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Team THOTC: Valiant run in the 2011 BABE Rally

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Allpar is a proud sponsor of Team Two Horsemen of the Carpocalypse in the BABE Rally. A big thank you goes to those who raised an extra $225: Jim Choate, Ray Alexander, Peter Jensen, Mark Swingle, Ben Deutschman, and Wesley Acre.

The BABE road rally - "Big Apple to Big Easy" - is a rally where contestants make a $500 safe and legal, and cross at least 1,500 miles of highways and byways. Allpar has covered many of Team THOTC's preparations, and joined with Team THOTC on the day before the rally, June 5, 2011, in Staten Island.

The team gained their name from the Dean of Students at Hampshire College, where they met. There were two others in the group then, and they frequently helped out various students with their cars when they wouldn't start or got stuck; the dean himself gained their help with his well preserved BMW 2002. Matt's wife heard about the rally first and told him about it; he called Neil, who was enthusiastic, and they started for 2010 with a Plymouth Sundance that had an Aspen R/T paint job complete with creatively applied spoiler.

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The body of the Valiant is in terrific shape for a car that's in the shape it's in - there's surface rust in spots, there are minor dents and dings, but the grille isn't missing any pieces, and the rear fenders are both complete and rust-free, as is most of the underbody and the trunk.

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"The response we're getting to the car is tremendous," Matt said. "There was nothing distinctive but Artie, but this is distinctive. We had lunch at Hardees and people kept walking up to it and checking it out, taking pictures with their cell phones. At Autozone we had five or six separate conversations about the car. The response has been so strong we'll be hard pressed not to run classic Mopars as a priority." (The team has two good leads already for next year.)

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"Everyone says it reminds them of what their dad or grand-dad drove. Three or four said they wish they'd never parted with theirs and five or six people have offered to buy it." (It's already been earmarked for a family that's down on their look and will use it for regular transportation.)

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Despite having a vacuum system that's essentially been removed and plugged, the car has been getting around 19.5 miles per gallon. The air conditioner has already been converted to R134a, but the heater has been bypassed - it's an original Georgia car. The slant six and light rear end are common parts, as many people have upgraded their cars to 318s and bigger axles.

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The car was not running when they got it. The vacuum system had been removed, but the holes were not plugged, so that there were huge vacuum leaks. The gas in the system had gone bad, and the carburetor was completely mistuned; and the tires had gone bad from sitting. Matt got the $300 car running and drove it four blocks, then pushed it the other two to his house. Recently it's begun to stall when coming to a stop, restarting easily afterwards, which he suspects is due to a vacuum leak. It's already been treated to a manual choke.

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One example of the team's imaginative prowess was replacing a broken windshield-washer nozzle with a bifurcated coffee straw, in the parking lot of the rally starting motel.

(Sorry about the poor audio quality!)

Day 2 - The Water Gun Fight

Long a tradition on the European rallies, the infamous waterfun fight finally came to the United States on Day 2 of the rally. On June 7, 2011, in a hotel parking lot in Harrisonburg, Virginia, twenty six teams (and a few unwitting bystanders) participated in the first annual BABE Rally watergun fight. Much water was spilled that day...and many will never forget the squeak of a charging watergun or the screams of discomfort as someone took a blast of cold water to the ear.

On the road

A budget re-routing of heater hoses indirectly caused a head gasket failure due to overheating, when one of the parts used to connect two hoses to each other failed and coolant was lost. Numerous people provided advice and diagnostic suggestions on the night when the symptoms began to appear, including both Allpar members and fellow BABE rallyers. Team Misfit Toys Racing obtained a head gasket from Chattanooga (around 55 miles away), and other teams helped put in the new gasket, not easy on a slant six at the best of times, and not helped by the poor lighting from parking lot overheads. An exhausted Burn sent Crash to bed at 2:30 so he'd be able to drive the next day; the gasket was finally in place at 5:30 am, with an oil change and coolant change still to go.

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In the morning, the car would not start - "After a no compresion start, fixing the Valve adjustment (thank you Eric of MO2), Val, THOTC, and our excellent friends and safety net in Foolswagon, we are running for a photo challenge, and then on to Lincoln, AL." The rest of the day seemed to pass without problems, and the team reported in at around 7 pm that they had completed the day's challenges.

The next day, Crash wrote:

High probability we have a cracked block, and we discovered it right after putting Stop Leak into the cooling system. We have drained and replaced the oil, flushed and refilled the radiator. We have used additives - Marvel Mystery Oil and Sea Foam - to de-gunk as best we can.

Bottom line: we are running for the finish line as fast as we can. Every mile we get is more money for the charities we are supporting and, who knows? Burn ran his 78 Dodge Aspen with less than a quart of oil for a month in college. Perhaps Val's Leaning Tower of Power will see us through. Either way, its going to be a heck of a run.

We will stop to flush and fill every 100 miles Val gets us, and have no thermostat in and the radiator cap at the second notch. We are very open to additional advice. We will not be able to check here for responses, so please reach us via the the Contact/Follow page on our website. If you use Twitter, we are @THOTC and can get messages that way instantly.
By the way, I've been typing this while we drive. 55 miles down, 330 to go.

Val Made it to the Finish Line

Val (somehow) made it to New Orleans despite an injury that would have left lesser cars dead by the side of the road - a busted water jacket or a cracked block, the team still isn't sure which. As always, the end of the rally is celebrated with a party of epic proportions.

Val made it in under her own power with a half gallon of coolant added every 50-75 miles.

It goes without saying that every car in a banger rally will have a certain patina of age, wear, and dilapidation. However, even within that rather broad category, some cars simply raise the banger bar to a new standard. The rally organizers term such cars and the teams that drive them as "Uberbangers." In result, we were awarded the coveted Uberbanger award. It isn't awarded every year...and take a special car and set of circumstances to earn it.

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We did not place during the rally this year, probably due to the fact that we couldn't earn the Day 5 points and keep Val rolling.

Finally, thanks in large part to Dave Zatz and many others on the Allpar forums, the team raised nearly $3,000 for the charities we are supporting: American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes.

Thank you for making this journey with us, and we are excited about running the Rally again next year in another Mopar. Hopefuly some of you will think about coming along for the ride for real in your own sub-$500, 15+ year-old Mopar too.

American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes

Thanks to the generosity of the team's sponsors, families, friends, and fans, and Val's miraculous completion fo all 1,500 miles of the 2011 BABE rally, the teams has secured pledges for $2,858 in donations to two important charities: American Diabetes Association and March of Dimes. That number will increase further over the next few days as pledges continue to be made daily, and the team itself will be making a set of donations to reflect the value of goods and services provided in-kind to the team during the run-up to the rally and on the rally itself. A final fundraising tally will be posted within the next several weeks.

Val's Future

The team's plan all along was for Val to have a second life helping someone who needs help. If she had made the run without a mechanical problem, she would have gone to a family we know that desperately needs a reliable, inexpensive car but can't afford one. The backup plan was for Val to go to an organization that would repair her, sell her to someone who would drive her, and use the proceeds to support their charitable work. That plan came crashing to a halt when we learned that, given the age, condition and size of the car, that organization would probably send Val to the crusher for her salvage value. Watch this video to see Val's new loving home and exciting future.

More photos from the prep

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Follow Team THOTC via their web site: they will have frequent updates throughout the rally.

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