Pre-LMC visit to Italy

On June 29th the biyearly Charlie McCall trip starts, all those paying attention knows that. My wife and I will participate. Now, I was thinking, how can one improve on that trip? Well, you can’t improve on Charlie’s arrangement, but why not add something? Prolong it? That’s what I chose to do…

Charlie had decided this year to start the LMC trip in south west of France, as far away as possible from his Danish friends. My wife didn’t look forward to a two day 1800km trip (I did! Sort of…). My fellow Danish participants chose to take a car-train from Hamburg, not really my thing, cars are for driving, not trailering etc. To each his own of course, as long as we meet, but I wanted to drive my Longchamp.

Also I had stopped working on my last project (income) on June 18th, so should I just fix the cars, mow the lawn and cut the hedges for a week? No way. So I had an idea. Why not drive to Italy a week before, do some camping/relaxation, visit some DeTomaso stuff? And then drive via Nice to the Charlie trip, pick up my wife in Nice, flying in? I would get vacation, she would avoid a lot of driving, perfect.

For me it would be an educational trip, just like the upper class youth (I’m neither upper class nor youth) in the previous century was sent out to see the world. Man and machine all alone. Cruising through Europe in a continental cruiser GT car. What could be better? A true pilgrimage for the soul, to attempt to mimic that gentleman cruising the continent in the good old days, from adventure to adventure…

It would mean that I would travel around 5000km, and frankly I hope to win Charlie’s “Long Distance” award. Hopefully this year he’ll judge it on km driven in a DeTomaso, as opposed to last time winner’s “Flying in from Singapore” distance. This is a car event, not a frequent flyer miles competition… Just MHO. Fingers crossed.

Would the car be able to drive that long distance? A fair concern that any DeTomaso owner has. After all you’re driving at speeds well above your normal commute for hours and hours, in a car built in strike-prone 70s Italy, maintained by various couldn’t-care-less Luigis, and now restored by an optimistic amateur, consistently using parts from the lowest bidder. What could go wrong?
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En route, don't you just love it when all needles are centered? I look at those beautiful three instruments about 1000 times on such a trip...

Btw, don't worry about the red warning light. Normally a red warning light means stop engine and park on the roadside. Not in a DeTomaso, it just means you're less than 1/4 full of gas in that tank (yes, I have two).

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Again, I’m amazed how many people react to this car. With the Pantera it’s expected, but this square car certainly draws attention, questions and thumbs ups. When filling up with gas (a frequent occurrence) people stand looking and waiting for me to start and drive off.

I didn’t go very fast, I have the principle that you only test your car to the max when you’re on your way home, not when on your way to something good. I mostly shined going up the hills around Kassel, the torque of the Cleveland means that when everybody else starts to go slower uphill, I just decide to go a little faster. Viel spass.

Ended the day in southern Germany. Tomorrow I will enter the motherland Italy.
Mikael glad you got the Starter sorted ;-) Depending on your route and pickup time in Nice perhaps we should join up in Narbonne for the remain of your trip to Dordogne? We have booked our self into a hotel at the Mediterranean and I believe we are departing from there Sunday at or around noon. Let me know if you need some details of a hotel with underground parking 5 min from Nice airport, They run a free airport shuttle bus so no need to get into the Airport traffic chaos there with your Longchamp when you pick up the wife ;-)

Jan
Woke up in southern Germany. Back on the autobahn, but it only took around an hour before I entered Austria, and that meant totally different roads. Suddenly you enter “Heidi, the hills are alive with the sound of music”-land. Winding roads going up and down. I deliberately drove via Ulm instead of the slightly shorter route via Münich, because you then get scenic route and twisty roads. You know tight hairpin roads like Stelvio Pass, but here the hairpins have grown, and you have two lanes going up and can do the hairpin 180 degrees at about 90 km/t racing up the hill (if you have the power Wink ). Great fun. And many other twisty roads where I played with motorcycles, some of them clearly on a suicide mission..

Music is important. As soon as I entered the Alps, I put on Pavarotti’s top 50. Yes Opera. I listen to opera very seldom, but here it was appropriate. I listened to opera constantly for the next 4-5 hours. Perfect!

When I again needed more gas, I came across something rare these days: service. An employee offered to help me fill up! Really? Since I have two tanks meaning hose across the back of the car and you have to use a certain angle to not get the automatic stop all the time, I asked him to let me do it myself. I of course tipped him for staying away, not his fault that I’m sensitive, right?

