ALPHY’S BIG ADVENTURE IN ARIZONA
Russ Staub, AROC Arizona
The alternator light on Alphy had been just barely glowing for some time. Maybe this was a sign I should have taken more seriously……….
We took off for the British-European Auto Tour (BEAT) on Saturday at 6:30am, as scheduled. The blue skies were inviting, and the coffee/donut stop in Wickenburg was not far off. Alphy was just perfect, running like a teenager instead of the 36 year old he really was. We had decided this year to enter two cars in the BEAT, with Sandra & Daniel (our daughter and son-in-law) driving the Alfa.
All was going really well, and the kids were just ecstatic over the opportunity to drive a real, honest to goodness Italian sports car. They were having a ball. About the time we were passing through downtown Jerome, Alphy began to complain mildly. Ominous sounds were emanating from under his hood.
In Cottonwood at a photo rest stop in Dead Horse State Park, we pulled over and investigated the sound from the engine compartment. It was pretty obvious the sound was coming from the alternator, and it was not a good sign. I carry lots of spares in Alphy’s trunk, but not a spare alternator.
Being in Northern Arizona with a car problem, particularly in one of those funny little European sports cars was not an easy thing to fix. It seems as though Northern Arizona is basically shut down on weekends for a vexing problem such as we had. Daniel is apparently somewhat of a modern techno-nerd, and his Blackberry gadget allowed us to locate and contact all sorts of possible help. We called some of our always-helpful Alfa Club sources, but there was little they could do to help via long distance. We located a NAPA store in Cottonwood, and the nearest ’74 GTV alternator they could find in their computer was Atlanta, Georgia! They had no ability to cross reference the Bosch number for the GTV with any other comparable part we might use.
Then, along came Karl, a really gentle, low-key kind of fellow who was driving the follow-up tow vehicle for the BEAT. He was also the owner of Redrock Precision Motors in Sedona, and a very knowledgeable auto mechanic. He suggested we either load Alphy on his trailer, or drive the car to his garage in Sedona where he would keep it inside his garage for the weekend until we could obtain another alternator (or fix).
What a predicament. We had one little “furrin” car and four people, and no, there is no way in this world four of us would fit in our one remaining car. The Blackberry called car rental places in both Sedona and Flagstaff and neither was open on weekends. Karl suggested a daily shuttle from Flagstaff to Phoenix the kids could take on Sunday morning. It would seem there was no other option but to send our kids ignominiously back home on a shuttle, instead of the shiny red little Italian sports car they had fallen in love with.
Now, the miraculous rest of the story. We drove Alphy to Karl’s garage in Sedona. His parking lot in front of the garage was nearly completely covered with the many tents of a large, weekend crafts fair. I asked if he rented his space for them to have the fair, and he said “No”. He charged them nothing, and had the craft fair people instead contribute to a local charity for lost/homeless dogs. He was that kind of guy.
Then there was Paul. He was in Karl’s garage working on a weekend project of his own. He was basically Karl’s landlord in that he owned the land on which Precision Motors was located, and he and Karl had worked out some sort of agreement that allowed Paul to work on personal projects in Karl’s garage on weekends.
Paul was a man of many past endeavors, having owned and sold (or lost) a number of varied businesses over the years. One of them was a foreign car electric repairs business in Phoenix over thirty years ago. He asked what was the problem with Alphy. We said it was most probably an alternator problem. He said all he was doing about thirty years ago was rebuilding alternators, would we like him to take a look at it? We handed him the keys.
Karl took Sandra & my wife Jan to the Lodge in Flagstaff where all the BEAT entrants were staying. Daniel wanted to ride along with me in the Healey. About three hours later, while sitting around the table having a drink with Karl at the Lodge, Daniel got a call on his Blackberry gadget. It was Paul, wanting to know when we would like to pick up Alphy!
The next morning (Sunday), Karl took the kids back to the garage in Sedona, and we soon followed in the Healey. Since we had not driven far with the failing alternator, the damage was not too serious. Paul showed me the toasted parts of the alternator rear bearing, said he found an appropriate replacement bearing, replaced the brushes with new ones, and pronounced the alternator was good to go and would probably outlast the car. The man spent his Saturday night working to get our Alfa going again.
What are the chances? An experienced alternator rebuilder, working on a personal project in Karl’s garage, willing to spend his time finding appropriate parts to rebuild our alternator on Saturday night in Northern Arizona?
One side note- Paul said he had actually worked on our alternator nearly thirty years ago in his Phoenix shop. It was not the original alternator for the GTV, and there were identifying letters he stamped inside the case of all the units he worked on. And, he jokingly said with a smile, the warranty ran out at thirty years. Sorry!
