January 22, 2020

A Salute to Friendship

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

I drove the Daimler to the Owl’s Head Transportation Museum’s British Car Show last month.  Tony Albert took his MGB, Doug Latham drove a customer’s MGB (with permission, of course) and Brenda, Doug’s finance, drove Doug’s Jaguar XK-140.  (Now there’s proof of his love, should she need it.)  Larry Davis, the machinist who made so many of the Daimler’s parts ― and even more for my ’57 Land Rover 109 ― accompanied me.  It was great to have company.

As it turned out, I needed it.

Fall colors flared.  Leaves flew up in our wake as these four antique sports cars prowled and growled south along Route 1 toward Rockland.  Sure, I loved the drive.  I spent the time giving thanks for just how fortunate I am.  No, I’m not talking about the Daimler.  Not here.  It motored along in less than top-notch form.  Both the gas filter and secondary strainer clogged periodically.  The engine, starved for fuel, balked and hesitated.  I’d inadvertently purchased poor quality gas.  We had to stop to clean the filters time and again.

Finding the proper fuel for the Daimler is a problem common among antique cars.  On this trip, it was a nightmare.  The car was designed for ‘Five Star Fuel’ or 100 octane, leaded gas.  The best I can find at present is 93 octane unleaded with 10% ethanol throw in to further complicate the issue.

My car isn’t thrilled with what I feed it.  Alas!  Neither is it bashful about telling me.

But my point here, no one minded helping.  So as I marvel at my good fortune, I’m referring to the friendship, to the people who made this trip possible.  We got together, four heads under the Daimler’s bonnet, priests consulting over why the oracle wasn’t responding.

Doug found the issue.  Calling my attention to the fuel strainer with a work-worn finger, he tapped the glass.  “There’s your problem.”

He was right, of course.  The filter was opaque.

“The creeping crud!” I exclaimed, horrified.

“Stopped by the filters,” Tony comforted, moustache bristling.

“Be relieved,” Larry instructed, eyeglasses flashing.  “It’s not the car’s fault.”

Tony and his MG have ferried me back and forth between Doug’s garage and my home innumerable times.  “Do you need tools?” he asked.  “I’ve got a box in the trunk.”

“Thanks, buddy.  I carry the basics, too.”  I don’t believe anyone drives a British sports car ― at least not very far ― without tools.  I set about disassembling the filters.

Larry corrected my technique.  “Try prying up that hose with your screwdriver.  That’ll break the seal.”

When I opened the fuel filter, Doug handed me a soft brush.  “Here.  Clean the screen with this.”

Tony gave me a drop-cloth.  “This’ll keep the gas off the finish.”

“That filter is directional,” Doug warned.  “Make sure you reinstall it properly.”

The Daimler ran exuberantly after each cleaning, but only for awhile.  A tan-colored precipitate recoated the filter screens every few, short miles.  I got sick of it quickly but my friends were there to help with no less commitment each time.

When we finally reached the show, I gazed around the tarmac.  The Owl’s Head Transportation Museum is a wonderful facility.  They bring history alive, not merely by displaying it, but by operating it.  That’s a key distinction.  Engines coughed, burped and sputtered.  Cloth covered biplanes roared overhead.  Hundreds of antique autos decorated the pavement below.  Everywhere among the glittering and multi-colored Austin Healys, Jaguars,  Land Rovers, MGs, Rovers, a sole Shelby, Sunbeams, Triumphs and a lone TVR were friends helping each other, tinkering with this, complimenting on that and having a wonderful time doing it.

I marveled at the friendships that make old equipment run.

That’s what I want to highlight.

Because at their heart, old cars are people.  Keeping them alive is a human effort.  I’m giving thanks for that, for the friends who made my trip not just entertaining but instructive as well.  The Daimler wouldn’t be any fun without them.  I’m very fortunate and proud to admit it.

This is a salute to friendship.