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On 7 December 1997, I took RHETT to the annual Xmas toy drive of the Folsom Roadster Club, at Folsom Lake State Recreation Area in Folsom CA (about 20 miles from my home). We got a LARGE dose of El Nino that day; it was POURING down! I left about 2 PM, and he died at the entrance to the park.
It was raining so hard I couldn't even open the bonnet to look, so using a friend's portable phone, I called the California State Auto Association (AAA). In about an hour, a guy was there with a large flatbed (no tow truck!); we winched RHETT on, tied down, and drove home (no charge for this because of my AAA membership). Once there, the guy helped me push RHETT into his regular parking space in the garage.
Over the next three weeks, I determined that the right fuel tank had been contaminated with rain water; the original 39-year-old British rubber seals had picked that time to go south! This meant draining the left tank. I got most of the 9 1/2 gallons out using the fuel pump and a plastic milk jug by disconnecting the line at the fuel filter on the RH inner wing under the bonnet.
On 31 December (a bright sunshiny day), with the clock at 118,434, I decided to remove the tank drain plug to insure that it was TOTALLY empty.
31 December 1997 FIRE!
Sitting next to the right rear wing, I unscrewed the plug -- and as about a gallon of fuel/water came out, the fuel FLASHED for no known reason. I've since learned that the oxygenated/MTBE fuel, the only thing we can use in Calif. now, has a much lower flash point than the fuel we used to use.
Fortunately, I keep two fire extinguishers in the garage, and got it out within 15 seconds, limiting damage to the rear (including both rear tyres; it got VERY HOT back there in the 15 seconds, enough to start melting the tyres).
On 2 January, I called J. C. Taylor, my collector car insurance company;
the guy told me to just take the car to my shop of choice -- "We don't
need appraisals or any of that XX!" So I called Bruce Brincka of Brincka's
Automotive (good friends; they'd done some minor touchup work on RHETT
so they knew him, and their work is to the HIGHEST standard). Bruce came
over and did the first estimate; they're just 5 miles from my home, so
I said I could drive him over (rear tyres still holding full pressure),
but he said "No way!" and ordered another flatbed. We put him on and went
there, and they started. I analyzed the damage (all outer rubber seals,
all plastic taillamp lenses, the pot metal chrome trim pieces, etc. needed
Then, I called my good friend John Kubasak at BRITISH VINTAGES. He also has a correct Spare Parts Catalogue for the Mk IX, and we worked out a list of ALL needed. I also phoned Lucas Automotive in Long Beach CA, distributors for the Denman 6:50 x 16 -- they were still available at the same price as 1 1/2 years ago when I'd renewed them.
Brincka's took more than 3 months to do the job correctly; I stopped
in at least twice a week to check and photo the work as it happened. I
also unscrewed the original British rear license plate, 5547 DU, and brought
it back at home (plastic letters/#s were scarred but unmelted, so careful
sanding and respraying in flat white did them; the plate itself is alloy,
gloss black; cleaned and resprayed). The rear California Historical Vehicle
license plate, 924 C, was damaged, and DMV wouldn't make me a single plate
with the same #; for $7, they issued new ones (893 H).
RHETT came back on 24 April; the bills for work and parts were covered TOTALLY by J. C. Taylor ($7,449.53 including $6,035.29 for Brincka's, $1,414,24 for parts and 2 new tyres).
So we hit the road for the '98 season, and picked up four major trophies:
6/14/98, British Meet, Hayward CA, Best Jaguar; 6/28/98, British Meet,
Chico CA, Best Jaguar Saloon; 7/5/98, JCNA Concours, Visalia CA, 98.65,
1st in Class 8, Big Saloons; 10/4/98, JCNA Concours, San Luis Obispo CA,
93.27, 1st in Class 8, Big Saloons.
Total on the clock today (11/26/98), 121,715 -- 3,281 miles since the fire, NO problems. Also -- as far as judges are concerned, 12/31/97 just didn't happen -- he looks and runs exactly the same, a deep compliment to both Brincka's and J. C. Taylor.
By the way -- my posts on renewing the fuel filler cap water drains detailed how these were done; I also replaced ALL original British rubber in both fuel fillers, to insure that NO water gets in either tank.
Now, it's winter -- time for prepping, detailing for the '99 season. Of course, RHETT will be there for all the events I can make.
01 December 1998
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