Gus Wilson Model Garage

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					Gus Wilson's Model Garage

                   For several years, starting in July, 1920 and and until the 1960's Popular Science
                       Magazine ran stories each month about Gus Wilson's 'The Model Garage'

                        I enjoyed these stories so much when I was a kid that I never forgot them.
                                                Hope you enjoy them also.

Dec- Where the New Motor Cars Excell
                                                                         Many of the Stories have been donated by Mike
1931                                                                    Hammerberg.
April-Gus Gives Pointers on Car Buying
May- Should Law Scrap Old Cars?                                          Mr. Hammerberg started reading "Gus stories" in
                                                                        the 1950's. Mike taught highschool automotive
1934                                                                    mechanics and used the stories in his classroom.
Jul- How is Your Driving Eye
                                                                         Even though he no longer teaches, he collects the
1940                                                                    Popular Science magazines that contain the Gus
Dec- Gus Gets Ready for Winter                                          Stories. Many thanks to Mr. Hammerberg for taking
                                                                        the time to contribute.
Apr- Gus Has an Easy Day

Oct- The Brass Clue

Mar- One for the Book (1 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:26 PM]
Gus Wilson's Model Garage

Nov- Gus Fixes Up a Retread

Feb- Gus Slows a Speeder
Sep- Gus Comes Home to Trouble

Jan- Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit
Feb- Gus and the DeePee
Aug- Gus Gets Broken In

Nov- Gus Wins a Bet

May- Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

Apr- Gus Teams up with the Doctor
Aug- Gus Answers a Night Call
Feb- Gus Parlays a Parir of Hunches
Jan- Gus Tames a Runaway Engine
Jul- Gus is Saved by a Straw
Oct- Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

Aug- Gus Trails a Hot Cargo
Feb- Gus Helps Tie a Knot
Jan- Gus and the Car that Wouldn't
Jul- Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked
Jun- Gus Warms up a Road Racer
Mar- Gus Gets a High Pressure
Oct- Gus Gets the Pitch
Sep- Gus Pulls a Trick Play

Aug- Gus Peps up a Tired Truck
Dec- Gus Rides with Santa Claus
Jul- Gus Calls a Close One
Jun- Gus Puts the Heat on an MG
Mar- Gus Answers an Ambulance Call
Nov- Gus Goes Hunting

Apr- Gus Defies the Elements
Aug- Gus Rides Out a Storm
Dec- Gus Backs Into Christmas
Jun- Gus Lends Luck a Hand
Nov- Gus Goes Dowsing for Water (2 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:26 PM]
Gus Wilson's Model Garage

Sep- Gus Closes a Sticky Case

Dec- Gus Plays a Double Role
Feb- Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss
Jan- Gus Pursues Little Green Men
Jun- Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt
Mar- Gus Pulls a Switch
Nov- Gus Obeys Orders

Aug- Gus Seizes at a Straw
Oct- Gus Saves the Livestock

Jun- Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam
May- Gus Meets a Master Mechanic
Nov- Gus Mends Some Fences

Nov- Gus Pulls a Switch

Apr- Gus Wins an Easy Wager
Aug- Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson                                 'Gus Obeys Orders'
Feb- Gus Loses a Customer                                               Donated by Hugh Davy
Nov- Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem
Oct- Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

Aug- Gus Gets a Tip from TV
Dec- Gus Picks up a Package of Trouble
Nov- Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer
Oct- Gus Settles a Family Feud
Sep- Gus Helps a Homesick Car

Apr- Gus Referees a Big Deal
Feb- Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems
Mar- Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

Aug- Gus Gets the Show on the Road
Jul- Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap
Nov- Gus Rescues a Mechanic
Sep- Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

Jan- Gus Meets the Friday (3 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:26 PM]
Gus Wilson's Model Garage

Feb- Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job
Mar- Gus Gives the Teacher a Passing Grade
Apr- Gus Settles a Case Out of Court
May- Gus Teaches an Old Car New Tricks
Jun- Gus Makes the Best Bargain
Jul- Gus Tracks Down a Cold Clue
Aug- Gus Goes for double or Nothing
Oct- Gus and the Engine that Wouldn't

Mar-Gus Puts an Offbeat Combo Back in Tune
May- Gus and The Car That Stopped On Signal
Jul- Gus and the CAse of the Now
Sep- Gus Throws Cold Water on a Problem
Oct- Gus Gives a Couple of Poker Player a Hand
Nov- Gus Puts the Pressure on a Tightwad

Jan- Gus Gives the Teacher a Lesson
Feb- The Case of the Car that Chirped
Mar- Gus has a Trick up his Sleave
Apr- Gus Cools Off a Double Boiler
May- Gus Goes for a Little Spin
Jun- Gus Makes a Bet
Jul- Gus Has an Argument
Aug- Gus Gives an Old Car a Lift
Sep_ Gus Discovers a Secret Ingredient
Oct- Case of the Councilman
Dec- Gus Cures a Case of the Shakes

Jan- Gus Heals a Headache
Feb- Gus Seals a Used Car Bargain
Mar- Gus Takes the Worry out of a Warranty
May- Chalk one up for the Model Garage
Jun- Gus gets Stan out of a Scrape

"Hints From The Model Garage"
Cleaning Glass
Easy Parallel Parking
Tap a Hole at the Correct Angle
Thaw Frozen Lock
Frozen Lock Number Two

         Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (4 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:26 PM]
Where the New Motor Cars Excel


                         From the December, 1929 issue of
                                 Popular Science
                                           This story was donated by
                                              Mike Hammerberg

                Got time to reline my brakes this morning, Gus?" Kellogg called as he drove
                up to the Model Garage. "The linings are nearly worn through."

                "Sure thing!" Gus Wilson replied as he swung the doors open. "Run her inside
                over near the bench." :

                Kellogg was a good customer at the Model Garage. he handled his 'car
                carefully and intelligently, appreciated painstaking repair work, and, as Joe
                Clark, Gus's partner, once remarked: "He pays his bills instead of filing them in (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:28 PM]
Where the New Motor Cars Excel

                the waste basket !"

                Do a good job, now, Gus," Kellogg instructed while the veteran auto mechanic
                laid out his tools and placed the jacks. "I like to be able 'to stop quick and,.
                believe me, when the brakes are right on this bus she'll pretty near throw you
                through the windshield. I'd like to see any four-wheel-brake car stop any

                Gus smiled. "Guess you don't think much of four-wheel brakes," he observed.

                "I should say not!" Kellogg snapped. "They're just a talking point to help 'em
                sell the junk they call automobiles these days. If you want to see a real
                automobile, take a look at this boat. No fool fancy business. Just plain good

                "You've had five years of fine service out of it," Gus admitted. "'Taking care of
                it the way you do, you ought to get thousands of miles more before it's really
                worn out. By the way," he suggested, "would you like to look over the
                catalogues of some of the new cars while you're waiting? Joe has a few on his
                desk. Hey! Joe!" he called to his partner, "bring out that batch of catalogues I
                saw you looking at this morning."

                Joe popped out of his tiny office with a handful of gayly colored literature.
                "Thinking of buying a new boat, Mr. Kellogg?" he grinned.

                "Nix" Kellogg snorted disdainfully. "I don't think any of the cars they make
                now are as good as the one I've got. I'm satisfied with it."

                I don't wonder," said Gus as he measured a piece of brake lining and cut it to
                the proper length, "that you think four-wheel brakes don't amount to much. Lots
                of cars are running on the road with four brakes in such rotten shape they won't
                stop the car as quick as two brakes that work right. But if you ever happen to
                get behind some bird who has good brakes and he gets into a tight place so he
                has to jam 'em on, you're going to slam into him sure as fate."

                "Maybe so," Kellogg admitted. "But how about these four-speed transmissions?
                Seems like a lot of bunk to me. What's the good of four speeds, if yon drive in
                high nearly all the time anyway?"

                "It isn't the four speeds that count so much as the fact that you get what
                amounts to two high speeds," Gus explained. "Lots of times when you're
                boiling along a fine road at a good clip you kind of wish the motor wasn't
                turning over so fast it sounded like a bumblebee. Then when you get stuck in a (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:28 PM]
Where the New Motor Cars Excel

                lot of traffic or you have to push over steep hills and through lots of mud, you
                wish that high wasn't quite so high and second wasn't quite so low and noisy.
                The right kind of four-speed transmission takes care of both cases. In high, at
                high speed, the motor is as quiet as a mouse. In .third you can crawl through
                traffic or plough up muddy, steep hills as easy as rolling off a log--and do it
                without any gear noises either. On long trips the higher gearing saves gas, too."

                "If a four-speed transmission will do that," said Kellogg, "I'm all for it. What
                about this front-wheel-drive idea?"

                "Sounds like hot stuff in some ways," Gus observed. "Of course it's so new that
                you can't tell how it will work out for a while yet.'' There's no doubt driving
                through' the front-wheels makes it possible to get the body down close to the
                ground. The car ought to ride easier Taking weight off the rear axle should
                help. I can remember years ago how smooth-riding the old chain, drive cars
                were. They had a light rear axle, too. But as far as that goes, there's nothing to
                stop 'em from getting the same light rear axle with the ordinary rear drive by
                fastening the differential gear case onto the frame and driving the wheels
                through universal jointed shafts as they do with the new front drives.

                "Skidding should be less with the front drive and it is great for climbing out of
                ruts. Then there's no long propeller shaft to cause vibration if it doesn't happen
                to be balanced right."

                "You don't seem to be over-enthusiastic about the front drive," said Kellogg.

                "I said it looks good in a lot of ways," Gus replied. "But what looks good
                doesn't always work out in practice. Nobody can say for sure until a couple of
                thousand cars have seen a few years on the road in the hands of all sorts of
                drivers. Of course the idea isn't really new. Twenty-five years or more ago there
                used to be some electric Hanson cabs running around the city streets that drove
                with the front wheels and steered with the back ones. Seems to me the ideal
                way to drive would be through all four of the wheels.

                Kellogg silently thumbed through the catalogues for a while and then he
                popped another question. "What is a down-draft.carburetor, Gus?" he asked.

                "That's the latest,, Gus replied. "The air flows down through the carburetor into
                the cylinders, instead of uphill. The air doesn't have to lilt the gas particles
                uphill and the air velocity can be a lot lower. That allows a larger opening
                through the carburetor, which means more power at high speed, and still the
                mixture is right when the throttle is nearly shut. If they put the same big air
                passage in the ordinary carburetor to get the same top speed, the air would go (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:28 PM]
Where the New Motor Cars Excel

                through so slow when the engine was throttled that it wouldn't carry up
                enough gas. It's a swell idea. I wonder why somebody didn't think of it

                "Humphl" grunted Kellogg. "Maybe the new cars have more power, but what
                have they done to make 'em last longer? I'll bet a new car wouldn't give me the
                service I've gotten out of this boat."

                "Well, let's see," Gus ruminated. "First off, they're doing a better job of making
                cylinder castings now than they used to. The new nickel-iron alloys wear better
                than the old gray iron castings. Also they know more about how to design a
                cylinder block so the cylinder walls won't warp out of round as bad as they
                sometimes did in the old days. Then there's the crank shafts--they're grinding
                'em more accurately and balancing 'em a lot better. Pistons arc lighter; so are
                connecting rods. All that means less vibration, and less vibration means less

                "All the good cars now have thermostats to control the water temperature. The
                motor heats up quicker and even a careless driver can't run 'em much too cold
                in winter. There's less crank case dilution to spoil the oil's lubricating qualities
                and the oil filters they're fitting keep the 0il clean. Air cleaners keep dust out of
                the cylinders, and that cuts down the carbon quite a bit. Higher compression
                means better economy.

                "As for looks, the modern lacquer finishes stand up three times as long as the
                old paint finish, and the chromium plating on the bright parts stays bright
                without polishing." .

                "Gosh!" Kellogg exclaimed. "I thought all that stuff was just talking points. But
                even if it is true, how about the bodies they're putting on the cars these days?
                They look pretty light and tinny to me. The body on my car is better right now
                than most of the bodies on the new cars"

                "That isn't a fair comparison," Gus objected. "I think the bodies they're fitting
                now are remarkable considering the price. You can't expect a fine hand-built
                coach job for a hundred dollars or so, It costs that much for one good
                upholstered chair from a furniture store. If you want to pay the price you can
                get as fine a body now as you ever could in the past, Your car cost a lot of jack.
                You can get as good a body for less today."

                When the brakes had been lined and adjusted to Kellogg's satisfaction, he
                smiled rather sheepishly. "Mind if I keep these catalogues for a day or two?" he
                said. "I've kind of a notion I'll go the rounds with this war horse and see what
                they'll! allow me on a trade-in." (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:28 PM]
Where the New Motor Cars Excel

    Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:28 PM] [11/10/2003 9:58:29 PM] [11/10/2003 9:58:29 PM] [11/10/2003 9:58:30 PM]


                                From the April 1931 issue of
                                     Popular Science

                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                          Gus Gives Pointers on Car Buying
                                 Veteran Mechanic Talks of Secondhand Autos
                             and Shows How Real Bargains Are Sometimes Possible

                                                        By Martin Bunn

      "Gee whiz!" exclaimed young Bill Anders as he gazed longingly at the shiny new
      automobile. "I just wish I had a car like that!"

      "It’d suit me right down to the ground, too," echoed Ted Anders, Bill’s younger brother.

      Gus Wilson, veteran auto mechanic and half owner of the Model Garage, looked at them

      "You young scalawags’ll never get a car like this just by wishing," he grumbled as he
      lowered the hood and snapped the catches. "Instead of just hanging around here under my
      feet all the time, why don’t you earn some money so you can buy one?"

      "I do earn money," young Bill indignantly protested. "I’ve got enough saved up already to
      pay my way through college next year."

      At that moment the postman poked his head in the door and handed several letters to Gus. (1 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:32 PM]

      "You might as well take this and save me stopping at your house," he said, thrusting a letter
      into Bill Anders’ hand.

      Joe Clark, Gus’s partner, emerged out of his little office to get the mail just in time to hear
      Bill let out an excited yell.

      "Hurray!" he shouted, juggling the letter under Gus’s nose. "I’ve won the scholarship! Now
      dad’ll let me use that money to buy a car! What kind of a car shall I get, Gus?"

      "Well," Gus grinningly observed, "if you’re like the rest of these collegiate birds I see around
      here, you’ll collect a rattling heap of tin."

      "Not for me," said Bill firmly. "I want a real car and then I want to keep it in tip-top
      condition. Do you think I’d do better to buy a good secondhand car instead of a new one?"

      Gus threw up his hands. "Solomon himself couldn’t give the right answer to that one," he
      said. "It depends on a whole lot of things. How much money do you have? What type of car
      do you want? What do you expect out of a car? How much do you expect to use it? Even
      with all those questions answered, there’s still plenty of room for argument. About all I can
      do is to line up some of the things you’ll have to figure on and let you decide for yourself."

      "Fair enough," said Bill. "Just tell me the arguments both ways. That’ll give me something to
      go on."

      "To begin with," said Gus, "the main difference between buying a new car and a secondhand
      bus is that the new one is pretty much of a sure thing while the secondhand outfit is, most
      times, just a gamble.

      "When you buy a new car there is always the chance that some part may prove defective, but
      you can be dead sure that there aren’t any worn parts. If you take the trouble to cover at least
      a couple of thousand miles before the guarantee runs out, you’re almost certain to smoke out
      anything really defective so you can get it replaced free.

      "Another thing about a new car is the tires. You start out with new rubber on every wheel,
      and in the ordinary course of events you needn’t expect any tire trouble at all for a couple of
      years, except maybe a couple of punctures.

      "The rubber on a secondhand car may be pretty rotten without looking awful bad. I’ve seen
      lots of secondhand cars need new shoes al around before the year was out.

      "The same thing applies to batteries. They’re like tires—only good for so long, anyhow. A
      battery that’ll start the secondhand car in fine style when you get a demonstration may go all
      to pieces in six months. Sometimes a new car battery does that too, buy not if you take care (2 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:32 PM]

      of it."

      "Why couldn’t you take care of the secondhand car battery the same way and get the same
      results?" Bill broke in.

      "Because," Gus explained, "taking car of a battery isn’t going to put back the material that’s
      fallen off the plates or patch up the holes in the separators that are going to cause short
      circuits. Babying along a bum battery after it starts to go bad is just a waste of time.

      "That’s two items," Gus continued, "and there’s a lot more. You can’t tell how much carbon
      there is in the cylinders or even how many miles it’ll be before the valves will need
      regrinding just by lifting the hood and looking at the motor. How long will it be before the
      starter motor itself is going to need attention? Or the generator? Or the clutch? Or the brakes
      need relining? You can’t tell from the outside. That’s where the gamble comes in. Maybe not
      one of these parts’ll give you a bit of trouble for years. Then again they may all go on the
      blink the first month and that’s just your hard luck.

      "There’s another thing," he went on. "When you buy a secondhand car, it’s already out of
      date. Suppose it’s three years old when you get it. Look around and see how the cars that are
      five years old look to you today. Kind of ancient, don’t they look? Your three-year-old car is
      going to look just as ancient to you and everybody else in only two years.

      "Don’t get the idea that a secondhand car is always a lemon," Gus cautioned. "It may be a
      much better buy than a new car. When a man buys a new car he pays the factory price plus
      the freight charge and also a ‘service’ charge, so what he pays is a lot more than the
      advertised price. Then if he drives it for a couple of months and tries to sell it, he has to take
      a big loss even if the car looks just like new and is in mechanically expert condition. It may
      even be better than new if he’s broken it in really carefully. If he keeps it over a year and
      then tries to sell it, he has to take two years’ depreciation instead of one.

      "Maybe he has kept it in fine shape and only driven it three or four thousand miles. Figured
      on a dollars per mile basis, the fellow that buys that car is getting a real bargain. It’s only a
      tenth worn out any way you figure it, and he gets it for half or maybe a third of what it cost."

      "Sure sounds like a dream any way you put it," said Bill. "Buy why does the fellow that
      bought the car in the first place sell it so cheap?"

      "That’s just human nature again," Gus maintained. "He’s like the woman who throws away a
      pretty good pair of shoes or a dress and buys a new dress or shoes just because the ones she
      had weren’t exactly like what every other woman happened to be wearing that particular
      month. Keeping up with the styles is fine, son, if you can afford it."

      "Then," said Bill, "you think I’d be taking less chance on buying a new car but I might get a (3 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:32 PM]

      much better bargain in a secondhand one?"

      "That’s about the way it sizes up," Gus grinned. "Like a lot of other propositions it all
      depends on how you look at it!"

    Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (4 of 4) [11/10/2003 9:58:32 PM]
How is Your Driving

                                                                          How is Your Driving Eye?
                                                                             By Martin Bunn
                                                                                           From the July, 1934 issue of
                                                                                                Popular Science
                                                                                                        This story was donated by
                                                                                                           Mike Hammerberg

                                    GUS WILSON nosed his car cautiously around a sharp bend in the pitch-black road. Suddenly the
                                    figure of a man appeared the bright glare of the headlights. He was standing in the center of the road
                                    waving his arms excitedly.

                                    "What's this," whispered Joe Clark, as Gus jammed his foot on the brake, "a hold-up or an

                                    As the car slid to a stop almost in front of the man, Gus poked his head through the open driver’s
                                    window. "What’s the trouble?" he called. I’m in the ditch a few feet up the road." came the reply
                                    from the darkness.

                                    "Will you give me a hand?" When Gus had maneuvered his car safely to the edge of the road he
                                    aimed the beam of his flashlight down the steep embankment that bordered the concrete. There
                                    wedged between two trees was the ditched car.

                                    "Gosh!" exclaimed Gus, "How’d you manage to get down there?" "Somebody force you off the road
                                    on that turn?" (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:33 PM]
How is Your Driving
                                    "Yeah, an old skunk." replied the man sheepishly. "A skunk," repeated Gus," "I've heard of skunks
                                    driving people out of a house before but never off of a road." What did you do, try to miss him?"

                                    "Not only tried, but succeeded." the man groaned. "And here I am I swerved to one side, but I guess
                                    I misjudged the distance and the next thing I knew two trees loomed up in front me." "Can’t do
                                    much about getting her up out of there tonight," said Gus regretfully.

                                    My name's Gus Wilson and this is Joe Clark. We own a garage in the, next town. "Suppose we give,
                                    you a lift in and then come out here first thing in the morning with our wrecker?"

                                    "Fine idea,"- agreed the man. "My name's Townsend, I'm a salesman; use my car for traveling. I'll
                                    put up at a hotel for the night, make some calls in the morning, and drop around in the afternoon and
                                    see about the car."

                                    When Townsend arrived at the Model Garage the next afternoon. Gus was already at work trying to
                                    iron some of the wrinkles out of the mudguards and hood.

                                    "It’s not as bad as it looked" Gus assured him, "No mechanical trouble and by chopping away some
                                    of the bark on those trees, we managed to coax her out without ripping the body "I can't understand
                                    how it all happened," moaned Townsend, "I couldn’t have turned more than a couple of feet to miss
                                    that blamed pole cat and I’ve always been pretty good at judging distances on the road."

                                    "Maybe your eyes aren't as good as you thought they were," suggested Gus as he wheeled the
                                    service jack under the car and started jacking it up.

                                    "Never wore a pair of glasses in my life," boasted Townsend, "And I've always made out better than
                                    the average in eyeglass tests."

                                    "Ever hear of blind spots?" inquired Gus between blows of a rubber fender hammer he was using.

                                    Townsend shook his head.

                                    "Well everybody has them. It’s one spot in each eye where you’re actually blind." They're large
                                    enough to cause trouble. We had a case here in town not so long ago. Tom Nevers, one of the best
                                    drivers I know ran over a youngster. He argued that he never saw the girl and didn't know that he hit
                                    her until he felt the bump. Eyewitnesses claimed that the girl was standing there all the time waiting
                                    for a bus and that Nevers didn't seem to make any attempt to miss her.

                                    "The whole thing was a puzzler until a doctor tested Never’s eyes. It turned out that Tom had a blind
                                    spot that was large enough to blot out a whole car a whole car if it was standing in just the right
                                    place." (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:33 PM]
How is Your Driving

                                    "Gosh, if you had a blind spot that large wouldn't you know it? Wouldn't you see a hole in
                                    everything you looked it?"

                                    "Nope, they brought that up at the hearing We've all got small blind spots, yet we don't see holes in
                                    what we look at," replied Gus as he reached for a piece that lay on the repair bench and fished out a
                                    pencil out of his pocket.

                                    "Here, I'll show you how that doctor showed people how to look for their blind spots," he explained
                                    as he penciled two small black dots on the paper about three inches apart. "Take this paper in your
                                    right hand and hold it so that this dot at the left is in front of your right eye. That's it, only hold it at
                                    arm's length with the dots horizontal Now close your left eye and look at that left-hand dot. You see
                                    both dots?

                                    Townsend indicated that he could.

                                    "O. K, Now move the paper toward your right eye slowly and keep on staring at that left dot. All of
                                    a sudden, you're going to see that right-hand dot disappear completely. That'll be your blind spot.
                                    Then as you move the paper still closer, it'll come back into view again."

                                    "Well, I'll be hanged," exclaimed Townsend as he shifted the paper back and forth. "With it held just
                                    about here, that right-hand spot fades right out of the picture. Will it work with your left eye?

                                    "Sure. only instead of staring at the left-hand dot you want to concentrate on the one at the right.
                                    Then the left dot does the disappearing act. By finding out how large the spot can be and still
                                    disappear, you can get a rough idea of how large your blind spot is."

                                    As Gus continued his work on the car, Townsend amused himself, testing, first one eye and then the

                                    "Say." be said finally, "do you suppose I've got a large blind spot and that's what made me run off of
                                    the road last night?"

                                    "Maybe," replied Gus. I'm no eye doctor, but if you can blot out a large spot with that test, it might
                                    pay to find out."

                                    "And that reminds me," continued Townsend, interested, "Sometime ago I heard something about
                                    tunnel vision. What's that?"

                                    "JUST another eye ailment that can cause a lot of auto accidents," explained Gus. "People with
                                    tunnel vision might just is well try to drive a car with a pair of blinders on. If your eyesight is (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:33 PM]
How is Your Driving
                                    normal, you can see what's going on alongside of you even though you're looking straight ahead. But
                                    if you've got tunnel vision on, things on the side are just a blank- it's like looking at everything,
                                    through a pipe or a tunnel."

                                    "Can you do anything with black spots to check up on that tunnel trouble?" asked Townsend.

                                    "According to the doctor who tested Never's eyes, one of the simplest ways is to hold your index
                                    fingers upright back near each car and then move them forward until you can see them even though
                                    you're staring straight ahead. A normal person will notice them as soon as they come opposite the
                                    eyes, but a person -with tunnel vision won't even begin to see them until they're further out in front.
                                    To he a safe automobile driver you ought to be able to see an area in front of your eyes equal at least
                                    to 150 degrees even when you're looking ahead.

                                    "But then bum eyesight isn't the only thing that snakes poor drivers," added Gus. "Nervousness and
                                    lack of judgment are close seconds, Have you ever tried to see just how well you really can judge
                                    distance? Here's a trick they used to try on student flyers that'll give you some idea. Just hold an
                                    ordinary pencil lightly in each hand about 3 foot from your eyes. Then, starting them horizontal and
                                    about two feet apart, we if you can bring, the blunt ends together quickly the first time you try.

                                    And there's another little Stunt you can A do with ordinary pins to test your nerves. Take about fifty
                                    straight pins and pile them up on a newspaper. Then, with somebody timing you see how long it
                                    takes to transfer those pins, one at a time to a tea cup. If you call yourself a good driver, you
                                    shouldn't have to rush to move the whole fifty in less than a minute and a half."

                                    "Holy smokes." put in Townsend. "If you had your way, only first-class aviators would be driving

                                    "Oh, not as bad as all that,'* corrected Gus with a smile. "But you'll have to admit there are lots of
                                    people driving cars who shouldn't be. And the pity of it is, they drive too fast for their senses.

                                    "Just the other day I was reading an article by a college professor. According to him it takes the
                                    average person about a half a second to see danger and do something about it, Now, in a car going
                                    forty miles an hour, a half second is a long time. It can cover over thirty feet in that instant. That
                                    means, if you're hopping along a road at forty and suddenly see a car stalled across the road less than
                                    thirty feet ahead of you, you're bound to smash into it before you can even begin to do anything
                                    about it.

                                    "It's speed that causes most bad accidents," warned Gus. "A harmless bump at twenty can be a
                                    smash-up at forty. There's a heap of power in a ton of metal hurled through the air at forty miles an
                                    hour." (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:33 PM]
How is Your Driving
                                    "What's your idea of a good driver then, a slow poke?" inquired Townsend.

                                    "No, not necessarily, my idea of a good driver is a man who knows himself and his car and isn't in a
                                    hurry to get no place to do nothing." When you meet a fellow that's courteous and takes good care of
                                    his car, you can bet he's a good driver.

                                    "You can't be a good driver and pilot a pile of junk. Trouble is, people think so much of the power
                                    and speed of the buggy they're driving and not enough about how quickly it will stop and how well
                                    the headlights light up the road without bothering the other fellow. Tires, brakes, horn, lights, and
                                    rear vision mirror are just as important as the motor."

                                    "Gosh." called Joe Clark as Townsend maneuvered his car out of the driveway. "Why the sermon on
                                    safety? You're a garage mechanic, not a policeman. You've probably got that guy so scared he'll
                                    have a hard time driving to the next town."

                                    "Well, I’II bet he’ll get there without climbing a couple of trees," returned Gus with a smile, "Being
                                    cautious and just a trifle scared never caused any fatal accidents. A swell-headed driver is one nut in
                                    a car that you can't fix with a wrench.                              End

                                      Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:33 PM]
By Martin Bunn

                                                                                            By Martin Bunn

                                                                  From the December, 1940 issue of
                                                                          Popular Science
                                                                                      This story was donated by
                                                                                         Mike Hammerberg

                                                                          "You fellers have cheated me" old Silas yelped.
                                                                            "My radiator all froze up-busted likely."

                                                       SNOW sweepers swished on the road outside as Gus Wilson shed his ulster in the
                                                       shop of the Model Garage on the first real winter morning (it the cold-weather season.
                                                       A heavy fall of the white stuff early the evening before had been followed by the
                                                       mercury taking a nose dive, and now at eight o'clock of a sunny, windy morning the
                                                       thermometer outside the office door registered only ten above zero.)

                                                       Gus's partner, Joe Clark, was grinning a good morning from the office door. "You'll
                                                       have a bad case of telephone car by nine o'clock." Gus told him. "All the customers
                                                       who as usual didn't remember to take the precautions we advised will be phoning us to
                                                       get their frozen-up busses started. It's always that way the first real cold morning of the

                                                       "Sure is," Joe agreed "It's hard on the cars, and it makes you wonder why the Lord
                                                       made so many people downright careless, but it's good for our business. Remember
                                                       that morning when - "
                                                       He was interrupted by,- the honking of a horn, outside the shop doors. Then someone
                                                       shouted "Hey, you, Gus Wilson open up! It's colder'n heck out here". (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:35 PM]
By Martin Bunn

                                                       "That's Ez Zacharias," Gus said as he unlocked the double doors. I didn't expect he'd be
                                                       the first one to holler for help. Usually he's a pretty wise bird when it comes to keeping
                                                       out of avoidable car trouble."

                                                       Ez usually covers his R.F.D. route in a smart-looking sedan, but this fall he vested in a
                                                       light truck, three or four years old but in A-1 condition, for use when the dirt roads
                                                       back in the country get bad or, around the holidays. when he has especially heavy
                                                       parcel-post deliveries to handle.

                                                       He drove this truck into the shop, leaned from the seat, and scored a V on Gus's waste
                                                       box with an active - service charge of tobacco juice -By gum," be said, "the feller who
                                                       sold me this darn truck took me fer a stucker, and he didn't make no mistake. He
                                                       climbed out, pushed his postman's cap away back on his shaggy head. and shook a big
                                                       and hairy fist at the vehicle. First tine I ever seed a automobile that'd run ahead smooth
                                                       as velvet, but wouldn't back tip without goin' dead. Took me a good ten minutes to get
                                                       backed out of my garage. By hookey! Every danged time I put her into reverse she'd
                                                       die down, start up again, hit a few times. and then quit like a yaller dawg on me! Take a
                                                       look at her, will you, Gus?"

                                                       Gus got into the truck, stepped on the starter, and shifted Into reverse, The truck ran
                                                       smoothly over the shop floor, but the moment Its rear wheels hit the snow-covered
                                                       driveway outside, the engine sputtered, and then went dead. When he stepped on the
                                                       starter again and shifted into low, the truck ran back into the shop without a miss.

                                                       "That's a new one on me," he said, -First time I've ever known a car to act like that."
                                                       Gus checked the points and condenser and found them in excellent condition. When he
                                                       restarted the engine it ran smoothly. He again backed the car out of the shop. As soon
                                                       as its rear wheels were on the snowcovered driveway he noticed that there was a lot of
                                                       vibration-so much that he could feet the engine moving back and forth on its rubber
                                                       mountings. As soon as he shifted into low speed the vibration ceased and the truck ran
                                                       smoothly back Into the shop.

                                                       When he raised the hood his eyes still were so badly dazzled by the glare of the bright
                                                       sun on the newly-fallen snow that be could scarcely see the engine. That was why he
                                                       noticed the faint flicker of a spark where the wire entered the condenser.

                                                       When his sight returned to normal he saw that one of the strands of the wire had frayed
                                                       loose, and that its ragged one was close to the condenser.

                                                       He examined the truck's rear end, and nodded when he saw that Its spring suspension
                                                       was like that used on some old model passenger cars-a half conventional spring, with
                                                       one of its ends connected to the frame and the other to the rear axle. Without further
                                                       checking he replaced the frayed wire with a new one. "All ready to roll," he told Ez as
                                                       he lowered the hood.

                                                       "Yeah?" the postman said. "What the heck was the matter with her?" "A strand of
                                                       frayed wire was hitting against the condenser and shorting your engine," Gus told him.
                                                       "What? That don't make sense." Ez objected.

                                                       "The engine ran swell except when she was in reverse,"

                                                       "That's what fooled me," Gus said. "The answer is that, with this particular type of
                                                       spring suspension, the wheels pulling backward in the snow cause a sort of bouncing
                                                       motion. That motion makes the engine rock on its mountings, and that rocking brought
                                                       the end of the frayed wire into contact with the condenser and caused the short that
                                                       killed your engine whenever you went into reverse in the snow. Get it?" (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:35 PM]
By Martin Bunn

                                                       "I guess I do," Ez said doubtfully, and bit off a modest inch of coal-black plug. -Well, I
                                                       better be gettin' along an'-hey, there's some guy who's in a real hurry!"

                                                       It certainly sounded that way. From outside came repeated squawks of a raucous horn.
                                                       "Let him in, Harry," Gus directed the grease monkey. "If you don't, he'll knock our
                                                       doors down."

                                                       Harry opened the doors. He had to step lively to get out of the way of a sedan which
                                                       shot into the shop and came to a jarring stop. Out of it leaped old Silas Barnstable,
                                                       looking even more like a bantam rooster than usual in the ancient sealskin driving cap
                                                       he was wearing. "Do something quick!" the little retired farmer squealed. "My motor's
                                                       red hot and my radiator's b'iling over!"

                                                       Gus raised the hood and cautiously unscrewed the radiator cap, releasing a cloud of
                                                       steam. "All right-you can switch off your engine," he told Barnstable. "You ran it close,
                                                       all right! I'll bet there isn't more than a cupful of water left in your cooling system."

                                                       "You fellers have cheated me!" old Silas yelped. "That Joe Clark told me I ought to fill
                                                       up my car with a lot of high-priced antifreeze, an' I was fool enough to do it. Now look
                                                       what happens, the first cold day we have! My radiator all froze up-busted, likely!"

                                                       "No, your radiator isn't frozen, and it isn't busted," Gus reassured him. "But your hose
                                                       is leaking so badly that your cooling system is darned, near dry."

                                                       Ez Zacharias began to laugh-and when big Ez laughs the walls shake. "Tell the whole
                                                       story, Mr. Barnstable!" he scoffed. "I was in here when Joe Clark argued you into
                                                       buying that antifreeze, and I heard him warn you that your hose was so rotten that
                                                       you'd probably lose most of it. That's my I idea of cock-eyed economy-wasting pretty
                                                       near five dollars' worth of antifreeze to save a quarter for a new hose!"

                                                       Old Silas glared at Ez and turned to Gus. "I'm depending on you to do the square thing
                                                       about this," he wheedled. "I ain't had any use out of that antifreeze, so it would be only
                                                       fair for you to replace it without charging me anything. But I ain't asking you to do that
                                                       – make it half price for the new antifreeze, an fill her up."

                                                       Gus laughed. "No smoke, Mr. Barnstable," he said good-naturedly but very firmly. "Joe
                                                       warned you that your hose was rotten. You didn't take his advice to put in new ones, so
                                                       you'll have to stand the loss. I’ll install new hoses and put in a fresh filling of antifreeze
                                                       if you want me to, but you'll find both items charged on your bill at our regular prices."

                                                       "You're the hardest man to do business with I've ever run up against in all my born
                                                       days," Silas growled. "No give-and-take spirit at all, All right-have it your way. I'll he
                                                       back for my car this afternoon!"

                                                       "Serves the old skinflint right," Ez observed after Silas had left. "He's so mean he-"

                                                       "He can't help being a penny-pincher. He was born that way," Gus said. "And, after all,
                                                       the grief he gets into by being so tight is pretty much the same as the grief that a lot of
                                                       other car owners bring down on themselves through plain carelessness.

                                                       He's not the only man in this town who makes his winter driving hard instead of easy."

                                                       Ez settled himself comfortably oil the end of Gus's workbench. "How come?" he
                                                       wanted to know.

                                                       "The first thing you've got to know-- that makes winter driving easy." Gus explained,
                                                       "is a cooling system that is tight as a drum. Antifreeze, no matter what brand of it you
                                                       use, costs money, and there's no sense in pouring it into your radiator and then allowing
                                                       it to leak out. That's bone-headed waste. And besides that it is mighty likely to result in
                                                       serious damage to your engine. Before cold weather starts you should have your
                                                       cooling system checked to make certain that your radiator doesn't leak. That your hoses (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:35 PM]
By Martin Bunn

                                                       are good and their connections tight, that the cylinder-head gasket is tight, and that
                                                       your pump shaft is tightly packed. "After you have made sure that your cooling system
                                                       is tight, you should make just as sure that your radiator is clean-that it isn't clogged or
                                                       half clogged with rust, sludge, scale, or sediment, You can do that by flushing it out
                                                       with a ten-cent can of the same sort of prepared noncaustic powder that's sold for
                                                       keeping bathroom drains clear-you can buy it in any grocery store and in most garages.
                                                       Run your engine until the water in the system is warm. Then pour the powder into the
                                                       radiator, and run your engine for another fifteen minutes Then drain the radiator and
                                                       flush it out once with warm water. Less than a half-hour's job-and when you have done
                                                       it you know that your radiator is clean."

                                                       "I've heard a lot of arguments about anti- freeze mixtures," Ez observed. "What's the
                                                       best one, Gus?"

                                                       "So far as I know there isn't any best one," Gus said. "That's why we sell several of 'em.
                                                       The more expensive ones are made of about ninety-seven percent ethylene glycol, with
                                                       added ingredients which protect the cooling system against rust and corrosion. They
                                                       don't evaporate or boil away, and you can drain them out of your radiator in the spring,
                                                       allow the dirt to settle out of them during the summer, and then use them again the next
                                                       winter. "If your cooling system is tight, and you use the proportion of antifreeze to
                                                       water recommended by the manufacturer, it will give your car absolute protection.
                                                       Only the water in the radiator will evaporate, and if all your winter driving is short
                                                       trips, so little of the water will evaporate that it won't need to be added to until spring.
                                                       It's a good idea to get a trunk tag and write on it and then tie it on your filler cup so that
                                                       gas-station attendants won't add unneeded water. If you do any long-distance driving
                                                       during the winter you should have your radiator level checked about once a month."

                                                       "I know those $2.65-a-gallon antifreezes are good." Ez said. "But how about the
                                                       cheaper ones? A feller was tellin' me the other day that he only pays a buck a gallon,
                                                       an' that the stuff does the work."

                                                       "Antifreezes are like most other things -you get just about what you pay for." Gus
                                                       replied. "The base of most of the dollar-a-gallon mixtures is high-test methanol, wood
                                                       alcohol, with something in it to prevent rust and corrosion. But methanol evaporates-
                                                       which means that you have to keep watching your mixture, and keep adding to It."

                                                       "How about plain alcohol?" Ez wanted to know. We always used to use it, and it did
                                                       the trick."

                                                       "It will keep water from freezing, all right," Gus said. "But engines rim hotter now than
                                                       they did only a few years ago, so plain alcohol is likely to boil away. The only
                                                       advantage it has over the antifreeze mixtures is that its first cost is lower, but you have
                                                       to add to it so often in the course of the winter that in the end, it costs you as much as
                                                       the made-up mixtures and you have a lot more bother with it"

                                                       Joe Clark's voice came from the office, "Hey, Gus. Send Harry over to the golf club
                                                       with the wrecker. And Mrs. Miller says-darn that telephone!"

                                                       Gus grinned. "Time to go to work!" he said,

                                                       Ez looked at his watch. "Holy cats!" he yelled. "An' me with my mail not made up!"

                                                       GUS SAYS.

                                                       The drivers who put off getting their cars ready for winter are the ones who help me
                                                       pay my income tax, so I really shouldn't kick.

                                                       But I hate to see good machinery ruined, and nothing will ruin an engine block like ice.
                                                       Get busy and check up on your antifreeze! (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:35 PM]
By Martin Bunn

                     Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:35 PM]
Gus has an easy day


                                   From the April 1942 issue of
                                        Popular Science

                          It was close to nine o’clock on a cold, sunny, late-winter morning
                          when Gus Wilson drove his ancient and immaculate roadster into
                          the Model Garage’s shop. That’s late for Gus, but he’s been
                          coming in a little late most mornings recently—he’s been staying
                          on at the shop every evening for the past month or so, working out
                          a contraption that he’s going to send to the National Inventors
                          Council down in Washington with what we all think is the well-
                          founded hope that it will help along the good work of making the
                          Axis considerably less of a nuisance than it at present.

                          Wally, the grease monkey, looked up expectantly from the inner
                          tube he was patching. "Hi!" Gus said briefly, From the office came
                          the sound of Joe Clark’s industry as he slowly typed out the (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:37 PM]
Gus has an easy day

                          customers’ monthly statements. A moment later he stuck his thin
                          face in at the shop’s office door, his eyes expectant behind his
                          rubber-tired specs. "Get it yet, Gus?" he demanded.

                          "Nope," his partner told him. Joe looked disappointed. So did
                          Wally. Gus silently filled and fired up his pipe and began to shift
                          into his work clothes. Part way through the job he stopped with
                          coveralls half on and half off and sat motionless staring at the shop

                          "got it?" Joe and Wally demanded in chorus.

                          "No!" Gus snapped.

                          The rest of Joe Clark’s anatomy followed his face into the shop.
                          "You can’t keep this up!" he exclaimed. "A man can go without his
                          natural rest for just so long and no longer. You’ve been working
                          here until two or three or four o’clock in the morning every night
                          for the last three weeks—I know, because Jerry Corcoran patrols
                          this road at night now and he told me. You got to take some
                          thought for your health, Gus. Your got to remember you ain’t as
                          young as you used to be, and—"

                          That one prodded Gus out of his abstraction and he laughed.
                          "Nope," he admitted, "I’m not as young as I used to be. So what? I
                          can work longer on a stretch than I could when I was twenty, and
                          get a darned sight more accomplished in the same length of time.
                          Habit, I guess it is, mostly—I’ve been working for a whole flock of
                          years. Darn it, Joe, what gets my goat is that I’ve almost got it! If I
                          only can iron out that one last little kink, that gadget will do its job!
                          Oh well, I’ll get it. Tonight, maybe."

                          He looked around at the cars in the shop. "This ought to be an easy
                          day. All nice straightaway jobs—the sort of work that I can make
                          Wally here do the most of. Go on back to sending out the bad news,
                          Joe and stop fussing about me." He finished pulling on his pants,
                          and gave his partner a friendly dig in his skinny ribs. "Scram out of
                          here! You’re worse than an old woman."

                          Joe shrugged his shoulders helplessly and went back into the office.
                          Gus puffed gray smoke for half a minute, and then asked Wally
                          what he was working at. Wally had just started to tell him when a
                          voice said: (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:37 PM]
Gus has an easy day

                          "Hey, Mac! How you fixed for time to help a guy out?"

                          Gus looked in the direction of the open shop door and saw that the
                          owner of the loud voice was a big-chested young fellow who wore
                          an expressman’s cap tilted over his left eye. "Help a guy out of
                          what?" he queried.

                          The expressman grinned. "Out of trouble," he supplemented. "I’ve
                          got a rush delivery to make up in Providence—war material with
                          priority labels plastered all over it—and my engine’s missing
                          something fierce. I’m scared to take the time to get it fixed, but I’m
                          more scared to go on with it the way it is."

                          "Drive her in and we’ll have a look," Gus directed.

                          The expressman drove a light truck into the shop. Its engine was
                          sputtering. Gus quickly checked the spark plugs and the ignition.
                          He could find nothing wrong with either, but there was no doubt
                          that the back two cylinders were missing. He got out the tester and
                          checked the compression. It wasn’t quite as high as it should be,
                          but all the cylinders were about the same, and it wasn’t nearly low
                          enough to cause missing.

                          Gus scratched his head reflectively, and then looked at Wally.
                          "Here’s a job for you to sharpen your wits on, Kid," he said
                          ."Everything seems O.K. and yet the back two cylinders aren’t
                          doing their job. How come?"

                          "Carburetor?" Wally suggested, not too hopefully.

                          "Nope," Gus said. "If the carburetor was screwy the other cylinders
                          would buck once in a while. Lets have a look at the intake
                          manifold. Looks all right. We’d better check the vacuum." Wally
                          brought out the vacuum tester, and Gus took off the windshield-
                          wiper hose and replaced it with the tester hose. The tester showed
                          poor vacuum. "the wiper hose leaking might cause that miss," Gus
                          said, "although I don’t think that’s what it is. But try a new hose."

                          The new hose didn’t make any difference in the performance of the
                          engine. "I’ll have to road-test this bus," Gus decided. Come on,
                          Buddy, we’ll take a little ride."

                          When they came back after a short run up the road Gus was (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:37 PM]
Gus has an easy day

                          looking puzzled and the expressman was looking worried. "She
                          misses worst when she’s pulling on the hills, Gus said. "But I still
                          don’t see…"

                          "Look here, Mister, I’ve got to get to Providence in a hurry," the
                          express driver broke in.

                          "Take it easy," Gus advised. "Before you can fix anything you’ve
                          got to make sure what’s wrong. The first hour you’re on the road
                          with your bus running right you’ll more than make up the time
                          you’re losing now. Give me that vacuum tester again, Wally. I’ve
                          got an idea."

                          He again substituted the tester hose for the wiper hose. But this
                          time the engine began to run smoothly and without missing, and the
                          vacuum reading was high.

                          "Huh," Gus grunted. "We’ve found where the trouble is, but we’ve
                          still got to find out what it is."

                          He did some hard thinking for a few seconds, and then pushed the
                          tester hose a fraction of an inch farther up on the vacuum outlet. At
                          once the engine began to miss.

                          "That’s the tip-off!" Gus said. He raised the hood and began a rapid
                          examination. "Here it is!" He pointed to the brass outlet for the
                          wiper hose on the intake manifold near he back cylinders. "That
                          outlet is cracked around its base, and that makes the cylinders draw
                          in too much air and not enough gas. This engine is rubber-mounted.
                          The old wiper hose is a little too short—some one has cut pieces
                          off it, two or three times, and it was stuck to the outlet. So every
                          time you speeded up your engine suddenly, or the truck hit a bump
                          in the road, there was a jerk on this cracked outlet. Those repeated
                          jerks made it crack more and more , until the opening was large
                          enough to let the lean mixture into the back two cylinders, and that
                          caused the missing and the loss of power on hills. Cheer up,
                          Buddy—it won’t take long to put in a new outlet." After the
                          expressman had driven off with his priority load, Gus and Wally
                          worked peacefully on a transmission job until about three o’clock.
                          Then a horn honked outside and a business coupe of popular make
                          and current vintage was driven in an stopped short. A peevish-
                          looking man jumped out.

                          After that things went along smoothly until nearly five o’clock, (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:37 PM]
Gus has an easy day

                          with Gus doing more thinking about his defense gadget than about
                          the work he and Wall were doing.

                          Then Jim Jelliff, who owns the local coal yard, drove in with a
                          scowl on his red face. "Something’s gone wrong with my
                          generator," he growled. "The needle of the ammeter won’t move
                          off the zero mark. Get it fixed up in a hurry, will you, Gus? I’m
                          busy as the very devil, and I need this car. How long will it take?"

                          "That depends on what’s the matter with it," Gus told him. "Leave
                          your car here. I’ll get right on it."

                          Gus removed the generator from the car, and checked it carefully.
                          Finding nothing at all wrong with it, he reinstalled it, started the
                          engine, and looked at the ammeter confidently. The ammeter hand
                          stayed at zero.

                          Gus switched on the lights. The hand continued to stay on zero.

                          Gus swore. Then he checked the wiring behind the dashboard
                          thoroughly, and again started the engine. The hand stayed at zero.

                          This time Gus didn’t swear. Instead, he lighted his pipe and
                          contemplated the instrument panel. The oil gauge, temperature
                          indicator, and gas meter, with the ammeter below them, were
                          enclosed in one group behind a glass face set in flush with the dash.

                          "Ammeter must be busted," Gus said to himself. Reaching under
                          the dash he disconnected its wiring, removed the screws which held
                          it in place.

                          Even with the screws removed, it took quite a yank to get the
                          ammeter free. When it came, it came suddenly. And pouring after it
                          surged a stream of water. (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:37 PM]
Gus has an easy day

                                                             .."By golly!" cried Gus. "I’d have
                                                              been less surprised to see pink
                                                              elephants pop out!"

                                                               Wally had been watching. "First
                                                               time I ever saw anything like that
                                                               either," he observed. "where did it
                                                               come from?"

                                                    "It must have come from a
                                                    windshield leak," Gus told him.
                                                    "The water that leaks in runs down
                                                    inside the instrument case. Enough
                                                    water must have leaked in to bring it
                                                    up into the lower part of the
                                                    ammeter and put it
                        out of commission. And I’ve wasted the better part of an hour!"

                        Along about six o’clock Joe Clark came into the shop to collect the
                        day’s time-and-material slips. After glancing over them, he remarked
                        that he was glad to see that Gus had had a nice, easy day.

                        Gus glared at him. Then he laughed. "sure," he said, "it was a regular
                        rest cure for the old bean. Of course, there was that—" He broke off,
                        and stared at Joe.

                        Joe stared back. "got it, Gus?" he asked.

                        "Scram!" Gus yelled. "Yes by gum, this time I think I’ve got it!"            End

     Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:37 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue


                          Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue
                                   From the October 1943 issue of
                                          Popular Science (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue

                             Gus Wilson had just started work on his first job of the morning
                             when State Trooper Jerry Corcoran came briskly into the Model
                             Garage shop. As always his gray-blue uniform was immaculate,
                             gleaming boots competing with the luster of his Sam Brown belt,
                             his broad-brimmed felt hat tilted at its habitual jaunty angle. But
                             Gus saw that he was worried, that his gray eyes were tired.

                             "Hi, Jerry!" he greeted him. "Hear you had a murder on your beat
                             last night."

                             Jerry perched himself on the end of the workbench, fished a pack of
                             cigarettes out of his breast pocket, and lighted one. "yes," he said,
                             "we did. George Oxdallas…in his juke joint…. It was me who
                             found him."

                             "Shot ?" Gus asked.

                             "Nope. Throat cut." Jerry wrinkled his nose at the recollection. "As
                             near as we can figure it out, he had fallen asleep behind his cash
                             register, and the guy who got him sneaked up with a knife, reached
                             around, and sliced him. Oxdallas had a gun in the counter drawer,
                             but he never had a chance."

                             "Haven’t you got anything to go on ?" Gus wanted to know.

                             "Yes," Jerry said. We’ve got a lot to go on—but the trouble is it
                             doesn’t add up. Look here, Gus—I’m going to tell you the whole
                             story. Some of it’s in your line, and maybe you can help me."

