Classic Hondas on the Dragon III - No Honda Left Behind

The kindness of those who attend this event was really the highlight this year!

Classic Hondas on the Dragon II

A large group of classic Hondas driving together is truly something special to behold!

2017 Mitty - Day 1: Coker Tire Tour

An incredible drive through southeast Tennessee and northwest Georgia, capped off with the best vintage racing out there.

Honda Dreams Do Come True

I bet you didn't realize that your first gen dream car was in Austria all this time!

Letting Go

Even the best laid plans don't promise success. Find out how I learned that the hard way.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Trans-Canadian Adventure

Most of us, at one point in our lives, have taken risks and done crazy things in order to obtain the things we really want.  For example, less than a year ago, I flew to Kansas City, rented a truck and trailer and drove over a thousand miles back to my house with a newly purchased 3G Civic track car in tow; all within 26 hours (That story you've probably heard about.  If you haven't, you can read it here: Chasing Dreams).  If that sounds crazy, wait till you hear about Troy's big adventure.

Earlier this year, Troy, on a whim, purchased a 1986 Honda Civic 1500s, sight unseen, from a woman in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Yeah, sight-unseen purchases are risky for sure, but that's not what makes this story crazy.  The massive caveat to this purchase was the fact that Troy lived 6000km ( that's roughly 3700 miles for us Americans ) away in Nova Scotia.  His hastily prepared, last minute plan was to take a week off of work to fly out to Vancouver and drive the Civic back along the Trans-Canada Highway.  His trip would have him traverse almost the entire length of the highway.

The Trans-Canada Highway is the longest highway in the world stretching from Victoria, British Columbia to St. John's in Newfoundland and Labrador, 7821km in total ( 4860mi ).  It was opened in the summer of 1962 by the Prime Minister at the time, John Diefenbaker, even though there were still sections of the highway that had not been paved.  When the highway was officially finished in 1970, it had cost Canada 1 billion dollars to create, but what a road it was.  Crossing every province from the Canadian Rockies to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, it is quite a feat of engineering.  This engineering marvel, was Troy's path home.

Some might argue ( his friends and family included ), that a 1986 Honda Civic 1500s wasn't worth that kind of risk, but you have to get to know the man to really understand why this wasn't such a difficult decision.  Troy has a history with Honda's.  As a young teenager, he purchased his first Honda brand new, an 1988 CRX.  A car he very much enjoyed, but he admits, it could've gotten him into trouble.

"This car almost killed me a few times and I'm quite seriously thankful that I never hurt anyone, including myself".

Only four years later, he was already neck deep into his first serious Honda project.  He had purchased two 1978 Civics, one a manual and the other a Hondamatic, with the hopes of coming out on the other side with one really nice car.  After swapping drive trains and restoring the body himself, he not only ended up with a beautiful car, but more importantly, he had acquired a vast amount of automotive knowledge and a passion for Honda's (if he didn't have that already).

Fast forward 24 years, and it was time for him to find a car that could take him back to his youth where he fell in love with Honda's.  In his eyes, the little Civic that he found online was the perfect tool for this task.  He quickly made a deal with the owner of 25 years, and hopped on a plane headed for the other side of the continent.

When he arrived, the car was as described by the owner.  It only had 100,000 miles on the odometer, and was completely stock.  Overall the car was in good condition, thanks to the fact that it spent much of its life in an airplane hanger where the owner's late husband had kept his airplane.  The timing belt and tensioner had been replaced in recent years, however the owner suggested that the battery, on occasion, needed a 'boost'.  Troy would experience this first hand, shortly after departing.

After having breakfast with the owner, where she shared some of the history of the car, Troy hit the road and headed toward the Ferry station.  The brief 30 mile trip along the winding roads of Vancouver Island was all it took to have him smitten with the car.  The small yet roomy interior had him wondering why new cars have so much wasted space in them, filling the over sized interiors with enormous interior paneling.  The environment of simplicity was a breath of fresh air.

As the ferry pulled up to the mainland and he got in the Civic to leave, that's when all the songs from the 80's ringing in his head and the memories of his youth when he was wizzing around in his CRX were abruptly silenced as the turn of his ignition lead to even more silence.  The battery bug had bitten, and in his frustration and desperation to get the car going again, he flooded the carb.  What made the situation even worse still was the long line of roughly 100 cars behind him, all with irritated owners glaring at him.  With the situation looking dire he sprung into action and flagged down a couple boatmen and explained his predicament.  Thankfully they had equipment for such matters and they quickly brought a charger over to his car.  Sadly though, the first member of the crew to attempt the charge was either mechanically inept, or simply blind, because he proceeded to attach the charger leads to the wrong battery terminals.  Troy watched in horror as sparks and smoke billowed into the air as he turned the key.  With the thought that lightening rarely strikes the same place twice (pun intended), he instructed a different crew member to assist.  Unfortunately, this crew member was stricken with the same case of blindness and lack of wit, for he promptly repeated the same mistake the first crew member made.  More sparks and smoke ensued.  At the point of panic, Troy started checking the rest of the electrical system for additional damaged that could've been caused by the confused boatmen.  He popped the cover off of the fuse box that houses the three main fuses.  The bottom fuse had melted in half.  Thankfully he had brought a bag of tools with him which included a handy 12mm socket.  With all his fingers and toes crossed, he wedged the socket into the fuse box to bridge the fuse, attached the charger leads to the battery correctly, and turned the ignition.  Success!  The car fired right up, and he was out of there faster than you could say Saskatchewan.