The kids were able to enjoy the thrill of completing the drive, with Alphy growling like a tiger all the way home. And, with a great story to tell at the end.
This article was previously published in the Alfa Owner, the official publication of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club and is reprinted here with their kind permission
For this 14th annual ride participants readied their vehicles in anticipation for this two day auto rallye event. Every beautifully
represented car from Deutschland and the surrounding European countries attended. With over 22 different marques this event had a wonderful turnout. Summed up with a sentence from their website, “the B.E.A.T. represents the largest multi-marque driving event in the Southwest where owners can mingle with other drivers of a different marque.” This is the roots of the event to share camaraderie with new and old friends, all while sharing stories on these beloved vehicles.
Participants began the tour in north Phoenix meeting right off I-17. Eager car enthusiasts exchanged stories in the hustle before starting their engines. Registered participants of the event received a grab-bag of goodies to commemorate this years Tour.
The convoy headed out towards Wickenburg, our first stop of the day, for coffee and donuts. Followed shortly after for a drive through Joshua Tree National Forest and towards 89 up to Prescott. The landscape was phenomenal as lines of all makes and models of European
cars sped down the hot asphalt towards our next stop in Prescott.
As we rolled into town we were lined up along Prescott’s famed Whiskey Row. B.E.A.T. is the only car organization that forces a closure to this most popular street.
Participants had quite a warm welcome from the community. Exchanging stories, showing off engines, and what makes each of their cars unique.
After a hearty lunch we loaded back into our rides and prepared for our drive up towards Mingus Mountain and around the switchbacks
towards Jerome. Out over the gorgeous landscape was our next stop at Dead Horse Ranch. This was a short stop at one of Arizona’s State Parks where participants had their picture taken and a series of contests were held for an award ceremony that evening.
One by one each car decided to make the final plunge down the 89A to cruise downtown Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.
The days ride ended at Little America in Flagstaff. All were able to get out and stretch after the long journey. Food and a cash bar were provided while participants enjoyed more of each others company.
The traveling car show returned to Phoenix via Strawberry, Pine and Payson early Sunday afternoon. All with aspirations for next year.
For more information pertaining to the B.E.A.T., and how you can be involved, please visit their website at www.beataz.com.
Originally published in the May 2011 issue of The StarDust Newsletter published by the MBCA Desert Stars Section bi-monthly.
Always envious of those driving their exotics in the Copperstate 1000, I decided to enter my everyman’s MG in the BEAT (British-Euro Auto Tour, see www.beataz.com). I managed the entire tour, drove some fabulous AZ roads, met many enthusiastic people and clocked 402 miles, though not without a few adventures along the way.
Since I was looking at the BEAT as the high point of the Spring activities, the first thing the MG had to do to raise my blood pressure was start leaking coolant out the head gasket. Until this point, I was concerned about my transmission, which rattled and sizzled furiously above 2000 rpm. The solution to that was to drive at 4000 rpm, where the engine noise drowned out the transmission noise. But the head gasket had to be fixed and there was only 10 days to go. I ordered all the gaskets and paid for express shipping. With my strong son-in-law at my side, I supervised and he did the lifting and resetting of that cast iron (heavy) head. Everything went together well until I tried to start the car. It started, but ran terribly. It seemed like it was running on only 2 cylinders. I checked everything, twice. I assured myself I had the correct firing order 1-3-4-2 and that I had the plug wires in anti-clockwise rotation. With 2 days left, I gave up and sought professional help. I towed the car 60 miles to Bawb Branton of CARS of Phoenix, a really pleasant Brit car mechanic. Within 20 seconds, Bawb fixed the car by reversing 2 plug wires. No matter how many times I had checked for 1-3-4-2, I had somehow connected the plugs in 1-3-2-4 and could never see it. My feeling of stupidity was only matched by my joy of being able to make the BEAT.
I met up with the BEAT group right in Wickenburg, their first restroom and donuts break. Altogether there were 106 cars of all sorts! I was surprised there was no cutoff in age. There was a Maclaren right next to a TR6 and an Audi R8 right behind me. But nearly all the cars were wonderful in their own ways (an Audi A4? Come on!) and all the drivers were eager to continue. There was even a blue & silver Rolls with Mom and 2 kids in tow.
We took off on rte 93, with me leading the Audi. This mini race lasted until the first passing zone where the V10 wailed as it passed me in about 1.5 seconds, probably in 2nd gear. Oh well, at least I could eke my way up to 60 and stay within the speed limits. The route continued onto 97, the Bagdad-Hillside road. I had forgotten what a great road that was. From Kirkland we took Iron Springs to Prescott; after lunch, 89A to Flagstaff and spent the night at Little America. The return route included Lake Mary Road and then 87 onto Payson and the Valley, though I broke off at 260 to cut back thru Prescott.