                             Gus lighted his pipe. "Shoot!" he advised briefly.

                             "First, about Oxdallas," Jerry said. About the time the war plants
                             opened, he sold a couple of coffee pots down in the city and started
                             his joint up here. I guess he did all right—it’s in a good spot, and a
                             lot of the boys and girls who get through at midnight stop by there."

                             "Sure" Gus agreed. "A fellow who works half the night needs a
                             little recreation."

                             "Now we come to Con Constantine," Jerry went on. "Ever been in (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue

                             his pool room ?"

                             "Young man," Gus said severely, "I’m a respectable citizen even if
                             I’m not a family man, and I’m old enough to have the sense to keep
                             out of back-street pool rooms."

                             "Sure," Jerry said, and grinned. "Well its a tough joint, and
                             Constantine is a bad egg. He started off all right as an automobile
                             mechanic, but he got mixed in a lot of shady deals—he’s been
                             pinched a half dozen times, down in the city, but he always got

                             "Now here’s the important part. I passed Oxdallas’s place about
                             half past two this morning. I was on my motorcycle, guiding an
                             Army truck convoy that was in a heck of a hurry. There were
                             maybe a dozen cars parked in front, and I could see people dancing.
                             Nothing unusual about that. But about a hundred yards below,
                             pulled up in the brush on a dead-end lane, was a convertible coupe
                             with the light off. I’d swear it was constantine’s. He stops at
                             Oxdallas’s now an then. But why would he want to park up that
                             lane instead of in front ?"

                             Gus grunted, but said nothing.

                             "That kept bothering me," Jerry admitted. "but I had to guide the
                             convoy to the city line. When I got back to Oxdallas’s it was a
                             quarter past three. The car was gone from the lane. So were the cars
                             that had been standing in front. But all the lights were on bright, so
                             I thought I’d stop in and see what was going in… I’ve told you
                             what I found."

                             Jerry reached inside his tunic an brought out tow folded papers. He
                             opened on and handed it to Gus. "That’s a photograph, enlarged to
                             life size, of a tire track we found up the lane."

                             Gus examined the print carefully. "It looks as if the tire had a worn
                             spot on one side," he commented. "Chances are it was caused by
                             scuffing, due to bad alignment."

                             Jerry grunted and passed Gus the second print. "That’s the left front
                             tire on Constantine’s coupe," he said. He waited as Gus compared
                             the two. "What do you say ?" (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue

                             "I’d say that Constantine’s car made that track," Gus said. "It looks
                             to me as if you have a strong case."

                             "To make it stronger," Jerry said, "we had a lab specialist up from
                             headquarters, and he made a plaster cast of the track. Constantine’s
                             tire fits every indentation.

                             "Further than that," Jerry went on, "we can prove that night before
                             last, in a stud game in hos back room, he lost so much to some big
                             city gamblers that it took every dollar he had to square up."

                                                                     "Well," Gus said, passing the two
                                                                     prints back to him, "why don't you
                                                                     arrest him?"

                                                                     "He's under arrest, all right,"
                                                                     .Jerry said. "But only for running
                                                                     a gambling joint. He has an alibi.

                                                                     "'Sure I parked up the lane,' he
                                                                     said, '--to watch the birds. But .

                           it was yesterday afternoon. So what?'

                           "Constantine claims that his car couldn't have been there at half past
                           two this morning--because when he tried to start it about eight o'clock
                           last night something went wrong and it blew a spark plug right out of
                           the cylinder head! Before nine o'clock he had called three garages
                           trying to get a new cylinder head in a hurry, and when he couldn't find
                           one, he told Joe Moss to order one from the city for him this morning.
                           We checked on the calls, and it's true, too, that there's a spark plug
                           missing from his motor. It looks as if it had been blown out the way he
                           says it was--the threads in the spark-plug hole are ripped clean out.
                           You can't drive a car with an open hole in a cylinder head, can you,

                           Gus puffed at his pipe for a full minute before he answered. Then all
                           he said was: "I haven't seen Constantine's car, Jerry."

                           Jerry grinned and slid down off the work-bench. "Let's go," he invited.

                           Constantine's pool room was in what once had been a fine residence;
                           his garage, opening on a narrow alley, had been the stable. A (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue

                           policeman sitting on a box at the door grinned wisely as Jerry parked
                           his car in the alley. Jerry led the way into the garage. Constantine's
                           convertible coupe was standing there, its hood raised. There was a
                           workbench with a few tools on it; shelves over the bench held spare
                           parts and odds and ends. The place was clean and neat.

                           "This guy was a good mechanic before he turned crook," Jerry
                           remarked. He pointed to the coupe's engine. "There she is, Gus. What
                           do you make of it ?"

                           Gus examined the engine carefully. One of the plugs was missing. He
                           ran a forefinger around the circumference of the empty hole and found
                           that all the threads, except the bottom one, were gone.

                           "Well, how about it?" Jerry demanded anxiously. "Do plugs ever blow

                           "Once in a great while," Gus told him. "It's uncommon, but it does

                           Jerry looked disappointed. "Then he could be telling the truth ?" he

                           Gus didn't answer. He went over to the workbench, and carefully
                           examined every\-thing on it. Then he did the same thing with the
                           shelves. A couple of dust-covered taillight bulbs interested him, but
                           after look\-ing at them he put them back. Then he began going through
                           scrap metal in a box under the bench. Jerry saw him nod when he
                           picked up a small, flat piece of brass. He took it to the window,
                           examined it carefully, nodded again, and put it in his pocket.

                           "What is it ?" Jerry asked anxiously. But Gus went back to the car.
                           "Jerry," he said, after a pause. "You asked me if Constantine could
                           have run this car with the spark-plug hole open in the cylinder head.
                           Well, he could have, but ....

                           Jerry's face brightened.

                           "But it would have made enough noise to wake the dead, and oil
                           would have spattered everything under the hood."

                           "He cleaned up afterwards," Jerry began. "No," Gus cut in. "See this
                           engine. It has regular layers of oil and dirt." He scraped through some (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue

                           of them with his pocketknife. "Just what you'd expect on a motor that's
                           been run a lot. If Constantine had cleaned off the new oil, the engine
                           would be a lot cleaner now--most of this old oil and dirt would have
                           come off, too."

                           Jerry was crestfallen. "We're sunk," he said. "Constantine was telling
                           the truth."

                           "I wouldn't be too sure about that," Gus grinned as he went back to the
                           workbench. He got one of the dusty bulbs.

                           This is an ordinary burned-out taillight bulb," he explained. "Watch
                           what I do with it now."

                           He 'broke the bulb and picked all the glass and cement from its socket,
                           leaving a small brass cylinder. From a box he took a new 14-mm.
                           spark plug, measured the threads, and cut the cylinder down to the
                           exact length. Then he took the cylinder and the spark plug over to the

                           "Notice," he told Jerry, "that the bottom thread in the spark-plug hole
                           wasn't ripped out when the rest were." He pushed the brass shell
                           gently into the hole. "That bottom thread forms a shoulder that keeps
                           the shell from slipping down into the cylinder." He pushed the spark
                           plug a fraction of an inch into the shell, and then began to screw it
                           slowly into place. "What's happening now," he said, "is that the spark
                           plug is cutting its own threads in the brass, and the cylinder is
                           expanding to accommodate them." Then he connected the plug, got
                           into the car, and stepped on the starter. The engine took hold promptly
                           and ran smoothly.

                           Gus switched off the ignition and got out. "That proves," he said, "that
                           Constantine could have driven his car to Oxdallas's place last night. I
                           fixed up a car that way a couple of years ago, and it ran O.K. for four
                           days, until we got a new head."

                           "Say.'" Jerry exploded. Then his face fell. "It proves Constantine could
                           have driven his car last night--but it doesn't prove that he did drive it,
                           or even that he knows the trick you pulled."

                           Gus took the piece of brass from the scrap box out of his pocket. "This
                           is the socket of a taillight bulb that Constantine flattened out by
                           stepping on it," he said. "He did just what I've done--provided a (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
Gus Solves the Case of the Brass Clue

                           substitute for the threads in the spark-plug hole to hold the plug in

                           With the blade of his penknife and a stub of pencil he carefully
                           worked the flattened brass back to its cylindrical form. Then he held it
                           to the light and squinted through it. "Look, Jerry--you can see the
                           threads that the spark plug cut."

                           Jerry looked. "I guess," he said, "I'd better talk to the chief."

                           Late that night Gus's bedside telephone jangled. Jerry's voice on the
                           wire was both tired and triumphant.

                           "It worked," he said. "When we took him down to his garage and
                           showed him how you'd fixed his motor so it'd run, and then showed
                           him your brass clue, he gave up and came clean .... Yes, confessed ....

                           No, it was just plain robbery--he got over a thousand out of Oxdallas's
                           cash box .... No, blowing the spark plug out of the cylinder head was
                           accidental. It was after he'd fixed it so that he could use his car that he
                           realized he had a good alibi if he needed it. ...The chief is writing you
                           a letter, Gus--I'd have it framed if I
                           were you! Me? All I want is twelve hours' sleep!"                             End

     Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:39 PM]
The Model Garage


                               From the November 1944 issue of
                                       Popular Science
    The big limousine that drove into the Model Garage driveway was a good make and almost as old as it was good.
  As Gus Wilson slid open the shop door in response to repeated honking of its horn, a brisk little Army sergeant
  hopped from the driver’s seat. Gus noted that the hash stripes extended almost up to his elbow and that his legs had
  a bow not acquired in automobiles.

  An officer stepped out as the sergeant opened the door of the tonneau and stood at stiff attention. He had silver
  eagles on his shoulders, crossed sabers on his lapel, and a mustache that verged on the handlebar style and was
  startlingly white on a weather-beaten face. His complexion reminded Gus of the rich color that years of use, saddle
  soap, and care give good leather.

  "Colonel Hawkesbury!" boomed the little sergeant in a big voice.

  "Good morning, Colonel," Gus said.

  "Mornin’," Colonel Hawkesbury replied with surprising mildness. "we’ve been havin’ so much trouble I thought
  we’d better get some expert assistance—both Sergeant Brady an I bein’ pretty much on the amateur side when it
  comes to automotive equipment."

  Sergeant Brady’s red face turned purple, and he muttered something under his breath. The Colonel fixed him with a (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:41 PM]
The Model Garage

  cold, gray eye. "What was that, Sergeant ?" he demanded.
  "I didn’t say anything, sir!" Sergeant Brady snapped.
  "Oh—I thought you did," the Colonel said. He looked at Gus and winked. "The Sergeant’s a good man with horses,
  but he soon get beyond his depth when he has to deal with transmissions. I have completed an Army course in
  motor mechanics, but—what’s that, Sergeant?"

  Sergeant Brady had emitted an involuntary choking sound. He cleared his throat. "Nothing sir. I just coughed, sir."

  "Oh you just coughed," the Colonel repeated, and turned back to Gus. "As I was sayin’ when the Sergeant coughed,
  I have completed an Army course in motor mechanics, my practical experience has been limited. The Sergeant an I
  are changing stations, and are on route from Texas to Boston. We get along well enough until yesterday afternoon
  when the car began to behave in a most uncomfortable manner…Just what were the symptoms, Sergeant?"

  "Engine began to skip, sir," Sergeant Brady said. "After I’d slow down in traffic, the car would rush ahead in spurts
  no matter what I did with the accelerator. Pretty near ran us into a truck, sir."

  "Yes—it was most uncomfortable and embarrassin’" Colonel Hawkesbury agreed. "The Sergeant suspected the fuel
  pump. "What did you do with it Sergeant ?"

  "Took the fuel pump off and disassembled it, sir" Sergeant Brady said. "Cleaned it thoroughly. When I put it back
  on, the engine ran better. Once we got out on the road we did 35 as smooth as you please. But when we hit the next
  city it was the same old story—miss and jolt whenever I had to slow down below 20. Then half the time I couldn’t
  speed up again. Sometimes even, all that stamping the accelerator peal down to the floor boards did was to make
  the engine skip and jolt worse—it would start to race and all of a sudden go dead. Never had a car act like that

  "My own diagnosis was that it was the distributor," Colonel Hawkesbury put in. "But so far as is possible, I refrain
  from interferin’ with an NCO who is in charge of a job, so I told him to do what he thought best. What then,
  Sergeant ?"

  "Well," said Sergeant Brady, "when I had dissembled and put back the fuel pump, the engine idled as smooth as
  anyone could ask. But as soon as we hit traffic I began to act up again. That made me think it was the carburetor,

  Colonel Hawkesbury snorted, "Carburetor! We bucked and jolted into a town, and you worked on the carburetor all

  Sergeant Brady looked straight ahead and spoke briefly. "I examined it, sir. Took off the air cleaner. Checked and
  cleaned the float chamber and all parts. Blew the carburetor out with compressed air. Reinstalled it. Cleaned and
  checked all spark plugs—got a strong spark at each. Started the engine. There was a nice stream of gas flowing into
  the float chamber, and it idled smoothly. Road-tested the car. Same trouble as before. Sir."

  The Colonel gave Gus another wink. "Well what did you do then?" he demanded.

  Sergeant Brady looked injured. "One-thirty by then, sir. I went to bed.

  "First sensible thing you’d done all day!" Colonel Hawkesbury said. You never looked at the distributor , of
  course." He turned to Gus. "The Sergeant will tell you the rest of the story, and I hope you will be able to find
  what’s wrong. I must put in a long-distance call. May I use your phone?" (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:41 PM]
The Model Garage

  Gus took him into the office. "Thanks," the Colonel told him. "By the way—I wouldn’t pay too much attention to
  what Sergeant Brady thinks the trouble is. He used to be the best stable sergeant in the Army, but since they’ve
  mechanized the cavalry he hasn’t been able to keep up. No mechanical ability—none at all!"

  Gus left the Colonel calling his number and went back into the shop. An astonishing change had come over
  Sergeant Brady. He had pushed his overseas cap far back on his head, disclosing a bald dome fringed by ginger-
  colored hair that was beginning to go gray, and he had a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.

  "What’s the old buzzard doing ?" he asked. "Phoning ? good. Once he starts shooting the breeze he’s good for 15
  minutes. I've got to have a smoke--he's been riding me so hard I got butterflies crawling all over me. He used to be
  the best cavalry officer in the Army when they had hosses, but what he don't know about cars would fill a shelf of
  technical manuals."

  Gus raised the hood of the venerable limousine. "I should think it would be pretty hard for an officer who doesn't
  know anything about automotive equipment to command a regiment these days," he said grimly.

  "He's commanding an office full of Wacs--and I have to sit out there with them and listen to their talk about their
  dates. Me and the Colonel--we're just retreads."

  "Huh ?" Gus asked.

  "Retreads," the Sergeant repeated. "Injun fighters, if you like that any better. Guys that have been on the retired list
  and have got back in for the war. The Colonel retired 10 years ago and I went with him--I've been with him, one
  way or another, most of the time since he was a second looey fresh out of the Point.

  "The Colonel's a fighter--he didn't get all those ribbons for sitting around GHQ looking wise--and he says we've got
  to get back in the Army. I told him we'd get put on some desk job, but he says he knows a way to beat that--he'll get
  us sent to a motor-mechanics school, and after that we'll get back in the cavalry. He gets us sent to the motors
  school, all right. Of course he don't learn anything at it--no head for machinery. And then they put us on a desk job,
  just like I'd told him they would."

  "I see," Gus said. "well, now, about your car--"

  "There's something the matter with the carburetor," Sergeant Brady offered. "Or maybe the clutch is slipping, Must
  be one or the other--can't be anything else because I've checked everything. When we started out this morning, I
  had to toe the clutch in and out to give the engine a chance to get up some revs.

  "We went along that way for miles. Then we had to stop because the Colonel said he smelled something burning.

                                                 While I had my head under the hood, a State cop comes along on a
                                                 motorcycle and wants to know what’s the matter. Then he tells us you’re a
                                                 motor wizard and that your place is only a couple miles up the road. So
                                                 we make it here. "

  "Say," the sergeant continued earnestly, "don’t pay any attention to what the Colonel says about the distributor. He
  don’t know anything about distributors—and before we started this trip I—" He stopped abruptly. (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:41 PM]
The Model Garage

  Gus looked up. Colonel Hawkesbury was coming through the office doorway. Sergeant Brady had undergone
  another quick transformation. His cigarette had vanished, his cap was at just the correct angle, his red face had lost
  all expression.

  "Found the difficulty ?" asked the colonel.

  "Not yet—but it won’t be long." Gus said confidently.. "I’ll have to do a little checking."

  Gus Wilson never seems to hurry, but he works fast. He went over the gasoline line from tank to carburetor without
  finding anything wrong. "Nothing the matter with the carburetor," he said.

  "I told the sergeant that yesterday, " Colonel Hawkesbury said triumphantly.

  Gus got into the car and started the engine. It took off well enough and ran smoothly at idling speed, but when he
  pressed his foot on the accelerator it began to miss badly. He turned the ignition key and got out.

  "Try the distributor," said the Colonel."

  "I’m going to," Gus told him. "From the way your engine runs, I’d say there’s something wrong with the ignition."
  He took off the distributor cap and examined the points. They were badly burned and pitted from excessive arcing.
  "Yes," he said, the trouble is in the ignition—and my guess is that it is caused by the condenser."

  The Colonel looked at the Sergeant, and the Sergeant stared straight ahead.

  Gus smothered a grin as he reached behind the massive old distributor to where the condenser was grounded to its
  housing by a screw.

  "Here’s the cause of your trouble," Gus reported. "Whoever installed that distributor forgot to tighten the condenser
  grounding screw. After a good many miles of driving, vibration—or maybe rough roads—shook the condenser
  loose, with the result that the arcing of the high-tension current across the distributor points made your ignition go
  haywire. You’ll need new points and—to be on the safe side—a new condenser."

  Sergeant Brady looked at Colonel Hawkesbury, and Gus say that his blue eyes were blazing. The Colonel’s face
  was red under it’s mahogany hue. "Do whatever is necessary, please," he told Gus.

  Gus installed a new condenser and points, and the Colonel handed him a bill. When he came back from the office
  with the change, Colonel Hawkesbury and the sergeant were already in the car. Their faces were flushed, and they
  were quarreling.

  "Sergeant," the Colonel snapped, "I told you yesterday it was the distributor. If you hadn’t been so bull-headed—"

  "It’s your fault, sir !" Sergeant Brady interrupted. "I caught you fooling with that distributor the day before we
  started this trip. When you give a man a job to do, sir, it’s only fair to let him do it without interference—"

  "I’ve already told you I’m sorry, sergeant," the Colonel said. "From now on, do what you please with the car. I’ll
  never touch it again. Now, if it were a horse—"

  Sergeant Brady grinned widely over his shoulder. "If it was a horse, sir," he said, "we’d both know a lot more about
  it!" (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:41 PM]
The Model Garage

  The old limousine rolled out of the shop, its engine purring.

  Gus was still chuckling when his partner Joe Clark came in and asked, "What you been doing, Gus?"

  "Oh," Gus said solemnly, "just a little job of fixing up a retread." The End!!!!

            Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:41 PM]
Gus Slows a Speeder

                                                 Gus Slows a Speeder

                         From the February 1947 issue of
                                Popular Science

              A lot of folks have lived in this town all their lives without knowing or
              caring that the small, vacant warehouse north of the railroad station belongs
              to Mrs. Pomfret, perhaps because she owns so many things she needs two
              lawyers to keep track of her dividends.

              But Peter Evans, the new pastor who took over when Dr. Hatch retired,
              wasn’t in town three weeks before he knew all about the building and had a
              plan for putting it to use. The Rev. Mr. Evans had been selected for this post
              while he was still an Army chaplain; in no time at all he had people
              applauding his scheme for establishing a young folks’ community center.
              The whole idea hinged on whether Mrs. Pomfret could be talked into (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:42 PM]
Gus Slows a Speeder

              contributing the idle warehouse.

              Officer Tom Maloney, a burly, usually cheerful man, had one way of looking
              at it. He paused outside the Model Garage one morning to greet Gus Wilson
              with a wan, unhappy smile.

              "Why the long face, Tom," asked Gus.

              "Can it be you don’t know our school basketball team got nosed out of the
              county championship by Remsen High? Meaning no reflection on the school,
              our small, over-crowded gym is no proper place for a good team to practice.
              It’ll be a different story next year when Mr. Evans makes over a floor for the
              use of our teams."

              "that ain’t all," put in Stan Hicks, Gus’s young grease monkey. "I spent a
              weeks pay taking my girl out Saturday night. Now, that recreation hall—"

              "How’s it coming?" Gus inquired. "I haven’t heard that anything’s been

              Tom shook his head. "There’ll be willing hands to make the repairs once
              Mrs. Pomfret agrees, but there’s no telling with her."

              "Crazy as a beetle," Stan agreed emphatically. "Remember the time she got
              mad when I blew a horn in front of her house 9:30 at night? Took away her
              repair business because you wouldn’t fire me."

              "I wasn’t sorry to lose it," Gus declared. "A new chauffeur every week, and
              every one of them begging me to make her bus less peppy. I hated to see that
              fine car start up like a wet sponge bouncing off a sofa pillow!"

              "That’s my worst worry," Tom Grunted. "It has come to my notice that Mr.
              Evans is addicted to speeding and fast starts."

              "That could make trouble," Gus agreed. "Has anyone spoken to him about

              "I have, for one. He says his car has too much pep. Had it tuned up before he
              left Denver a month ago."

              "Denver, eh?" Gus asked with fresh interest. "I worked there years ago." (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:42 PM]
Gus Slows a Speeder

              "He was stationed near there. Look!" Tom waved his club toward the corner,
              where three cars glided to a stop before a red signal. "That’s him now. The
              blue sedan on the far side."

              The light clicked orange, then green, and Mr. Evans car promptly shot
              forward ahead of the others.
                                                                          "See?" Tom snorted.
                                                                          "There’s no law against
                                                                          jack-rabbit starts, but it’s
                                                                          just as dangerous as some
                                                                          things I give tickets for."

                                                                         Pure chance, in the form
                                                                         of a stalled car, made Gus
                                                                         a witness to the next
                                                                         round in the Evans-
                                                                         Pomfret match. At about
                                                                         four o’clock that
                                                                         afternoon, he was
                                                                         summoned to Regent
                                                                         Street, the high-toned
                                                                         avenue where our few
                                                                         wealthy families live
         . He had just finished putting in a new fuel pump when he caught sight of Mr. Evans’ car
         easing slowly toward the Pomfret driveway across the street. Behind the smiling young
         pastor sat stout, bejeweled Widow Pomfret, talking graciously at the young man’s back.

         As the sedan nosed over the curbstone, a spotted dog cavorted dangerously toward the
         wheels, and the driver jammed on the brakes just in time to avoid hitting it. The dog
         hastily changed his course and bounded up the drive, while Mrs. Pomfret, thrown slightly
         forward, clutched the seat in panic.

         Apparently the young man was able to reassure his passenger for she craned her to see the
         dog. Nervously the driver hunched over the wheel and clashed into first. From a dead stop
         the car shot forward like a rocket being launched. Mrs. Pomfret was flung against the
         cushions, her face blanched and terrified. It took a moment to recover her breath, and then
         it was to utter an ear-piercing shriek.

         "Murderer!" she screamed. "You did it on purpose!" With surprising agility, she flounced
         out. "Don’t bother," she shrilled, ignoring Mr. Evans’ attempts at apology. "I’m not
         interested in anything you have to say! And as for the warehouse, I’d sooner see it burn (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:42 PM]
Gus Slows a Speeder

         down than give it to you!"

         "Just as I feared." Groaned Officer Maloney, when Gus recounted the scene to him the
         next morning.

         "I’ve been thinking," Gus went on, "that this is right in my department. Could I have a
         look at his car?"

         "That you could." Thundered the policeman. "I’ll get it down to your shop if I have to
         give him a ticket."

         Weather he would have done such a thing is doubtful, for Tom Maloney looked
         embarrassed rather than official as he escorted the Rev. Mr. Evans into the Model Garage.

         "We’ve got an awful nerve butting in on your business," said Gus, shaking hands with the
         big young pastor, "but if your car’s been causing trouble…"

         "I appreciate your interest," Mr. Evans boomed cordially, "but there’s nothing wrong with
         my car, so it must be me."

         "Too much speed isn’t usually a trouble." "It is for me," the pastor replied ruefully. "My
         car has pretty snappy pick-up, but I can usually keep the speed down. Sometimes, though
         I get preoccupied, and the next thing I know I’m sailing along like a high wind."

         Gus pondered. "It might be the car. How did it behave when you first got it?"

         "I didn’t notice that it had more speed than other cars. Not till I was driving back East, at
         any rate."

         "Mind if I look?" Gus asked.

         "Of course not." He dug the keys out of his pocket. "It’s right outside."

         Gus got into the blue sedan, started and stopped it a few times, then drove it into the shop,
         and got out. "Ever hear of a Denver head?" he asked, peering down into the engine.

         Mr. Evans and Officer Maloney both pondered and shook their heads in unison.

         "Denver is about a mile above sea level," Gus explained, straightening up and dusting his (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:42 PM]
Gus Slows a Speeder

         hands. "Up there a regular seaboard engine with a compression ratio of 6 to 1 loses about
         a quarter of its rated power. To compensate, dealers shave down engine heads to increase
         compression to 7 to 1 or more. Your car is equipped with one of those Denver heads, and
         here, at close to sea level, it gives faster pickup and a higher top speed. Of course you
         don’t get the extra power for nothing—you have to use better gas to keep the motor from
         knocking, and the plugs don’t last as long."

         Mr. Evans laughed. "So that’s what’s been making a speed demon out of me?"

         "In a way," Gus went on. "You see, a month or so of fast starts has also caused your
         clutch to grab. That, combined with the higher compression, is bound to result in jack-
         rabbit getaways any time you’re forgetful or something happens to disturb your timing.

         "Can anything be done about it?"

         "The best idea might be to install extra head gaskets to cut down the compression. It will
         be better for the car and tires. And maybe Officer Maloney will stop thinking you’re a
         traffic hazard—not to mention Mrs. Pomfret."

         "I’m afraid I’ll have to do a lot of talking before she’ll trust herself in my car again." Mr.
         Evans laughed sheepishly. "You go ahead and put in the gaskets. I’ll hate to miss the fun
         of beating everyone in town at the traffic lights. But I guess our new community center’ll
         be worth it."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:42 PM]
Gus Comes Home to TroubleBy Martin Bunn

                                                                                     Gus Comes Home to Trouble
                                                                                                            By Martin Bunn

                                                                                    From the September, 1947 issue of
                                                                                             Popular Science
                                                                                                     This story was donated by
                                                                                                        Mike Hammerberg

           Gus Wilson was in such a hurry to get back to the Model Garage that, instead of waiting five minutes for the bus that passes it, he took the
           taxi from the railroad station.

           He had had a grand time visiting his sister out in Colorado, but now that he was almost home, the two weeks he had been away seemed like
           two years. In the course of the 10 minute ride, so many misgivings about what might have gone wrong in his absence chased each other
           through his mind that he was almost surprised to see the familiar garage still standing.

           His partner, Joe Clark, grinned a welcome from the office door. and Stan Hicks, the grease monkey, leaning against the gas pump as he slow-
           motioned through his morning chore of hosing off the concrete driveway, called out breezily, "Hi, boss!"

           "Hi, kid"' Gus returned just as breezily, and started for the office. "How're things?" he asked, unable to hide his anxiety.

           Swell, just swell,- Stan assured him in a matter-of-fact tone.

           Joe Clark was just as placid. His eyes twinkled delightedly from behind his horn-rimmed glasses, but all he said was, "Have a good time?"

           "Fine!" Gus told him. "It's good to be back, though. I've been sort of worried about things."

           "You needn't have been," Joe assured him. "Everything's gone O.K.. Plenty of work, but all of it routine stuff that Stan and that Mike
           Cawthorne you hired, could handle without any headaches. I let Mike go yesterday, knowing you'd be back today." (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:43 PM]
Gus Comes Home to TroubleBy Martin Bunn
           Gus grunted. He was relieved-and a little deflated at the same time. "There's no indispensable man even in a garage," he told himself with a
           rueful mental grin. Aloud he remarked that he had his best suit on and had better go home for a change before getting to work. As he started
           for the office door it opened violently ahead of him, and a tall, glum man he didn't know stomped his way in. His thin lips mouthed an
           unlighted cigar as the visitor looked the partners over, an expression of bitter dissatisfaction on his lean, dark face.

           "There never has been a time." he declared solemnly, "when automobile mechanics charged so many, so much, for doing SO little. Maybe
           Winston Churchill didn't say that-but he would have, by gum. if he'd had any work done on his car!"

           Joe bristled. "Why, Mr. Downunder .

           "Underdown, if it's all the same to you," the sour man corrected acidly.

           Joe reddened. "Yes, of course-Mr. Underdown he amended. "What I was going to say-I mean, what's the matter?

           Underdown dexterously rolled his cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other.

           "You remind me of a doctor I had a couple of years ago," he said slowly. "Sold me an operation-said if I had it I'd cut six. strokes off my golf
           score. That would have brought me down under 90, so I had the operation-cost me a thousand before I got through with it. It didn’t do what
           the doctor said. I've never broken 90."

           "That's-that’s too bad," Joe said uncertainty "But what's it got to do with your car?"

           "Same sort of deal," Underdown went on. "You sold me a Motor tune-up, didn't you? .You claimed it would give my old bus more power and
           a quicker pickup, didn't you? You claimed-"

           "Well?" Joe broke in,

           Underdown mocked. "It's just like my operation The motor runs O.K., but not the way the doctor claimed it would. It hasn't got any more
           power, and its pickup isn't any faster than it was before the operation. I'm not satisfied I got my money worth-that's flat!"

           Joe gave Gus a get-me-out-of-this look and Gus went to his assistance "If you’ve got your car outside. Mr. Underdown," he suggested,
           "suppose you and I take a little ride in it? Maybe I'll be-able-"

           "You're Gus Wilson, I suppose." Underdown down said. "Feller told me you're a whiz. That's why I brought my car here.

           They went out to a 1939 sedan. Gus slid behind the wheel. The engine ran smoothly enough, but when they got on the highway and Gus
           pressed his foot suddenly on the accelerator pedal, the power plant’s response indicated that Underdown had a real kick coming. Noticeably
           lacking was the flashy acceleration to be expected from a job just out of the shop with it good tuning, And when they climbed a fairly steep
           grade, there wasn't any power to spare. (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:43 PM]
Gus Comes Home to TroubleBy Martin Bunn

           "You win," Gus told the customer. "She isn't as good as she ought to be. If you want to leave her until quitting time this afternoon, I'll see
           what can be done."

           After Gus had driven the sedan into the shop, Stan came over to him. He looked embarrassed. "Say, boss," he began. "I've got to talk to you."

           "Go ahead and talk," Gus told him.

           Stan had turned red and his grease-stained face showed drops of perspiration.

           You've heard about the high cost of living and everything." he blurted out.

           "I've more than heard about it," Gus assured the youngster.

           Stan hesitated, looking miserable, Finally he stuttered, "I-I ought to get a-a raise."

           "Why? Gus asked.

           Stan till turned still redder. "Oh, I dunno," he muttered.

           Gus laughed and-gave him a friendly poke in the ribs. "You certainly don't rate a raise for being a good salesman for yourself," he said. -I'll
           think it over and see what Joe says about it."He indicated the sedan, "remember this job?"

           Stan nodded. It was in for an engine tune-up a couple of days after you left."

           "Who did the work, you or Mike Cawthorne?" Gus asked.

           "Mike did, mostly," Stan told him. I helped, but he wouldn't let me do much He's the sort of guy who thinks he's the only one who knows

           "Either of you road-test it after it was finished?" Gus wanted to know.

           Stan shook his head. "No, Mr. Clark did, he said it was O.K."

           Gus tried not to grin. It's not O.K. now," he said. "There's not enough pep. Let's check the engine.

           It ran smoothly. The vacuum tester didn't indicate that there was anything the matter. But, just as had been the case on the road, when Gus
           stepped on the accelerator pedal the engine didn’t answer instantly. He checked the carburetor, and found that it was working normally. Then,
           after some silent thinking, he had Stan remove the manifolds from the block and examined them. (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:43 PM]
Gus Comes Home to TroubleBy Martin Bunn
           The inside of the intake manifold was covered with it brown varnishlike coating and the inside of the exhaust manifold had an uneven but
           generally thick carbon deposit.

           Gus shook his head sadly. "Sloppy work," he commented. "I thought better than that of Mike Cawthorne. He probably cleaned out the inside
           of the manifolds, but he didn't do a thorough job. He left some of the old deposit of varnish binder in the intake and. some spots of carbon in
           the exhaust, and new deposits built up quickly."

           Stan's face got red again. He looked as if he wanted to say something, but for a long moment he was silent, Then he blurted; "That wasn't
           Mike's fault, boss, he gave me the job of cleaning the manifolds. I was sore because he wouldn't let me do anything more important, and I
           guess-I guess I wasn't careful.

           Deep gloom shrouded his usually cheerful face, and he spoke aloud his gravest thought: "Now what chance have I got for a raise?"

           Gus managed to smother a grin- He looked at his young assistant and shrugged his shoulders. "Well," he said, better get back at them with a
           wire brush and make sure this time you get them thoroughly clean. It would be easier to soak them over- in a gum solvent-ethyl acetate or
           something like that-to loosen the deposits and then hose them off with an air jet but I promised Mr. Underdown I’d have his car ready this

           Stan went to work, and when he brought the manifolds to Gus an hour later the inner passages of both had been polished clean.

           "O.K.," Gus approved after in inspection.

           "That's the kind of job you should have done the first time. And here's something to remember. If you ever use a gum solvent to get the
           varnish binder off inside any intake manifold, be very careful to remove all the loosened matter afterwards. That stuff call cause real grief if it
           gets carried into an engine.

           When Stan had reinstalled the manifolds, they took the car out for a road test. Gus pressed his foot down, and the old sedan leaped ahead. Its
           acceleration was really flashy. And when they climbed a hill, there was plenty of power and then some.

           Stan shook his head in bewilderment. "I don't get it, boss," he said. "I know I did a bum job cleaning those manifolds the first time, but I don't
           see how the little carbon and stuff I missed could make all that difference."

           "Ever see the manifolds of a racing car?" Gus asked. "Their inside passages are plated --or well polished, at least-to improve the volumetric
           flow of the mixture and of the exhaust. To get the most out of an automobile engine, those passages must present the least possible friction so
           the pistons can suck in the, largest possible charges of mixture and expel the largest possible volume of exhaust gases.

           "You don't find plated manifolds on anything but real hot-rod jobs; but whatever kind you have, they must be clean and smooth to get top
           performance out of the car. The deposits that built up quickly on the rough spots you didn't get rid of interfered with the easy flow of mixture
           and exhaust in this engine, so it had a sluggish pickup and couldn't deliver full power. Get it?" (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:43 PM]
Gus Comes Home to TroubleBy Martin Bunn

           Stan thought it over. "Yes," be said finally, "I get it. Say, auto engines are sort of funny ain't they?"

           You’re telling me!" Gus said grimly. "By the way, I spoke to Joe about your our wanting a raise. "

           Once more Stan's face got red from embarrassment. "I guess I haven't got it coming to me now-after that punk job on Mr. Underdown's
           manifolds," be muttered.

           Gus laughed good-humoredly.

           "We all have to learn the hard way sometimes." he said after a moment "And you didn't let me think that it was Mike's fault. Your pay
           envelope will be five bucks fatter this Friday, son. O.K.?

           "O.K., boss." Stan grinned.

                                   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:43 PM]
Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit

                     Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit
                                                        By Martin Bunn

                          From The January, 1948 issue of
                                 Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

              When Stan put a car back together and had a piece left over. Gus
               didn't need a dream book to tell that the customer was coming
                                        back mad.

            GUS WILSON was first down to the Model Garage that sunny winter morning.
            Whistling cheerily, he took off his coat and vest and hung them on their accustomed
            hook. He lifted down a pair of coveralls, wiggled into them and found them
            unaccountably tight. "I must be putting on weight," he mused as he reached into a
            pocket for his tobacco. Instead of the familiar tin of "Delight," his fingers closed on a
            small metal object. Surprised, he took it out, glanced at it absent-mindedly, and put it
            down on a workbench. He fumbled in another pocket and fished out the crumpled
            remains of a pack of chewing gum. Then light broke. "Darn it." These are Stan’s

            Spotting his own coveralls on an adjacent hook Gus changed into them, found his
            tobacco, lit his pipe, and began to plan the day's work. After an instant his eye was
            caught by the metal object be had taken from the pocket of Stan's coveralls; he picked
            it up from the bench. It was a short hollow cylinder, with both ends chamfered. After
            momentary puzzlement he identified it. Then be thought back through the jobs of the
            previous day. "Gosh," be exclaimed at a sudden recollection. "Stan cleaned that gas
            tank and fuel line, and tightened the connections. Now we will have fireworks!
            Why’d it have to be that red-headed Horace Spinker, the worst-tempered man in
            town?" (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:44 PM]
Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit

            Gus, who is blessed with the gift of taking his work seriously in a light-hearted sort
            of way, laughed and put the little cylinder back in Stan’s coverall pocket. Then he
            hung the garment on its hook and hastened into the office to make a phone call. A
            woman's voice told him irascibly that Mr. Spinker had left and asked for a message.

            "Never mind," Gus replied. "Ill be hearing from him soon enough anyway."

            Stan came, in a few minutes later, red in the face and out of breath. "You're sorta
            early, ain’t you, Boss"?'

            Gus put on a glum face. "I was glad to get up-bad dreams," he growled. "You believe
            in dreams, Stan?"

            "Me? I dunno."

            "I had one about you" Gus said, "You sure were on a spot. There was a big fellow
            with a red face and red hair and red mustache who was going to cut your heart out
            because you'd fouled up his car. He sure was mad, and-" the master mechanic shook
            his head forebodingly. "If there's anything in dreams, you'd better watch your step
            today. I wouldn't want to have a fellow as big as that mad at me."

            Stan grinned a little nervously. Gus's serious manner had impressed him. 'I ain't afraid
            of dreams," he muttered. -They don't mean nothing."

            "I hope you're right," Gus told him somberly. "But I wouldn't bet an it."

            In spite of Gus's carefully portentous manner and a doleful yarn or two about dreams
            that had come true, things went along placidly enough in the shop until about three
            o'clock, when Joe Clark stuck his head in from the office door and shouted:

            "Job for the wrecker! Spinker just phoned that he's stalled five miles up the highway.
            Says his starter and ignition are O.K. and his gas tank is a third full, but his car quit
            on him and he can't get it moving again."

            "All right-we'll fix him up," Gus called back. Then he turned to Stan. "You do it, will
            you? he said. "You worked on Spinker's gas tank and fuel line yesterday."

            Stan stared at him, his jaw dropping. "Spinker?" he said weakly. "Say, ain't he that
            big guy with the red hair and the terrible temper?"

            Gus whistled softly, "Now I remember," he muttered. "He’s the fellow who was after
            you in that dream." Look here, kid-if you're scared to go-" (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:44 PM]
Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit

            On Stan's face there was the look of the men who held Bastogne. "I’ll go," he said,
            and climbed into the wrecker.

            Almost an hour later he drove back into the shop with Spinker's car in tow. From the
            sedan the terrible-tempered Horace erupted, his face the hue of underdone roast beef
            and his stubby red mustache bristling belligerently. "What is this you're running - a
            clip joint?" he yelled at Gus. "You soak me for fixing my car, and this half-witted
            grease monkey of yours busts something so it dies in my hands! I’ll report this to the
            Chamber of Commerce-I'll-"

            "You'd better throttle down before you bust a blood vessel." Gus turned to Stan, who
            had got out of the wrecker looking as if he'd had a rough ride. "What's the matter with
            this bus?"

            "I dunno," Stan growled, with a glare at Spinker. "I tried to check it but that screwball
            kept yelling at me."

            Mr. Spinker had taken the shop's only chair. He leaped up again as if the business end
            of a hornet had made contact. "Screwball'' he howled. "I'll show you-"

            Gus placed a large palm on his chest, and straightened his arm. The raging Horace sat
            down again-hard. "Just take it easy," Gus advised soothingly, "while we find out
            what's wrong."

            Spinker sputtered for half a minute, and then suddenly switched from explosive rage
            to complaining self-pity. "I've got my living to earn," he moaned. "I've got to see a
            big customer downtown, and I'm an hour late already!"

            "That'll work out swell," Gus told him. "You go ahead and see your customer, and
            when you get back well have your car ready for you. Better not waste any time, the
            bus is pretty near due, and there won't be another one for half an hour."

            Spinker departed, still complaining. Gus grinned at Stan. "We're rid of that pest for a
            while," he said. "All right, kid, it's your baby."

            He went back to the job he bad been working on and Stan started to check Spinker's
            sedan. After making certain that there was as much gasoline in the tank as the gauge
            indicated, he carefully examined the pump and the flexible coupling hose, and blew
            back, on the fuel fine. Obviously gasoline wasn't getting to the pump-it was as dry as
            a bone. (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:44 PM]
Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit

            While he was scratching his head over the puzzle Gus strolled over to him, "I haven't
            found it yet, boss," Stan admitted.

            "Look in your pocket," Gus said.


            "Look in your pocket - your right-hand pants pocket."

            Stan stared at his employer in deep puzzlement; then he felt in the pocket indicated,
            and after a moment fished out the little metal cylinder. As he looked at it his face
            flushed a fine brick red. "Holy cat!" he groaned.

            "It ' s a good, rule," Gus suggested mildly, to put back anything you take off a car."

            "I know, boss," Stan said contritely. "But this little do-funny dropped out of
            somewhere while I was working on the fuel-line connections yesterday afternoon.
            You were out and I couldn't find where it came from, so I put it in my pocket until I
            could ask you.

            Then I forgot about it until just -now . . .

            Say, how th' heck did you know it was in my pocket?"

            "I might have dreamed it," Gus told him with a grin, "but actually I found it in your
            coveralls this morning when I put 'em on by mistake, Remembering that you had
            worked on Spinker's car yesterday I knew you were going to have trouble with a hot-
            tempered redhead."

            Faint hope of an alibi brightened Stan's face. "Say, boss,' he offered, "it couldn't have
            been my leaving this jigger off that made Spinker's bus stall. I road-tested it when I
            got finished yesterday, and he told me he didn't have any trouble until it coughed a
            couple of times and went dead on the way back from Centerville."

            "Spinker told us he needed the car in time for an early start to Centerville," Gus said.
            'When I happened on that do-funny, as you call it, I figured he'd run into trouble on
            the way home, but it was too late to do anything to prevent it. So-"

            "Wait-wait a minute, boss," Stan gulped. "You say you knew when Spinker s car was
            going to stall. How th' heck-"

            Gus picked the little metal cylinder out of Stan's hand, and increased the grease (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:44 PM]
Gus Turns Prophet Without Profit

            monkey's suspense by re-lighting his pipe before talking. "This little gadget," he
            explained, "called a ferrule, is supposed to form a seal between the fuel line and the
            internal tank connection, and so prevent gas from getting out and air from getting in.
            It fits in under the connector, and the chamfers at both ends of it are to seal the lips of
            the fuel and connection lines. Get it?"

            "Yeah-I see," Stan said. 'But I don't see how you knew-"

            "I'm telling you," Gus went on. "On Spinker's car the connection is about three inches
            above the tank bottom. While the tank is at least one-third full it doesn't make any
            great difference whether or not the ferrule is in because air can't leak into the system.
            But when the gasoline falls below the connection, air is drawn in and the fuel supply
            to the carburetor is cut off. Spinker had the tank filled when he called for the car last
            night. Knowing he was starting with a full tank and that without the ferrule he'd be
            stalled when two-thirds of the gasoline was gone, it wasn't hard to figure he'd run into
            grief on the way home.'

            Joe Clark had come into the shop while Gus was talking. -You're a red-hot prophet,
            aren't you?" he said.

            Gus wrote out a time slip covering the job, scrawled "no charge" on it, and handed it
            over to his partner with a grin. "Sure." he admitted, "but on this job the prophecy is
            on the house!"

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:44 PM]
Gus Wilson and the DeepeeBy Martin Bunn

                                                                                        Gus Wilson and the Deepee
                                                                                                            By Martin Bunn

                                                                                    From the February, 1948 issue of
                                                                                       Popular Science Monthly
                                                                                                      This story was donated by
                                                                                                         Mike Hammerberg

                                                        The little artist had no money, but he had a smooth tongue
                                                                   and a Problem Gus knew how to solve.

               "HERE stands Kiskum".

               Mrs. Miller giggled, and Gus Wilson turned to stare at the man unexpectedly there beside them. They saw a little fellow dressed in paint-
               smeared corduroy pants, a threadbare shirt-also paint-specked-and a velvet ribbon that was twisted into a flaring bow around his neck.

               "So what'?" said Gus.

               The visitor jabbed the end of a long index finger into his chest. "Kiskum-me! The lady will permit that I resume the chapeau?" He bowed in
               the direction of Mrs. Miller. Flashing a likable smile, he pulled on a stained blue beret. "Here stands Kiskum. You, meestair" "

               My name's Wilson." Gus laughed,

               Kiskum grabbed his hand and pumped it vigorously. "Pleestameetcha! You geeve me it wranch, heh?

               "Why should I give you a wrench?"

               "I geeve heem back queek."

               "Oh-that's different," Gus said. "What kind of wrench?" (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:45 PM]
Gus Wilson and the DeepeeBy Martin Bunn
               "A munkey wranch." Kiskum's fast-moving hands measured off eight inches of air. "Like so.'"

               Gus got him the tool, Kiskum bowed to Mrs. Miller and marched to the door. "Such an odd character!" gushed Mrs. Miller. Gus sadly
               surveyed the ruin that Mrs. Miller had made of a good automobile engine and got back to the diagnosis that Kiskum's arrival had interrupted.
               "I'm afraid you'll have to leave your car here till tomorrow," be announced.

               Stan, who had gone outside, barged back into the shop. "That guy's got the floor boards up and he's taking off the cover of his transmission-
               with our wrench! Whatd'ya think of that for nerve!"

               Gus laughed and went to the door. Mrs. Miller and Stan followed.

               Muttering to himself, Kiskum was working on his car-an old one which had obviously had a hard life as well as a long one. He straightened
               up when he saw Gus. "I feex heem myself," he said hastily. "I got no kesh. I am a deepee."

               "You're a what?" Gus demanded.

               "A deepee," be repeated. "What you call a displeased person."

               Oh,' Gus said sympathetically, "A displaced person. That's tough. Did the war-"

               Kiskum shook his head violently. "It is not the war which has displeased me. It is my landlord. I got no kesh. He displeases me on the
               sidewalk. So!"

               Gus smothered a grin. "That's tough, too. What are you going to do now?"

               Kiskum's expressive hands sketched a wide gesture. "I trevel," he declared, -But my car it goes only in the slow motion," The man yanked at
               the gearshift lever. "He stick in the low gear. So!

               "Gus nodded. "How long has the gearshift been stuck?"

               Kiskum shrugged his shoulders. "Since I start to trevel this morning. Before that -two, three months."

               "Do you mean to say," Gus demanded, "that you've been driving in low gear for two or three months?"

               "I. feex heem." Kiskum explained, "but he don't stay that way. When he stick the first time, I go to the garage. The mechanician say my
               transmission got to be overhauled. I got kesh. I have it done. Two weeks more, he, stick again. The mechanician say my transmission got to
               be-how you say it-rebushed. I got no kesh , so I drive in slow motion to the lot where I stand my car. I take off the transmission cover and
               look inside. When I put it back it works fine. But it sticks again. Every three times I drive I feex heem once."

               Gus rubbed his chin. "I'll take a look." (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:45 PM]
Gus Wilson and the DeepeeBy Martin Bunn
               "I got no kesh," Kiskum warned.

               "I didn't say I'd fix it for you," Gus replied gruffly. "I just want to look."

               It didn't take him long to find out what was wrong. The shifting rods were loose in the transmission case-the bushings in which they rested
               had worn sloppy. As a result, the end of the shift lever could climb out of its notch in one position. When this happened, both lever and rod
               jammed fast. "It can be fixed," Gus told Kiskum, "but it would be rather expensive to do it properly."

               "I got no kesh," Kiskum said glumly. His face brightened. "I propose to you a swap. You feex my car-I paint your peecture."

               "An artist!" Mrs. Miller gurgled.

               "I am what you call a helluvagood artist," Kiskum said with dignity. "I show you." He reached into the back of his car and yanked out large
               paintings and small ones, which he propped in a row against the shop's wall. Mrs. Miller greeted each addition with a squeal of delight. He
               made a 'final trip to his car and came back with a portrait of an unwholesome-looking old man with a cockeyed leer and a hobo beard. "My
               masterpiece!'' he told Gus proudly. "You feex my car, I paint you like heem. So?"

               Gus had made up his mind that while this might be "Art, be preferred the curvatious nifties on the shop calendar. "No soap, he said with

               Mrs. Miller had been digging frantically into her recollections of six women's club, lectures on art appreciation. Now she came up with the
               word she had succeeded in remembering-she wasn't sure what it meant, but she isn't one to fuss about the meaning of a word so long as it
               sounds impressive. She a gazed soulfully at the picture of the unprepossessing old man. 'Beautiful-oh, beautiful!" she breathed. "What

               Kiskum went slowly over to her. "Madam permits? Mrs. Miller giggled. He took her well-rounded cheeks between his palms and gently
               tilted her head. "Ah, yes-charming!" He turned briskly back to Gus, -You feex my car, I paint your lady. So?"

               Highly delighted, Mrs. Miller started flustered explanations. Stan snickered, Gus grinned. "Well-O.K.," he said. "Help Stan push your bus
               into the shop."

               Kiskum did. Then from the back seat he exhumed an easel, a canvas, and a. palette. With the businesslike air of a man whose time is
               valuable he carried the shop's only chair over to a window, posed Mrs. Miller in it, and went to work.

               So did Gus. He started by lighting his pipe while he stared thoughtfully at the exposed transmission. Then he drew out the gearshift lever and
               examined both the pivot ball and the end that engaged the notches in the shifting rods. "Seems to me, he told Stan, "all we have to do is get
               the lever to ride about three thirty-seconds lower."

               "Sure, Stan assented. "All you have to do is weld on that much metal, grind it to the right shape,, and case-harden it."

               "Is that the only fix you can think of, son?" Gus asked. (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:45 PM]
Gus Wilson and the DeepeeBy Martin Bunn

               "Heck, no! We could put in a new transmission or re-bush the old one," here he lowered his voice to make sure it wouldn't carry beyond
               Gus's ears, "but I don't think Mrs. Miller’s picture'll be worth that much to you-except maybe to bide a hole in the wait!

