Did I mention that it was early
February and quite cold? In fact, here in Michigan we had had
weeks of weather with temps well below freezing. The two weeks
before the demo, we were down to zero degrees Fahrenheit most
nights. The point here is that my garage is not heated, nor is
it even attached to the house, so it's pretty much as cold as
the great outdoors in there. The garage is something like 12
by 44 feet, so without a fair sized heating unit, it's not a
space I could easily warm up. Nor is it insulated. Knowing the
car would be expected to at least run, my immediate effort was
to install a 100 watt light bulb in my 'trouble light' and slide
it in just under the sump in an attempt to thin the 20/50 Castrol
GTX syrup that had been thickening nicely in the sump all winter.
Even my son thought that the aluminum foil reflector on the garage
floor was a clever idea.
As the date of the test drew
nearer, I began to worry about the rest of the driveline... what
about the gearbox - from zero degrees to running flat out, without
much chance to warm up? What might happen? And the rear axle
- big lump of cast iron - that would hold the cold for hours...
what about those felt washers that hold the oil in at the ends?
Were they soft or brittle?? I finally broke down and bought an
electric space heater and determined to create a sort of cocoon
around the car, hoping to keep a little of the heat near it.
In the end, what I did was to drape some quilts and blankets
over the car so that they touched the ground on all sides, then
opened a 'window' in the front and back. I pointed the space
heater in the front hole, careful to avoid pointing it at the
GRP nosecone, turned it on, and before long I could feel the
warm(ish) air coming out the other end. So, I now had the car
warming at least somewhat, though I was reluctant to leave this
system running overnight or while I was out at work all day.
A torched Seven would impress far fewer people than even a 948cc
So the drill was to start the heat as
I pulled into the garage in the evening and leave it on until
bedtime. On the Thursday night (before Valentine's day) I prepared
to start the car for the first time in the dead of winter. I
had planned ahead enough to bring the garden tractor battery
inside early on to allow it to warm thoroughly, and I must admit
it paid off. I also must admit that I did not change out the
spark plugs (they sparked okay last time I drove it!) nor did
I freshen up the fuel... it did still have about a 1/4 tank from
last driving season (that's about two teaspoons in a Seven).
I did, however, give a quick spritz of 'Hot Start' aka ether,
to each carburettor in the hope of coaxing the system to life
without undue grinding of the starter.
Surprise, surprise! The little
engine turned easily and fired after no more than about 10 seconds
of churning. It did sputter a couple of times, but with careful
balancing of the choke and throttle, I was able to get it to
settle down to a reasonable idle while I went about preparing
the trailer. Oh yes, did I mention that I borrowed a trailer
for the occasion? I once again ranged out to the middle of nowhere,
somewhere just west of Dewitt, Michigan, an hour from my home
to borrow the 'Lost Onion Load' trailer from Lotus Seven Vintage
Racer Rick Cook. He was probably surprised to hear me mooching
it in the middle of winter, but concurred that some free dyno
time was a great opportunity, and though I couldn't see him on
his cell phone in Atlanta where he was vacationing at the time,
I guessed he was shaking his head and smiling at this nut (me).
Back in Michigan, with the engine reasonably warmed and the trailer
connected to the tow car to prevent it teeter tottering on its
single axle (I learn quick!) I drove the car onto the trailer
where it would reside until we left for Ann Arbor at 6:30 the
coming Saturday morning.