The Mini line at Larz Anderson.
Photo by David Schwartz
British Car Day
by David Schwartz
BROOKLINE, MASS., July 11 — The weather was partially sunny with comfortable temperatures for the 2021 edition of British Car Day at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum (LAAM). Participant turnout was excellent, with cars filling the upper lawn and about two-thirds of the lower lawn.
Pre-registration on the Museum website closed two days before the event, but additional cars were admitted at the gate. As a COVID precaution, owners were asked not to arrive prior to 9 a.m., and cars were not parked as tightly as usual. It was clear that attendees were happy to return to some sense of normalcy.
I counted 11 classic Minis in attendance, with five I had never seen before. There were two modern MINIs, including a convertible in a factory shade of purple/blue that was a special color for that model.
NEMO members Iain and Nuala Barker, Wendy and Tom Birchmire, Dave and Barbara Newman, Alex Daly and Bob Brownell brought their classic Minis. Ken Lemoine drove his 1961 Jaguar XK150 and I drove my 1950 Morris Minor Tourer (the original weather forecast was for a hot day, and top down was a cooler option). We all parked on the upper lawn, with most Minis in the center.
I am happy to report the Jaguars were scattered this year, rather than claiming the only shady spot on the field. Faith Lamprey and Bruce Vild brought their original-owner 1980 MGB and parked on the lower lawn. Bruce sported a Hawaiian shirt with B movie posters on it, a present from Faith. They are both big B movie fans!
We hadn’t seen the Newmans since the 2019 Holiday Party, but they were there at LAAM. Dave is a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson, whose TV shows include Top Gear, The Grand Tour, and the new Clarkson’s Farm (Diddly Squat Farm). Iain took the opportunity to deliver Dave’s retirement gift, a “This Smells Like My Bollocks” candle from Jeremy’s Diddly Squat Farm shop.
The Farm website describes the item as follows: “The unique and leathery scent of my car seat, blended with hints of oakmoss and earthy spices. A totally unique and bespoke scent, created for Jeremy. There is no other smell like this in the world.” Happy retirement, Dave! We expect a review of the candle.
Tony Borges’ 1966 Riley Elf.
Photos by David Schwartz
Welcome to new members Tony Borges, Steve Borges, and Antonio Sapata. Tony brought a very nice 1966 Riley Elf, Steve a “hot rod” ERA turbo Mini, and Antonio a metallic red Mini saloon. They were parked directly behind Faith and Bruce and joined NEMO on the spot.
Two Minis on the upper lawn belonged to Matt and Dave of “Misfit Mutts Garage.” They own nine classics between them, and brought a 1968 Austin Mini pickup truck, and a beautiful light green 1989 saloon with significant upgrades. The truck’s passenger side inner fender was cut away to make room for a Honda engine and still retain a regular-style bonnet.
There were several rare cars at the show. My personal favorite was Bruce Male’s 1955 Bentley R-type Continental Fastback. The car has smooth flowing lines more reminiscent of Jaguar than Bentley. Only 208 were produced. Also present was an enormous 1928 Bentley 4 1/2 Litre Tourer, which was quite a contrast to the Fastback.
The current Museum exhibit is entitled “Hidden Treasures” and features seldom-seen cars and trucks from New England collections.
There were several early pickup trucks in the exhibit, including a 1922 Ford Model T snowmobile. The snowmobile components were sold as a kit by Ford dealers through the late 1920s.
This was the first car show I attended since the 2019 season and it was great to see so many old friends. Let us hope that the Delta variant doesn’t force cancellation of late 2021 events.
The happy couple in the Landry Mini. Limo? Who needs a limo?
Photos courtesy Stacy M Photography
Mini Countryman Wedding Car
by David Schwartz
In early May, a call went out on the NEMO Google group from bride-to-be Elizabeth Elliott:
“This might be a long shot, but do any NEMO members in or around Connecticut own a Union Jack Mini? My fiancé just moved to the U.S. from London, England, and I’m looking to track down a Union Jack Mini to use as our “getaway car” at our wedding this summer. Will pay to borrow it for a few hours and take a few photos with it! Please let me know if you have any leads, and thank you in advance.”
Jean and Brian Landry answered the call, offering the use of Jean’s 1964 Austin Mini Countryman with a Union Jack on the roof.