               His employer laughed and shook his head. "Try again, youngster. You're missing at least two good bets.

               Stan pursed his lips, squinted, and assumed an expression of deep concentration. "Well, if you could take three thirty-seconds off the bell

               "Now you're getting there," Gus assented. "And you wouldn't even have to take off that much." He peeled off the gasket and measured its
               thickness. "One thirty-second. You'd only have to take off another sixteenth if you left out the gasket."

               Stan nodded vigorously. "That's pretty neat boss. Want me to do it?

               "Pretty optimistic, aren't you? It's no cinch to' chuck that housing in the lathe

               "But you said."

               I said that was one way. There's an easier way still." "O.K." Stan let his shoulders slump with a defeated air. "I give up. You tell me."

               "The pivot, of course. Take off the right amount of metal from the bottom of the pivot ball, and the lever will move down. Let's go."

               With Stan watching, Gus applied a blowtorch to the bend of the shift lever, straightened it, and chucked it in the lathe. Carefully turned a
               fraction of an inch off the ball. Then he re-bent the lever.

               "That should do it," he said. "You carry on, Stan."

               Leaving Stan to his job, Gus walked across the shop. Kiskum looked tip, "You feex my car?"

               "It'll be ready to roll in a minute."

               The artist brushed. in a dozen swift strokes. "Completed-done!" He jumped up and bowed to Mrs. Miller. Almost before Stan could replace
               the floor boards, he had tossed his equipment into the car, hopped in after it, started the engine. and shifted gears. "Ah! I am out of the slow
               motion! Now I trevel!" The old engine roared; he waved his hand and drove out.

               Mrs. Miller hurried over to look at her portrait. Her figure is generously upholstered, and Kiskum's brush had painted what his eyes had seen.
               From the canvas, a fat goggle-eyed woman stared back at Mrs. Miller. Her face reddened with rage. "I don't look like that! she shrilled. Then
               she tried to smile. "Only, of course, it's Art! I’ll hang it in the living room-yes, over the fireplace.- Doubt assailed her again, 'But I don't
               know what Henry will say!"

               She floundered out, taking the still-wet picture. (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:45 PM]
Gus Wilson and the DeepeeBy Martin Bunn

               "I know what Henry will say," Stan suggested, "When does the balloon go up? - that's what!" Lookit here, boss-I don’t get it, the way we
               fixed that gearshift. We never did the job that way before."

               "That's right-we didn't'," Gus admitted, "but we never did the job on a car. that was as badly treated as that one. A dentist doesn't put a gold
               inlay in a tooth he's going to yank. Kiskum's car has another year or two at most, so. we gave him a quick, cheap, easy job that will work fine
               for at least that long. We saved time and money. Kiskum got a job that's plenty good enough, and Mrs. Miller got a portrait that's so much
               like her it hurts. You figure out who got the worst in the deal."                                 End

                                          Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:45 PM]
August 1948

                                      Gus Gets Broken in
                                       by a New Helper
                                                        By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1948 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                 When Stan Hicks graduates to a full-fledged mechanic and a new grease
                 monkey comes to the Model Garage, time hangs heavy on extra hands.

              "HEY, mister-what should I do now?" Gus Wilson, flat on his back under the
              jacked-up rear end of George Knowles's car, looked up at Greg Jones, the Model
              Garage's new grease monkey. "Well," he suggested, "you might sweep out the

              "I've done that," Greg told him.

              Gus slid out from under the car and looked around. The floor had been swept
              thoroughly and the waste boxes had been emptied. As far as he could see, all the
              routine Monday-morning jobs had been well done. He glanced at the clock. It
              wasn't nine yet. How was he going to keep this green kid decently busy? Gus
              promptly made up his mind to sidestep the job.

              Stan Hicks, relieved at last of the "boy's work" that had griped him so, was
              importantly busy over a valve-grinding job. Gus nodded toward him. "Any time
              you don't know what to do next," he said, "ask him."

              "I did ask Mr. Hicks, and he . . . " (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:46 PM]
August 1948

              "Go ahead," prompted Gus. "What did Mister Hicks say?"

              "He told me to ask you."

              "Buck passer!" From outside came the squawking of a horn. "Well, go out to the
              pump and see who's making that noise."

              Greg hurried out. Joe Clark, coming from the office to collect Saturday's time and
              parts slips, grinned at his partner "How's the new boy doing?" he inquired.

              "He's left-handed," Gus growled, "and he's got ten thumbs."

              Joe laughed. "Give him a chance. The school people say he's a bright kid and a hard
              worker, and he did well in his mechanical-aptitude test."

              Greg hurried back into the shop. "Hey mister," he reported breathlessly, "there's a
              lady out there wants to buy five gallons of gas. What'll I do?"

              "Sell it to her."

              "Yeah-but I don't know how to work the-the-the thing!"

              Gus groaned. Joe laughed again. "Come along. "I’ll show you how.

              "Three minutes later Greg dashed back. "Hey, mister-the lady's car won't run! Mr.
              Clark wants you to come out."

              Muttering under his breath, Gus followed him out to the pump, where the
              downstairs two-thirds of Joe's anatomy was protruding from a shiny coupe. A tall,
              thin woman stamped her foot angrily. "I’II register a complaint! A brand-new car to
              act like this! First my husband takes it on a business trip the day we get it. Then,
              the first time I get to drive it, this has to happen!"

              "What seems to be the matter, ma'am?"

              "I had five gallons of gasoline put in," she snapped, "and now it won't start!"

              Joe ducked his head out. "Deader'n a doornail," he told Gus gloomily.

              "Let me try it." Gus stepped into the car and pressed the starter button. The engine
              caught and purred sweetly. (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:46 PM]
August 1948

              'Well, I never!" shrilled the angry lady. Gus switched off the engine and got out.
              She flounced into the driver's seat. A minute of silence was terminated by her
              outraged voice: "It's just the same! It won't start!"

              Joe smiled reassuringly. "Well, now, Mr.Wilson started it without the slightest
              difficulty, so-just let me try it."

              She slid over, and Joe took her place. There was another short silence. Then Joe
              stuck his head out of the window, "She's dead, Gus," he reported.

              Gus got in and again pressed the starter button, Again the engine took off promptly.

              Well, I never!" The customer thrust her jaw out. "If you can do it, there's no reason
              why I can't. Let me try again."

              Gus got out, and she slid back behind the wheel. There was another silence. "It
              won't start!" she grated bitterly.

              Everyone had forgotten about Greg. Now he twitched at the sleeve of Gus's
              coveralls and pulled him a little aside. Hey, mister," he said in a hoarse whisper, I
              know why you can make the motor run and they can't."

              "You do, hey?" Gus said. "Why?"

              "You push the thing up on top, and they stamp on the thing down on the bottom."

              Gus stared at him. Then a grin spread over his face. "By gum," he said, "you've got
              more sense than any of the rest of us which isn't saying much." He went over to the
              car and asked the woman to try to start its engine. This time he held the door open.
              She pawed with her left foot at. the floor to the side of the clutch pedal, and then
              looked at him aggrievedly. "It's just the same," she said. "It's dead!"

              Gus reached in to the instrument panel and pressed the starter button. At once the
              engine ran sweetly. "The trouble," he told her, "is that you've been trying to start
              your engine by stepping on your headlight dimmer switch!"

              The driver's long jaw sagged. But after a dejected moment the light of battle flared
              up in her eyes. 'It's ridiculous!" she shrilled, "that all cars aren't arranged the same
              way." On my old car the starter was on the floor. Why did they have to stick it up
              there on the dashboard? There should be uniformity!"

              She let in her clutch, and the coupe was off to a jack-rabbit start. Gus turned in time (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:46 PM]
August 1948

              to see Joe disappearing through the office doorway. Even at that distance Gus saw
              that his partner's ears were a fiery red.

              Greg again pulled at his sleeve. "Hey, mister," he asked, "what'll I do now?"

              Gus fished a dollar bill out of his pocket. "You know that cigar store near the
              station?" he asked. "Well, get me a half-pound can of ‘Delight' tobacco."

              Greg hurried off, and Gus went back to his shop. "It'Il take him half 'an hour to
              walk down there and back," he thought, and I’II have a little peace for that long."

              Gus was wrong about that. He hadn't got well restarted on his job when he heard
              the harsh scream of jammed-on brakes.

              Stan Hicks hurried over to the shop door. "A guy in a sedan nearly ran up a truck's
              tail," he reported. "I don't think he hit it, but there's something the matter, he and
              the truck driver are having a row."

              Gus grunted disinterestedly. Stan continued to observe the ruckus out on the street.
              "Say, boss,' be said after a few minutes, "that guy's back in his car, and he's drivin’
              it in here."

              "He's all yours, Mister Hicks," Gus told him. He got a worm's-eye view of a
              redfaced man with a bristling black mustache hopping out of a sedan with a
              steaming radiator.

              "Huh," Stan remarked, '"so you did hit that truck. I thought you just missed it."

              "I did not hit it!" roared the sedan's owner. "And no thanks to its driver. I’II have
              the law on his firm if they don't pay for the damage, sure as my name's
              Gunzenhouser! Stopping smack in front of me, and no stoplight or signal!"

              "That's bad," Stan said sympathetically. "But if you didn't bump the truck, what
              busted the radiator?"

              Gus didn't bear much of Mr. Gunzenhouser's heated and lengthy reply, he was
              distracted by a rustling sound near his feet, and on looking down saw Greg
              crawling toward him with a package in his hand. "Here's your tobacco, mister," he

              "Thanks, "Gus said disgustedly. "How'd you get back so quick-take a plane?" (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:46 PM]
August 1948

              "I thumbed a ride both ways," Greg explained. "What'll I do now, mister?"

              "Go tell Mr. Clark I said for you to help him in the stockroom."

              Greg crawled away, but after a few minutes Stan came over to Gus. "you’ll have to
              help me on this one, boss," he admitted. "I can fix the guy's radiator, but I can't find
              out what busted it. There’s not a mark on it outside."

              "Oh, all right," Gus said, and went over to the sedan. He examined the inner side of
              its radiator, and found it badly gashed. It looked to him as if the damage had been
              done by the fan, but careful checking showed that there was adequate clearance
              between The fan blades and the radiator, that the blades were tight, and that there
              was no end play in the fan shaft.

              Gus scratched his ear and whistled tunelessly between his teeth. After half a minute
              he turned to Gunzenhouser. 'You say you didn't hit that truck?" he asked,

              "Didn't touch it. Take my word for it."

              "I do. Well, now, ever had any trouble with your radiator hoses leaking?"

              "I certainly have!" Gunzenhouser, snapped. "They've been a nuisance for the last
              couple of months. I tightened 'em a couple of times and that didn't do it I even took
              'em off and put on gasket cement."

              Gus nodded. "Does your throttle stick or fly open on turns?"

              What are you-a mind reader? Yes-my throttle often sticks when I make a turn at
              fair speed."

              "One thing more," Gus said. "Have any starting trouble?"

              "I've bad a little,", Gunzenhouser replied. "Now suppose you answer a question.
              What's the matter with my car?"

              "Broken or worn-out engine supports," Gus told him. "When certain types of
              rubber engine mounts get old they soften up or separate from their metal brackets
              and allow the engine to settle or get out of line. The radiator hose tries to hold it
              upright, but of course it can't, and the strain opens leaks. On turns, the drag of the
              engine on the throttle linkage makes the throttle either stick or fly wide open. Hard
              starting is caused by the bad mounts allowing the rear of the engine to set so low (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:46 PM]
August 1948

              that the kick throttle can't release the automatic choke when the starter is operated.
              Your mounts are so far gone that when you made a sudden stop, the engine shifted
              forward and drove the fan blades into the radiator.... New engine mounts-that's the
              only answer.

              "You're the doctor," Gunzenhouser said. "Put 'em in, and fix the radiator. Ill be in
              for the car tomorrow. Okay?"

              "Okay," Gus agreed. He returned to the Knowles job. "Now," he growled, "I hope
              I'll have a chance to do some of my work!" Then he felt a hand on his arm.

              'Mr. Clark's through with me," Greg said. "What'Il I do now, mister?"

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:46 PM]
Gus Wins A BetBy Martin Bunn

                                                                                                         Gus Wins A Bet
                                                                                                                 By Martin Bunn

                                                                                       From the November 1949 issue of
                                                                                               Popular Science
                                                                                                           This story was donated by
                                                                                                              Mike Hammerberg

                   Lemuel GASKINS, lawyer and solid citizen, stood in his garage and stared at the engine of his car. "Hello," called a voice from the

                   It was Bill Witte, Lem’s neighbor. "Come in," Lem answered. "Just returning the soldering iron I borrowed,' Bill said, stepping into
                   the garage.

                   "Having a little trouble with the old bus?" "Carburetor trouble, Engine coughs, spits, and misses when I accelerate." "Could be the
                   fuel pump," Bill suggested. "No," Lem said with finality, "it's the carburetor." "What makes you so sure it's the carburetor?" "I know
                   it is, that's all," Lern said flatly, "Want to bet?" There's one in every town-a know-it-all guy who's always right, or at least thinks he's
                   always right. That's the big difference between most of them and Lem He's got the right answer 99 percent of the time. "NO," Bill
                   replied, "I don't want to bet."

                   Lem's a notorious sure-thing bettor. Bill, as well as a lot of other people, knows it from experience. Lem likes to think of himself as
                   well-informed. He uses that legal-eagle brain of his to dig up all facts on a particular subject and then he goes looking for a victim to
                   bet with. The average guy, who picks up his misinformation from something be thinks he read or heard, doesn't stand a chance with

                   "I'm willing to bet anybody that it's the carburetor," Lem went on.

                   "Maybe so," Bill said "As a matter of fact, I don't much care but I still think it could be the fuel pump,"

                   "You want to bet on that?" (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:47 PM]
Gus Wins A BetBy Martin Bunn
                   "No, no bets."

                   "I've already checked the pump It works perfectly," Lern admitted as he picked up a screwdriver and began removing the plate over
                   the float.

                   "Carburetors are pretty tricky things to take apart," Bill said. "I tried it once and wound up lugging the whole thing to the Model

                   "I know what I'm doing," Lem said

                   "Well, good luck," Bill grinned. "I think you're going to need it, "I got to go."

                   Lem was glad Bill left. It took him only a few minutes to discover that he didn’t know what he was doing, and he didn't want anyone
                   to find that out. He pictured himself walking over to Bill's house with a pan full of carburetor parts and asking Bill to drive him to the
                   Model Garage. He shuddered and put the thought out of his mind.

                   After he had replaced the cover plate, he tried the engine. It caught and idled smoothly but still spluttered and missed when he raced
                   the engine. Probably something wrong with the high-speed jet, he thought. He decided he'd have to go to a repair shop after all.

                   By handling the accelerator very gently, be managed to make it to the Model Garage. On the way, though, he tried speeding up in
                   hopes that the trouble would have cleared up. But each time he stepped on the gas the engine coughed and bucked.

                                    It's the carburetor, He says

                   When he drove into the shop, Stan Hicks looked up and scowled.

                   "Clip anybody lately?" Stan asked. A couple of weeks before, Lem bad stopped for gas and managed to maneuver Stan into a half-
                   dollar bet that Stan lost.

                   "Never mind that," Lem grinned. "Something's wrong with my car. It runs all right at low speeds but when I speed up it sputters and
                   misses. Some minor carburetor trouble. Dirt, probably. Check it but don't go trying to blow it up into a big job."

                   "Here's the boss,' Stan said, "'tell him your troubles."

                   Lem repeated his story to Gus.

                   "Why do you think it's the carburetor?" Gus asked. "A fuel pump that wasn't working right could make an engine act like that."

                   Funny, Lem thought, how everyone wanted to blame the fuel pump. He was dead certain there was nothing wrong with the pump. He
                   couldn't resist the opportunity to work up a small, sure-thing bet. (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:47 PM]
Gus Wins A BetBy Martin Bunn

                   "Well,"' he told Gus hesitantly, "I guess you're right. It could be the fuel pump. But I still think it's the carburetor. What say we have a
                   little fun out of this? I’ll bet you two bucks it isn't the pump."

                   "Nothing doing," Gus grinned 'Knowing you, I'd say you just had the pump checked or else had a new one installed."

                   "No, I didn't," Lem protested. "That's the same old pump and I didn't have it checked." He realized he was skating pretty close to the
                   line between a, lie, and the truth. But after all, he told himself, it wasn't a new pump and be hadn't had anyone check it. He"d just
                   checked it himself.

                   "Take a seat in the office," Gus said. "Stan and I'll take the car out for a little run."
                   On the highway, the car ran smoothly enough at low speeds, just as Lem had said, but when Gus accelerated, the engine began to
                   miss. He pulled off on the shoulder and stopped. Gus raised the hood and took a screwdriver from his pocket. He held the screwdriver
                   with the blade near one of the plug terminals. When he pulled the throttle linkage, the engine started to pick up, and then sputtered,
                   Gus got back in the car.

                   "Find out what's wrong?" Stan asked.

                   "Not definitely," Gus admitted, "but I found out what isn’t wrong It's not the fuel pump and it's not the carburetor. The trouble is
                   somewhere in the ignition, If you want to get your half dollar back from Lem. . . "

                   "I sure do," Stan, said quickly, "and with something added, too."

                   Lem popped out of the office as soon as Gus drove the sedan into the shop.

                   "What's the matter with it?" the lawyer asked.

                   "I haven't checked thoroughly yet," Gus answered, "so I can't say exactly, "

                   "It's the carburetor," Lem snapped. "I'll bet it is."

                   "Okay," Stan cut in, I'll take that bet. I say it's not the carburetor. Five bucks.

                   Lem shot Stan a sharp glance, hesitated, and then agreed to the bet.

                   "It's a bet you’re going to pay - for a change," Gus laughed.

                   "We'll see about that," Len told him.

                   "There's nothing the matter with the carburetor," Gus said. "The trouble is somewhere in the ignition system."

                   "Says you," Lem scoffed. "Prove it," (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:47 PM]
Gus Wins A BetBy Martin Bunn

                                         What the Meter Shows

                   "That's just what I'm going to do right now. Get the low-reading voltmeter, Stan."

                   After switching on the ignition Gus raised the hood and made sure the distributor points were closed. When Stan brought the
                   voltmeter Gus held one prod on the battery-cable terminal of the starter and the other one on the battery connection. The instrument
                   registered a drop of only a tenth of a volt. A check of the distributor-ground connection showed the same slight drop. "Primary circuit
                   seems okay, Gus said.

                   "Why the heck don't you check the carburetor Lem yelped. "That's where the trouble is. You’re just running up a big bill. "Even when
                   I win the bet, I’ll still lose when I’ve paid you. I won't stand for it,"

                   Gus grinned at Lem and went right on, checking. He examined the, terminals of the high-tension cable from the coil to the distributor,
                   and then the spark-plug cables.

                   "Hey, boss," Stan 'whispered nervously, "don't forget I've got a, bet on you."

                   "The money's as good as in your packet,'' Gus answered in a low voice, "On the highway, I checked the spark with a screwdriver.
                   When the engine is speeded up, the spark cuts out. That's what causes the missing.'

                   "What are you two whispering about?" Lem demanded. He came around the car to where Gus and Stan stood. "Trying to cook up a
                   deal so I'll lose that bet?"

                   Gus didn't answer. He just grinned and started going over the wiring again. After another minute or so, he laughed.

                                         A Little Bare Spot

                   "Here it is. Take a look, Lem."
                   Gus bent up one of the primary wires running to the ignition coil and pointed to a tiny bare spot where the insulation had worn off.
                   Lem looked.

                   "Sure," he conceded "there's, a little bare spot. But what of it? It's a quarter inch away from the engine block, so how could it cause a
                   ground? Besides, the car runs fine at slow speeds. It's just when I accelerate that it acts tip. If that bare spot caused a short, why
                   wouldn't it do it at low speeds as well its at high speeds?"

                   Gus wrapped a few turns of tape around the worn spot.

                   "Satisfy yourself."' be told Lem. "Drive up the highway, then come back and I'll install a new wire. (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:47 PM]
Gus Wins A BetBy Martin Bunn
                   The lawyer was gone almost 15 minutes.

                   "Well? Gus asked him when he returned.

                   "No trouble," Lem admitted grumpily, "but you haven't proved anything yet and until you do, I'm not paying off."

                   "Leave the engine running,' Gus said, "and take a look."

                   Lem hopped out of the car as Gus raised the hood and peeled the tape from the wire. he pushed the wire back to its original position.
                   Then he took hold of the throttle linkage abruptly opened her up. As the engine picked tip speed, it shifted slightly on its rubber
                   mounts and the engine block swung into contact with the wire. The engine instantly spluttered and coughed.


                   "So What?" Lem demanded
                   "The answer," Gus said, "is torque." That bare spot does no harm as long as the engine runs slowly. When the torque is increased by
                   acceleration, it moves the engine on its mounts. The move is only a slight one, but it's enough to bring the block into contact with the
                   bare spot. That causes a short. The short ends the torque. The engine shifts back, That ends the short and the engine picks up again.
                   "Watch this."Gus led the way to the bench where he'd been working on a starter. One wire from a battery was hooked to the starter.

                   "Now," Gus said, "you'll see torque in action when I touch this other wire to the starter case. The force of the motor turning will roll
                   the case in the opposite direction." He touched the wire to the case, The motor whirred and the case twisted as it tried to roll across
                   the bench top.

                   "Catch on?" Gus grinned, all right," Lem agreed. "You win."

                   He was counting out five one-dollar bills into Stan's hand when a car drove into the shop. It was Bill Witte. -That makes five," Lern
                   whispered, "and here's an extra one. In case he asks I'd just as soon Bill thought I had carburetor trouble."


                                     Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:58:47 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

                                              By Martin Bunn

                               From the May, 1950 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                       Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

                                    A heat treatment teaches Mr. Pennypincher
                                  that you can’t be tight when it comes to brakes.

          Sergeant Jerry Corcoran sat on his motorcycle parked just off the hilly main highway
          from the north where it crosses what we townspeople call "the outer road." He had just
          about decided it was time to go to a call box up the hill and make his afternoon report
          to the state police barracks.

          An old-model sedan flashed by at a brisk clip, sped through the intersection, and rolled (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

          on down the hill. Jerry wheeled out after it. When he caught up with it at the bottom of
          the hill, he pushed the siren button, motioned to the driver to pull over, and then did a
          double-take. The driver was old pinchpenny Silas Barnstable, our town’s champion

          Old Silas never so much as turned his head. He just gripped the wheel grimly and sped
          on. Jerry sounded his siren again. Gradually the car slowed to a stop.

          "In a hurry to get some place?" Jerry asked as he strolled back to the car after parking
          his motorcycle.

          Silas was practically half out of the driver’s door, frantically explaining. "Honest,
          Officer, it wasn’t my fault. My brakes failed. Tried to stop, but couldn’t. Couldn’t slow
          down ‘til I could coast to a stop."

          "How come your brakes suddenly went bad?" questioned Jerry. "Had any trouble
          before this?"

          "Not before today," Silas replied. "Been up visitin’ folks on the Ridge. When I started
          the trek home, I began to notice everytime I came down one of those hills my brakes
          got a little soft. Finally, on this hill here I pushed the pedal smackdab down to the floor
          and still nothing happened."

          "No brakes, eh," Jerry remarked as he motioned to Barnstable to move over and then
          slid in behind the wheel himself. "We’ll soon see."

          The sergeant tried the brake pedal. There seemed to be plenty of cushion and
          resistance to the push of his foot. Then he stepped on the starter button, shifted, and
          pulled out onto the highway. When the car was hitting 30, he stepped on the brake.
          The old sedan eased to a perfect stop.

          "So, no brakes is it?" he mused as he turned the car around and headed back to where
          his motorcycle was parked.

          Jerry got out of the car and started to reach for the leather case where he kept his
          summons tags. "Don’t give me a ticket, Officer," Silas bleated. "Those brakes must be
          bewitched. They wouldn’t work for me."

          At this point, a third voice broke into the conversation.

          "Having trouble with this ornery citizen?" It was Gus Wilson, and, as Corcoran looked
          up, he noticed that Gus’s car was parked a short distance behind Silas’s. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

          "Happened to be driving down the road, on my way to the lake to work on my boat.
          When I saw you here, I wondered if you needed any help running this renegade in,"
          Gus added with a grin.

          "Mr. Wilson, you’ll vouch for me, won’t you?" Silas pleaded. "Tell Sergeant Corcoran
          I’m no law breaker. Never had a ticket in my life."

          "What seems to be the trouble, Jerry?" Gus asked when the whining Barnstable had

          "Well, I can hand at least three counts on this bird without even trying," Jerry replied
          as he began counting them off on his fingers. "Exceeding the speed limit, disregarding
          a caution signal, and failing to stop when ordered."

          "But it wasn’t my fault, Mr. Wilson," broke in Barnstable. "My brakes went bad, and I
          couldn’t even slow down, much less stop."

          "His brakes are as good as anyone’s," Jerry countered, as he started to write out the
          ticket. "Gave me the same cock-and-bull story, but I tried his brakes and they worked
          all right for me." Then, turning to Silas, he said, "Let me see your license, Mr.

          "But it was my brakes," Silas repeated as he dug into his battered wallet.

          "Maybe you are being a little hard on Silas, Jerry," Gus put in. "Could be that there is
          something wrong with his brakes. After all, a man’s innocent until proven guilty." For
          some reason or other, there was something about the old skinflint that had always
          softened Gus.

          For a moment, Jerry just looked at Silas. Then, tucking his pencil into the top of his
          black boot, he said, "Okay, you don’t deserve it, but I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll let
          Gus check your brakes back at his garage. If he can’t find anything wrong with them, I
          finish writing out this ticket. If he does fond something wrong with them, you’re going
          to pay him to fix them and I’ll tear up the ticket. But there’ll be ho haggling over Gus’s
          price, mind you."

          "Humph, it’s a hold-up," Silas grunted. "Blackmail. Downright collusion and coercion,
          that’s what it is. I’ll . . ." He stopped short when he saw the trooper’s hand reach for
          his pencil. Then he added, "I’ll do it."

          It was quite a procession that pulled up to the Model Garage a few minutes later. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

          Sergeant Corcoran led the way, then came old Barnstable driving Gus’s car, and bring
          up the rear was Gus in Barnstable’s sedan. Jerry and Barnstable parked outside, while
          Gus drove Barnstable’s old car into the repair shop. Stan Hicks looked up from a valve
          job he was working on just in time to see Jerry Corcoran and Barnstable come in
          through the open door. "Don’t tell me the old money-grubber’s in trouble with the law,
          I hope," he said to Jerry in half a whisper.

          As Gus pulled his gray coveralls on over his street clothes, he asked Silas to outline his
          troubles. When Silas had finished, Gus asked, "Have you had your brakes checked
          lately? From what you say, it sounds like you may either be low on brake fluid or your
          brake system has a little air in it and needs bleeding."

          "Well, you’re wrong there," Barnstable grinned cockily. "Just had ‘em checked not
          four days ago down in the city. The man put in fluid too. And he didn’t soak me,
          either," he added, waggling his finger at Gus.

          Ignoring Barnstable, Gus set about making a thorough step-by-step check of the brake
          cylinder and a check of the brake-fluid level, and ended, the car on the grease rack, by
          inspecting the hydraulic lines and bleeding the system at each wheel.

          When he finally emerged from under the raised car he was shaking his head. "That’s
          odd," he thought as he wiped his hands on a scrap of waste. "Plenty of fluid, no visible
          leaks, and no evidence of air in the lines. Yet, Silas claims his brakes went bad, and, I
          must admit, they did get kind of soft on the drive over here."

          Things weren’t looking too good for Barnstable as Gus finally spoke: "It’s just a
          hunch, but there’s one more test I’d like to try." With that he disappeared into the
          garage office.

          When he came back, he was carrying the old reliable reflecting electric heater that Joe
          often used during the winter to help keep the office warm. Gathering up a long
          extension cord from his repair bench as he passed, Gus then rigged the heater on top of
          a short ladder that he placed under the raised chassis of the car. When he plugged in
          the extension cord, a warm red glow bathed the underside of the car.

          Gus had an attentive, though puzzled, audience. Jerry sat watching from a perch on
          one corner of the workshop bench. Silas Barnstable, standing to one side, looked for
          all the world like a bantam rooster as he stretched his neck and cocked his head to peer
          up under his car. Stan just stood there, fiddling with a thickness gauge. He was used to
          Gus’s one-man shows.

          "What in blazes are you doin’ that for?" piped Barnstable, breaking the silence. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

          "Nothin’ can be froze up this time of the year."

          "Nope, nothin’ froze up," agreed Gus. "But unless I miss my guess, the heat from that
          heater is going to help us find what’s back of your on-again, off-again brakes. I got a
          hunch that it’s been heat, and your blamed penny-pinching, that got you in trouble."

          Gus let the underside of the car bake for a few more minutes. Then he removed the
          heater and ladder and told Stan to lower the rack. As the car touched the floor, he
          turned to Jerry. "Now, try those brakes."

          Jerry followed instructions. His foot went almost to the floorboards when he pushed
          the pedal. As though he hadn’t believed what he saw and felt, he tried the brake pedal
          several times more. "Well, I’ll be . . ." he said as he pulled his tall frame out of the car.
          "How can that be?"

          Gus pointed an accusing thumb at old Silas. "Unfortunately, Barnstable here hasn’t
          learned that you seldom get more than you pay for. Sure, he got a bargain from those
          sharpies down in the city—some cheap low-grade brake fluid. But there’s no great
          harm done. We’ll flush it out and fill her up again with some good fluid."

          "Now you look here, Gus Wilson," exploded Barnstable. "If you think you’re going to
          hoodwink me by selling me some fancy brake juice, you’re . . ."

          "Easy, Silas. Remember you’re dealing with Mr. Corcoran here—and a ticket."

          As Gus talked, he picked up the Mason jar that contained the small amount of fluid
          that he had bled from the brakes in checking them, and poured it into a can he had
          carefully cleaned. He then placed the can on a small electric hot plate at the rear of his
          bench. It was the hot plate that he, Joe, and Stan normally used for brewing up their
          midmorning and midafternoon coffee.

          "Now watch," Gus said as he flicked the switch. In no time at all, the fluid was
          beginning to bubble to a boil. "Low boiling point," he explained as he turned off the
          hot plate. "And that’s one thing any decent brake fluid shouldn’t have. There’s been a
          lot of low-grade brake fluids on the market lately, and most of ‘em are just out-and-out
          frauds. They’re a concoction of who-knows-what liquids that seem to work all right for
          ordinary driving. Sure they sell for a price, but when you need your brakes most, they
          don’t work. That’s just what you got for your bargain, Silas."

          Judging from the crimson flush on old Barnstable’s face it was quite evident that Silas,
          like his low-cost brake fluid, was about to reach his own low-boiling point. "Thieves,
          robbers," he all but howled. "They’ll pay for this." (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

          "Now, don’t go blowing a gasket," Gus put in. "Just be thankful you discovered it
          before you had an accident that might have killed someone. Then you’d have had no
          alibi. When Jerry or another officer got there and tested your brakes, they’d have found
          them okay."

          "But why?" Jerry asked.

          "It’s mostly a matter of heat. It takes about 160 horsepower to stop the average car
          going 60 miles an hour and that develops a heap of heat in the brakes and brake fluid.
          When you ride those brakes a lot in hilly country, or in heavy city traffic, the hydraulic
          fluid gets plenty hot. With a good high-boiling-point brake fluid—like the kinds
          okayed by the Society of Automotive Engineers—heat causes no trouble. But with a
          cheap fluid, made up of low-boiling liquids, it vaporizes and forms vapor pockets in
          the brake system. When that happens, the brakes just won’t work, just as they wouldn’t
          work when I heated up the master brake cylinder by putting that heater close to it.
          Instead of pushing fluid against the brake pistons to operate the shoes, your foot pedal
          pushes against vapor."

          "But how come they worked all right a few minutes later?" Jerry asked.

          "When the vapor cools," Gus explained, "it condenses back to a liquid and you have a
          normal working braking system. That is, until you start tramping on the brake pedal
          again and generate more heat."

          "Well, which is it," Jerry asked Barnstable. "A new fill of approved brake fluid, or that
          ticket I’ve got half filled out?"

          "How much will that new fluid cost me?" asked Silas, his eye still peeled for a bargain.

          "Only a few cents more than the stuff those cut-rate gyps sold you," Gus told him.

          "It’s a bargain. And mind you, no funny business on extras either."

          "That chiseler," Stan muttered after Jerry Corcoran and Silas had left. "I’ll bet he’s
          already got a bargain set up for his own funeral—a nice used grave in some abandoned

          "Oh, don’t be too hard on old Silas," Gus philosophized. "There are a lot of Silases in
          the world who’ll settle for cheap for a bigger deal than brake fluids and tires—if the
          price is right. They’ve just got a mixed-up sense of values, I guess." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus and the Bewitched Brakes

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:49 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the April, 1951 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

                                       Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

                                    A midnight encounter results in an appendix
                                      operation for Doc Marvin and a ticklish
                                             engine diagnosis for Gus.

          Doc Marvin was driving along at a fair clip. Gus Wilson, the owner of the Model
          Garage, was in the seat beside him. It was well past midnight and the two men were
          anxious to get home and into their beds. The two old cronies had spent the evening in
          the city at the fights.

          Traffic was light—just an occasional car—so Doc was making good but cautious time.
          As he slowed for a curve, Gus noticed a car up ahead, parked off on the road’s
          shoulder. Standing in the fan of light from the car’s headlights was a man frantically
          waving his arms.

          "Maybe we better stop and see what the trouble is," said Gus.

          The Doc replied with pressure on the brakes that slowed his car to a stop less than a
          half-dozen yards beyond the man and the car.

          "Need a hand?" Gus called as he opened the door and climbed out.

          "Sure do," came the reply. "Been trying to flag down a car for a half hour, but you’re
          the first folks who even as much as slowed."

          By this time, both Doc Marvin and Gus Wilson were within a few feet of the man. He
          was elderly and his face was wreathed with anxiety.

          "Trouble?" Gus asked.

          "A heap. My wife and I have been touring. About three-quarters of an hour ago she
          was seized with violent cramps—just about doubled her up. I stepped on it to try to get
          to a doctor. Then my engine sputters and quits and won’t start."

          "Where is your wife?" Doc Marvin asked, striding toward the car.

          "She’s huddled on the back . . ." But before the man could finish, Doc had opened one
          of the rear doors and was climbing in.

          "Who’s he?" the man asked, bewildered. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

          "A doctor, fortunately," replied Gus.

          A moment later, Doc Marvin poked his head out through the open door. "Gus," he
          called, "give me a hand, will you? We’ve got to get this woman to a hospital right

          When Gus and the Doc had made the woman as comfortable as possible on the rear
          seat of the Doc’s car, Gus turned to the man. "Lock up the car and give me the keys.
          I’m a garageman. I’ll come back here in the morning with my tow car."

          It was well past three by the time Gus had left Doc and the woman at our town’s
          hospital and had found a room for the man. He’d learned that the man and wife were a
          Mr. and Mrs. Kinkaid from a small New England town, that the man had retired
          around the first of the year, and that they’d been off on a sight-seeing motor trip.
          However, it hadn’t turned out to be a very pleasant one. Their 1942 car had plagued
          them with troubles almost from the start—and now Mrs. Kinkaid was ill. Well,
          thought Gus as he yawned and finally turned off his light, Doc Marvin will take good
          care of Mrs. Kinkaid.

          In spite of his lack of sleep, Gus opened the Model Garage on time the next morning.
          When Stan Hicks, his helper, arrived about 10 minutes later, he said, "Let’s get going,
          Stan. Get into your work clothes; we’ve got a car to pick up with the wrecker about
          eight miles south on the state road."

          "Smash up?" asked Stan, pulling on his coveralls.

          "Nope, just a stalled car," explained Gus as he climbed into the driver’s seat. The
          wrecker’s engine caught with a full-throated roar. "Luckily Doc Marvin and I
          happened by last night on our way home from the fights," he added as Stan climbed up
          beside him. "An elderly man with a sick wife and a stalled car. Doc took the wife right
          to the hospital."

          When they reached the car, it didn’t take Gus long to decide there was something
          wrong with the car’s fuel system. Plenty of gas in the tank, but the carburetor wasn’t
          getting any.

          "No sense trying to troubleshoot it out here," he said as he closed the hood. "Rig up the
          tow gear and we’ll haul her back to the shop."

          "Might be a plugged gas line," offered Stan, as he fastened one end of the tow chain. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

          "Or a bum fuel pump," shrugged Gus, climbing back on the wrecker. "But let’s not
          jump to conclusions."

          When they got back to the garage with the car in tow, Mr. Kinkaid, looking a little less
          harasses and not quite so old as he had the night before, was waiting for them.

          "Morning, Mr. Kinkaid," Gus called as he maneuvered the wrecker and the car into the
          shop. "How is Mrs. Kinkaid?"

          "We sure were a couple of lucky people when you two fellows came along last night.
          Doctor Marvin operated just as soon as he could after he got her to the hospital. Acute

          "How is she now?"

          "Doing fine. At least that’s what the nurse at the hospital told me a short while ago.
          They’re letting me see her this afternoon, so that sounds good."

          "Great," grinned Gus. "Now, let’s see what luck we can have with this ailing buggy.
          She been giving you a lot of trouble?"

          "A heap of it," grumbled Kinkaid. "Over $100 worth in 500 miles, and she still won’t
          perk as she should."

          Gus let out a low whistle. "Well, at the moment," he said as he walked to the car and
          opened the hood, "I’d say she’s got fuel problems—a fouled gas line or a bad fuel

          "Oh, don’t say that, Mr. Wilson," groaned Kinkaid. "It just can’t be. That’s the third
          new fuel pump I’ve paid to have put on in the last five days. Maybe I’d best start at the
          beginning and tell you the whole story."

          "Good," said Gus, thumbing shreds of tobacco into the bowl of his pipe.

          "Well, the first three days of the trip went smoothly enough," Kinkaid explained.
          "Then the trouble started in Virginia. The motor suddenly quit dead. After a 16-mile
          tow to a small garage, the trouble finally was laid to a stripped camshaft timing gear.
          After a lot of trouble, they finally installed a new gear. The car seemed to run fine, so
          we started off on our way again."

          Gus nodded, puffing on his pipe. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

          "But we hadn’t gone 10 miles," continued Kinkaid, "before she stalled again and
          wouldn’t budge. Again a phone call and a tow back to the same garage. This time the
          verdict was a broken fuel pump."

          "Did they test it?" put in Gus.

          "They worked the little lever by hand, and it seemed to run all right to me, but the two
          mechanics said I needed a new one, so I let ‘em go ahead."

          "It could have had a broken diaphragm," said Gus.

          "Well, anyway, when they were finished, the car purred as good as ever, so we started
          off once more. But another 200 miles along the line she refused to start again. So, after
          another tow to another small-town garage the mechanic there felt sure it was sludge in
          the gas tank that was plugging the fuel lines."

          "Did he blow out the line?"

          "They blew the line and they drained the gas tank," grumbled Kinkaid, "without
          finding a bit of dirt. So, on went another fuel pump. Well, to make a long story short,
          mechanics at a garage about 70 miles down the road from here put on the third new
          fuel pump yesterday afternoon. And last night it happened again."

          Gus rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You just didn’t happen to save that last fuel pump,
          did you?" he asked.

          "Saved the last two," Kinkaid replied with an emphatic nod of his head. "They’re in
          the trunk."

          "Then let’s have a look at ‘em," said Gus walking around to the back of the car.

          Kinkaid unlocked the trunk, reached in behind the neatly stacked luggage, and
          emerged with two fuel pumps.

          Gus took one of the pumps, held his finger over the outlet hole, and began working the
          rocker arm up and down with his thumb. "This one seems okay," he said placing it on
          his bench. "Now, let’s see the other one."

          "Humph," he grunted as he repeated the test. Then he placed the two pumps side by
          side on the bench, turning over first one and then the other. Stan and Kinkaid watched
          as the veteran mechanic compared the two. Finally, with a shrug of his big shoulders, (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

          Gus reached up to a shelf on one side of his bench and took down a pressure gauge.

          "Just to be sure," he said walking around to the side of the raised hood, "let’s give your
          latest fuel pump a pressure test."

          Disconnecting the outlet fuel line to the pump, he substituted the fitting on the pressure
          gauge. Then, calling to Stan, he said, "Give her a couple of dozen turns with the

          Gus watched the needle of the gauge as the starter churned. The needle didn’t budge
          from zero. "Okay, that’s enough," he called to Stan. Then, turning to Kinkaid, he said,
          "That fuel pump isn’t even working."

          "But it’s brand-new," protested Kinkaid.

          "I know," said Gus—"but now let’s think back to that timing gear. That seemed to be
          the beginning of all your troubles. If I remember rightly, you said they had some sort
          of trouble installing the new one."

          "Seemed to me it took ‘em hours. I know next to nothing about cars, but I heard one of
          the mechanics say to the other something about a tight fit and then they began
          whamming away with a hammer and finally told me it was all fixed."

          "Oh, no," groaned Gus. "But maybe we’re getting some place. Stan, get that fuel pump
          off, will you?"

          As Stan worked on Kinkaid’s car, Gus went back to his bench and studied the two fuel
          pumps again. When Stan brought over the third pump, Gus placed it beside the other
          two. "Notice anything peculiar about those pumps?"

          Both Stan and Kinkaid looked and then shook their heads.

          Gus picked up one of the pumps. "Look here," he said pointing to the head of the
          copper rivet that held the tip of the laminated rocker arm together. It was almost
          completely torn off. "And the rivets on those other are worn in just the same way."

          Gus put the pump back on his bench. "I think, Mr. Kinkaid," he said, wiping his big
          hands on a scrap of waste, "we’re on the trail of your troubles. If you’ll drop back after
          you’ve been to the hospital this afternoon I’ve a hunch we’ll be able to tell you what’s

          "Blamed if I follow you," Stan said after Kinkaid had left. "That rocker arm on the (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Teams Up with the Doctor

          pump is supposed to ride on a cam on the camshaft, so how could that rivet head on
          the side of the arm get worn away?"
          "That’s just it," said Gus, "it is supposed to ride on the camshaft, but I’m willing to bet
          you a broken wrench that these haven’t been. I’ve a feeling the whole trouble goes
          back to the monkeys who put on that new timing gear. A timing gear is supposed to be
          pressed on, not blacksmithed on, and if you do have to use a few taps to get it in place
          you’re supposed to clamp the camshaft so it won’t shift."

          "Now I’m beginning to get it," grinned Stan. "When they belted the timing gear, the
          camshaft shifted to the rear just enough to about the only contact the rocker arm made
          with the cam was on the head of the rivet, and it wore away."

          "Brilliant, Dr. Watson," Gus laughed. "Now let’s get to work and see if I’m right."

          Shortly before five that afternoon, Gus looked up to see Mr. Kinkaid coming through
          the repair-shop door.

          "How’s the patient?" asked Gus.

          "Wonderful," smiled Kinkaid. "Came through it like a youngster. Doctor Marvin
          allows how she’ll be getting up for a short time each day pretty soon." Then, jerking
          his thumb toward his car, "Any luck with the other invalid?"

          "She’ll be as good as new," Gus answered. Then he explained how the hammering on
          of the timing gear had caused the trouble, and how the worn rivets of the rocker arms
          had given him his clue.

          "We’ll have to install a new camshaft gear, replace a camshaft bearing, and put on one
          of those fuel pumps," he said. "But by this time tomorrow afternoon she should be
          ticking them off just about as well as she ever did."

          Kinkaid looked at the three fuel pumps lined up on Gus’ bench. "Know anyone who’d
          like to buy two slightly used fuel pumps?" he laughed. "Quite a town you’ve got here.
          My wife leaves her appendix and I leave fuel pumps."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:50 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1951 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

                                            Gus Answers a Night Call

                                         It was more than mechanical troubles
                                            that brought Gus out to a dark,
                                         deserted street at two in the morning.

           Gus Wilson wheeled the big wrecker down the dimly lighted streets as fast as a
           minimum of safety would permit.

           It was two o’clock in the morning, and the veteran mechanic-owner of the Model
           Garage was worried. Stan’s frantic call for help hadn’t been too coherent, and in his
           hurry to get started, Gus suddenly realized he had slammed down the receiver without
           giving his young assistant a chance to explain what the trouble was.

           As Gus turned onto Maple Avenue, where Stan Hicks had said he would be waiting, he
           was surprised to find the houses dark and the street deserted. Then, half a block down,
           he spotted a familiar sight. Stan’s beloved old jalopy stood by the curb, one wheel
           nearly hubcap-deep in a hole.

           As Gus cut the wrecker’s engine, he heard a strange noise.

           "Psst, Gus," whispered a voice from the bushes, "over here."

           Gus tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes, "Stan, is that you?"

           The voice from the bushes didn’t answer.

           Puzzled, Gus snapped on the wrecker’s searchlight and swept the bushes with its
           beam. Suddenly the bushes parted and out burst Stan, waving wildly.

           "The light," croaked Stan, "cut the light!"

           Gus complied.

           Stan’s new white flannels were streaked with grease, and there was a jagged tear in the
           pocket of his sport coat.

           "You look like something the cat left behind," Gus commented sarcastically.

           "Gee, Boss, I didn’t mean to get you out here, but I got a birdie in my car and Jane’s
           father got mad and then I got stuck." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

           Gus tried to control himself. "Now what’s a birdie got to do with--"

           "Shhh," broke in Stan. "This is Jane’s house, and if her father hears me again tonight,
           I’ll really get it."

           "All right," said Gus, lowering his voice, "what’s wrong with your engine?"

           "Nothing," explained Stan. "I just don’t want to start it up because it’ll make too much

           Gus glared.

           "That’s how I got into the hole," Stan continued. "Last night we got in a little late, and
           that noise in my car woke up Jane’s father. He hit the roof. So tonight I figured I’d just
           cut the engine, coast up here, then roll her back down the hill when I left. Only I didn’t
           see this hole and backed right into it."

           Gus looked down at his feet that were still wearing bedroom slippers. "Okay," he said
           resignedly, "hook on the chain and I’ll tow you out."

           "No, no," yelped Stan, "that’s worse. It’d be sure to wake up the old man. I was almost
           able to rock her out. Maybe the two of us--"

           Gus started to say something, then thought the better of it and silently eased his big
           shoulder against the trapped jalopy. Together the two pushed and heaved until finally
           the car rolled out.

           "Now back down easily," directed Gus, "and try not to hit any more holes. I’ll coast
           down behind you."

           At the bottom of the hill, Gus pulled up beside the roadster as Stan started the engine.
           Stan had a birdie all right. It was a high-pitched screech coming from under the hood
           that didn’t sound quite like anything Gus had ever heard.

           "Well," announced Gus, "we’ll tackle that screech owl in the morning. I’m going back
           to bed."

           Stan turned to offer his thanks, but the big wrecker was already rattling off.

           Gus was a little late arriving at the Model Garage the next morning, and when he got (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

           there Stan was hard at work.

           Stan looked up and greeted the master mechanic with an embarrassed grin. "Gee, Boss,
           I’m sure sorry about last night. I--"

           "Forget it," cut in Gus. "But I think we’d better clip that birdie’s wings before you lose
           Jane and I lose any more sleep. Why didn’t you tell about it sooner?"

           Stan looked sheepish. "Well, Jane’s been kidding me about a mechanic who can’t even
           fix his own car, so I’ve been determined to find it myself."

           "Well, two heads never hurt anybody," quipped Gus, "unless they’re on the same
           shoulders. How long have you had it?"

           "Several days now," replied Stan, "and it keeps getting worse all the time. Funny thing,
           though, instead of getting louder the faster you go, it quiets down. It’s loudest when
           the engine’s idling."

           "Well, let’s take a listen," said Gus, as he walked over to Stan’s roadster and opened
           the hood. "Start her up."

           Just as Stan said, the engine took hold to a shrill, high-pitched screech, then as Stan
           gunned the engine, the noise seemed to diminish rather than increase.

           Gus motioned Stan to cut the engine. "What have you done so far?"

           "Everything I could think of. I checked the fan belt, water-pump bearings, and
           generator bearings. All okay."

           "How about the distributor?" asked Gus, remembering the squeaky cam they had
           found on Doc Rhodes’ car a few years ago.

           "Yup, checked that, too," said Stan wearily. "I just don’t see what could--"

           Stan was interrupted by the blast of a car horn outside.

           "I’ll get it," offered Gus. "You better look at the generator again and this time check
           the brushes."
           A few minutes later, Gus returned grinning from ear to ear. "This seems to be our day
           for bird hunting. Ted Trimble’s outside with another canary." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

           "Oh, no," groaned Stan.

           "We’d better give him a hand with his," advised Gus, "and maybe we’ll learn

           "Just listen to this," grumbled Ted, as the pair walked up to Ted’s blue sedan.

           As the engine idled, a rhythmic chirp, chirp, chirp came from the engine.

           "Step on the gas a little," suggested Gus.

           Ted complied, and the chirps speeded up, keeping time with the engine.

           Methodically, Gus checked the tension of the fan belt and then began turning the fan
           by hand. Finally he reached into the side pocket of his coveralls, pulled out a
           screwdriver, and pointed to a dark spot on the inner groove of the fan pulley.

           "I think just maybe that might be our trouble," he said, digging at the spot with the tip
           of the screwdriver. "Feels like greasy dirt," he added, after he had scraped some off
           and rubbed between his fingers.

           When Gus had cleaned the fan pulley, he told Ted to start the engine. Both men
           listened, but there wasn’t a chirp.

           "That’s got it," grinned Gus. "Every time your fan belt hit that greasy spot, it slipped a
           bit and let out a squeak."

           When Ted had driven off, Gus turned to Stan. "Well, one down, one to go. At least
           we’re batting 500."

           "I don’t get it," said Stan. "I checked the generator brushes like you said, and they’re
           all right, too. What’s left?"

           Gus looked at his watch. "Well, it’s getting on to noon and you probably have
           something better to do with your Saturday afternoon than chasing after noises. Why
           don’t we give it up for now?"

           "That’s just it," said Stan glumly. "Jane and I were planning to go to the beach this
           afternoon, and she’ll be here in a few minutes to ride out with me."

           "I get it," winked Gus, "if you don’t get rid of the noise, she’ll get rid of you. Well, if (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

           we can’t find out what it is, let’s see if we can find out where it is."

