Tuesday, November 30, 2010

First real drive - an evening run to Kinglake

Ages ago I promised my mate Wayne a ride in the Ricciardi once it was back on the road, so yesterday after work we fueled the car up, and after some discussion, headed north up Albert road.

After a couple of accidental turns, and some in-flight consultation of Wayne's iPhone, we found ourselves in relatively open country, with lots of green fields beautifully lit by the late afternoon sun. Perfect conditions for a ride in an open topped sports car.

On a whim we decided to head to Kinglake, and took the Whittlesea road. With little traffic around, and a long straight road ahead, I dropped the car down two gears and briefly let the 1750 have its head in third. Wayne was suitably impressed with the acceleration (and with the sound!), but when I reached the speed limit and backed off the throttle, the car gave a shimmy I didn't like at all. We were running dead straight at the time, so clearly something is awry underneath - a warning I was careful to heed for the rest of the drive.

Once we got to the twisty bits the car should have come into its own, but it really didn't seem comfortable, and I didn't have any confidence in the response if I pushed it.

Getting the car to turn in precisely was tricky - it had a tendency to wander during the turn-in phase, and I could feel a bit of a clunk or rattle through the wheel - possibly that caster rod I spotted yesterday. If I was trail braking, the clunk was more pronounced, and it seemed to mark the end of turn in. The car was also inconsistent right to left, turning in quite sharply for left handers, but understeering past the desired turn-in point going right. Once into the corner, the understeer persisted on right handers, with an odd feeling from the back end as if it didn't want to turn. On left handers the wheel wanted to keep turning, as if the camber was pulling it into the corner.

The upshot was that a Jeep that I had overtaken had no difficulty staying with us, actually closing up through some of the corners.

Driving into Kinglake itself I got quite a fright when a very loud clicking noise started up somewhere in the front, with a frequency that rose and fell with the engine revs. All the gauges looked ok, but I pulled gingerly off the road and popped the bonnet. The noise wasn't coming from the engine bay (whew!), but was clearly audible in the cockpit - tacho? Yes - I put a finger on the tacho face and felt the vibration. Reaching behind I was able to move the cable housing slightly and the vibration went away. Clearly something wrong with the cable or attachment.

Dinner at the Kinglake pub - very nice fish and chips - and then back toward town. This time we chose the Hurstbridge route, which involves a very nice twisty section coming down the hill. The view out over the valley was great, but I was distracted by the tacho vibration, and spent the first few corners with one hand under the dash trying to move the cable around. After a polite request from my passenger to watch the road, I reluctantly abandoned the tacho to its fate and concentrated on feeding the car smoothly into the bends and keeping a sensible speed, with some margin in hand for the unexpected.

On these slower twisting sections the car felt much better than it had on the fast sweepers earlier in the evening. The left/right oversteer/understeer bias was still there, along with a tendency to wander a little under braking, but in general the car felt much happier and more inclined to communicate what it was doing, and I was able to commit to the corners with a little more confidence. It was at about this point that the tacho died completely.

The run from Hurstbridge back into Melbourne was an excellent finale, the car effortlessly running with the traffic in top gear, exhaust note echoing off tall buildings as we passed.

A fun drive, and a useful education on the state of the car. The tacho cable is yet another casualty, but at least it's something that can easily be replaced. A nasty little thought that occurred to me on the way home - could I have stuffed up the shock adjustments and left one of them (probably the RR, which was the most difficult) out of whack? That might explain the strange feeling from the back and at least some of the wandering.


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  2. I'm a car widow! "Do you mind if I reschedule our date for tonight, I need to measure some stuff on the car so I can start sorting out the tyres and suspension parts."

    I liked reading this because now I know why you look so distracted whenever you're driving.