Bobsledders' jalopy journey

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:09 AM ET

The old Chev El Camino Classic got the job done -- barely.

Coughing, belching smoke, and sputtering, the 1978 vehicle -- a cross between a pickup truck and a car -- carried two Mexican bobsleigh team members and their sled all the way from Guadalajara to Calgary for this weekend's America's Cup competition which wrapped up yesterday.

That's more than 4,000 km as the crow flies, in a run-down, rusted, red vehicle that has clearly seen better days.

"We had a couple of problems. The water pump broke, then we had a gasoline leak along the way and the heater doesn't work, so we have no defrost and it was a little bit chilly," Roberto Tames, the team's 40-year-old pilot, said yesterday at Canada Olympic Park.

It took Tames and another member of the four-man bobsleigh team five days to make the trek north.

"The Mexican government offered us a van and at the last minute they cancelled it, so I had to come anyway I could and a friend of mine, Enrique Ramirez, lent us the El Camino to come," said Tames, who competed in his first Olympics in 1988 in Calgary with the country's first bobsleigh team.

"The bobsleigh guys were my heroes and I didn't know if I would be able to do it. In 1984, there was one Mexican skier who went to Sarajevo, so I (thought) if he could do it, why couldn't we do it?' " said Tames, who got hooked on the sport after watching it on TV when he was six years old.

With its big V-8 engine, there's no doubt the El Camino guzzled gas like there was no tomorrow but Tames hasn't tallied the hit to the team's wallet just yet.

"We spent a lot of money on gas but we're bringing the sled with us, so it kind of balances the price between plane tickets and transportation of the sled," he said.

The Mexicans will be back in Calgary Feb. 15-27 for the FIBT bobsleigh world championships.

The team finished seventh out of nine teams.


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