Building T (part 2)

Drove the Spyder the 100 miles or so to Mechanicsburg and then to the Carlisle Import and Performance Nationals last weekend, and the car pleased the crowds in Building T and elsewhere as expected—though not without a few complications.

We started out a few days before with an oil change and a chance to clean up some minor issues.

This sump plate had been dripping just a bit for years—the farthest right stud was short and its acorn nut was missing the copper washer. I bought a new gasket set and changed it out, adding that center drain plug while I was at it. The result? No “marking of the territory” for the first time since I’ve owned the car.

I also installed the breather hose fitting from the oil fill tube, and made and installed the limiting straps to keep the rear axles from drooping too far when the car lifts up.

A new set of rear brake lines with banjo fittings into the calipers also solved an interference issue with the body.

With the Black Box MAP system installed and the timing table roughed-in for part-throttle vacuum advance I was starting to take mileage readings on the car, and they were encouraging: over 24 mpg in mixed driving, including some fairly long warmup/adjustment sessions.

Of course, with a fresh tank of premium gas, the Filter King fuel pressure regulator started dripping again. Damn that thing! On the morning of the big show I bypassed it again with a more pedestrian filter, and set off on some beautiful country roads.

Almost immediately I noticed a miss at part throttle. One of the idle jets was clogging!

Not feeling like working on the car I decided to press on. Rolling the engine over 3000 rpm on the highway kept it on the main jets with the exhaust popping and glitching to a minimum. I pulled into the hotel lot two hours later slightly miffed, but only slightly.

I got to the show a day before the car was due on the display stand because I wanted to run a covered bridge and winery tour I’d mapped out with my buddies from the Speedster Owners Group—four of which brought other Spyders. So on Thursday morning I got up early, pulled the idle jets and found a big chunk of schmutz on one. Put them back and circled the lot a couple times and all seemed well.

Of course, as soon as I got underway with the other cars, mine started running rougher than ever.

Again I gritted it out. . . .

If you get a chance to drive a 550—with a bunch of other 550s—on gravel roads through wine country, take it!

Ran crappy all the way to the showfield and I drove it in all dusty and parked, promising to clean it up nice the next morning.

Which I did.

Lots of folks stopped to stare while I was wiping it down with Wash&Wax on Friday morning. The car drew admirers all weekend, according to witnesses. There was reportedly even a gaggle of PCA types who rushed toward it thinking it was a real-deal original 550. I wish I had been on hand to see and hear that.

I also wish I could have oriented the car to show off more of the details, like the pedals and Autopulse fuel pumps. At some point on Saturday it got breezy enough I had to close the front hood to prevent the wind from blowing it out of the prop rod and slamming it down.

But I was honored to be sharing space with some truly rare, unique and occasionally ludicrous creations.

When I picked up the car on Saturday evening it was running perfect. My friend Bill took this pic as I donned my custom helmet for the ride home, humming the Speed Racer theme the whole way. I covered a total of 320 miles over the long weekend—about 200 of them with a bad idle jet—and burned 12.5 gallons of precious 92 octane fuel, for an overall 25.6 MPG. That’s a little better than the 20 MPG or so the originals got, but still about 2-3 MPG short of what I think this engine should do.

You can put the dork in the cool car; he’s still a dork!

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