Last weekend was the 2021 All British Field Meet (ABFM) and I entered my latest project, a replica Lotus 7, often referred to as a Locost. The day was a lot of fun, and not without a few humorous stories.
Coming off three graveyard shifts, I was not excited for the early morning alarm needed to attend the All British Field Meet. But I felt like attendance would somehow legitimize my “build”, and ensure that my Locost was truly a car. I have no idea how I get these ideas, but once I do they’re nearly impossible to kill.
And it wasn’t helpful that the previous weekend I’d snapped the throttle cable at an autocross event. I rebuilt the throttle cable, including inserting myself in the footwell to mount it, during my brief times at home before graveyards earlier in the week. But I hadn’t had enough time to test drive the car.
Saturday morning the coffee didn’t reach my brain as quickly as I’d hoped, and I found myself leaving for the ABFM late. I felt some trepidation as I fired the car up and left the garage; rightfully so because five blocks later I was turning around and bringing the car home because I’d overtightened the throttle cable and the car was revving for every stop and shift.
Eventually, I was on my way again. I’d made it about two towns and ten miles when I came to the conclusion that the throttle cable was still too tight, so I began jamming the throttle in an attempt to stretch out the new cable. That wasn’t smart. As my foot jammed down on the pedal I suddenly felt… well, nothing. The throttle pedal was no longer connected.
I coasted to a stop and removed the hood, hoping I could recreate the previous weekend’s terrible fix of a sheet-metal screw jamming the broken throttle cable end into the throttle linkage. I grabbed the throttle cable and yanked hard to pull the broken end out… only it didn’t come out. I yanked again, and the gas pedal swung up and hit it’s stop, and still the cable end didn’t come out.
It was then I realized the cable hadn’t broken. I’d merely torqued the carburetor mount loose with my jams on the pedal. I clamped the cable back in the carb mount, and all was good. Game on.
Coming to the Interstate on-ramp, my trepidation returned. Another first for the car, driving down the Interstate.
But this time my fears were unwarranted. My fifth gear was finally put in use, and the Locost could cruise along easily at 65 m.p.h. I flew by an MGT, presumably with the same destination, with four cars behind it (why didn’t they go around?); I gave the MGT a big thumbs up of encouragement. I’d been there, in my old MGA.
Potholes and semi trucks weren’t without excitement, but mostly the rest of the drive to the ABFM was drama-free and soon I was registering, having failed to remember to pre-register while on graveyard.
But my registration felt like a calculus test that I hadn’t studied for. A single question with a multiple-choice answer eluded my brain-power; what was my car? Lotus? No. Pre-1970? No.
I needed “other”, or “write in”. Where was the class, “funky, weirdness”?
The only generic category I could find was “race car”.
And that’s how I found myself parked away from the main field, and next to a rally-prepared Mini-cooper with a famous rally driver’s signature decorating the sun visor. And it was a legit race car, all the way down to little details like hooks to hang their ear-protection on the roll cage. Talking with the owner, he told me it’d been higher earlier in the week, for dirt, but the fully adjustable suspension let him lower it for the weekend and some street use. Cool stuff.
We were also next to the motorcycles. A 1950s Norton was in attendance, and I think there’s no other classic bike I’d love to have parked in the garage next to my Locost. I had tried to build a Norton in college, from individual parts bought on ebay, but when each bushing cost more than my weekly budget for food, I could never see my vision through. Still, the hunger remains.
Venturing towards the main field, I passed through the vendors. I asked one gentleman what he was charging for his rally-style light guards, and he replied, “$20”. I now have light guards to install. I also stared long and hard at a pair of mini seats selling for $200. I decided that they looked too modern. I’m now regretting that decision.
John Twist, a man of some reputation among the MG crowd was giving a demonstration when I finally reached the field, but I could only watch about two minutes when my alarm went off telling me it was time to go sign up for the “Giant Slalom” the Mini Cooper club was hosting on the track.
