2011 BABE Road Rally and Team THOTC
The BABE road rally — “Big Apple to Big Easy” — is a road rally where participants buy a $500 car, make it safe and legal, and, with friends, cross at least 1,500 miles of highways and byways. The idea is to get a car that is safe but worn out, then coax the cars to go from Staten Island to New Orleans. Driver Matt Podowitz wrote, “Just ask the teams who managed to puff and pant their way through the American Deep South and BABE history. They’ll tell you… sweat and steam are good for the soul!”
Along the way, teams participate in challenges, from costume to collecting things from different places; these are worth points. They don’t include mechanical competitions (as One Lap does). There aren’t any points for speed, and safety triumphs. If a team’s car breaks down they can either retire from the rally, or dispose of the car and hitch-hike with other teams to the end. The first prize is $1500; second place wins $350; third place wins $150.
Allpar-Sponsored: Team Two Horsemen of the Carpocalypse (Team THOTC)
Update: June 1, 2011
With the big day around a week away, Matt checked in with news about the launch and route. Most teams will show up the night before; the official hotel is the Holiday Inn Staten Island on 300 Wild Avenue, which is right off 440 and not far south of 278. (Those coming by Turnpike can choose between taking 278 to 440 south, or the “scenic” route — taking the Woodbridge interchange to the Parkway South and hopping onto 440 from there). Matt expects to show up fairly early on June 5. The launch is around 9 am to 10 am on the morning of June 6.
Update: May 15, 2011
Crash and Val attended the North Georgia Mopar Club’s 2011 Mopar Challenge show. Val didn’t win any awards, but she garnered a bunch of grins, elicited more than a few laughs and raised a great deal of awareness about the great work of American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes.
Crash didn’t realize it at the time, but when he registered Val for the Mopar Challenge show, she was entered as a contender in the “Survivor” class. For the first time ever, the North Georgia Mopar Club had engaged a team of professional show car judges; when they showed up at Val’s sunny patch of the show and asked Crash to open her hood and trunk, Crash just couldn’t say no. Val was looking the best as she was going to that day. As a bonus, the fire extinguisher in Val’s trunk had discharged for no apparent reason only a few minutes before, coating the trunk and much of the interior with a layer of fine white dust.
The two distinguished gentlemen judges did their best to keep straight faces while completing their examination, but were grinning and chuckling by the time they were done with Val. (They awarded her the five points for having a fire extinguisher on board, despite the fact that it just had discharged.)
As part of the Mopar Challenge show, the organizers conducted a 50/50 raffle wherein half the proceeds would go to the show’s overall winner and the other half would go to the person holding the winning ticket. One option for buying tickets was to put $20 into the kitty and receive however many tickets fit into the length of the buyer’s car. Well, the organizers apparently hadn’t considered the sheer distance from nose to tail of a 1973 Plymouth Valiant, and wound up forking over 80+ tickets for a measly $20. (Despite the number of tickets, Crash and Val did not win the raffle.)
Matt Podowitz wrote:
Team THOTC is eagerly awaiting the start of the Rally, but it is at milestones like this that we are reminded of just how much work there is left to do:
- Install a third brake light. People in the 1970s had much better vision than people now. Well, that’s the way it seems given the number of concerned citizens who have cried, “Your taillights are out!” when Val has been out during daylight hours. In reality, the taillights are every bit as bright as they were in 1973. However, erring on the side of caution, the team has decided to give Val a little bling in the form of a 14-LED third brake light.
- Reinstall radio, ashtray and A/C vent. A painful previous repair to the windshield wiper motor arm linkages required their removal, and their re-installation is promising to be equally painful. Apparently one must be 6″ tall and capable of standing inside the dash to reconnect the radio to the speaker (yes, singular) and getting the A/C vent back on requires sockets so deep one can lose their mind staring into their dark depths. [See our experience]
- Install a stereo, three-way speakers, CB radio, 12VDC outlets and USB ports in a car that existed before such things [as USB] were invented. As snazzy as Val’s AM squawker might be, Crash and Burn are looking for a little more utility (and a few more stations). Not wanting to cut into a surprisingly pristine 35 year-old dash to install them, they are doing the next best thing. Kitty litter bucket, anyone?
- Fix the front end… or not… Many people have looked at Val and said, “No way is this car 35 years old!” However, they have not been looking at the condition of the bushings in the steering rack, or looking terribly closely at the front shock mounts. The right thing to do would be to tear apart the front end and make repairs. The MacGyver thing to would be to apply baling wire and duct tape judiciously. The BABE thing to do…? Cross our fingers and hope for the best. Which may be precisely what we do.
- Repair or replace the windshield washer fluid reservoir (and #^@&! integrated pump). While this might not seem like a big deal the size, concentration and general ooziness of Mississippi and Louisiana bugs make a working windshield washer system a safety matter rather than a matter of convenience. Finding a used one in good shape would cost half what the team paid for the car, so some MacGyvering may be in order.
