Kenosha Internationals Trip

August 6th, 2013 by Dale Carrington in category: Travelogues
click on thumbnails to view photos
Idaho - farther than I'd driven the Met before Rosebud Montana Cemetery - visiting ancestors Painted Desert, North Dakota North Dakota Sunset The guy that wrote the Beep Beep song, my sister Dawn, husband Frank, and a Met displayed in the Nash Elem. Sch Library Nash logo in foyer of Nash Elementary Mini family reunion, my sister Dawn, me, my brother Dana, his Janet, Dawn's Frank Mets at the golf course for the Friday night fish fry The grand show at Kennedy Park on Lake Michigan - I'm told there were over 60 Mets there! The smile says it all - This was a great time for eveyone.

Kenosha, Wisconsin Internationals Trip

Having made the decision to satisfy a longtime goal and drive my Met across the country, the International in Kenosha was just the excuse! I spent some time preparing the Met and building a small trailer to carry extra parts, water, oil, odds n ends.

My 17 year old nephew Bryce in Minnesota had called to see if he could visit and I told him to buy a one way ticket – I would get him back home in the Met – he was EXCITED!

We departed Puyallup Friday morning at 8am 22 July.

Bryce had never seen mountains from the ground so we decided to start our trip by going over Chinook Pass on the shoulder of Mount Rainier. The pass had just opened a two or three weeks before and there was still snow up there! We took the small back roads to Yakima, WA as it’s more fun than the highways anyway.  There had been a landslide in 2009 on the far side of Chinook and we couldn’t get by so we had to turn back and take a detour – but it was quite pleasant.  My favorite breakfast place in Natchez was closed – having apparently gone out of business. I was quite disappointed!

In Yakima we turned North to hook up with I-90 and head east. 60-65 mph felt pretty comfortable pulling the trailer. We tried to get a room in Coeur d’Laine but there was a national PowWow going on and there weren’t any rooms available for less than $170 a night. Continued on to Kellogg and stayed at the Trail’s End motel – Bryce met an older gent while I was checking in who said he used to work on Mets at a Nash dealership! And he confirmed for me once again that the Mets arrived at the dealerships covered in cosmoline. I really wanted to talk with him further but we had to get to a restaurant before it closed and we didn’t get to see him again.

I’m used to lots of people waving, beeping, taking pictures and Bryce was really amazed the Met got so much attention and was really getting into waving back and smiling for pictures!

We climbed the mountains of Idaho and coasted down into Montana. We began to have some overheating problems as we left Missoula. I told Bryce about the purple mountains and also that his great aunt Roxy and great grandfather John went to college there in Missoula – John was studying the high tech of the time: automotive electrical systems, just as Bryce is studying the high tech of our times now. The overheating was partially solved when Bryce discovered that the radiator was completely covered with butterflies and had blocked off all the air! I wish now that I had taken a picture!

We spent the next night in Forsyth, MT then headed off through eastern Montana to learn more about our family history. My great grandfather, grandfather, grand aunts and uncles had homesteaded in eastern MT in the early 1900s. Some died due to the flu epidemic of 1918, and one grand uncle died of rattlesnake bite. We visited the homestead site where my dad was a baby and saw a rattlesnake in the cellar that had been dug under the log cabin that they lived in. I took photos of Bryce ‘on the rock’ overlooking the homestead where we have photos of our great aunt Roxy sitting in her Sunday best with a parasol.

Bryce began to drive just after Rosebud learning to drive a standard shift “on the fly” so to speak and we changed seats at fill-ups. Bryce probably got tired of my tips on maintaining a steady speed, keeping to the center of the lane, watching for trucks coming from behind…. But he humored me the whole way!

The Met was doing just fine but daytime temps were in the high 80’s and HOT. Once those butterflies were cleared off the radiator the car was doing better than we were.

Bryce got to drive across the border into MN at Fargo but didn’t see the sign welcoming him home! It has always been a good feeling to me to see the Welcome to Minnesota sign as I cross that border, having been raised in Minnesota.

We arrived at Bryce’s home in Mpls., my brother Dana’s, and gave the Met a much needed wash. Sadly Bryce wouldn’t be continuing on with me to Kenosha though I’m sure he would have enjoyed it.

The next morning (Monday) I hooked up with my sister Dawn and husband Frank and their Met in southern MN. Frank led off for Kenosha and we made good time having no problems with either Met. But Lord it was hot and humid!

