For the whole of the challenge we have been struggling with a lack of power on the hilly sections. On the early portion of day two, the Aries added overheating to this equation. Given it was a Sunday and we were on the road, what could we do? Follow along to see. Will the Dodge carry us the whole distance?
We stopped down a wooded lane to cool off again. First we removed the air filter. Seemly unlikely to gain us any power but could not hurt right? We initially were going to run the bare carburetor but thought better of in-case of a backfire. The air filter housing went back on minus the filter. I do not think it made much of a difference.
Turning around to pull back onto the highway, I accidentally dropped the car into the ditch at the side of the road. I knew if I let off the throttle we would be stuck. That would be a big problem, as we earlier discovered there are no tow hooks on the car. Luckily the Aries didn’t seem to lack oomph at low speeds, so I was able to power out of it.
At the next town, Cranbrook, we took drastic action. We could have removed the hood like they do on Roadkill but the forecast mentioned a strong possibility for rain. I suspect the electronics, which had not given us any grief to this point (except the clock I suppose), would not perform as well under those damp circumstances. The sweeper truck driver had met us and he had a pile of tools on-board. One of those tools was an angle grinder. He also had a spare paint tray from recently painting his truck …
So I cut a hole in the hood where the under-braces allowed it mostly easily. We then cut the paint tray to allow more air in. The modified paint tray was then attached with some self-tapping screws. My apologies to any K-car enthusiasts/preservationists. As one might imagine we got several puzzled gazes from onlookers. I suppose we should have mounted the tray the other way to allow hot air to escape but it looked better as a cool air intake. Even in a beater rally, aesthetics have their place.
Not long after setting off again, we came across a turbo-charged Subaru with a factory hood intake not too dissimilar to ours. I am not sure if he noticed our car but I would like to think our two vehicles shared a moment of brotherhood on the BC highway.
Performance wise, the situation seemed to have stabilized. We were able to cruise at between 80-90km/h (50 to 55 miles per hour). The speed limit is 100km/h (62 miles per hour) with most folks preferring to exceed that by 10-20km/h (6-12 miles per hour) so rather large lines of traffic kept building up behind us.
The sweeper truck was behind us now (after outrunning us on other occasions) so the traffic likely blamed him until they passed him to reveal the real culprit. Since it was mostly a single track on each side of the road with limited passing opportunities I would pull over occasionally to let them pass. Only on one of these occasions were we honked at by several motorists. I suspect there might have been a few one finger salutes happening as well.
From inside the car our makeshift ram intake was hard to mistake for anything other than a paint tray, but if you were perhaps far enough away and a near-sighted badger with cataracts, then it looked quite sporty. It did block the view of the Chrysler Pentastar leading the way, which was a shame.
One of the scavenger hunt items was collecting photos of unique animal warning signs. We collected a total of ten but I heard that another team managed to find a few more.
While technically still in the mountains, the elevation gains and losses were starting to become less extreme. The Aries and I had come to a mutual understanding about a speed that let the car run well. We passed farms, lumber camps, and small towns.
As we crossed the Alberta border, we sighed. Close to home. Maybe an hour and a half drive in a normal vehicle, so at least two with a limping Aries. We passed through coal mining towns of Coleman, Blairmore, Hillcrest, Crowsnest Pass and into Frank. There I added half a tank of gas to ensure we would not run out.
The winds were strong again as we left the mountains. This time they helped rather than hinder so we were able to achieve the massive speed of 100km/h (62 miles per hour). Or maybe that last tank of fuel had something special in it. The flatter foothills then prairies definitely agreed with the car and we were on the home stretch.
Familiar sights of ranches, farms and windmills greeted us. The K-car was tired but still reliably (or should I say Reliantly?) moving forward.
We had done it. A humble and well used Aries had taken us through farm land, mountain coal country, on a ferry, winding roads in torrential rain, and up a mountain pass. Sure there had been some hiccups but that was all part of the experience.
Only the wrap up dinner and drinks remained. About half the teams had already left as we were the stragglers of the group, but it was still fantastic to swap stories. Amazingly, all the beaters had finished the rally. After the final tallying of points the Rambler group came away with a well earned win. They had taken a car from its field resting place and driven on this epic journey. I heard that their engine crankshaft was moving in and out but somehow held in place by the timing marks tab.
My son and I had placed in 5th, which we considered a success. I was presented with the biggest and heaviest trophy of the night. I believe it was for the cheapest car … or worse car … or something like that. My son unfortunately was not able to attend the awards since it was held at a bar but that hardly mattered. We had a shared experience, a whole bonding weekend and memories to last a lifetime.
As for the Dodge, its time with me has come to an end. I certainly could have looked into its issues, as I suspect it might have been as simple as an engine timing issue, but I did not need the car. I really did not want to scrap such a steady and slow but somehow endearing car. Therefore I put it on the local classified site for a very small amount and sold it a few days later to a 16 year old new driver who had a couple of mechanically savvy friends willing to help him fix it up. Hopefully it will continue to make memories for someone else. Goodbye and good luck ‘Special K’.
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