I was 19 years old and the proud owner of a 1970 Datsun 240Z. The local sports car club was holding a driving school at the nearby road racing circuit in Loudon NH. It was a great deal. For a reasonable fee, they gave us classroom instruction, took us around the course in various vehicles to show us the lines, and then let us out on our own for 2 sessions. What they didn't tell me (perhaps they assumed I should have known) is that when you power out of a turn after having selected a lower gear, you should bring the engine revs up some to match what they will be when the clutch is engaged so drivetrain stress is minimized and for optimum performance. I would just simply select a lower gear, dump the clutch out (the whole car would then experience a horrible shudder) and apply power.
About ten days after the school, the differential went out. I took the car to the Datsun dealership with the brakes, tires, clutch and differential shot. Being 19 years old, I still had the number "12" on the side of the car in shoe polish, so the service manager knew where I had been and what I had been doing. He said "Look, I can't help you with the brakes, tires, or the clutch. Just get that stupid 12 off the side of the car and I'll see what I can do about getting the area Datsun representative to fix the differential under warranty". Considering that the car at 14,000 mile was 2000 miles out of warranty and that the differential was an expensive fix, this was a generous deal.
A while later I was reading an article in a car magazine about the Scarab, which is a 240Z that had a Chevrolet V8 engine and appropriate 4 speed transmission installed. They kept the stock 240Z differential however, and the article quoted a Scarab manufacturer representative as saying that they felt it could handle the extra horsepower of the V8. Yet I managed to break it with the stock Datsun six cylinder engine!
It was Saturday night and some friends and myself were in the beginning stages of some serious partying, which included more alcohol than a reasonable person would consider appropriate. My neighbor, who had seen me working on cars, came to the door and asked if I could help his son with some car problems. I kind of motioned to the party scene around us and asked him if he was sure that he wanted me to work on the car? He said yes.
So I stumbled off and was introduced to his son who was quite stressed out at the situation. He explained to me that it would not start and that it must be the points because he had just changed them and before that it started fine. He also thought it was probably something he must have done as he had only changed points once before and also that he had been working on it for two hours with no luck. I saw that his wife was going crazy over the whole situation and to her it was now looking like their brand new Fiat would never again start. He showed me the mechanical adjustment with the feeler gauge which, as best I could determine in my state of reduced abilities, looked OK. I did however see what the problem was: the electrical connection was shorted out to the distributor case. I asked for some pliers and pulled the connection out of harm's way. I returned the pliers and told him to put it all back together and see if it would start.
All this strenuous activity made me want to sit down. I held on to the car to keep me from falling down like the fool I was as I inched my way closer to the front steps of the house. The car was far enough away from the steps that I would be on my own for a few feet before I would be able to grab the railing for support. I somehow managed to get to the railing and sit down without incident. The car owner's wife was sitting next to me and I knew she could smell the booze on my breath as I said to her "I think it will start now". A look of absolute horror came over her and she buried her face in her hands with a "We are doomed for sure" attitude. A couple of seconds later they started the car and she looked at me in absolute amazement. They thanked me and I stumbled home.
I didn't stick around to hear the conversation the couple had afterwards. My guess is it went something along the lines of "What is wrong with you? You worked on it for two hours and that drunken idiot fixed it in 10 seconds!"
Up until 1987, my automotive life consisted of owning a variety of English, German, Japanese and homebuilt sports cars. The newest was a '72 MGB and a '72 Porsche 914, a fact I carried as a badge of honor. Part of the entertainment was that I was always repairing or modifying them, since none of them were reliable or fast enough. Working on them was part of my regular schedule, along with doing the laundry, cleaning house, and so on. That all changed in April of 1987, when I purchased a new Mazda RX-7 Turbo II.
It represented a long list of firsts. It was the first car I owned with working air conditioning, the first with a catalytic convertor, the first with power windows and a sunroof etc. At about 30,000 miles, I took it to the dealer for the scheduled maintenance. I knew the battery was on its way out as the car had started to crank a little slow. When writing up my bill, the service manager noted the mechanic's recommendation that the battery was questionable and asked if I wanted them to replace it. I replied adamently "Hell No!", thinking to myself "Yeah sure, I'm really interested in your $65 Mazda factory battery!" The service manager looked at me kind of odd, shrugged his shoulders and finished writing up the bill.
A few weeks later the battery died for good and I did what I had been doing for years: I went to the nearest discount auto supply store and exchanged my old battery and $29.95 hard earned cash for a new one and returned home. Just as I was installing the new battery, something occured to me: The service manager was offering to replace it under warranty!
I borrowed my wife's Geo Metro last night. One liter of raw power, three cylinders of asphalt-tearing terror on thirteen-inch rims. It's stock, alright, nothing done to it, but it pushes the barely 2000 pounds of metro around with AUTHORITY. I'm always catching mopeds and 18-wheelers by surprise...
