Wrenchin' Racing and Relaxation!
Four hours, two broken rockers and one full day of recovery.
Andy Bolig - November 06, 2011 11:44 AM
Early morning found Jim adjusting the valvetrain on his engine.
The Hangar Hotel served as the place for the driver’s meeting.
After lunch, Jim conducted a short rocker arm swapping seminar for all those in the parking lot.
While inconvenient, swapping out the rocker arms was not really difficult. Jim has a growing collection of these in his tool box.
Jim offered me a little bit of seat time in his car and I quickly accepted!Image: Jim Moore
We visited the National Museum of the Pacific War during our stay. We found it very informative and the displays are quite impressive.
Luckenbach offered us burgers and home-made potato chips. We weren’t sure if the “Slap Ya Mama!” seasoning should be tried.
Before we left Luckenbach, I decided to bring home a little bit of the culture from our visit.
As the sun began peeking around the curtains in our hotel room, the alarm clock began to get real annoying. Jim slapped it into submission and headed down the stairs toward his Corvette to swap out the broken rocker for a new one.
It took longer for his engine to reach operating temperature and clean out the carbon on the slacking cylinder’s plug than it did for him to actually change the rocker and get the car running again. We pulled out of the hotel parking lot and sputtered our way through town as the engine temp began to clean off the offending spark plug.
As the hulking big-block began to hit on all eight cylinders, we arrived at the morning meeting spot for the day’s cruise and festivities. The Hanger Hotel in Fredricksburg, TX was full of Corvettes of about every generation as well as a very cool Camaro and a few other rides. There was a short driver’s meeting to explain the route and we all headed out for the open road in our respective rides. We weaved and dodged our way through some of the amazing landscape that Texas has to offer. The open skies and rolling hills kept us amused and thoughts of the faulty rocker was easily washed from the forefront of our minds – until about two blocks from our scheduled stopping point, Cooper’s BBQ in Llano, Texas. Jim and I were sitting in line at the red light just down the street from the restaurant when we both heard one distinct, and highly ambitious PING and the engine started missing again.
Jim calmly mentioned over the booming 3.5” exhaust, “I think we lost another rocker.” We didn’t need to wonder for long as the parking lot was just up the street. Pit BBQ just took on another meaning for us. Fully aware that evacuating the engine of heat occurs at about the same speed as filling our bellies, we headed in to Cooper’s for some authentic Texan BBQ.
Exiting the restaurant, Jim and Joe Beatty began removing the valve covers to locate the latest casualty of our valvetrain. It turned out that the number two intake rocker reached its life-cycle almost immediately after the one the day prior. Luckily, Jim’s wife brought a set of two rockers when she delivered them previously. Jim’s Corvette gets attention whether running or with the hood up and a crowd quickly began to congregate to see the carnage. After a quick session under the hood of Jim’s ’67, the valve covers were back on and we began re-tracing our steps back through the Texas landscape.
Jim decided that I should pilot the car back to the hotel on this return trip. I can honestly say that driving a car with the potential of over 860hp can be a quick lesson on throttle management. My supercharged LT1 in my Corvette is no slouch, but Jim’s Corvette has so much torque that if you don’t want to replace rear tires on a monthly basis, you had best learn to tread lightly on the loud pedal.
The McLeod Soft-Lok clutch, the G-Force GF5R transmission and the power potential of the 555 in Jim’s Corvette all combine to provide an exhilarating ride, but your mind is mostly focused on containing all the power and only supplying the necessary amount, as you ride that fine line between sitting still and melting the rear tires. As we hit the open road between towns, our minds naturally went back to solving situations like why we were dropping rocker arms with increasing regularity.
Causes of the failures flowed around the cockpit of the Corvette with great fluidity. Everything from over-torqueing the adjusters to excessive spring pressures was discussed. We even wondered if the 1.8 ratio might be to blame as it always seemed to be the intake valve that was affected and not the 1.7 ratio rockers that were found on the exhaust side.
While a solution might not have been found as to why our rockers were fatigued, we did find ourselves addressing some issues pertaining to our own exhaustion. Once we returned to the hotel without further incident, we decided to check out the Nimitz Museum (www.pacificwarmuseum.org) located in the heart of Fredricksburg. Jim and I found ourselves sitting on a park bench, finishing our ice cream cones as Bavarian Oompah music played over the loudspeaker. We finished taking in the sights of this small-town and decided to head out for another well-known hot-spot, Luckenbach, Texas. This cowboy-laden meeting place favors the laid back attitude that permeates the area and once we arrived, it wasn’t long before we immersed ourselves in the local flavor. We spent some time in the heart of Luckenbach, then headed back down the highway so that we could put the Corvette back up on the trailer in preparation for tomorrow’s trip home.
The trip began as a way to unwind from the hustle and bustle that would envelope us during our time at SEMA, where walking until your feet bleed is the norm and amid the crowds and carpeted booth spaces, we were frantically working to supply content for stories, both current and future. This weekend trip was intended as a way to recover from all that and assimilate ourselves back into society. In spite of the issues that Jim and I experienced, I feel that the trip has completed that task. Memories can either be good or bad, it’s all in how you hold onto them. To me, we had a great time visiting an area of the country that I’ve never seen before, I learned a little bit more about the goings-on under the valve covers of Jim’s Corvette and, I spent some time with like-minded enthusiasts, dead set on enjoying their cars.
For Day One's story, click here.