- Install side view mirrors. Well, first we have to source them. Mopar purists may wish to look away, because there is no way the team is paying the $80(!!!) reconditioned mirrors or reproductions of the correct mirrors would cost [Allpar note: Year One charges roughly $100 for a Chinese plastic reproduction mirror of dubious quality]. A few visits to Pull-A-Part hasn’t yielded anything even close, so Val may be forced to sport the dreaded “generic replacement mirror – chrome” on each side. [Allpar note: using different shaped mirrors on each side would make the car look more authentic... for the period.]
Matt Podowitz (aka “Crash”) and Neil Feathers (aka “Burn”) are college buddies who spent a significant amount of their time at college making mischief. So much mischief that they and two of their good friends were collectively dubbed “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” by the Dean of Students. Twenty years later, upon learning about the BABE Rally, Crash and Burn saw an opportunity to reclaim some little piece of their mis-spent youth and team Two Horsemen of the Carpocalypse (THOTC) was born.
Last year, Team THOTC ran a $150 1989 Dodge Shadow, aRTy, with graphics meant to recreate the look of the Dodge Aspen R/T; this year, they’re running a $300 1973 Plymouth Valiant. A step by step description of the preparations is being posted on Team THOC’s blog. While there, please use the Pledge tab to pledge your support for American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes — two important charities the team has chosen to support by competing. Last year, the team raised over $1,000 for them; they are seeking to double that amount this year.
Allpar.com is proud to sponsor Two Horsemen of the Carpocalypse in the 2011 BABE Rally. The team will take their newly acquired 1973 Plymouth Valiant (a car nearly identical to our own 1974 “Project Valiant”) from Georgia to Staten Island, and then travel back again to New Orleans. To quote THOC’s release:
Allpar.com’s fearless leader Dave Zatz spotted a post about THOTC’s 2011 BABE Rally entrant Val (a 1973 Plymouth Valiant) on one of the Allpar Forums and did a little web sleuthing to find out more about the car, our team, and the Rally. Once he picked himself up off the floor laughing, he emailed Crash with the offer of a very generous pledge to the two charities the team will be supporting in this year’s rally: American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes.
Crash and Burn would like to thank Dave and the entire Allpar.com crew for their generosity, and for promoting our team and the BABE Rally on their website.
Look for the Allpar.com stickers Val will be bearing proudly on her rear doors during the 2011 BABE Rally!
The 1973 Valiant’s wipers had the same problem Allpar’s Project Valiant did — a $4 bushing failed, resulting in roughly a day’s labor for two men and prolific profanity. The problem has now been addressed (see Team THOC’s report) and one obstacle to a successful rally has been addressed.
Less than eight weeks out, the team discovered a mechanical problem that could spell disaster — having to scrap the car and start over. Val suddenly developed a power problem accompanied by a low-frequency brushing, whining sound from her rear end. Never a happy sound, particularly concerning in a Plymouth Valiant.
Plymouth Valiants equipped with the sturdy slant six 225 engine have an Achilles Heel — the rear differential (which transfers energy from the driveshaft to the rear wheels). Plymouth selected a 7 1/4″ differential that was strong enough to support the nominal torque produced by the engine, but could wear quickly or fail catastrophically under too high a load or if the transmission shifted gears irregularly. Based on the symptoms, that’s exactly what the team thought had happened with Val.
Rebuilding a rear differential is a costly process and used Mopar parts aren’t are plentiful in the region. Most of the tools and just about all the know-how required to do a rear-end swap reside with Burn, who lives more than 1,000 miles away from Crash.
Enter Paul Chambers. Following up on a lead from the North Georgia Mopar Club, Crash reached out to Paul, whose independent shop was a mere 30 miles from Atlanta. After a white-knuckle drive out to Paul’s shop, Crash discovered Paul was not only a top-notch provider of maintenance and repair services for modern Mopars, but a specialist in maintaining, repairing and restoring the classic ones too. (That’s Paul’s personal, fully-restored Superbee in the photo above.) Paul scrounged parts from his yard and those of some nearby friends, and got Val’s rear end back into tip-top condition.
Paul’s shop in Covington, Georgia is THOTC-recommended, Val-approved and can be reached at (678) 789-6749. THOTC recognized his contribution by naming him an honorary sponsor of the team for the 2011 BABE Rally.
The BABE Rally Route
The rally route is subject to change each year. It starts in Staten Island, with a get-together where each team can inspect the other teams’ cars and discuss new duct tape strategies. The first day brings participants to Harrisburg, Virginia, “an easy drive that will finish with a short stretch on the Skyline Drive.” Day Two is a “fairly easy” drive to Newport, Tennessee, starting along the Blue Ridge and then moving onto the Interstate.
Day Three is a harder drive, moving to Gatlinburg, across Right Hand Gap, and into the Deals Gap — 318 turns in 11 miles, or one every 50 yards. It puts the steering and suspensions to the test, as does Day Four, which also goes through the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Days Three and Four tend to be changed more often than the others (Day Four was added in 2009). Finally, Day Five has the longest distance, starting with a photocall and a 9 am start, for a late afternoon arrival in New Orleans.
25 teams have already signed up for 2011. Most are American, but two are from the United Kingdom and one is from Canada. This year will mark the fifth annual BABE rally. The rally starts on June 6.
BABE Rally Mopars from 2010