The next stop on the journey was a parts store, and in true red-neck style, he changed his battery in the parts store parking lot.  In addition to the battery, Troy replaced the 12mm socket with a short length of wire to minimize the risk of losing power while on the road.  Even though these repairs would get him back on the road, he was concerned with the potential unseen damage that could've occurred to the electrical system during the ferry fiasco.  He finished up his repairs and hit the road with an sense of unease.

Every celebrated, ten mile segment of the journey with no issues turned into every fifty, and then into every one hundred miles.  Things were going well as the he wound his way through the Canadian Rockies.  At the five hour mark, while plodding through a Rocky Mountain rain storm, Troy noticed that the accelerator pedal was getting progressively harder to press down.  It wasn't long before it was almost impossible to press down, and when it was pressed down, it wouldn't come back up.  It was time to investigate the issue.  He pulled over and removed the throttle cable with the assumption that it was finally ceasing up from old age.  Since he had failed to include any sort of lubricant in his tool bag, he was limited to a simple massaging of the cable to get it moving again.  This repair helped enough to get back on the road, but it slowly returned to its unusable state only two hours later.  Troy ended up repeating this step over a dozen times until he reached a town in Saskatchewan that had a Honda dealer.  Unfortunately and understandably, they did not have a replacement cable in stock, but a surprising thing did happen while he was there.  While he and the parts manager were discussing replacement cables, the owner over heard their conversation and came to investigate.  It turned out that he was a big fan of old Honda's as well as wrenching on them.  He insisted on taking a look at the car.  He removed the seized cable completely and injected it with fresh lubricant.  It was exactly what it needed and the car was back full functioning order.  The kind dealer owner sent him on his way refusing any kind of payment for the repair.  However, just before he left, Troy slipped the receptionist a 50 as a gesture of thanks.

The encouragement and good vibes left over from the visit to the dealer were soon squashed when he noticed the tachometer needle starting to jump a little.  The jumping then turned into a dance, and then the engine started to follow suit, matching the dancing tach's tempo.  Thoughts of the disaster on the ferry came flooding in to his head as he pondered the worst possible scenarios.  He didn't have any tools to diagnose or repair the electrical system.  At this point, he could only hope that his current streak of good luck with simple repairs would continue... and it did.  As he poured over car's electrical system, he noticed that the distributor was very loose.  He gave it a closure look and discovered that there was only one bolt left holding the distributor in place, and it was about to make its exit.  He quickly replaced the missing 10mm bolt with one he borrowed from elsewhere in the engine bay, and went on his way.

The rest of his journey went very well and the car performed flawlessly.  As he passed through Ontario and into the Great Lakes region, his earlier struggles and anxiety about future issues started to fade away.  The area's with civilization were prevalent now and in some cases, very dense.  There would be no issues finding parts or even a Honda dealer if he were have a problem now.  With three provinces down and only Quebec standing between him and home, he was feeling confident.

As he left Quebec City behind him and crossed over into Nova Scotia, he was met by a group of friends and fellow Honda enthusiasts who traveled with him the rest of the way; a mobile Honda escort of sorts.  With familiar scenery in sight, being surrounded by friends, and filled with confidence, Troy decided that some exuberant driving was in order.  The group spent the last leg of the journey having as much fun on the road as they could.  After returning home and getting some much needed rest, he cleaned up his newly purchased Civic and proudly parked it in front of his lovely home for a personal photo shoot.  A well deserved treat.

It's difficult to grasp the vastness of a country this size and the extent of an undertaking such as this trip of Troy's.  Crossing two mountain ranges, a 1000 miles of bare plains in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and through the vast wilderness of Ontario, the Trans-Canada highway is not to be taken lightly.  Much of the journey is spent on roads that are hundreds of miles from anything, let alone an auto parts store.  To successfully complete a journey of this magnitude it would typically require lengthy planning and a very reliable vehicle.  For Troy to, on a whim, embark on this trip in a sight-unseen, 30 year old Honda, it would seem like pure bravery.  In many respects it is, however he understood from his past that if there was going to be a 30 year old car out there that could complete the journey, it would be a Honda.

"It goes without saying that 6600 kilometers of non-stop driving is a test for any car - my admiration for early Honda engineering is bolstered even more with what I just experienced in this 30 year old Civic."

Photos by Troy Wood