More like 600 – 2010 Motherlode 400

Rarely but rarely, I get the urge to torture myself by actually driving one of the old jalopies in the RustyButTrusty fleet. This time, it was the spider’s turn to do the dirty work (and it was actually quite dirty) and be the ride for my father and me on the 2010 Motherlode 400. Now, you’d think something called the Motherlode 400 would be 400 miles long… but it’s not. It was actually about 300 miles a day, Saturday and Sunday, plus another 300 to get to the start/finish in Jackson/Sonora, CA, respectively.

These weekend drives are actually surprisingly strenuous, on driver, passenger, and car. By the time we reached the top of the 9624-ft. Sonora pass (highly recommend it, it’s like if they put great driving roads in Yosemite – not that I’m suggesting that, but the roads are narrow and the views are tremendous) on the 108, the car was panting and we were doing mostly second gear to keep the power on tap.

motherlode 2010 5

Some new playmates for the spider, along with older relatives it’s already met – Aaron’s gray Giulia TI and Matt’s red Giulietta sprint. This was at the end of the Avery Sheep Ranch Road, in the town of Avery. From left to right, we have a pair of Alfa Giulia TIs, an Alfa Giulietta Sprint, a red 1970 BMW 2002, a white BMW 2002 tii touring, and a stepnose Alfa GTV.

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More new friends on the same stop – a Datsun roadster, Josh-the-organizer’s Triumph TR6, and a well-hidden Austin Healey Sprite and Triumph TR3. Sprite was wicked fast and driven with abandon – still having a hard time wrapping my head around that one, maybe he wasn’t hauling *all* his tools and luggage in the trunk.

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My father on his day, next to the spider and a long line of cars behind it. Well near the end of this line – an impromptu repair stop – is the white Giulia TI, which wore out the graphite piece in the center of its distributor cap. I had all the Alfa ignition parts with me but a cap, but luckily, shade-tree ingenuity saved the day: a kind Mini owner donated the graphite from his cap, and it fit, so we were back on the road!

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There’s the Mini – one fast car, and one of many right-hand drive cars on the route. They included not only the usual British suspects (a Mini and a Riley Elf), but also an Australian Giulia TI, a British-market Renault 8, and a Datsun Bluebird 1800SSS with a modern turbocharged twincam Nissan engine.

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Another stop, just after cresting the Sonora pass. The white spider behind mine was really well-driven, but by this point was suffering from a cracked fuel line, and running on 3 cylinders. I had just passed the Citroen Mehari (which impressed everyone by making it over the pass, even if it was in first gear), and we were taking a quick break while waiting for them to summit.

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And here they come. I have a similar question to the one I asked last time I came across this car – how many Meharis will you see crossing a remote Sierra mountain pass? In talking to the co-driver at the finishers’ dinner, I heard the truth about this experience, which is it’s scary being a passenger in a car with no passenger seatbelt, no doors, and some pretty severe lean angles.

motherlode 2010 7

And that was it. Most cars made it through intact, with a couple of roadside repairs and (as far as I know) only the Datsun going home on a flatbed. Hopefully this inspires you to use yours as it was intended!

Some more galleries:

Dave (’76 Trans Am)
Ben Buja (Volvo 1800)
Michele (1970 Camaro)
Aaron (grey 1966 Giulia TI)
Christine Kiesling (red Giulietta)
Kip Gebhardt (blue Mini)


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2 Responses to “More like 600 – 2010 Motherlode 400”

  1. Jeff B. Says:

    Hi Chris,

    Sonora pass looks fun! Not sure it would have been in a 1300 with a blown head-gasket. We ending up tooling about and heading home on Sunday, made it by adding coolant and oil, car ran fine, but by the time I got home the coolant was almost gone again and the oil a bit frothy.

    Take care,
    – Jeff

    • Chris Keen Says:

      Oh no! Why do the pretty ones always have to be so high-maintenance?

      My spider used to do that with significant frequence… luckily the latest one has held up for a few years. Good luck with the fix.

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