           As Stan started up the engine again, Gus cupped his hands around an ear, like a funnel,
           and began moving his head slowly along the side of the engine.

           Intrigued by what Gus was doing, Stan began unconsciously to whistle a tune.

           Gus’s patience collapsed like a punctured tire. "For Pete’s sake, Stan, how can I hear
           anything if you’re going to--"

           Suddenly Gus straightened up. "Hey, wait a minute. Stan, we’ve been a couple of

           Stan’s expression had made a fast change from wounded vanity to abject apology to
           utter amazement and had now come to rest completely blank.

           "No wonder we didn’t recognize that noise," Gus went on. "It isn’t a screech like two
           metallic surfaces rubbing together. It’s a whistle, like air rushing through a hole."

           Quickly, Gus checked the vacuum like to the windshield wipers, but the hose was
           sound and the connections tight. Then he reached for the air cleaner. It wobbled. As he
           held it, the whistle stopped, then when he let go, it started again.

           "That’s it," Stan shouted, "the air cleaner’s loose."

           "No," corrected Gus, "the whole carburetor’s loose. Get me a wrench."

           Stan brought the wrench and Gus fitted it to one of the studs that held the base of the
           carburetor to the intake manifold.

           "This one’s loose," said Gus, as he tightened it. And as he did so the whistle became

           "Now let’s try the one on the other side."

           When he pulled that one up tight, too, the whistle disappeared completely.

           "Well, that’s one for the books," exclaimed Stan. "The looseness of those studs
           allowed air to be sucked in between the base of the carburetor and the intake manifold
           and caused a whistle." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Answers a Night Call

           Gus nodded.

           "But how come the whistle was louder at low speeds?" asked Stan. "You’d think that
           when you opened her up more air would be pulled in through the leak and the whistle
           would get louder."

           Gus rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Probably what happened was that the bigger masses
           of air at high speeds were strong enough to seat the carburetor base a little better and
           cut down the leakage."

           As Gus finished explaining, there was the sound of high heels outside the garage, and
           the two looked up to see the pretty young figure of Jane Stevens standing in the
           doorway. "Hi, Stan. Hello, Mr.Wilson. Am I too early?"

           "Just in time," declared Gus. "I don’t know about Stan, but this is the last time this
           thing will whistle at anybody!"

           "We don’t have to worry any more about waking up your father," put in Stan
           excitedly, "like we nearly did last night."

           "Oh," exclaimed Jane, "I almost forgot to tell you. After we left for the dance last
           night, Dad drove over to Townsville to some business convention and stayed
           overnight. He wasn’t home at all."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:51 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

                                              By Martin Bunn

                                From the February, 1951 issue of
                                        Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

                                        Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

                                         A knocking engine leads Gus to a clue
                                          that helps Sergeant Jerry Corcoran
                                                 solve a brutal murder.

           Gus Wilson, sitting at his desk in the Model Garage office, glanced at the local
           newspaper Stan Hicks had brought, and stopped sipping his midmorning coffee. A
           bold, black headline streamered across the top of the front page: FARM COUPLE
           FOUND MURDERED.

           The story went on to tell how old man Bowen and his wife, both of whom Gus had
           known fairly well, had been murdered and robbed the night before at their farm not far
           from town. A hired hand had discovered the crime when he returned from the movies
           at about 10:30 and had notified the State Police. By 11:45, three suspects had been
           rounded up and were being held for questioning. The story also said that the Bowens’
           25-year-old daughter, Elaine, blind since birth, was in a hospital down in the city
           awaiting a series of operations that might restore her sight.

           As Gus re-read the news account, he heard the repair-shop door open and close.
           Sergeant Jerry Corcoran of the State Police came in, stamping his feet to knock the
           snow off his boots.

           "What are you doing here, Jerry?" Gus called through the open office door.
           "According to the papers, you fellows have a double murder on your hands."

           "Plus a robbery," grumbled Jerry. "And things aren’t getting any too easy either."

           "Cup of coffee?" Gus asked.

           "I sure could use one," Jerry agreed, unbuttoning his heavy coat. "I haven’t been to bed

           When the trooper had poured himself a steaming cup of brew and settled on one corner
           of the desk Gus asked, "When do you suppose this thing happened?"

           "That’s one thing we do know," explained Jerry. "As near as we can reconstruct it, the
           old man got it first in the kitchen. Evidently there was a struggle and the cord of the
           electric clock got pulled out. It was stopped at exactly one minute after 10. Then it
           looks like his wife got hers trying to stop the robbers from making their get-away. Her
           body was in the snow outside the front door beside the driveway. Cause of death in (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

           both cases: bashed in skulls."

           "Did the murderers get much?" asked Gus.

           "Don’t know yet, but unfortunately the Bowens, like too many old farmers, didn’t
           believe in banks or bonds. The rumor is that everything they had, which could have
           been plenty, was hidden in the cellar. Those operations they had arranged for their
           daughter were to cost several thousand, so there must have been at least that much."
           "How about these suspects?" asked Gus, pointing to the newspaper.

           "Three young punks from the city," replied Jerry. "One of our road blocks gathered
           them in about 15 miles out of town."

           Gus poured himself another cup of coffee. "Got enough to hang it on ‘em?"
           "Not yet. For one thing we didn’t find any money on them or in their car, and they’ve
           an alibi we haven’t been able to break yet."

           "What’s their story?" asked Gus.

           "Well, if you remember, it stopped snowing last night at about 9:45, so when we got to
           the Bowen farm the snow on that back road was still fresh. There was just one set of
           tracks, made by V-type tread snow-and-mud tires, the same kind of tires we found on
           the suspects’ car, in and out of the driveway. The Vs in the snow showed that the car
           had entered the drive-around from the south—that’s from the town side—and left
           toward the north. We followed the tracks up the back road for quite a distance."

           Gus nodded.

           "So far, so good. Now comes the fly," Jerry continued. "Sam Trayton, who runs that all-
           night eatery on the main road near town, says the men we’re holding stopped at his
           place about 10:25."

           "I don’t follow you," interrupted Gus.

           "Okay, let’s look at the facts. We are sure that the murders were committed at about 10
           o’clock. Tire marks show that the murder car sped off to the north. Yet, Trayton, who
           certainly has no ax to grind, says the suspects were in his place, which is south of the
           Bowen farm, twenty minutes later."

           "Did you . . . ." started Gus.

           "Yes, we did," finished Jerry. "And we found that it takes a good 20 minutes to drive (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

           south from the Bowen farm to Trayton’s, so they couldn’t possibly have driven north
           and doubled back by way of the main road—an extra 10 miles—and made it by

           "Found the murder weapon yet?"

           "Nope," replied Jerry. "That’s another hitch. And I’m not helping to find it sitting here
           jawing with you," he added, buttoning his coat.

           "And I’m not solving my mystery, either," put in Gus.

           "Your mystery?"

           "Yeah, the mystery of the engine that knocks when it shouldn’t," explained Gus,
           jerking his thumb toward a coupe on the repair-shop floor. "Regular customer brought
           it in this morning. Claims his motor only knocks when you start it, stop it, or idle it.
           Runs perfectly otherwise. Swears there’s no knock at all under a load."

           "Well, I hope you have better luck with your mystery than I’ve had with mine so far,"
           Jerry grumbled as he walked toward the shop doors.

           Gus soon forgot about Jerry Corcoran’s troubles when he got down to digging into his
           own. Gus started and stopped the engine with the mysterious knock. He idled it. He
           gunned it. The customer had been right. The engine ran smoothly and without a sign of
           a knock at high speed, but grumbled when it was idled, just after it was started, or
           when the ignition was turned off. When the knock was there, it sounded just like a
           bearing that was shot.

           Stan, who’d been smoothing out the wrinkles in a fender on another car, came over to
           where Gus was working. He got a kick out of watching the old mechanic methodically
           discard one possibility after another when he was tracking down motor troubles.

           "Got you stumped?" he asked with a grin.

           "Not yet it hasn’t," Gus grunted, waking over to his bench and picking up a long-
           handled screwdriver. "I’ve a hunch this ‘knock’ isn’t a knock at all."

           Using the shank of the screwdriver as a connector, Gus proceeded to short out each of
           the spark plugs in turn, while the engine was idling—and knocking. The knock
           persisted, which was almost a sure sign that it wasn’t a bearing knock. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

           As Stan watched, Gus rolled his creeper over, settled his bulky frame on it, and
           maneuvered it and himself under the front end of the car. But he had no more than
           disappeared than he reappeared.

           "Stan," he said as he got up off the creeper. "Hold the fort for a while, will you? I want
           to see Jerry over at the police barracks. I’ll finish up this job when I get back." With
           that, he grabbed up his coat and hat and disappeared through the shop doors.

           Ten minutes later, the veteran garage man was escorted into the police squad room
           where Sergeant Jerry Corcoran had his desk.

           "It’s just a hunch, Jerry," Gus began, "but have you thought of the possibility that
           those snow tires could have been put on the murder car backwards—you know,
           deliberately, with the Vs pointing to the rear instead of toward the front so the tracks
           would look like they were going when they actually were coming?"

           Jerry smiled. "Sorry, Gus, but the lab boys gave that one a whirl too, but when we
           picked up the men and the car the tires were on with the Vs pointing forward at the
           top. And nobody goes around switching wheels in the dark on snow-covered roads.
           That job is pretty tough without a big jack like you’ve got at that garage. They
           wouldn’t have had the time."

           "Maybe you’re right," Gus agreed grudgingly. "Just a thought. Now I’ve got one more
           screwy idea and then I’ll stop playing detective and get back to work."

           "What is it?" asked Jerry.

           "Know that old road-commission shack just off the main road down near Trayton’s

           "Sure," answered Jerry with a nod.

           "Well, just to satisfy my curiosity, Jerry, I wish you’d have a look at it. In good
           weather, the road-repair boys generally store some of their equipment there and always
           have a jack and a few tools handy for repairs. I’ve been thinking it might be a good
           spot for someone to switch wheels on a snowy night."

           "Could be. Your guess is as good as anyone’s right now," Jerry admitted. "But I think
           you’re barking up the wrong clue."

           Like the same evening, just as Gus was about to close up shop and call it a day, the
           glare from a pair of headlights flashed across the garage windows and Gus heard a car (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

           stop. A few seconds later, the shop door slid open slowly. It was Jerry Corcoran, a
           broad grin on his face.

           "You look like you swallowed something more than a canary," Gus greeted him.

           "Gus, our case cracked wide open about a half hour ago," the Sergeant announced.
           "The suspects confessed."

           "How’d you get ‘em to do that?"

           Jerry shoved his hat on the back of his head and perched himself on a corner of Gus’s

           "Well, after you left the barracks this afternoon I decided to have a look at that road-
           gang shack, so I called up the road-commission office and got the key. Then a couple
           of the boys and I drove over."

           Gus listened intently, stoking his pipe with shreds of tobacco.

           But the key they gave us didn’t fit the lock at all," Jerry continued. "We looked
           through the windows and the place looked completely empty, but just to be safe, we
           pried the hasp loose and opened the doors for a look."

           "Find anything?" asked Gus.

           "Nothing except a burlap sack stuffed with more than eight thousand bucks in bills, a
           hydraulic garage jack, and a blood-stained tire iron hidden under some loose floor
           boards," grinned Jerry. "Those birds had planned to cache the money there until the
           heat was off and they were released. They’d even changed the lock. But thanks to your
           hunch, we not only got the money but the murder weapon as well, complete with

           Gus grinned a satisfied grin.

           "Tell me, Gus, what in the world ever gave you that hunch?"

           "Remember that car with the knocking engine that I said shouldn’t knock?"

           Jerry nodded.

           "Well, after making all the usual tests, I decided that the knock wasn’t in the engine at (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Parlays a Pair of Hunches

           all, but had something to do with the movement of the engine on its rubber mounts,"
           explained Gus. "So I started to get underneath for a look. As I did, I just happened to
           notice that the car had snow tires and one of ‘em was on the wrong way."

           "Clue, or rather hunch, No. 1," put in Jerry.

           "Right. Now, it also happened that the car belonged to Ed Johnson—the road engineer
           for this district. And that made me think of that old road-gang shack down near

           "By the way," asked Jerry, "did you solve the mystery of Johnson’s knocking engine?"

           Gus reached over on his bench and picked up a small stone. "Found this bedded in a
           mixture of dirt and road tar on the motor cradle," he explained. "When the engine
           rocked on its rubber mounts during uneven idling or when it was stopped or started,
           the engine hit the stone and caused what sounded like a knock. Soon as I pried it
           loose," Gus added, holding up the out-size pebble, "the ‘knock’ disappeared."

           "Always play your hunches, don’t you, Gus?" grinned Jerry.

           "Have to in this game," confessed Gus. "Just between you, me, and the gas pumps out
           there, finding out just what ails a hunk of machinery pretty often is about three-
           quarters hunch and one-quarter know-how."

           "Plus following all your hunches through," added Jerry.

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:52 PM]
Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

                                               By Martin Bunn

                             From the January, 1951 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:53 PM]
Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

                                        Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

                                      First it wouldn’t stop, then it wouldn’t go,
                                          and the contrary engine had to get
                                          Gus’s friend home by New Year’s.

          About ten months ago, one of the big electrical companies put up a branch plant and
          laboratory just outside our town. Part of that industrial decentralization program I’ve
          been hearing about, I guess. Anyhow, it brought quite an influx of new people into our
          community—most of them engineers and scientists.

          One is a young fellow by the name of Jim Harrison. Jim, a veteran and unmarried,
          come from Indiana, where not too long ago he graduated from engineering school,
          thanks to the G.I. Bill. Right now, he’s staying at Mrs. Paley’s boarding house.

          Everyone who knows Jim likes him, especially Gus Wilson whose Model Garage is
          one of Jim’s favorite stopping-off places. Not long ago, Gus had helped Jim do a first-
          rate job of grinding his valves. Than back last summer, when Jim had just bought his
          second-hand car, Gus had shown him how to re-time the motor, adjust the carburetor
          and hook up a water injector, put in a new exhaust pipe and muffler, and replace a
          cracked windshield. Under Gus’s direction, Jim had worked over the old car until he
          had practically rebuilt it.

          Gus hadn’t seen Jim for several weeks when one night recently Gus was strolling
          down our main street doing a little window-shopping. Suddenly he heard someone
          shouting his name. It was Jim and he was running across the street toward Gus.

          "Gosh, am I glad to find you," Jim gasped. "Been looking all over town for you. Can
          you spare some time? I’m in a spot, and you can help out."

          "Sure thing, Jim," Gus said. "But let’s stop off here at Dan’s Grille for coffee.

          "Now, what’s it all about?" Gus asked after they’d settled down on their stools and
          Dan had served up two steaming cups.

          "Well," Jim began hesitatingly. "You may remember that I’d been hoping to take my
          two weeks vacation and drive along home to see my Mother and Dad at New Year’s."

          Gus nodded.

          "I’d planned to start out tomorrow night right after work," he went on, "but I guess (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:53 PM]
Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

          that’s all off now."

          "What’s the matter?" Gus inquired. "Work at the plant too heavy and they’ve asked
          you to put off your vacation?"

          "No, it’s not that," Jim replied glumly. "I can still have my vacation. It’s my car.
          Something’s gone screwy with it and I’m blamed if I can spot it. It started acting up
          last night on my way back to town from the plant. I was breezing along the outer road
          at about forty and took my foot off the gas to slow down for an intersection. Instead of
          slowing down, the fool car just took the bit in her teeth and never slackened. Before I
          could throw out the clutch, I was through the intersection. Then all of a sudden, the
          engine began to spit and sputter and finally died."

          "Would it start again?" put in Gus.

          "Not right away," Jim replied. "So I got out and lifted the hood to take a look. As I
          started to poke my head in under the hood, I heard a distinct metallic click."

          "A metallic click?" questioned Gus.

          "Yeah, you know, like something snapping back into place," explained Jim. "I couldn’t
          find anything that looked wrong, so I decided to try the starter again. She kicked right

          "Did the motor run evenly?" Gus asked.

          "Never ran smoother," Jim pointed out, "but about a half mile further down the road
          she took the bit in her teeth again and continued to roll along at forty, accelerator or no
          accelerator. Then, just like the first time, she gasped and died. She did that about four
          times before I got into town."

          "Sounds like something’s binding somewhere in your throttle linkage," Gus offered.
          "Probably sticks when you’ve pushed the gas pedal down far enough to hit forty, stays
          there for awhile, and then pops loose."

          "That was my first guess, too," Jim confessed, "but no luck. Besides, that wouldn’t
          account for the dying act."

          "No, you’re right, it probably wouldn’t," admitted Gus. "How did she act today?"

          "Same business all over again," Jim grumbled. "Took me an hour to get to the plant." (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:53 PM]
Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

          "Where’s the car now?"

          "Out in the garage in back of Mrs. Paley’s," Jim said eagerly. "Will you come over and
          take a look at it?"

          Ten minutes later, they were in Mrs. Paley’s garage and Gus, hat on back of his head,
          was peering down at Jim’s balky motor.

          "The throttle linkage seems okay, just as you said," Gus muttered as he moved the
          throttle rod back and forth. "Doesn’t bind at all. Have you looked to see if there’s dirt
          or anything that might be jamming the throttle valve?"

          But before Jim could answer, Gus had lifted off the air cleaner and was peering down
          into the carburetor’s throat.

          "Looks clean," Gus announced. "Let’s take a little spin and see if she’ll do a repeat
          performance for me. Got a flashlight?"

          "She’ll repeat all right. I’ll guarantee that," Jim grumbled as he slid in behind the
          wheel, pulled a flashlight from the glove compartment, and handed it to Gus who had
          climbed in beside him. "I’ll bet we don’t get a quarter mile out on the state road before
          old Nellie here runs away and then dies gasping for breath."

          Gus noticed that the car started easily enough, and, as Jim weaved his way through
          town, he marveled at how well the car ran in spite of its age.

          Things happened just about as Jim had predicted they would. They’d no sooner hit the
          state road and gotten the car up to forty when, at a nudge from Jim, Gus looked down
          at the floor boards. Jim’s foot wasn’t on the accelerator, yet the car was rolling along at
          about forty-two miles an hour.

          "Automatic pilot," Jim said with a chuckle, but his laugh was interrupted by
          sputterings from his motor. He maneuvered the coasting car to the shoulder of the
          road, and, almost before the car had come to a stop, Gus was out, had the hood up, and
          was directing the beam of the flashlight at the engine. Just as Jim had joined him, there
          was a click and Gus noticed that the throttle rod to the carburetor snapped back into
          what was evidently its idling position.

          "Did you see that?" queried Gus.

          Jim nodded. (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:53 PM]
Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

          "I think we’re getting some place," Gus said hopefully. "Let’s try her again."

          After the two men had climbed back into the car, Jim pushed the starter and the motor
          caught without a falter.

          "Now bring her up to forty again slowly," Gus instructed, "and the minute she runs
          away and then begins to sputter pull over to the side of the road."

          They didn’t have to wait long before things started to happen again, and when they did
          Jim followed his instructions. Gus jumped out of the car, flipped open the hood, which
          he’d left unlatched, pulled off the air cleaner, and aimed his flashlight into the
          carburetor’s throat.

          "Take a look down there," Gus said after a quick inspection. "Even a carburetor’s
          throat can develop tonsils."

          Jim looked. There was at least a half-inch of white ice blocking the throttle valve. As
          he watched, he could see the ice melting and suddenly there was that familiar metallic
          click he’d been hearing each time after his engine had died.

          "There’s your trouble," Gus said, tapping a metal tank mounted on the fire wall that
          held the water supply for Jim’s water injector. "Your carburetor has been icing up
          because of the water you’ve been adding to your fuel."

          "But Gus, the temperature hasn’t dropped below freezing for weeks," Jim reminded
          him. "I know the manufacturer’s instructions said not to use the injector when the
          weather dropped below thirty-two, and I haven’t. As a matter of fact, when we left the
          house tonight it was a balmy forty-two."
          "Outside, yes," Gus corrected, "but not inside your carburetor."

          "Well, what a dope I’ve been," Jim groaned as he thumped his forehead with his fist.
          "A fine budding engineer. Of course, the venturi effect in the carburetor acts like the
          expansion valve in a refrigerator—it lowers the temperature."

          "Right, and the temperature in the throat of a carburetor can be quite a bit below
          freezing even if the outside temperature is above freezing," Gus explained. "What’s
          been happening is that first just enough ice has been forming at forty miles an hour to
          hold your carburetor throttle valve open at that position. Then as more and more ice
          has formed it has choked off the carburetor throat and starved the engine. Finally,
          when she did stall, it didn’t take long for the heat of the engine to melt the ice and you
          were all set to go again."
          "Live and learn," Jim grinned as he reached in under the hood and turned the petcock (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:53 PM]
Gus Tames a Runaway Engine

          that shut off the water for the injector. "I guess about the only alibi I’ve got is that I’m
          an electrical engineer."

          "Well, at least you were a doughfoot and not a fly-boy in the last war," Gus said as
          they started back to town. "If you’d been a pilot, you’d have known that airplane
          carburetors often ice up under certain damp weather conditions in the summer when
          the outside temperatures are soaring in the nineties. That’s why they put heaters in

          "Well, since I don’t have a heater in mine," Jim replied, "I guess I’ll just have to forget
          about my water injector until warmer weather sets in again."

          "Not necessarily," Gus corrected. "You can always add enough alcohol to the water in
          the tank to prevent freezing. As a matter of fact, the alcohol will add to the pep of your
          engine. Some injectors are designed to operate only on an alcohol-and-water mixture."

          "Thanks a million, Gus," Jim said as he slowed the car to a stop in front of Gus’s
          house. "Now I can take off for home tomorrow night on schedule. Mom and Pop sure
          would have been disappointed if we hadn’t been able to get together. Happy New
          Year, Gus."

          "And a Happy New Year to you, Jim," Gus said shaking Jim’s hand. "And while
          you’re driving, look out for those holiday-happy goons who think they can mix alcohol
          and gasoline without an injector."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:53 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

                                               By Martin Bunn

                                From the July, 1951 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                  This story was donated by
                                                     Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

                                              Gus Is Saved by a Straw

                            A picnic that begins in near tragedy gives Gus a bad time
                                     until he gets an assist from the fair sex.

           Gus Wilson pushed the old sedan up to the 50-m.p.h. speed limit and held it there.
           They were late. He mumbled something about women who keep men waiting, but the
           silence from the rear seat indicated that its youthful occupants had other things on their

           "Hey," Gus called. "You two still back there?"

           "Huh?—oh, sure," said Stan sheepishly. "Jane and I are just checking over the food she
           brought to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything."

           Gus never cared much for picnics, but this, he had to admit, was different. It was the
           annual summer outing put on by the local American Legion post, and the whole town
           turned out. There were swimming, canoeing, games, and—most important to
           Gus—fishing. And the Women’s Auxiliary set up stands and sold sandwiches, milk,
           and pop to supplement the box lunches people brought.

           Gus had had so much fun at last year’s outing that he decided this time to bring along
           Stan Hicks, his helper at the Model Garage, and Stan’s girl friend, Jane Stevens. And
           what a perfect day for it, he mused—not even the elements would dare defy the
           Women’s Auxiliary.

           "Are we going to be late, Mr. Wilson?" asked Jane.

           Just like a woman, thought Gus. Keeps you waiting, then wonders why you can’t get
           there on time. "We are," he said with a good-natured gruffness, "if we don’t get around
           this traffic."

           With that, Gus pulled out to pass. But as he did so, the car in front also pulled out. Gus
           decided not to follow and eased back in. As the car ahead pulled abreast of the next
           car, it suddenly started to slow down and fall back.

           "That fellow better pass or pull his nose in quick," commented Gus, as he nodded
           toward a giant trailer truck bearing down in the opposite lane.

           As they watched, the car kept dropping back, then swerved crazily, ducking in just in
           time as the big 10-wheeler roared past. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

           "Yipes," yelled Stan, "that was a close one."

           "Too close," muttered Gus. "What do you suppose that fool was trying to--"

           "Say," interrupted Stan, "isn’t that the Bell’s car?"

           "By golly, you’re right," agreed Gus, "and they’re stopping. We’d better see what the
           trouble is."

           Gus braked to a halt ahead of the disabled car, and the trio got out. As they walked
           back toward it, they saw Ken Bell, a past commander of the local Legion post, and his
           wife, Bess, who is the present head of the Women’s Auxiliary. Both were out of the
           car, and they looked shaken.

           "Gus Wilson!" exclaimed Ken, as he recognized him. "Did you see that?"

           "Saw it? Why, I almost got caught in it with you. What happened?"

           "I don’t know. She ran all right as long as we didn’t try to make any speed, but when I
           stepped on the accelerator just now to pass, she started to cough and spit, then just quit

           "Let me try it," suggested Gus. As he slid under the wheel, he turned the ignition key
           and pushed the starter button. The engine started easily enough, but as he tramped
           down harder and harder on the accelerator, it began to miss. Finally, it died.

           "Sounds like it’s not getting enough gas," put in Stan.

           "Or maybe too much," replied Gus, turning the ignition off. "In any case, this narrow
           road is no place to fuss with a balky engine. We’ll tow you to the picnic grounds, Ken.
           It’s only a few miles."

           "That would be swell of you, if you would," Ken said, gratefully. "Bess, here, was
           supposed to be there in time to supervise the setting up of the refreshment stands, and
           I’ve been elected to umpire that softball game we have every year between the World
           War I and World War II vets."

           It didn’t take Gus and Stan more than a few minutes to rig the tow cable that Gus
           always carries in the trunk of his car. So, with Gus driving his car and Stan piloting the
           Bell’s sedan, the procession soon got under way. About twenty minutes later, both cars
           were safely parked at the picnic grounds. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

           "Thanks a million, Gus," said Ken Bell as his wife hurried off in the direction of the
           refreshment stands. "I hate to ask it of you, but after the ball game this afternoon
           would you help me get this car in some sort of shape for the drive home?"

           "Sure thing," said Gus. "We’ll get you home one way or another."

           "Well, Jane, how about that dip before we dig into that lunch you brought?" asked Stan
           after Ken Bell had left.

           "Good idea," put in Gus. "You kids get into your bathing suits. I’ll meet you for

           "What are you going to do, a little fishing?"

           "Oh, I’ll get to that too, but right now I think I’ll have a look at the Bell’s car."

           "Can I help?"

           "Not a bit. You and Jane go ahead and enjoy yourselves. When you’re ready for lunch,
           give a yell."

           As Jane and Stan strolled off hand-in-hand down the path that led to the bathing
           pavilion, Gus got into the Bell’s car again and started the engine. It acted just as it had
           before, started easily but then coughed and finally quit when the power was applied. It
           just wouldn’t take gas.

           "Humph," Gus grunted to himself as he got out and opened the hood. "Cold be any one
           of a heap of things. Might as well start with the distributor and ignition."

           Forty-five minutes later, after also checking the fuel lines, fuel pump, and carburetor,
           Gus was just where he started. He thought of the kids down at the swimming hole and
           wished he hadn’t been so hasty in telling them to run off. He needed Stan to help. Or
           maybe he was just annoyed at his own inability to find the trouble.

           At that moment, Stan returned from his swim. "Say, how about some lunch? This is
           supposed to be a picnic, you know, not a branch of the Model Garage."

           "Suppose I might just as well," agreed Gus reluctantly, as he took out his disgust on a
           piece of waste as he cleaned his hands. "I’m sure not getting any place here." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

           Jane had everything ready. A neat red-and-white checked tablecloth was spread out on
           the ground under the shade of a big oak tree. On it were homemade sandwiches, fried
           chicken, pickles and olives, hard-boiled eggs, apple pie and cold bottles of milk
           complete with straws.

           When Gus saw the food that Jane had brought his eyes brightened. "Stan," he said,
           "hang onto this gal. She knows the way to a man’s heart."

           Jane took a bow.

           "Just pull yourself up a piece of grass and sit down," Stan quipped, picking up a paper
           plate and draping a paper napkin over his arm, waiter fashion. "What’ll you have?"

           Stan gave Gus a well-filled plate, but as the veteran mechanic sat there under the shade
           of the tree munching on a chicken leg and sipping his milk he couldn’t quite get his
           mind off the accident that had almost happened. Sure, he knew that without his garage
           test equipment he hadn’t been able to give everything a complete and thorough check.
           But he also knew that his long years of experience had given him a pretty practiced eye
           at spotting troubles. Yet, he hadn’t been able to find any.

           "Would you like a sandwich or a piece of pie, Mr. Wilson?" asked Jane. "I made it

           "That pie looks good to me," replied Gus as he started to get up.

           "Wait. I’ll get it for you," said Jane. "I have to get up anyway to get another straw.
           This awful one has gotten soggy in the milk, and every time I suck in real hard it
           "That’s it!" Gus almost shouted.

           Jane and Stan looked at the old garageman as if he were crazy. "That’s what?" said
           Stan, puzzled.

           "That’s just what’s wrong with the Bell’s car," explained Gus, thumping his forehead
           with his knuckles. "What a chump I’ve been. It’s just like that straw. Something’s been
           stopping that engine from getting the air it’s needed, and it’s just naturally choked
           itself to death."

           With that, he was on his feet and heading up the hill toward the parking area. Stan got
           up and followed, leaving Jane, with a half-nibbled chicken wing poised in mid-air,
           wondering if all men were like garagemen. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

           "What’s your hunch?" Stan asked when they got to the Bell’s car.

           Without answering, Gus reached in under the hood of the car and began removing the
           air cleaner. "Now," he said, finally lifting the air cleaner out and placing it on the
           ground, "get in there and start her up."

           Stan complied and Gus moved the throttle rod on the carburetor back and forth. To
           their surprise, the engine ran smoothly even when it was wide open. There wasn’t the
           slightest hint of cough or a miss.

           "Clogged cleaner?" Stan asked, as Gus picked up the cleaner and began loosening the
           wing nut that held the top in place.

           The steel-wool filter looked clean enough to Stan, but Gus had spotted something else.
           "Look here, Stan," he said, holding up the top of the cleaner.

           Stan saw nothing particularly out of the ordinary until Gus poked his screwdriver at a
           felt pad inside the top. It was supposed to be cemented to the metal, but about half of it
           had come loose.

           "This thing’s been acting like a regular flap valve," pointed out Gus. "When Bell
           speeded up to pass that car, the rush of air through the cleaner was fast enough to suck
           this corner of the pad down over the intake to the carburetor. It choked off the engine
           like Jane’s collapsing straw. At slow speeds, or when the engine wasn’t pulling a load,
           there wasn’t enough suction to pull it down."

           Gus pulled the pad loose and threw it on the ground. "That little piece of felt could
           have cost the Bells their lives, and maybe others, too."

           At that point, Jane appeared, carrying the red-checked tablecloth and the hastily
           packed up remnants of the half-eaten meal. "I guess the picnic’s over," she said

           "Not at all," smiled Gus. "It’s just begun. Jane, if you hadn’t mentioned that straw, we
           might have been there all day fooling with the blamed car. I guess this makes us even
           for your holding us up this morning."

           "Oh," said Jane innocently, "did I keep you waiting?"

           Gus grabbed his fishing pole and strode off toward the water, with a wince you could
           see on the back of his neck. (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus Is Saved by a Straw

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:54 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

                                               By Martin Bunn

                              From the October, 1951 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

                                     Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

           When stolen bank money begins to show up at the Model Garage, Gus turns
           detective—without a single clue but a temperamental lumber truck

           "Hiya, Gus."

           Gus Wilson looked up from a car radiator he was working on to see the tall, trim figure
           of a state trooper standing in the Model Garage shop doorway.

           "Sergeant Jerry Corcoran," said Gus. "You haven’t been by in months. Where the devil
           you been keeping yourself?"

           "Making the rounds as usual," replied the trooper. "Only now I have to cover more
           miles and more cases—I’m driving a radio car these days instead of a motorcycle."

           "Well, glad you finally found some free time to stop by for a chat."

           "Sorry, Gus, but this is strictly an official call," Jerry said, grimly.

           Gus cocked his head quizzically as he held a match to his pipe. "Can’t remember that
           I’ve jumped any red lights or knocked down any old ladies recently."

           Jerry Corcoran laughed. "No, Gus, it’s got nothing to do with you personally, but I
           think you and some of the other merchants in town can help me if you will."

           "Remember that big bank robbery down in the city early this summer?"

           Gus nodded. He remembered it only too well. At the time, the papers had been full of
           the story, telling how three men had forced their way into the City National Bank one
           night, cracked open the safe and made off with close to $80,000.

           "Well," explained Jerry, "the Feds think that job was masterminded by the same guy
           who’s pulled at least four other big hauls—all of them safe-cracking jobs. And what’s
           more, the Feds have a hunch he’s hiding out around here."

           "How come?" asked Gus.

           "Some of the money has been turning up in the daily deposits here at the bank—they
           know the serial numbers of most of the stolen bills. As a matter of fact, Gus, several
           have turned up in the money you’ve deposited in the last few weeks." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

           "In my deposits?"

           "Don’t worry, Gus," Jerry grinned, "but it does mean that the guy we’re looking for
           may be one of your customers. Been working on any strange cars lately?"

           "Now look, Jerry," said Gus, "you know as well as I do that all kinds of cars pull into a
           roadside garage. People stop for gas, they want their oil changed, they have a flat they
           want fixed. Sure, most of our business comes from the townspeople, and we know
           most of them. But every day we service dozens of cars we’ve never seen before."

           "Yeah, I know," replied Jerry, " and the heck of it is that according to the flimsy
           descriptions we’ve got of this guy he looks just about like everybody else—no
           distinguishing features—just a Joe Doaks. All we’re reasonably sure of is that he’s
           about 40 years old and has dark hair. We also know that he does a pretty good
           disappearing act between heists."

           "Not much to go on," said Gus.

           "You’re telling me?" Jerry groaned. "And he’s all mine—to find, that is. The captain
           put me in charge of the case this morning. Said it would mean a citation, or maybe
           even a promotion, if I can come through."

           For the next few weeks, Gus and Stan Hicks, Gus’s helper, paid close attention to all
           strangers who stopped at the Model Garage. They were leary of all bills and checked
           them against the list of serial numbers Jerry Corcoran had left with them. Luckily, the
           numbers fell into sets of continuous sequences so checking was largely a matter of

           More than once Stan or Gus thought they had a suspect—judging from a driver’s
           looks—but each time the number on the bill failed to check and the suspect turned out
           to be no one more dangerous than a road-weary salesman, a casual tourist, or a visitor
           in town on legitimate business.

           But Gus and Stan continued to be suspicious of every driver of a strange car. Gus was
           in the garage office late one afternoon making change for Stan when he heard a car
           drive into the adjacent repair shop. Looking out through the open office door, he saw a
           blue pickup truck ease to a stop beside the repair bench.

           "Never saw this truck before," Gus thought as he walked toward it.

           Just then, the door popped open and a dark-haired man wearing a bright plaid lumber (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

           jacket stepped out.

           "Don Thatch," Gus called when he realized that the driver was the owner of the local
           sawmill and our biggest lumberyard. "That truck had me guessing for a moment.
           Didn’t recognize it."

           "It’s new; bought it about six weeks ago," said Thatch. "Had to do something. That old
           one was falling apart."

           "Satisfied with this one?" asked Gus.

           "Pretty much," Thatch replied. "Right now, it’s about ready for the final checkup and
           I’m hoping you’ll be willing to give it a going over. It’ll save me a long trip into the
           agency in the city."

           "Do what we can," said Gus. "Any particular complaints?"

           "Well, she’s uneven as the devil when she’s idling, but I know you’ll take care of that.
           When can I have it?"

           "Well, I’m near ready to close now. How about around noon tomorrow?"

           "Swell, I’ll have one of my men pick it up. Oh, by the way, could you stop out at the
           mill someday soon? One of the straddle trucks we use for hauling lumber is giving us
           trouble. The driver claims it’s got a bad miss but the new handyman-mechanic claims
           there’s nothing wrong."

           Gus thought for a moment. "Tell you what, if we’re not too jammed up here tomorrow
           afternoon when your man comes I’ll ride back out with him."

           When Don Thatch’s man showed up shortly after noon the next day, the pickup truck
           was ready and waiting.

           "You riding back with me?" the man grunted.

           "That’s right. Understand Don’s been having some trouble with one of his straddlers."

           "Wouldn’t know," the man grumbled as he raced the truck’s engine impatiently.

           The ride to the ill was made mostly in one-sided silence. Gus tried to make
           conversation, but when he found that all he could get out of the man were grunts, he (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

           gave up.

           Don Thatch was just coming out of the door when the pickup pulled up in front of the
           mill office. "Glad you could make it, Gus," he said. "That straddle truck I told you
           about is parked over in front of the repair shop. Let’s go around."

           "Odd sort of character you’ve got driving your pickup," said Gus as he followed
           Thatch around the corner of the office building. "Does he ever say anything?"

           "Don’t know much about him," said Thatch. "Hasn’t been on the payroll very long.
           Keeps pretty much to himself. Good worker, though, so I can’t kick."

           As they walked along, Gus made a mental note to let Jerry Corcoran know about the
           pickup driver.

           The repair shack was a squat two-story affair and parked beside it was the big orange
           beetlelike truck with its engine and driver’s seat perched high up on the four stiltlike
           legs that rolled on wheels.

           Don stuck his head inside the door of the building. "Ned," he called, "will you come
           out here for a minute?"

           "Meet Gus Wilson, Ned," Thatch said as a wiry, fair-haired man joined them. Then he
           added, "Well, I’ll be getting along and see if I can locate the driver."

           "Glad to meet you, Mr. Wilson," the fellow grinned as he rubbed his hands on the
           leather welder’s apron he was wearing. "Mr. Thatch tell you about this straddle truck?"

           Gus shook his head.

           "Well, between you and me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it," explained
           Ned. "Runs fine for me, but every time Frank—he’s the driver—takes her out for a day
           in the yard, he brings her back howlin’ a blue streak and tellin’ me that she’s got a bad

           "What does he claim it does, start to miss after it’s warmed up?" inquired Gus.

           "No, he claims it begins to miss just as soon as he gets to pushing her at all. You know
           these straddles take a lot of punishment—lots of lugging and lots of idling every day."

           "Mind if I have a look at the engine?" asked Gus. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

           "Help yourself," replied Ned. "I’ve got other work to do."

           So as Gus climbed up on top of the straddle truck and opened the hood, Ned
           disappeared into his shop and presently Gus could hear the noisy hiss of an acetylene

           Gus’s first hunch was fouled plugs caused by so much idling. However, when he took
           out several of the plugs he found them fairly clean. Replacing the plugs, he climbed
           around to the driver’s seat, turned the ignition switch, and hit the starter button. The
           engine didn’t catch immediately, but wen it did it ran smoothly. Although he’d never
           driven a straddler before, he wheeled it around the space in front of the shop several
           times. He thought the engine sounded pretty good.

           Just at that point, Gus noticed a young man approaching the shop.

           "You Mr. Wilson?" he called to Gus. "Mr. Thatch told me to see you. I’m the driver of
           that truck."

           Gus flipped off the ignition. "Understand this animated doodlebug has been giving you
           trouble," he called down.

           "You can say that again. Got a bad miss, but I can’t convince this dumb mechanic of
           ours. Here, I’ll show you." He climbed up, closed the hood and slid into the driver’s
           seat. "We’ll drive her up to the yard and pick up a few boards."

           Even without a load, Gus could now detect a loss of power. "Mind if I drive?" he
           asked when they had reached the yard.

           "Sure thing," said Frank.

           Gus put the truck through its paces. There was no doubt about there being a bad miss
           every time he pushed hard on the gas.

           "See what I mean, Mr. Wilson?" said Frank. "But that grease monkey we’ve got won’t
           believe me, and he won’t take the truck out himself and test it."

           Gus didn’t answer. He was too busy trying to work out in his mind just why the engine
           missed now but hadn’t missed before. Sliding out of the driver’s seat, he opened the
           carburetor and the connections to the coil and the spark plugs. Everything checked out.

           "Start her up, will you, Frank?" Gus called from beside the open hood. (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus and the Missing Straddle Truck

           Frank complied and again the engine took hold easily and purred along. For the next
           fifteen minutes, Gus peered under the open hood while Frank maneuvered the big
           straddle around the mill yard, picking up lumber, backing, idling, and gunning the

           Again there wasn’t a hint of a miss. She was hitting on all six.

           "Cut it," called Gus, and he just sat there staring at the temperamental engine.
           Suddenly he reached up and slowly closed the hood. Then he raised it, pulled it down
           and raised it again.

           "Humph," he said, digging into his left coverall pocket for his friction tape. Then he
           proceeded to wrap tape around the bundle of ignition wires that sprouted from the top
           of the distributor. "All right, now let’s try her again."

           This time the engine ran smoothly no matter what Frank did.

           "That’s got it," said Gus.

           "What?" asked Frank.

           "Come up here," said Gus. He pointed to a worn shiny spot on the underside of the
           hood. "The distributor wires were rubbing against the hood when it was closed.
           Pinprick leaks in the insulation were shorting

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:58:55 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1952 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                                              Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                                     Trouble shooting was Gus’s stock in trade,
                                      but chasing hijackers with Officer Ryan
                                             wasn’t the kind of trouble
                                            or shooting, he had in mind.

           Talk of the weather . . . there had been nothing else all that day. Over soda-fountain
           counters, from behind desks, on the streets, it was talk of summer heat and the touch of
           high mercury, the kind that softened asphalt and sent heat-ghosts dancing over the
           sidewalks. It had even penetrated the usually cool depths of the Model Garage. Heat
           and the Saturday rush had made it a long day for Gus Wilson, and when he stepped out
           into the cooler embrace of evening, he was dead tired.

           The thought of tomorrow, the one day’s respite, was nice, the treasure sitting at the end
           of a long week’s work.

           A voice punctured the daydream: "Hey, Gus!" Officer Billy Ryan of the local police
           coasted up in his patrol car. "Got a minute?"

           "What do you want, copper?" Gus ribbed him.

           "I’ve got this trouble with this machine!"

           Gus eyed the aging automobile with mock disapproval. "What do you expect from a 15-
           year-old jalopy?"

           "It’s got a new motor! Besides, when are you taxpayers going to get me a new one?
           Now listen--"

           "I’m tired, and I’ve closed down. Where’s your police mechanic—Joe Snarky?"

           "He’s sick in bed. Listen, Gus. Tonight I got a tip from the police down in the city that
           some hijackers are going to pull a furcoat job with their truck near here a couple of
           hours from now. East of town. And this car’s liable to poop out and ruin the whole
           setup!" Ryan was excited.

           "Okay, calm down before you fade your hair. What’s the trouble?"

           "The engine dies and the lights go out every time I put on the brakes. Even if I just
           slow down. Have to come to a full stop to get started again." (2 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

           Gus sighed. "Run her into the garage. I think you’re shorting out somewhere."

           Gus rolled the doors back up and turned on the lights. He pried up the small inspection
           plate in the floorboard of the old car and took a fast look.

           The battery was brand-new, still shiny black. Gus raised the hood and checked the
           wiring in the primary ignition circuit from that end. Still nothing.

           He pulled on grease-stained coveralls and crawled under the car with a trouble light.

           "Can’t you hurry it up, Gus?"

           "I hate to admit it, but I am hurrying. Shouldn’t hurry with auto repairs. Too many
           mistakes that way!"

           The stoplight switch on the brake pedal, a common source of shorts, proved okay.
           Then Gus checked the battery cable down by the brake arm. The action of the arm
           could wear the insulation off and short the battery out every time the brake was used.
           But that was okay, too.

           "How about the generator, Gus?"

           Gus didn’t answer, but in a moment, he crawled out looking puzzled.

           "Generator, did you say? No, if that were the case, you’d be running your battery
           down. It wouldn’t account for your engine dying. I can’t find a thing. You should have
           come in earlier!"

           "I meant to, Gus, but they kept me tied up all afternoon. Safety lecture at the high
           school. Then I got this tip from the big-town cops."

           Gus checked the ignition and lighting wires, tracing them down to the firewall where
           they passed through to the engine side. Then he climbed out and turned the light off
           with a click of finality.

           "I’ll be darned. Well, let’s take it for a ride."

           Gus backed the car out and started down the street. The street lights were on now, and
           a haze-yellow moon painted the tops of the low hills outside of town. (3 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

           "It’s a pretty good night for changing pumpkins to coaches, isn’t it, Billy?"

           "Good for switching fur coats from one truck to another, you mean."

           Gus drove to a quiet road east of town, out among small farms and country lanes that
           were quietly beautiful in the moonlight. There, free of evening traffic, he punched the
           brake pedal hard.

           The front end dropped slightly, the engine quit and the lights flickered out. He had
           come to a full stop.

           "I see what you mean."

           "What do you think it is, Gus?"

           "Oh, it’s still a short somewhere. The problem is the somewhere! This promises to be
           kind of tough with so little time to work in. How about the other police car, why can’t
           you use it?"

           Ryan’s face reddened. "It was smacked by a hit-and-run. And George Weaver didn’t
           get the number. Everything happens to the department today!"

           "How about letting the highway patrol take over?"

           "Aw Gus, you know how it is . . . your pal, Sergeant Corcoran, would kid the pants off

                                               "Okay, Billy. I’ll keep
                                               Gus hit the brake again, this
                                               time a little slower. The
                                               engine kept running for an
                                               instant longer than before.

                             "I think we have something now. Once more."

                             He got into high gear, worked up to 40 miles an hour, and
                             then put the brake on gradually. They slowed down
                             gently, and rolled to a full stop. Neither engine nor lights
                             failed. (4 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                             "That settles it. Maybe a wire swinging against metal. If
                             you slow down real easy, the wire doesn’t swing far
                             enough to touch."

                             Gus got out and crawled under again. The breeze and roar
                             of a truck going by at high speed caught at his pants legs,
                             and a split second later, Ryan let out a yell.

                             "Hey, get back in! I think that was the hijackers’ truck!"

                             Gus leaped back in, and Ryan started out with a squeal of

                             "Something’s gone haywire. Those birds are early!"

                             The small truck moved fast over the narrow road, its tail
                             lights bobbing in the darkness ahead.

                             Ryan switched off his headlights so that the truck driver
                             wouldn’t see them follow, and Gus felt something tighten
                             in his stomach. He hadn’t bargained on getting involved in
                             a cops-and-robbers chase.

                             "What makes you think that’s the hijackers?"

                             "The truck fits the description—and who else would be
                             burning up the road like that? If I can get close enough to
                             see the license plate, I can be sure."

                             "Okay, what do we do now?"

                             "Catch them in the act of switching the load, I hope. You
                             see, these fur coats are taken by truck to a warehouse in
                             Buffalo. They they’re distributed to stores. A couple of
                             the company drivers are working from the inside for the
                             hijackers. Recently, one of them was stopped, beat up to
                             make it look real, and the furs trundled off in another
                             truck. And it’s nothing small—mink and stuff like that.
                             One company driver decided he didn’t want to get in any
                             deeper and tipped the police off to this second job—that’s
                             how we got a description of the trucks and the license
                             numbers." (5 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                             "I’m afraid to ask," put in Gus, "but where do we fit in?"

                             "Highway patrol cars are posted at several points beyond
                             the mountains ahead," continued Ryan, "but in the
                             meantime, rather than scare them off with a whole flock
                             of patrol cars, we sneak in and try to get the drop on them
                             while they’re loading the second truck."

                             The road began to twist and dip. They were in the foothills
                             now, and the higher mountains lay ahead.

                             "We’ll reach the spot where they’re supposed to change in
                             about a mile. When we do, you better scrunch down in
                             that seat! There may be some shooting."

                             It was weird, driving in that pale moonlight through the
                             quiet, sleeping hills. Seconds ticked off slowly, painfully,
                             and Gus felt his stomach roll around like someone was
                             jabbing it with cold fingers.

                             "That was the spot back there. I’ll bet those guys have
                             gotten wise and made the switch already. I’ve got to get
                             close enough to make sure."

                             The lights came closer, until the bulk of the truck was
                             clearly defined in the dim light. "That’s the one," Ryan
                             said tightly. "The truck that makes the pick-up." He pulled
                             a .38 from his holster and poked it out the window. "I’m
                             going to take a shot at his tires." But before he could pull
                             the trigger, the truck leaned into a sharp turn. Ryan slowed
                             for the bend, and instantly the engine died into futile

                             Ryan sweated as he struggled to get the engine started
                             again. They had lost a quarter of a mile, and it took five
                             minutes of delicate juggling through straights and turns to
                             catch sight of the truck. Then the road suddenly
                             hairpinned, and Ryan was forced to use the brakes. The
                             engine died again.

                             Gus leaned forward in the seat, listening. Each time the (6 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                             brake was put on, there was the sputter of a juicy short.

                             Ryan swore softly and grimaced as he started up the motor
                             again for the umteenth time.

                             "Hold it a minute, Billy. Stop and let me get under the

                             "I can’t stop now!"

                             "You’ll never catch him this way. Let me look once more.
                             I can hear something start frying every time you slow

                             Ryan pulled over, and Gus crawled under. He knew now
                             approximately where the sound was coming from—under
                             the floorboards. His pen-sized flashlight probed the
                             battery carrier. Just a chance, maybe something else
                             unrelated slapping around—but—there it was! Happily,
                             Gus wedged his screwdriver in and crawled out.

                             "Move over, Billy! You’re going to need both hands to
                             shoot on this winding road. She’ll hold for awhile."

                             Gus poured on the speed and fought the curves with
                             squealing tires. The engine gave no sign of quitting now.

                             "What was it?"

                             "Tell you later. Got to keep my mind on the road."

                             They were in close to the ridge before the truck was in
                             sight again. Gus gained gradually, until it was only a few
                             hundred feet away. Then the truck picked up speed.

                             "He’s spotted us, Gus. Step on it."

                             Gus had anticipated the move and, in one short straight,
                             closed the gap.

                             "Okay, when we come out of this next bend, hold her (7 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo


                             They howled through the turn, and Billy leaned out the
                             window. For one tense second the gun was poised, and
                             then the sharp report bounced painfully against Gus’s
                             eardrums. Another shot, and a third. The truck began
                             weaving wildly.

                             "There he goes!"

                             The truck smacked against the bank on the right side,
                             lurched crazily on two wheels, and turned over.

                             Gus pulled up, and he and the policeman jumped out.

                             "Wait here, Gus," Ryan said. "I’ll go look things over."

                             Less than a minute later, he was back.

                             "It’s okay. He’s cold like a cucumber. And the truck’s
                             loaded with loot. Come help me tie him up."