Stopping for gas in Camp Verde before the section of I-17 to 169 & Prescott, I inspected the engine – still no leaks from the head gasket or those damn engine side covers – great!
Got back in the car and turned the key to …. Nothing. Not a click, not a sound. I thought, maybe I need to rap the solenoid Fonzi-like with a hammer because of the heat. I look down into the area of the starter from the top to see what sort of room there is for a hammer swing. And there is the battery cable and the heavy brown wires that feed the entire electrical system all attached to the solenoid bolt, swinging free and clear from the solenoid. I would have no starter but all the ignition necessary, so I look around for help for a push-start. At the next pump there were 5 guys with their Harleys, one bigger than the next (both the bikes & the guys). I was quickly on my way home. Needless to say, I drove straight thru to home. It was hot enough that everything I drank went out in sweat and I never needed a bathroom break.
Yesterday, I inspected the damage from underneath and found all the wires and the solenoid bolt burnt. Why my harness did not go up in smoke or why the car did not catch fire, I don’t know. But then I also don’t know how I could look at 1-3-2-4 at least 3 times and always see something different. I guess the car must like its new home enough to engage in mischief but not evil. This story is more MG than BEAT, but this is the Morris Gazette, not the BEAT website. I enjoyed my car, I enjoyed the ride, but I really enjoyed all the people I met. It was great fun and I will definitely do it again!
Drivers take car show on road in Arizona
Special for The Republic
Ahwatukee residents Mike and Janice Goodwin and their 1968 OTS E-Type Jaguar with original pale primrose yellow paint are ready to hit the road for this weekend’s 13th annual British European Auto Tour (BEAT).
The couple and Roger Guzowski organized the two-day rite-of-spring road trip 13 years ago, and have seen it become a popular draw for Southeast Valley and other drivers.
The drive covers scenic roads from Phoenix to Flagstaff and back, with stops to show off vehicles manufactured in Great Britain or Europe that range from the 2010 Mini Cooper to a classic 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
Organizing the weekend is a six-month labor of love requiring close communication with government entities in stopover towns and cities, and state and local car clubs.
“It does take a lot of work and time,” Janice Goodwin admitted as she and Mike packed 145 goody bags for distribution to participants. Her “real job” is an accounting supervisor with a title insurance company, his a stockbroker with Charles Schwab.
“I think the camaraderie is wonderful; you have so many car groups getting together and they’re all real mellow. And then, Sunday morning, hearing how much everyone enjoyed the drive makes it worth the work,” Janice said.
The BEAT tour begins at 6:30 a .m. Saturday with drivers of the 145 British- and European-made cars gathering in north Phoenix.
The first convoy stop is in Wickenburg for coffee and doughnuts, followed by a cruise through the Joshua Tree National Forest to Kirkland and then Prescott.
BEAT is the only car organization that forces a closure of Prescott’s famed Whiskey Row.
During that two-hour stop, the tourists conduct a “mini car show” before climbing up the multiple switchbacks of the 7,800-foot Mingus Mountain to Jerome, then dropping down to the chaparral of Clarksdale and Cottonwood before cruising downtown Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon.
The day’s ride ends at Little America in Flagstaff tonight, returning to Phoenix via Strawberry, Pine and Payson early Sunday afternoon.
Matt Reynolds, 20, of Tempe, is one of the youngest drivers, even though he’s been a part of BEAT for more than 10 years. As a child, he accompanied his parents John and Patricia Reynolds in their Triumph TR6.
This is the second year the Arizona State University student is cruising in his dark blue, 1970 Triumph TR6.
“It sat 15 years under a tree in a Tempe yard, infested with black widows, but my Dad and I completely took it apart and rebuilt it over three years,” said Reynolds, vice-president of the 100-member Desert Center Triumph Register Club of America.
“It’s the perfect car, but I don’t use it every day; just weekends and for having fun.”
It’s the first BEAT trip for Chandler resident Trudy Crable and her bright red Mach 1 Triumph Spitfire convertible, named “Maggie.”
The “62-year-old going on 42″ said she’s looking forward to “hanging out with other enthusiasts” and driving her car on the 651-mile round-trip tour.
This year, Gilbert residents Stu and Debbie Lasswell celebrate a decade of BEAT participation, once again driving their classic 1957, apple green TR-3 Triumph.
The multiple award-winning Triumph is more than a weekend car.
“We pretty much went coast to coast in this car last year,” Lasswell, a Tempe postman, said.
The varied and beautiful scenery are big reasons the couple likes the BEAT drive.
“You drive through some of the most scenic areas of Arizona,” he said. “And it’s fun – a big traveling car show.”