Mini Meet West 2013

Our reporter from Mini Meet West is Moker Alan Margison, and he wrote this piece for a Moke audience: however, as non-mokers we can still enjoy it.

Nine explorers with five cars set off on the Oregon Trail from Victoria, British Columbia to the Mini Meet West Show in Bend, Oregon, June 2013. Two modified classic Minis, two new Minis and my Moke. One classic was on a trailer and my wife and I towed a Moke behind our motorhome. It was a pleasant drive on ‘A’ roads to our first night in Tillamook where they make cheese, cheese and more cheese – all from contented cows.

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Motorhome is rather more comfy than a Moke, but nowhere near as much fun.

At one of our stops, “I don’t want to be alarmist,” said John, who was following us, ”but every time you go round a left hand bend I can smell burning rubber.”

“What,” I asked, “are you smoking in that car?”

“No, I’m not joking, I really do smell rubber burning.”

“Right.” I said and walked away, attributing it to John’s highly creative brain.

An hour later, the walkie-talkie announced an emergency: John had a flat tire on the trailer carrying his Mini. “Aha,” said I to myself, “well, now we know the cause of the burning rubber smell – and it isn’t my Moke.”

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Four-wheel trailer is overkill for carrying a Mini, but conveniently it doesn’t need all four wheels.

John had no spare for his trailer; fortunately, it was tandem axle, so we removed the wheel with the shredded tire and bound up that end of the axle so he could continue with only one wheel on that side. John had the tire replaced the next morning, and the day was just as nice, 75 deg F and sunny while we drove through wonderful rolling countryside to our destination, Bend.

We took a rest part way. “The burning rubber smell is still there occasionally, Alan.”

“John, you must have some of that shredded tire stuck up your nose.”

“Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“I won’t.”

The show was rather good except for the rain, which came and went every ten minutes. Down with the roof, up with the roof, down with the roof…you get the picture.

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The worry about Mini Meet West is usually that it will be too hot. Not this time…

 

The show had three Mokes. The prize results were as follows:

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First place went to a restored-to-originality job.

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Second place went to Alan’s modified 2XS Moke.

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Honourable mention went to a work in progress.

The day after the show was set aside for the Funkhana (don’t ask) and Autocross, both of which I wanted to enter. We left Bend in beautiful warm sunshine to drive the Moke the 25 miles to the venue for these: the huge parking lot of a ski resort.

The elevation of Bend is 3,623 feet and it was no surprise to be climbing up to a ski area. We soon passed the 4000 feet marker.

Then the 5000 feet one. I switched on the seat heaters.

Then 6000 in light drizzle. “This is a bummer,” I said to my wife.

Then 7000 in heavy drizzle. “You can say that again,” she replied.

Then 8000 in slushy snow.

All conversation ceased.

Needless to say, it was getting pretty chilly. I was only wearing a sweater. Ok, yes, pants too. I cannot remember what my wife was wearing; I didn’t much care at this point, at least she could sit on her hands. The roof was up but we did not stop to put the side curtains on: “Soon be there now,” I prophesied – wrongly.

Mount Bachelor is 9065 feet high and the resort is not much below that. The road seemed to go on forever, and, by the time the parking lot hove into view, we were in a thick blizzard. I pried my fingers from the steering wheel and decided to put on my overalls atop my sweater.

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Alan is a pretty hardcore Moke driver, but a horizontal blizzard is a bit much even for him.

Both race events were cancelled! We grabbed a bite to eat and warmed up just a tad in the lodge, then reversed the drive and the freezing experience to go back down to sunny Bend.

I told the organisers that they might have given a thought to those of us in open cars and let us know that we were going to freeze our wheelnuts off.

“Too bad,” one of them replied. ”It was 80 deg F up there last weekend!”

“That’s very consoling,” I vouchsafed.

On this trip, the Moke exhaust was raspingly loud. The two new silencers I had installed were both leaking all around the rolled edges. I bought some exhaust paste. As we ate together, John very kindly offered to help spread it on. He’s a good mate even if his imagination runs away with him at times. To do the job, we drove John and Anna from the restaurant to their hotel. And this is where it got interesting.

“Uh, oh,” called John from the rear seat of the Moke, I can smell burning rubber again!”

This time I could smell it too. “By golly, you are right, John.” I said trying to put a bit of an apology into my tone.

He was gentleman enough not to reply, as he was entitled to do, with a sarcastic, “Thank you!”

When we stopped, it was obvious from some sticky, hot, black stuff on the rear mudguard and the bubbling paint thereon that the tire had been rubbing against it. Four people aboard or even rounding a sharp corner was enough to cause this to happen.

“How come?” you may well ask. Here is the technical side of the story – and furthermore, there is a moral to it. So listen up!

Months before I had removed the old rubber suspension cones and installed coil springs. The ride was like that of a Rolls Royce (I said ’like’). Anyway, it was pretty smooooth for a Moke!  But at a price. You cannot get a soft ride without soft springs. And these coils were soft; so soft that I was contemplating a rear anti-roll bar.

Now, on the rear suspension there are no bump stops. Maybe the shock absorber in closed position is supposed to stop the tire hitting the mudguard, but mine didn’t; perhaps because my wheels are 14 inch.

Thus, the burning rubber mystery was solved. But what to do about it?

This is where your handy dollar (or pound) shop comes into its own. They sell balls. Soccer balls. Tennis balls. Golf balls. All kinds of balls. But best of all, hard rubber balls about three inches in diameter attached to a piece of elastic that you put on your ankle and spin … well never mind that, the elastic was discarded. Having the balls, I dismantled the rear suspension and inserted one inside each rear coil spring. Voila – a progressive bump stop! And it worked well, even after getting home to Victoria. Burning rubber was never to be sniffed again.

As for the front springs, thank goodness they made it back home before they managed – by completely collapsing on bumps – to break both hi-los. So back to the rubber cones. Now, where did I throw them?

No, no. Do not fit coil springs! That’s the moral. And the end of my story.