                             A few minutes later, the hijacker, a smallish, sandy-haired
                             man in a leather jacket, was neatly trussed up in the back
                             seat of the police car. He showed signs of regaining
                             consciousness and appeared otherwise unhurt. Ryan and
                             Gus got back in the front seat.

                             "What do we do now, Inspector?" Gus grinned, but his
                             knees were still shaky.

                             "Well, now’s the time I call the highway patrol. They can
                             come and guard the furs while we take this character back
                             to the brig."

                             Ryan called them on the police radio and gave them
                             directions. Then he leaned back, lit a cigarette and smiled

                             "They’ll be here in a few minutes. Too bad we didn’t get
                             the whole works. But one man and the loot is something.
                             The rest’ll turn up later. Now, maybe you can tell me what (8 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Trails a Hot Cargo

                             gives with the car."

                             "Sure. You know those straps under your battery? Well,
                             the front one was eaten away by battery acid. Your
                             mechanic should have noticed it when he put the new
                             battery in last week.

           "You see, every time you hit the brake, the battery tipped forward, just a little, but
           enough to slam the battery cable across the metal edge of the carrier. I was in too much
           of a rush to notice that the bottom side of the cable had worn insulation from the
           rubbing. But that’s where it was shorting out.

           "I wedged my screwdriver in to keep it from tilting. I was beginning to lose hope of
           finding the trouble until I heard that sputtering noise over the sounds that the car was

           "Anyway, come around in the morning if your mech isn’t out of bed yet, and I’ll fix it
           up. You’ll need a new hold-down on the carrier—the old one’s half burned away. And
           don’t you forget to return that screwdriver!"

           "Well, Gus, I sure appreciate what you’ve done tonight."

           "You know, Billy, before you interrupted my evening, I was thinking about taking
           another couple of weeks’ vacation . . . but I wonder. I’m beginning to think people in
           our town might have to go back to horses if we closed the Model Garage that long.
           Tell me, Billy, how would you like being a mounted cop?"

           Billy Ryan made a playful swipe at Gus—then they heard the state cops’ siren coming
           from around the bend up ahead.

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (9 of 9) [11/10/2003 9:58:56 PM]
Gus Helps Tie a Knot

                                              By Martin Bunn

                          From the February, 1952 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                                Gus Helps Tie a Knot

                                    It looked as if the happy couple would have
                                  to spend their honeymoon in a roadside garage
                                           unless Gus came to the rescue.

           It was a sleety evening and Gus Wilson, his chin tucked well down into the upturned
           collar of his overcoat, was trudging toward Dan’s Grill for some dinner. It had been
           one of those days at the Model Garage and he was glad it was over. He was looking
           forward to a sizzling steak with French fries and later an evening at home with a
           magazine. (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:58 PM]
Gus Helps Tie a Knot

           Just then a pert voice interrupted his thoughts. "Hello, Mr. Wilson."

           Gus looked down to find a very attractive young lady walking beside him. After a
           second look, he realized it was Peggy Anne Simpson, daughter of the vice-president of
           the local bank.

           "Why, Peggy Simpson," said Gus, taking her arm to help her buck the cold wind.
           "What on earth are you doing out on a night like this? Thought you were getting
           married tomorrow afternoon."

           Peggy laughed a nervous little laugh. "I hope I’m getting married tomorrow."

           "What do you mean, hope?"

           "Tom—my fiance, Tom Thorton—hasn’t gotten here yet, darn it," explained Peggy,
           clamping her hat down more firmly on her pretty blond head. "He’s driving up from
           Stanton—that’s his home. I expected him early today, but he called tonight to say he’s
           having trouble with the new car he bought me for a wedding present. He’s stranded
           about halfway here."

           "Trouble with a new car? What kind of trouble?"

           "If I didn’t love that man I’d be inclined to doubt his story. Here we’re shivering with
           the cold and he claims our brand-new car is overheating."

           By this time Gus and Peggy had reached the neon-lit door to Dan’s place. "Join me?"
           asked Gus.

           "I’d love to, Mr. Wilson, but I’ve got some last-minute arrangements to make for
           tomorrow—if Tom ever gets here. Gosh, I just happened to think, I guess our
           honeymoon will have to be postponed too. We’d planned a trip in the car."

           "Well," Gus said sympathetically, "if I can be of any help, don’t forget to call on me."

           At about 2:15 the next afternoon a very tired and worried looking young man drove his
           car onto the concrete apron in front of the Model Garage. Gus had seen the car pull up
           and had the repair-shop door open.

           "Mr. Wilson?" the driver inquired tensely as he slid out from under the wheel.

           "That’s right—and I guess you’re Tom Thorton." (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:58 PM]
Gus Helps Tie a Knot

           The young man managed a weak smile. "And how did you know that?"

           "Saw that beautiful bride-to-be of yours last night, and she told me about your car
           trouble. She was pretty upset when you didn’t get here yesterday."

           "She was upset!" Tom ran his fingers through his hair and his voice sank dramatically.
           "To tell the truth, Mr. Wilson, I had my doubts more than once about getting here at all
           in time for the wedding."

           "When did your troubles start?" Gus inquired gently as he ushered Tom into the shop.

           "Almost as soon as I left home. I hadn’t gone more than 30 miles when I noticed that
           the temperature gauge was up above normal. Naturally, I stopped to check the water.
           But the level was okay."

           Gus nodded as he prodded some shreds of tobacco into the bowl of his pipe.

           "When I got to the next town, I stopped at the first decent-looking garage I could find.
           The mechanic made some checks. Said the gauge was out of whack and that I
           shouldn’t worry about it. I took his word for it and drove on. Oh brother, then my
           troubles really began."

           Young Thorton’s story of what happened during the next several hours even made
           Gus, with all his experience, wince.

           After the first garage stop, Tom, believing what the mechanic had told him, rolled
           along. He ignored the temperature gauge. Then, suddenly he heard a boiling noise in
           his heater. He stopped and this time found the radiator almost bone dry. Miles from
           nowhere with no water in sight, he stuffed handful after handful of snow into the filler

           For the next 50 miles, the temperature gauge registered "normal" again. But after an
           overnight stop at a motel, the needle began climbing again in the morning.

           He pulled into another roadside garage. This time the mechanic flushed the radiator
           and checked the entire cooling system. He found nothing, but said that "just to be on
           the safe side" he would remove the thermostats.

           Tom had left that garage with a glimmer of hope that maybe his troubles were over.
           Even though he nearly froze because the heater wouldn’t perk without the thermostat, (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:58 PM]
Gus Helps Tie a Knot

           he was happy to see that the temperature gauge stayed well below normal.

           His peace of mind, however, did not last long. Soon the gauge began climbing again.
           Another stop at a garage proved nothing. But when he got on his way again the gauge
           stayed down on the cold side.

           "How’s it acting now?" asked Gus at the end of this grim tale.

           "Right now, she’s find," Tom admitted, "but she blows hot and cold and I’d hate to
           start off on a honeymoon and spend the night in a roadside garage."

           Gus grinned. "What time is the wedding?"

           "Four-thirty, with a party afterward at Peg’s house before we take off. We’d hoped to
           get away around six. I’ve got a hotel reservation down in the city for tonight."

           Gus looked up at the small electric clock over his bench. It was just 2:45. He had only
           a little over three hours to find and fix the trouble if the newlywed Thortons were to
           start their honeymoon on schedule.

           "Tell you what you do," said Gus, patting Tom’s shoulder paternally. "You take my
           car for now—it’s parked outside—and I’ll see what I can do about yours. Now, don’t
           worry—I’ll try to have your car outside Peg’s house by six o’clock."

           Tom’s expression brightened perceptibly. "If you do," he said, pumping Gus’s hand
           vigorously, "you’re my friend for life."

           After Tom had gone, Gus wondered if he hadn’t left himself out on a limb. His
           sympathy for the distraught young man must have affected his judgment. Of course,
           old cars that overheated in summer were run of the mill—a good flushing generally
           cured them—but a brand new car that ran both hot and cold in the wintertime was
           something else again.

           Gus got to work. He started by going over the radiator core carefully. Nothing there.
           He checked the radiator hoses, thinking that perhaps in some way the inner lining of
           one of the two sets—it was a V-8—might have come loose, forming a flap valve that
           cut off the circulation of water at certain speeds. Still no luck.

           He started the engine and peered down the filler spout. Water circulation looked to be

           At that point, Gus decided to road-test the sedan. He had driven about 20 miles with (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:58 PM]
Gus Helps Tie a Knot

           the temperature gauge showing normal when he happened to look down at the
           dashboard clock. He suddenly realized that he’d already spent more than an hour and
           still hadn’t a ghost of a clue to the trouble. He slowed the car to a stop, turned around
           on the narrow road, and headed back toward town. By the time he was halfway there,
           the engine gauge had climbed well up into the hot zone, and when he pulled up at the
           Model Garage the radiator was boiling.

           "Temperamental youngster," Gus muttered to himself after he had parked the car
           inside. "Something must cut down the circulation every once in a while." He started
           the car up again, put more water in the radiator and began another systematic check.

           Gus was standing at his bench wiping his hands on a piece of waste when the repair-
           shop door swung open. It was his helper, Stan Hicks, resplendent in blue suit, gray
           fedora and gray overcoat.

           "I thought you were enjoying a day off," Gus said.

           "I was, boss, until I went to Peggy Simpson’s wedding and heard about her husband’s
           car. Thought I’d come over and see if I could help."

           "That was a nice idea, Stan. But I’m happy to report that she’s all fixed and we’ve got
           just 15 minutes to get the car over to the Simpsons’. Hop in; I won’t wait to change my

           They found a place for Tom Thorton’s car right at the Simpsons’ driveway—a perfect
           spot for a quick getaway, thought Gus.

           "Look, Stan, you take these keys in and give ‘em to Tom. I’m not dressed up for a
           weddin’ party. I’ll go over and sit in my car and wait for you. I see it’s parked just
           across the street."

           Sitting relaxed in the driver’s seat of his own car, Gus didn’t see the two figures slip
           out the side door of the Simpsons’ house. He didn’t even notice when, hand-in-hand,
           they tiptoed around the back of his car. Do he was understandably startled when the
           car door was jerked open and Peggy Thorton (nee Simpson) flung her arms around his
           neck and planted a very satisfactory kiss on the middle of his cheek.

           "Mr. Wilson, you’re a darling! You’ve made our wedding complete. Now we can
           leave on our honeymoon, just as we planned."

           "Thanks a million, Mr. Wilson," Tom added fervently, poking his head inside the car. (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:58 PM]
Gus Helps Tie a Knot

           "Okay, okay," said Gus, grinning from ear to ear. "Lots of luck to both of you. Now
           you two kids get back in there and give the folks the fun of peppering you with rice
           and confetti when you make your official exit."

           "All right, boss," said Stan as he and Gus headed down into town for a cup of coffee.
           "How’d you mastermind this one?"

           "Frankly, Stan, I was stumped. Then I just happened to be staring down at the engine
           when it was running and I saw it."

           "Saw what?"

           "One of the water pumps. That car has a V engine with two water pumps, one for each
           bank of cylinders, and they’re driven by the fan belt. I noticed that the pulley on one
           wasn’t turning. That belt was just slipping over it, so I pulled the pump down. What do
           you think I found?"


           "A lock washer. It had gotten into the cooling system somehow and every once in a
           while it got jammed under the impeller wheel and stopped the pump. That cut down
           the water circulation. Then when the car was stopped, or perhaps when it hit a bump,
           the washer would get loose and the pump would run. So I removed the washer."

           Stan seemed to be thinking it over. "You know, boss," he said finally, "I don’t think
           I’ll ever be a good garageman. Just don’t have the patience. Unless I’m tearing
           something down or putting it back together again, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything.
           Take you, though. You can just sit back and watch and come up with the answer."

           "Pure laziness," said Gus. "When you get to be my age, you’ll be content to let that
           noggin of yours do more of the work too. It’s easier than barking up your knuckles
           with a spanner or a pair of pliers . . . Besides, you can think sittin’ down."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:58 PM]
Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

                                               By Martin Bunn

                             From the January, 1952 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:59 PM]
Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

                                Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

                                    Doc Evants diagnosed Gabriella’s temperamental
                                      behavior as some sort of warning—but Gus
                                      figured all she needed was a little discipline
                                       with the business end of a monkey wrench

           On a cold, brisk Sunday a few weeks ago, Gus Wilson was enjoying an afternoon off
           from his chores at the Model Garage by strolling through town. Suddenly a chorus of
           honking horns directed his attention toward the intersection ahead.

           "Must be an accident," thought Gus as he hurried toward the commotion.

           As he got closer, he saw two sedans had locked bumpers diagonally across the
           intersection and were blocking traffic in four directions. A stocky redhead was
           standing beside the first car shaking his fist at the driver.

           "You lunkhead!" he shouted. "What was the idea of stopping so short? For two cents

           Just then Officer Pat Stanton strolled up. "Okay, you two. Break it up." He waved the
           redhead back to his own car. "Get these cars outta here or I’ll give you both tickets."

           As Gus reached the curb, the door of the first car popped open and out stepped a wiry,
           bespectacled little old man. In spite of the freezing weather, he wore neither overcoat
           nor hat. His odd costume consisted of well worn sneakers, a pair of baggy gray pants, a
           large corduroy jacket, and a plaid wool scarf looped twice around his neck with the
           ends dangling fore and aft.

           Gus looked at the little man, then at the man’s car, and did a double take. It was none
           other than "Doctor" Jason Evants, the town’s best known eccentric and founder of the
           "Philosophy of Universal Sentiency"—a fad that interested some of the wealthier
           ladies in the community.

           Gus had first run into Doc Evants when the buxom and affluent Mrs. Milller—who
           had been widowed a year or so ago and had since joined the little "doctor’s" group of
           followers—sent Evants to the Model Garage with Gabriella. Gabriella was his car. Not
           only did the car bear a name, it could also think and feel—strictly in accordance with
           the rule of the Philosophy of Universal Sentiency which said that all inanimate things
           could. At least, that was Doc’s story. He insisted "she" had frequently warned him of
           impending danger by suddenly stopping or refusing to run at all. (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:59 PM]
Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

           "Doctor Evants," called Gus as he walked over to the man. "Having trouble?"

           "Ah, Mr. Wilson. Trouble you say." Evants waggled a finger at the redhead. "As you
           undoubtedly ascertain, this unpleasant individual collided with my car and has
           interlocked our bumpers."

           "Maybe I can help," said Gus. Then he walked over to the second car and climbed up
           on the front bumper. "Okay," he called, motioning to the redhead. "Put your car in
           reverse and ease her back slowly."

           On the fifth jump, Gus’s weight finally jounced the bumper loose and the two cars
           gratingly parted company. Officer Stanton waved the redhead on his way and Doc
           Evants climbed back into his car. But instead of turning the corner he straightened out,
           drove into the through street ahead and parked.

           Gus was curious enough to follow.

           "Sorry to have been so curt, Mr. Wilson," said Doc Evants, "but I’m afraid that
           uncouth mental midget unnerved me a bit. Obviously the ebullient type suffering from
           introversions that can be salved only by expressions of superiority."

           "In other words," said Gus with a smile, "a sorehead."

           "It could be expressed that way."

           "But what happened to Gabriella?" asked Gus, looking at the car parked at the curb. It
           was a ’41 model in fair shape, while Gabriella, as Gus remembered her, had been a
           beat-up ’35 sedan.

           "Ah, Gabriella," sighed Doc Evants. "I finally had to retire her. Old age. She’s
           spending her days out in the yard behind my house. I go out and sit in her every so
           often. We still understand each other perfectly."

           Gus started to point to the car at the curb.

           "This, Mr. Wilson, is Gabriella the Second. Thanks to dear Mrs. Miller and a few other
           friends of my Philosophy of Universal Sentiency I was able to invest in this more
           modern vehicle a short while ago."

           "Does this one warn you the way your first Gabriella did?" asked Gus, suppressing a
           smile (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:59 PM]
Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

           "She’s beginning to. It was a warning from her that helped cause that slight difficulty
           at that corner."


           Dr. Evants graciously opened the door to his car. "Let me give you a lift to your garage
           and I’ll tell you about it."

           Gus was about to say something about it being his day off, but his curiosity got the
           better of him and he climbed in with the little old fellow.

           Dr. Evants started the car, going through the motions slowly and deliberately. "You
           see, Mr. Wilson, I was on my way over to see Mrs. Miller about a most important
           matter. As I was making that left turn from Bank into Main Street, Gabriella II began
           to sputter and buck as if she were reluctant to go in the direction of Mrs. Miller’s
           house. As if she were trying to warn me."

           The little man seemed very upset. At that point, he started to make a sharp left turn
           into Center Street. Sure enough, about halfway through the turn the engine began to
           miss and falter. The car had enough momentum to make the turn, but Dr. Evants would
           have none of it. He quickly straightened the car out and continued on ahead. When he
           did, Gabriella II’s engine picked up and ran smoothly again.

           "You see, she protested against making that turn."

           Gus nodded, but said nothing.

           At the next few corners, when Dr. Evants tried to make similar left turns, the same
           thing happened, and each time he wouldn’t complete the turn. As a result, the trip to
           the garage turned out to be a circuitous tour of the town consisting of right turns only.

           By the time they finally made the last right turn into the road that led past the garage,
           Gus had several ideas about Gabriella’s hesitancy.

           Stan Hicks, the helper at the Model Garage, was busy chipping away ice on the drive
           when Gus and the doc pulled up. "Hi. What are you doing here?"

           "Meet Gabriella II," said Gus with appropriate flourish. "And she has a few of
           Gabriella I’s—shall we say—peculiarities," he added, winking at Stan. "Doctor, why
           don’t you let me check her to see whether she really is trying to warn you not to see
           Mrs. Miller today or whether it’s something else?" (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:59 PM]
Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

           Doc Evants thought for a minute, tugging at his chin. "Are you suggesting that her
           protests might be the symptoms of some inherent mechanical difficulty?"

           Gus nodded.

           "I doubt it, but you have my permission to examine her. I’ll stroll on down to Mrs.
           Bentley’s and have a chat. I’ve got the first chapter on my new book, The
           Inconsistencies of Human Thought, that I’d like to show her. I’ll drop back here later."

           "What’s the trouble with the old screwball’s car?" Stan asked after they’d driven the
           sedan into the shop.

           "Engine misfires on sharp left turns. I’ve a hunch it’s either dirt in the gasoline line or
           a damaged carburetor float that gets stuck when centrifugal force throws it to the right
           on a sharp left-hand turn."

           Before he checked either of these points, he got into the car, started the engine and
           proceeded to turn the steering wheel as far to the left as he could. He looked a little
           disappointed when the engine continued to purr along without so much as a missed
           beat. Finally, he shut off the ignition.

           "What’s the matter, boss? Think maybe the steering gear had something to do with it?"

           "Just thought I’d check. But no luck."

           And Gus had no better luck with his hunches about dirt in the gas lines or the gas tank
           or a faulty carburetor float.

           "Boss, maybe the old doc’s got something in this sent— sentiency stuff. You
           know—about car being like humans. They sure suffer from some of the same
           ailments—clogged up arteries, head troubles, breathing ailments, stiff joints, shorted
           nerves, and . . ."

           "Son, I think you’ve got something there. Why the devil didn’t I think of that before?"
           Gus all but dove in under the hood and began to check the wiring.

           After about five minutes Gus straightened up and his face was all smiles.

           "Take a look at this." He pointed down at the solenoid that operated the car’s
           overdrive, and then hit it with his finger. (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:59 PM]
Gus and the Car That Wouldn’t Turn Left

           Stan saw that the unit was quite loose on its moorings and that the insulation on one of
           the heavy wires leading to it was badly frayed.

           "Every time the car would swing to the left," explained Gus, "the solenoid would
           swing to the right and that bare spot on that wire—the one that leads to the
           ignition—would ground out against the car’s frame. When the car was going straight
           or turning right it wouldn’t touch the frame."

           It didn’t take Stan and Gus long to make the repair. Gus was just washing up when
           Evants walked in.

           "Well, Mr. Wilson, has your stint of research convinced you that Gabriella II was
           warning me not to see Mrs. Miller today?"

           "No, I’m convinced it was as you would say, ‘a slight inherent electrical difficulty.’
           But she’s all fixed now and ready to go."

           "Splendid, splendid. I am truly grateful. . . . I—ah—happen to be a bit short of funds at
           the moment." Evants went on, fumbling in his pockets without conviction, "but send
           me a bill, by all means. And now I must hurry along to Mrs. Miller’s.
           "As a matter of fact," he confided, "I have a most important question to propound to
           that dear lady. Now that my fears have proven unfounded, I shall proceed with
           confidence." And with an airy whisk of his hand, he drove away briskly.

           "Well, I’ll be darned," said Gus, "if the little doctor hasn’t got matrimony on his
           mind—and it’ll be a pretty good catch for him if he makes it, which I suspect he will."

           "Gee, boss, just think," mused Stan, "if you hadn’t spotted the trouble, Doc Evants
           would’ve gone right on believing Gabriella was trying to warn him, and he might
           never have popped the question. Well, I wish him luck."

           Gus, confirmed bachelor, grinned contentedly and reached for his pipe. "Me too," he

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:58:59 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

                                               By Martin Bunn

                                   From the July, 1952 issue of
                                        Popular Science
                                                  This story was donated by
                                                     Mike Hammerberg (1 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

                                     Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

                                   All Gus wanted to do was fish but he couldn’t resist
                                        the temptation to show the stiff-necked,
                                         mule-stubborn Dr. Angus that it takes
                                          more than theories to fix a balky car.

          As he steered around a sharp bend in the narrow dirt road, Gus Wilson finally caught
          sight of what he had driven more than 200 miles to find.

          It wasn’t a big lake, but it looked like the answer to an angler’s prayer. It had weed
          beds, sunken logs and a nook-and-cranny shore line. Everything about it spelled FISH.
          And that’s just what Gus, with a few days off from his Model Garage, was after.

          "Now to find that little hotel Jim Worden told me about," he muttered happily to
          himself, "and I’ll be all set."

          Driving on slowly he came to a winding lane that led down toward the lake. And sure
          enough, right there on the shore was a long, low one-story building.

          Gus parked in front of the hotel. There were two other cars, and as he unloaded his
          gear he noticed that the front end of one was jacked up, with the front wheels and hub
          assemblies missing.

          When he got no response to repeated knocking, he opened the door and walked in. No
          one seemed to be around so he settled himself in a big chair to wait. The only sound
          was a low humming noise that seemed to come from a hall leading off to the left.

          Suddenly the humming stopped and Gus heard a door slam somewhere. The next thing
          he knew a tall, spare, bespectacled man in a long white coat was standing beside his
          chair peering down at him.

          "I am Alvin Angus," the stranger said evenly. "And what can I do for you?"

          Gus, a little taken aback by the man’s sudden appearance, was annoyed to find himself
          stammering. "Why—er—I’m Gus Wilson, a friend of Jim Worden’s. He suggested I
          come up here for a few days’ fishing. This is a hotel, isn’t it?"

          "Yes, indeed. I have a vacant room right down the hall. Please follow me."

          Feeling a bit nonplussed, Gus picked up his gear and followed. (2 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

          Angus stopped in front of the second door along the hallway and swung it open to
          reveal a neatly furnished room.

          "Here you are, Mr. Wilson. Dinner is at seven. If you need anything in the meantime,
          I’ll be in my laboratory."

          Gus was about to ask, "Where is that?" but before he could get the words out of his
          mouth the man was gone.

          "Mighty odd character," thought Gus as he unpacked. With his white doctor’s coat and
          "laboratory," Angus made the place seem like some sort of sanitarium instead of a
          fishermen’s retreat. But if the fishing was as good as Jim had bragged it was, Gus
          didn’t care if Dracula himself ran the place.

          A few minutes later, fishing rod in hand, he strolled contentedly down toward the lake.
          A pleasant-looking middle-aged man was just easing a skiff up to the dock.

          "How’s the fishing?" called Gus.

          "Wonderful!" The man held up a couple of good-sized bass.

          "I’m Gus Wilson," said Gus as the fisherman clambered up on the dock.

          "Glad to know you. I’m Bill Plummer. Planning to spend a few days up here with the
          good doctor?"


          "Yeah, Dr. Alvin Angus—the fellow who owns the hotel. Haven’t you met him yet?"

          "Well—yes. What is he—a physician?"

          "Oh, no, he’s a retired scientist. He runs the place, and he spends a lot of time in what
          he calls his laboratory—it’s really more like a glorified workshop. Incidentally--"
          Plummer grinned—"don’t get into an argument with Angus. He’s the kind of guy
          who’s always right about everything."

          The fishing was wonderful. In a little over an hour, Gus reeled in a largemouth bass
          and a couple of nice lake trout. (3 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

          That night he got a chance to talk to Dr. Angus. After a good dinner, served by a
          widow neighbor who cooked the meals, he, the doctor and Bill Plummer settled down
          on the back porch overlooking the lake.

          Under Gus’s friendly prodding, the doctor unbent a little and told how he’d spent
          many years as a research physicist and university professor. Then he had retired on the
          advice of his doctors and opened the fishing camp.

          "After a lifetime of that sort of stuff," Gus put in sympathetically, "you must find it
          pretty dull catering to a bunch of guys who don’t want to talk about anything but
          fishing. After all, scientific research is a pretty special kind of business. Most of us
          don’t know much about it."

          "But you should," snapped the doctor. "That’s just the point. There is a scientific
          approach to every subject. I find, for example, that the practical problems I deal with in
          my laboratory yield to analysis exactly the same way that purely theoretical ones do."

          Gus was getting interested. "That’s certainly true up to a point." He was thinking of
          how he had licked many a tough problem at the Model Garage by just lighting his pipe
          and sitting down to think it over. "But of course you’ve got to have a lot of practical
          knowledge and experience before you can start analyzing."

          "Can’t agree with you on that. Fundamental principles apply to everything. No specific
          experience required."

          Gus caught the sly grin on Plummer’s face and suddenly remembered his waring about
          arguing with the doctor.

          "Perhaps you’re right, Doctor. I hadn’t thought of it just that way. Well, I guess I’ll
          turn in—want to get an early start on that fishing tomorrow."

          Dr. Angus seemed somewhat mollified. "Come see my lab for a minute. Like to show
          you some of my equipment.
          The doctor’s "laboratory" was as neat as a laboratory should be, and elaborately
          outfitted. On one side of the room was a complete metal shop right down to a small
          shaper. On the other was a fully equipped woodworking shop.

          Gus whistled admiringly. "This is really something. What sort of word do you do in

          "Oh, I’ve made some furniture for the hotel, and various odds and ends. And lately
          some of the local people have discovered that I have this shop and have been bringing (4 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

          me their repair problems. Only today, a chap who lives down the road brought his car
          in. He had bought a set of brake shoes by mail but when he started to install them he
          found his front-wheel drums badly scored. Asked me if I’d turn them down. I did so.
          And by the way, Mr. Wilson," Angus went on, waggling an emphatic finger, "that’s a
          case in point. I know very little about automobiles but I predict that Clem Lamson’s
          brakes will operate perfectly."

          Gus recalled the jacked-up car out in front of the hotel. "Well, no doubt you’re right,"
          he said mildly. "See you tomorrow."

          Up early as usual the next morning, Gus decided to take a walk before breakfast. As he
          opened the screen door, he heard voices raised in argument. The doctor and a man in
          overalls were crouched down beside the left front wheel of a car in the driveway.

          ". . . impossible, Lamson," Dr. Angus was saying. "I did an excellent job on the drums.
          They must work all right."

          "Well, they don’t, all the same," the other man insisted. "Every time I put on the brakes
          I get that thumping sound, and all the talk in the world ain’t going to fix it."

          Gus fought a little battle with himself there on the doorstep. Here was his chance to
          show Angus that nothing took the place of know-how when it came to trouble-
          shooting in a mechanical problem. Still, this was his vacation and he’d sworn he
          wouldn’t touch a car except to drive it.

          He struggled—and lost. The doctor’s cock-sure attitude the night before had got his
          dander up. And besides, he had a professional curiosity about the thumping brakes.
          The combination was too much for him. He was hooked as surely as one of those trout
          he’d taken out of the lake the afternoon before. With a sigh of happy resignation, he
          walked toward the car.

          "I see you’re an early bird, too, Doc."

          Dr. Angus looked up with a frown and got to his feet. "Oh, it’s you, Mr. Wilson. Yes,
          up early and starting the day with a problem. This is Clem Lamson—the chap who’s
          having trouble with his brake drums."

          Gus smiled and nodded a hello. "Something wrong?" he inquired. "Perhaps I can give
          you a hand."

          "I hardly think you could be of much assistance in this case, Mr. Wilson," Dr. Angus
          said coolly. "The problem requires further analysis." (5 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

          Clem Lamson looked at Gus and back to the doctor. "Let’s tell him, anyhow."

          Dr. Angus spread his hands. "No harm in that, I suppose. I finished the brake drums
          and we put them back on the car last evening before supper. But now Clem claims that
          his brakes make a thumping noise."

          "Where does it seem to come from?"

          "Can’t tell rightly," said Clem, "but it sounds like the left front wheel."

          "Mind if I try her out?" asked Gus.

          "Nope. Reckon your guess is as good as anybody’s. Let’s take a little spin."

          Gus drove, and the "little spin" proved that Clem was right. The thumping was there,
          all right, and Gus was sure it was coming from the left front wheel.

          Back at the lodge again, the doctor looked on in stony silence as Gus went over the left
          front end of the car carefully. He checked the tie rods—nothing there. He examined the
          chassis and motor mounts.

          "Got a jack handy, Clem?" Gus asked.

          Clem opened the trunk and pulled one out.

          "Swell, let’s get this left front wheel off the ground. And Doc, could I borrow a wrench
          and some pliers?"

          "You may," Angus replied. He turned toward the lodge.

          By the time Clem and Gus had the wheel jacked up the doctor was back with a good-
          sized tool box.

          After the wheel had been removed, Gus took off the grease cap, pulled the cotter pin
          and backed off the nut that held the hub and brake-drum assembly on the spindle. Then
          he slowly pulled the assembly off, turned it over and inspected the bearings.

          "Nothing wrong there," he announced glumly. "Well, we’d better give the brake
          assembly a going over." (6 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

          While Clem and the Doc watched, Gus checked the whole brake assembly—springs,
          wheel cylinder, hydraulic lines. He had just about made up his mind that he was on the
          wrong track when he happened to run his fingers over the lining on one of the brake
          shoes. Then he quickly picked up the drum and felt its inner surface.

          Just at that point, the screen door to the lodge popped open. "Thought we had an early
          breakfast date before some fishing, Gus," Bill Plummer called.

          "Be with you in a minute, Bill." Gus turned to Angus. "Look, Doc, I think if you’ll
          chuck this drum assembly in your lathe and polish the inside of the drum with steel
          wool, Clem’s troubles’ll be over. I’ll join after I’ve had some breakfast."

          About a half-hour later, as he and Bill Plummer walked into the living room, they
          heard a car going off down the road. A moment later Dr. Angus walked in.

          "Well, Mr. Wilson, I followed your suggestion and it worked. Clem has road-tested his
          car and there isn’t a sign of a noise. Would you be good enough to explain it?"

          Gus walked over to an old phonograph in the corner of the room and picked up a
          record. "Here, feel this." He ran his finger over the grooves. The doctor took the record
          and solemnly followed Gus’s example.

          "You see," Gus continued, "when you turned down Clem’s brake drums your lathe tool
          left a groove similar to this on the surface of the drum. It was almost invisible, and on
          some brakes, it wouldn’t have mattered, but on Clem’s it did."

                              "And why was that?"
                              "Because the brakes on Clem’s car have the ‘floating’
                              type of brake shoes. They

          aren’t anchored, but have play. As a result the grooves left by your lathe tool literally
          screwed the shoes out to a point where they’d suddenly snap out to a point where
          they’d suddenly snap back in again and thump against the inside of the hub."

          The doctor thought for a moment. "Why didn’t the same thing happen on the right
          wheel? I turned that drum down, too."

          Gus held up his two hands. "One right and one left," he said. "The groove on the right
          wheel was reversed so it forced the brake shoes in rather than out, and in is their
          normal position. Result—no thump."
          For the first time since they’d met, Gus saw the doctor smile. The smile grew until you
          could call it an honest-to-goodness grin. (7 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Goes Fishing and Gets Hooked

          "I want to thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson, Mr. Wilson," Dr. Angus said
          warmly. "You know, you possess rather remarkable analytical powers, but I suspect
          you also have a good deal of that ‘practical knowledge and experience’ you spoke of
          last night. So you win our little argument after all. Would you mind telling me what
          line of business you’re in?"

          "Not at all." Gus grinned. "Most of the year I run a garage. But right now I’m a full-
          time fisherman. How about joining Bill Plummer and me this morning?"

          "Why, I believe I will. By the way, Mr. Wilson, I have a theory about angling--"

          "Whoa—don’t tell me," Gus broke in hurriedly. "Let’s not analyze that. Might spoil
          the fun. Come on, Doc, let’s go catch us a mess of trout."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (8 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:00 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the June, 1952 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

                                        Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

                                          A little English sports car with a bee
                                               under its bonnet breaks up
                                              Gus’s quiet Sunday morning.

          The knocking on the door sounded far away, coming from some remote corner of a
          dream. Gus Wilson rolled over and buried his head in the pillow, but the knocks came
          again, insistent and louder. Gus struggled up to a sitting position and squinted at the
          old alarm clock by his bed. It was seven a.m. and Sunday.

          "Come back this afternoon!" he called out.

          "It’s urgent."
          Gus groaned. "Okay, okay. Just a second."

          He muttered his way into a beat-up bathrobe, slid his feet into slippers and scuffed to
          the door. A big man with a fiery red mustache stood in the hallway.

          "I say, I’m terribly sorry to disturb you at this beastly hour, Mr. Wilson, but I’m in a
          bit of a fix!"

          Gus blinked, and wondered foggily what an Englishman was doing at his door.

          "C’mon in." He motioned to a chair and plugged in the hot plate.


          "Thank you, no. C.T.V. Pinkerton is my name. Everyone I spoke to in town
          recommended your work. You see, the sports-car races up at Wicker Creek Road start
          in just two hours, and my MG is acting strangely. Mr. Wilson, money is no
          consideration. I’ll pay whatever you ask. I just jolly well don’t want to miss that race!"

          Gus was feeling a little better as he sipped a cup of coffee. "Well, let me get my
          clothes on and we’ll have a look. What time did you say the race starts?"

          "The race itself begins at 10. But qualifying trials start at nine, and they’re part of the
          entry requirements."
          Not quite two hours, and Wicker Creek Road was 15 miles north of town. Gus dressed
          hurriedly and they went downstairs. (2 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

          The brilliant red Mg squatted low at the curb. It was an older model, a TC, and its
          jaunty length of hod, spoke wheels and continental flavor were something to admire.
          Gus lifted one side of the hood.

          "What seems to be wrong, Mr. Pinkerton?"
          "Well, while I was driving slowly through a small town south of here, she started
          spitting and missing. The beggar acted cold, and was actually running warm!"
          Pinkerton started the engine, and the exhaust rumbled smoothly.

          "Now listen to that, will you? She runs fine now. That’s the way it’s been going. Good
          one moment, bad the next."

          Gus checked the plug leads, the distributor connections and didn’t find anything loose.
          On the other side, he studied the twin carburetors.

          "All I’ve found so far is a small radiator hose leak. When was the last time you had the
          carbs cleaned and adjusted?"

          "Just the day before yesterday. Tried a spare set of plugs, too. No improvement."

          "Okay. Let’s take her down to the shop."

          They drove to the Model Garage and before long Gus was reading dials on the engine
          tester. There was nothing abnormal.

          "Look at that. The vacuum gauge shows 21 inches of mercury. That’s good in any
          language. So, with time short, all we can do now is take her out on the road. Just drive
          as you did last night."


          At the edge of town, Pinkerton began stepping hard on the accelerator. Gus watched
          the needle slide up until it hung on the upper lip of 80.

          "How fast do you turn a racing course, Mr. Pinkerton?"

          "Depends. I understand it’s a two-and-a-half-mile course at Wicker Creek. I should
          judge about two minutes or so. The hotter machines, Jaguars and Allards, for example,
          do it in much less."

          Gus pictured the narrow twisting little road that circled the picnic grounds. (3 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

          "That fast?"

          "Oh yes. These beggars hang on in the corners like footprints in soft asphalt. Allow me
          to demonstrate."

          Gus grabbed his seat and tried not to believe the turn he saw cutting sharply to the

          Pinkerton twisted the wheel, the tires began to scream and the car leaned slightly. Gus
          waited for the inevitable loss of control, the spin—but the MG hung on and stayed
          with it like Grandma LuLu Belle out for a 15-mile-an-hour drive in her Teaboiler

          The Englishman’s luxuriant mustache blew about widely in the windstream as he
          turned to observe Gus’s reaction. "See?"

          Gus didn’t attempt a reply. He kept a deathlike grip on the seat as they sped through
          several more turns. The engine didn’t change a note.

          "It’s making a blinking liar out of me!"

          The road led steeply down to another turn before rising over the next hill. Off the road,
          beyond the sharpness of the turn, was another MG, wrapped around a tree . . .

          "I say!" Pinkerton squealed to a stop.

          A girl was trying to move the driver from behind the wheel, crying as she tugged at the
          unconscious man. Then she caught sight of them and ran toward the car. "Please help
          us!" she pleaded. "My brother, he’s been hurt--"

          Pinkerton lent a hand, and when they got him on the grass, looked him over carefully.

          "Nasty rap on the head. We should get him to a hospital right away."

          "How’d it happen?" Gus asked the girl.

          "Some fool forced us off the road. Wish I had his number. Bob tried to avoid him and--
          " She broke down again.

          "Look, miss, get in my car. In the center on the drive shaft. We’ll carry your brother
          over, put him in the seat, and you hold him as steady as you can." (4 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

          "Hold on," Gus put in. "I’m not so sure we should move this man at all. We’d better go
          get a doctor and an ambulance."

          With an obvious effort at control, the girl turned to Gus. "Please, please," she begged.
          "Let’s not waste time—let’s get him to a hospital as fast as we can."

          "I’ll drive carefully, old boy," Pinkerton added. "And the delay might be dangerous,
          too, you know."

          Against his better judgment, Gus gave in.

          They eased the injured man into the car. Gus unsnapped the cover over the luggage
          deck and kneeled sideways in the narrow space. Pinkerton turned the car around and
          started back toward town.

          "You were on your way to compete in the races?" Pinkerton asked the girl.

          "Yes. We were headed there when the accident happened. My name is Lindy Walton .
          . . Can’t we hurry?"

          Pinkerton let it out gradually to 60 and held it there. Gus leaned low over the back of
          the seat and concentrated on the instrument panel. Oil pressure, 30 pounds.
          Temperature, 174 degrees. Oil pressure, temperature. . . .All of a sudden he had an

          The familiar brick walls of the hospital came into view. Pinkerton rolled to a stop at
          the emergency entrance and they carried the injured man inside.

          The nurse checked the pupils of his eyes and his pulse while Lindy explained what had
          happened. Then two attendants wheeled him down the hall.

          "Dr. Barton will look him over right away." The nurse put a reassuring hand on the
          girl’s arm. "I’m pretty sure he’s not seriously hurt. We’d better have the doctor check
          you over too, young lady. Meanwhile, try to relax. It won’t be long."

          Gus and Pinkerton sat with Lindy in tense silence as the wall clock measured the slow
          minutes. Then footsteps along the corridor, and Dr. Barton, white-haired and brisk,
          walked in. "He’s all right—just shaken up. Better leave him here for a few days." He
          smiled at Lindy. "Your brother has come around and he seems quite concerned about
          something—you’ll probably understand. He said, ‘Tell Lindy to let me know who
          wins.’" (5 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

          Lindy laughed in sudden relief. "Oh, yes, yes. I know what he meant. And thank you
          so much, Doctor." She turned to Gus and the Englishman. "You’ve both been
          wonderful. I can’t tell you how much I--"

          Pinkerton harrumphed politely and Gus said they were glad they had come along when
          they did. "I’ll let you know about the race," he grinned, "just as soon as I can."

          When they got back to the car, Gus checked his watch. Eight-thirty.

          "I thought of something when we were on the road. Let’s get back to the garage."

          Pinkerton tugged at the starter pull. The engine caught, rose to idling speed and then
          fell into a rumba-like hit-and-miss rhythm. "I never thought I’d be glad to hear that."

          Gus lifted the hood and listened. "What’s normal oil pressure in this car?"

          "Around 60. This type of oil filter doesn’t have a by-pass to keep pressure up when it
          becomes congested. Mine is overdue to be changed. The dealer in Long Island was out
          of them, but he said 30 pounds was safe enough for the race."

          Gus cocked his ear at one carburetor and then the other. "Listen to the rear one."

          Pinkerton leaned down and put his ear close. "Slight whistling noise."

          "That’s your trouble. Right behind the carburetor. It’s your intake manifold. Come on,
          we’ll get you in that race yet."

          Pinkerton rapped through town while Gus explained.

          "Back on the road, I got to thinking about overheating in engines. The fact that your oil
          filter needs changing, plus that small hose leak, has made your engine run warmer than
          it normally should. Every time you get caught in slow-moving traffic, or do any hill
          driving in low gear, the temperature is naturally going to go up. It rises sharply when
          you turn the motor off, because the water and oil that normally cool the engine aren’t
          moving. Now, overheating doesn’t necessarily do the engine any harm, and there’s
          always heat expansion in most parts of a motor. But in this case, the soft metal of your
          intake manifold didn’t expand uniformly. It warped slightly and started sucking air.
          That weakens your mixture in that carburetor, throwing it out of tune with the other,
          and the engine runs rough."

          "Why doesn’t it run rough all the time, then?" (6 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

          "Well, the thing isn’t badly warped yet, and the gasket takes care of it as long as the
          engine is running at a fairly cool temperature. But when it warms up a little, the metal
          expands more, and that opening is enlarged. The gasket fails to function, and you have
          an air leak."

          Back at the Model Garage, Gus filed the intake facing smooth, and they drove like a
          four-wheel stampede to Wicker Creek Road, reaching the races just in time to run a
          qualifying lap. Then Gus settled back and watched Pinkerton settle onto the starting

          There was a short, electric silence . . . then the sharp crack of the starting gun. The
          thundering roar of the unmuffled engines rose to the treetops, and the race was on. The
          cars howled to the first turn with tire-screaming acceleration and vanished from sight.

          Gus listened to the whine of the high r.p.m. as the cars hit the far side of the course. He
          crossed his fingers.

          The cars rounded the hairpin at the beginning of the straightaway and left rubber on
          the road as they went through the gears. The bigger roadsters shot by, an Allard, two
          Jaguars, and an Italian Ferrari fighting their separate battle. The road was clear for a
          few seconds . . . and then a red MG came out of the corner in a four-wheel slide. It was
          Pinkerton leading his class! The next MG followed 20 seconds behind.

          Lap after lap, Pinkerton held the lead and Gus began to worry. It was stiff punishment
          for both car and driver. And then there was that oil filter—only 30 pounds pressure for
          a thirsty, straining engine.

          The air began to vibrate with excitement; something was going on, but his vision was
          blocked by a sudden shift in the straining crowd. Before he could squeeze to the ropes,
          the race was over.

          After a few minutes, he found Pinkerton in his pit, calmly downing a bottle of pop.

          "Oh, there you are Mr. Wilson. How’d you like the race?"

          "Fine. But that oil filter—how did it--"

          "It held up. But what are you so jittery about, old chap? The Allard and I shared the
          laurels! Thanks to you, I won!" (7 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Road Racer

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (8 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:01 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

                                              By Martin Bunn

                               From the March, 1952 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

                                        Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

           It was dark when Gus Wilson left the movie and turned into the narrow alley that led
           to the parking lot. Suddenly, from up ahead, he heard a shrill female voice.

           "I just can’t understand you, Ned. You spend money like we were millionaires. The
           old one was perfectly good, but no, you had to go and squander hard-earned cash on a
           new one. And now look what you got. Tomorrow morning you’re going to take it right
           in to those people and demand your money back . . ."

           Gus didn’t have to see the woman’s face; he recognized the voice—it was Abigail
           Thorton giving her long-suffering husband, Ned, the usual oral going-over. In
           business, Ned Thorton was an aggressive go-getter—the town’s top real-estate
           man—but when it came to Abigail he was just a timid soul. "Oh, I let her rant," he had
           once told Gus, rather sheepishly. "She seems to enjoy it."

           As Gus got into his car, he could still hear Abigail’s strident tones piercing the night.

           Gus had just finished checking the gas tanks at the Model Garage the next morning
           when a shiny gray sedan rolled up to a stop. Gus didn’t recognize the car, but he knew
           the driver. It was Ned Thorton.

           "Hi, Ned," Gus greeted him, sympathetically recalling the previous night’s incident.
           He walked around the car, admiringly. "I see the real-estate business is good."

           "Sure, sure," Thorton replied glumly. "The fact is, Gus, I just had to get a new car. The
           old buggy was eating up gas, and besides, you can’t drive prospects around in an old
           beat-up jalopy."

           "Well, you sure got yourself a beauty. Get a good trade?"

           "Thought so when I made it. But now I’m not so sure."

           "Why? What’s the matter?" Gus asked him.

           "Plenty." Thorton grumbled. "Ever since the 500-mile check she’s been using even
           more gas than the old bus, and she stalls just about every time I stop in traffic."

           "Had it back to the dealer again?"

           "At least a half-dozen times. They’ve tested and worked on it, and each time they’ve (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

           claimed there’s nothing wrong."
           "But they should make good on it."
           "Oh, Gus, not you too," groaned Thorton. "Abigail’s been needling me about that for
           days now. She—ah—objected to my spending money on a new car"—Gus thought
           that was putting it mildly—"but that’s not the half of it. You know that big tract of
           undeveloped land that belongs to the hospital, out on the south road?"

           Gus nodded.

           "Well, one of the big steel companies is interested in it. Two of their top real-estate
           experts are due here on the 12:08 to look it over as a possible site for a new plant."

           "Something big?" asked Gus.

           "Big is right. They want at least a hundred acres. If I can put this deal over, it’ll be a
           break for everyone—the hospital can use the money, and jobs for a couple of hundred
           people certainly wouldn’t hurt this town."

           "Plus a nice fat commission for Ned Thorton," Gus added with a grin.

           "Right," Thorton agreed cheerfully, "and if I ever needed to make an impression and
           have things run smoothly, it’s today. Fat chance, though, with that," he added, jerking
           his head toward the new car. "I won’t even be able to get those men from the station to
           the country club for lunch without stalling a dozen times."

           Gus climbed into the car and started the engine. It caught easily and ran smoothly.

           "Oh, sure, she runs fine until she warms up." Thorton explained in answer to Gus’s
           quizzical look. "Then the first time you slow down for traffic or stop for a light, she

           "What’s the dealer’s mechanic done on it?"

           "Well, first off, he thought it was vapor lock, but he gave up on that. Then he checked
           the distributor and adjusted the points. Finally, he put on an entirely new
           carburetor—said the original one had a bad float."

           "Make any difference?"

           "Not one bit. That’s why I’ve given up trying to get them to do anything about it. I’d
           rather pay you and get it done right." (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

           Gus looked at his watch. "It’s just 9:15 now," he said. "If you’ll--"

           "Holy smokes. Is it that late already? The Stevens boys are due at my office in 15
           minutes. They want to look at the old Davis house."

           "Well, hop in," said Gus. "I’ll drive you down. It’ll give me a chance to see how she
           runs. Then I’ll bring it back here and try to find the bug."

           The car performed beautifully on the way to town and Gus got Thorton to his office in
           plenty of time. "I’ll do my best to have it for you by noon." Gus called after him.

           The trip back to the Model Garage wasn’t quite so uneventful, however. At the first
           traffic light, the engine died. Gus had a hard time coaxing it back into action again. A
           few blocks farther on, when Gus braked for a stop sign, it died again. Under load it
           seemed to run perfectly—but idling, it had a definite tendency to choke up and conk

           "Acts as if the choke were pulled all the way out," thought Gus as he pulled into the

           "Hi, boss," young Stan Hicks called as Gus cut the engine. "Whose new buggy?"

           "Ned Thorton’s," replied Gus. "It stalls every time you stop and I’ve only got till noon
           to try and find out what’s wrong."

           Gus’s hunch about the choke proved to be a dud. The carburetor seemed in top
           condition. A run-through of the ignition system failed to turn up anything either. And
           when Gus dollied his test rig up beside the car, Stan knew that the boss’s hunches
           weren’t paying off.

           "Troubles?" he inquired.

           "It’s a funny thing, Stan, but I always hate to work on a brand-new car. With the old
           clunkers, you generally know what to look for because you know what’s apt to wear
           out. But on a new job, you expect everything to be perfect, so where do you look?"

           Just as Gus finished hooking up the test rig and was about to start up the engine, the
           office phone rang.

           In a few seconds Stan was back. "It’s Mrs. Thorton, Gus. She wants to know if their
           car is here and when it’ll be ready." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

           "What’d you tell her?"

           "I had to tell her it was here. She’s still on the phone. Says she’s got to have the car by
           11 o’clock so she can drive to the city for a big bargain sale."

           "Oh, blast that female!" Gus exploded, with unaccustomed severity. "Doesn’t she
           know Ned needs this car if I can get it ready for him? Stall her off, tell her
           anything—tell her it won’t be ready before late this afternoon."

           It was quite a few minutes later when Stan finally came back into the shop. He gave a
           low whistle. "Boy—can that old gal beat her gums! I couldn’t get a word in."

           "Did you stall her?" asked Gus without taking his eyes off the test gauges.

           "Sorry, boss, I couldn’t," replied Stan apologetically. "The last thing she said before
           she hung up on me was that she was gonna call a cab and come over and sit right here
           until the car was ready."

           "Brother, that’s all I need. Here, you disconnect that fuel pump. I’ve got a phone call
           to make."

           When Gus returned, he was grinning from ear to ear. "Well, that takes care of that."

           "Takes care of what?"

           "Abigail Thorton," Gus said as he picked up the fuel pump and began examining it. "I
           just called Jim Staid who runs the hack stand. He’s gonna stall her as long as he can by
           taking his time with that cab. Now if I can only get this car to run."

           Gus turned the fuel pump over and over with his hands. "Stan," he said thoughtfully at
           last, "want to get me another fuel-pump gasket just like this one?"

