6 days and 1150 Miles in Maserati Vignale Spyder

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Francis G. "Frank" Mandarano and Colin Craig. Photo by Antonio G. "Tony" Mandarano

The Car: 1960 Maserati Vignale Spyder # AM101.1121

When: June 16–21, 2018

Mileage: Starting km: 46286; Ending km: 48202

Total: 1916  X .6  = 1150 Miles

Together with my good friend of 40 years, Colin Craig of Vancouver, British Columbia, as my trusty copilot and navigator—two Maserati super enthusiasts—we signed up for the Alfa Wannabe Road Tour.

The Tour is organized by Tom and Mark McGirr out of Portland OR. Seventy percent of the folks on the Tour own 1 or several Alfas but only 3 or 4 of them actually drove their Alfas in the Tour—shameful.  There were a lot of Porsches, an Aston Martin, and other collectible-type cars.  We were the only Maserati. It was a fun, enthusiastic group.

Day 1

Starting from Mercer Island, Washington, on a Saturday in June, Colin and I headed East on highway 2 winding through the majestic Cascade Mountains along the Wenatchee River to the quaint Bavarian village of Leavenworth.

bavarian lodge hotel exterior
The Bavarian-inspired village of Leavenworth, Washington. Francis G. Mandarano

It was a beautiful day in the low- to mid-70s, and of course the top was down all the way. We only drove one day with the top up. We stopped for lunch in Leavenworth, then headed out in the direction of Wenatchee and on to Walla Walla on the Oregon border, arriving just in time for happy hour.

vintage maserati vignale spyder front three-quarter beside long grass field
On route to Walla Walla from Leavenworth, out in the middle of nowhere. It was so quiet … until just before we almost got wiped out by an oncoming semi-truck. Stopping on a two-lane highway was a bad idea. Francis G. Mandarano

The car ran very smooth and felt solid. It was a great first day, and we put 491 km on the speedo. After checking into our room, we then headed to the bar to meet up with other people on the Tour.

Day 2

We departed Walla Walla early in the morning with our group, heading north on Highway 95 toward Coeur d’Alene Idaho. This was a great drive on an old back road highway winding through the little villages and hamlets of the southeast Washington countryside. Again, it was sunny and in the low 70s, top down—just perfect!

Colin and I both enjoy those cool sunny mornings loping along at 45 to 50 miles an hour. We shared driving duties, switching off every couple hours or so.

driving behind wheel of vignale spyder
Driving with all clocks reading in the green, and just a little sprinkle on the windshield. The Vignale Spyder cruised along doing everything right! Francis G. Mandarano

It was on the way to Coeur d’Alene that we experienced a fuel pump issue. Colin was driving when all of a sudden the car ran out of gas. I got out tapped on the OEM Monoflux fuel pumps and, bingo, they started “clucking” again, so off we went. After about 50 miles, the same thing happened. Again I tapped on the fuel pumps and again they started working. We arrived in Coeur d’Alene and checked into the beautiful Coeur d’Alene resort hotel on the lake.

pacific northwest harbor marina overlook view
The view and comfort from our suite at the Coeur d’ Alene Resort Hotel was so fantastic we stayed an extra night. Francis G. Mandarano

Day 3

We decided to stay for another night in the beautiful four-star hotel suite we had been assigned, rather than depart with the group to Wallace, Idaho, and the Motel 6.

We found a shop very near the hotel where the owner allowed us to put the car on the lift, and with the help of one of his mechanics troubleshoot the fuel pump issue. We decided that rather than take any chances of having the fuel pumps quit again, it would be prudent just install an over-the-counter Bendix-style electric fuel pump.

maserati vignale spyder raised up on lift
With the car on the lift we removed the OEM Monoflux fuel pumps and lines and installed a new Bendix fuel pump.. Francis G. Mandarano

I called Stuart at MIE, Corporation who gave me the part number of a replacement fuel pump. Lo and behold, the local NAPA dealer had it in my hand in less than 20 minutes. We removed the two Monoflux fuel pumps and the special copper lines and installed the new fuel pump together with new rubber fuel lines and clamps.

car lines pumps and tools on cart
The old pumps and copper lines after removal. Francis G. Mandarano

Altogether the completed job took about two hours, including a hand wash next door. We drove back to the hotel parking garage and spent the afternoon leisurely enjoying Coeur d’Alene.

man hand drying vintage maserati vignale spyder
After the fuel pump setback, the car received a great hand wash. Clean again and ready to roll. Francis G. Mandarano

Day 4

The next morning with the car running great, it was off to Wallace Idaho where we met up with the group.  Wallace is one of those interesting silver mining towns that sprung up in and around Kellogg, Idaho.

At about 2 PM, all 15 cars headed out for the drive to Priest Lake in the northern Idaho panhandle. The back road we took was extremely winding and rough, climbing to a higher and higher elevation. Then, out of nowhere, the wipers began working on their own! A very odd condition.

OK, I thought, just pull the fuse. Not so easy. The wipers kept working even after pulling the fuse. WHAT THE HELL! I got out my trusty test light and found the hot wire going to the wiper motor. Using my Swiss Army Knife I unscrewed the terminal and pulled out the wire from the terminal block. Bingo! Wipers off.

vignale spyder electrical connections
With the red wire removed the wipers stopped, putting an end to what ended up being a bad ground. Francis G. Mandarano

End of crisis.  Side note: After returning home my tech found the Lucas motor had a bad ground. It took 20 minutes to troubleshoot and repair.

