In the last installment of the Great Beater Challenge I had (hopefully) completed my preparation and we were ready to head out. I say we, as my twelve year son was now joining me on the rally. I had driven the Aries to work twice since, and while it was still slow on the hills, I felt ready to hit the road. As you can see, a highly varied selection of vehicles turned out.
From left to right here are the vehicles and teams.
First up is my 1983 Dodge Aries SE, team name ‘Special K’. I am attempting to channel Lee Iaccoca with my low rent costume. If I enter again next year I will make a better costume and car customization effort. Despite this I managed to score 160 points mostly on the strength of the Aries being a ‘Special Edition’.
1986 Volkswagen Cabriolet – “Team I think I Can”. The top was permanently removed for bonus points and the team dressed as Jeremy Clarkson and James May from Top Gear. They had a inanimate Stig along for the ride as well. I am not sure what kind of performance addition their grill mounted leaf blower gave them but they seemed to make great time despite constantly stopping for tea along the route.
1988 Toyota Van – DigIt. The Dig It van featured flamed bodywork and fantastic costumes. The sofa mounted inside the van was a nice touch. The hard rocking and loud stereo likely out-valued several other cars. If you look carefully you can see the van has three 17″rims and one 15″.
1959 Rambler Super – “Mad Mennos”. This classic Rambler was a late addition and had only been removed from a field two days earlier. It was equipped with a six cylinder engine and non-functional window wipers. Naturally the Rambler was a huge points winner.
Subaru – “Flaming Rooster Racing”. The Subaru team had planned on entering a Toyota Celica but when that ate its engine with no time to find a replacement this “hybrid” Subaru was pressed into service. I say hybrid as this car had hybrid badging since contained a variety of parts sourced from several different Subaru models. The engine block and heads came from two different models. Some of the body panels were adapted from a sedan. The two teammates traveled to get the challenge from Calgary and Edmonton area so they had a very long first day.
1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo – “Pride Motorsports”. I did not get to see much of the Monte Carlo team as they were far too fast and reliable for me to keep up to. They dressed in orange mechanic overalls and I did very much dig their stock race car vibe. The white lettered “Lightyear” tires are a particularly nice touch.
1994 Honda Civic – “Team Tang”. This Civic with mismatched wheels (15″ Acura on the front, 14″ aftermarket Riken on the rear) was driven by my friend Rod who brought along his wife and son. They had initially planned on entering a very rusty two door Volvo affectionately known as “The Leg”, but a lack of reverse gear made them swap to the Civic hatchback. They were also good enough to caravan with me and the slow Aries the whole way. Like an old CRT computer monitor with burn-in, I suspect the rear image of a K-car is forever implanted into their brains after the weekend.
1989 Mazda B2200 – “OG Mini-Truckin”. The organizer drove this Mazda B2200 pickup truck which featured several new parts which only seemed to encourage it to leak more oil. The colored tape based stripe job added an extra bit of style.
To complete the convoy there was a sweeper truck to assist or haul away any ailing vehicles along the way.
As part of the challenge we had a scavenger hunt to complete. We had to find an item, view or complete a task along the route to earn points. Photographic evidence was required with either your car or team in it as proof. The day started out on the prairies, which are extremely flat and should have meant easy going driving. However it was extremely windy and the boxy K-car was limited to about 100km/h (61 mph). The first scavenger hunt item was a bear shaped garbage can in Fort McLeod which was only half an hour away.
The road soon began transitioning from flat prairie to more hilly terrain as we approached the mountains. This area is well known for its wind farms and did not disappoint with continued windy conditions.
This double-decker out house was not on the scavenger hunt list but I could not resist stopping to take a photo of it. Built in 1905, at the same time as the attached hotel, this multistory lavatory used offset chutes to allow both an upstairs and downstairs. It meant that hotel patrons could relieve themselves without having to go downstairs and through the tavern. Unfortunately the original was damaged in a 1963 fire that destroyed the hotel. This is a nicely built replica as the original has been relocated for future preservation.
We even managed to find a few old cars along the route like this 1949 Chrysler.
And just down the street an engine-less Opel GT.