I got to Kenosha early so I could receive some concours judging training and participate in a Tech advisors question and answer session, both very interesting and I learned a lot. During the concours judging training we practiced using the judging sheets on John Riley’s immaculate Met – and scored him a silver – that’s tough judging! I think he’ll forgive us eventually.

 There were a few hoods up in the parking lot doing trip repairs. And everyone was moving about answering questions, helping with repairs, and generally having a great time doing what we do. I reset the valves on Dawn’s Met, learning a new procedure from one of the folks from Southern California, sprayed some silicone into the distributor cap – humidity was so high everything was wet and didn’t want to go – then discovered the main power wire to the coil was broken at the solenoid – repaired that and her Met started right up!

One of our outings was to an ice cream social at the Nash Elementary school. They had a Metropolitan as a permanent display in the library! They also had a huge Nash logo inlaid on the floor of the foyer. Lots of photos were taken!

My brother Dana and friend Janet were in Wisconsin visiting Janet’s mother and dropped down to the Nash Elementary to visit with us – a big surprise for my sister who didn’t know he was coming!

 

On Saturday morning all the Mets made it to Kenosha’s Kennedy Park on Lake Michigan for an all AMC display & concours judging of 5 Mets – we judges didn’t get to see the show – we were busy judging!

That evening at the awards banquet I was awarded the longest distance driven award having clocked 2,446 miles with all our meanderings on the way to Kenosha!

 

Sunday morning found us all packing up and preparing for, in some cases, long rides home. Within 20 miles of filling up in Kenosha the Met began lugging a bit between 50 and 60mph (hmm, bad gas?). We stopped to check it out but found nothing wrong, topped off the water as it was running a little hot in the 90+° heat and continued on – with no improvement.

My brother Dana and Janet, returning to MN, caught up with us. And our parade stopped again to check water, found a hot coil and replaced it. A Wisconsin Highway Police officer pulled up to talk with us – turns out she is the daughter of Larry and Goldie Hurley! I asked her not to rat me out to her folks (hood up on the side of the road) – and she said “Don’t worry Dale, I won’t.) And I realized she must have already called them because I hadn’t given her my name! We had a good laugh at that. But back on the road – and no improvement. I decided at the next stop to pull the thermostat to get the engine temperature down. I had been opening the heater valve to lower the water temperature off and on which was not pleasant at all! Back on the road – but no improvement, I decided that pulling a trailer on such a hot day while climbing sizeable hills was probably the main reason for the overheating.

We made it all the way to Dawn and Franks with no further trouble. Looking over the car I couldn’t find anything wrong – we tightened everything we could and replaced the fuel filter the next morning. After packing and saying goodbyes, the Met wouldn’t start or even pop. Checked electric and no spark – opened the distributor and while feeling the wires for broken connections I could feel bare wires. Pulled the electronic ignition module and found that the two wires had pulled through the insulator at the body of the distributor causing the wires inside to pull up tight against the rotor, wearing through the wire’s insulation and causing an intermittent short. There was the bucking and missing that I had been experiencing for 400 miles! I removed the electronic ignition and replaced it with the old point set that I wisely saved in a box in the glove compartment and she started right up – now running GREAT!

Left for northern MN for more family visits. Had to travel some terrible roads transitioning from I-35W to hwy 65 and the Met started a rhythmic klunking in left front and a slight vibration. I stopped north of the twin cities and checked the lug bolts as it felt like a loose wheel – everything was tight. I decided to go on as there was a small family reunion waiting for me.

As I got close to Grand Rapids, MN the vibration was getting pretty bad and I noticed a lot more play in the steering wheel – now I’m worried about steering box troubles or a really bad tie rod end – and I don’t have parts along for that…. 

Spent the night at my uncle’s and the next morning went out to check lugs, brakes, and steering linkage but found the driver’s side lower control arm was VERY loose (left wheel turned in a full 12” at least) and had a broken bolt. My uncle and I replaced both bolts with hardened bolts from the local auto parts store (thank goodness Mets use U.S. threads!) and I was on my way again.

As I left Grand Rapids the vibration started again but only slightly so the original problem wasn’t fixed, only the result… I slowed down from my normal 65-70mph to 55mph where I felt little or no vibration.

