Project Alter-Ego headed out last week for seven days of adventure, driving, and fun on the Tail of the Dragon in the Smoky Mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee. The Mini was equipped with EBC Redstuff brakes and USR Slotted Rotors.
Here is the race report by Murray Pfaff:
Before they were even on the highway, the power steering failed. With a lengthy repair in mind, I headed to Motor City MINI where their tech found the electric pump unhooked. They secured it with a plastic clip and I was off in less than an hour at no charge!
The seven hour ride to Knoxville was smooth and event-less. The next morning I knew was getting close when I found a trio of MINI’s at a breakfast stop. Then, just before the turn into the foothills, I found an interesting vintage car lot with a selection of VW bugs and trucks. One with a killer stance really caught my eye, only to realize it was a transformed two-person camper! This may have been the only place where a “rare” Yugo GSV was more expensive than a Jaguar XJ!
For those of you that have never driven the “Dragon”, it is definitely a bucket list item. Comprised of 318 curves over 11 miles, this gorgeous mountain pass also features several hundred feet in elevation change. I would venture to guess that a roller coaster enthusiast may have laid out sections of the road that bear colourful nicknames like Hell Bender, Gravity Cavity, Beginner’s End, and Brake or Bust Bend. The road is smooth and banked, but will also bite if you don’t respect it. For proof you can visit the “Tree of Shame” which is littered with motorcycle fairings, mirrors, leathers, and more – of course I stopped to pay it homage. The drive is stunningly gorgeous; however there is no time for sightseeing.
Over 600 MINIs converged on the quaint mountain village of Fontana for “MINIs on the Dragon” (MOTD). The village is most famous for housing 6,000 workers in 1942 who built Fontana Dam that converted the floodwaters of the Little Tennessee River into Atomic Energy. For our weekend it would serve as the heart of the event with social gatherings, cabin decorating contests, a vendor midway, car show, and bonfires.
The MINI crowd is diverse and divided. From what I could see there are 3 distinct factions. The largest is those that like to have the latest performance goodies installed on their pride and joy. Then there are the owners that decorate their cars with stickers and elaborate themes. And finally, a small faction that really enjoy experimenting with performance modifications for their cars, pushing them to the limit and improving upon it. This includes race oriented suspensions, wide rims, removing superchargers and installing turbo chargers, plus turbo charging the supercharger! Is it surprising that I seemed to migrate to this group?
Most of the organized drives along the Dragon are listed as “moderate” or “spirited”, our group would be categorized as “aggressive” – especially when the sport bikes pull over to let us pass. Alter-Ego performed flawlessly on the 10-12 passes up and down the roller-coaster road. With speeds never exceeding 80 MPH and spending most of the time in 2nd gear, the Air Lift Performance suspension was flat through the corners and sucked up the grade transitions with ease. The EBC Redstuff brakes and USR Slotted Rotorsnever failed and the Nitto NeoGen tires stuck to the road like glue. Listening to the M7 16% supercharger pulley through the QuickSilver exhaust was a gearhead’s symphony. The performance of Alter-Ego truly impressed the MINI experts!
On Saturday all 600 cars were invited to participate in the annual car show. The true standouts were a 3-wheeled Morgan, 5 original MINI’s, a tie-dyed MINI driven by a male Zombie in a skirt and bra, a royal air force themed MINI (done very well), and a MINI covered completely in stickers. While there were categories for best theme, best graphics, and the like, at the end of the day Alter-Ego took “Eye Popping Engine”, “So Clean it Must be a Garage Queen”, 1st in class (R53 was the largest class), and Best of Show. Not too shabby. Plus I found out there is a Pfafftown, NC, who knew?
So I mentioned the group of MINI’s that are really driven quite hard and perform, well it seems a large portion of them hail from Nashville. They were all very friendly and quickly welcomed me and Alter-Ego to their early morning drives, taco night, late night bonfires, and more. This turned out to be quite fortuitous for me and the car as I spent a couple of days visiting Nashville following MOTD. Upon a stop at the airport, a very large speed bump and a prototype part on the car didn’t seem to agree which left me with a car that was not drivable. A call to my new friends yielded another MINI enthusiast coming to my rescue and a parking lot repair session. After a few trips to friends houses for cast-off parts, Jonathan, Drew, and Taylor had the car ready for the drive back to Detroit.
Hanging out in Nashville and touring around the different communities proved to be a wonderful experience in itself. A stop by the Marathon Auto Factory and American Pickers stores resulted in some great hot rod connections as well. I walked over to say hi to a guy driving a period-perfect black ’40 Ford who turns out to be the manager for singer John Prine (look it up). Then a guy pulls up on a custom Triumph that leads to a tour of an awesome artist’s loft. This was followed by a personal tour of the not open to the public Marathon factory and drinks.
Before leaving town the next morning there was a quick stop at the Hatch Show Print. It is a business locked in time that that still believes in the craft of letterpress printmaking. They make concert show bills by hand setting each wood block letter. You can watch them work while you marvel at all of the historical posters on display.
The car is now home. It goes into the photo studio this week and then will be displayed at Detroit’s Rears & Gears. After that is HOT ROD’s Power Tour immediately followed up by the Eyes on Design Concours. Stay tuned for more!
Redstuff Brake Pads is a harder compound takes longer to fully bed in to achieve the highest levels of performance during which time the odd brake noise may be heard when starting from cold in damp conditions at walking speed. One press of the pedal will clear the rotor of any dampness and this leaves EBC Redstuff a pad that inspires confidence in all car users. The motto is be patient to give the pads a full chance to bed down properly.
Read more about Redstuff brake pads here!
EBC Ultimax Slotted Brake Rotors are manufactured using premium disc blanks. These rotors benefit from quiet running which is all down to the narrower multi-slot design and the progressive angle at which the slots are machined. This has benefit of removing dirt, gas, water and debris and having the advantage of parallel pad wear.
To find out where to buy EBC Brakes products check this link: