“Scraping! Your tailpipe is scraping!” That’s what my daughter Alex was shouting at me as we pulled into a parking lot in Astoria, Oregon.
The adventure we had planned seemed simple enough. My daughter, Alex, and her partner, Ross, would take our 1965 Volvo 122S. Bradley would join me in our 1971 Jaguar S3 coupe. The goal was a one-day, 200-mile round trip with both cars.
I haven’t had Alex and Bradley with me on a car trip in years. All of us have been quarantined and have no fevers. We were not planning on interacting with anyone else. We felt we were talking all appropriate safety measures.
Both cars were fettled. I had just had the Jag out the day before for a 75-mile run chasing neighbor Chris Bright and his Ferrari 348 through Oregon’s wine country.
The only problem we had had was that the idle speed set too low, which caused the car to die at intersections when the a/c was running. Bradley solved this by turning the throttle stop screws on each of the Stromberg carbs one-turn clockwise. It helped.
We had put 300 miles on the Volvo since Ed Grayson at Consolidated Auto Works tuned the carburetors. Both cars were on the button and ready to go.
What could possibly go wrong on this 200-mile roundtrip?
The outbound journey was uneventful. We took Oregon State Highway 30 up the Columbia River to Scappoose. From there, it was back roads towards Mist and Olney. Both cars cruised effortlessly at 60 mph on the type of roads they were built for.
As we came into Astoria, I heard a slight scraping noise from the rear. I dismissed it as nothing important, as it came along with the groans and squeaks from the suspension and brakes.
We pulled into a Chevron station on Commercial Street in Astoria. Alex and Ross came up next to us and told us our exhaust pipes were hitting the ground.
Upon inspection, we found the brace that attaches the tailpipe to the body had failed.
Alex and Ross went to a nearby NAPA and came back with a roll of baling wire (no baling wire and English car jokes here please). They also got a pair of pliers to twist the wire tight. This was not my first baling wire rodeo.
Twenty minutes later we had enough of a repair to head home. When Alex tried to start the Volvo, it wouldn’t fire. So she used the choke. After a bit, it started and we were underway.
The trip home was devoid of vehicular excitement. We took Highway 26, which is smooth and features fantastic views.
We got to Portland and pulled into the SCM garage. I noticed fluid coming out of the overflow from the header tank on the Jag. I didn’t think much about it.
Alex and Ross headed out. I fired up the Jag and the temp gauge immediately went to full hot. I drove around the block and put the car back in the garage. When I parked it steam was coming out of the overflow hose from the header tank. Lots of steam.
I left it. I would deal with it in the morning when it cooled down. Bradley and I hopped into the Volvo. (Always good to have a back up.)
To my surprise, the horrible running issues that caused us to take the car to Ed some weeks ago were back. It would barely run. If you pulled the choke all the way out you got two cylinders. We struggled to drive up out of the garage and limped the two miles across town to our condo.
Now, I’ve got two dead classics waiting for the flatbed.
I know Ed will get the Volvo going in no time. I wonder if pulling the choke cable threw something awry.
I’m more concerned about the Jag. When it is cold I will add coolant, and fire it up with the header tank cap off. I pray to the Coventry Gods that I don’t see any exhaust gases from a blown head gasket bubbling.
There was no indication of overheating before I pulled into the garage, and the engine never ran rough or smelled funny.
I have long maintained that old cars create adventures.
This time around, I got a little more than I had bargained for. And my kids got another story to tell their kids two decades from now.