The next stop was scenic Lundbreck Falls just off Highway 3. There are definitely bigger waterfalls but few are more picturesque than Lundbreck Falls with fall colors in effect. However we did not have time to hang around taking photos on this trip as we needed to press on.
The Burmis Tree announces that you have entered the Crowsnest Pass and the mountains. It is a Limber Pine named for near by town Burmis and is estimated to be 600-750 years old. Despite dying in the 1970s, falling over and later being vandalized, it remains a popular site for tourists.
Shelter provided by the mountains meant the wind finally dissipated to a reasonable level but progress remained slow as the Aries could not maintain the speed limit on even modest hills. My son took most of the in car photos.
One of the more famous landmarks in the Crownest Pass is Frank Slide. On April 29 1903 the eastern edge of mining Town Frank was covered by 90 million tons of rock sliding down from nearby Turtle mountain. The mountain was the site of an active coal mine which likely contributed the slide on an already unstable mountain. Ironically many of the men working in the mine were safe and returned to find their families and homes gone. Total loss of life is estimated to be between 70 and 90. The railway was covered but quickly repaired, the mine re-opened and the remains of the town re-located. With the exception of the highway and railway cutting through it the site of the slide remains as it was in 1903.
The Dodge climbed the hill to the Frank Slide Interpretive Center to get a view of Turtle mountain.
After crossing over into British Columbia we made a quick stop at the world’s biggest truck located in Sparwood. Note my new Great Beater Challenge sticker that has been added to the trunk. A previous write-up gives more detail on the fascinating 1973 Terex Titan 33-19 dump truck.
Due to the Dodge’s slow going we were already starting to fall behind as the Top Gear guys were finishing up their tea when we arrived.
Not long after it started to rain. The Top Gear team had no roof but I heard later that they kept reasonably dry provided they did not stop. Not all the scenery was natural as we passed a pair of classic Chevrolets on our way.
Cranbrook is one of the bigger centers along the route, so when the K-car had become even more sluggish we managed to find a parts store and squeak in 10 minutes before closing time. We tried a Seafoam treatment which produced an impressive amount of smoke but neither seemed to help or hinder the car’s performance.
The spark plugs had looked okay before I had set off but now looked a little dark so I figured a new set could not hurt. I dispensed with my Lee Iaccoca gear and dug in. The newly installed spark plugs might have made a minor difference or perhaps I was just holding out hope for a little more get up and go. The idle was a bit lumpy and somehow the brake rotors had already warped slightly as there was a bit of shudder when braking. Regardless, we pressed on. Check in next time to see how we survived the rest of the day and what other sights we encountered.
The whole series:
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 1 – Vehicle Selection
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 2 – 1983 Dodge Aries Purchased
CC Road Trip: The Great Beater Challenge, Part 3 – Vehicle Preparation
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 1 – Off To A Slow Start
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 1, Part 2 – Rain, Rain, and a Hotel with Character
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 1 – The Big Climb
The Great Beater Challenge: Day 2, Part 2– Finale
Looks like a lot of fun I think. Not sure I’d be up for driving a vehicle with sketchy reliability over a long distance. You guys are to be commended.
One of your pictures along highway 3 has me thinking I should drive down there next summer. I would then later connect with highway 40 northbound into Elbow Sheep Wildland Provincial Park. Its supposed to be a beautiful drive.
Oh my, when a 6 cylinder Rambler is too fast to keep up with, that’s a bad day. I had forgotten how much I hated new cars in the early 80s, and you are now reminding me again.
Those guys in the Rambler were pretty brave, entering this race 2 days after hauling it out of a field. I was originally going to suggest finding a Stude Lark, which would have really cleaned up on the points too, but trying to find one in your budget would have likely been a problem.
I eagerly await the next installment!
I’m pretty sure his Special K is not running right. Are the secondaries in the carb opening? Has the timing belt jumped a tooth or two? Is compression ok?
There’s just no way a properly-running 2.2 K car should be that slow. I drove one for about 3-4 months, and yes, I had to goose it hard, but this one sounds like it’s a bit sick. And not something Seafoam will fix. Does that fix anything?