After signing up, I had to fix that tightly strung throttle cable or I’d look silly in front of my other competitors, with my over-revving car. It was impossible to fix by myself, as the adjustment required one person to be above the car, and the other to be jammed into the footwell. Thankfully my parking neighbor was happy to hold the upper wrench while I desperately tried to repair my car just before it was due on track.
With success, we headed to the track. Waiting to be escorted by a safety car to the staging area, a fellow competitor walked down the line of participant’s cars, inspecting them. As he passed mine all he said was, “Your tires are too skinny”, and then he continued on. I’m guessing he was trying psychology to beat his competitors?
The last time I competed at the ABFM, about 2013, I think the slalom course ran around the pits. The new course was coordinated with the track and saw us spending some time actually on-track! It was an absolute blast.
My car did well. I was mostly only beaten by the modern Mini Coopers… except a hopped up Mini Moke embarrased us all.The Moke was impressive, its aftermarket cam loping like it was a little dragster waiting for the green light; I was surprised the guy didn’t fall out with its high speed cornering and tall driver’s seat.
Best of all, my family arrived. My kiddos got to watch me race, which was especially rewarding since I’d broken my throttle cable just when they arrived the previous weekend. At the end of our session, I was going to give my daughter a drive back to the show, when the club organizer said we could have one more run. I borrowed a helmet and my seven year old daughter was able to be passenger for my last slalom run. Awesome!
The “skinny tires” man was in an old mini (it wasn’t my parking neighbor) and looking at the time sheet posted online, I’m now proud to realize that I beat him since I was faster than all the non-modern Minis. I guess my tires weren’t that skinny.
I also discovered a video of my slalom had been posted online, and I watched it with some amusement as I heard the announcer comparing my headlights to Mickey Mouse ears.
After driving the Locost back to the show, we ventured out onto the main field together, which was the best way to enjoy it.
I was smitten by the ex-Sebring racer MGA that was in attendance. Had I been a judge, I probably would have voted for it as best-in-show. And the owner was super-cool, even starting the car for me when I told him how much I liked it. The Twin-Cam is much smoother than the traditional MGA “blarp”.
Speaking of As, since we have a project MGA in the garage we ventured over to the MGA gathering to pick our favorite color. I think everyone in the family picked a different color.
Continuing along the field, we found British cars of all sorts. I talked to one man that was slowly building an Aston replica by parts he orders on UK Ebay. Near by it were beautiful Rolls Royce and Jaguar cars that looked like they should be parked outside a European estate.
Another gentleman had brought his chasis only, as that was as far as he’d come along in his project
I took copious reference pictures of a cutaway engine, one which I’ll soon be rebuilding for my MGA.
I was surprisingly drawn to the Triumphs; there were some very good-looking cars in that enclave. And good stories. I talked to one gentleman that’d owned his car since the 60s and he shared fond life memories that involved the car.
Just past the Triumphs was a great looking Lotus 7. I was glad I hadn’t entered the Lotus class and been required to park next to it. Being real, it was much smaller than my Frankenstein’s monster. And the bodylines were right because… well, it was real, that’s why.
We were hot and suddenly the shady side-field where my car was parked beckoned the family. We were enticed by the Range Rovers at the edge of the field, but glancing over I felt a little like the janitor looking in at a gathering of managers. I’m not sure I’m in the right social standing to wander through the Range Rover crowd… maybe someday, if I work hard, build my brand, and my IPO goes well. I’m not sure why I’m bagging on the Rover crowd, probably just jealousy.
After graveyard shifts and then a very full day, I was done. Apparently so was my boy as he simply laid down in the grass next to the car. People came by, concerned, offering me water bottles and I had to explain he was just being dramatic… and a kid.
One gentleman approached me to let me know that my fenders didn’t follow the curve of the cab the way they should. I could have told him that I was well aware of that and my fenders were purposefully mounted there to cover an unsightly panel-gap, but I went with the more traditional, “Oh… interesting. Thanks.”
Eventually we petered out. Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful. I’d had a great day, and was glad I’d attended. The 2021 ABFM was engaging and fun. Maybe next year I’ll have an MGA to enter. The only question would be, what color should the MGA be?