Time to add a little salt

t is August, one of the coldest times of the year here in the Bay area. Even over here in Oakland the weather is dreary. To get my sunshine fix I am heading out to the great salt desert for some racing fun. It’s my yearly road trip and I never seem to get tired of the scenery on US 50.  I love the little mining towns, secret hot spring spots, and long lonely vistas.

I’m excited to see friends I’ve made out at Speedweek that I usually only ever see on this occasion. People like photographer Peter Vincent, Alexandra Lier (with whom I did a fine book called “Speedseekers” with on Ginko Press), Vern Tardel and his zany crew, and my friend and liaison who makes it all possible, JoAnn Carlson.

I am looking forward to watching my fellow Moparites in the Salty ‘Cuda and “The Fast Four” gang take a crack at the record book. This year the notorious Ethel M. Dethel will ride shotgun, shoot photos and do her damndest to not fly out of the car. Hopefully there will be some new Chrysler blood out there and some record-breaking stories to bring back for you loyal MoMax readers.

It is also time for Nono’s yearly (that’s right, yearly) oil change and quick-tune. She sees maybe 7K to 8K miles a year and only Mobil 1 15W-50 goes in the crankcase. Now before I hear groans, and or shouts of “What, are you crazy using that crap in an old car?!” I have to tell you something. For years, Mobil 1 15W50 has been the only oil I used in my old yellow Satellite that I sold to Nate Tynan. Waaaaay back in 1995 that car ran 92.5 miles per hour on the track. It did it again and again consistently––give or take 1or 2 mph––for years. For about five years or so it never saw the track. Right after Nate bought the car he took it out and it ran the same mph. That is after years of being a citified daily driver, going coast to coast on blue highways and dirt roads, being driven out to Bonneville five times and numerous road trips of several days duration. As far as I can tell, the wear clock has essentially been stopped. 

What goes into Nono’s pan once a year? Yeah, you know. End of sermon.
So, what else do I do to prep a 1964 Dart wagon for a road trip? Sometimes I toss in some new spark plugs, my current flava-flav being standard NGK’s. I lash the valves if she feels like there is too much rockin’ and rollin’ going on under the hood.  I change the fuel filter and the air filter. I clean off the terminals in the distributor cap and check the resistance on my fancy four-year-old 8mm wires I cut myself.

I make sure the radiator is full and the battery is clean, full and charged. I pop the plug on the pumpkin and stick a finger in. I top off the trans and the power steering. The front end gets lubed. I check out the brakes––at least 1/16” of lining and no weeepy wheel cylinders or cracky hydraulic hoses––and I make sure the tires look good and are inflated to 45 psi…that’s right, 45 PSI. I am crazy, but the wear is dead even and the roll is good. I wash the windows and I clean or replace the cotton bed sheet that serves as front seat upholstery. Done.
What do I bring along? A basic tool kit: 3/8” drive socket set––3/8” to 3/4”. Set of wrenches, 1/4” to 7/8”  including an 11/32” for the little nut on a Chrysler starter. One “six in one” screwdriver. Vise grips; big and little. Voltmeter, some wire, terminals and crimps. Set of points and condenser should the Pertronix decide to go crapples on me. An ignition coil. Gallon of radiator water. JB Weld. Spare tire, jack and breaker bar. Plenty of drinking water, beer, snacks, some fruit, bedding, notebook, camera and a good friend.