The meeting place was in EchoÂ Park, and construction blocked the obvious way there. WeÂ knew our meandering detour was on track when we slotted in behind a suspiciously low, leftover-housepaint mint green Opel AsconaÂ that soundedÂ way too loud to stillÂ sport the 1900cc motorÂ its badging claimed. We crammed into the small gas station and gawked.
Participants ranged about as widely as one could conceive, from a Pantera to a Nash Metropolitan. The aforementioned Evil Asscona to a Mercedes 280SL. Not one, but two gnarly Firebirds and a Citroen DS wagon. This is in addition to the “typical”Â Datsun, British and Italian vintage rally mainstays. Yes, Datsun is a nationality now. Two ladies showed up in a ’63 Falcon convertible, surprisingly devoid of the typical I-6 + auto combination in favor of a 260 V8 and four speed. Some crazy-looking rockabilly dude in a beflamed flat-black rotary powerd Sprite showed up, handed out route sheets, decals and t-shirts, and we were off.
The first 30 minutes of any driving event reveal the character for the whole thing. By that point in the Targa Trophy, I’d set aÂ speeding ticket record in a demo car andÂ someone was using diplomatic immunity to get out of a tripple-digit infraction in their matte-grey AMG CLS. Our dash through Echo Park through northeast LA contained no such ridiculousness. After all, just hitting typical SoCal freeway speeds on an uphill slope is tough for some of these cars. Then the Firebirds, Pantera, 914-6 and yours truly used a little horsepower to rearrange the lineup on the way into Little Tujunga Canyon.
It was nice to first flog the Falcon on a road that’s been the source for many a Hooniverse press car driving impression. I wasn’t quite sure if the upgrades I’d made on the Falcon were going to deliver, but about 2/3 of the way though, I realized the 914-6 wasn’t really putting much distance on me…Â Holy crap! The 914-6 isn’t putting distance on me!Â The gearing was a little tall, the steering too slow with a big on-center dead spot, but it cornered flat and the brakes didn’t even show a hint of fade, despite my increasingly late braking and higher speeds.
The rest of the morning continued with roughly the same theme: a shocking realization that about $1500 will turn a stock Falcon into a decent backroads tourer, and that it’s really fun to watch a bunch of classics driven in anger. We’d rather not overpublicize the route, but it included a whole section of pavement between Santa Clarita and Gorman that seemed to be laid with drivers in mind. Somewhere in there we watched the driver of the convertible Valiant drive the thing so hard a hubcap came off. Between Gorman and lunch in Ventucopa, things were a bit more leasurely, with the (in)famous woops on highway 150 being an entertaining highlight.
We grabbed lunch at The Place, and chatted with Robbie, who was driving a near-perfect stepnose Alfa. Turns out this is one of 3 that he owns, the other twoÂ being a less perfect, more modifiable stepnose and a Spider. To no one’s surprise, we talked cars, go-karts, LeMons and car websites.
The afternoon featured another long highway stretch, followed by a killer backroads tour through northern Santa Barbara County’s wine country. Gas and rubber were burned, wild turkeys were dodged, and a minor navigational error meant we missed the last 10 miles of backroad in favor of highway 101. Turns out the road we missedÂ was so badly paved it knocked a few fillings loose…oops/yay!
We settled into the Skyview Motel, best described as the lodging equivalent to the SoCal TT: an older motor lodge with beautiful views of the wine country from its hilltop location, but not the kind of accomodations likely to produce hyperbolic reviews on Yelp. We were one of the first few cars there, but soon the parking lot filled with people sharing beers, stories and wrenches to mend the wounded. The day’s hoonage claimed at least two cars: the monster 467 Ram-jet equipped Firebird (dead fuel pump) and one of the two Alfa sedans (being an Alfa).
The Falcon ended the day with a mysterious lack of brake lights or turn signals. I used the hotel wifi (plus one star!) to look up aÂ wiring diagramÂ and confirmed the two were on the same circuit.Â I assumed the upside down driving position (stop laughing) to locate the faulty fuse…only to find it completely intact. Turns out 47 years of surface corrosion does not a great electrical contact make. I rubbed it off and swapped it with the adjacent fuse (figuring thatÂ whatever thatÂ supplied was less important than signals and brakes) and everything came back to life. Other parking lot fixes included diagnosing a knock on the other Falcon’s 260 (low oil due to massive blowby out the dipstick), and something on the 914-6 involving sawing pipe fittings in half.
After a long day of driving and wrenching, strolling 50 feet from your room to a delicious catered dinner is hard to beat. Such is the SoCal TT at the Skyview Motel. Over dinner with chatted with a fellow who flew in from New York, and borrowed his friend’s shockingly unbroken Triumph TR8. After dinner, more beers and bullshitting about cars with some awesome people.
Day two brought more awesome backroads, and more casualties. We opened with a trip over Figueroa Mountain Road, which starts off pleasantly, then gets steeper and narrower before finally turning into a graded dirt road. We followed a big-block swapped 280Z whose low hanging exhaust was having a bad day over the loose rocks and bumps. Somewhere along the way the Falcon’s air shocks crapped out, leading to a nice fender-inducedÂ tire squeal over every bump. Thankfully, they weren’t blown at the shocks, just suffering from the predictable results of Plastic Air Line Vs. Exhaust Pipe. We bump-squealed our way through the hills above Santa Barbara, got hopelessly lost in Montecito and limped into lunch ready for some fish tacos.
The crowd was thin at lunch, and we couldn’t tell if we were still ahead or behind the pack. We’d started up front, but our various detours definitely would’ve given a motivated crew a chance to catch up.
Then we heard about the MGB-GT.
One of the two near-perfect MGB GTs in attendance had overcooked a corner and stuffed it into a berm. The driver was uninjured, but obviously shaken and bummed about his significantly more wrinkly car.
At the risk of sounding callous, that holdup was good news for us, as it gave time to swing by the local hardware store and pick up some 1/8″ air line fittings to patch the line. I rolled around on the ground in the parking lot, while Jeff insured no one ran over my legs. Some dude on a motorcycle offered us a couple of Mickey’s Fine Malt Liquors, which Jeff accepted for later use.
The plumbing shenanigans took twice as long as they should have, so we elected to skip a section of the route running out the back end of Santa Barbara through Ojai and just blasted down highways 101 and 126 in hope of catching the group in Valencia. Catch them we did, and we rolled with the Ascona over the recently re-openend Angeles Crest down into LA. We were briefly impressed with the Ascona driver’s balls-out no brakes driving style, until we realized their brake lights were out.
We made it to dinner towards the back of the pack, and attempted the down the warm Micky’ses in the parking lot to no avail. Thankfully, dinner was delicious, replete withÂ good beer,Â good meat and great stories. The 2nd Firebird didn’t make it, deciding instead to pack it up and drive home due to a massive oil leak. The ladies’ Falcon was still en-route, seriously delayed due to a blow out on a front tire complicated by the same 13″ spare Vs disc brakes problem I once encountered.
The TT isn’t competitive, but nonetheless awards are handed out in honor of great cars and great people. People’s Choice went to Karyn and Sarah in the prettier Falcon, and I ended up taking home the Rookie trophy (possibly by default?).
If you’re anywhere near Southern California and are looking for a great, reasonably priced way to spend 2 days flogging a classic car, the SoCal TT’s the way to go. We kept describing Hooniverse to the other participants as “if you like the Socal TT, you’ll like Hooniverse”. The same applies in reverse.
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