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The Crash

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  • The Crash

    Some of you may be wondering why I brought my car to the ABFM in Portland in a state of crumpledness. Here’s my story as close as I can tell it.

    We left lunch on the sunny day a gathering or “moke” of mini’s cruising down the road, Don had done a superb job planning the route I was following Brian in the 72 Mini and we were “enjoying” the bends. Just outside of Centralia we hit a left turn, and I remember thinking “wow that felt good” feeling the suspension dig in, listening to the tires, feeling the brakes and hearing the wind whistle by with the window open. Our left hand turn was followed by an immediate almost 90 degree right turn. Here’s where it gets embarrassing. Classic Mini owners pride themselves on being “in tune” with their cars when driving, for me this day was no exception. As I entered the tight right hand corner I remember the tires breaking loose just slightly, and I remembered that classic mini driver line “stay in the throttle, don’t lift or you’ll spin” maybe I did lift a little, maybe I went in too much, maybe it was road debris, for whatever reason the car just broke loose and I was out of control. Normally at this point there would be panic, maybe some thrashing about with the wheel, stamping on the pedals in a futile attempt to gain control, but I was in that strange slow motion calm place and all I can remember thinking was “damnit I should have had group 2 add more negative camber” As the car spun 180 degrees I got to thinking more about suspension settings, what my toe in was, that I had indeed at least one degree of negative camber in the rear or maybe Chris had only done half a degree, and what of my tires, they’re Yokohama’s in good shape, maybe I do need that sway bar in the back, hell I really need more driving time with the instructor on the track, did I have those shocks set too high in the back, I really should have backed them off a few clicks.

    There was smoke as the car slowed and began rolling backward in the same lane as the smoke cleared the nose of a beautiful orange Mini became slightly visible in the area that had been a fraction of a second ago behind me. I remember watching the expression on Jim’s face in the orange Mini and thinking to myself “that was me just a second ago” and then I thought, “hey he’s not spinning, I wonder what his rear suspension settings are?” A fraction of a second later I noticed plumes of blue smoke coming from tires and brakes and I was thinking “green stuff pads or maybe he has hawks because damn those brakes are nice” at this point I was rolling backward Jim’s expression and my expression became co horrified as we both realized a collision was pending. I remember thinking “really? This can’t happen because Jim just talked to me at Mini Meet West in Tahoe about how his car just got fixed from a collision, any fraction of a second the hand of God will come down and correct this cosmic inequality he’s going to veer away, or stop and we can all point and laugh about it and finally figure out how much negative camber I need. No, the next fraction of a second we became intimate in a strange slow motion ballet when I recognized Jim’s wife in the passenger seat and began thinking please don’t get hurt, please be ok.

    As I rolled back and off the embankment there was a stillness broken by shouts are you OK? In moments club members were on the scene looking us over, checking the scene and working toward solutions. Once our overall good health was determined Jim’s vehicle was pushed off the street and mine was removed from the embankment. Next club members looked over the damage and determined Jim’s car was leaking badly, coolant rupture and was probably lost. I was sure after looking at the condition of my fender that mine was DOA also. As things calmed down since we were waiting for tow trucks thoughts turned to my car to look closer at the damage.

    Fender pushed into wheel so it won’t roll
    Indicator smashed
    Fan and alternator non functional
    No leaks
    Head lamp pushed back
    Bonnet crunched
    Inner fender bent
    Grill crunched
    Fender bent
    Other miscellaneous odds and ends that won’t inhibit function.

    After scrounging tools, and a cable and hook from somewhere (thanks Carl) club members pitched in and pulled, cut pried, and pounded until at last the motor turned over and ran without rattles or scrapes. Next the rolling test first gear engaged and she slowly creeped foreward, I drove over a little pavement and parked next to Jim for some photos testing the suspension as I went. She seemed to drive well.

    Don asked if I was going to continue. I remembered Tahoe last year when Don’s engine exploded, he pressed on, renting a car and still attending the show. I wanted that kind of tenacity, and I was grateful and proud of being in a club that threw everything into helping Jim and I with our plight. Had we been alone, hopelessness would have cast an ugly shadow. Instead the car was pushed back into service and got me to the show and home, you know Keep Calm and Carry on.

    Again I want to say how sorry I am to Jim and Karen, and say thank you to all the club members that helped in the crisis. I’m so glad the club was there to help, happy and grateful we weren’t alone. For me this trip highlighted the benefits of being in SAMOA.

    I’m very thankful no one was hurt, now the rebuilding process begins. Both cars will be back on the road, and mine is going to have at least 1.5 negative camber in the rear.


    Gregory Birch

  • #2
    Greg, Thanks for the story in your own words. So sorry to hear about both minis, but having seen worse I have no doubt that both will be back on the road soon. It's a good day when everyone walks away too.



    • #3
      I couldn't have said it better myself. No really Greg, you caught the essence of the moment completely. I've run over the entire event so many times in my mind that its now all just a blur. There are all of the "should haves, could haves" of course. In the end there are only two smashed cars and three very lucky people. As you say, the caring, friendship, and actions of our SAMOA friends saved the day. Thanks everyone.


      • #4
        That was one NASTY turn! A gentle sweep to the left like we had been experiencing all day and then an imediate sharp right! The '63 made it with just a bit of terror as did the '75 behind me. Then there was nobody behind us?

        We all worked at getting everyone safe and back on the road if possible. While there were no obvious physical injuries Elise spoke at length with Karen, Jim, and Greg, making sure they were OK. She's my hero.



        • #5
          Cheers for the kind words Don! I was only helping with what I know best... people!

          I am grateful for such wonderful club members who will step up and help those in what could have been a much worse situation!