The Road to Mandalay

February 1 to February 24, 2015

Day 16 - Chiang Mai - Rest Day

The underground car park deep in the basement of the Shangri-La Hotel is no place to be – the air is full of exhaust fumes, it’s dark, and there is a deafening drone from the building’s air conditioning system. Yet it’s here that frenzied work goes on apace to prepare cars for the final haul to the Burma frontier.

Some cars are missing – drivers having found local workshops for more serious stuff than the routine service of checking brakes, tightening nuts and bolts and changing wheels.  For most, there is nothing much to worry about. For others, there have been more serious concerns.  Paul and Mariella Kirkham’s Model A Ford has done well to hold down eight place, and if a minute can be found, could jump up two places but the pressure is beginning to show up in the rear suspension. We watched Jamie Turner get down on the floor with his angle-grinder and set about giving the car stronger rear leafs in the springs – Paul had ordered spares in “heavy duty” but then discovered they were standard, so the challenge for Jamie was to make up new springs using bits of the old and some of the new.

The biggest engine in the event, the 1907 eight-litre Itala, was getting a good grease up and general check over this morning, including some new tyres.  Martin Egli’s Lagonda was up on a jack also having a good service.  Brakes seem to be the number one concern – Philip Noble and David Brown’s AC 16/80 was having attention to the front brakes, and so too was the Wilkinson’s Alvis SA.  “You just have to be on it all the time, you can never have enough adjustment,” says Michael who reckons he will spend most of the day in the basement checking out the car after the challenging drive to reach this far.

Keith Ashworth was under his big eight-cylinder Buick this morning worrying about fuel problems, he still has fuel-starvation, various cures for vaporisation have not totally solved the problems of a lack of power and regular misfiring, he was about to get a vent-hole drilled in the top of the fuel cap when we left him.  He is not alone with fuel problems, the big Mustang of Marc Buchanan has pinking or pre-detonation issues which could seriously damage the pistons, and Marc was working with Andy Inskip on finding a solution.  A few cars have had problems with metal fatigue in the wheels – several wheels on Mario Illien’s  front-wheel-drive  Maigret Citroen had severe cracks, the wheels having also survived a Peking to Paris but now the wheels are literally cracking up. Mario is used to building Formula One engines…. his engineering skills have been applied to simpler, more basic machinery in the last few weeks.

Everyone’s ambition now is to make it to the Burma border – we are due to arrive on Wednesday evening - the plan at the moment is for passport formalities to be completed on Thursday.  So,  it’s a day off in Mae Sot and we then plan to cross the frontier on Friday for the long and tricky mountain crossing,  where the road is so narrow, the locals run a “one way only” traffic system of alternating the direction to and from the border.  Friday is the “going north” day and the historic moment when the barrier is lifted, and the first ever motoring event crosses a frontier that has been closed to all outsiders for the last 60 years.

Syd Stelvio



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