On September 5, 2020, SBCC member, Stu Mullan, was at Sebring International Raceway for a series of races under the auspices of the Sports Car Club of America. Stu races in the SRF3 class and he invited President Jim Wilson to attend as one of his crew members. This was a rare treat because no spectators were otherwise allowed due to the coronavirus. Everyone also had to wear a face mask at all times. Jim filed the following report.
The SRF3 (3rd generation of the Spec Racer Ford class) dates back to 1994 when the SRF was introduced by SCCA as an economical, purpose-built race car. This is what they call a “spec” class, meaning components are built by one supplier and then sealed so modifications are not possible. This makes all cars equal, leaving driver skills the determining factor in the races. The SRF3 has a rear mounted Ford 4-cylinder engine with dual overhead cam and five speed transmission. With the driver, the car must weigh 1,560 lb., resulting in a very high power to weight ratio with speeds up to 140 mph.
Stu has owned his car for 10 years, and he has it garaged and prepped by PM Racing in Lakeland, Florida. The company does all the maintenance and repairs, transports the vehicle to the race track, and provides race day support at the track. On this occasion, there were five other SRF3’s besides Stu’s car running out of the PM stables. On Friday, Stu broke the transmission and clutch during a practice run, but PM had spares and had the car ready to go for the first event Saturday morning. Jim recalls that as a pit crew member in the past, he’s done plenty of wrenching to get broken racers ready for the next day so it was great to be a member for once with nothing to do but spectate! It was an enjoyable day, but unfortunately, afternoon lightning forced the cancellation of the latter portion of the program, including Stu’s last race.
Jim plans to go to the next SCCA Sebring event in January. Obviously, that depends on the status of the coronavirus and whether the track is open to spectators again. If anyone else is interested, let Jim know.
Although much of the state remained in partial shut-down mode over the summer, the club has not been idle. President Jim Wilson has continued to lead stirring “drives to nowhere” so he and other interested club members can blow the dust off the tonneaus and keep the fluids circulating. Alas, while we miss the breakfast and lunch destinations we used to have on these trips, the driving is still a great way to enjoy our cars, not to mention the psychological benefit of just getting out of town. There were four such excursions during the months of July and August.
Joe Malaney had the following to report about the July 19 drive, which was typical: “…Jim led several intrepid motorists from the club on a 100 mile ‘Tour to Nowhere’ on Sunday. We soared through Myakka City, past Solomon’s Castle and across the wooden bridge. Cars participating were Jim’s TR6, 2 MGB’s, 2 Jaguar XK8’s, a Morgan and a Lotus.”
Jim Wilson’s interest in Triumphs began at an early age and he has owned a 1973 TR6 now for 39 years. The origin of this attraction has been captured in the following vignette submitted to The Marque recently by ace corresponding reporter, Bruce Skaggs (This incident has been edited for length and family content.): “At the ripe old age of 15, Jim got an invitation to a SCCS regional race at Grattan Raceway in Belding, Michigan, about 75 miles from his house. This invite came from one of his older friends who happened to own a Triumph TR4A. His friend, Karl, thought it would be fun to drive the TR to the races with Jim as shotgun. The two spent the day at the track, doing what two teenagers do at such races. As they got ready to return home, Karl turned up deathly ill and unable to drive the 75 miles back. So, Karl told Jim it was up to him to get them home with two caveats, don’t grind the gears and don’t go over 70 mph. With this, Karl went to sleep in the right seat and Jim, with no driver’s license, no experience with either a clutch or a 4-speed and really no knowledge of a Triumph, headed for home. Jim describes this as the defining moment when Triumphs became a part of his inner self.”
Thanks to Joe for the photos from the July 19 drive which accompany this report.
Although not comparable to the coronavirus, “Cabin Fever” can grip those of us who have cut back outside activities drastically because of the virus. Fortunately, Jim and Debbie Wilson organized another drive to help liberate the many who were starting to feel the walls closing in. Unlike Jim’s other Drives to Nowhere, this one organized for Father’s Day, June 21, actually had a destination, along with an intermediate point of interest. We had 19 cars, including four from our partnering club, the AACA.
Starting at the Stottlemyer’s Smokehouse parking lot on the eastern edge of Sarasota, the group was led over tree-lined back roads to Venice. The intermediate destination was a drive-by of Jim’s mother’s house to wish her a happy 97th birthday! Jim’s dad worked for Oldsmobile for 45 years and his mother, June, loves cars.
We did two circuits around the block where her home was located, allowing club members to salute June twice. She was clearly delighted and the neighbors were also impressed with the free show! This event was followed by a drive through the newly landscaped Venice downtown, and ended at the Nokomis Groves fruit store for some of their special ice cream. Nokomis Groves has been in the area for 50 years and their outdoor shop is a local favorite. This stop gave us all a chance to get out to stretch our legs and enjoy a cold treat.
Thanks to Jim and Bruce Skaggs for input to this story. Additional thanks to Carolyn Skaggs for providing the handmade signs, and to Debbie Wilson for assembling goodie bags for everyone to enjoy on the trip. It was a great turnout for a special lady and a wonderful way to enjoy our LBC’s during these trying times.
Suffice it to say, a significant percentage of the club membership qualify for Senior Citizen discounts at local establishments. As a consequence, when the stay-at-home guidance for the Coronavirus was issued mid-March, all club activities were wisely cancelled as a safety precaution. But, while self-isolation offers endless opportunities for perusing online sources for car parts, cleaning out the garage and Zooming family members, the walls at home eventually start to close in.
Adding to the sense of restlessness, this is usually one of the best times of the year for top down drives around the local byways. While only the medical profession can deal with the COVID-19 crisis, SBCC President Jim Wilson has stepped forward with a remedy for the symptoms of Cabin Fever by re-instituting his popular weekend drives, albeit minus a dining destination at this time. There have been three drives since mid-March, with a dozen to 20 cars participating in each.
All drives start from one of our usual jumping off points and then briskly cover 60-70 miles on a tour over back roads through the Florida interior, returning to the starting point.
Thanks to Joe Malaney and Bruce Skaggs for input to this report.
On March 18, club president, Jim Wilson, notified club members that all SBCC events were cancelled until further notice. In view of the deadly nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the same action has been taken by every other responsible organization across the USA. As it happens, car club members have considerable experience practicing social distancing. How many times has a car owner/enthusiast told his or her spouse that they were “…going out to the garage to work on the car; see you in time for dinner?” The governor’s current stay-at-home order has meant even more club members are confined, not entirely unwillingly, to projects in their garages during the current crisis.
Exercising the maxim that there is always something that can be improved on our LBC’s, given the availability of time, frequent contributor to this column, Bruce Skaggs, sent along the above photo from self-isolation in his garage.
Pop Quiz: Looking at the photo, what task do you think Bruce is completing on the to-do list for his 1980 Triumph TR-8?
Extricating the neighbor’s cat, “Fluffy,” from the fan belt;
Completing the Florida annual spring chore of changing the air conditioning filter before the hot weather arrives;
Installing new valve cover gaskets; or
Tuning the flux capacitor to ensure a smoother passage through the space-time continuum.
There are no prizes for the correct answer, or any answer for that matter.
For measurement-challenged Floridians, remember that the recommended social distancing of 6 feet is about the length of one alligator. Stay safe.