Elizabeth Elliott and Daniel Smith were married on July 4th in Manchester, Conn. Many thanks to the Landrys for loaning their car, and congratulations to the bride and groom.
There is a cottage industry in the U.K. for Morris Minor wedding cars, but this is the first I have heard of using a Mini. The back seat of a Mini has plenty of room for a wedding dress. Okay, perhaps with the front seat folded over...
Working model of a British steam locomotive gives an idea of scale.
Photo by David Schwartz
Waushakum Live Steamers Visit
by David Schwartz
HOLLISTON, Mass. — On June 27th, NEMO teamed up with the Boston Area MG Club (BAMG) for our first in-person event since the December 2019 Holiday Party — a visit to the Waushakum Live Steamers facility in Holliston. Ken Lemoine knows Jim Abrams, President of the Steamers, and arranged for a meet-up of British cars and miniature ride-on trains.
“Live steam” locomotives are scale models that operate the same way as full-size steam locomotives — a fire fueled by coal is used to boil water and make steam, which is then used to power the engine. Members of the Steamers also own models of diesel and electric locomotives.
The locomotives are capable of hauling cars carrying several people, with the engineer riding on the coal tender or a freight car. The Steamers maintain three gauges of outdoor track (3.5”, 4.75” and 7.25”) that wind through the woods, as well as a large maintenance facility complete with hydraulic lifts and turntables.
NEMO and BAMG members met in the parking lot of the Doubletree Hotel in Milford, Mass., for socializing and an impromptu car show before the short, scenic drive to Holliston. NEMO was well represented with 10 cars, 18 adults and 3 kids, and we welcomed new members the Rivera family and Linda and Ian Kabat. There were at least seven MGs and 11 BAMG members, including the Crawfords’ 1933 J2.
The day started off overcast, but it was warm and muggy, so I chose to drive my 1950 Morris Minor Tourer instead of my Morris Mini. Alec Issigonis designed both cars, and MG stands for Morris Garages, so I felt free to park with either club.
Iain Barker’s daughter Nuala had never ridden in a convertible and hitched a ride in my car. She truly enjoyed the full wind-in-her-hair experience as there are no windows for the back seat. We had to remind her to stay seated, as there are no seatbelts either.
Naturally the Minor’s odometer doesn’t work so it was impossible to follow Ken’s detailed directions. We got separated from the group at a traffic light and finally switched to my phone’s GPS. As the last car to arrive at the Steamers’ facility, we were greeted by a round of applause. Minis, MINIs and MGs intermingled in the shaded parking area, with a spot of respect set aside for the oldest cars, my Morris Minor and the MG J2.
The oldest cars from NEMO and BAMG in their ‘spot of respect’.
Photo by Gerry Lodge
It takes a while to build a head of steam, even in miniature locomotives, so Jim Abrams started us off with a tour of the maintenance area. There are lifts available for unloading locomotives from vehicles and staging trains on the track, plus a transfer table for moving equipment from the engine house to the steaming bays, where engines are readied for service. Their “main line” consists of 3,599 ft. of 7.25” gauge track that meanders through the forest and passes through a tunnel.
We spent a while watching a British outline locomotive belching steam as the owner tinkered with it. Sadly there was a stuck valve so the locomotive was out of service for the day. We were directed to the boarding area where a long diesel locomotive pulling five freight cars awaited. The engineer then spent the morning giving passengers rides through the woods around the main line.
We observed smaller-scale steam locomotives running on elevated track with an engineer riding side-saddle on the coal tender or a flatcar. Owners of the smaller trains did not offer rides to our group, which was fine as they could only handle one or two people.
At around 12:30 Ken announced that pizza had been ordered and it was time to motor over to the Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company in Framingham for lunch. My Morris Minor ended up leading a group of cars when we departed, and once again I parted ways with the written directions. We looped around through neighborhoods and came to a main road where Mike Crawford went flying by in the J2, at which point I happily relinquished the lead. In Ashland, cars started veering off in different directions and it was time to fire up the GPS again. At least we were not the last to arrive at Exhibit ‘A’!
To my amusement, everyone was carded at the entrance. Seating was outdoors in the Beer Garden as Exhibit ‘A’ has yet to re-open their indoor Taproom.
We were joined at lunch by Ken’s wife Helen and son Brett and Bob Brownell’s wife Kathy.
