Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Great Hot Air Story About A LCP Car Called The Snail

Encyclopedia; Don Piccard
Don Piccard is a Swiss-American balloonist.

He is the son of Jeannette Ridlon Piccard who set a record when she flew to the edge of space. He served as a balloon and airship rigger in the U. S. Navy during World War II.

He was one of the driving forces behind the hot-air ballooning revival after the war while a student at the University of Minnesota. He made the first , formed the Balloon Federation of America, today the national organization for ballooning. Washington Avenue Bridge at night The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is the oldest and largest part of the University of Minnesota system.

He pioneered plastic and Mylar balloon. He also promoted ballooning as a sport and designed balloons to that end.

In 2003 Don Piccard wrote, "In the course of my annual retina exam, my doctor said I would be safe to drive in the Carrera. So to test his sincerity, I enquired if he would ride as navigator. He said yes and here we are."

Then he began preparing a car which became known as "The Snail" and in 1966, British Motors Corporation, through the courtesy of the late Ken Revis, presented Don with a Morris Minor 1000 Traveler Special. It included some special features such as an MG engine, real wood panels, an Austin Princess battery container (regular Morris’s always leak acid on the driver’s shoes), custom seating, belts, mirrors, special wheels and tires, etc.

Because this wonderful “Dream Car” was so special, Eduardo Leon extended a special exception and invitation for this car to be the first station wagon or truck to be permitted entry in the great Mexican road race, La Carrera Panamericana.

On the first day it finished third place in class beating Jags and Porsche's. On the second day everything was great until they hit some topes too hard which resulted in tearing off the sway bar and a putting a hole in the oil pan. After the pan was replaced there was an engine noise so the team was forced to retire after two days of racing. Later on they determined the cause of the noise was a few burnt up pistons allegedly caused by the carburetors being too lean during break in.

Amazingly this car finished 63rd out of 76 cars an even beat some Historic C class cars including cars like Mustang of Peyton Feltus/Todd Landen. It just goes to prove that sometimes even a snail can bet his opponents.

Later on the car found a new home after being sold on Ebay. If anyone has any more information about the whereabouts of this car please let us know.

Check out the size of those Buell air horns on the front fenders! They may have needed a V-8 to have enough horsepower to push them along.

Here is what the author wrote... "If you are concerned about livestock on the highway, look at: BUELL AIR HORNS and you’ll see and hear (fair warning) how we plan to clear the road. We have had the Buell family as friends for over fifty years, using their “Commanding Attention” hailers as safety systems on some of our more exotic ascensions.

Click here for complete website although a lot is missing.

After posting the above blog and during some of my research I found the following story posted on Inter Marque Monthly

Don Piccard bought his first Morris Minor in 1955. He was selling cars in Texas and figured its powerto-weight ratio wasn’t too far off his ‘55 Chev Del-Ray. Don worked corners for the SCCA and said the Minors could shut down a lot of bigger cars. On the right course. Don was also into ballooning. His mother, Jeannette Ridlon Piccard, set the women’s world altitude record in 1934. Don often flew with her, also loved balloons and stood by them as they fell from favor in the post-WWII era. He set several altitude records himself and founded the Balloon Club of America. He also pursued technical innovations and, in 1962, organized the first hot air balloon event. It was held as part of St. Paul’s Winter Carnival.

Of course he needed a car to haul his balloon to events and races. So in 1966, he ordered a special Minor: a Traveller (station wagon) with the new 1275 cc engine and dual SU’s. Minors never had this engine as stock; the biggest mill they were permitted was the somewhat fragile and somewhat anemic 1098. With the 1275 and a small trailer, Don travelled (note cheap pun) to events all over the country. For instance, he won the first Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, today’s biggest hot air balloon event.

Flash forward to 2002. Don still owns the Traveller. On a trip to Mexico (not in the Morris) he visits the Carrera Panamerica, something he remembers from his Texas days. He decides it looks like fun and decides it’s time for the Morris to make the run. Some potential problems arose. Some people thought Don is too old (77) for an event like this. Don does not. In fact, there is no record of Don even considering his age as an issue. Another potential problem is his vehicle. It is, after all, a station wagon and some sporty car weenies might object to its participation. Don talked to the event authorities. They thought it’s probably OK, but tell him he needs to bring documentation that the vehicle actually did leave the factory with a 1275 engine.

Back in the Cities, Don considered another potential problem, that he’d wreck the car. It became clear that this was not some unlikely possibility that would occur on a deserted Mexican highway. It was a one hundred percent certainty that would happen in the garage as the Morris was altered to meet race requirements. In particular, installation of a full roll cage would mean trashing the car’s stock interior. And no telling what all the decals would do to the patina of its paint job. Plan 2 began to take shape. First, a decrepit Traveller was located and hauled to Brian McCullough’s shop in Stacy. Brian and Don began work, gutting the interior and repairing the rust holes. A full roll cage was installed along with decidedly non-stock race seats, five-point harnesses, a fuel cell, and a large air tank for the semi horns. (About the horns: Don feels he may need something to move cows and spectators out of the way. These should do the trick, even if the cows are in the next county.) The Morris arrived with the normal 1100 engine so a 1275 was needed. A quick scan around Brian’s shop turned up a 1962 MG Midget whose restoration/modification had been put on hold while its owner started a new business. After a conversation with the Midget’s owner, the Morris had an engine and the team had a sponsor, Phil Vanner’s Square Peg Diner. A lot of work had already been done, and money spent, on the Midget mill so not much more was necessary.

In the meantime, Don located a navigator, Triumph TR3 driver Ed Ryan. Ed had never participated in an event like this so he spent fall weekends at the Healey Hillclimb and the Escape to Wisconsin Rally. The team should be underway soon, towing the Morris to Texas.

This year’s race takes place from October 24 to 30. Each of the seven days consists of “transit” and “special” stages. The “transit” stages are run on regular roads with normal traffic. The “special” stages are three to sixteen miles in length and are run at speed. The Mexican Highway Patrol clears the roads (often in the mountains) and competitors take off at thirty second intervals. At the end of the week, the winner is the car with the lowest elapsed time for the special stages. Entries are limited to thirty from Mexico, forty from the U.S. and Canada, and forty from Europe and the rest of the world. Competitors in the Morris’ class (historica A) consist of such fare as Mini-Coopers, Porsche 912s, Volvo 1800s, and other sub-two liter vehicles.

The race organizers note that the following Spanish words and phrases might be useful to participants:

REFACCIONARIA: Spare parts shop
TALLER: Mechanic workshop
CURVA PELIGROSA: Dangerous curve
GRAVA SUELTA: Loose gravel

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