The Story of Escargot – the little Sprite that could… sort of
ONCE upon a time there was a tiny Sprite named Escargot. Born on 8 October 1958 in a dark and musty Dickensian factory on a remote island where it rained all the time. Sadly, little Escargot had its’ steering wheel on the wrong side and had no hat to keep the rain off the seats! These problems meant that her natural parents didn’t love it anymore. Bad parents! On 14 October 1958, Escargot was given up for adoption and sent away to the foster family at Hambro Trading, Inc. in the United States to find a new home where LHD Sprites would be welcomed.
Coming to America…
First coming to the port of Elizabeth, then being passed along to the foster family in Boalsburg, PA, near State College, Escargot sat anxiously looking for a new home. In December in Pennsylvania, no one liked little Escargot. Loneliness continued but she remained hopeful. Then springtime came! Escargot was excited. A sunny day brought wonderful adoptive parents to visit and finally – Escargot had a new home!
The First Families…
For 6 wonderful years, Escargot was driven and loved. Sadly, though, Pennsylvania was not kind to her. She became afflicted by the dreaded tin worm and a few bad fights in the neighborhood by bullies that liked to punch little ones in the nose and run into them from behind when they weren’t looking. Escargots’ family once again put her up for adoption and found as a replacement a Honda CB250 that was bright and shiny. Once again, Escargot was alone on the lot, looking for a new family to adopt.
Then in 1965, a Penn State student named John saw Escargot in the lot – bumps, bruises and all. Despite the rough edges, he loved her and dreams of SCCA danced in his head. ‘’I’ll fix her up’’ thought John… and out came the hammers. Out came the Bondo. And finally, out came the $39.95 Earl Sheib orangey-red paint job! ‘’No matter’’, thought Escargot, ‘’I don’t care that my color is a bit tarty, and that the overspray covers my chrome’’. ‘’At least I have a family again!!’’.
The Exciting Years!....but there were clouds on the horizon!
Escargot was happy for the 1965-66 years, running quickly (well, as quick as a Sprite can) with the other cars and playing at the airport tarmac around State College. Winter was hard on Escargot and snow tires with studs were uncomfortable. And she was getting older. 50,000 miles on her odometer came and went. The winter weather made her cough and brought on the flu. No question about it, Escargot was tired and struggling to keep up with the others in the playground. One day it happened. When driving hard, her head was cracked and started to steam and leak. John was sad. Escargot was even more sad. John told her that he would take care of her and sent her home to visit his mother and dad in Brockway, PA to rest. John finished his schooling and joined the Air Force as a pilot, but told Escargot he would come back to fix her and make her new again. That was 1966 – her last ever inspection sticker from PA..
The Dark Years – All Alone in the Garage… (sniff!)…
1966 came and went. No Johnny. 1967 through 1968 – still no Johnny. Years passed and Escargot sat alone in the garage. Johns mother Marion sadly lost her husband and needed help around the house to cut the grass, clean out the basement, and do chores around the house. She then met a boy from the neighborhood that said ‘’I’ll help you!’’. So, between school, work at the Tastee-Freeze and cutting many other lawns, he found Escargot in pieces in the garage. What a find he thought! Much like John, visions of SCCA danced in his head – the only problem was that it would be many years (something like 3 or 4) before he could even drive! Well, no problem there, that gave him plenty of time to fix up Escargot and learn all there was to know about LBC’s! He vowed then and there with his pal Charlie and the help of their mail-order friend J.C. Whitney whose parts were always cheap to ask Marion about Escargot.
The day came when he was bold enough to ask Marion about Escargot and whether he could adopt her. When asked, Marion said, ‘’No, Johnny will come back to fix her up, I know he will!’’. The little boy could tell that Escargot would not be adopted and went home sad. The boy went off to school, then work, then overseas and back again for almost the next 40 years and forgot about little Escargot.
The Light at the Garage Door! Moving to a Safe Place….
The boy sometimes came back to Brockway to see his mother and visit friends. One sad summer both Marion and the boys’ mother passed away. As he was driving through town to take care of affairs, he saw a sign on Marions’ lawn. ‘’Auction – September 9th’’. ‘Hmm’, he thought. ‘’Is little Escargot still in the garage?’’. Later that week he called the auction house and asked. They didn’t know what was in the garage but would inventory things and call him back. Sure enough – Escargot was still there!! In more pieces, and piled high with boxes, tools, old window parts, and who knows what else… but still there. Unfortunately, the boy was in Europe on business, so he asked if he could put his bid in remotely. Lucky for him – none of the other bidders knew about poor Escargot, covered with dust and boxes – and his bid was accepted!
The boy was happy! Then sad. What to do with this LBC in lots of pieces? Are all of the pieces even there (since they were widely scattered across the garage even in 1969 when he last looked)? Could he figure out how to get little Escargot back together again? And would his twins enjoy the project? All items TBD. The process began.
