A Thousand Miles and a Petrolicious Rally in a Mini
The day I heard that “Drive Tastefully: Paramount Ranch” was happening, I immediately bought tickets. Only afterwards did I begin to consider that I may have gotten ahead of myself.
I live in Sacramento, California, some four hundred miles away from the rally’s starting point in Malibu. I also happen to drive a 1977 Austin Mini, which is neither a long-distance champion nor a paragon of reliability. The thought occurred to me that perhaps I should request a refund on my tickets and save the money for an event more local to Sacramento.
No, I decided, I was determined to go. Perhaps I should trailer the car to Los Angeles?
After some thought, however, I finally came to the conclusion that cars are meant to be driven, that the whole point of a vintage car rally is to get these old cars on the road, and that if I was in for an inch, I’d be in for a mile–or, in this case, for nearly a thousand miles when all was said and done. Once resolved, I decided to prep the car for the longest road trip she’d ever been on.
Prepping a classic Mini is more art than science. Parts on these cars tend to fail without warning, so every single component on my Mini was suspect. Travel preparations included new tires, a complete rebuild of the brake master cylinder, installation of new seats, and of course, a full paint restoration and wet-sand [Editor’s note: holy smokes! thanks for all the work!]. If I was going to go to all the effort to join the rally, the least I could do was make the car look as good as possible.
The night before I set off, I grabbed a bag and packed as many tools as it would hold, trying to anticipate every possible contingency. I also included a spare tire, full jack, extra coolant and oil, and a jerry can of gas, just in case the gas stations of sparsely-populated Central California were farther apart than my little gas tank could handle.
Vintage cars tend to be tougher than we think, however, and while I don’t punish my Mini, I certainly don’t coddle it. I thus decided that, while there are shorter routes between Sacramento and Los Angeles, there are none more beautiful than Highway 1 from Monterey to Malibu, one of the most sublime and exciting roads I’ve ever driven.
By the time I reached Los Angeles at 9:00 PM, after fourteen hours of driving, my back was in agony and I had a headache from all the noise, but I was invigorated by a day full of spectacular driving.
The next morning, my friend Joseph joined me and we made our way to the Malibu Country Mart for the start of the Petrolicious rally, which couldn’t have been more fun. The variety of cars was astounding, and more importantly, the other participants were warm and inviting.
The rally took us through the Malibu’s canyons to the oak-dotted hills surrounding Ojai, and finally south along the Pacific Coast Highway, where nearly eighty classic cars jostled for position along that stretch of coastline. We did our best to keep up, and while a 1000cc engine isn’t much competition for classic Porsche 911s, a Porsche 906, or Ferrari 308s, it sure was fun to play in the big leagues for a day.
As much fun as I’d had with all the driving that day, I still faced a long drive home that evening, so I elected to take Interstate 5–through the arid San Joaquin Valley farmland–back to Sacramento. I may only be thirty years old, but my back and ears were simply not up to taking the longer coastal route, again. The Mini is only a four-speed and highway speeds keep the tachometer at a stiff 4,000 RPMs which, coupled with the road noise, makes noise-cancelling headphones a must for my long-distance trips.
I arrived home exhausted but with a huge smile on my face, collapsing almost immediately into bed and drifting off to sleep with that unique satisfaction that comes from doing a thousand straight miles in a vintage car.
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