           When Stan came back from the stock room, Gus took both gaskets, put them space on
           the pump housing one on top of the other like a sandwich, and began bolting the
           assembly back onto the side of the crankcase. Then, when he had recoupled the fuel
           lines, he pushed the starter button. After a dozen or so turns, the engine took off and
           settled into a smooth idle.

           "I think that’s got it," said Gus. "Close the hood, Stan, and I’ll test-run her on the road.
           If she’s okay, I can drop her off at Thorton’s office in plenty of time for him to meet
           that train." (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

           "Hey!" shouted Stan as Gus started the back the car out of the shop. "What do I do
           when that terrible-tempered Mrs. Thorton shows up?"

           "That, Stan, is your problem."

           Half an hour later, Gus was walking back to the garage. Ned Thorton’s car had run
           perfectly—it hadn’t balked at a single traffic light even after it had warmed up—and
           the real estate man had been jubilant when Gus handed the car over to him at exactly
           11:40. Stan was sitting in the garage office, feet propped up on the desk, when Gus
           walked in.

           "Mrs. Thorton been here yet?"

           "Come and gone," Stan replied smugly, running his nails on his shirt front, then
           inspecting them critically.

           "How’d you get rid of her?"

           "Well, the poor woman seemed so upset about not having the car to drove her to that
           sale down in the city that I told her to take yours."

           "You what!" bellowed Gus.

           Stan’s feet came down off the desk with a slam. "Hold it, boss, don’t blow a valve."
           He grinned. "I was just kidding—your car’s still out back where you left it. What I
           really told her was that the thyrostrat on the automatic sensigear wasn’t
           synchrophased, and that you had to tow the car to the dealer’s place to have it duo-
           timed. That seemed to satisfy her. She stomped off muttering something about how
           she’d told Ned that her car was a lemon and now she had proof."
           Gus chuckled. "For once, your double talk paid off."

           "Say, what was really wrong with the car?" asked Stan. "You took off so fast I didn’t
           get a chance to find out."

           "High fuel pressure," explained Gus. "It was about double what it should’ve been. On
           cold starts, that didn’t matter too much—the engine could take it—but after it got
           warmed up the extra gas would choke it out at idling speeds."

           "How did an extra gasket on the fuel pump fix that?"

           "It moved the pump housing out a bit and shortened the stroke of the pump arm. That (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets a High-Pressure Job

           cut down the pressure. I’ve a hunch that when Thorton took the car in for its 500-mile
           check, the mechanic discovered an oil leak around the flange of the pump and when he
           replaced the gasket he used one only about half as thick as it should’ve been. That
           lengthened the stroke of the pump arm and hiked up the pressure."

           "Just like I told Mrs. Thorton," said Stan. "It was a simple case of crossed wires to the
           thyrostrat that caused a loss of power."

           "Well, I don’t know anything about thyrostrats," grinned Gus, "but how about you
           applying your power to that grease job out on the rack—and keeping your fingers
           crossed that Ned Thorton clinches that real-estate deal for the hospital. And you might
           try crossing your toes, too. Maybe that’ll help save Ned’s skin when he shows up at
           home tonight and Abigail finds out he had the car all afternoon."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:02 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch

                                               By Martin Bunn

                           From the October, 1952 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch

                                                   Gus Gets the Pitch

                             "Hurry, hurry, hurry!" spieled the carnival pitchmen,
                                  but the Model Garageman kept stalling as
                                        mysteriously as their new car.

           A horn honked impatiently outside the Model Garage.

           "I’ll get it," Gus called back to Stan Hicks, his helper. "You’d better stick with that
           valve job for Mr. Landsdowne."

           Two cars were parked out on the concrete by the gasoline pumps. A frayed knotted
           tow rope linked them. Gus recognized the tow car as the battered coupe belonging to
           old Jim Barstow who ran a sizable farm about 10 miles out of town. The car being
           towed looked as if it had just left the showroom.

           "Got customers for ya," greeted Barstow, as he unhooked a piece of baling wire and
           pushed open his door. "Broke down on the road by my back 10. Happened to be
           cultivatin’ and offered to tow ‘em in."

           "Thanks, Jim."
           "Yep, that’s the trouble with these new-fangled buggies," Barstow rambled on. "Too
           many gadgets to get out of kilter. Well, I’ll be seein’ ya."

           He tossed the tow rope into his car and clattered off down the road.

           "Quite a character," said Gus with a chuckle to the two riders in the new car. "Now,
           how did your car happen to stall?"

           "Just stalled, that’s all," said the big man behind the wheel, in a voice like a saw
           sharpening a file.

           "Yeah," echoed a small man sitting beside him, in equally rasping tones. "We were
           breezin’ along in fine style when all of a sudden no motor. It was like Chick, here, had
           turned off the ignition. I says to Chick--"

           "Can the spiel, Sparks. We got no time for chatter. Let’s get the car fixed and hit the
           road." He turned to Gus. "We’re pitchmen, mister—you know, spielers—for the big
           carnival that’s opening in the city and we gotta be there tonight to help stake out our
           act. Think you can help us in a hurry?" (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch

           "Try to," said Gus.

           The big man eased his bulk out of the car and Gus slid in under the wheel. There was
           plenty of gas. The mileage showed less than 1,200—the car still had that new smell
           about it. But nothing would coax even a cough out of the engine.

           "Let’s push her into the shop," Gus said after a few tries, "where I can put some test
           instruments on her."

           "Now, wait a minute,’ the man called Chick said. "This should be an easy thing to fix.
           I know a little about cars myself. It’s plain enough that the engine just ain’t getting any
           gas. Trouble’s obviously somewhere in the carburetor, the fuel pump or the feed line.
           You ought to be able to find it there quick enough. We ain’t got time for a fancy tune-
           up, so just check the fuel system and get us moving as quick as you can, huh?"

           "You may be right," returned Gus evenly. "But I have to look a car over before I can
           spot the trouble."

           "Okay, okay, let’s get her inside."

           The three men, with Gus reaching in through the driver’s window to steer, soon had
           the car parked beside Gus’s bench.

           "Ever had any trouble before?" asked Gus.

           "Nope," answered Chick curtly.

           "Been in a repair shop for a check-up?"

           As Gus rolled his test panel over, the pitchman moved away and began to pace the
           garage nervously. His little sidekick placed right along with him. They seemed to be
           discussing something important in confidential tones. Gus began checking the ignition
           system—he felt sure the trouble was there somewhere.

           After a few minutes, the little guy, Sparks called out: "Making any progress, Pop?" He
           looked at a potato-size gold watch anchored to his vest by a heavy gold chain.

           Gus ignored the little spieler and kept about his work of checking every wire and
           connection. On the surface everything seemed perfect, yet the ignition system was
           completely dead. The test rig bore him out. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch

           There was only one thing to do, check each unit separately, so Gus started out with the
           battery leads.

           "Got an oversize battery in here, haven’t you?" he asked, tapping the case with the tip
           of his screwdriver.

           "Yeah, yeah," Chick said shortly. "Do a lot of cold-weather driving . . . But never mind
           that. Haven’t you located the trouble yet?"
           Gus was checking the distributor now and he had an odd gleam in his eye. "Listen,
           mister," he said finally, "give me a little time, will you? This engine is new to
           me—I’ve never worked on a model like it before."

           Over in the corner of the garage where he was working on the Landsdowne car, Stan
           glanced up in surprise. What did Gus mean by saying he wasn’t familiar with that car?
           Doc Hanson had one just like it and they’d had it in the shop for a tune-up only last
           week. Gus’s voice sounded funny, too—kind of Milquetoasty, as if he were extra
           anxious to please the big loud-talking pitchman.

           But it seemed to suit Chick. For the first time he sounded almost genial when he said,
           "Well, all right, old-timer, but shake it up, will you? We’re busy men and time’s a-

           Ten minutes later, after several trips to the stock room, Gus snapped the distributor cap
           into place and slid into the driver’s seat. The engine started up smoothly.

           "I’ll just road-test it," he called out to the pitchmen and backed the car quickly out of
           the shop. Both men started to protest that they couldn’t spare the time, but Gus was
           already headed down the road.

           When Gus got back to the garage, he was greeted by two red-faced, fuming men, who,
           judging from the look on Stan Hicks’ face, had been venting their anger on him.

           "What’s the idea?" Chick shouted. "You knew what a hurry we’re in!"

           "No idea. Just routine in this shop. We don’t like customers to get a few miles down
           the road and find that what we thought we’d fixed isn’t right after al. Matter of fact,
           she needs one more minor adjustment." Gus popped open the hood again. "Stan, come
           over here a minute. I’ve got a job for you." Gus whispered briefly. Stan nodded and
           left the garage.

           After a few minutes, Gus closed the hood again. "There she is, boys, as good as new.
           That’ll be $12.50." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch

           "Well, it’s about time," snapped Chick. The little fellow was already in the car when
           the big guy slid in and started backing out. Suddenly he stopped. "Hey," he yelled, "get
           that grease monkey of yours to back that tow truck out of the driveway. How in blazes
           do you expect me to back out?"

           Stan climbed up into the driver’s seat and started the engine. As the tow truck eased
           back out of the way it revealed a state police car also parked crosswise of the entrance.

           Sgt. Jerry Corcoran was standing in front of it with his right hand resting firmly on the
           butt of his gun.

           "Okay, you fellows," ordered Jerry, "might as well make it easy for all of us. Slide out
           of the car with your hands in back of your heads."
           At that moment, two more state cops appeared from behind the tow truck and had
           handcuffs on the startled pair before they knew what was happening.

           "Thanks a million, Gus," said Jerry, after he’d herded the handcuffed pair into their
           own car with a trooper at the wheel and another in the back seat. Then he climbed into
           the police car and started the engine.

           "What gives with the carnival guys?" asked Stan as he and Gus watched the two-car
           caravan pull away. "Fleece a local yokel at the last stand?"

           "Nothing as simple as that," said Gus. "That car of theirs has more built-in secret
           compartments than a Chinese puzzle chest."

           "Jewel smugglers?"

           "Dope peddlers."

           "Then they weren’t really carnival men at all."

           "Sure they were. They’ve been using that as a front to sell dope to local peddlers
           around the country. That car of theirs is a rolling narcotics warehouse."

           "Gosh, how did you spot it?"

           "Well, if the trouble hadn’t been in the ignition I probably wouldn’t have stumbled on
           it. In checking it over on the first go-around, it seemed as if everything was
           oversize—the battery, the oil cleaner, even the coil. Incidentally, the trouble was in the (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch


           "What was it?"

           "You know that small carbon brush in the center terminal of the distributor cap that
           serves as the contract for the spring on top of the rotor?"

           Stan nodded.

           "Well, it had cracked and a piece of it had dropped down into the breaker-arm
           assembly. It was shorting out the breaker arm, and keeping the breaker points from
           closing, too."
           "What was suspicious about that?"

           "Nothing. But after I dislodged the piece and began replacing the broken brush with a
           new one, the coil caught my eye. I noticed that it seemed higher than most. I twisted
           the top and it came off in my hands. The outer shell was a very neat dummy. Inside
           was a standard coil and wedged in around it were dozens of tiny white paper packets."

           "And that’s when you decided to road-test the car," put in Stan.

           "Right. I wanted Jerry and the boys at the barracks to back me up. The paper packets
           contained dope, all right—‘uncut heroin’ they said—and a concealed drawer at the
           back end of the battery case was filled with marijuana. What the narcotics boys’ll find
           when they really go to work on it is anybody’s guess."

           "Nice haul for Jerry," said Stan.

           "Oh, both the state and the federal boys knew that some syndicate was doing a fast job
           of distributing dope around the country, but they didn’t know about this car. Now they
           think there might be more than one, part of a big network run by some mechanically
           minded guy who thought up this gimmick of stashing the dope away in car parts rather
           than under the seats and in built-in compartments cops are wise to."

           "But wouldn’t any wise mechanic like you catch on?"
           "They probably have their own garage where they go for repairs, most likely the same
           place where the changes are made. Fortunately, the mechanic, whoever he is, cracked
           that distributor brush." Gus grinned. "And maybe you noticed that I played kind of

           "You sure did. Maybe you ought to be in show business yourself." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Gets the Pitch

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:03 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

                                              By Martin Bunn

                         From the September, 1952 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

                                               Gus Pulls a Trick Play

                                To Jefferson High, marooned in the Model Garage
                                with a busted bus, that opening game meant more
                                    than the Rose Bowl . . . It was no time for
                                             Gus to fumble the ball.

           It was not a morning for working, not that morning on that bright, crisp edge of
           September. Perhaps it was the pungent trace of wood smoke and burning leaves
           spicing the air. Gus Wilson breathed deep as he lowered the lube rack. Whatever that
           intangible ingredient was, it had no effect on the Model Garage. Saturday morning was
           as busy as ever.

           Gus backed the old Essex off the rack and rolled it out to the side of the garage to
           make room. It was then that he noticed a big school bus being pushed past his gas
           pumps by a bunch of big husky teen-age boys.

           "That’s far enough fellows." An older man, who seemed to be in charge, wiped his
           forehead with a hand that left a greasy smear, and grimaced at Gus.

           "I’d be glad to let you have this heap for a thin two bits!"

           "I’ll take it," Gus grinned. "But what seems to be the trouble?"

           "Trouble isn’t the word for it! It’s ten now, and in three hours Jefferson High is
           supposed to play the first football game of the year. I’m the coach. We’re scheduled to
           meet Greeley Prep at Millrace Corners, and that’s 50 miles from here. Now I get
           halfway there and this bus starts acting up again!"

           "Again?" Gus asked.

           "Yes, it’s the fourth time she’s gone dead, and don’t tell me I need a new fuel pump!
           Joe Barnes, the regular driver who ferries the kids during the week, says it’s happened
           three times during the last week and they put in three new fuel pumps and one
           carburetor. Now it’s done it again!"

           "Well, what seems to be wrong with it?"
           "Only one thing is definite. Fuel isn’t reaching the carburetor. Yeah, I know! It sounds
           like a fuel pump!"

           Gus shrugged his shoulders and opened up the hood. "You’re right. It does." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

           Gus was aware of the tense, impatient interchange of worried glances among the little
           group of football players who crowded around him as he checked the carburetor. He
           worked slowly and surely, thinking about the boys, and how disappointed they’d be if
           their opening game had to be canceled.

           "You guys are mighty anxious to get to this game, aren’t you? What positions do you

           The boy at Gus’s left shoulder, a wiry keen-looking youngster, spoke up.

           "Well, I’m Tom Kendall, sir. Fullback. And this is Willy Horton, halfback, Herby
           Ashton, center, and old B-B—I mean Bud Black. He makes the extra points with his
           educated toe."

           "A lot of good that toe’ll be if we don’t even get there," the coach groaned. "I can see
           it now. Paul Thompson. Stenciled on a cot at the poorhouse!" He said it facetiously,
           but Gus detected a serious note beneath the attempt at humor.

           "Why do you say that?"

           "Jefferson takes football seriously. There’s a great deal of school pride involved. And
           we won one game last year! The school board, the alumni, all of them are after my
           hide. If I don’t pull something out of the bag this year, well . . ." He let it go at that.

           Gus finished with the carburetor. There was nothing wrong with it. As the coach had
           said, gasoline wasn’t getting that far.

           He pulled a wrench out of his dungarees and disconnected the line from the carburetor
           to the fuel pump. But it, too, was perfectly okay.

           "Let’s try the rear section of fuel line leading from the tank."

           "Can’t you hurry? It’s 10:15 already!"

           "If I go any faster, I might overlook something. Just take it easy."

           "Easy! It’ll take an hour and a half in this traffic to get there. Fifteen minutes for the
           boys to change and ten minutes to talk ‘em into the right mood!"

           "Why not let them change right now in the garage while they’re waiting?" Gus
           suggested. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

           "Swell idea!" Coach Thompson looked more cheerful as he rounded up his players and
           shooed them inside. "Hop to it, men!"

           While the team tramped noisily into the Model Garage, Gus finished dismantling the
           fuel line running from tank to pump and tested it for obstructions and leaks. There
           were none.

           The outlet on the gas tank, where the fuel line connected, was not blocked. And the
           tank was almost half full.

           He reconnected the line and scratched his head. Then he remembered.

           "Forgot about your filter. Sometimes they get overloaded with silt."

           "If it was that, why would it run perfectly for a couple of days at a clip after those
           other mechanics put new pumps in?"
           "Well, might as well check it anyway. Never can tell."

           He removed the small bowl with its fine-mesh copper screen and found a minimum of
           silt in the bottom. That was that . . . and he was right back where he started. It was
           such a simple thing, there being nothing complicated between gas tank and carburetor.
           The pump was the only item he hadn’t checked, and the reason he hadn’t torn it apart
           was that it was brand-new. The third new pump installed in a week, and he had been
           sure there was an outside cause, something else rather than pump failure. If not, then
           Thompson had been handed a mighty unlikely coincidence. That situation and the
           previous bunglings of other mechanics left him confronted with a delicate problem . . .

           In twos and threes the football players were trotting out now, looking bigger and more
           impressive in their uniforms, yelling cheerful insults to each other. They seemed to
           take it for granted that Gus would spot the trouble and get them started in time. Their
           confidence made Gus all the more anxious to see that they had their chance to play this
           opening game that meant so much to them . . . And there was Coach Thompson—he
           seemed like a pretty good egg after all, and his future might depend on whether his
           team played—and won—today. Gus held a lot of responsibility in his two grease-
           stained hands. He went back to work.

           When he stuck his head out from under the hood a couple of minutes later, Gus almost
           got conked by a flying football—two of the players were demonstrating their passing
           prowess—but he didn’t care. He felt he was getting close to a solution to the
           mystery—at least he knew what wasn’t wrong. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

           "Mr. Thompson, as you said, you aren’t getting gas to the carburetor, and yet your fuel
           lines are clear. You know what that leaves?"

           Paul Thompson’s face darkened. "The fuel pump! You’re going to suggest a new

           "I’m only telling you I’ve checked everything else that could keep fuel from reaching
           the carburetor. I’m going to take a look in spite of its being new."

           "Okay, go ahead. I only hope you have better results than those other birds!"

           "It never hurts to try! I’ll make it as quick as I can."

           Gus disconnected the fuel pump, carried it inside and began dismantling it. Thompson
           followed him into the garage. Gus emptied the gas and began looking.

           "At least the fuel got this far!"

           The diaphragm wasn’t worn. He hadn’t expected it to be, but on second glance, he
           noticed he could scrape some sort of residue off the diaphragm surface.

           "Funny thing, but it is your fuel pump!"

           "Oh, no!"

           "Sure. See this gummy stuff on the diaphragm? And look at these springs and valves.
           The gum locked the valves so that the gas wouldn’t pass on to the carburetor. The
           springs that actuate the valves haven’t got the freedom that they should have, and
           offhand I’d say it was coming from the diaphragm there. The diaphragms are coated to
           make them last longer, and that outer surface is flaking off."

           "I might expect one lemon, but not three in a row!"

           "Oh, it isn’t that. This is a perfectly satisfactory brand."

           "Well, what now?"

           "We’ve got to find a cause. It’s something the other mechanics didn’t bother checking,
           evidently. First, we’re going to look at your gas tank. Do you know if the regular
           driver has been using any gas tank additives—you know, canned tune ups, valve oils,
           anything like that?" (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

           "No, I’m sure of it. Nothing but high-octane."

           "I see. Some of these additives are okay and some are inclined to gum up the engines.
           All right, that’s one possibility eliminated."

           They went out and Gus opened the drain cock on the tank, letting the gas run into a
           couple of five-gallon cans. He watched the color down to the last drop. There was no
           sign of anything foreign.

           "See anything? It’s quarter to eleven . . ."

           Gus didn’t answer. He merely stared at the tank bottom.

           It had come from the tank, that gummy business. But what? The gas showed nice and
           clean. Then he noticed that the gas tank had been patched. He stared at the soldered
           seams. And suddenly he had it.

           "What happened to this tank?"

           "Scraped something in the road a couple of weeks ago and picked up a gash in the
           bottom. The driver had the boys in the metal shop patch it up. Why?"

           "Mr. Thompson, whoever did that patching job used an awful lot of solder on the
           seams. The soldering flux has been seeping out of the seams and mixing with the gas,
           getting as far as the fuel pump, the softening the coating on the diaphragm and creating
           that gummy stuff I showed you."

           "Can it be fixed?"

           "Sure. Let me put the pump to soak, and I’ll tell you what to do."

           He dropped the fuel pump into a pan of solvent, then took two cans off the shelf, made
           a mixture of the two liquids and poured it and the gas into the tank.

           "This is wood alcohol and acetone. It’ll neutralize that flux. Just tell the driver to add a
           pint of each to every five gallons of gas. In a week or so, I think the flux will have
           worked out."

           Gus finished up the job and looked at his watch. "Well, if you hurry, you can make the
           game on time. I hope you boys win." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Pulls a Trick Play

           Thompson paid up, shook Gus’s hand and hopped into the driver’s seat.

           The rest of the day fell into its normal pattern, and Gus was closing up when the phone

                             "This is Coach Thompson."
                             "What happened? You miss the game?"

           "Heck no! Take a look at your evening paper, and see what one of your local

           news photographers found. You got a paper?"

           "I think it just came. Hold the line."

           Gus found the paper and turned to the sports page. In a four-column photo he saw the
           scoreboard: seven-six for Jefferson.

           Gus picked up the receiver again. "Well, congratulations on your . . ." The photo
           caught his eye a second time. The rooting section—a card stunt—spelling out "GUS"
           in big, if somewhat ragged, letters.

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:04 PM]
Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1953 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:05 PM]
Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

                                          Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

                                    The Model Garageman swaps his fishing rod
                                     for a screwdriver to pry an obstacle from
                                                the path of true love.

          Gus Wilson was standing in the door of the Model Garage on a late August afternoon,
          wondering if he could close a mite early and get in a bit of fishing at the lake, when
          Glen Showalter drove up in his rattletrap International truck.

          Beside Glen sat pretty Enid Bishop, daughter of Sam Bishop, who ran a sizable grain
          farm a few miles out of town. Gus had known these youngsters from their beanie-cap
          days. He smiled up at them now with a broad grin, for he knew that Glen had been
          courting Enid for some time.

          "You’re looking prettier than ever, Enid," Gus greeted the girl. "Howdy, Glen. You got

          "Trouble’s no word for it." Glen’s face was lined with worry. "I’m supposed to be
          hauling grain away from Mr. Bishop’s combines, and this old tub won’t pull the hat off
          your head. Been fighting it all week ever since harvest began."

          Gus was on the point of asking Glen why he hadn’t brought the truck in before, but he
          checked the words. Everybody in town knew the kid didn’t have a nickel to his name.
          Glen had been reared by a widowed father, far up in the hills, on little more than a milk
          cow, a small garden, a pair of ragged overalls and a dirty shirt. The town had thought
          that the son would be like the father—honest enough, but content to neither sow nor

          Enid Bishop had changed that. Now, Glen was making a desperate gamble to get into
          business. He had bought the old International for a few dollars down, worked half the
          summer to get it into shape to haul grain by harvest time. Kind-hearted farmers had
          seen fit to give the kid a break. If the truck held together through harvest, Glen could
          earn enough to pay it off, trade it in on a better one and gradually work his way into a
          year-round trucking business.

          If the truck didn’t hold together? Gus looked into the eyes of Enid Bishop and had the
          answer. Two kids in love would find their dreams shattered. He cocked his ear to the
          motor, which was idling nicely.

          "Sounds all right to me, Glen," he said. (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:05 PM]
Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

          "That’s the tough part of it," Glen exploded. "I ground the valves, took up the bearings,
          installed new rings, and tuned her up the best I knew how. She’s all right on the idle,
          but misses to beat Harry when you rev her up. No good on the pull. And she’s got to
          pull tomorrow, or I don’t have a job."

          "Don’t worry about it," Gus reassured him. "We’ll make her hit, or know the reason

          "I won’t be able to pay you until--" Glen began.

          "Forget it," Gus cut him short. "Your credit is good here."

          He was rewarded by the look Enid gave him as he lifted the hood. All this rig needs is
          a set of decent plugs, Gus told himself, as he removed a weird assortment of old ones,
          put them in the sandblasting machine, and tested them under compression. To his
          surprise, none of them was in bad shape.

          While the plugs were out, Gus got his compression gauge and had Stan Hicks, his
          helper, turn the motor over while he ran a test on each cylinder. He found that
          Numbers 3 and 4 were about 10 pounds weaker than the rest. That wasn’t
          unusual—especially on an old truck that had just had new rings installed. Some of
          them probably weren’t fully seated yet. Even so, all the cylinders had enough
          compression so they shouldn’t miss.

          Gus made a routine check on coil, condenser, wiring and points. Everything seemed
          okay. Mentally bidding the fishing trip goodbye, he climbed up under the wheel.

          "Let’s take a ride,’ he said. "We’ll head her onto the steep hill just out of town. If she’s
          going to miss, she’ll do it there, even if she isn’t under load."

          "She’ll miss, all right," Glen said grimly, as he got in beside Enid.

          The old International backed out of the garage and moved down the street, purring like
          a kitten.

          They rolled across the flat, and Gus picked up speed for the hill ahead. As the motor
          revved up it roughened and developed a distinct miss. Two cylinders, he told himself,
          as sure as you’re born. He shifted, hit the top of the grade, slowed down and put her in

          "You drive, Glen," he said. "I’ll ride the fender a bit." (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:05 PM]
Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

          Gus lifted the hood, a neon-tube screwdriver in his hand. When they revved up for the
          next grade, he ran the screwdriver along the tops of the plugs. Every one of them
          flashed its gaudy red fire through the transparent handle. Yet cylinders 3 and 4 were
          missing. Pull or no pull, he knew, now, this wasn’t ignition trouble.

          Gus got back inside the truck. "Let’s take her back to the shop," he said.

          As they dropped onto level road, he turned to Glen again. "Now, throttle her down. As
          slow as she’ll take it."

          The truck idled perfectly. Gus reached his foot across to put gentle pressure on the
          brake pedal. Not until the speedometer was wavering at the 10-mile mark did the old
          motor begin to buck. No engine could perk along like that with bad valves, and
          compression had tested out well enough.

          "When you did your overhauling job," he asked Glen, "did you clean out the valve
          guides, and test the valve springs for strength?"

          "Cleaned the valve guides with a wire brush," Glen nodded. "I didn’t have the springs
          tested but they seemed all right."

          "Let’s see," Gus puzzled out loud. "You’ve had this trouble ever since you took the
          motor down?"

          "It didn’t miss at first," Enid put in. "Remember, Glen, right after you got in, we drove
          up on--" She cut herself off and blushed.

          Yeah, Gus thought. They went up on Lovers’ Hill, where they could look out over the

          "I didn’t have any trouble," Glen was saying, "until I started to work on the harvest last
          week. That is, except for the broken butterfly shaft."

          "Broken butterfly shaft!" Gus was all ears now. "Those shafts wear, but they don’t
          often break. Something must have jammed it."

          "The throttle stuck at slow speed," Glen explained. "So I rammed my foot down hard
          on the accelerator and the motor stopped. It took me a while to find out that the cross
          shaft in the carburetor, where the butterfly valve is attached, had let go. The truck quit
          almost in front of Danesville junk yard, so I had them put in a used shaft. That fixed
          things up as good as new." (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:05 PM]
Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

          When they got back to the Model Garage, Gus got down and wheeled over his tool kit.
          Then he began fumbling through it, as though he was looking for something he
          couldn’t find.

          "Funny," he said. "I need a really small screwdriver. And I don’t seem to have one

          Working on the grease rack, Stan Hicks cocked a quizzical ear. What was the old fox
          up to? Gus had all kinds of screwdrivers in the kit drawer.

          Glen got his tools out of the truck and offered Gus an eight-inch driver.

          "This," he said, "is the smallest one I’ve got."

          "Then how did you manage to get out those two tiny screws that hold the butterfly to
          the broken cross shaft?"

          Glen looked puzzled.

          "Why, I didn’t have to, Mr. Wilson. That butterfly valve was loose in there. I just lifted
          it out."

          Gus kicked a trough under the radiator and slid in beside it to turn the drain cock.
          When he had run all of the water off, he removed the engine head and called Stan
          Hicks over.

          "Turn her over slow with the crank," he told his helper
          As each intake valve came up, Gus thrust a tiny inspection mirror underneath it and
          flashed a pencil light on the mirror, so that the could see the reflection of the valve
          facings. On cylinders 3 and 4 he found barely visible marks on the newly ground seats.
          As he turned to face Glen and Enid there was a smile of complete satisfaction on his
          rugged features.

          "Your troubles are over, kids," he told them. "The two screws that held the old
          butterfly valve to the carburetor shaft worked loose. That let the butterfly valve cock in
          the carburetor throat, and jam. When you rammed your foot down hard on the throttle,
          the shaft broke. You had the junk-yard boys install another shaft, but you forgot the
          two screws from the old one. Right now, they’re down under the intake valves of
          Numbers 3 and 4."

          "But I don’t get it, even now," Glen sputtered. "The motor idles good. Why in the (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:05 PM]
Gus Peps Up a Tired Truck

          world should it only miss when it turns over fast?"
          "That’s easy," Gus grinned. "The two screws are under the valves in the intake
          passages. When the engine’s idling, there isn’t enough suction to lift them up under the
          valve faces. But there is enough when the motor revs up. The screws are too large to
          pass completely under the valve heads and into the cylinders, but small enough to get
          under the valves and hold them open. When you idle down again the suction drops off
          and they fall back into the little pocket by the valve stems. Now, we’ll just pull those
          screws, and grind the valves—they’re a bit rough."

          Gus got busy, trying to ignore the appreciative eyes of Enid Bishop. There was a
          bigger reward in this job, he told himself, than the small bill Glen would pay up when
          the harvest was in. One of these fine days Gus Wilson was going to be invited to a

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:05 PM]
Gus Rides with Santa Claus

                                              By Martin Bunn

                             From the December, 1953 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                          Gus Rides with Santa Claus

                                           On a storm-swept Christmas Eve,
                                           Gus digs deep into his bag of tricks
                                                to save a cargo of holly
                                                and an old man’s faith

           When Knute Hansen drove his pickup truck to the pumps at Gus Wilson’s Model
           Garage on that gray afternoon before Christmas Eve, Gus knew where he was bound.

           It was near closing time. The sky was brooding and sullen. The very air was thick and
           heavy. Gus sniffed the weather as he filled the gas tank. Out of the corner of his eye,
           he studied the old man at the wheel. (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:06 PM]
Gus Rides with Santa Claus

           Everyone knew Knute. Small rheumatic, a mere wisp of a man, Knute made a meager
           living doing odd jobs around town. Christmas time was his chief joy. It was then that
           he gathered holly, fashioned it into beribboned wreaths and bunches and sold it in the
           tiny town of Highland, high in the mountains.

           Knute enjoyed a monopoly. No one in Highland would think of buying holly from
           anyone but him. And the holly was free to those who couldn’t pay. Knute took an extra
           measure of pleasure in Highland. His daughter, her husband and three children lived

           Gus screwed on the gas-tank cap, hung up the hose and walked up to the cab.

           "Merry Christmas, Knute," he greeted the old man. "Headed for a visit with your
           daughter, eh? Better take it easy. Weather looks bad."

           Knute thrust his head out the window.

           "Yah!" he said with satisfaction. "Every year I go home to my Frieda. Maybe this year,
           Gus, you like to go along?"

           "Go along!" Gus exclaimed. "I’ve got no folks in Highland."

           He glanced again at the forbidding sky.

           "That’s yust it," Knute declared, his faded, blue eyes beaming with friendliness. "I
           bane vidower, so I go at yule time to my daughter. You bane bachelor man, so you go
           along with Knute and have one good time for yourself."

           "But I’ve got to be in town tomorrow," reasoned Gus. A chilling gust of wind struck
           his face.

           "That’s all right," Knute told him. "You go to Highland with me for Christmas Eve.
           Tomorrow you drive my truck back. After New Year my daughter and son-in-law
           bring me back to town."

           Gus rubbed a reflective hand over his chin. Knute could get himself in a peck of
           trouble. But to go on a drive to Highland on a night like this?

           "Wait a minute, Knute," he said. "Be right back."

           As Gus rang up the state police he thought of the old man, skidding around up in the (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:06 PM]
Gus Rides with Santa Claus

           mountains on dangerous roads, with a storm threatening.

           "This is Gus Wilson, down at the Model Garage," he said when the state police office
           answered the phone. "How’s the road to Highland?"

           "It’s open over the pass," the answer came back, "but there’s no guarantee on how long
           it’ll stay open. There’s snow up there already, and more might come at any time."

           "Thanks," Gus said as he hung up. It was something over 40 miles to Highland, over a
           graveled road that was only fair in summer. What the heck, thought Gus. His decision
           was made. He told his helper, Stan Hicks, where he was going , and left him to close
           the shop. He climbed in beside Knute, noting that there were chains on the rear wheels
           of the pickup truck.

           "Let’s go," he said.

           "Sure," Knute declared. "We have one fine time, by yimminy."
           They rolled along at a good clip until they branched off into the winding, narrow road
           that led up into the winding, narrow road that led up into the mountains. The truck
           labored with its load of holly. Snow began to spit on the windshield and it seemed to
           Gus that the wind was building up. As they crawled into higher altitudes the vast,
           brooding hills became blanketed with snow that hadn’t reached lower levels. There
           was six inches on the roadway, fluffing up with new fall. As they topped the summit
           the truck writhed in the old man’s hand as the full force of the gale struck them
           broadside. It was a wild night for Christmas Eve.

           As they moved down after topping the summit, Knute rode the brake pedal too much,
           not always shifting into lower gears when he should.

           Darkness was fully down now. It was snowing harder, with a cross wind that drove the
           storm in gray, slanting sheets across the beam of the headlights. Looking out the
           window Gus saw a wild, uninhabited land. He thought of taking the wheel from the old
           fellow, but Knute knew the twisting, up-and-down turnings of this mountain road
           better than he did.

           The oldster was riding his brake as the truck nosed steeply down into a pocket in the
           mountains. As it hit the bottom, facing a rise, Gus suddenly smelled burning
           insulation. Almost as the strong scent hit his nostrils, the lights went out and the motor
           went dead. With one slap of his hand Gus heaved back on the emergency brake. They
           slid to a halt.

           "By yimminy," Knute declared, winding down the window and spitting into the wind, (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:06 PM]
Gus Rides with Santa Claus

           "something goes wrong."

           "How right you are, by jimminy, Knute," Gus said, hitting the ground.

           Here they were in a dead truck in a nigh black as the inside of a hat, with six inches of
           snow on the ground and more coming down by the minute. There would be no traffic
           over this lonely pass to Highland for days. Highland folks were accustomed being
           snowed in at times in midwinter. As far as Gus could figure, they were about 15 miles
           either way from civilization. Could they walk out? In a blizzard?

           Feeling in his coveralls pocket Gus found the ever-present pencil light, pair of pliers,
           screwdriver, and a roll of black tape.

           "We should be able to locate the trouble and fix it, Knute," he said with a cheerfulness
           that was half counterfeit.

           "We do," Knute said, and there was deep feeling in his voice, "or I carry my holly over
           these mountains on my back."

           The words halted Gus with the hood half-lifted. He stood there in the blackness and in
           the wild clamor of the stormy night suffused by a feeling that was greater than his
           worry. This simple, kindly soul, he observed to himself, is thinking only of carrying
           holly to Highland.

           Gus played his pencil light back and forth over the engine. The light steadied on one of
           the battery straps. The heavy, leaden connection seemed to have sagged down in the
           center. Gus reached over and touched it. It was hot. The battery had been subjected to
           a dead short. It had been so heavy that it had practically melted the lead connecting the
           cells. The battery was dead.

           Gus recalled the burned-insulation smell. He pulled up the floorboards. There was the
           trouble. The arm of the brake pedal had been rubbing for a long time against the main
           battery lead to the starter button. Finally, under Knute’s heavy braking, it had been
           worn through to the bare copper, producing a dead short.

           The battery might or might not be capable of taking and holding a charge now. The
           plates might be too buckled for service. Gus taped the wire, shoved it clear of the brake-
           pedal arm.

           He straightened, fumbled out his pipe with fingers that were stiff with cold, absent-
           mindedly poured in tobacco that was swept away by the wind, while his mind chewed
           on the problem. The truck would run on the generator if they could get it rolling fast (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:06 PM]
Gus Rides with Santa Claus

           enough for a husky charge. But the vehicle sat at the bottom of a steep grade, facing a
           steep upgrade.

           "Here," Knute’s voice came out of the blackness of the night, "I have a better light than
           your little one, Gus."

           A broad beam emanated from Knute’s hands as he spoke, and Gus saw that he had one
           of those camp lights that are powered with two telephone batteries. Hmm, thought
           Gus, here were four volts. Would a six-volt ignition system start an engine on four? A
           car battery with one dead cell would start an engine if it was cranked by hand, even
           when too weak to turn the starter.

           Quickly, Gus stripped wire from the tail-light lead and tied the two telephone batteries
           into the primary ignition circuit, while Knute held the pencil light on the work.

           "Now, Knute," he said, "we’ll turn her over."

           "By yimminy, Gus," Knute said sadly, "I ain’t got no crank. Feller next door borrows
           my crank and my yack—he goes for yuletide a hundred mile." And as if in explanation
           of the loan, he added, "What poor, raggedy tires that feller had."

           "Oh, Lord," Gus groaned. To himself he muttered, "Better start carrying holly, Knute."

           Knute’s thin, weather-seamed features were centered in the beam of Gus’s pencil light.
           Looking into the faded, blue eyes, Gus saw a man’s faith in him die. Knute Hansen
           had never expected to see a stalled vehicle that Gus Wilson couldn’t start.

           The wind was howling now. Snow stung their faces. Gus’s tiny light was reflected
           from the blade of an axe, thrust in the side of the pickup, beside the holly.

           "Wait, Knute," he cried. "You’ve got an axe and you’re handier with it than a grease

           "By yimminy, Gus," Knute complained, "you’ve been running a yoke on old Knute. I
           know all along you start my truck easy."

           It wasn’t easy. It was cold, hard work, up there among the snow-laden trees in the
           darkness, cutting down a tree that Gus had selected and trimming it of branches.
           Together they got it down to the pickup truck. Using the tree trunk as a pry, they
           finally managed to hoist a rear wheel.

           With the motor in gear Knute in the cab manipulating the gas and the choke, Gus (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:06 PM]
Gus Rides with Santa Claus

           turned the engine over by spinning the wheel. Gus was cold. His hands were half
           frozen. Would those four volts be enough?

           Never in his life before had the sound of a starting, sputtering engine sounded so good
           to Gus. He catapulted into the cab, shoving Knute aside. He slapped the truck out of
           gear, keeping the engine turning over fast enough to throw a full output on the
           generator. They sat there a long time, while the heater brought them warmth. Then the
           truck started crawling through the snow over the mountain.

           When at long last, they drove down the short, single street of Highland, it seemed to
           Gus that every door in the town burst open in greeting. Folks gathered about the truck,
           heedless of the storm, women with snow-sprinkled shawls about their heads, bearded
           men grinning.

           "Merry Christmas, Knute!" they chorused. And it seemed to Gus that the time-honored
           greeting took on a new and deeper meaning.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:06 PM]
Gus Calls a Close One

                                               By Martin Bunn

                                From the July, 1953 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                  This story was donated by
                                                     Mike Hammerberg

                                                Gus Calls a Close One

                                With two strikes against him before he starts,
                            Gus goes to bat for three old codgers in a wheezy sedan.

           Gus Wilson’s rugged features lit up with a broad grin as he spotted the three old
           codgers pushing the battered sedan down the street toward his garage. Pete Blinstock
           was shoving on the rear, while Tom Hanratty bent a shoulder to a flapping fender. Ezra
           Hendricks, his gray beard thrust out beligerently, was at the wheel.

           Stan Hicks, Gus’s helper, ran out from the grease rack to give the three farmers a hand. (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:07 PM]
Gus Calls a Close One

           Hendricks spun the wheel and the sedan rolled into the Model Garage.

           "You boys out for a little exercise?" Gus asked, innocently.

           "Exercise!" Ezra Hendricks’ beard fairly bristled with indignation as he popped out of
           the car. "Pete and Tom, here, have been accusing me of busting up my own car. The
           old fools."

           Pete Blinstock was puffing as he came around the car.

           "Everybody knows," he wheezed, "that our team is going to beat the pants off Stanfield
           Corners today. Ezra insisted on taking us to the game in his car. Then he pulled
           something loose so we wouldn’t get there."

           "We couldn’t coax another pop out of her," put in Tom Hanratty, tugging his watch
           from his pocket. "Hendricks tramps on the starter until the battery’s dead, and here we
           are. If we miss that game--Gus, you’ve got to fix this thing up!"

           Gus wiped the grin from his face as the seriousness of the situation dawned on him.
           This might be just another Saturday to some folks. But it was "the" day to these old
           codgers. The local Little League baseball team was about to play Stanfield Corners for
           the county championship. On the Stanfield nine was Ezra’s grandson, Frank. Stacked
           against him were Sammy Blinstock and Clyde Hanratty—grandsons of Pete and Tom.
           The three proud old rooters were taking the game as a personal matter, and they had
           bery little time to make it to Stanfield, 40 miles away.

           Gus glanced at the clock and made a rapid calculation. He knew this old car like the
           palm of his hand, and the trouble shouldn’t be hard to find. Yet a feeling of
           apprehension ran up his spine. Baffling situations had a way of cropping up at times
           like this.

           "Slap in a rental battery, Stan," he told his helper, "while I start checking the ignition."

           Gus moved fast. He removed the distributor cap, put the car in gear, and rocked the
           points up on one cam of the distributor rotor shaft, to open them wide.

           The points were slightly pitted. He smoothed them with a point file, and checked the
           gap with a gauge. A little off. He loosened the lock screw on the movable point,
           wiggled the eccentric screw back and forth until he had the right gap, and tightened the
           lock screw again. As he stepped back to see how Stan was getting on with the battery
           change, he collided with the three anxious grandfathers. (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:07 PM]
Gus Calls a Close One

           "Find it, Gus?" Hendricks asked hopefully.

           "Of course he didn’t!" Hanratty snorted.

           Gus Wilson’s eyes twinkled.

           "Give me some room, boys," he chuckled. "Is the battery in, Stan?"

           "All buckled up, Gus."

           "Turn on the ignition switch."

           Gus rocked the points back off the rotor cam, jerked the high-tension wire from the
           center of the distributor cap, and held it a quarter-inch from the engine block, snapping
           the points with his thumb. Spark flame arced across the quarter-inch gap. Gus frowned.
           The blue color of the flame, its husky width, and the audible snap it made, told him
           that coil and condenser were right. This wasn’t ignition trouble, unless it was a matter
           of trouble, unless it was a matter of timing.

           "How’d she act when she quit?" he asked. "Did she backfire?"

           "No," grunted Hanratty. "She just sort of wilted and died."

           "She’d perk up a mite," Hendricks added, "when I pulled out the choke."

           "That," declared Blinstock, "was before she conked out for good at the edge of town."

           Gus stroked his chin for a moment. "Step on it, Stan," he told his helper.

           While Stan ground the starter on a motor that was as dead as last Sunday’s pancakes,
           Gus loosened the clamp on the air filter and lifted it off. Taking a squirt can of gasoline
           from the bench, he shot a thin stream of gas down the carburetor throat. Instantly, the
           motor sprang to life. It died as Gus put the can back on the bench.

           "Gas trouble," Gus breathed.

           The gauge showed full. The trouble must be in the fuel pump. Gus disconnected the
           copper tubing from the pump outlet to the carburetor, removed the two cap screws that
           held the pump to the side of the engine block, and pulled the pump clear. This exposed
           the pump arm that worked on the eccentric on the camshaft, yet left the pump attached
           to the gas line from the tank. When he pumped the arm back and forth by hand, a (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:07 PM]
Gus Calls a Close One

           stream of gas shot forcibly from the pump outlet.

           Gus grunted, and twisted the pump around so he could see the bottom of the pump
           arm. In the past he’d been fooled by the pumps that threw gas when worked by hand,
           yet failed to do so when attached to the engine, because arm wear had shortened the
           stroke. The pump arm showed no wear. It didn’t add up. No gas to the engine. Yet the
           fuel line was clear, and the pump arm was working perfectly.

           "Maybe," Blinstock said, "we ought to hustle out and hire a car to take us on to

           "That," declared Hanratty, "is what we should have done in the first place."

           "We’ve still got an hour," Hendricks said weakly.

           "An hour for 40 miles!" exploded Blinstock. "Why you old faker, you know your car
           won’t do 40 miles an hour."

           Hendricks flushed.

           "Now look here, Hanratty," he sputtered. "My car’ll do 60, once she sets her mind to

           Gus kept his head discreetly under the hood. It wouldn’t look well for the Model
           Garage if the three old fellows had to hire a car to take them to the game. But this thing
           was getting bad. No water showed in the sediment bowl of the gas pump. He checked
           the screen at the gasoline inlet of the carburetor. Gas line clear, screens clean, pump in
           good working order. Yet no gas was reaching the carburetor.

           Gus’s mind went back over each check he’d made on the gas line. Had there been
           something queer in the feel of that pump when he had held it in his hands, or was he
           just imagining it? Tantalized by the thought, he disconnected the fabric-covered
           synthetic-rubber hose that connected the pump to the gas-tank line. The five-inch
           length of the hose hanging limply to the pump outlet had a spongy feel.

           Gus glanced at the clock, then at the waiting, expectant faces about him. He took a roll
           of friction tape from his pocket, wound several turns firmly about the full length of the
           hose, and replaced the pump.

           "Try her now, Stan," he said.

           Stan stepped on the starter, and pumped the gas. Suddenly the motor came to life. (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:07 PM]
Gus Calls a Close One

           "Hop in and get out of here, you old coots," Gus grinned. "But be sure to stop in on
           your way back, for a permanent repair. I’ve only fixed you up temporarily."

           "What the heck was wrong?" Stan Hicks inquired as the car roared away.

           "That flexible connecting hose. It looked all right, but it wasn’t. The synthetic lining
           was so weak that the pump action flattened it. Just like when a kid sucks too hard on a
           wet soda straw—no liquid gets through. The tape will stiffen it for a while."

           "But," protested Stan, "that couldn’t be. You got gas through that hose by working the
           pump by hand."

           "Sure I did," Gus agreed, as he moved into the office and snapped on the radio. "That’s
           what had me fooled. But when I was holding the pump I had the hose stretched tight,
           not in its accustomed bend. So the suction of the pump didn’t flatten it."

           Gus twisted the dial and the roar of the crowd in the Stanfield stadium filled the office.
           "I can just see Ezra now," he chuckled, "with his foot down to the floor boards and
           Tom and Pete razzing from the rear seat. To hear those fellows yammer you’d never
           guess they were friends. Wonder who’ll be razzing who, tonight."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:07 PM]
Gus Puts the Heat on an MG

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the June, 1953 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                         Gus Puts the Heat on an MG

                                      Barnses was a big wheel at the local bank,
                                       but he was banking on Gus to cure his
                                           MG in time for the road races.

          Gus Wilson was just finishing up a brake adjustment when Stan Hicks, his young
          helper, came back into the repair shop.

          "The foreigners sure are taking over," Stan said. (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:08 PM]
Gus Puts the Heat on an MG


          "Yeah, those snazzy foreign cars. Bet I’ve gassed up half a dozen this morning."

          "Oh, sure. Didn’t you know about the road race the sports-car boys are holding out on
          the Mill Saturday? They’ll probably be coming to town from all over."

          During the next few days, the Model Garage looked almost like a petrol station on the
          Continent. By the time Friday afternoon came around, Gus had poked his head under
          the hoods of more Healeys, Allards, Romeos, MGs, Jaguars and Ferraris than he had
          ever even seen before.

          It wasn’t until late Friday that Gus was able to take a breather. "Well, Stan," he said,
          "looks like the rush is over. I’m going to call it a day."

          But Gus had no sooner got the words out of his mouth than he heard a car pull up.

          "Sounds like another foreigner," said Stan.

          It was a trim, little black MG with the top down. The big man driving it made it look
          even smaller. The big man driving it made it seem even smaller.

          "Something we can do for you?" Then Gus did a double-take.

          The man at the wheel bore a remarkable resemblance to J. B. Barnes, president of the
          local bank. Of course it couldn’t be Barnes. Gus looked closer and his jaw dropped.
          Maybe it couldn’t be, but it was.

          Gus had banked at Barnes’s institution for several years and he had serviced the
          financier’s imposing limousine regularly, but he never expected him to turn up in a
          leather windbreaker and old cap, driving a midget car.

          Grinning, J. B. was extricating himself from the driver’s seat. "No, you’re not seeing
          things, Gus," he announced jovially. "And it’s not as funny as you might think. Used
          to be a scorcher in my younger days. Drove a Stutz Bearcat—there was a car for you!
          Even did a bit of dirt-track racing."

          "No kidding," Gus said admiringly. Things began to add up. "Say, I’ll bet you’re going
          in that road race tomorrow."

          "You guessed it, and that’s why I’m here. I had a chance to pick up this MG at a (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:08 PM]
Gus Puts the Heat on an MG

          bargain the other day and couldn’t resist it. Doc Tandy says I ought to get my mind off
          business once in a while anyway and—well, I thought I might as well try my luck
          tomorrow, just for fun."

          "Good for you. But what’s wrong with the car?"

          "Well, this afternoon when I made some trial runs over the course, I couldn’t coax
          much more than 65 out of her. On the straightaways, the rest of the boys were going by
          me like I was anchored."

          "Drive her into the shop," said Gus, "and we’ll have a look."

          When Barnes had parked his little MG in front of Gus’s bench, Gus climbed into the
          driver’s seat and pushed down slowly on the gas pedal. At low speed it ran fine, but
          when Gus gave it the throttle, the engine seemed to get sluggish and mushy, as if it
          didn’t want to take the gas.

          "Could be the timing’s off, or you may have a bum carburetor," said Gus as he
          checked the ignition system carefully. But a timing check showed nothing out of line.
          Then he went to work on the carburetor.

          Again he found nothing. The fuel pressure was up, the float level was right, and
          nothing seemed to be blocking the jet or the fuel lines.

          "Any other symptoms, besides that sluggishness?"

          Barnes thought for a moment. "Well, she seems to run a little on the warm side," he
          said finally, "but I don’t think she overheats enough to cause any trouble."

          "How is she on gas?"

          "Well, it’s hard to tell in the short time I’ve had her, but offhand I’d say she uses more
          than she should."

