Tiger California Mille

By Don Whitely

If it was your birthday and you were able to choose anything your heart desired would it be a thousand mile drive in your Tiger? Well, it’s what I decided to do. California is just a beautiful place with some incredible roads waiting, adventure and discovery around every curve. My post-restoration-car-show period definitely over, I couldn’t resist taking the Tiger and answering the call of the open road.

Click on Images for Gallery

I started my birthday weekend road trip with my Tiger on Friday before lunch and finished Monday afternoon in Gilroy from whence it all began. I was headin’ south with no plan except driving the best roads I know and figuring it out along the way. Friday’s drive was overcast and threatening rain, but the road stayed dry. I didn’t beat the rain, though and I was running the windshield wipers (they worked!) all day on Saturday until I got to Hwy 395. Sunday’s drive to my sister’s new house in Chatsworth was dry as was Monday’s last leg home. Road highlights include Hwy 25 going south of Tres Pinos, Hwy 58 out of Paso Robles up to Bakersfield, Hwy 178 through Lake Isabella, Hwy 190 through Death Valley and Hwy 198 west of Coalinga was especially fun. I recommend the Hwy 25 – Hwy 198 – Hwy 101 loop as a good drive for the Bay Area/Monterey S.T.O.A club die-hards.

Only one speeding ticket courtesy of CHP on Hwy 395 – who knew it was only 65 MPH zone?

After vising a couple of local wineries (the always fabulous Tablas Creek and the new but equally good Alta Colina, both Rhone varietals specialists) I got a room at the Paso Robles Inn, right on the charming town square. Since I had no reservations I got what was available and elected to pay a little extra for a room with a garden view and spa on the balcony. Living large, right? Not so much when balanced against the natural spring’s rotten egg odor? Yeah, très naturel, très chic.

The second night was at the Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley which is a favorite of mine. I mean, I really love the contrast of remote, inhospitable terrain to the old school charm and fine dining of the Inn. Then there are the night drives down the valley towards Badwater Basin: no street lights, no traffic in sight, top-down in winter with the stars in desert abundance. Real magic.

Crossing over from 5 to 101 there are several options, but not as many as you’d think. James Dean highway (Hwy 41/46) and Hwy 152 Pachenco Pass come to mind. Ever been to Coalinga? Didn’t think so; however, the Hwy 198 between 5 and 101 going through Coalinga is one of the best back roads I have taken. Ever.


Click on map for detailed route

A full tank of gas in a Tiger doesn’t seem to get you that far. You eat the road in one hundred and thirty mile bites. With this drive I had an opportunity to really track my fuel economy over a long haul. Distance over gallons of gasoline is what we are talking about - M P friggin Gs. Counting my total odometer miles I get 1,381. Correcting for the 20% error that comes standard in my speedo I get 1,105 miles, or there ‘bouts (Google Maps says 1,100 miles – close enough). I used about 85 gallons of premium, ending up with pretty nearly empty tank back at the starting point. So, I’m getting about 13 MPG average with my modified Holly 650 Double Pumper, 3.07 rear-end, five-speed and a sporadically heavy foot. I suppose that is about right. The range was from 9 MPG (a fast drive on Hwy 25) to 16 MPG (easy drive out of Death Valley)

The Tiger at speed is very loud – especially with the hardtop, which is strange – and fatiguing over a long day of driving. I was planning to use my Klipsch in-ear stereo headphones like I usually do (noise isolation) with my iPhone for music, directions and backup speedometer, but decided to check out the “Bose QuietComfort® 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones” as a birthday gift to myself ($70 off at the Gilroy Outlets). Wow. All day comfortable with magic like reduction in background nose to the extent you could have a normal conversation at speed. It was originally developed for tank drivers or some such military application but made my peaceful drive all the more enjoyable.

All said and done, my personal California Mille was one for the books and all that I hoped. My Tiger (mine since ’88) took me out and brought me back without one bit of trouble. And it does not seem too worse for the ware with only a new chip or two. But, hey, what are Tigers for, anyway?

STOA Calendar

car interiorLorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s...