Again I have to say, those roads were just as exciting as the German roads had been boring. When entering Italy, I could have been on motorway almost all the way, more beautiful surroundings, but I turned off and went via Cortina D’Ampezzo. Even better twisty roads. Fabulous!
Got thumbs up from a motorcycle, a Jeep owner, and the driver of a new Maserati flashed his lights. Good to be back in your country of birth…

In Italy things are different. The German and Austrian hausfraus become slick Italian signorinas, very fashion conscious and very interested in looking their best. They often succeed. Also people drive like crazy. Yes, it’s true. Expect the unexpected. They just make their entrance on a busy main road, forget about waiting your turn, and the arrows in the lanes as well. Speed limits are suggestions only. And tailgating is the norm, I had a smoking (hot) Donna in a Fiat 500 max 3 meters from my bumper for 20 km. She could smoke, adjust her makeup, do a seat-/lapdance to her music and use her mobile while driving, no problem. Having her right behind me was scary on many levels...

Motorcycles seem to believe the stripes on the middle of the road are their lanes.
Another good thing in Italy is that the freeways cost money, so they’re mostly empty outside the main cities. I did the max 130km/t, overtaking a Policia. Then they overtook me at high speed, apparently only to look at the front of my car, and then settled back to normal speed.

Since the vacationing part starts now, updates will come at random intervals, based on wifi availability and me being both energetic and sober enough, so don't expect a lot…

So here's a picture from the trip until next time.

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The trip down here was not without its problems. As I said before, anytime you go abroad in a classic car, you roll the dice. Personally I’ve always managed to get the car through the trip with one exception, I drove my Camaro to Mantorp 400 km into Sweden and dragraced it with nitrous. With water in the oil, I had to get it transported home, though it was later found to be only a headgasket.

After many hours on the freeway on day one, when I exited and reduced speed, I could hear a constant whining from below. Could be a wheel bearing, could be the rear end, could be C6 transmission. Not very loud, but definitely not right. At the hotel I checked for oil leaks, didn’t find any. The noise was very constant, weaving right to left didn’t do anything, so I was sure it wasn’t a wheel bearing. So I had no problems just driving on, a risk of course, I might ruin more, but hey, I was going to Italy. And France. And Charlie’s trip. And Le Mans. Couldn’t stop.

So I drove it to my current destination near Venice, the noise didn’t change. Maybe just a bit higher. Maybe not. Hard to tell. Then I thought, well I’m near the world’s only DeTomaso shop, RSCorse in Modena, maybe they can help? I called their number Monday, got hold of a guy, “do you speak English?”, “Yes”, and we discussed. They’re apparently in the middle of moving shop, but they would help me anyway, I should come by Tuesday at 10:00. Great. I hadn’t caught his name, so I asked “what was your name again?”. “Santiago deTomaso”. The man himself.

So Tuesday I got up at 6:00, left at 7:00, got to Modena Via Salgari at 10:00. There I met Raffaele and Mirko and some other that spoke Italian to me, and I know about 10 words Italian, so no lengthy conversations there. I felt in good hands though. They took the Longchamp in, and just the way they carefully examined the lift points and were two people checking while lifting, to make sure not to damage the car. A Danish mechanic would maybe have been faster at this, but he wouldn’t have been so careful with your car for sure.

So they checked the 4 wheel bearings. The fronts are quite new and were OK. The rears are (I think) pressed into the aluminum hubs, and if bad require both a new bearing and to have the aluminum checked. Safety first. Rear bearings were a little worn but didn’t seem to be the source of the noise. Then Santiago arrived. As always in nicely clean pressed pants and shirt, but he quickly went on a roller on the floor, helping to examine my car. Then we did a bit of driving in it, first me with Santiago besides me. Then Santiago. Then Raffaele up and down the street, so Santiago could stand on the street listening for bearing noises.

The conclusion was that it was not bearing related. So the suggestion was the rear end. It was leaking a little, very little, never any puddles beneath it, but if it was going empty, that might be the noise, so we agreed to have the oil changed/topped up. That could require going to their other shop, and now lunch was getting nearer, so while I wanted to press on obviously, you have to accept local customs, so we agreed I’d be back at 14:00, then I would drive with Raffaele to the other shop where there was room on a lift.