          Gus said nothing as he climbed back into the car and started the motor again. After
          tromping on the accelerator several times he climbed out, put his head close to the
          engine block and began racing the motor by working the throttle lever on the

          "H-mm, that’s funny. Sounds like there’s a trace of a spark knock." He turned off the
          ignition and loosened one of the plugs. (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:08 PM]
Gus Puts the Heat on an MG

          "Save your knuckles, Gus, if you’re aiming to check for carbon," said Barnes. "That
          engine had a complete carbon job before I bought it. And those plugs are brand-new."

          "Hey," Gus said, with a grin, "you’re knocking down my hunches even before I hatch
          ‘em. Well, let’s see if the vacuum analyzer can turn up anything else wrong."

          Stan wheeled out the portable analyzer panel and connected the vacuum tester.

          At idling speed, the needle on the gauge held steady at just about the right spot to
          indicate a fairly healthy motor. However, as Gus pushed down slowly on the
          accelerator, the needle began to get nervous. It would go up to a high reading, snap
          back to a low reading, and then climb back up. As Gus increased the engine speed, the
          needle snapped back closer and closer to zero and didn’t climb back quite so far.

          "Well, you can chalk up one against Wilson," muttered Gus as he watched the needle’s
          gyrations. "Unless the gauge is a screwy as my last few hunches, about all that ails this
          car is a partially clogged exhaust system."

          Gus shut off the motor, walked to the rear of the car, kneeled down, and squinted into
          the end of the tailpipe. Then he probed around with a long-handled screwdriver.

          "You see, it’s badly coated with carbon and the muffler’s probably even worse. These
          MG tailpipes are pretty small anyway, so the carbon’s been building up back

          Gus walked over to the corner, got his creeper and rolled it over to the car.

          "Whoa, Boss. You’ll never make it," said Stan. "And it won’t fit on our grease rack,
          either. Wait a minute and I’ll have her up on screw jacks."

          When Stan had the jacks in place, Gus slid under. About a minute later he reappeared
          with a rather glum look.

          "The blamed exhaust system is all in one piece from the manifold right down to the tip
          of the tailpipe. No way of taking it apart. I’d hoped maybe we could clean it out."

          "How about cutting it apart?" offered Stan.

          "No. I tell you what to do, Stan," Gus said after a glance at the shop clock. "Get right
          on the phone and call the Davis boys down in the city. They handle some parts for
          foreign cars. If they have an MG exhaust assembly, tell them to stay open a little (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:08 PM]
Gus Puts the Heat on an MG

          longer and I’ll pick it up."

          Stan disappeared inside the garage office as Gus slid under the MG again.

          "Anything I can do to help?" Banker Barnes sounded as worried as if a million dollar
          investment had gone sour.

          "Nope," came Gus’s muffled voice. "I just thought I’d get a head start by
          disconnecting the exhaust from the hangers."

          Gus was working away at the last rusty bolt when Stan’s face appeared under the car.
          "No luck, boss. They haven’t any in stock and claim it’ll take at least a week to snag
          onto one."

          "Well, I guess that scratches me from the race," the big man said glumly as Gus
          reappeared from under the car.

          "Now hold your fire a minute," Gus kidded. "Stan, roll the acetylene welding rig out
          back while I unlatch the front end of this exhaust system."

          A few minutes later, standing in the open lot back of the garage, Barnes and Stan
          watched while Gus propped the MG’s exhaust up on an old metal drum so that the
          manifold end was high in the air while the tailpipe was on the ground. Then he lighted
          the oxyacetylene torch, adjusted it to a medium-hot flame, and pushed the flaming tip
          into the end of the tailpipe. In a few seconds, dark gray smoke started to stream from
          the manifold end. Finally, when the tailpipe started to get cherry red, Gus reached
          down and shut off the acetylene and turned the oxygen full on. The smoke continued to
          stream from the other end of the pipe.

          "If I’m lucky maybe we’ll be able to burn the carbon out," explained Gus.

          As the three watched, the cherry red section seemed to travel up the tailpipe, along the
          muffler and finally to the manifold section. In about 20 minutes there was no more
          smoke. Gus shut off the oxygen.

          About a half-hour later, the MG’s exhaust was back in place. Gus started the motor
          and it took the gas well. Evidently Gus’s burning-out process had worked. Then came
          the final proof—a road test. The motor responded beautifully. On a deserted stretch of
          highway, Gus got the little car up to 85 without any urging.

          And on Sunday morning, at breakfast, Gus got his thanks. An item in the local Sunday
          paper read" (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:08 PM]
Gus Puts the Heat on an MG

          LOCAL BANKER


          J. B. Barnes, president of the Empire Bank

          & Trust Co., took first place in his division of the sports-

          car road race held here yesterday. Mr. Barnes, virtually

          unknown in national sports-car activities, astonished a field

          of seasoned veterans by skillful maneuvering of his well-tuned

          MG around the sharp curves and 90-degree turns of the Mill Road

          Course. Hitting a fast pace right from the start, Barnes took an

          Early lead . . .

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:08 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

                                              By Martin Bunn

                                From the March, 1953 issue of
                                      Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

                                     Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

                                   After one little session as Doc Tandy’s helper,
                                    Gus was very glad indeed that automobiles
                                       never suffer from acute appendicitis.

          Gus Wilson watched the smoke from his pipe drift indolently toward the ceiling while
          Doc Tandy poured another round of coffee.

          "You know, Gus," the Doc was saying, "I’m glad you came over. I haven’t sat down
          for a good bull session like this for a long time. A man gets tired of talking and
          thinking with 60-buck words and medical terms. I couldn’t have prescribed a better
          medicine for this old carcass of mine."

          "Well, heck, Doc, I’m tickled pink to see you standing still for a change," Gus savored
          the hot coffee. "When was your last vacation?"

          "Long ago," Doc shrugged. "There aren’t enough doctors in town as it is. But I’m used
          to it. I should think you have pretty much the same problem, Gus."

          "At least I usually get away for a week or two each year."

          The phone rang softly on Doc Tandy’s desk.

          "See what I mean? Even on Sunday." The snow-haired man smiled and went to answer

          Gus stirred his coffee slowly and stared through the window at the budding leaves on
          the trees outside.

          "Looks like I’ll have to interrupt this enjoyable session to soothe a pet hypochondriac
          of mine. Bill Williams, up on Waltham Road. Claims he’s dying of appendicitis, and
          between you and me, he’s been dying of it off and on for several years. Bill’s a
          bachelor, and I’ll lay odds he’s just got a dose of his own cooking again! Want to go
          along? It’ll be a pleasant drive if nothing else."

          "Sure, Doc. Why not?"

          "Let me get my bag. I’ve got some bellyache medicine in it that makes castor oil taste
          like maple syrup in comparison! Bill is one of those people who thinks medicine has to
          taste horrible to be any good." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

          They went out to the driveway and climbed into a battered 1940 sedan. As Doc backed
          her out, he said, "Glad to have you along, Gus. I don’t trust this old heap, but my
          wife’s gone visiting in the new car, the one I usually drive on calls."

          After three-quarters of an hour of peaceful driving, Doc eased on the brakes and turned
          off onto Williams’ road. He stopped in front of a porch cluttered with hounds.

          "This is it. I’ll be out in a minute, Gus."

          Doc Tandy fixed a serious expression on his face, straightened his coat, picked up his
          bag, and winked at Gus before walking up the front steps.

          Five minutes passed, and then 10 before Doc came out again. When he did, his stern
          expression wasn’t for the benefit of his patient. It was white and real in his face.

          "Gus, can you help me move him to the car? It’s not his imagination this time—it’s
          acute appendicitis. Another hour and it’ll burst."

          Gus scrambled out of the car and followed Doc Tandy inside to a dimly lit bedroom.
          Bill Williams lay doubled up on an old brass-headed bed.

          "Ease him into this chair, Gus. It’ll be less rough on him than for us to try to carry him
          stretched out. Move slowly and gently. Okay, easy now . . .easy . . .don’t try to
          straighten him out."

          Step by step, they carried the sick man to the car, and Doc made him as comfortable as
          possible in the back seat.

          "You drive, Gus. I’ll stay back here and keep an eye on him."

          Gus turned the car around, and began the nerve-racking business of avoiding every
          bump in the road without losing time.

          "You say we’ve got only an hour, Doc?"

          "That’s just a guess. It could last another day without breaking. But I have a feeling it
          won’t take that long. Hope I’m wrong."

          "What happens if it does break?" (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

          "Peritonitis, Gus." Doc leaned close from the back seat. "Poison spreads through his
          whole system. Have to act fast or . . . well, it can be fatal."

          Gus concentrated on his driving and tried not to think about it.

          They came to a steep hill a short time later, and halfway up, a cow began crossing the

          "Probably been standing there all day, waiting for a car to come along," Gus said
          wryly, and slowed down. "Never have seen it to fail."

          When the ambling animal reached the other side, Gus stepped on the gas, but the surge
          of power wasn’t there. The car faltered and stalled. Gus pulled on the brake, and hit the
          starter button. The starter failed to work.

          "Oh no!" Doc groaned. "Not again! Not at a time like this."

          "Had starter trouble before?"
          "Yes, once, a couple of weeks ago. Then it went away. I should have known better
          than to trust it! What are we going to do?"

          Gus climbed out and lifted the hood with nervous fingers. It was a bad time for this to
          happen, with a sick man in the car.

          Gus knew why the car had stalled. He had felt flat spots even in slow acceleration
          since they left the farm. The carburetor was set far too lean. But that had nothing to do
          with the starter. The battery was good and strong, and yet, when the starter button was
          pressed, nothing happened.

          "Doc, your carburetor was set too lean. But I can’t adjust it until I find out what’s
          wrong with the starter and get the engine going."

          Doc shook his head helplessly. He was busy keeping Wiliams calmed down. Gus
          started looking for trouble.

          He examined the starter motor first. No loose connections; no bare wires. Without tool,
          he couldn’t take the motor apart, but from what he could see, and from what he
          remembered of its sound back in Doc’s garage and in the farmyard, there was nothing
          wrong with it. Starter motors were a pretty durable commodity.

          He traced the wires to the battery, and still found nothing. From there he went along
          the maze of wires to the starter button on the dash. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

          "Gus, we can’t wait much longer. I was too optimistic. This man’s condition is getting

          "One second more, Doc." He leaned under the dash and looked at the switch. Nothing.

          His mind flashed rapidly back over the situation. Press the starter button and nothing
          happened except the clicking of the solenoid. The starter motor itself had seemed all
          right before. A bad one always sounds or feels different—a looseness, a hesitation, a
          certain sloppy, grinding edge in the way it turns the engine over. The wiring was in
          good condition. He had spent possibly five minutes checking it over and there was
          nothing to be found.

          "I’m stumped, Doc. Maybe another car will come along soon."

          "Forget about getting to the hospital. We’ll have to take him back to the farm. No
          phone within walking distance, and no time to wait for an ambulance anyway. We’ve
          got to get back some way."

          "The farm . . ."

          "I’ll have to operate there. There’s no other choice."

          "Okay. I’ll see if I can’t push us around and start down the hill. Maybe we can get her
          going that way."

          Gus put a shoulder to the car, turned the wheel and began pushing. It was hard,
          working against the pull of the hill, but the car began to move slowly, to turn, and then
          to roll.

          Gus hopped in and pointed her down the road. He put the car in gear, heard a loud
          click and then the beautiful sound of the engine catching hold.

          "Okay, Doc. I think we’re all right now!"

          "Thank heaven! Now get us to that farm as quickly as you can. We’ve only got a few
          minutes at most."

          If Gus had ever experienced a nightmare in broad daylight, this was it. He gripped the
          wheel hard, trying to make time and yet avoid every bump in the road—and prayed
          that they would make it. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

          When they came at last to Williams’ place, Gus swung the car gently off the road into
          the farmyard full of barking hounds. This one was truly a stumper. Gus had no idea
          what was causing the trouble.

          After he checked out the trouble, he found that the car only needed a little work. He
          heard the click when the car started rolling down the hill. He used that as a reference.
          He checked it out and found that one part of the engine was in contact with the starter
          gear when the car was on level road or going up a hill. When the car was going down
          the hill, the car would start because that part of the engine was not in contact with the

          "Did you hear a click when you started rolling down the hill?" he asked the Doc.

          "Yes I did; I didn’t know what it was. It was like the clicks I hear all the time," Doc

          "Well, that click should have given me a clue right away. I didn’t have much time to
          figure it out until I checked over the motor and starter. Know what it was?" Gus asked
          the Doc.

          Doc shook his head. "I know nothing about a car—I only work on humans, Gus."

          "Well, your car is playing Russian Roulette. You need some work done on your starter.
          It’s like a worn tooth. If the car part that needs work done on it gets in touch with your
          starter gear when the car is in idle, you need to turn the motor off to get it to start
          again. You see, it jams up. Your solenoid is what causes the clicking. Usually a little
          push or bouncing it back and forth will start your car again."

          "I’m confused, but I’ll take your word for it."

          "Well, the car won’t give you anymore trouble tonight, but there’s no point risking
          another stall. I’ll pickup a new flywheel for you in the morning."

          After Doc started the engine and gave gas to the motor, ran it for a few minutes until
          he was satisfied that it was all right, he turned and gave a wave to Gus as Gus stoked
          up his pipe.

          "I’d better go and have a look at my patient. He’ll be in dreamland pretty soon. Why
          don’t you take up my offer?"

          "What offer, Doc?" (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Answers an Ambulance Call

          "You could join me in the medical profession. You pack a pretty mean ether bottle!"

          "Next time you decide to pay a visit to one of your so-called hypochondriacs, go
          yourself. I’ve had enough. Give me a garage full of broken-down cars any time. I’d
          rather have the smell of good old gasoline than ether when you do an emergency

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:09 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the November, 1953 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                     Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

                                     The tall Texan had bagged the biggest buck
                                       Gus had ever seen, but his tongue was
                                             just as sharp as his shooting.

           Gus had a car up on the rack, and he was working with the swift efficiency of long
           practice, but his thoughts roamed elsewhere. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving Day. And
           though Stan Hicks, his helper, had kidded him unmercifully about it, Gus just had a
           crazy hunch that he was going to win that turkey raffle down at Schutzheimer’s meat
           market. (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

           If he did, Sam over at the lunch wagon had promised to cook him a big turkey dinner
           with all the fixin’s—which would help a little to make up for Gus’s disappointment
           about something more important. This year, for the first time since he could remember,
           he had not been able to get away from the Model Garage during the deer-hunting
           season. And what Gus really craved was a couple of days’ hunting—and a nice big
           juicy venison steak.

           The phone rang. Ah-hah, thought Gus, maybe that was Karl Schutzheimer now—to
           tell him that he was the lucky winner of a plump gobbler.

           It wasn’t. Instead of Karl’s familiar explosive accents, the voice on the phone came
           over as a lazy drawl.

           "Howdy . . . Gus Wilson?" It rolled out slow and easy. "This here is Bill Harvey of San
           Angelo, Texas. I’m a few miles out of town at a farmhouse on . . . let’s see, I got it
           written down here . . . it’s Eye-thacka Road. Need a tow truck to haul that lizzie of
           mine in. She won’t run for hoot nor holler!"

           "All right, Mr. Harvey. Whose farm is it?"

           "Folks named Peeble—they told me to call you. I’ll be standing by their mailbox."

           "Okay. I’m on my way," Gus said as he hung up. "Stan, take over while I go out on a
           call. And when Karl phones about my bird, tell him I’ll be back."

           "You better go buy me one, boss," Stan chortled. "Somebody may give you the
           bird—but I bet it won’t be a turkey!"

           Gus glared good-naturedly and backed the truck out.

           Ithaca Road, or "Eye-thacka" as the Texan called it, ran north from town. It was more
           or less in the farm country at the edges of the heavily wooded hills bordering the area.
           The road was clear—there had been only a couple of snow flurries up to now—and
           Gus knew where the Peebles lived, so it only took a few minutes to get there.

           He found Bill Harvey standing, long and lean and looking like a piece of sunburned
           leather, near the Peeble mailbox. Harvey was spattered with blood from shoulders to

           Gus squealed to a halt and jumped out. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

           "You didn’t tell me you’d been hurt!"

           "Shucks, Mr. Wilson, I ain’t hurt. This here’s deer blood. Reckon I got it all over me
           haulin’ that buck down the mountain to our car."

           "You had me worried! Where’s the car?"

           "Up this side road a couple of miles. Had to walk down here. Lost a lot of time doin’
           it. And I gotta get that buck into town by five this evenin’ or we won’t win the

           "What contest?"

           "That one the Chamber of Commerce over at Parsonville is runnin’ for the biggest
           buck killed in the county durin’ the day. And I’ll roll a frijole from here to Texas if we
           don’t have the biggest doggone buck you ever laid eyes on! Besides, that prize is a
           hundred bucks. Pretty good odds, eh? A hundred bucks for just one buck." Harver
           grinned expansively at his own joke.

           Gus recalled Stan’s bewildered gag about the turkey—this seemed to be a day for
           corny humor.

           "We’ve got plenty of time to tow her in. Not quite three yet."

           He climbed behind the wheel, Bill Harvey got in and they drove on up the road.

           "Came up here from Texas to spend the holidays with my boy Pete and do some
           huntin’. He lives over in Parsonville with his wife and two kids. Well, we sure got us a
           king-size deer anyhow!"

           Gus nodded, and kept an eye on the clock until two miles had ticked off. Shortly after
           that Bill Harvey told him to stop. "Right here’ll do. This here truck’s too big to
           squeeze through where my jeep went."

           "You mean she’s off the road?"
           "Yep. She’s another half-mile or so up the hill."

           "Nothing to do but go up and look at it, I guess. Unless you want to carry that deer
           down and take it to the contest in my truck."

           "No, don’t think that’d work. Luggin’ it through the brush would take from now until (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

           Texas recognized the United States! That buck is the granddaddy of ‘em all!"

           "Well, let me grab my tool kit. You lead the way."

           Harvey set off at a long-legged pace and in a half-hour, after pushing their way
           through brush up a steep slope, they reached the jeep. Harvey’s son, Pete, the spitting
           image of his old man, stood by a front wheel. In the back of the jeep, its head and rear
           legs extending over each side, was the biggest buck Gus had ever seen.

           "We got a mechanic now, Pete. This here’s Gus Wilson."

           Gus shook hands with Pete, and when he caught his breath, began looking under the
           jeep’s hood.

           "She died and wouldn’t start again. We had it up farther and around the hill, maybe
           another half-mile. She got warm running up and down over this rough ground. I
           thought maybe she got a vapor lock, but changed my mind when coolin’ the carburetor
           with water didn’t do any good. We got her to run again for a short time, after she sat a
           while, just before I started lookin’ for a phone. But she quit for sure then."

           "I see. We’ll have you out of here soon, with any luck at all."

           "Mister, I hope so. Winnin’ that contest means a lot to my boy and me. And we’re
           mighty anxious to tote this buck home and show the folks. Maybe you’re a hunter
           yourself and know what I mean."

           Gus knew what he meant. He gave the jeep a quick once-over. The engine was dirty
           with the oil and grime of thousands of miles. But on that first examination, Gus found
           nothing that would cause the engine to fail.

           There might have been a vapor lock, and Gus hit the starter to make sure before going
           any further. The engine caught immediately.

           Young Harvey shoved his hat back on his head. "I’ll be dogged! It wouldn’t do that a
           few minutes ago!"

           "You might have had a vapor lock, although if Pete here wasn’t able to start it up in all
           that time you were hiking for a phone, it would be a pretty stubborn one . . ."

           Before he could finish, the engine sputtered and died. Gus hit the starter, but it only
           coughed, and refused to catch again. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

           "Just like before," Bill Harvey drawled.

           Gus rolled up his sleeves and frowned. He dismantled the fuel pump and made a
           check. It was another part that should be replaced, but even with a well-worn
           diaphragm, it was still in operating condition. Replacing it carefully, he went on to
           examine the carburetor.

           The carburetor was loaded with silt, when he got down inside. He had Harvey pour
           gasoline in a tin can to rinse it out with.

           "Now try," Gus said after putting it back.

           Harvey stepped on the starter, but the engine only cranked.

           "That’s tough luck! I’d better check your ignition."

           "Ain’t much time left. Can’t you get on your horse a little, Mr. Wilson?" There was
           irritation in the Texan’s drawl now.

           "I’m going as fast as I can."

           Gus checked the ignition wires all the way from the switch to the coil and the
           distributor, and to each of the plugs. That took another precious 15 minutes.

           "That wasn’t it, either. I’ll be darned if--"

           "Are you checkin’, Mr. Wilson, or just guessin’?" Bill Harvey asked.

           Gus controlled his temper and went about his work. The last item he checked was the
           fuel line. From tank to pump, he checked carefully. There were no breaks in the line,
           and no kinks from the rough going. The flex line by the pump was clear, though it did
           seem harder to blow through than it should have. "Try it now, Mr. Harvey."

           The engine caught after a minute or so. But as before, it ran only long enough to get
           warm before the engine died.

           Gus had a glimmer of an idea then. The flex tube had offered a little resistance to his
           lungs. It lay close to the hot engine, but it had been only warm when he had blown
           through it. Now that the engine had run again for a short time, the flex line was
           warmer. What if—it was just a hunch—but Gus detached the line again and tried to
           blow through it. This time, it was completely blocked! (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

           "Well, there it is."

           "That flex line? Why was that so hard to find?"

           "I’ll tell you why. This line has that long-lasting metal weave on the outside. But the
           inside is just lined with synthetic rubber. You know how rubber gets brittle and
           cracked when it’s old. It finally gave out on you, and every time the engine gets warm
           now that section expands and twists enough to block your fuel. When you let it cool, it
           settles back and lets fuel pass through. Luckily, I’ve made the habit of carrying a
           couple of spare flex lines in my kit. You’ll be on your way in a minute."

           Gus connected a new line to the pump and started the engine. It kept going.

           The Harveys and Gus piled in, and began a jolting, tree-dodging rampage down the
           hillside. But it looked as if their wild ride would be in vain. By the time they got back
           to the road, it was only 12 minutes before the contest deadline, and Gus figured it was
           at least seven or eight miles to Parsonville.

           Nevertheless, Gus hurried as he climbed into his truck and wrote out a bill.

           When Gus arrived back at the garage, and looked questioningly at Stan Hicks, the boy
           shook his head. "I told you, boss, you’d better buy a turkey!"

           "I guess I’ll have to settle for Sam’s hamburger," Gus grunted, starting for the back
           shop to close up.

           He was hardly out of the office door when the phone rang. Stan answered it.

           "For you, boss."

           "Hello, Gus Wilson speaking."

           Bill Harvey’s unmistakable drawl drifted through the receiver.

           "I reckon you’re pretty disgusted with Texans at this point, Mr. Wilson. I’m afraid I
           wasn’t a very good example of that particular nationality today. I was pretty sore at my
           car, and when I thought we were going to miss that contest . . . Well, I want to
           apologize for takin’ that out on you."

           "Thought you were going to miss it . . . Did you get there in time after all?" (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Goes Hunting . . . for Trouble

           "Sure did, and with at least half a minute to spare, and our luck won hands down.
           We’re home now—over at my boy’s place—and we’ve got more deer meat here than
           we could get away with in a month o’ Sundays. We were wonderin’ if maybe you’d
           give us the pleasure of your company at Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow . . . We’re
           havin’ venison steaks."

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:10 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the April, 1954 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                              Gus Defies the Elements

                                Black thunderheads were piling up on the horizon,
                                 blotting out the late sun of an April afternoon, as
                                 Gus Wilson tossed his tool kit into the back seat.

           He wished he could send Stan Hicks, his young helper, on what promised to be a
           routine but uncomfortable job: a truck stalled in the hills with ignition trouble. But Art
           Robler’s truck line was a new outfit in town and a prospect for considerable steady
           business. Gus wanted the Model Garage to make a good first impression. (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:12 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           He drove with a wary eye on the sky. Outside of town, a sudden torrent of wind-driven
           rain lashed across the windshield. Gus finally came down into the narrow canyon that
           held the torrent of Rolling Rock Creek, to find the truck, attended by one of Robler’s
           drivers, a slender, youthful fellow in wet dungarees. The front wheels of the truck had
           sunk into the soft shoulder of the road until the pan rested on the ground.

           Gus found himself regretting that he hadn’t brought his tow truck, until he noticed that
           the dual rear wheels of the truck were still on the road. They’d have no trouble backing
           the outfit onto the highway, once the motor was fixed.

           "I’m Gus Wilson of the Model Garage," he told the driver as he got out of his car, tool
           kit in hand. "Robler phoned me that you were having trouble up here. Looks like a nice
           day for ducks."

           "Ducks is right," the driver agreed, grinning. "Holloway’s the name—Steve

           "Glad to know you, Steve," Gus said heartily. "Now what’s your trouble? We’d better
           move fast; this storm’s turning into a real cloudburst."

           "Nothing much is wrong," Steve assured Gus. "The stud that holds the distributor shaft
           came loose, and the thing worked up out of gear. I tried to put it back but didn’t have
           much luck."

           "We’ll fix that in a hurry," Gus said, lifting one side of the hood and placing it on his
           broad back to shield the ignition wires from the rain while he peered at the motor.

           This was going to be easy, Gus told himself. The driver had pulled the distributor,
           shaft and gear completely out of its recess hole in the block, first disconnecting the
           attached automatic spark vacuum-control tubing. Gus thrust his screwdriver blade into
           the flywheel-timing hole, prying the flywheel around by its teeth until No. 1 firing
           indicator showed, so that he could time the motor quickly when he shoved the
           distributor back in gear. Below the gear there was a keyway that slipped into a key on
           the oil pump below. All he had to do, Gus thought, was to drop the shaft back in with
           the gear set for No. 1 firing, wiggle it to engage key and keyway, and put the retaining
           stud back in.

           Such retaining studs normally had short-coiled springs, held down under a flat washer,
           so that the distributor could move back and forth in the retaining-stud slot, for manual
           spark control. Before attempting to put the distributor shaft back in its foot-deep, inch-
           wide recess hole, Gus used his pencil light to look for the five-sixteenths retaining stud
           and its spring, hoping to find them lying on the splash shield. (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:12 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           He quickly found the stud, its washer still on it, but couldn’t locate the spring. Oh,
           well, he thought, he’d just put on a lock washer and lock the distributor in advanced-
           spark position.

           Gus picked up distributor and shaft, attempted to thrust it down in and seat it. But the
           assembly wouldn’t go fully down on its seat on the crankcase. The shaft had a
           resilient, springy feel. The thought came to Gus that he had located the missing spring.
           Sure as shooting, it had dropped down into the shaft hole when the driver had lifted out
           the assembly.

           "How’re you coming?" Steve Holloway yelled above the drumming rain.

           "Not so good," Gus shouted back. "A little spring has dropped down there on top of
           the pump shaft. I’ve got to get it out some way."

           Gus backed out from beneath the hood to stand in thought beside the truck. His eyes
           moved to the waters of Rolling Rock Creek, which were rapidly rising to an angry,
           raging torrent with the rain.

           If it was raining this hard here, Gus knew it was probably coming down in solid sheets
           higher up. The creek would be over its banks in 10 minutes. There was plenty of loose
           timber slash above, from logging operations, that would come drifting down like
           battering rams. If they were still here then, anything could happen, with the truck so
           close to the stream bank.

           Even as Gus stood there, he saw a tangle of driftwood come down the white-maned
           stream with the speed of an express train. Cold chills ran up his spine as he turned his
           attention back to the disabled truck.

           He grabbed a long-shafted screwdriver and began probing for the offending spring. If
           it were standing on end, he thought, he could get the driver blade inside it, and by side
           pressure ride it up to the top.

           Or if it were on its side, he could just poke the screwdriver blade between its coils and
           lift it out.

           It sounded easy, but it wasn’t. The spring was lying on its side but fitted so closely in
           the bottom of the distributor-shaft hole that when Gus drove the screwdriver blade
           between the coils, the spring opened to wedge tightly against the recess walls. He tried
           to turn it with the end of the driver blade, and found that he couldn’t. It was an
           exasperating deal. He worked carefully and slowly, fighting rising apprehension. (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:12 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           A low rumble started up the creek, gaining in crescendo, and the ground beneath Gus’s
           feet shuddered. The big, round boulders at the creek bottom were being rolled
           thunderously by the rapidly rising water. Great fallen logs came down, creating dams
           in the narrow canyon that flooded the road. He had seen this spot where they now
           stood, Gus thought, running four feet deep with water and whirling driftage. Nearly
           every year the highway crew had to come out and clear it after the flood receded.

           Gus felt cold water run over the tops of his shoes, and he jerked his body from under
           the truck hood just as the driver catapulted from the cab where he had taken shelter and
           grasped Gus’s arm.

           "We’d better be getting out of here before we get drowned," he shouted. "Water’s
           coming up over the road. A log . . ."

           "I know," Gus said, his eyes sweeping over the landscape.

           The usually peaceful canyon had been transformed in a few minutes to a scene of wild
           turmoil. The trees along Rolling Rock Creek leaned far over under the force of the
           wind, and sheets of rain lashed at their branches. A long drift log had wedged across
           the stream a little way below the truck. Drift had piled against it to form a dam.

           Even as Gus watched, a giant uprooted tree rushed at the dam, struck it with the power
           of its tons of driven weight, and rose 20 feet into the air, quivering there like a shaken
           bush. The entire tree had become part of the dam.

           The water now lapped at Gus’s knees. Piled up behind the dam, it was two feet over
           the stream’s normal banks. Near the truck, sections of the bank had begun to crumble
           away and topple into the current. The truck driver was hanging on to Gus’s arm,
           shaking it, and his voice was shrill with terror.

           "We’ve got to get out of here!" he cried.

           Gus turned to face him, his gray eyes calm and level. His big, work-worn hands
           fumbled with his pipe, tamping in tobacco with a wet thumb.

           "Don’t panic on me, man," Gus said. "If we leave that truck here, within the hour it’ll
           be lost, toppled into the drink, cargo and all."

           "But we can’t do anything by staying here," the driver protested, "except get drowned
           ourselves." (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:12 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           "Maybe," Gus said, his eyes suddenly narrow with thought.

           He moved swiftly now, stooping to open his tool kit and bring out a coil of primary
           ignition wire. With his knife he quickly stripped off the insulation, and with three feet
           of soft copper wire in his hands, began wrapping it again and again around the long
           blade of his screwdriver. At the other side of the truck, Gus raised the hood, stooped to
           place one end of the copper wire on one battery terminal, while he rapidly struck the
           other end back and forth across the opposite battery post. Blue sparks flew, and the
           scent of ozone drifted off on the wind.

           A moment later, Gus was on his way back to the first side of the truck, stripping the
           wire from the screwdriver blade as he went. He reached down into the deep distributor-
           shaft recess with the blade, withdrew it with the troublesome spring clinging to the
           end. With a few deft movements he rammed the distributor in gear correctly, slipped
           the spring on the stud below the washer, tightened it in place, connected the spark
           vacuum-control tubing, slammed the hood down and latched it.

           "Get under way, Steve," he yelled. "Back her out on the road, away from that creek
           bank. Quick, man! That bank’s about to give way."

           A half-hour later, Gus drove his dripping car into the Model Garage. Steve Holloway
           pulled the truck up under the canopy of the pumps and leaped out to enter the garage.

           "Brother!" he exclaimed. "That was a close one. How’d you get that spring out of there
           so quick, Gus?"

           "Always remember," Gus told him, "what I darn near forgot up there in the hills. You
           can make a strong magnet out of a screwdriver blade, provided it’s of good steel, by
           wrapping it with wire and making and breaking juice through it from a battery. I
           should have thought of it sooner. Guess I’m getting absent-minded in my old age."

           "You sure are, Gus," Stan Hicks called from the grease rack. "Dump your shoes. Don’t
           you know they’re full of water?"

           Gus looked over to his helper and grinned as he scratched a match on the bench and
           applied it to his pipe. Come to think about it, he’d forgotten to light up when the
           thought about the magnet finally struck him.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:12 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1954 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                              Gus Rides Out a Storm

                             Two scared kids in a jam take the Model Garageman
                          out into one storm to quell another—between irate parents!

           AS Darkness came down, clouds piled up in the west and a sharp thunderstorm took
           the edge off the midsummer heat. Glad at the chance to catch up, Gus Wilson was
           working late at a top overhaul. The Model Garage lights were the only ones on in the
           dark business section of the town.

           The clatter of running footsteps outside the open shop door brought Gus from under
           the hood. Matt Bergstrom and Mrs. Adams, both winded, passed the pumps and made
           for him. (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           "Gus!" Matt puffed. "Haven’t you got a boat up at the lake? May be trouble
           there—kids got caught out in the storm—should’ve been back hours ago. I thought
           they were at the Adamses and she thought--"

           "Tell me on the way," Gus cut in. He bustled them into his car, strode over to pull the
           main switch of the garage and took out fast.

           By the time they neared the lake, Gus had the story. Bergstrom’s taffy-haired daughter
           Sally had gone for a swim and picnic with 16-year-old Guy Adams. They’d taken the
           Bergstrom outboard, heading for the beach on the far side of Thatcher’s Island. When
           Sally didn’t show up for supper, Matt assumed they’d waited out the thunderstorm at
           Lora Adams’ home. When, at nine, Lora had called him, a kind of panic had begun to
           lick at both parents.

           "Neither youngster is a strong swimmer," said Lora. "I just hope that storm didn’t
           catch them out in--"

           "Probably waited for the storm to blow over," Gus said quickly, "and then discovered
           the rain had drow-soaked the ignition." It occurred to him that Matt and Lora had
           infected each other with a highly contagious anxiety. "We’ll be there in a couple of
           minutes now. If the lake’s not too rough, we might take a run out to the island.
           Probably find them soaked and sheepish. Will you did my flashlight out of the glove
           compartment, Matt?"

           Fair-sized waves were tossing Gus’s 12-footer at its pole mooring, and rain water
           sloshed the floorboards. "Doesn’t look so bad," Gus told them briskly. "Lora, you get
           in the bow and hang onto the flashlight. Matt, will you do some bailing from the
           middle seat?" He stripped off the cover, checked the gas and spun the kicker.

           The wind was behind them as they headed out onto the lake. A past-full moon showed
           occasionally through scudding clouds, dimly picking out the ridge behind Thatcher’s

           "Don’t stand a prayer of finding anything in all this blackness," said Matt grimly. "I
           think we ought to go back to a telephone. Call the state police and get them to start a
           real search going."

           The same idea had been in Gus’s mind for minutes. "Maybe you’re right," he
           conceded. "But let’s take a fast look at the beach first—we’re almost there."

           At first they rounded the point of the island, the hearts of all three in the boat gave a (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           flip-flop—there was a campfire in the cove. The distant reddish light glinted off the
           aluminum hull of the beached Bergstrom boat, and two small figures danced like
           Indians in the firelight. Both Matt and Lora were calling as the boat slowed to coast in.

           During the first moments of greeting, Gus busied himself with tilting the engine and
           pulling the hull up on the beach. Then he sauntered up to the group by the fire.

           ". . . The silliest thing," Sally was saying. "Robinson Crusoe all over again—my
           name’s Friday. I guess we were a little late in starting home. Anyhow, the clouds were
           awfully black, and we were just coming out of the cove when it began to rain like
           anything and I made Guy go back because I just knew we’d get struck by lightning. He
           said we could take off the motor and turn the boat over for shelter—it was just
           drenching—but I knew that metal boat would attract lightning and--"

           "So we just waited out the storm in the woods," Guy finished. "I tried to tell Sal that
           trees were no protection against lightning, but you know how it is with women."

           Guy’s god spirits evidently grated on Bergstrom. "That’s all very well, young man.
           But the storm blew over hours ago. Why didn’t you come home right afterward? Your
           mother and I were both extremely worried."

           "Daddy, we tried to three times, but the motor kept sputtering out," Sally interjected.
           "The wind was against us and we didn’t have any oars and that old motor kept
           stopping. So Guy built a fire in the cleverest way and we just waited until--"

           "That’s enough," Matt cut in. "I’ll talk to you later. Evidently you’ve never heard of
           smart alecks who manage to run out of gas when it suits them. Well, young man,
           what’s your story?"
           "Look," said Lora Adams, "must we stand around here while you put witnesses on the
           stand? These children are wearing wet clothes and I think it’s important to get them
           home instead of letting you sound off."

           "I’m not sounding off. But I don’t propose to let my daughter go out with a kid who
           can’t even tell a straight story."

           "You mean he can’t get a word in. If you’d stop bullying him long enough—"

           "Bullying—that’s a laugh! The important thing is why a young girl was kept out for
           hours when there isn’t a shred of justif--"

           "Motor kept conking out, Guy?" Gus tossed a piece of wood into the fire. "Sounds like
           the rain got into it." He realized that the flare-up, even though it was just a reaction to (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           anxiety, ought to be headed off if possible.

           "Well, I thought so too, Mr. Wilson, but it doesn’t make any sense. Because each time
           it’d start right up and run fine at low speed with the prop in neutral. And then she’d
           quit as soon as we’d start out for home."

           "That’s very plausible, young man—especially the part about not making any sense.
           That motor runs like a clock—hasn’t missed a beat all season. What were you really
           doing—shutting off the gas line?" Matt’s voice was icy.

           "No, sir, I was not."

           "Or did you just close the air valve on the cap so the gas wouldn’t feed down?"

           "I’ve had just about enough of this," said Mrs. Adams shrilly. "More than enough. I’m
           not going to stand around all night listening to somebody who’s crazy as a hoot owl.
           Gus, will you take me home? You come with us, son—you’ve seen enough of the

           "Sure, Lora," Gus said. "Matt, what say we adjourn this until we get back? If you’ll get
           the bailing can, Guy, we can wet these embers down. The woods are wet and the fire’s
           on sand, but there’s no point in taking any chances." Grabbing two sticks by their
           unburnt ends, Gus tossed them into the water. In the dark he could now barely make
           out Bergstrom’s face. "If you’ll hold the light for me, Matt, I’d like to take a look at
           that kicker of yours."

           Gus climbed into the boat, found the gas tank half full, and noted that the prop was
           clear of the bottom. He checked the air valve, set the choke and shoved over the spark.
           Handing the flash to Matt, he yanked the starter handle. The motor sprang instantly to
           life, idling throatily as he eased off the choke. It sounded find, Gus thought, wondering
           if Matt would boil over again. He cut the engine, edged past Bergstrom and stepped

           "Doesn’t seem bad now," he said decisively, "but I think you ought to lead the way
           home, Matt. We’ll be along as soon as that fire is wetted down."

           Bergstrom was silent for a moment. "Get in the bow, Sally," he said abruptly. "But
           don’t think you’ve heard the last of this—any of you."

           Matt’s engine caught again quickly. The boat turned out into the darkness and picked
           up speed. As it rounded the point of the cove, Sally winked the flash twice in mute
           farewell. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           "I hope they get along all right," said Guy doubtfully. "Or do I?"

           After Guy shoved off they could still faintly hear the high pitched beat of the other
           outboard in the dark. Then Gus fired up his own motor and they shot out of the
           sheltered cove. Around the point waves slapped solidly against the hull and spray blew
           back over Gus until he eased off the throttle.

           "Look!" Guy saw it first—the yellowing beam of a flashlight out on the lake. They
           headed toward it. In a few moments the dim moonlight revealed the Bergstrom boat,
           broadside to the waves and rolling deeply. Matt was on his knees flailing at the starter;
           Sally flickered the tiring flash in merry greeting.

           "Can’t tow—painters aren’t long enough," Gus called above his throttled-down motor.
           "Grab my gunwale, Matt, and hang on! I’ll head back to the cove—too tough into the
           wind. Guy, take care of it at the bows. Don’t get your hands pinched, either of you."
           He circled and came up alongside with bare steerage-way, then fed more power
           cautiously once the boats were lashed together by two pairs of arms. They headed back
           precariously, the strain easing as they turned downwind.

           With both boats beached once more, Matt lost no time in regaining the initiative. "I
           don’t know what you did to that motor, but you sure bollixed it."

           "Gus Wilson, I asked you to take me home," snapped Mrs. Adams. "I don’t see why
           you can’t just leave him here—let him stew in his own childish juices. I suppose we
           could find room for Sally."

           Gus felt an amused irritation. "Nobody’s going to get marooned, Lora. I think five
           people are a bit too much of a load to take across in one haul tonight, but if necessary,
           I can make two trips."

           "That mightn’t be easy, Mr. Wilson," giggled Sally. "Remember the problem of a
           farmer who had to row a wolf and a lamb over a stream?"

           "Before we do that, I’ll take a crack at your father’s motor," Gus said. "Worth
           spending a little time if it saves four trips across the lake. That flash is getting feeble;
           hold it in close, Guy."

           Using the tool kit in the boat, Gus pulled and checked the plugs and examined the
           wires for raw places. He laid the reconnected plugs on the motor, spun the flywheel.
           Blue voltage snapped across the points. He turned to the carburetor, squinting in the
           dim light. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           "Sure wish we hadn’t doused that fire," he said. "This is mean to see."

           "I can get another one going right there on the beach," Guy volunteered. "Anyone got
           any matches?"

           Gus felt in his pockets, shook his head. "I don’t smoke," rasped Matt.

           "It doesn’t matter—show them what you did before," Sally called from the shore.
           "Toss me that old flash and I’ll get some branches from the dead pine."

           The two youngsters pitched in, glad of the chance to show off before their elders. In a
           moment Sally dumped an armload of pine boughs just above the water’s edge, handed
           the almost worthless light back to Guy, and went back for more. Guy uncoupled the
           fuel line, drew a cupful of gas into the bailing can and handed it over to Sally, who
           poured it on the wood. Guy tore a narrow strip from his handkerchief and wet it lightly
           with gas. He folded it into a pad, checked that the tank was capped and the fuel valve
           was off.

           "All set?"

           "You bet."

           Using pliers to hold the pad by the end of one plug, Guy hauled on the starter handle.
           Nothing happened. The second time he tried, snapping sparks ignited the cotton.
           Carefully holding the flaming little torch with the pliers, Guy stepped ashore and
           tossed it on the fuel-soaked pine. At once the fire flared.

           "Hey, that’s pretty slick," Matt said. The warm, dancing light seemed to cheer
           everyone up. Lora Adams, investigating the picnic hamper, held up two hot dogs she’d

           "With a frying pan, we could cook up a little snack," said Mrs. Adams.

           "I’ll get you a couple of green sticks," Matt told her suddenly. "Wait a second." He
           trotted up to the edge of the woods.

           Gus smiled as he worked over the carburetor. The float needle moved freely and there
           was no grit or sediment inside. He uncoupled both ends of the gas line and drew out a
           two-inch bronze filter element. The line was clear. Taking up the metal filter element,
           he shook it, blew through it until his cheeks bulged, and stared at it for a moment. (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Defies the Elements

           Then he did a strange thing. Laying the filter element on the seat, he drove the point of
           his knife right through it. He blew through it again, and then carefully assembled the

           "Now," he said with conviction, "we can go home."

           "Darnedest thing I ever saw," said Matt, "the way you drove a knife through that thing
           like butter."

           "It’s not hard. The filter is a kind of spongy bronze—it works fine, stops dirt or water
           dead in its tracks. Like any filter, it clogs up if it has too much work to do. When its
           almost saturated with water, it will starve a motor but let enough gas through for
           idling. Let the motor sit a while, and enough gas will dribble through into the
           carburetor to run at full throttle for a few minutes.

           "In the shop you can blow out the trapped water with compressed air, but I put a slit
           through just in case. May be a little water-spitting from the motor, but I doubt it."

           "If you great brains have that problem licked," said Mrs. Adams with amiable tartness,
           "maybe you’ll tell me how to divide up two hot dogs between five people."

           "Three people," corrected Guy, who was sitting by the fire with his girl. "Sal and I
           can’t eat and harmonize at the same time." They sang a chorus of "Show Me the Way
           to Go Home" and it seemed to Gus, whose ear was better tuned to knocking than
           flatting, that it was darned nice music.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:13 PM]
Gus Backs Into Christmas

                                              By Martin Bunn

                           From the December, 1954 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:14 PM]
Gus Backs Into Christmas

                                           Gus Backs Into Christmas

                                   The kids would be waiting for him but tonight
                                   Gus was miles away, playing real Santa Claus

           Gus Wilson was just closing the Model Garage on the evening before Christmas when
           snow began to fall. The flakes floated slowly down in feathery loveliness. Gus washed
           up and, drying his work-hardened hands, looked out at the falling whiteness.

           "If I had time," he commented to Stan Hicks, "I’d get out there and heave snowballs.
           As it is, I’d better hustle. I’m booked to be Santa Claus for the kids at the Kipp Street
           school tonight."

           Stan grinned at the thought of Gus dressed up in red pants and white whiskers. At that
           moment a small, snow-covered car of foreign make turned in from the street and
           scooted beneath the partly lowered garage door. A pleasant-faced young sailor
           unfolded himself from behind the wheel.

           "Lucky that I got in before you closed," he said. "There’s something wrong with this
           limey heap."

           Gus cocked an ear to the roughly idling motor. He hoped that there was nothing
           seriously wrong, since he would be pinched for time to get ready for his ordeal as
           Santa Claus. Stan, Gus knew, was shining himself up for a special date.

           "Sounds a little rough," he commented.

           "Maybe that’s all," the sailor said, "but I can’t afford to take any chances—not tonight,
           with the garages closing for Christmas Eve, and me with a hundred miles yet to go.
           Around midnight I figure to be playing Santa Claus for my kid—haven’t seen him for
           a solid year."

           Gus nodded sympathetically. "Now about your trouble."

           "I drove this heap right out of a used-car lot down in the city," the sailor said. "Hurry
           to get home—didn’t eat. I nosed down into the curb at the restaurant up the street a
           couple of blocks, and couldn’t back out. Only wanted a sandwich. Guess I never had
           the car in reverse before."

           "Couldn’t back out from the curb!" Gus exclaimed. "Do you mean to say that someone
           sold you a car that won’t go in reverse?" (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:14 PM]
Gus Backs Into Christmas

           "Right," the sailor said. "Doesn’t have enough poop to back away from the curb.
           Restaurant fellow helped me push her back into the street so I could get going

           Gus got in the car, a tiny imported sedan, put it in reverse and backed it up smartly. He
           ran it back and forth. A foolish look came into the sailor’s eyes. "Seems all right now,"
           he said. "Maybe I’d better shove off."

           Urgently wanting to close up, Gus had half a mind to let him go. After all, he told
           himself, this motor had less than 40 horsepower, and that street at the restaurant was
           high-crowned. It would take power to back from the curb there. But the brakes felt as
           if they’d been set up a little too snug. And that rough idle sounded as if one plug was
           cutting out.

           Gus thrust his heavy shoulders beneath the hood, ran his screwdriver over the plugs,
           located the weak sister and replaced it with a new one. Then he cleaned and set the
           others, checked the points and gave the idling screw a quarter turn.

           Working with calm speed, Gus raised each end of the car with the floor jack; the rear
           brakes were dragging a bit, and he backed them off. He put a hand to the brake pedal,
           to check floorboard clearance and stroke length. He started the motor, listened to it
           approvingly, ran the car back and forth a few times on the garage floor.

           "You can roll now, sailor," he said. "Take that hundred miles easy. Never mind the
           pay. Just call it from one Santa to another."

           "Thanks a million, pal," the sailor said. "And Merry Christmas, too!"

           Looking after him, a sense of unease came to Gus, but he shrugged it off. He went
           down the street to the restaurant and ordered a double hamburger.

           "You been working late, Gus?" the proprietor inquired.

           "Yeah. Had a last minute customer. A sailor with a little foreign car. Did you see

           "Sure. That car would pull the hat off your head. I had to help push the thing away
           from the curb."

           "That’s what he told me," Gus said. "I wonder how a man feels when he hasn’t seen
           his wife and kid for a whole year." (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:14 PM]
Gus Backs Into Christmas

           An hour later, dressed in his Santa Claus outfit, Gus was watching the kids put on the
           school pageant. He stood far back in the rear, where the kids couldn’t see him. His
           enjoyment of the show was mildly overshadowed by nervousness over the Santa Claus
           act. Thing to remember, he told himself, was to say, "Ho! Ho! Ho!" every now and
           then. He was worrying the thought when Miss Davidson, one of the teachers, touched
           his elbow.

           "You’re wanted on the phone, Gus," she whispered.

           Gus walked into a side room and picked up the phone.

           "Hello," a worried voice said over the wire. "I’ve had a time getting you. Fellow at the
           diner said you’d be at the school now. I’m Jimmie Wilder—the sailor with the little
           car. I missed a turn out here. I’m not ditched or stuck—just can’t back up. I’m phoning
           from the Sam Renyolds farm."

           Glancing at his wrist watch, Gus felt a sinking sensation. The Reynolds farm was
           several miles out, and in 45 minutes he had to be up on the stage.

           "Look, sailor," Gus said desperately. "I’m stuck here for a couple of hours. I have to do
           a Santa Claus act at the school, and I’m due on soon."

           "Just didn’t know anyone else to call." Wilder said, an infinite weariness in his voice.
           "I was hoping maybe I’d be home by midnight . . ."

           Gus was mentally flaying himself. He knew, right down in whatever prompts a
           mechanic’s hunches, that an erratic spark plug and slightly dragging rear brakes
           shouldn’t have stopped that car from backing from the curb.

           "Stay where you are, Wilder," he said into the phone. "I’ll be right out."

           As Gus pulled away from the school, his tires throwing snow and gravel, he caught a
           glimpse of the worried face of Miss Davidson looking after him from the school door.
           Gus made fast time. As he wheeled into the Renyolds yard, the sailor ran down the
           farmhouse steps to meet him.

           "Good going, mister," he breathed. "I’m about a mile down the road. Took the wrong
           turn. Trees and brush. Can’t turn around and she won’t back up." Under Gus’s coat, he
           caught a glimpse of red. "Hey," he said, "you really are Mr. Santa Claus tonight, aren’t
           you?" (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:14 PM]
Gus Backs Into Christmas

           The little car stood on a side road that led steeply down from the highway to a gravel
           pile the highway had put in reserve for the winter. Gus parked on the highway
           shoulder, put out flares, walked down toward the car with a small tool kit in his hand.
           Softly falling snowflakes fluttered in the flash beam like moths.

           The bumper of the car was hard against the steep side of the gravel pile. There was no
           room to turn around, but no reason, as far as Gus could see, why the car couldn’t back

           "I could tow you out, sailor," Gus said grimly, "but I won’t. There could be a lot of
           uses for reverse gear on a night like this in a hundred miles."

