At supper, the word goes out about our intermittent woes. Folks keep coming up to the table, experts on Lucas electrics, people who’ve had similar gremlins. I’m pissed at the car, sure, but there’s a sense that we’re not out here on the road by ourselves. This collection of enthusiasts, this community, are willing to pitch in to help us complete our trip.
Working late into the night is Robert Maynard of RWM restorations. He’s driving the sweep car for the event, repairing and replacing as he goes along. After helping the owner of a BMW 2002 get a broken return spring fixed, he scratches his head over the MGB’s problem. At this point, the car’s running fine. It’s a bit lean, Maynard figures, so after changing out a suspect-looking electrical connection, he retunes the carb. The ‘B sounds great and pulls hard. Bedtime.
After a couple of missed turns, we find ourselves humming along one of the wriggliest bits of road in BC, Westside Road, running along the West of Lake Okanagan from Kamloops to Vernon. Seriously, it looks like somebody got drunk and stole a paving machine.
Dad’s at the wheel and the MGB is flawless. It’s much happier with the extra fuel, and with the new wheels and a well-tuned suspension, it sets into a rhythm along Westside like it was on one of the English B-roads this car was meant to dance along. Mile after mile passes under the bonnet, and Dad’s grin gets bigger. A straight stretch, foot down and – trouble.
The MGB dies again. Pass me that lead hammer.
First on the scene is Rob Fram, a guy I interviewed some months ago who happens to be a master mechanic and part of a team that restores million-dollar prewar cars with wins at Pebble Beach and Villa d’Este. We pull some fuel hose, tap a few connections – it’s an intermittent fuel pump. “Well,” Rob says, “I know the MGA up ahead has a fuel pump that’ll fit. I guess you’ll just have to wait to see if anybody else has a pump for an MGB.”
A Peugeot 504 pulls in behind. “Got a fuel pump for an MGB?” my Dad asks with a laugh.
“Oh sure,” says the driver, Keinan Chapman, “I’ve got something that’ll work.”
Fifteen minutes later, there’s a jury-rigged auxiliary fuel pump duct-taped to the air-cleaner, running off juice from the fuse box and feeding fuel to the carbs. The MGB is running super-rich, but she’s running. We can’t have been on the side of the road for more than twenty-five minutes. “You’re getting the full Spring Thaw experience!” Dave grins, having happened along in his rally-Beetle. Toolboxes are closed, boots shut. We all head off.
The evening sees us passing through Kamloops and heading down the 5A towards Merritt – we’ll be looping back up again – the rain is coming through in drifting sheets between dry patches, and the sky is a brooding contrast to the brightly lit grasslands. You can see the snow falling on the far Western peaks, and the broad-shouldered hills roll out towards the horizon in endless loneliness. It is unutterably beautiful, and one of the few roads my Dad hasn’t driven in the near half-century since he immigrated to this province. We sit in companionable silence, words of no importance now.