I was headed back from Baskin Robbins with my manly triple-latte cappuccino blast ("No Cinnamon, ma'am, I take it BLACK"), when I stopped at a streetlight. As the Metro throbbed its throaty idle around me, I sipped my bold beverage and wiped the white froth my stiff upper lip. I was minding my own business, but then I heard a rev from the next lane. I turned, made eye contact, then let my eyes trace over the competition. Ford Festiva-a late model, could be trouble. Low profile tires, curb feelers, and schoolbus-yellow paint. Yep, a hot rod, for sure. The howl of his motor snapped my reverie, and I looked back into the driver's eyes, nodded, then blipped my own throttle. As I tugged on my driving gloves and slipped on my sunglasses (gotta look cool to be fast, and I am *damn* cool, hence...), the night was split with the sound of seven screaming cylinders...
Then the light turned... I almost had him out of the hole, my three pounding cylinders thrusting me at least a millimeter back into my seat, as smoke pouring from my front right tire... my unlimited slip differential was letting me down! I saw in the corner of my eyes, a yellow snout gaining, and I heard the roar of his four cylinders. He slung by me, right front wheel juddering against the pavement, and he flashed me a smile as his .7 extra liters of motor stretched its legs. I kept my foot gamely in it, though, waiting for the CHECK ENGINE light to blink on in the one-gauge (no tachometer here!) instrument panel. I saw a glimpse of chrome under his bumper, and knew the ugly truth... He was running a custom exhaust-probably a 2-into-1 dual exhaust...maybe event cutouts! Damn his hot-rod soul! The old lady passing us on the crosswalk cast a dirty look in our boy-racer direction... Yet still I persisted, with my three pumping pistons singing a heady high-pitched song, wound fully out.
Though only a few handfuls of seconds had passed, we were nearing the crosswalk at the other side of the intersection, and I heard the note of his engine change as he made his shift to second, and I saw his grin in his rearview mirror fade as he missed the shift! I rocketed by, shifting, and nursed the clutch gently in to keep from bogging, keeping my motor spinning hot and pulling me ahead, now trailing a cloud of stinking clutch smoke. Not ready to give up so easily, he left his foot in it, revving, and I heard one wheel *almost* chirp as he finally found second and dropped the clutch. We careened over the crosswalk, now going at least 15 miles per hour. A bicyclist passed us, but intent on the race as we were, neither of us batted an eye.
He pulled slowly abreast of me, and neck and neck, we made the shift to third, the scream of motors deafening all pedestrians within a five foot circle. He nosed ahead as we passed 30 miles an hour, then eased in front of me, taunting, as we shifted into fourth. I was staring up the dual 6" chrome tips of his exhaust, snarling, my cappuccino forgotten, as he lifted a little to take the next corner.
I saw my opportunity, and counting on the innate agility of my trusty steed, I pulled wide into the number two lane and kept my foot buried in carpet. Slowly, I inched around him, feeling my Metro roll slowly to the left as I came abreast in the midst of this gradual sweeping turn. I felt the Geo ease onto its suspension stops, and felt the right rear wheel slowly leave the ground - no matter, though, because my drive wheels, up front, were pulling me through the corner, and around the Festiva ...
The Ford driver beat his wheel in rage as my wife's car eased past him on the outside, my P165/55R13's screaming in protest, as we raced to the next light. We coasted down, neck-and neck, to the red light. I tightened my driving gloves, ready for another round, when this WIMP in the next car meekly flipped his turn signal and made a right. Chevy (Suzuki) superiority reigns!!! I drove off sipping my masculine drink, awash in my sheer virility, looking for other unwitting targets.... Perhaps a Yugo, or maybe even a Volkswagen Van!
Date: Sat, 18 Jan 2003 20:58:45 EST
From: Mike Moore
Subject: Dumb car things-long
In 1966 I had a 1962 Chrysler 300H (380HP, 500 fft-lbs torque) and I featured myself a real racer. I frequently drove from Dallas to Birmingham on Friday nights, returning on Sunday mornings. I sometimes cruised on the interstates at 120 when traffic was light, as it was then. I was disappointed because the cruise control didn't engage above 90. (I was a real idiot.)
I had bought a set of Michelin X tires, and I wanted them balanced on the car (12 in x 3 inch drums all around). I went to an old filling station in Richardson Texas with a single concrete block work bay over a hydraulic lift. The elderly mechanic spun the front wheels with a Beam Wheel balancer on the car to balance them.
Idiot that I was, I wanted to make sure they were balanced for 120 (or as fast as he could spin them), so I watched him closely. When the fronts were done, he tried to spin the rear wheels but couldn't (limited slip diff). So idiot-boy-racer that I was, I said "I know what lets do: Raise the car on the lift so the rear wheels are just a little above the ground, I'll start the engine, put the car in "Drive", and you can balance the wheels while then engine spins them". He finally agreed, but was really tentative and apprehensive about me and what I wanted to do. He lifted the car and nervously put the instrument on the right rear rim. He was sitting on a small stool, looking at the rear axle. He had another box with an assortment of weights and tools sitting nearby.