Let me just say that I had started taking some pictures of interesting cars there, but Raffaele asked me not to share them, so I won’t. Sorry. Only this:

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So 1½ hour to kill. So I drove to the old factory. The walls stand, but that’s about it. I’m not sure if it’s allowed to go in there, probably not for safety reasons, but since I was a “fan” and I knew I wouldn’t take anything, I thought that if I got caught, I could defend it. Just looking. The place is almost a ruin. And everything has been spread on the floor. If you plan on going there, don’t bother. The only thing of value as I see it are the mockups of the once future Pantera, a car I think is very good looking, I know other’s disagree. A sad place to walk around in. A bit scary as well. When I was in one of the buildings the solid metal door slammed. I thought maybe I should die there among the dead DeTomaso mockups, how appropriate. But it was just the wind, and the door could be opened again, don’t worry.

Some pictures of the decay. When I has here 5 years ago the office building had walls, I got shown Alessandro’s office. All that is gone now.

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Isn't it just poetic? The walls are still there, everything else is gone. Except the mockup of the model that if produced (*) would maybe have saved DeTomaso for the future. That's still there, it sits there silently, with a sad but also menacing grin, wondering what could have been. I know I'm preaching to the believers here, but the world needs a DeTomaso, a supercar that's just a bit less brand and a lot more practicality and DIY than what's left in the world today.

(*) I love this mock up and would have bought it if it was produced. When I was there 5 years ago the chassis to go with it was there, pure race car, with Ford modern injection engine, huge brakes etc. It would have been fantastic and not cost an arm and a leg, well maybe half an arm... I want that mockup in my living room, need to talk to the wife.

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OK, so back to my Longchamp, drove back to meet with Raffaele. He drove first in his Fiat 500, me following, about 30 km to the other shop. And we got my Longchamp on a lift, and when the lift was all the way up, they used some vertical support beams under each arm, just in case, a bit scary . The shop was full of classic car projects, I won’t tell as promised, but a Pantera was there, but also French, English and other Italian classic cars, totally taken apart.

They got the bottom oil plug out of the rear end, oil drained out, they said it was wrong oil just by looking at viscosity and color. And we drove to another town to get new oil, definitely a thicker oil. Got the oil in, and then Raffaele and I drove the car. He wanted to participate in every test trip, really committed to getting this solved. The noise was slightly lower was our conclusion, and we weren’t 100% sure. Could still be rear end of course. But maybe not.

Then we turned our attention to the transmission. Just a note, these people were really into actually fixing this. If one thing didn’t work, don’t just send the customer away, then we try something else. And time was getting nearer the all-important Italian football game. But they just went on the whole day, let’s try this let’s try that. And very friendly all the way. OK, so transmission is new from Summit from 5 year’s ago, so should not be the weak link. But checking the oil, I found three things wrong. It wasn’t as red as it used to, it smelled a little burned, just a little, I’ve smelled worse, and there was too much of it. That there was too much I couldn’t understand, I check frequently, but we took out a liter or so, until the reading at idle was right. I know that oil expands with heat, but if oil is overheated, will it stay expanded? Hhmm

Raffaele also told me that later Longchamps and Deauvilles had transmission oil coolers added. And as he told me, for normal driving it’s not needed but “if you want to race through Germany and in hot Italy, you should put on a transmission oil cooler.” And of course he’s right. Got quite a few plans for the Longchamp this winter.

Back to the noise. After removing the excess oil, I went testing again with Raffaele. And the noise was much lower. Strange. But we agreed it was much lower. At times almost to be ignored. So the next thing was to change the oil in the transmission. But then we had run into football game time and the shop to get it in was closed. So we could do no more that day.

I drove back to my campsite, and we agreed I’d be back on Saturday, when I’m anyway driving from Venice to Nice, to get new transmission oil. They’ll help me on a Saturday. That might fix the problem, it might not, but then I don’t think there’s more we can do for now. On the list for this winter are definitely rear bearings, rear end, and maybe a new transmission, always wanted that 4th gear anyway.
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Originally posted by No Quarter:
My view while eating


I recognize that lake! Here's a picture of a much-younger Mike Drew and Charlie McCall, having lunch next to that lake. This was during the International DeTomaso meeting organized by the Factory in 2001. What a beautiful location!

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I'm thoroughly enjoying your story! It's making me excited for my trip next weekend through the Alps, Lake Como, Milan, and Florence. I may stop by and say hello to Santiago..but not sure they'd appreciate the late model 911 I'll be driving! I last visited the factory in 1999 but never got to see the Pantera prototype. Wouldn't mind seeing it now! Smiler
Oh no, not another one! You and Stick-shift McCall

I never ceases to amaze me how modern car owners want to elminate any small action with e.g. power windows and automatic climate control, but the most annoying action driving any car off track is shifting gears.
burn rubber
So, I’m now back on the roads after 3 days of vacation. One day of “sitting down by my window, looking out at the rain” (Joplin, Ball and Chain), and two good days where the main decision was at the beach to be in shade or sun, sun or shade. And “another beer, signor?”. Prego!