Spending the night in Devils Lake, ND I pulled the front wheel and checked the steering linkage/tie rod ends, etc. but could not find a problem. The vibration got worse as I drove to Havre, MT. Just before Havre there was some major road construction and when climbing back onto solid pavement I felt a jar and then there was a little more play in the steering. By this time I was entering Havre and was able to pull into my motel within a mile or so. I decided to wait until morning to inspect the Met – it would be much cooler. So at 7 am I was up and pulling the front wheel, disk caliper and rotor off – the (new) lower control arm bolt had broken again. I couldn’t get ahold of the broken piece of the bolt to unscrew it, had no drill or easy out with me, so settled on filing a notch in the visible end of the hardened bolt so I could try to use a flat screwdriver to remove it. It took two hours on my back working about a ¼” stroke with a small flat file to get a notch deep enough to start twisting the broken piece out… then it only took 10 minutes to put everything back together – practice builds speed! I decided I’d better check those bolts every time I stopped for gas from there on out (and had no more troubles with that).

I stopped to wash the Met and noticed that the trailer license plate was missing – I had lost it somewhere between Devil’s Lake, ND and Havre, MT…  They say “when it rains it pours” so why was I only wet from sweat? Wrote the license number on the back of the trailer in magic marker to get me through to Washington.

The Met didn’t want to start after washing (it had been getting harder and harder to start each time I stopped and I blamed the weather in the 90’s/high humidity and possible vapor lock between the electric fuel pump and the carburetor and possible moisture in the distributor). The consistently harder starts were wearing on my starter motor and I was worried that my 8 year old battery was wearing down.

Got it to fire at the car wash and drove across the street to a gas station to fill up. Car wouldn’t turn over fast enough to start so, being on a small decline – gave the Met a rolling push and popped the clutch in second and it started right up. I was on my way to Missoula.

This route had me climbing to a 5,600 ft mountain pass. On the way up a truck passing me threw a rock that hit the car. Shortly after I noticed my temperature gauge shoot up to 230° and the Met started missing. I lost so much power that I had to pull over onto a dirt shoulder along the downside of cliffs. The Met quit. I lifted the hood and found antifreeze all over everywhere then found where the rock from the truck hit – it punctured my radiator. I had two gallons of water with me in anti-freeze bottles and half a cooler full of melted ice water. I shoved some gum in the hole in the radiator and slowly refilled the radiator with warm water. The starter wouldn’t work – I had to roll backwards along the cliff (I was facing uphill) to try to pop start the car in reverse while trying to keep the trailer straight and me from launching into space. It worked! I don’t think it was just the heat that had me sweating.

This got me over the pass and down to Lincoln, MT where I spotted an auto repair and towing shop. They were all really busy with their own projects but had no problem with me pulling and soldering up my own radiator using their solder, flux and soldering iron (I’ll have to start carrying some of those!). I bought a new battery from them too hoping this would help my starting problem.

The Met started up and off I went to Missoula. The next morning I checked the control arm bolts, the radiator, and the mess from the antifreeze under the hood. Added a little oil, didn’t need water, but when I went to start the Met it just turned over very slowly – no go, no pop.  I started checking fuel – none in the filter, spark – none at the coil. I checked the points – they were still properly gapped. Swapped out the coil and the Met popped and ran when gas was dribbled into the carb. Pulled out my spare electric fuel pump and replaced the 3 year old one. Got gas! Put another coil in. Got electric! Got one more start (my last) out of the starter! Rolled on toward home.

It’s about 500 miles from Missoula to home – 3 fill-ups. Luckily there was always some young guy around at the gas stations that I stopped at willing to run behind my Met pushing while I popped the clutch in second to get it running  - maybe graying hair isn’t so bad to have after all ;^{)} The car ran fine the rest of the way home though the vibration never went away so I kept it at 55 mph all the way home. I’ll pull the front end and find that elusive vibration in the comfort of my own garage.

I had always wanted to drive one of my Mets across the country and I had a terrific time doing it. The trip was just under 5,000 miles round trip and though things went wrong with the car, some minor, some major, there was nothing that stranded me on the side of the road and I’m pretty happy that I was able to repair things enough to keep going. I think most of the things that went wrong were normal things to go wrong with cars in the ‘50s with the possible exception of the lower control arm problem.

I got to know my 17 year old nephew Bryce a lot better, and maybe helped turn him into a road tripper! I met some wonderful Met folks in Kenosha and renewed some long time friendships.  I got to challenge myself and stretch my mechanical acumen to keep the Met going all the way home. This was a grand adventure for me and I hope to do it again one day.

Dale Carrington

Pacific NW Metropolitan Owners Club chapter

MOCNA 4088

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