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Your past antique auto mishap events


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I wasn’t going to tell the story since I lost the pics on a broken iPhone (pay for the 99cent/month cloud storage) of the real-time text messages that tell the story better than I ever could, but SC’s bobby pin story just hit too close to home....

 

My first car was a 1952 Studebaker that our neighboring farmer had asked my dad’s permission to give me when I got my first job with a State waiver at the age of 12. I ended up keeping that car for just over 30 years. Eventually I gave it to a coworker who expressed an interest in it.

 

Mechanically it was a superb original, never apart, never any problems (the body and Korean War era chrome were another story). The new owner would call a few times per week that first summer with questions, “What’s this? How do I do that?” But he kept bugging me with, “There’s something up with the shifter. I keep having to play with it. Did anything happen?” I had the same answer every time: “I got it stuck in a gear once (I no longer remember which) but figured out there was a worn out 3 cent washer down where the shift-tube meets the transmission linkages. Replaced it and the problem never came back. I don’t know Bob, something’s obviously out of alignment or worn out - get out that shop manual I gave you, go through all the linkages and figure it out.”

 

Then one day he texted me a picture of the shift tube with an arrow drawn to an empty hole in it. Then another picture of a 1/3d inch long pin on a piece of towel paper with the words ‘broken pin’ written on it in sharpie marker.

 

I replied, “Yeah Bob, I don’t remember that part or where it went. Get out that shop manual that I gave you....” Then came a 3d picture. It was a picture of a bent finishing nail.

 

Now, about 10 years ago I started noticing my memory was getting pretty bad. Bad enough that I’d fall into little panics over it. But when I saw that finishing nail it all came right back. I replied, “Oh sh*t. I think I might remember now. Did I use a bent finishing nail to replace a missing cotter pin?” He shot back, “Yes you did”.

 

Actually there was never a cotter pin, or a washer - not sure how that got into the memory - but I think that was a pretty ingenious fix for a 12 year old! Just might be the longest lasting ‘repair’ I ever did too - 30 years.

 

Shorty after we got that car running I was out bombing around the cornfield with it and the shifter (3 on the tree) got tangled up. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, maybe it got stuck in 1st or 2nd and I must have forced it into neutral because all I remember was the car was immobilized in the middle of the cornfield and old Dad was on his way home from work.

 

What a 12 year old was doing with finishing nails in his pocket I will never know. I do remember being aware that he was on his way and I remember thinking, “There’s no time to walk all the way to the barn and back (for tools) without him seeing me out here.” VIVIDLY.

 

I’ve carried a full tool set in every vehicle I’ve driven ever since — even company vehicles that do not belong to me.

 

Ben P.

 

 

Edited by Ben P.
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My younger years were full of road trips all over Australia, in a wide variety of cheap old cars. Mechanical mishaps and roadside repairs were the norm. 

 

One that comes readilly to mind, was when i purchased a tired 1956 FE Holden utility, in Melbourne. The engine was on it's last legs, but the price was right. I found a good EJ Holden engine at a wrecker, with slightly larger displacement. What luxury! Loaded the engine into the back of the ute, along with my toolbox, oil, water, food and my swag. Then headed North for the 360 mile drive to my parents' place up the bush. About 35 miles out of Melbourne on the Calder highway, the engine finally expired, but luckily it gave me enough time to roll under a suitable tree. Unfortunately I did not own an endless chain, so couldn't lift the engine out. Locked up and hitched a ride back to the suburbs, where I found a hire joint who let me hire an endless chain, while they held onto my driver's licence. Hitched another ride back to the ute, with the heavy lifting tackle, and set to work. Out with the dud engine. Roll the ute back and lower it to the ground, then tip it out of the way. Manhandled the ute forward to lift out the EJ engine, roll it back again, (it's getting lighter to roll), and start fitting the 'new' engine. I'm on my own, of course. The sun went down before I got the job done, so rolled out the swag. Early the next morning that EJ engine fired up and purred like a kitten. Beaut! Load up the dead engine, and drive back to the hire joint, where i retrieved my licence, then non-stop home to my folks' place. I had a lot of adventures in that ute, before it finished it's life on a cattle station, out past Marble Bar.

 

My mind is filling up with stories, so I'd better get back out to the workshop! Wouldn't want to bore you folks to death.

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Just the thing for a pandemic.

 

Strange thing: cars I've sold are never a problem. Give away a car and get constant calls about it. Is a moral there somewhere.

 

Could someone post a picture of an "endless chain" please ? Never herd that term before. Is it a chain fall (needs something overhead to attach)  or a self contained hoist ?

 

Can see telling a rozzer "my license is at the hire place..."

