3 Gearheads Meet At A Bar

My car club has had a First Sunday Drive for a number of years. The name is as it implies – a drive somewhere at the first Sunday of each month. And it has always been popular – because people don’t have to make reservations – they just show up at the appointed time and place for a drive of approximately 2 hours. Followed by a no-host lunch somewhere.

The lunch part is always the fun part. At least from a planning perspective. I’ve always told the manager that I don’t know how many will attend. But it will probably be somewhere between 5 and 30. Among my records for both the low and high end have been 3 and 60. I always let them know the count 2 hours prior, when we leave at 10AM.

Oh and everyone wants separate checks.

Is there a problem?

Surprisingly, during normal times it has rarely been a problem as long as they know what to expect.

But these aren’t normal times. Some restaurants aren’t even open the hours they used to have. If they are open at all, due to staffing problems.

Anyway for a lunch I found myself in Nevada City, at an historic hotel. To walk in there takes one back 150 years. And the bar looked so ornate to sit there took one back to 1850. With a little imagination I could think I was a hard-scrabble 49er who suddenly found himself rich.

During those days, Nevada City was the Queen of the Comstock. BTW do you know how the “Comstock Lode” got its name? Technically I think the term really refers to the silver mines around Virginia City, Nevada, which were so rich that they built San Francisco and stabilized the Union currency during the Civil War. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Virginia City at its inception, there was a guy named Henry Comstock, who kept trying to claim that he owned every claim that eventually produced silver. While he didn’t get the claims, eventually his claim took hold for the entire area. I would imagine one of many bars was involved in those claims, too.

Me, being a lover of history, asked the bartender if he knew of the historic connection between Nevada City and Virginia City, about 100 miles away.

He did not.

Turns out, those miners at what became Virginia City were looking for gold. After all, it was so close to California!

They kept throwing away these rocks that had a blueish color. The stuff was everywhere, and just getting in the way. They called it, appropriately, “Blue Stuff“.

One day, an enterprising miner decided to load his pack mule with this stuff and travel over the Sierras and have it assayed. The assay office was just a few buildings away from my bar, on Broad Street.

And to the surprise of all, it turned out to be the richest silver ore the world had ever seen.

I then mentioned to the bartender that because I like history and authenticity in movie westerns, 1883 is really a treat. I told him how much I enjoy this series and appreciate the efforts the writer makes in making sure it actually follows history.

The bartender appreciated this and then said that his uncle is involved in production!

I told him that he should be proud of doing something that people will probably enjoy and remember for years. That there are some actors who work their whole careers on forgettable things.

I thought the uncle might be one of the actors, and was told that no, he is part of the group that is responsible for the transportation of the company and props. I think he said that he was in charge of this group, but in any event, reminded me that to make a movie or TV series it involves many more people than what you see on the screen. I saw an interview last night with the head writer, Taylor Sheridan, and he was saying as a background what a challenge it is just to move all those Conestoga Wagons and assorted dress and props.

At this point, 2 fellows sat down and seeing my COVID mask and woolen hat, asked if I liked Mercedes.

How did these 2 items give any clue?

Well, the parts people at the local dealership like me. It’s not that I am their biggest customer (by far) but I am an entertaining customer. Both of these items have a small 3-pointed star.

Do you know what that star signifies? Before Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benz merged their companies in 1926, Daimler’s star signified Land, Sea and Air. They made engines for all 3 environments.

Turns out these guys were Porschephiles.

Among Gearhead languages, In addition to Mercedes-Benz, I speak fairly well Porsche, Mopar*, Chevy, Ford, BMW, Toyotas (yes, they have some cars that gearheads love – I had one** for 27 years), and Nissan.

I told them of an experience I had 49 years ago, along the Autobahn from Frankfurt to Munich. At the restaurant sat a car transport truck with about a dozen 73 Porsche Carrara RSes.

Today those cars would be worth about $500,000 each.

I told them of a YouTube channel I like, Tyrrell’s Classic Workshop. The host, Iain Tyrrell, has a shop in the UK that does (sometimes) ground-up restoration of rare cars. And the interesting thing is that with each car he profiles, he will give its history.

And the Carrera RS was a ground-breaking car for more than one reason. Porsche originally made 500 of these for Homologation reasons. They didn’t even think it would sell to the public, because it would cost more than a standard 911, but have less equipment. So they let employees drive some. To their surprise the public liked it. And they made another 500.

These days, Porsche has made an art form of having a “limited” production car with less standard equipment, and charging more for it.

Want the special, limited production, car? That doesn’t have a radio, power seats, or power windows?

It’s another $10,000.

They had a small dilemma with the engineering of this car. They wanted to expand the engine cylinder capacity, and the current chassis wouldn’t allow it. Enter a company named Mahle, who was (and is) known mainly for pistons. They used this process called Nikasil to harden an aluminum part in a rotary engine used for the (then) NSU Wankel engine. Well, the Wankel engine, used only by NSU (now gone) and Mazda, never really caught on for a number of reasons, but the Nikasil process revolutionized car engine production.

By applying this to the aluminum cylinder walls of the 911 engine and not using a cast iron cylinder sleeve, the aluminum wall was tough enough to withstand the piston rings in the combustion process, and they could have more internal cylinder capacity for the same external size.

Today, virtually every car engine is an aluminum block. While the Nikasil process may not be universally used (Daimler, for one, patented another process in 2013), it was a massive game changer.

Amazing what you can learn in a bar.

** Mopar – refers to a car made by the Chrysler Corporation, particularly up through the 1970s.

*** Toyota MR2 – I had a 1st generation – made from 1984-1989 – for 27 years. It was like driving a big go cart, and never failed to put a smile on my face.


Filed under Small Stuff

2 responses to “3 Gearheads Meet At A Bar

  1. Can’t say we’ll be waxing so Lyrical over armatures and magnets🙄

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