The staff at Exhibit ‘A’ was terrific and the beer was quite good. They even treated us to the pizza, which was from a local New York-style pizzeria. They feature food trucks, guest food vendors and live music Thursdays through Sundays.
Waushakum hosts events that are open to the general public. Their 51st Annual Meet is scheduled for Saturday, August 28th. See their website for the latest information: https://www.waushakumlivesteamers.org/events/.
The British car line at the parade marshalling point.
Photo by David Schwartz
The British Invade Arlington
by David Schwartz
ARLINGTON, MASS., May 9 — The Arlington Classic Car Club (ACCC) holds an annual parade every spring. I learned about it last year when Iain Barker wrote about it in the NEMO newsletter.
The ACCC is a Facebook group it’s been around since 2012. Membership is by invitation only. The standards are pretty low (“Do you like cool cars?”), so they let me join. Being an Arlington resident is not a requirement. In fact, some members don’t even live in Massachusetts. There are no dues, and members post a lot of fun (usually car-related) content.
The club has held several group drives and outings in 2021. For this one, it was a beautiful, breezy spring day and there was no rain in the forecast. My wife Betty and I were excited to get out of the house for the drive.
We arrived at St. Camillus Church, the parade meeting point, at 2:45 p.m. for the 3 p.m. start. We saw Rudy Koehle’s bright yellow MGB in the parking lot but were surprised there were no other cars.
Then a green-and-white VW Bus filled with kids pulled up. It was Gustavo, the parade organizer, who enthusiastically directed us to the other side of the Church. There we found many other cars and drivers, including Iain, his daughter Nuala, and their Mini KK.
A line of other British cars was parked up front. Gary and Meryl Hampton, along with their dog Monroe, were present with their TR3A. Monroe has his own Facebook account and is the ACCC member of the family. (We sometimes wonder if he owns the car, too, and just lets the humans drive it.)
There were 38 classic cars all told, including 11 British ones — two classic Minis, two Triumphs, two MGBs, an MGB GT, an MGC, a Ford Anglia, and two Catterham Sevens. Throw in the five Lotus-inspired Miatas and a total of 16 British(ish) cars attended.
French, Italian, German, Swedish and American cars were also well represented. Jon and Ginny Chomitz, core attendees of Goulds’ Microcar Classic, parked their 1971 Citroën ID20F station wagon next to the British car line.
My favorite American cars were a Dodge woodie wagon and an early ’60s Buick convertible complete with a “Kennedy for President” bumper sticker. There was even a 1962 Honda Cub motorcycle.
After a brief drivers’ meeting, we split into three groups with a leader for each group. Iain and Nuala waved goodbye — Iain wisely decided to skip the parade and do more gentle drives to break in his new engine.
Appreciative crowds greeted the invaders, British and otherwise!
Photo by Betty Lehrman
My ’68 Mini Traveller was in the first group, led by Gustavo in his ’77 VW Bus. We wound through the steep hills of Arlington Heights, never getting above second gear, with some of the hills requiring first. We wondered how any car could negotiate those steep roads in the winter, but the mighty Mini took it all in stride.
Traffic stopped to let us pass and large groups of families greeted us from front lawns and sidewalks. Even the dogs were fascinated — several of them turning their heads from side to side as each car drove by — clearly fans of classic cars! We felt like celebrities as children and adults smiled, waved, clapped and pointed at every corner. Gustavo reported that the Facebook route map had over 800 hits. Clearly, the people of Arlington appreciate the parade!
The crowds thinned after we reached Pleasant Street, though there were still some people seated in lawn chairs along Mass Avenue, and we pleasantly surprised many residents who were going about their business outside.
Unfortunately, the VW Bus had to drop out due to mechanical difficulties partway through the course. The driver of a bright green VW Karmann Ghia convertible took the lead of our line.
The parade ended at Arlington High School. Participants gradually peeled off to go their separate ways. We were all invited to Gustavo’s house for a beer after the drive, but we opted to head for a friend’s house for an outdoor dinner.
It was an exhilarating ride. We hope to go again next year!
Iain’s new engine on the hoist.
Photo by Iain Barker
Engine Swap, Part 3: The Starting Line
by Iain Barker
“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” —Winston Churchill
With the Arlington Classic Car Club (ACCC) Mother’s Day cruise scheduled for May 9th, I set a goal for the previous weekend to get my Mini back on the road and ready to ‘run in’.