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Today Saturday it was time to leave. I was driving from Venice area to Nice where I was to pick up the wife tomorrow morning. Originally I had planned to visit 3 of the previous owners (of the Longchamp), a kind of family tree for the Longchamp. All were more or less on the route, max 50 km detour. I hadn’t talked to them, maybe they wouldn’t be home, maybe they wouldn’t talk to me, but maybe they would have thought it was fun that a Dane drove down to see them. I’ll never know, because I now had other plans.

I was driving back to Modena (you can never go to often to Modena, right?), to have the transmission oil changed. The last attempt to get the noise reduced/eliminated. They had gotten super oil for me, I had been warned it was expensive, but at this point, I would have paid almost anything.

So I arrived at 10:00 where I left on Tuesday. Raffaele hadn’t arrived yet, so I could only “talk” to the two mechanics there that didn’t speak English. We got my Longchamp on the lift, and as he raised it, he pointed to some rust low on the front fender, then he pointed to the totally bare sandblasted classic car right besides us and said something. The meaning was clear, why don’t you restore that nice Longchamp? Or maybe even, I can do it for you?

Raffaele arrived, had spent the morning at the company that has bought all Ansa’s old fabrication equipment, testing out a DeTomaso exhausts. His job sounds a lot more interesting than mine I must say.

Well they emptied the pan, then took the pan off, had no new filter so it was cleaned in gasoline and with compressed air, reinstalled, pan on. All this time at least 2 people were working on the car, during my stay there 4 additional people arrived, they started working on my car as well, mostly drying of oil and dirt. All smoked cigarettes most of the time. I don’t think they were paid, they just love cars and are interested. My car was lowered, oil added, and while they checked the level the first time, I counted 6 Italians staring into my engine room. Raffaele asked about my ignition, told him about ICE and how you can change timing curve with a switch, and that it was Australian. Then we talked CHI heads, also Australian, CHI apparently does custom work for RSCorse. They also do iron heads, which is necessary in Group 4. We agreed that the Aussies are doing good work on Clevelands.

So time for first test, Raffaele by my side. Noise again lower but not gone. Back, check level, add oil, test drive. They had me do that 3 times to be sure, I doubt any Danish mechanic would have spent time and time to get it right like that. Of course they were all on my payroll I guess, but the amount I ended up paying, if you deduct the oil, there’s not much left for 2-6 people. On a Saturday.
So, there was nothing more that could be done, I had to get on my way and hope for the best. Grazie and Arrivederci. So off I went, towards Nice. I passed the Lamborghini factory, saw it 5 years ago, and besides, it looked closed, I saw a couple in a red Miata standing looking through the closed gates. Or maybe Lamborghini doesn’t allow Japs inside?
I walked around a bit, many good parts outside, e.g. two Longchamp front fenders, would they fit in my back seat? No, I don’t do that, look but not steal. But I did sms to Raffaele to not throw them out, I might want them. Also a whole rear third of a Longchamp and two whole Longchamp frames. I could start building a new from the parts there.
Next I wanted a decent lunch. Soon entered the motorway, stopped at a Café/gas station, went inside. Waitress spoke Italian, me English. I asked for shrimp salad. No finito. OK, other salad? No finito. OK, burger? No finito. A pattern was starting to emerge… Then everything went black around me, then I realized they were closing for lunch. I repeat: A Motorway Café that was closing for lunch. Bella Italia. I got a jambon et funghi sandwich and a small beer. And I then had to sit outside on the pavement in the shade and eat my well-deserved lunch. At least I had a good view. To the left:

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Then I had 450 km to go. After driving for a while, I found a good speed on the straight Italian Autostradas. I had taken my shoes of, driving barefoot is not something I’ve done for years (what’s that strange smell?). Hot outside, A/C on low fan and one third cool managed well, quite comfortable. I looked at the GPS that said 3½ hour till destination. In a classic car in the motherland. I thought:”Great!”

When I started to go south towards Genova, the scenery changed again. No more flat plains and straight roads, now it snaked itself through the mountains, almost like a video game. Not like in Austria where speeds often were low, but at motorway speeds, brigde, tunnel, bridge etc.

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