First step was to move Escargot out of the garage and into a safe place with all of her parts – or at least the boxes that looked like her! Brake drums were frozen, all tires were flat, and she was filthy – filled with magazines in the back (like Modern Photography, March 1966!) and the transmission dumped in the passenger seat! One weekend in 2008 the boy and his son went to tow her to the safe place and give her a much-needed bath to start the process and see what they needed to do. Once the hard work of moving the car from the garage was done, they stood back and asked themselves…’’What did we get ourselves into?????’’ They were nervous since the job looked bigger than they had hoped. The engine was rusty and head was off. The rear springs were broken. Rust was everywhere with holes in the floor pan and in her rear quarter panels. The rear axle seals were leaking. Her transmission was dry from leakage, and the rear brakes had no shoes! (Very sad – an adopted one with no shoes!!) Her bearings sounded like they had sand in them and both rear springs had 7 or 8 broken leaves of the 15 total… so Escargot was a sad, sad mess. They all decided then and there that the only way to bring her back to health was to carry her to their home in Princeton and find ‘friends’ to help.
Next Step: Travelling to her new home in Princeton - 2009… the Real Work Begins….
The trip to carry her to Princeton was carefully planned. On the way, they would drop Escargot’s engine and transmission with a nice man named Tom at Maiden England to rebuild her. They would bring the rest of Escargot back home to start the disassembly, cleaning and putting her parts in bags to help keep track, and most importantly try to figure out what to do with the rest of her. Perhaps they would need to find more friends that could help with a facelift, fixing her rusty bits and making her whole again.
While there were many stories about the journey from parts to seeing Escargot once again move on her own in 2017-18, such as:
- The engine was rebuilt and fully paid for, but then repossessed by an evil landlord
- Ransom money was paid to release Escargots engine in a desperate rescue scheme
- Her Earl Sheib coating was taken off by walnuts, leaving walnut pieces inside the gauges
- Sitting nearly 5 years awaiting the magical fixing of rusty bits and paint in a garage
- Hooking up her old wiring for the first time and seeing smoke rise behind the dash! (Making installation of a new nervous system (aka ‘’wiring harness’’… more than essential)
- And another year waiting for her bonnet to be finished for Easter….
…Those are stories for another day.
In 2017 – Time to ‘’Wake up’’!!!
Escargot’s pieces were now coming together with all the work of the boy and his twins. Shiny new screws and bolts. Cleanly painted surfaces. Nice red and white seats. New top and tonneau. Dynamat to keep her quiet, and carpet to covered her floors. All her jewelry was re-chromed to look her very best when she woke up. New bearings, gaskets, wiring to make her more reliable. And finally undercoating and a careful sealing to keep water out and the tin-worm at bay. All the piece parts that had been separated for so long were now in one place. Almost time to see if she would come to life! After all, almost 50 years of sleep even beats Rip Van Winkle!!
With the help of very nice friends at AHSTC, the funny problems with the the long-deferred wakeup call were solved. Just a few of the many that found their way to tech-session expertise included:
- hooking up carburetors and tuning her little HS1’s,
- finding and bleeding odd brake and clutch gremlins (mostly),
- deciphering a few cryptic bits of the wiring diagram to stitch her back together
- changing her ‘nervous system’ from positive (as with most LBC’s) to be negative to allow new friends to play (like iphone chargers) and prevent silly people from electrocuting themselves.
Since she used to be a positive earth LBC, she finally became more ‘firmly grounded’ (with a reminder that one of the missing parts was the cable from transmission to body). She took her first real drive in September 2017 (illegally, around the circle of her new home, with no bonnet! What a hussy this little Sprite was turning out to be!! Not good to travel with ones’ top off in public!).
By June 2018 the paint man had finished with her bonnet (thank goodness – decency prevailed!) and the first real, on the road, legal drive was taken! It was a happy day for little Escargot and the start of her next chapter of life as a coddled, but still quite cute, senior citizen. She was surprised after sleeping for nearly 50 years that she still was getting admiring glances, whistles and thumbs-up from passers by… she still had the ability to turn heads like she did in her youth…and not all grey-haired heads either, much to her surprise! No SCCA competition for her though, with age she was more attuned to gentle drives through the countryside and frequent massages with her favorite wax by the boy and his twins that brought her back from the dusty garage. Now nearly 60, she lives happily in the retirement village and enjoys her rest with what will hopefully be more trips to the country side on nice days and in the sunshine.
Who knows what Escargots’ next chapter in life will bring? Will she see old friends this September 2018 in Lancaster and have a reunion at Encounter with others that have been adopted much like her and survived over time. Perhaps she is one of the more active senior citizens? We shall see!
The Story of Escargot – the little Sprite that could… sort of