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I had a sweet 1957 Ford Country Squire wagon I bought cheap at a swap meet. It was a Salmon (dont let anyone fool you- thats pink!) and white rust-free beauty from California  with a roof rack and a V8 auto. The guy who drove it to the show barely made it in the lot as the 312 Y-block was only  running on 3-4 cylinders due to wiped out rocker arm rails, thanks to that ridiculously narrow oil galley that lubes them getting all clogged up. After pointing out its mechanical problems and his potential tow bill to get it home again, I bought it  for a princely 400.oo.  Once I made it home, I changed out the  worn out parts, then added some creative external oil lines to get the 30wt. through the valve covers and straight to the heads. After a few months of driving it around the neighborhood on a borrowed plate, I decided to make an honest woman out of her and get her insured and plated all legal-like.

 

Once it was legal I thought a good road trip was in order, but seeing as how my foreman insisted I show up for work on a regular basis, the 35 mile trip to work at G.M. would have to suffice, so I packed my lunchbox cooler and bade my family farewell for the evening and headed for my job in the shop.

 

About 10 miles into the trip, I decided to fill the old gal up at a station en route. As the wagons tank was guzzling premium, I thought I detected a whiff of hot metal- kinda like that stench that fills your lungs hours after some serious metal grinding- but I convinced myself it was merely the truck on the other side of the pumps exhaust system I was smelling, paid my tab, collected  some praise over my cool car, and drove off.

 With the windows down and the AM radio grooving to some NewsTalk (the only channel it would pick up- I always intended to fix that antenna!) out of its single speaker, all was right with the world.

 When I caught a traffic light and rolled to a stop, I AGAIN smelled that hot metal smell, but thought it was the semi idling next to me, or maybe that muffler shop a block behind me and  blissfully shrugged it off.

 Eventually, I entered onto the expressway and decided to let that 312 show everyone what its got! I seamlessly merged into the afternoon traffic and was soon in the passing lane, brushing aside those  hoards of commuter econo-boxes and minivans, foot on the floor and arm out the window.

 

I was about a mile from my exit,  wallowing along at about 75 mph in the far left lane when the left rear tire blew, shedding tire shreds and a copious amount of smoke as I threaded my way through traffic to the opposite shoulder of the freeway, through all those cars I had previously passed, which were now going twice as fast as me.

 Once I safely got onto the shoulder I got out to assess the damage. The old bias ply was wrapped around the rim and still smoking so I dropped the tailgate and got the spare tire and jack out.

 As I was walking around the other side of the car, a van stopped and the guy said "Hey, you need some help?" I said "No Thanks, its just a flat and my spare is up, so I'm good." and went back to my task at hand. "Ah, no youre not." said the Good Samaritan, "Youre on fire!"  You know, if he had been a she, I might have interpreted that last comment as a compliment, but instead I ran over to the other side and saw that the rubber wrapped around the rim had ignited and fire and smoke was roiling out of the wheel well.

 

"Damn!" I said as I ran back around the car to retrieve my cooler full of ice/fire extinguisher. I dumped the entire contents on the rim, ice, water, pop cans, sandwich, apple and fritos, which elicited a huge plume of smoke and steam that temporarily blinded us (and the cars passing by). We laughed at the close call I had just had and, just like any good slasher movie, we thought we had slain this monster, end of story.

 However, as the cloud cleared you could see tiny flames, then a few medium sized ones appeared, then, holy shit!, it re-ignited right before our eyes! "Quick, toss me one of those pop cans!" Yelled my assistant fire fighter. Man, first my car is on fire and now this dude needs a Pepsi break? I reluctantly tossed him a soda and instead of guzzling it down as expected, he shook it up and sprayed it on the fire, all McGuyver-like. I immediately joined in and sacrificed that sweet carbonated nectar to this now insatiable fire god. The Pepsi seemed to only make the fire god angry- or maybe  NutraSweet is an accelerant- because the flames were now feeding off of the the wheel well and growing. That hot metal warning smell I repeatedly ignored was now intermingled with that distinctive bouquet of Pepsi products, old road tar and decades old Centari Enamel.

 

I told my new friend he better back his van up, away from this flaming car as it had a full tank of gas and the filler tube runs right through that burning quarter panel. As he got clear of the Blast Zone, I absentmindedly rolled my spare away from the wagon and joined him about 50 feet behind it.  The flames were up the side of the quarter panel as high as the roof, and the interior was full of smoke that billowed out the open windows. "What if I jumped in the car and drove it off the  burning tire?" I asked, "Maybe then the fire would go out by itself?" I thought my buddy would surely talk me out of such a suicide mission, but instead he encouraged me to try it. "Go for it." he said, determined to wring every last bit of free entertainment from my misfortune. At the moment I took my first step toward the conflagration, the interior reached its flashpoint and exploded into flames.  "I wouldnt try it now."  deadpanned my own personal Captain Obvious.

