Road to Amelia Part 2: Friday – Saturday

The Friday drive to Amelia was not without its memorable moments. Somewhere in South Carolina in the mid afternoon it began to rain. At first it was just a light rain. My road companions were pickup trucks and semis. Nobody lifted. Older engines like mine like humidity and rain makes them run better. On the other hand, the wipers on a 308 don’t like rain. They have no appreciation for the fact that rain justifies their existence. But they do have character. Their physical action is similar to a prone person lying on their back and slowly doing sit-ups until they are 90 degrees to the floor. And just like people, they either tire or get bored of doing this and skip the odd sequence. I know all about the rules of physics and electricity that govern wiper action, but the idiosyncratic nature of the wipers on this car have always perplexed, entertained, or annoyed me. There is a toggle switch on the control panel which simply says Wiper Speed and invites the driver to toggle it when in need of extra help. The wiper system mostly treats this switch with disdain. It huffily speeds up for two or three swipes and then settles back to its own rhythm, satisfied that it has obeyed the little driver’s command and comfortable that it knows what is required and will satisfy that requirement in due course. Like an older Italian waiter. The system senses the need and reacts accordingly. Fortunately, as though in concert with the wipers, the chassis of the car presents a distraction just when the driver seems at the limits of patience. The simple rubber tubing, or weather strip, by which the outside world is separated from the driver’s compartment lies wedged in the space between the Targa roof and the top of the windshield frame. Its simple purpose is clearly to keep water out. Which, at times, it does admirably. At times it doesn’t. In those latter times, depending on road speed and the severity of the storm, it allows a small amount of water to gather in one spot on the underside of the windshield frame, like dew drops, and once sufficient quantity has been amassed, it begins to flow in either direction, sometimes changing direction until it decides it is time to plop down on to a seat. Sometimes it is the passenger seat and sometimes the driver’s seat. The whole process generally takes anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes and when it jumps it can contain anywhere up to five drops. Never more and most times less. It is a fascinating process, at least to me. But here is the kicker, sometimes, not always, if I pull over to the side of the road in the rain, water will literally pour in, as though invited, and simply awaiting the opportunity. It used to leak only on the passenger side which I found both tolerable and at times amusing, depending on who was sitting there. Now that I am more than a spectator in this game, I am less tolerant. Particularly at night. So for fifty miles or so we stayed at 70 MPH and all was fine. I mentioned earlier that the car runs better in the rain, here’s why: It has to do with gasoline. While it is true that most engines are cooled by water (via ethyl glycol) or air (as in older Porsches or motorcycles), Engines are also cooled by fuel. If you have ever splashed gasoline on your hands or plunged your hand in a tub of gasoline to wash a part, you may have noticed how cold gasoline is. Actually, if you were to put a thermometer in that same tub it would read the ambient temperature. Gasoline actually absorbs heat and that is why it makes your hands feel cold. In an engine’s combustion chamber it does the same thing. It is drawn in via the intake valve by the vacuum caused by the piston going down. It atomizes and mixes with the air it brings with it into the chamber and cools the chamber that was recently purged of burnt gases (exhaust). The new mixture is then compressed by the now rising piston, ignited by a spark, burns and expands - forcing the piston down. That’s the combustion process. As the piston comes back up, the burned gas is forced out the exhaust valve. By adding more humidity (water) to the air coming in with the gas, the mixture becomes denser. Because it is denser, upon ignition, which makes it expand, it has less room to expand sideways and thus pushes down harder on the piston. When eight cylinders are doing this in sequence you have considerably more power. Engines are always more powerful in the rain. So the harder it rained, the better the 308 engine ran and the more powerful it felt. So I kicked it up a notch to 80 MPH, about 4000 RPM and it just purred. I ran it that way well into Georgia where I finally stopped for gas.

As I was refueling, two state troopers climbed out of their cars and sauntered over. They looked at the car. They smiled. I smiled. We noticed your car, one said, smiling. I smiled back nervously. How fast does it go, he asked. Tough to say, I replied, these old cars, the speedometers are not really accurate, and you don’t really want to go too fast because the parts are so old. Tough to say. How fast do you think you were going just now, he asked. Tricky question. Not sure, I replied, but I never go over seventy, I said. That’s my rule, I said, with conviction. (I hate to use that word.) Was it really red, he asked. Yup. I replied, relieved by the change of subject. Why did you paint it? To cut down on conversations with guys like you, I said. They both laughed. Can we see the engine. they asked. Sure, I said, and opened the rear hatch. They looked and nodded, we all smiled and they advised me to drive carefully, still smiling. I asked if I could mention their names in case I met any of their buddies. They laughed and said no. I didn’t expect they would. I drove at 70 until I hit the Florida border.

I arrived in Fernandina Beach and had dinner with another Northern refugee. He is excellent company and we met at The Crab Trap. Fresh seafood and a cold beer tasted mighty fine after 12 hours in the WASRED 308 on I-95.

It wasn’t warm on Saturday morning and it never got over 40 degrees all day. My first call was the Goodings Auction at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort complex, distinct from the Ritz Carlton complex that houses the Concours and the RM auction. We parked the 308 in their remote lot where someone took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook. Amazing. We spent two hours there viewing the cars and chatting with fellow Boston area friends. My favorite was an older un-restored Ferrari Europa Coupe and it sold for $2.5M. At the other end of the spectrum was a BMW M6 that looked pristine. This is a favorite car of mine in the affordable range. It sold for $57K. I have excellent taste.

Passport Transport, an MMR supporter, sponsored a tour for Concours entrants that began at the Ritz-Carlton, wound around the scenic spots on Amelia Island and ended on scenic Fernandina Beach’s main street where we caught up with it. It is great to see these cars driven and this Amelia Tour is a perfect opportunity for them to stretch their legs and be appreciated by many who may never go to the Concours or see such cars again.

After noon we drove back to the Ritz-Carlton for the Cars and Coffee event on the 18th fairway. What a great event this has turned out to be. Like everything else at Amelia, the spirit of the event is what makes it special. This is about people who really love cars. A massive Corvette contingent, special cars that will participate in the next day’s Concours, hot rods, a replica classic, a brace of vintage BMW race cars, the new Lambo Huracana, all conspire to make this a Cars and Coffee that doesn’t happen elsewhere.

A full day capped by an excellent Spanish Paella shared with good and interesting friends at La Mancha on Sadler Road in Fernandina Beach. Life ain’t bad.

Next stop… Sunday’s Concours. See you next week.