I’d add checking the ignition timing, since the computer, as it aged, could have gotten flaky and isn’t holding time, advancing as needed. Or, the base timing is out of adjustment- never know if the distributor has been moved in
the 30 plus years.
A clogged cat is something I’d suggest, but I suspect as an early ’80s Canadian market car that it does not have one.
Agree, suspicious for a timing belt tooth jump
Seafoam: the only effect (other than the smoke show) I’ve ever seen is when adding it to the gas. There, in my older cars, it has improved highway gas mileage by 1-2mpg. But only when added, not the next time when I don’t add it. Not sure the additional cost is justified by the increase in efficiency. Some people claim it is good carb cleaner. It did not do anything for lifter tick I had in my former Buick…MMO did, however.
No. As a professional tech, Seafoam, along with various other snake oils, only “fixes” problems you think you have. You are not gonna get new piston rings out of a plastic bottle. In Special K’s case, I would suspect a plugged cat if it has one, jumped cam timing or a rotten/plugged muffler. Exhaust issues can be some of the toughest to diagnose; seen it many times. Even replaced a 4G54 Mitsu engine in a pickup for a guy who swore the engine was done, and supplied his own engine. No need to diagnose, he said, I did it myself, just change the engine. Real problem? Plugged cat. I kept the pulled engine, and sold it for a handsome profit.
It clearly wasn’t running completely right. I have some theories but haven’t proved them out yet.
Of course now we now what you should have packed into your tool box: an infrared thermometer. If the cat works it is hotter at the back end.
How about disconnecting the muffler to see if it has more pull? If that works the muffler is clogged. I know it would be difficult to do on the road as everything is unified by ferrous oxide.
How’s the oil consumption with darker plugs or is fuel too rich? Burning oil not cat friendly. Change PCV Valve (my pet peeve).
Oh my, when a 6 cylinder Rambler is too fast to keep up with, that’s a bad day.
That’s an OHV Rambler 6! Very respectable engine in it’s day. 🙂
going to suggest finding a Stude Lark, which would have really cleaned up on the points too,
I like Larks too, but in a contest of raw power as well as reliability, I have to give the nod to the Rambler vs a Lark’s 170 flattie.
My favorite year Rambler. I wish I could find one in as good a shape as this one appears to be in and running at the race price point. Only in my dreams.
Very nice and great that you were able to bring your son, he’ll remember it forever. The weather looks pretty good (so far), a suppose a bit of rain is better than constant rain or worse. Looking forward to the next installment. Press on!
Hooyah! Press on regardless!
Call me crazy but that rambler needs to be respected ,not beat to death
I know that cars don’t have feelings, but there are not that many classic cars around any more
The owner is a big Rambler guy so I would expect it will get some further restoration after the challenge.
Oy. Good luck!
Hoo boy, looks cold in those photos.
Might have been easier if everyone had just declared the Rambler the winner and gone home, but kudos for sticking it out.
Canadian market cars have had catalytic converters since ’73 I believe, so a clogged converter could be a possibility, assuming it’s still there.
I recall hearing many years ago that Alberta didn’t require safety inspections and drivers not cars were insured so adding a vehicle was easy and cheap. Is that the case? Just on visuals I can tell you that some of those beaters would not fly in Ontario.
Great story & great fun – looking forward to the next instalment!
The Frank Slide is an eerie sight. There’s a similar slide (the Hope Slide) just east of Hope BC, at the terminus of the same Crowsnest Highway. It came down in the mid 60’s, and buried a number of cars and their occupants that were travelling on the old road, now many metres below the current one. Very sobering.
What a nifty assortment of old cars! Rooting for you and the Rambler, though I have to admire the other competitors’ efforts.
A properly running K-Car, when they first were introduced, was as quick as a Volaré V8. That wasn’t much by modern standards but a lot more than this one is doing.
Seafoam has never done anything more for me than for this Aries…make a lot of smoke. But it is perfect for making a big cloud of smoke on Earth Day every year. I did it one year and drove past a TV crew filming for the evening news. I heard the clip got axed. The news director got pissed. Didn’t want to tick off the environmentalists. Ha Ha Ha!