Installation of the engine and gearbox is most easily accomplished with the radiator and exhaust manifold pre-installed to the engine. On an Mk1 car, it’s almost impossible to fit them with the engine in position due to their proximity to the front subframe.
Lining up the engine mountings is always a ‘fun’ task on a Mini, because they are buried below the clutch housing on one side and the radiator on the other. However, there is a custom tool available that makes the job much easier by capturing the bolt head under a spring clip, allowing the bolt to be inserted blind when working underneath the car. A ‘shade tree mechanic’ version of this tool can be made up by bending the two center tines of a dinner fork.
After several seemingly endless weekends tinkering in the garage, I’m pleased to say that I successfully installed the rebuilt power unit in ‘Mini KK’. Initial startup shouldn’t present a problem, with the oil galleries pre-lubed. I squirted high-zinc 50-weight oil backwards into the oil pump, and forwards into the filter outlet.
I set the ignition timing very roughly by visually lining up the distributor rotor with points opening at #1 cylinder, and then cranked the key with the spark plugs out to build up oil pressure. Once a healthy 65 lbs. was registered on the gauge, and with no oil leaking out from anywhere obvious, it was time to go for startup.
Three, 2, 1… bang, bang! Two bursts of flame shot up out of the carburetors, then nothing.
With the law of averages, one would think if there are two possible outcomes for an event they should occur at roughly even frequency. I have rebuilt four engines in the last few years, and each time despite carefully assuring myself that #1 is on the compression stroke when setting the distributor timing, I’ve ended up with it being 180° out of phase. The pyrotechnic display was, unfortunately, not a new experience for me.
The remedy, however, was simple. Swap plug wires 2 with 3 and 1 with 4, which changes the firing order from 1-3-4-2 to 4-2-1-3.
Second turn of the key and… we have ignition. The engine burst into life!
I let it idle for a minute or so to check the oil pressure and look for leaks. For first startup I generally do not put coolant in the radiator, preferring to let it run dry to provide time for the shellac on the composite head gasket to seal.
I shut the engine off and let it cool. Happy that everything was behaving itself, I filled the system with distilled water plus a little water-wetter. I do not use coolant until the head gasket is completely sealed after a few miles of normal running in.
I re-positioned the distributor drive and spark plug leads to the correct timing, then ran the engine for 10 minutes at 2000rpm to get the engine fully up to temperature and let the flat tappet camshaft bed in. No leaks and nothing unexpected.
Before a test drive I needed to bleed the brake system, as I had replaced all the corroded lines while the engine was out of the car. The vacuum-assisted brake servo is still away being rebuilt. After some judicious bleeding of the system, there was sufficient unassisted pressure to drive safely.
Ready to go, I jumped in the driver’s seat, pushed the clutch down, and… oh, no. The gearstick wouldn’t move. The transmission was stuck in neutral, and regardless how much I heaved on the remote gearstick, the selectors wouldn’t budge. With a horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, I called it a day.
A week later, and one day before the ACCC cruise, my rage had subsided and it was time to try and resolve the problem. I put a shout-out on the Mk1 Mini Forum asking for ideas. One suggestion came from a classic Mini race engineer in Canada, Dermott Young, who suggested that the problem may be with the reverse gear selector shaft.
To cut a long story short, it’s possible to assemble the selector mechanism with a ‘detent pin’ in the wrong orientation. The net result is that the shaft locks up and the gearchange lever is unable to move left or right.
Fortunately, the detent can easily be freed up by removing a large bolt from behind the oil filter, disconnecting the remote gear linkage, and moving the levers into their correct location with a pair of vise grips. Certainly, much easier than pulling the whole power unit out again and taking the entire gearbox apart.
After spending an hour or so reassembling the linkage correctly, I drove the Mini gingerly out of the garage under its own power… and then the engine died. A definite “failure to proceed,” as Rolls-Royce would say. Hmm.
I restarted it, and went for a drive around the block, about half a mile in total. The engine stalled out two more times, and then started to run on just two cylinders. Was it ignition, fuel, or had something gone horribly wrong? Maybe it was a blown head gasket between two cylinders.
By pulling live spark plug leads off while the engine was idling, it was clear the #1 and #2 cylinders had decided that involvement in vehicular locomotion was not something they felt to be any of their business.
