For quite a few years now I’ve posted pictures and some dialogue on this site about the activities we are doing on the playa. I’ve had a few requests to cover this subject more thoroughly, and to explain what exactly the playa is, and what in the heck are we doing there with our Things. Things at the base of Steens Mountain, which has an elevation of 10,000 ft
You may know by now we are always looking for ways to enhance the reliability and mild performance of our Things. The engines we build for these is our basic core long-blocks of 1835cc with counter-weighted crankshafts and high volume oil pumps and Engle Camshafts (110). We have settled on this as the base engine for the use we want for our Things. Other than setting our compression to 7.0 to 1 we don’t make changes to this platform. Just because we don’t make changes to this platform doesn’t mean we aren’t curious about exactly what can change with some adjustments.
Zelda’s cockpit ready for the next flight!
We discovered the playa in the extreme southeast corner of the Oregon high desert at the base of Steens Mountain in 1999. The playa is a ‘dry’ lake bed 7 miles across and 12 miles long. It does flood in the winter months and access is determined by weather conditions and water level. It’s also known as Lake Alvord on some maps. It’s an all day run to get there from Boise, and requires a fuel stop in Jordan Valley, Oregon, and then again at Fields Station just 8 graveled and rutted road miles from the Playa.
Fields Station, the gas and milkshake stop
Upon arrival at the playa we check the surface for holes and other debris that would cause damage.
Surveying the landscape
After we are satisfied with locating soft spots, areas of vegetation encroachment, and debris, we set up a food/shade tent away from the center of the lake bed.
Our base of operations for the day – shade, food, naps, and modifications
From this base for the day we go out and run our Things at speed and make adjustments or change out different carbs and distributors. We change dwell and timing when we are making these changes, then make a mile long run at top speed to see what effect the changes have made on real time performance.
Business end of Zelda
This is what we do to get the best longevity & performance out of our Things for the way we use them. We clock our speed prior to and after making our top speed runs. We take some with the windshields down, and others with them up.
Thing Babes performing their synchronized driving
We make the most of our time, and spend the entire day there. We learn a lot about what kind of changes we can make, and how they affect the engines and oil temps. Besides that, it’s just plain cool to spend a day with Thing folks and mini Thing folks learning to drive in the great wild wide open!