From Rootes Review
Vol. 10, #7, July 1985
The following is a fictitious story written for the TE/AE membership.
by Ted McClintock
This was a mission of mercy for Alan Davidson and his 1967 Sunbeam Tiger. He bounded through the side door of the Bedford Hospital with his keys in one hand and the little vial of serum in the other. There wasn’t a second to waste. He leaped behind the wheel and instantly brought the Weber carburated 289 to life.
It was just past 10:00 p.m. that August 4, 1969 as he gunned the Tiger down the exit lane of the parking lot and out on to Rt. 30. Heading west from the hospital his destination was the White Star Hotel in Jennerstown some 41 miles away. Between here and Jennerstown the “old Lincoln Highway” (as Rt. 30 is also known) contains more challenges and driving dangers than any Grand Prix race course. A1 would be able to make good time from the hospital to Schellsburg. A four lane by-pass had just been completed around the town of Bedford and Schellsburg itself had only one traffic light. West of Sehellsburg, though, the road starts winding up over the mountains. There is about an 8 mile stretch of steep grades, hair pin turns and twisting pavement. Once you get about 3 miles past the “Ship Hotel” you are up on the “Allegheny Plateau,” and a piece of the old Lincoln known as the “Seven Mile Stretch.” Then on through a couple of cross roads-“Reels’ Corner,” “Buckstown”–and on toward Jennerstown.
Dr. John B. Morton was nervously awaiting Al’s arrival. He knew that time was the most critical factor in saving the boy’s life. He hoped he had made the right decision to have Al bring the medicine here–there just seemed to be no other way. To take his patient, Douglas Chamberlain, to the nearest hospital would do little good without the anti-venom serum. Young Douglas had taken three severe strikes from a large Timber Rattlesnake, and he was becoming more delirious with the passing of every moment. The doctor strode across the room and peered out the window looking down at the street toward the east end of town. He wondered aloud to himself if A1 could get here in time. The boy’s chances for survival were swiftly diminishing.
It was a crystal clear moon lit summer night. The temperature was 60º and dropping with just a wisp of fog hanging in the dips. The Tiger’s tach was red lined at 7200 and A1 kept it pinned across the Bedford by-pass. Traveling faster than the speedometer could register, the car was dividing the heavy night air like a guided missile. Easing off the throttle now to prepare for the end of the by-pass–the reflections of the warning signs were shooting towards him like phazer bursts in a video game. The quiet of the sleepy Pennsylvania country side was shattered by the Tiger’s thundering V8. Soon he was past the entrance to Shawnee State Park. Then rocketing up the hill out of Schellsburg a glance in the mirror showed the town was falling away behind him into the black like a stone quickly sinking out of sight in a merky pond.
A1 felt good about the traffic signal being green in Schellsburg. He was determined to make it to Jennerstown in time to save the boy’s life. There was very little traffic this night and he debated with himself if he would have even slowed down let alone stopped if the signal had been red. Enough debate, he thought, I have to get psyched up for the challenges ahead. The nice straight road would soon turn into a slithering, undulating ribbon of pavement that would test every driving skill and ability that he could muster. He would have to push the Tiger to the limits if he were to make it in time.
A couple thoughts of gloom started to descend on A1–sort of like when fear starts to overcome caution and the hair on the back of your neck starts to bristle up. What if a deer were to jump down from the bank in front of him? No need to answer that one. Then what if he were to come shooting out of a curve at this kind of speed into the back end of, a slow moving tractor trailer? No answer for that one either. His physical sensations were heightening to a peak and then suddenly there it was: the sharpest curve on this road. He thought, I couldn’t be here already but I am. They call this the “Sweetest spot on the mountain” because there’s a candy shop down inside this curve. It is more like a U turn than a curve. Only plenty of experience at this highly elevated level of speed and performance can give a person the kind of subconscious reflexes that will bring you through a situation like this. Heel and toe, flick it into third gear, again second, ease on the power right through the curve. Reality began creeping back into his mind as he glanced at the speedometer while coming off the apex. It read 60 mph. He made it look so easy even at four times the safe posted speed for this curve. Now grabbing a big hand full of third and blasting from the right berm to the left berm and straightening out the S’s below the “Ship Hotel.” A few more curves left before reaching the plateau on top. One hundred miles per hour, one hundred ten, then tweak the stick back into 4th gear. The acceleration curve for this car was near vertical to past 140 mph.
Suddenly his heart about stopped–right in front of him were three tractor trailers. They were all in a row plugging up the mountain like a slow freight train. He could do nothing but swing around them. Luck being with him, no traffic was coming down as the Tiger screamed past the lead truck and back into the west bound lane. Then on to the Allegheny Plateau. The slow rollers of the seven mile stretch would be a breeze. A1 could tack it up again in 4th gear and Jennerstown would just be minutes away!
Meanwhile, Dr. Morton was pacing back and forth–each passing moment seemed like an hour. He agonized over Doug’s condition. He thought he heard the sound of a car coming. He raced over to the window. He could see the headlights of a car coming fast into town,. A1 screeched up to the entrance of the White Star Hotel with his delivery. The clock on the bank across the street flashed 10:19.
A1 was an intern at the Bedford Hospital and a good friend of Dr. Morton. They pondered the strange chain of events that had led them both into this dramatic situation. No anti-venom serum close by except at the Bedford Hospital. No helicopters available immediately and A1 being right there when the doctor called.
Some weeks later Doc Morton was talking with young Doug Chamberlain who was just about completely recovered. The doctor was making arrangements for Doug to meet A1 and go for a ride in Al’s Tiger. A1 had become Doug’s hero after the doctor had told him of Al’s drive to save his life. Doug could hardly wait to meet A1 and go for a ride in that Tiger.