I started the engine, and put it in "D". The engine was a Mopar 413 HIPRO, with dual 42 inch (burned-out) glass packs. It was in a single bay concrete stall. The mechanic was within a couple of feet of the exhaust and right up against the right rear wheel. I increased the speed to 50. Then I had a great idea: I'll set the Bendix Auto-Pilot (primitive cruise control) and that way I can get out of the car, with cruise control engaged and set at at 90 and go back and supervise what's going on! So I dialed up 90, pulled the "engage" knob, and tried to bring the speed up to engage. All hell broke loose! The speed control system was without damping or load, and went into violent oscillation. The speed initially fell a little, and the pedal went way down-the speed went to 100 or so, and the throttle closed-as the speed fell down to 30, the pedal was floored and next I saw 120, and the pedal closed. I saw the needle buried on the 150 speedo. It was the same as me first flooring the gas, then letting totally off, then flooring it again, half a dozen times quickly.
I had panicked, but finally had the sense to turn key off. When I got out of the car, I could see the mechanic standing about 50 feet away- the stool he had been sitting on was at least 20 feet away and tools and tire weights were scattered everywhere! He was terrified!
I didn't get my rear wheels balanced .
I had to start buying gas elsewhere because the guy really thought I was psycho. (He never knew about the cruise control problem, and didn't give a damn about my engineering explanation about servos, control systems, loss of load, damping, instability etc.)
He asked me to please not ever come to his station again. Ever.
I could see fear (maybe terror) in his eyes whenever I tried to say hello to him after that. (I really tried to patch things up).
For two years my Festiva was the laughing stock of the High School. Like me, it just didn't seem to fit in with any of the accepted cliques. The rednecks all drove their huge trucks with rebel flags for seat covers, the stoners mostly drove tricked-out civics, supras, and imprezas (funny, the slowest people had the fastest cars), the preps drove sporty little mg's and huge suv's that their parents bought for them, and the few "brothas" (I'm not being racist, that's what they called themselves) at our ethnically enequal school had low-ridin' mercedes-benzes and old impalas. Then there was me and my Festiva. It wasn't a bad car, on the contrary, it got awesome mileage, had enough cargo space for me and all two of my friends, and could actually pull some off-road action, even though it was only 2-wheel drive. It just got made fun of for it's lack of power, handling, and all-around perforance. I and my efficient ride were taunted the most by one guy in particular, Adam Vollager, captain of the football team, hottest guy in the school, and driver of a firetruck-red porshe 911. I think his favorite pastime was cruising the streets until he spotted my sapphire blue econobox, then riding my rear bumper until we came to a stoplight. He'd pull up beside me, rev his engine until it rose to a beautiful crescendo, then peel tires the instant the light changed, leaving me in his high-octane exhaust. this happened over and ver, sometimes three times in the same night. Just when I was getting to the point where I could no longer stand it, I was approached by a new local auto-makeover company, Custom Cruisers, with a slightly insulting but very appealng offer. As part of their new ad campaign, they wanted to take a super-dorky car like mine and actually turn it into something to be proud of free of charge!! Neeedless to say, I eagerly accepted their offer. I signed all the liability release papers and turned my car over to them for twenty days. That two and a half weeks of walking nearly killed me, and gave Adam Vollager a great chance to tease me even more. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, my new old ride was unveiled- and I could have sworn it was a different car!! the little 1.3L 67 hp engine had been replaced with a huge 220 hp SHO (how they fit it in there I don't know, but I sure miss the dash on my passenger side!), the 16 inch rims in the back had given way to mag wheels, which contrasted wonderfully with the front rims, which now sported low-profile tires. The entire interior had been redone in black leather, with aftermarket everything, right down to the new silver door handles. And the new stereo! My tinny two-speaker system had yeilded to an eight speaker, 10 cd changer, 200-watt stack. I was so happy I almost wet myself. The next day at school, I squeeled into the High School parking lot, made a quick circuit around the perimeter, then whipped my new machine expertly into the space next to the red porshe. I watched Adam's jaw drop as he tried in vain to see trhrough the tinted windows. Who could possibly have a car better than his? It looked vaguely like... no, his car sucks, it couldn't be... it was! I saw the awe spread across his visage as I stepped out of my new old car. After school, the red porshe was no where to be seen. It is rumored that Adam was so ashamed that a simple Festiva could be so much cooler than his car that he moved to Canada, where everything sucks. Others say he simply wrapped his car around a tree. Personally, I think he found a Festiva and loved driving it so much that he went on a world tour.
-Fred. Email me at gnihtraf @yahoo.com.
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