1967 MGB/GT Special: Driving from California to Michigan

Rusty Blackwell Mike McPike
1967 MGB/GT Special: Driving from California to Michigan

Day 3 (Carlin, NV to Rawlins, WY): Weather paranoia/fuel-pump paranoia

Saturday (intended overnight stop: Chicago, Illinois; actual overnight stop: Rawlins, Wyoming)

At breakfast, we fearfully overhear some truckers sharing roadkill horror stories (bear, moose, elk, cow) of the American West. Nonetheless, we make good time through the rest of Nevada and Utah, the MG's 98-hp, 1.8-liter in-line four-cylinder propelling us to cruising speeds up to 80 mph (at engine speeds well over 4000 rpm) when we aren't traveling through more snow flurries, which are quite heavy near Salt Lake City. To Michiganders, the Salt Flats and the Great Salt Lake are more foreign than Jupiter. Wyoming turns out to be windy, especially from behind the wheel of a 2200-pound antique, but a Welcome Center employee disagrees ("This is jeest a geeen-tle breeeeze," he calmly drawls) and says that we'll stay ahead of the storm if we keep hustling.

Which we're doing just fine until until until ... McPike is going about 70 mph when the car starts bogging and not responding to his prods of the gas pedal. Within seconds, as he's pulling onto the shoulder of I-80, the MG stalls. Upon the cell-phone recommendation of Automobile Magazine associate editor Sam Smith, who basically grew up in an MG shop, we check the carburetor float bowls, which turn out to be empty, indicating that the fuel pump stopped doing its job. So, on Sam's advice, we lightly tap the pump with a screwdriver handle, temporarily reawakening the pump.

Meanwhile, though, the same storm has caught up, again subjecting us to more cold and rain, plus five minutes of hail while we're outside troubleshooting. Because of the moisture, the car's windows fog almost immediately once we get rolling again, so McPike--now back in the passenger seat--must regularly wipe them clean with a rag. By this time, the precipitation has turned to snow and daylight has turned to night. Soon, the wipers tangle because the passenger-side blade has slid loose and refuses to stay locked in its track. McPike yanks off the entire wiper arm. Cue an even more harrowing drive through a dark snowstorm, but this time, the fuel pump could quit at any time, we've got only one wiper, and the hood still isn't latching very reliably. Did I mention that this car also lacks four-way flashers? We stick a reflective flashing safety triangle in the rear window, leave the right turn signal on, and creep along in the slow lane at 30 mph, hoping that we don't get rear-ended by a semitruck. (That wouldn't be pretty, since the car also has basic lap belts and a metal dashboard with lots of pointy protrusions.)

The fuel pump fails three more times before we reach the Best Western in Rawlins, Wyoming, twenty agonizing miles from our initial failure. Instead of decompressing with booze, we examine the MGB service manual and the spare fuel-pump points that I'd brought along.

Miles driven: 549 (ironically, the highest of the trip)

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