What came next was depressing and hilarious all at once. Driving along all fat, dumb and happy, we unknowingly took a wrong turn only to drive about 25 miles along a beautiful winding country road following the Coeur d’Alene River.

maserati spyder vignale rear three-quarter beside mountain stream
The beautiful drive along the Coeur d’Alene River was about to turn ugly. Francis G. Mandarano

The first sign something was not right was when the road began to narrow to a one-and-a-half-lane road. Then, to our surprise, we came upon the worst sign any car enthusiast could imagine: “Caution Pavement Ends.” Yes, we actually began driving on a such a gravel road, which became narrower and narrower to the point where we stopped and asked a fly fisherman wading in the river for a tip. “Does this road eventually go to Highway 200?” He didn’t laugh but politely informed us that it did not.

At this point a white pickup truck coming in the opposite direction stopped and the driver’s wife got out—hip waders and all—and informed us that we needed to go back about 25 miles and take a left hand turn at the giant FOOD sign. “That road goes to highway 200 and onto Sand Point and Priest Lake Idaho.”

You can imagine how deflated we were to hear this news, but we took it in good humor, laughing about it all the way as we headed back.

Because we had lost so much time we decided to keep going the additional 16 miles directly to Interstate 90, where we could have a straight shot and the fastest route back to Coeur d’Alene. Then on to Sandpoint and Priest Lake our final destination that day. We put another 488 km on the car driving to Priest Lake, arriving at 7:00 PM.

We checked into cabin 15 and then headed over to the bar, for a much-needed cold beer and a great appetizer buffet set up by the organizers.

rustic lodge front exterior on overnight stay
Checking in to cabin 15 at Elkins Resort on Priest Lake after a very long drive, we headed straight for the bar and a cold one. Francis G. Mandarano

As we drove into Elkins Resort, one of the guests flagged us down and informed us that he had seen a bear or two around the cabin area. I had this vision of a black bear climbing into the Vignale, or worse yet clawing into the convertible top, so we made sure to get all snacks and sweets out of the car for the overnight stay, which turned out to be just fine.

We put the top up, rolled up the windows, and parked the Maserati outside our cabin all night with no problems. It had been a very long day.

Day 5

Given the two bedroom cabin, we both got a great night sleep—snoring.

That morning we loaded up the Vignale and headed in the direction of Spokane, Washington, where we picked up Interstate 90 for about 5 miles and exited onto Highway 2 in the direction of the great Grand Coulee Dam and onto Winthrop, Washington.

vintage maserati vignale spyder blue skies on open road
The beautiful drive on route to the cowboy town of Winthrop, Washington. The Vignale Spyder purred like a kitten, loving the two-lane highways that stretches on forever in the countryside. Francis G. Mandarano

On this leg of the drive we had the top up the whole way. This was the only day we drove the car with the top up.

Winthrop, an original old-fashioned cowboy town with wooden sidewalks and saloons, has become quite the tourist destination, so it was buzzing with people.

 

 

We checked into our hotel to discover that we had a great room right on the Methow River.  The sound of the rushing water all night provided for another great night sleep. After a long hot drive the first thing we wanted to do was hit Jack’s saloon.  This day we added 733 km to the speedo.

Day 6

We loaded up the car, put the top down, and head to the local espresso bar for a couple Doppio Macchiatos and a croissant. It was then off to the other side of the Cascade Mountains.

We both agreed this was perhaps the most beautiful leg of our six day adventure. It started off very flat winding through the countryside then slowly began climbing up the North Cascade Mountains and then down into Mount Vernon, Washington.

vintage maserati vignale spyder open road and snow capped mountain view
Departing Winthrop, we head for the Northern Cascade Mountains en route to Mount Vernon, Washington. This was the most beautiful drive of the six days, hands down. Francis G. Mandarano

The two-hour drive was spectacular passing Ross Dam and then on to the Diablo Dam with the car purring and handling like it just left Viale Ciro Menotti. It was all very special. We stopped in Mount Vernon, where we enjoyed the best breakfast ever at the Calico Café, then drove on the back roads to Mercer Island on what would be our last leg of the journey.

vintage maserati vignale spyder front three-quarter
Pulling over for a pit stop just past the Diablo Dam, I snapped this photo showing a lot of green and a little dirt behind the front wheel. A happy car. Francis G. Mandarano

Colin and I both agreed it was a fun and memorable six days in a great open car. Would we do it again? YOU BET! As to the car, it always started instantly and ran very smoothly, never popping or spitting. During warm-up I would pull the choke out 20 percent until the engine came up to temperature.

vintage maserati vignale spyder engine
Francis G. Mandarano

It used a half quart of 50w Valvoline Racing oil and got 15.5 mpg on average. The temp gauge never moved and stayed rock solid at 85 C or 185 F.  It always shifted smoothly with a precise click, click as you would expect of a German ZF box.

I encourage all of you to sign up for one of your local road tours and get out there and DRIVE your Maseratis!

vintage maserati vignale spyder engine with note
The engine compartment of Vignale 1121 after 1150 miles shows everything very tidy, with no visible leaks of any kind. Is it a show car? No! It’s a DRIVER. Francis G. Mandarano

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