By Morris Garagian
After the Ice Cream Run to Hanford, the Green Goblin felt primed for a future long-distance run. Therefore, when VBAC Bros. Bill and Dennis mentioned the Ironstone Concours Rally in Murphys, CA, Morris’ interest was peaked. However, after some investigation, Morris gathered that this event might be a little too highbrowed for the Goblin. The thought of an event with a 1930 Duesenberg , a 1951 Talbot Lago, a 1935 Mercedes Benz 500K, let alone a 1954 Jaguar XK 120 entered by fellow VBAC Paul (see Brit Marque, Oct. 2020), had Morris thinking about an alternative. But, due to the nasty virus, the event had been modified to just including a tour/rally for 100 entries with a casual ‘look at’ the cars afterward. The only prerequisite was the vehicles had to be pre 1973. After some persuasion, Morris decided to run Goblin with Bill’s ‘73 Jensen-Healey and Dennis’ ’72 MGB, but once at Ironstone, be a navigator for Bill.
Let’s see, the last ‘stretched’ run was NAMGAR 42. The tires and tubes have an additional 3 years on them, not too much extra cracking on the sidewalls. Points, plugs look okay. Fuel pump ‘ticked’ like it should. Threw a sleeping bag and overnight bag in Goblin and we were off.
The first leg was the worst: cutting across the north edge of Fresno is never my favorite drive. Fresno seems to gain another 1000 people every month and they all seem to ignore low slung sports cars. Just when we get most traffic behind us, a detour pops up. Drat! Forgot all about Fresno County’s penchant for dragging out road repairs. Making the needed by-pass, we continue on uneventfully until meeting Dennis outside of Madera.
Now, dear readers, I figured good buddy Dennis would take pity on the 60 year old Goblin and pick some nice 2 lane roads heading to Merced to meet Bill, but nooo! He decided we needed to meet Bill asap so we could see Bill’s shop and the goodies within, so he chose CA99 to ride on. (I think he forgot his ‘B’ had that nice overdrive). I believe his exact words were “I’ll keep it around 60-65 mph. That won’t be too bad, will it?” Well, I must admit Goblin was a few car lengths behind the ‘B’ until Bill’s place, but its been awhile since the rev counter saw those numbers in 4th gear.
Upon arrival, Bill took time to show us his shop with his immaculate MGTD nestled in one corner, his MGB project car in another, his electronic shop, and a beautiful Avion trailer occupying a spot. After showing us the route, we were off. Shortly after leaving the Merced populace behind, I knew it was going to be a good trip. Goblin’s 4 cylinders were sounding strong, the curves were being straightened, the Jensen & the ‘B’ were in sight, all was right with the world.
Bill had planned a route running through some old Gold Rush supply towns – Snelling and La Grange. Our first stop was La Grange where we stopped for some conversation and liquid refreshment. This was where Dennis noticed a minor inconvenience for Bill – a nail head in the right front tire. After taking a check and noticing that it was only 2 psi down from his starting pressure, we decided to continue. This was the first time I was glad I had packed the portable 12v air compressor in Goblin’s boot.
Continuing on, our convey passed through the heart of the Mother Lode country – Jamestown, Sonora, and Columbia. Taking a break, we stopped at Columbia State Historic Park to experience the way the town looked in the 1850s. After our stop at Columbia, Bill suggested Green Goblin take the lead for a while. This was fine with Morris, with not having to keep up with the others, it was time to be the pace setter and enjoy the scenery. At the last cut off to Murphys, Bill’s Jensen overtook Goblin to guide us into town to locate our lodging for the next two nights. (Personally, I think Bill got tired of sniffing our unregulated hydrocarbons). That evening we enjoyed a good dinner with a few ales in downtown Murphys.
The next morning, 100 vehicles of all types, foreign and domestic, from Alfa Romeo to Volkswagen, met at the Ironstone Winery. I probably could have spent the next two hours looking at the various collectables, but all too soon, it was time for the rally instructions to be given. It was soon determined that this was to be a pleasure run rather than a timed, identify object or location rally. This worked well for Morris, who had plans of enjoying the different scenery until Bill said: ”I get tired on these controlled things. You take the wheel after halfway through.” So much for best laid plans, but I must admit I was interested in comparing that Lotus DOHC power plant with the pushrod Goblin.
As we were presented with the instructions for the rally, I couldn’t help notice the menagerie of the vehicles entered - all makes and models of machinery. The LBCs were well represented. Besides Dennis’ MGB and Bill’s Jensen-Healey, I counted 4 other MGBs, 1 MGA, 1 Lotus, 2 TR-3s, 1 TR-6, 1 E-type, 1 Morgan, 1 Bentley (more on this later), 1 MGTD, 1 MGTF, and 1 Spitfire. Other foreign makes include Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Mercedes. Then there were the domestics: all kinds of years from the Big Three, Oldsmobile, Lincoln, Pontiac, Vettes, T-birds, and a Chrysler Air Flow.
Soon we were off, out of Murphys, and somewhat backtracking through Columbia, bypassing Sonora, and through Jamestown and on to Knights Ferry where Bill decided a driver switch was in order. My impressions of the Jensen? More comfortable than Goblin, that mechanical clutch gets a little getting used to; but, man, that Lotus engine likes the upper end of the tach! Continuing through Eugene, we meandered onto CA 4 which was a relatively straight run to Copperopolis, to Angels Camp, and back at our final destination at Ironstone Winery.
After receiving his ribbon, ‘goodybag’, and photo op, Bill looked around for a shady spot and, luckily enough, found one next to the beautiful BRG Bentley. Wow! The epitome of ‘John Bull’ engineering! For the next hour I bent the ear of Joel Carash, the owner of ‘Nobby’, a 1927, 3.0 liter, Vanden Plas bodied rolling work of art. Impressive was Joel’s stories of he and his navigator wife, Raquel, taking Nobby on various jaunts to South Africa, western Europe, New Zealand, and most daring, through central L.A. on I-405! (for more info, check out Ironstone Concours d’Elegance, 2020)
After viewing the cars and talking to owners, Dennis, Bill and Morris met with Paul and friend Derrick after they had driven from Merced in Paul’s E-type. (Yes, he has a stablemate to the XK 120 mentioned earlier. Lucky Devil!) The guys had driven up to have dinner with us and to check out the battle scars on Goblin (private joke).
The next morning was return home day and Bill decided we should follow CA 49 to check out that stretch of road that followed the original historic route of the Gold Rush 49ers. We went through Angels Camp, stopped for a photo op at New Melones reservoir, breakfast at Jamestown, motored past Chinese Camp and Moccasin. After stopping for another photo op at Coulterville (Den & Bill are still ticked off about being under the political sign), Bill gave us a ‘heads up’ about the upcoming switchbacks we were soon to encounter: “Make sure you guys stay in your lanes. There will be plenty of motorcycles coming at you.” What a great road that turned out to be just past Bagby Recreation Area!
Continuing south, at Bear Valley, the trio became a duet when Bill left us as he headed back to Merced. The two MGs continued on to Mariposa and then to Oakhurst, the southernmost terminus of the Gold Route. From then on it was CA41 on to Madera for Dennis and other routes for Goblin toward home.
What a great run! 330 miles and no FTPs.
Until next outing: Safety Fast!