 

 As the car burned, the south bound expressway traffic came to a complete stop as motorist didnt want to drive through the thick black smoke that was blowing across the interstate. The north bound lanes also ground to a halt as rubber-neckers slowed then stopped to watch. After a few minutes the entire car was engulfed and the gascap blew off of the tank, throwing a flame 20 feet out into the road. Everyone was waiting and expecting a movie-like explosion when the entire gas tank finally reached critical mass ( I turned my back to it so when it did explode, I could walk away without looking back like a real life action hero), but it just burned and burned, eventually catching the asphalt around it on fire too.

 

In the distance, we could hear a fire truck's siren, but it couldnt get through the 10 mile backup for another 30 minutes and once it arrived, my Ford was a smoking heap of rubble (with a mint condition tailgate- dropping it down kept it from burning). The firemen hosed it down, swept the charred shards of my dream machine into a pile under the main ash and helped clear traffic. A policeman arrived and asked for my insurance and registration. I  walked over to the passenger front door, reached down and scooped up a pile of smoking mud and ash and said "I think this is it."

 

An empty roll back wrecker appeared out of the traffic and backed up to the front of my wagon.  I made a deal to get us home, my friend gave police his statement, shook my hand, wished me well and left, the firemen milled about taking pictures. After about 1.5 hours it was all over. Traffic resumed and except for the burnt asphalt near mile marker 78, my cars immolation was soon forgot.

 

 At home I did an  automotive autopsy  and discovered that the left rear brake (and an inattentive driver) was the culprit. I hadnt manually adjusted the shoes out (no "automatic" adjusters in 1957- a painful lesson learned..) and at some point the wheel cylinder rams were extended beyond  their limits and cocked in the cylinder bore, jamming the brakes against the drum. Because I only drove it locally, for short trips and at slow speeds, the drum never got too hot. It was only when I went cross country at high speed that the drum got so hot it heated up the rim, causing the tire to expand until it blew. The tire then wrapped around the hot drum and ignited. I mighta been able to contain it if I had had a decent fire extinguisher on board- something I never leave home without  -   now.

 

In the end, I fault the insurance company. IF they hadnt insured me, I never would have  tried to drive it to work! I insured it on a Thursday, it burned on Friday, I made a claim on Saturday and those cold-hearted pencil-pushers cancelled my other car (1958 VW) by the following Wednesday. Their adjuster came out the following week and "totaled" the car. My 400.oo wagon was insured for 5500.oo which they eventually paid. I bought the wreck off of them for 200.oo, sold the engine and trans , the narrow 9 inch rear axle and that mint tail gate for 5X that and used a portion of my  settlement to buy a 1965 Land Rover and a 1970 Triumph Bonneville.

 

I still have the $3.99 aftermarket fender-mount antenna that I bought for that wagon at Gratiot Auto, but never installed. After all these years and too many cars, trucks and motorbikes to count, its still hanging on the wall.

 

Postscript-

 When I returned to work the following Monday, I was feted about by my fellow shop rats as a genuine celebrity! It seems my wreck kept everyone taking the expressway to work from getting there on time. The plant wasnt able to start on time and the assembly line didnt start up until an hour after the official starting time. Other nearby G.M. plant were also shut down. My foreman said that G.M. loses about 3 million $ every hour the line is down. Multiply that by 4 plants in the area and my little Ford cost G.M. a pretty penny that day!

 

Edited by dustycrusty (see edit history)
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I was unloading my auto lifts out of my enclosed trailer. Moving them into storage. Went back to my truck to get a drink of water, by the time I got back to the rear of the trail. Down I go to the ground. That was a good one. I had just started sending emails to the news channels. Seems someone was not very happy with that. Lasting impression Flivverking? To this day hundreds of people have been lied to about what was dug up and exposed. I will throw out some humor, warning language in this one.:lol:       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTHkjpv4X6M

 

Edited by Xander Wildeisen (see edit history)
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18 hours ago, padgett said:

Just the thing for a pandemic.

 

Strange thing: cars I've sold are never a problem. Give away a car and get constant calls about it. Is a moral there somewhere.

 

Could someone post a picture of an "endless chain" please ? Never herd that term before. Is it a chain fall (needs something overhead to attach)  or a self contained hoist ?

 

Can see telling a rozzer "my license is at the hire place..."

 

Mr Padgett, I'm sure you know an endless chain by one of it's other aliases.

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/BLOCK-TACKLE-1-Ton-CHAIN-BLOCK-ENDLESS-CHAIN-HOIST-GANTRY-ENGINE-CRANE-LIFT/250836259867?hash=item3a6701941b:g:TzcAAOSwX8dbryg4

 

'Chain block', 'Block and tackle', 'Chain hoist'. Control is by an 'endless' chain.

 

And yes, I wouldn't want to tell an American cop that my licence was in the hire joint. Sheesh, you can't even get out of the car and meet them half-way, in the US.

 

But I ask you, would you hire a piece of expensive, highly sought after kit to a rough headed itinerant with a car broken down out on the highway? I know I wouldn't, but they were different times. Besides, these days there would be a distinct shortage of wheels on the vehicle when you got back to it.

 

 

Edited by Bush Mechanic
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