tread, I decided I'd have to buy a new set of tires and have the alignment corrected. Dunlop no longer sells the 175 50R 13's, so while my rear tires were in near-perfect shape with just 1000 miles on them (give or take), I was forced to buy a complete set of four Sumitomo 175 50R 13's to have a matched set, which was important to me. I've consigned my two remaining good Dunlops to "spare" service.

Thanks to some excellent advice on the TTN, I opted to set my own toe-in alignment after the local shop determined that their equipment was incompatible with the small track of my Spitfire. I used a method that involves a string, plumb bob, and masking tape on the floor of my garage. In a nut shell, I placed the string along the front center tread of each tire, let the plumb bob hang down to the floor, hovering over a strip of masking tape, then marking the tape (instead of the garage floor) with a thin marking pen. Then, rolling the car back, so the point where I measured on the tires (forward face of the tread) is now facing rearward, then re-measuring and marking to a second set of tape strips on the garage floor. The difference in measurement between the front and the rear markers provide the toe-in measurement. I adjusted the tie rods and re-measured until the front toe-in was set to 1/16th. Each quarter turn of each tie rod (which I marked with grease pencil to note their orientation) equates to a sixthteenth of an inch difference. A full turn of each tie rod therefore equals 1/4". So far, after about 500 miles, the treads on the front tires seem to be doing a LOT better...

To be continued...

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