I agree. When I moonlighted (’89-95) at the used car lot I was a mechanic for, I drove quite a few early K-Cars, usually after replacing a head gasket, and they were not what I would call a slug. Not fast, but not dangerously slow by any means. Something is wrong with Special K.
Fun times! With a little wheel time myself behind a proper 2.2 K, I’d have to agree that it works better when running to spec.
The Rambler looks amazing for having come out of a field.
I didn’t have time to read the whole entry, but your Lee Iacocca outfit looks suspiciously like Bob Lutz…
Yes, Iacocca, being a conventional brougham sort of guy, preferred his cars right-side up. I think this fundamental difference between Lee and Bob was the reason Iacocca didn’t hand the Chrysler reigns to Lutz.
If it ends the race, take it to the US of A and list it in the Concours d’LeMons as…. a Carrozzeria Iacocca special! An ode to the Kraziness of Khrysler! (No, I won’t slap a third K here)
The GBC looks like a lot of fun. I hope that Special K makes it through OK.
I must be getting soft in my old age, because that Rambler is strangely appealing. It wears that color combo well.
Yup, sweet car. I’d pick Paul N up from the airport with that if I had the chance.
We need to do this! A Curbside Classic Craigslist…umm Classic?
Go from say Eugene to Reno on two-lane highways, must stay off I-5. Vehicles entered must have proof they cost less that $1000 to buy, with less than $500 in pre-race repairs. Proper license and insurance obligatory.
As much as I like the Ks, my vote is for the Rambler team for the win.
The guy with the Rambler gets points for bravery from me. A road trip with no wipers? That’s beyond brave. I suppose he could leave the vent windows open, and use a couple of shoestrings tied to the wiper arms to operate the wipers manually. Can’t be that much worse than vacuum wipers anyway.
Rain-X helps a lot.
David, is your choke opening fully? These weren’t a rocketship with an automatic when new – but on the flat you should be able to bury the needle. I’ve had a carbureted Horizon 5-speed, and an automatic Spirit and Shadow. They were plenty powerful. The Horizon was doggy until I got the secondary freed up.
Oh dear! What a pickle! Who do I root for, the fellow CCer, or the Rambler, or the VW, or the Honda?
I’m thinking root for the Rambler, but I see enough other support for the Kenosha Cadillac that it is surely doomed.
I’m gonna have to do a coin toss now…do I root for you or the Rambler guys? Okay, both…
I keep seeing ads for a firm selling LS conversion kits..
Hmmmm…. Coincidence? I think not.
I’m not sure the actual competition is really important in this event.
Bonus points should be awarded for entering the same vehicle in the following year’s event to reward preservation.
Best of luck to all entrants for a safe and fun time.
as I had mentioned to you in an earlier post, I had three of these and although they were determined to shed parts like clothing at a nudist colony they did move along smartly. so I agree with the majority…something is not right in the land of Lee!
I also had the quandary of who to cheer for with the rambler but at the end of the day I would park a k-car in my drive before it so go Special-K!!!
Bill, the one I saw on Craigslist is still there.
.So this car is a bit gutless and slow there are a few simple things that might perk it up advance the ignition timing pull the air filter and wire the choke butterfly open leave the filter out, remove the rear muffler and cat if it has one that will free the breathing and kick a bit of life into it if not just keep going until it dies, Have fun thats the main thing.
Sounds like a fun event. Good luck with the K car, my recollection is that the 2.2 often sounded like a diesel but kept running.
Certainly a quandary–hopefully you’ve gotten it figured out by now!
I do like that this is a challenge of endurance and ingenuity, yet if you do it right, no permanent damage to the car in question. Unlike something like the LeMons competitions which are undoubtedly fun, but leave you with essentially scrap once all is said and done.
thx marckyle64. there is a low mileage, loaded se wagon up here as well but budgetary concerns, plus a son that just got his beginners permit means the jeep will be around for while!
its a lot harder to fold, spindle and mutilate a jeep than a k-car.( I hope!!! )