This was actually good news. The chances of two adjacent cylinders both failing completely due to something mechanical was unlikely even a Mini with a blown head gasket will still run with some partial compression, and a dropped valve will only affect one cylinder. The mild electrocution running up my arm told me that there was nothing wrong with either spark plug lead, and the plugs were brand new. Therefore, it must be carburation. The Cooper S has dual carbs, with one carb feeding cylinders 1 and 2, and the other feeding 3 and 4. My diagnosis made perfect sense.
With just three hours to go before the cruise, I cleaned out the carburetor float from nearly a year’s buildup of evaporated E90 fuel and drove the car another half mile round the block. Success! No more stalling. Although the gears were very stiff, they seemed to be working well.
Aside from a small fluid leak from the front driver’s side wheel well (it didn’t taste like brake fluid, so I decided it probably wasn’t important), we were ready to be off. At 2:30 p.m., Mini KK, my daughter Nuala and I drove the few miles to Arlington — and made the start line for the ACCC Mother’s Day parade.
Next station, Waushakum. Waushakum!
Photo courtesy Waushakum Live Steamers
Waushakum Live Steamers June 27!
by David Schwartz
Save the date and join us for a group drive, a most unusual steam train ride, and lunch at an outdoor brewpub. Our visit to the Waushakum Live Steamers in Holliston, Mass., will be a combined event with the Boston Area MG Club.
NEMO previously visited the Waushakum Live Steamers’ facility in July 2007 as part of Charles and Nancy Gould’s Microcar Classic weekend.
“Live steam” locomotives are scale models that operate the same way as full-size steam locomotives: a fire fueled by coal is used to boil water and make steam, which is then used to power the engine.
The locomotives are capable of hauling cars carrying several people with the engineer riding on the coal tender. The club maintains several gauges of outdoor track that wind through the woods. See the Steamers’ website, https://www.waushakumlivesteamers.org/, for photos and additional information.
Minis and MGs will meet at a convenient exit off Route 495 (either the Milford Rt. 109 Exit 48 or Upton/Hopkinton Exit 54) between 9 and 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 27th, with departure to the Steamers’ facility at 9:45 a.m. After the train rides, we will motor up to Framingham and go to either Jack’s Abby or Exhibit A for cold brews, food and good conversation.
Both brewpubs have outdoor seating. The event details are being finalized and will be supplied via e-mail.
And folks think old car nuts have an unusual hobby. Be sure to wear grubby clothes, as we will get covered in soot and ash.
Waushakum Live Steamers is located at 25 Arthur St. in Holliston. Hope to see you there.
David Schwartz and Ken Lemoine participate in the conversation on Zoom.
Photos by David Schwartz
Virtual NEMO Annual Meeting
by David Schwartz
The Annual meeting, held April 25th on Zoom, was attended by 14 people, including several new members.
Welcome to new member Wendy McGoldrick who attended the fall Mass Modifiers Kimball’s Ice Cream Drive in her husband’s GTO. There were four classic Minis on the Drive. Wendy was inspired to join NEMO and would like to buy a classic Mini.
Dani Baliani joined the meeting right at the end. He bought a 1989 Mini Mayfair from Hrach 23 years ago. The car needs new floors and is not safe to drive unless you are Fred Flintstone. Ken Lemoine provided Dani with a body shop recommendation.
Several members performed winter repairs, or had others do so. Bob Brownell is now an expert at replacing Mini front rubber cones as he installed another set to replace the defective first set. Wendy Birchmire spent $500 having mouse damage repaired to the wiring in her MINI convertible. A new warning light came on this week, so there may be more damage to deal with. Dave Black performed an engine rebuild on the Newman’s Mini Moke.
Dave Black gave a Treasurer’s report. The main expense was member subscriptions to British Marque. Ken Lemoine made a $250 donation from the Hrach fund to support the Smith children after the untimely death of their parents, Sam and Rachael. Sam was the proprietor of Brit Bits in New Hampshire and was known by many in the New England British car community.
The main order of business was an events discussion: cancelled, postponed, rescheduled. Several people are planning on attending the British Invasion in Stowe. NEMO was invited to participate in the Cape Cod British Car Club’s “Rallye Cape Cod,” a new event scheduled for July 24th. See the event calendar below.
We tried to gauge interest in a group drive or outing in June. About half the attendees were interested. Ken and I will explore group drive options in Metro West and beyond. Dave Black invited Wendy McGoldrick to join us in the GTO, which got a good laugh.