           Gus started the motor, put the car in reverse, eased up on the clutch. The motor took
           hole of the load, started to move the car back, and stalled. Good Lord, Gus thought,
           even this little engine should have more power than this. He tried several more times to
           back out, but each time the motor killed when it took the load. He got out, raised the
           hood, and worked the throttle linkage. The motor opened up from idle to high speed
           with a throaty roar.

           Gus turned the flash on his wrist watch. He had just 25 minutes to get on the
           schoolhouse stage. He felt a rising of panic, shook it off. No man, he thought, could
           think clearly with his wind up. Calmly he pulled out his pipe, lit it.

           Once again he got in a tried to back the car out. When the motor died he leaped out,
           thrust his head beneath the hood, nostrils expanded. He detected the faint but
           unmistakable odor of ozone, that distinctive smell that indicates electricity in the air.

           "Aha!" Gus called. "You try backing her out, Wilder."

           Gus flicked off his flashlight beam. This time as the engine died Gus saw a flash of
           spark at the rear of the engine block.

           "Try her again," he said, playing his flash on the spot.

           With the next try in reverse, Gus saw the little motor twist on its mountings under the
           strain. With the car on a downgrade, the back end of the block tilted just enough so
           that the oil-gauge pipe came against one of the primary circuit connections of the coil
           on the fire wall, short-circuiting the ignition. Gus bent the pipe forward a couple of
           inches. Then he put down the hood and leaned inside to speak to Wilder.

           "Don’t tell that kid of yours, sailor," he said, "what a dumb mechanic you ran into
           down the line. You can roll now." (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:14 PM]
Gus Backs Into Christmas

           A big grin came over the sailor’s face. He shifted into reverse. Under the guiding beam
           of Gus’s light, the little car backed stoutly up the grade to the highway.

           "Thanks a million, mister," Wilder said, leaning out, the snowflakes falling on his face.
           "The kid will be asleep. Think I should wake him up, or just fill his stocking and let it
           go until morning?"

           "If it were me," Gus said, "I’d wake him up. A year is an awfully long time to a kid."

           "You said it," Wilder remarked. He shifted gears and was gone.

           Gus stood there a moment, looking after him. His coat was sprinkled with snow,
           giving him the look of a shaggy bear. Then he was running to his car, dousing the
           flares, getting under way. As the car shot forward, he glanced at the dashboard clock.

           "Eight minutes," he said aloud, "to make three miles and get on that stage. Santa Claus
           may be a few minutes late, but those kids see their fathers every day."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:14 PM]
Gus Lends Luck a Hand

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the June, 1954 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:15 PM]
Gus Lends Luck a Hand

                                             Gus Lends Luck a Hand

                                   The tired old car and the tired old couple in it
                                    somehow the Model Garageman had to put
                                             new life into both of them.

          Gus Wilson was under a car in the Model Garage, installing new bearings, when he
          saw Stan Hicks go out into the warm spring sunshine to wait on a customer at the
          pumps. Stan filled the gas tank and then cautiously removed the radiator cap, leaping
          back from a gush of steam that arose.

          What an outfit, Gus thought—an old sedan, loaded to the windows with luggage that
          sagged the springs. It was a heavy load, but still the car wouldn’t boil if it was in any
          sort of shape. Maybe he’d better go out and take a look.

          There was an old, gray-haired couple in the car. Gus leaned on the window ledge
          beside the driver and gave them a slow, welcoming smile.

          "Nice day," he said. "Going far?"

          "Going far!" the old man retorted. "We was. Clean to Colorado. Now we’re turning
          back. Don’t mind particularly myself, but hate to, because of Ma."

          Gus looked at the thin, weary-faced woman beside the man, and his expression became

          "That’s too bad," he said. "How come you’re turning back?"

          "Well, it’s this way," the old fellow said. "Name’s Hodge—Sam Hodge. This is my
          wife, Mary. Me and Ma been running a farm downstate a way for forty years. It wasn’t
          much of a place, but we ate regular. Then Ma here got sick, and Dr. Shumway
          reckoned we’d best go west so Ma could get well. We didn’t have no money to start
          over in a new country, so we just set and figgered a while. Something will turn up, Ma
          tell me, and sure enough it does."

          "You don’t say," Gus said.

          "That’s right," the woman cut in. "I told Pa it would and it did. And I’ve been telling
          him that we don’t have to turn back now. If our good luck got us started, and helped us
          to meet Mr. Clark and be offered that caretaking job, right where Dr. Shumway said
          we should go, it’ll help us get there." (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:15 PM]
Gus Lends Luck a Hand

          "Women," the old man said, getting out of the car and stretching his small, wiry frame,
          "are uncommon inclined to argue. We put the farm up for sale, had the car all fixed up,
          loaded our rigging and started out. Car’s been a-b’ling ever since we started, and that’s
          only a few hours back. What’ll happen when we get into the mountains? Cost us over a
          hundred dollars to have the car fixed. We ain’t got the money for no more of that kind
          of fixin’, so I says we’d better turn back before we get stranded too fur to turn back."

          "You had the car all fixed up," Gus said. "Then why should it boil? Radiator must be

          "Thought of that," the old man said wearily. "If it was only that we’d go on. Had it
          flushed and a new water pump put in, a piece back. ‘Tain’t that. Feller that did my
          work back home just didn’t do a job. Charged us for fixin’ up the shaft, reboring the
          cylinders, putting in new rings and bearings, grinding the valves and such. He charged,
          but guess he didn’t do the work."

          "That’s a shame," Gus told him.

          While Stan Hicks was collecting for the gas, Gus walked around to the rear of the car,
          stooped to peer into the exhaust pipe. The inside surface had that whitish, clean look
          that means good compression and clean firing. The motor started then, and as Gus
          moved up beside the driver he saw the old man twist the wheel as he shifted into gear,
          in preparation to turn around and head back the way he had come. The woman raised a
          protesting hand, then dropped it into her lap in resignation.

          "Hold it, Mr. Hodge," Gus said quickly. "Mind if I listen to this motor a minute?"

          "Go ahead and listen," the driver said. "Listen’ sure can’t do no harm."

          Gus opened the hood and listened. The motor purred like a smooth-running sewing
          machine. He leaned in through the open window and his eyes moved over the
          instrument panel. The speedometer showed 82,000 miles. He opened the door, reached
          in to depress the throttle, revving up the motor.

          "Watch out," the old man said dryly. "Some of the boxin’ll fly out of her."

          Gus’s eyes halted on the oil-pressure gauge. The car, newly overhauled, with a
          reground shaft and new bearings should have held at 40 pounds of oil pressure at the
          speed the motor was turning over. It held at less than 10. Gus eased up on the throttle,
          and when the motor died to idle the pressure dropped until the oil-gauge needle was
          almost resting on the pin. (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:15 PM]
Gus Lends Luck a Hand

          "This motor," he said flatly, "is in good shape, except that it doesn’t have any oil
          pressure. Any motor will boil under load without oil pressure. Probably needs a new
          oil pump, or the screen’s clogged. It’s a quick job. I’ll put in a rebuilt pump and check
          the screen for 10 dollars."

          "Fellers all along the road been tellin’ me things like that," Hodge said wearily. "A
          couple more quick jobs and we won’t have the gas money to get home. I ain’t strandin’
          Ma way off some place."

          "You’re the doctor," Gus said, shrugging his shoulders and turning away. He moved
          toward the garage, but he found that he couldn’t so easily shake the look he had seen in
          the woman’s eyes. The car turned from the pumps, halted at the curb to wait for
          passing traffic. Gus moved back.

          "I’ll gamble on it, mister," he said to the old man. "I’ll fix it or it won’t cost you a

          A stubborn set came to Hodge’s jaw. He shifted into gear, as if to move forward. Then,
          suddenly, his resistance crumbled.

          "All right," he said. "I’ll take you up on that. Your offer seems to be fair enough."

          Gus put the car on the hoist, took off the oil pan with a spin wrench. It occurred to him
          that he was a fool. A clean exhaust pipe only indicated good valves and rings, clean
          firing. He hadn’t heard knocking rods, but the mechanic who had overhauled the car
          could have put in new rod bearings and neglected the mains. Or he could have put in
          new mains on an out-of-round main shaft. Oil would spurt here as if from a leaky

          The oil-pump screen looked clear enough, but Gus wasn’t taking any chances. He
          cleaned the screen and installed a rebuilt oil pump, poured the oil back in. He started
          the motor, eyes on the pressure gauge. It climbed to 20 pounds on the cooled oil.

          "Well," the old man inquired anxiously. "Did that fix it?"

          "We’ll let her warm up," Gus told him. "We can’t tell when it’s cool."

          Gus could feel the woman’s eyes on his face as he sat there, running the motor,
          watching the oil-gauge needle go down. Slowly it fell, until on the idle it again laid
          almost against the pin. Gus hated to look in the direction of the woman. (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:15 PM]
Gus Lends Luck a Hand

          "No," he said honestly. "That didn’t fix it."

          He was twice a fool, he told himself. He should have looked over the oil-pressure
          check valve first. It might be gummed up or have something holding it open. He knew
          one once that had a chip of wood under it. Sweat beaded Gus’s weathered features as
          he raised the hood and removed the spring and ball check from the side of the block,
          washed them in gas, and blew out the seat with the air hose. He replaced the check
          valve and again started the motor. The oil pressure remained the same. Hodge looked
          at the gauge and his face seemed to sag, to grow more wrinkled and tired.

          "Well," he said, "thanks for trying, mister. We’ll be on our way."

          Gus back to the bench, leaning on it, wiping his hands, fumbling his pipe out of his

          "I’m not through yet," he remarked quietly.

          Stan Hicks jumped into the heavy silence, moving briskly forward to begin sweeping
          dust from the front floor mat with a whisk broom. The woman coughed thinly.

          "Sure is dusty these days, isn’t it?" Stan remarked brightly.

          Gus straightened from the bench and moved into the stock room. He came out with
          four long, thin pipes in his hands, selected tools from his kit, ducked under the hood,
          his burly shoulders blocking all view of what he was doing. A few minutes later he
          straightened up and wiped his hands on a piece of waste. Then he reached to turn the
          ignition switch and depress the starter. He remained there a few moments, revving up
          the motor and letting it idle. Then he turned and his smile crinkled the crow’s feet at
          his eyes.

          "I reckon, Mr. Hodge," he said, "that you can be on your way now—west."

          The old man stepped forward quickly, his eyes holding disbelief, seeing the oil-
          pressure-gauge indicator standing at 20 pounds at idle.

          "I declare," he said. "You’ve gone and fixed it."

          "Some mechanics," Gus told him, "forget that main and rod bearings aren’t the only
          bearings in the oil-pressure line. This car has gone over 80,000 miles. You’re losing
          your oil pressure through badly worn camshaft bearings. This car will take you now."

          Hodge fumbled in his pocket and drew out a worn purse. (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:15 PM]
Gus Lends Luck a Hand

          "How much do I owe you?"

          "The oil pump," Gus told him, "isn’t any better than the one you had when you drove
          in—you’re welcome to the one I put in. I’ll charge you four dollars for four camshaft
          oil regulators. I don’t use them often, but I do keep them on hand for emergencies like
          this, when the oil flow to the camshaft has to be metered down to hold up pressure.
          When you get to Colorado and get the money, you’d better have new camshaft
          bearings installed."

          "I told you, Sam," the woman said, and her face lit up with renewed faith.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:15 PM]
Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

                                              By Martin Bunn

                                From the Nov, 1954 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:16 PM]
Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

                                         Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

          Gus’s sleepy eyes focused on the bedside clock as his hand reached out to silence the
          telephone. It was five o’clock in the morning.

          "Is this Mr. Wilson?" an eager voice inquired over the phone. "I’m Barry Overholtz.
          The crankcase of my car is full of water, and I’ve got to deliver my newspapers."

          Gus was of a mind to hang up and go back to sleep. Then a mental picture came to the
          Model Garageman of Barney’s thin young features, and he didn’t have the heart to do
          it. Barney was 17 and as freckle-spattered as a brook trout. He had the trustful brown
          eyes of a cocker spaniel.

          "Hold your horses, kid," Gus told him. "I’ll be right over."

          At Barney’s house, Gus checked the oil stick of the kid’s 1941 Ford. Then he did the
          only thing possible at the moment—for Gus. He loaded Barney’s papers in his tow
          truck and started delivering them over Barney’s rural route. Folks who were up this
          early were startled at the strange dawn vision of the burly owner of the Model Garage.
          Gus was flipping papers onto the porches, with Barney grinning at the wheel.

          "Now about this car of yours," Gus said. "You’ve had it about a month, haven’t you?
          Have you ever let it run out of water and get hot? It’s not been cold enough to freeze
          and crack the block."

          "It’s never been hot," Barney assured Gus.

          "In that case," Gus declared, "since you bought it over in the city, you should contact
          your dealer there. He should fix it."

          "Gosh!" Barney exclaimed. "Do you think he would?"

          At that moment, Gus was inclined to think that he wouldn’t. Most used-car dealers in
          the city were honest, but it was an old trick of unscrupulous dealers to put a temporary
          repair on a cracked block, and foist the car off on some unsuspecting character like this
          kid. The car would run all right for a few days but then the crack would open up and
          fill the crankcase with water.

          "I’ll have to have it fixed right away." Barney said, his eyes anxious, "or Mr.
          Thompson will take away my paper route." (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:16 PM]
Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

          As soon as the newspapers were delivered Gus took Barney home and towed the water-
          logged Ford into the Model Garage. He got a quick breakfast at the café, where Officer
          Corcoran kidded him.

          "My paper was late this morning, Gus," Corcoran declared. "It had greasy fingerprints
          all over it. The next time this occurs, I’ll have to report you to Mr. Thompson."

          "If it occurs again," Gus chuckled, "I’ll be going to bed at dusk, so I can get up at five.
          Barney jangles a mean telephone."

          Back at the garage, Gus put in a long-distance call to Stevens and Bartlett, the used-car
          dealers where Barney had bought the car. Their attitude in the matter was about what
          Gus had expected.

          "The car was all right when the kid took it out," Stevens told Gus. "I couldn’t be
          expected to repair a water leak on an old car like this, after it’s been driven 30 days on
          a paper route. Kids do things to cars, you know."

          "I know," Gus said wearily, "and so do some dealers."

          Gus hung up, wondering about what kind of an outfit Stevens and Bartlett were. He
          began working on the car. He drained water and oil, pulled the heads, began scraping
          carbon, inspecting gaskets for imperfections, block faces and valve ports for cracks.
          Stan Hicks, Gus’s helper, strolled from the grease rack, grinned widely at Gus.

          "You always were a sucker for kids, Gus," he said.

          "It isn’t that," Gus protested. "I’m just curious to see if this used-car outfit is trying to
          gyp Barney Overholtz."

          The carbon on the heads and block faces was dry, indicating rings in good shape.
          There were no signs of water having been in the cylinders. There were no cracks, even
          at those danger points between valve ports and cylinders. Gus was puzzled. There had
          to be a crack some place. It must be inside the valve compartment.

          A crack in the cylinder water jacket, inside the valve compartment, Gus told himself,
          seldom occurs unless a car has been badly frozen. He ran his inside micrometer around
          in the cylinders. Its reading showed that the car had been rebored to 60 thousandths
          oversize, yet there was no distortion of cylinder walls, such as would have been the
          case if the car had been badly frozen. Really, except for the mysterious crack, the old
          heap was in exceptional shape. (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:16 PM]
Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

          Gus pulled the generator and then the manifold, which on a Ford V-8 also acts as the
          valve-compartment cover. At once he saw water mixed with oil. This meant nothing,
          since water would have been pumped up here from the crankcase with the lubricating
          oil. It would be almost impossible, Gus knew, to locate a crack in here visually,
          without pulling valves, springs and guides, and cleaning the compartment with steam.
          Gus cleaned it the best he could, using a solvent spray and blowing out with
          compressed air. He could find no cracks, and being certain that there were none in the
          compression chambers, he replaced the engine head and filled the radiator with water.

          Gus peered about in the valve compartment, seeing no water flow. Maybe the crack
          was way at the bottom of the block. This hardly seemed likely, but could not be
          overlooked. Gus pulled the pan, lay under the motor, looking up. He was there for
          perhaps five minutes, before he saw a single drop of water drip from the throw of the
          crankshaft, which was in the down position. Just at this moment the phone rang.

          "This is Stevens," a voice said over the wire. "You understand, Wilson, that the 30-day
          guarantee on young Overholtz’s cart has expired. Still, we’d like to know what’s
          wrong with the car."

          "At the moment," Gus said, "water is leaking out of the crankshaft."

          "Out of the crankshaft!" Stevens repeated. "Never heard of such a thing."

          "Neither have I," Gus told him as he hung up.

          Getting under the car again, Gus found, by turning the crankshaft, that the water was
          very slowly issuing from the timing-gear case. If there was a crack up there, behind the
          timing gears, Gus told himself, they might as well junk this motor. He crawled out,
          back to the bench and lit his pipe.

          There was something queer here, Gus thought. A crack caused by a freeze-up, in a car
          that had been rebored to 60 thousandths oversize, would surely come here, where the
          metal was thinnest. At least there would be cylinder-wall distortion. Or maybe, he
          thought, had been no freeze-up on this car. Where would that possibility leave him?

          Gus looked grim, and then a slow smile formed at his mouth. How many times over
          the years has he leaned against this bench thinking that he was at the end of his rope?
          Yet, always, somehow, things had worked out. They would this time, too, he decided.

          He had water and he had oil, he told himself, in passages. At what places that he hadn’t
          thought of could these two possibly meet? Gus visualized the construction of the
          engine block. Nothing but a crack, he decided, could put water in the tuning-gear case, (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:16 PM]
Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

          but the chances of its being there were so slim that the water must be running down
          there from the valve compartment. Gus moved forward, intent on pulling valve,
          springs and guides, for a closer inspection, when Barney Overholtz came into the

          "Hi, Mr. Wilson," he said, and then his eyes fell on his car. "Gosh!" he exclaimed.
          "You’re working on it yourself."

          "Yeah," Gus drawled. "Stevens and Bartlett tell me that your guarantee has expired.
          They won’t do anything."

          Barney’s trustful eyes rested on Gus’s face. "Golly, Mr. Wilson, I won’t be able to pay
          you for a while, because right now I’m broke. I had to pay Mr. Kleiber, over at
          Stanfield yesterday, for a new water pump. The left-hand one wobbled."

          "Don’t worry about it," Gus said. Then, thoughtfully: "You say you put on a new water
          pump yesterday?"

          Gus found his mind chewing on a startling idea. The water pump had been put on just
          before water appeared in the crankcase. Was there any connection? Gus recalled that
          there was a small oil hole drilled from the valve compartment through the block, to
          meet a similar hole in each water pump. Oil flowed down these holes to lubricate the
          water pumps. But this was grabbing at straws, Gus told himself. No one had ever heard
          of water traveling along a pump shaft, up these oil holes into the valve compartment
          again, but could see nothing. He began to pull the new, left-hand water pump.

          "What are you doing now?" Barney wanted to know.

          "Grabbing at straws," Gus told him grimly.

          With the pump off, Gus probed down the oil hole. It ran on a slant from a point within
          a half-inch of the pump rotor to the pump shaft. But this one had been inaccurately
          drilled. The side of the hole had broken out into the pump water jacket. Pressure from
          a filled radiator had forced water up the oil hole and into the front end of the valve
          compartment, where it ran down into the timing-gear case.

          "Out of a million water pumps," Gus said disgustedly, looking at it, "maybe one was
          badly drilled like this. And you had to get it, Barney. Goes to show that when a
          workman does a sloppy job, it can hurt someone a thousand miles away."

          "I guess," Barney said thoughtfully, "a fellow should always do things real careful, Mr.
          Wilson, like you do." (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:16 PM]
Gus Goes Dowsing for Water

          "Me?" Gus chuckled. "Why, I’m not careful. I just bumble around, grabbing at straws.
          This one was awfully thin."

          The phone rang again.

          "We’ve been thinking," Stevens said over the wire, "about that car we sold the
          newspaper boy. You can fix it up, Wilson, and bill us . . ."

          "Goes to show, Barney," Gus grinned, "that folks are more honest than we sometimes
          give them credit for. Stevens won’t have to pay, on account of the faulty pump, but
          that man has a conscience, after all."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:16 PM]
Gus Closes a Sticky Case

                                              By Martin Bunn

                           From the September, 1954 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:18 PM]
Gus Closes a Sticky Case

                                             Gus Closes a Sticky Case

                               Deep inside the door of Fenton Well’s limousine,
                           Gus found the key to unlock that arrogant banker’s heart.

           When Fenton Wells, wealthy and testy financier, drove his big limousine into the
           Model Garage with Pete Sullivan, his chauffeur, at the wheel, Gus Wilson winced.
           Wells had a habit of looking over Gus’s shoulder while he worked, showing his
           interest by issuing orders. Stan Hicks, Gus’s helper, winked as he sidled away to the
           grease rack, where he suddenly became very busy.

           Wells was a thin lath of a man, with the predatory features of an eagle. He was a
           widower who lived in a big house on the hill, apart from the town, with his servants
           and a six-year-old, orphaned granddaughter, whom it was said he idolized. As the
           financier stepped briskly from the car while Pete Sullivan held the door open, he
           caught his foot in the folds of a luxurious robe and nearly fell.

           "Careful, sir," Pete said, steadying the man with a hand.

           "You clumsy ox!" Wells roared. "Pick up that robe, and be careful with it, if you can."

           Sullivan, who had been a sergeant in Korea, turned red to his ears as he bent to pick up
           the robe.

           "It’s a wonder," Wells declared angrily to Gus, "that I’ve a car at all, with this man
           driving it. The engine misses, the windows won’t work, and last night Sullivan
           smashed a fender."

           "I was parked," Sullivan protested, "when a fellow backed into me. I didn’t smash the
           fender, Mr. Wells."

           "Didn’t smash it?" Wells’s voice was caustic. "You could have backed away. You
           didn’t have to sit there, half asleep."

           "I couldn’t back away," Sullivan said. "There was a car parked tight behind me. I blew
           my horn--"

           "Don’t talk back to me, you idiot," Wells warned, "or I’ll--"

           That was as far as Wells got. Pete’s control snapped. He grasped the financier by his
           nose and twisted it. (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:18 PM]
Gus Closes a Sticky Case

           "By gosh," he said, "I’ve taken enough from you, you razor-faced old goat."

           Gus Wilson moved with amazing agility, to grasp Pete’s wrist.

           "Drop it, Pete," he pleaded. "Let him go."

           "Help!" Wells screamed. "Help me, Wilson!"

           "What’s going on here?" demanded Officer Jerry Corcoran, dashing into the Model
           Garage from the street.

           "Arrest this maniac, Officer," Wells gasped. "He tried to kill me."

           Corcoran’s eyes moved to Gus questioningly.

           Gus shrugged. "Sullivan only pulled his nose."

           "Only pulled my nose!" Wells shouted, dabbing at the rapidly swelling member with a
           handkerchief. "He tried to kill me."

           "You’ll have to come with me, Pete," Corcoran said, moving over to Sullivan’s side.
           "And you, too, Wells, to sign the complaint."

           "Brother!" Stan Hicks breathed. "Pete’s sure in for it now."

           "Assault and battery," Gus said grimly. "But why did Pete fly off that way? I’ve
           known him since he was a sprout. He’s too level-headed and sensible to do such a

           Gus thought about it as he went to work on Wells’s car. The action hadn’t been at all
           like the Sullivan Gus had known, from knee pants to sergeant’s stripes. Still, Gus told
           himself, Wells was enough to drive a man nuts. He couldn’t even keep any help. He
           either got mad and fired them or they quit. Only the week before, he had fired Marie
           Lisbeth, the 18-year-old governess for his young grandchild. Not only that, but he tried
           to have her jailed. He would have, too, if he’d had enough proof.

           Quickly Gus removed the miss from the engine, by installing a new set of spark plugs.
           He hammered out the small dent in the fender, sanded it smooth, sprayed it with
           undercoat. While this was drying, he turned his attention to the windows that Wells
           had complained about. (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:18 PM]
Gus Closes a Sticky Case

           The car had an automatic system, operated by electrical energy and hydraulic pressure,
           furnished by a pump. A master switch by the driver’s seat, plus individual switches on
           each door, controlled the windows.

           Gus flipped the toggle switches for the windows and found that only the right front
           failed to work smoothly. As a routine starter, he checked the fluid in the reservoir,
           finding it in order. It occurred to him, since only one window failed to work, that this
           particular switch was faulty. He laid his ear close to the right front door panel and
           flipped the individual switch. He could distinctly hear the sharp click that indicated the
           switch was activating the solenoid.

           This was going to be rugged, Gus told himself. He’d have to tear the entire door down
           to get at that hydraulic cylinder and the electrical circuit beyond the solenoid. Puzzled,
           Gus went over to the master switch. He worked the toggles alternately, running the
           three windows up and down, trying to start the right one. Suddenly, all three windows
           refused to budge. Good grief, Gus thought, if Wells came hotfooting back here and
           found that instead of fixing one window, Gus had stalled them all, he’d go through the

           "If he calls me an idiot," Gus muttered, "I’ll—whoops, there I go. As bad as Sulllivan."
           Gus chuckled to himself as he pawed out his pipe, lit it and leaned on the bench.

           "You stuck, Gus?" Stan Hicks called.

           "Just taking a breather, Stan," Gus assured him.

           Now what had stalled those other windows? The answer came to Gus with the thought.
           A blown fuse, no doubt. In the office he ran a stubby forefinger over the wiring circuit
           of this particular model, as shown in his shop manual. No, he hadn’t blown a fuse. The
           model was equipped with a circuit breaker. In that case it perhaps had become hot and
           opened. If so, it should close as it cooled. Gus went back to the car, and when he
           flipped the switches the three windows again worked.

           A gleam of satisfaction came into Gus’s eyes. Now, he thought, if he wasn’t a fool,
           this should tell him something. If that right front hydraulic cylinder was working, as
           the click of the solenoid indicated that it might be, it was delivering around 25 pounds
           of pressure to that window. The window would have to move up—unless it was tightly
           jammed. In that case a load might be thrown on the entire system that could cause the
           circuit breaker to throw open.

           Gus tried to peer down into the window with his pencil light, but the opening was too
           narrow. There seemed to be no alternative but to tear the door down. He washed his (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:18 PM]
Gus Closes a Sticky Case

           hands carefully, broke out special tools and went at it. Shortly he had loosened the
           door panel enough so that it moved out a bit. Gus distinctly heard something fall inside
           the door. On a hunch he threw the toggle switch. Instantly the window moved up, so
           fast that it almost caught Gus’s face.

           With the window working smoothly, Gus was tempted to refasten the door panel and
           let it go at that. Whatever had been jammed inside had evidently fallen to the bottom
           of the door, where it would cause no trouble in the future. Wells would soon return,
           impatient as usual, demanding his car.

           Thinking about it, Gus’s glance fastened on several long scratches on the window
           glass. Whatever had been jammed inside, had evidently been awfully hard. A
           calculating gleam came into his eyes. He began tearing the door down.

           "My car ready?" Fenton Wells demanded, coming into the garage an hour later,
           accompanied by Henry Olds, his handy man.

           "Just about," Gus told him, shutting off the paint from his spray gun, and spraying the
           fender repair with air to dry the final coat of finish paint. "I put in new plugs. The

           "Never mind the details, Wilson," Wells snapped. "Send me a bill. Get in, Olds. Get in,
           man. I’m in a hurry."

           As Wells got in the car, Gus leaned against the open door.

           "About Pete Sullivan," he inquired. "Going to prosecute?"

           "Of course. The man’s a maniac. I’ll have him jailed."

           "I agree," Gus said amiably, "that Pete shouldn’t have done what he did. But
           sometimes we must consider extenuating circumstances."

           "Extenuating circumstances, my eye," snapped Wells.

           Gus extended his hand, in which lay an object that glittered with blue fire.

           "Buying an expensive bauble like this for a birthday present for a six-year-old kid is
           news in this town," he said. "We all heard about it when it disappeared from your
           granddaughter’s hand. I found it jammed in a window of your car, where undoubtedly
           the kid had dropped it." (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:18 PM]
Gus Closes a Sticky Case

           Wells snatched the badly bent ring from Gus’s hand.

           "My granddaughter’s ring," he gasped. "It was quite expensive, you know. A small
           stone—but blue-white and perfect."

           "Blue-white or black," Gus said softly, "you accused Marie Lisbeth of stealing it, and
           fired her—remember?"

           Looking into Gus’s eyes, Wells did remember—and quite suddenly. The color drained
           from his face. For a moment, he looked small and shriveled, and somehow pitiful.

           "So I did, Wilson," he mumbled. "So I did."

           "Perhaps," Gus said slowly, "you owe Marie an apology. Maybe it would be a nice
           gesture on your part to overlook Sullivan’s action."

           Wells was regaining his composure. "What has all this got to do with Pete Sullivan,
           may I ask?"

           Gus set a match to his pipe before replying. "Did it ever occur to you," he asked, "that
           Pete Sullivan might be pretty fond of Marie Lisbeth?"

           Wells took a deep breath. "I see what you mean, Wilson," he said, softening his tone.
           "I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better if I saw clearly more often."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:18 PM]
Gus Plays a Double Role

                                              By Martin Bunn

                          From the December, 1955 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:19 PM]
Gus Plays a Double Role

                                             Gus Plays a Double Role

                                      The master mechanic works under wraps
                                     to rescue young faith in Christmas miracles

           Gus Wilson, genial proprietor of the Model Garage, was having the time of his life. He
           was playing his usual role of Santa Claus for the Christmas festivities at the elementary
           school. Gus made an imposing figure as he moved among the happy, excited children,
           distributing gifts from the bulging pack on his back, red stocking cap worn at a jaunty
           angle, white beard flowing down upon his pillow-stuffed front.

           Gus was getting along famously with the kids when Miss Davidson, the principal,
           approached him with such an expression of panic on her face that Gus feared she was
           about to speak his name and give him away.

           "The heating plant won’t run, Santa," she told Gus, "and we can’t reach a furnace
           repairman. They all seem to be away for the holiday. It’s getting awfully cold in here.
           What can we do?"

           Glancing through the open doors of Miss Davidson’s office, Gus could see Matt
           Bergstrom, who was a member of the school board, frantically jiggling the phone hook
           as he tried to get a number. Sam Howard, the school’s janitor, stood beside Matt,
           wringing his hands helplessly. Gus, heavily padded, had not noticed the cold.

           This was a big evening for adults and kids alike. The walls of the school were gay with
           decorations. A huge tree sparkled with lights, and from its tip shone the silver star of
           Bethlehem. The school stage, where every year for over a quarter of a century the
           town’s youngsters had presented a Biblical play, was decorated with star-studded
           evergreen wreaths.

           Gus tousled Tommy Willard’s mop of hair as he thought about the problem.

           "Here you are, my lad," he boomed, handing the boy a present.

           Turning to tiny Ann Trotter, Gus permitted a worried expression to come into his eyes.
           The child, her arms outstretched to take the gift Gus was offering, saw it. Her blue
           eyes opened wide in dismay and astonishment. This will never do, Gus thought.

           "And now for you, my little lady," Gus said in his best Santa Claus voice, boosting the
           tiny tot to his shoulder, "I have this doll with real hair and eyes that close." (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:19 PM]
Gus Plays a Double Role

           "I’m getting awfully cold, Santa Claus, and my baby is, too," she said as she cuddled
           the doll in her arms.

           Matt Bergstrom stepped from Miss Davidson’s office, and his eyes met Gus’s in mute

           "A nice state of affairs," someone in the audience grumbled aloud. "It’s freezing cold
           in here."

           The eyes of the adults strayed to Gus. Here was a man to whom they had been
           accustomed to turn in times of emergency.

           Gus sighed. What could he do? He couldn’t step off the stage with his presents still
           undistributed. Neither could the Santa Claus these kids had known for years suddenly
           turn into Gus Wilson of the Model Garage—the man who fixed daddy’s car.

           Besides, he knew little about automatically controlled oil-conversion units like the one
           that had been put in here. And yet, he did know something. He had been on the
           committee that had selected it. He had gone over its specifications rather thoroughly
           with the salesman. At any rate, he had to make a decision now, and he made it.

           "So," Gus roared jovially, chucking little Ann Trotter under her pretty chin, "my little
           one is cold. Perhaps old St. Nick can fix the furnace."

           "Could you, Santa?" Tommy Willard asked.

           "Ho, ho," Gus cried out. "And why not? In my shop at the North Pole I fix many

           Gus put Ann Trotter down and moved toward the basement door.

           "I’ll need tools," he said loudly, and his eyes sought out in the audience his helper at
           the garage, Stan Hicks.

           Gus had fully expected that the parents and teachers would move to prevent the
           children from following him. Alone in the basement he could revert to Gus Wilson and
           work on the heating plant. But nobody made a move to prevent the shouting children
           from trooping along at Gus’s heels.

           Stan Hicks sidled out the door behind them. "I dunno what you folks are going to do,"
           he said. "But me, I’m going after Gus’s tools so Santa can do the job."
           Sam Howard accompanied Gus into the basement. "I don’t know anything about this (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:19 PM]
Gus Plays a Double Role

           gadget," he remarked sourly, "except how to turn it off and on."

           Gus surveyed the ancient furnace with its gleaming conversion oil unit, feeling rising
           panic. On the way down he had glanced at the wall thermostat and noted that it was
           turned above the 70-degree mark. Yet the oil burner was silent and cold. Looking at
           the circle of youthful, eager faces about him, the awful realization came to him that
           every child in the basement was expecting Santa Claus to work wonders.

           "Here, Santa," said one boy, offering his newly acquired present to Gus. "Use my tool
           kit—it’s a dinger."

           "Just the thing, just the thing, my lad," Gus boomed.

           Gus located the fuse panel, inspected the fuses. He traced the copper fuel line from the
           burner to where it split into two lines leading through the cement wall to buried fuel
           tanks. Each line had its shutoff valve and individual sediment bowl. The right tank,
           Gus noted, was shut off, the valve on the left tank wide open.

           "I brought your tools from your sleigh, Santa Claus," Stan Hicks kidded Gus as he
           approached with Gus’s small emergency tool kit.

           "Ho, ho," Gus roared jovially, slapping Stan so enthusiastically on the back that he
           staggered. "And how are my reindeer, my good lad?"

           With tools in hand, Gus racked his memory for the details of the heating unit as he had
           gone over them at the time of purchase. He checked the high-tension ignition points,
           took out the tiny, high-pressure oil-spray nozzle and cleaned it, the children gleefully
           following his every move. He experimentally turned the heat-limit control switch from
           "automatic" setting to "manual." The hot-air fan started.

           "Santa’s fixed it," the children cried in unison.

           Gus beamed on them, even though he knew that by starting the fan manually he had
           merely sent a current of air upstairs from a cold and flameless burner. He turned the
           switch back to automatic control. He now inspected the primary control switch, which
           was mounted in the furnace stack. This, he recalled, was primarily a safety device,
           with a heat-controlled bimetallic coil. It was so constructed that it would turn off the
           burner within a minute or so after it started to run if the burner didn’t ignite in that time
           to bring the heat to the stack. Gus noted that the re-set button on this switch was out. A
           crafty look came into his eyes as he pressed the re-set button.

           The burner whirred, but without flame. It ran a minute or more and stopped. (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:19 PM]
Gus Plays a Double Role

           Aha, Gus thought, he had either ignition trouble or no oil at the burner. Now at least he
           knew where to start. The ignition points seemed all right—he’d bet this rig was out of

           "You, there," he bellowed, pointing a finger at Sam Howard. "Have you got fuel in
           your tanks?"

           "Of course I have," Sam said. "In fact, the left-handed tank is full."

           There went another theory, Gus thought grimly.

           "I know the left-hand tank’s full," Sam went on, "because I turned off the right-hand
           tank a couple of hours ago when it ran dry, and turned off the left, which ain’t had a
           drop used out of it since it was filled. It holds nigh on to 600 gallons."

           "So," Gus breathed, forgetting for the first time to use his Santa Claus voice, "the right-
           hand tank ran dry, did it, and you turned on the left."

           "Maybe Santa can’t fix our fire," a small voice—Ann Trotter’s—said.

           "He can, too," Tommy Willard said stoutly. "Santa can fix anything. Can’t you,

           "Well," Gus said thoughtfully, stroking his beard, a twinkle in his eyes. "I haven’t got
           all my magic tools from the North Pole. But if I had a plain, ordinary tin can, I just
           might do the trick that I have in mind."

           "Tin can!" sputtered Matt Bergstrom, who had just come into the basement. "Tin can!
           Find him one, Sam."

           Sam found a tin can that had once held liquid soap. Gus put it beneath the burner-
           regulating valve and backed off the bleeder plug. He pressed the re-set button on the
           primary switch. As the burner ran, it pumped out some oil—and along with the oil, the
           air lock that had been created when the right-hand fuel tank ran dry, and the left-hand
           fuel was forced in upon it.

           Gus shutoff the bleeder plug before the burner stopped. He waited a couple of minutes
           and then pressed the re-set switch again. This time when the burner started Gus heard
           the roar of flame in the furnace pot, felt the swelling of heat. (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:19 PM]
Gus Plays a Double Role

           "Santa fixed it! Santa fixed it!" the children cried, dancing around Gus.

           Standing there, Gus lifted his eyes and sent up his own private, Christmas Eve prayer
           of thanks that as an automobile mechanic he had known all about air locks in fuel

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:19 PM]
Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss

                                              By Martin Bunn

                           From the February, 1955 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:20 PM]
Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss

                                     Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss

                                      Had Miss Wilks lost her head over him?
                                     Or was it just a cylinder head that brought
                                          the lady to the Model Garage?

          When Emma Wilks, the comely new schoolteacher, drove her badly missing 1948
          sedan into the Model Garage, Gus Wilson anticipated nothing more complicated than a
          routine repair job.

          "After all," Emma said, her blond hair tickling Gus’s burly neck as they peered
          beneath the raised hood of the car, "it isn’t dignified for a schoolteacher to drive
          around with a bucking, missing car, is it, Mr. Wilson?"

          "No, it isn’t," Gus told her, carefully avoiding Emma’s big, blue eyes.

          Knowing that Emma had but recently bought the used car from a reliable dealer in the
          city, who had completely overhauled it, Gus at first suspected loose gaskets.

          "My, what strong hands you have," Emma remarked as Gus tightened cylinder and
          head gaskets.

          With the motor still missing, Gus ran a compression check and found all cylinders high
          in readings. Running his neon-tube screwdriver over the plugs, then shorting them out
          one by one, proved that the plugs were firing, and tied the miss solidly to number four.

          Full compression on a compression check, with the motor turning slowly with the
          starter, and a miss while running, with good ignition, suggested a gummed and slowly
          closing valve. Since the new valve grind made this extremely doubtful, Gus’s thoughts
          turned to a weak or broken valve spring, or too close a valve setting. Removing the
          valve cover to check this, he was astonished to see one of the half-moon valve keepers
          of number-four intake valve lying on the cylinder head.

          The remaining half of the keeper held the valve, but caused the spring to cock to one
          side, binding the stem.

          "Here’s your trouble, Miss Wilks," Gus said.

          "I just knew you’d find it," Emma gushed. "You’re wonderful."

          Red-faced, Gus removed the metal cap that rode the top of the valve stem, to prevent (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:20 PM]
Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss

          excessive oil from running down the stem, held the valve pried up against the inside of
          the head with a crooked bar thrust through the spark-plug hole while he compressed
          the spring and replaced the valve-keeper half. The engine now ran smoothly.

          "I just knew I could depend on you, Mr. Wilson," the schoolteacher exclaimed

          "And you’re a bachelor, too, remember, Gus," Stan Hicks chuckled as Emma drove
          out. Stan hummed the Wedding March as he worked.

          Ever since Gus had unwittingly bid on the new teacher’s lunch basket at the church
          box social a couple of weeks earlier, folks had been eager to build a romance between
          Emma and the town’s most eligible bachelor. Leaders in this were Gus’s pals, the
          irrepressible Elmer Stoddard and Pete Vancourt.

          "You’ll be all wrapped up in matrimony before you know it, Gus," they had told him.

          "Emma just bought that car so she could drive it in here for you to repair while she
          whispers sweet nothings."

          "Go soak your heads," Gus had told them angrily. "She hasn’t brought the car in to me

          "Give her time," Pete Vancourt had grinned. "I’ll bet her car develops more mysterious
          complaints than a 1908 Model T."

          And now, Gus thought, smoking at the bench, she had brought it in. But it wasn’t a
          mysterious complaint. Whoever had ground those valves just didn’t put the valve
          keeper in all the way.

          But the next day Emma again brought the car in—and Gus found the same valve
          keeper lying on the cylinder head.

          "Now, isn’t that strange?" Emma said as she stood at Gus’s shoulder.

          More than strange, Gus thought to himself as he replaced the keeper, bade Emma
          farewell and watched her drive out.

          "Hah!" Stan Hicks chortled as she pulled away. "What did Elmer and Pete tell you?"

          "Now look here," Gus bellowed. "If you mean to intimate that the lady took that valve (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:20 PM]
Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss

          keeper out herself, just so she would have an excuse to come in here and--"
          Gus halted in midspeech, while a wary look came to his eyes.

          "But," he demanded of no one in particular, "how in tunket did it get out? Do you
          suppose that Pete and Elmer sneaked over at night and did it? They could, you know,
          with Miss Wilks car parked behind the boarding house."

          "Now, Gus," Stan advised, "don’t fight it. When a lady sets her cap for a man, he’s--"

          Gus didn’t wait to hear the last of this remark. He tossed his cap on a bench and went
          down the street to the restaurant. By the time he had returned the worst thing had
          happened. Pete Vancourt and Elmer Stoddard had gotten together with Stan Hicks.

          "Brother," Stoddard greeted Gus, "are you hooked! Like a gaffed bass."

          "I wouldn’t say that exactly," Vancourt put in. "After all, let’s not give up so easily.
          Elmer, we must advance to the rescue of our pal. Now let me see. How can we help

          "Help me!" Gus roared. "Why, you slinking coyotes. I’ll bet that you two are at the
          bottom of this."

          "Listen to the ungrateful cuss," Stoddard sorrowed.

          "The thing to do," Pete Vancourt said, winking at Stan Hicks, "is to figure out the
          lady’s next move. Then we can short-circuit it."

          "If you two open your traps again," Gus growled, advancing with poised screwdriver,
          "I’ll ram this right down--"

          "I’ve got it," Pete Vancourt exploded, snapping his fingers. "The next time Emma’s car
          breaks down, she’ll arrange to have it happen way out on some lonely road, at night."

          "How cozy," Stoddard cooed.

          "Get out!" Gus bellowed as the pair went down the street grinning.

          When Emma Wilks actually did call Gus from a lonely country road the next evening
          at dusk, Gus hung up the phone feeling as if he had been poked in ghe stomach with
          the handle of a screwdriver. He tossed his kit in the service car and drove out without
          telling Stan Hicks where he was going. (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:20 PM]
Gus Encounters a Stubborn Miss

          "I knew that everything would be all right when I got you on the phone," she said. "I
          called from the farmhouse over there, and here you are. How nice."

          "Yeah," Gus said hollowly. Without hesitation he raised the hood and took off the
          valve cover. Seeing the keeper half of number four on the cylinder head in the light of
          his flash nevertheless jolted him. This would be the third time he’d put this keeper in.
          First thing he’d know the other half would fly out and there’d be a valve through a
          piston. Gus had the uncomfortable feeling that Pete Vancourt and Elmer Stoddard
          would leap from the brush at any moment.

          Thinking about them as he replaced the keeper, it came to Gus that he might have let
          their kidding warp his usual calm judgment. With the keeper once more in place, he
          installed the curved disk of the oil cap on the top of the valve stem, and peered closely
          at the valve, using his flash. He grunted, brought a feeler gauge from his pocket,
          attempted to thrust it between the rim of the oil cap and the top of the spring.

          "Miss Wilks," he said disgustedly, "you have been bringing your car to a fool."

          "Why, Mr. Wilson!"

          Gus didn’t hear her. He was busy taking off the oil cap, placing it on the flat of a
          fender dolly, pounding its rim with a hammer, replacing it, adjusting valve rocker-arm
          clearance and sending Emma on her way.

          Back at the Model Garage a shame-faced Gus told Stan Hicks the sad story.

          "When they ground the valves," he exclaimed, "they naturally trued up the ends of the
          stems on a grinder. But they ground number-four intake a little short, so that the oil
          cap, instead of resting on the top of the valve stem, rested its rim on top of the spring.

          "So when the rocker arm came down to open the valve, the curved-down rim of the oil
          cap brought pressure to bear on the spring before pressure was brought to bear on the
          valve stem. This released pressure on the keepers, allowing one half to pop out. With
          the spring cocked over, the other half fortunately stayed in. All I had to do was to
          flatten the rim of the oil cap, so it would rest again on the valve-stem top and clear the

          Stan Hicks grinned disbelievingly. As he moved off to close up for the night, he
          hummed the Wedding March.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:20 PM]
Gus Pursues The Little Green Men


                                    From the January 1955 issue of
                                           Popular Science

                             When Bert Hibbard first brought his 1949 sedan into the Model Garage,
                             Gus Wilson figured that this would be one of the simplest jobs he had
                             ever tackled. Th way things turned out, Gus had a mystery on his hands,
                             and half the people in town were talking about it and looking back over
                             their shoulders. Some folks were quick to declare that Hibbard’s
                             distributor cap had been exploded by atomic radiation.

                             The car came in running rough and occasionally backfiring. Gus saw
                             what was wrong as soon as he lifted the hood. The distributor cap was
                             hanging loosely in the air, on the ends of the spark plug wires and the
                             center, high-tension wire from the coil. The two flat, spring-wire clips,
                             which were supposed to hold the cap on firmly, were unsnapped. The cap
                             was held in place by the stiff wires just enough so that the motor was able
                             to run raggedly.

                             Gus lifted the cap and inspected the inside with a light. Bouncing around
                             loosely, it had taken a beating from the revolving rotor.

                             "Sorry, Bert," he told Hibbard. "This is going to cost you a new
                             distributor cap. This one’s had it. I wonder how those spring clips came
                             loose. Has anyone been working the car?"

                             "No," Hibbard declared, scowling. "And what’s more, it was running
                             perfectly when I put it in the garage last night. I’m ready to bet that Mike
                             Regan sneaked in during the night and worked that distributor cap loose.
                             You know, Gus, he’s the character who threw nails on my lawn and
                             deliberately ruined my power mower a couple of years back."

                             Gus knew all about the power mower. Mike Regan, a large and ordinarily
                             well-liked and friendly man, lived next door to Hibbard. While building a (1 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:21 PM]
Gus Pursues The Little Green Men

                             new garage, he had dropped some nails on Hibbard’s lawn. Mike claimed
                             this was accidental. Hibbard claimed otherwise. The two had been in each
                             other’s hair ever since.

                             "Pshaw!" Gus exclaimed. "Now I don’t think Mike would do a thing like
                             that, even as a joke."

                             Gus installed a new distributor cap and, while he was doing so, pondered
                             on how those two spring clips could have come free during a night in
                             Hibbard’s garage. If the car had been all right when Bert put it away, and
                             was running this way when it started in the morning, someone must have
                             tinkered with it.Still, the two spring clips could have jumped loose of
                             themselves. To make sure that they didn’t do it again, Gus bent them
                             slightly, so that they snapped strongly into the niches of the cap. The car
                             now started easily, ran smoothly.

                             But a week later Hibbard called the garage again and this time he really
                             was put out.

                             "Gus," he yelled into the phone, "can you come right over? Regan’s been
                             up to his tricks again. This time he smashed my distributor cap. You
                             should see it—smashed to smithereens. I’ve a mind to have Regan

                             When Gus got to Hebbard’s home, he found Bert and Mike Regan
                             standing outside the garage, engaged in heated argument.

                             "I tell you, Regan," Bert was saying as Gus came up. "I’m giving you just
                             one more chance. I’m putting a padlock on my garage nights from now
                             on, and so help me—"

                             "Why blame me," Regan yelled, "when things are blowing up all over the
                             country? It’s those atomic bombs they’re setting off. Why, out West the
                             windows are all pock-marked, and some of them just exploding. Why I
                             heard of a man who saw pink snow right after that last bomb they set off."

                             "Morning, boys," Gus said genially, stepping out of his service car with
                             his tool kit. "What’s this I hear about that new distributor cap exploding?
                             Sounds like a joke."

                             "Take a look for yourself, Gus," Hibbard said grimly.

                             Lifting the hood, Gus was astonished to see that the new distributor cap
                             had literally been smashed to bits. The wire sockets hung in the air, still
                             attached to the wires, but the rest of the cap was scattered about in pieces.
                             This did indeed, look like vandalism. Perhaps, Gus thought, the
                             distributor-shaft bearing is badly worn, wobbling the rotor around so that
                             it broke the cap. This hardly seemed possible, but Gus made an inspection
                             for side play. There was none. (2 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:21 PM]
Gus Pursues The Little Green Men

                             Gus straightened up, took his pipe out of his pocket. While he slowly
                             packed and lit it his mind was busy. Could Mike Regan have done this, as
                             Hibbard claimed? Or possibly Hibbard had aroused the antagonism of
                             some mechanically minded youngster in town. Gus turned to meet Mike
                             Regan’s blue eyes squarely. Then he turned to Hibbard.

                             "I brought a new distributor cap." He said shortly. "Maybe you’d better
                             padlock your garage after this, Bert"

                             The second new cap installed, Gus drove back to the Model Garage.
                             Several times during the next few days he saw Bert Hibbard driving the
                             car around town. Apparently it was running well and the padlock on the
                             garage had finally ended the matter.

                             But Mike Regan hadn’t been willing to let it drop there. He felt that he
                             was under suspicion. He took great pains to explain to folks that he had
                             been innocent. He declared that almost anybody’s distributor cap might
                             explode, even as car windows were being mysteriously pock-marked.

                             "Atomic radiation, my eye!" Stan Hicks, Gus’ helper, exclaimed.
                             "Somebody must have it in for Bert. It could be Mike Regan."

                             But Mike’s talk went from mouth to mouth. Rumors flew. Folks dropped
                             in at the Model Garage to question Gus about the mysteriously exploded
                             distributor cap.

                             This was the situation when another distributor cap literally blew up on
                             Bert Hibbard’s car while it was sitting in his garage. This time the garage
                             had been securely locked. When Gus got the news he tossed his kit into
                             the service car with a grim expression on his normally genial features.

                             "This settles it," he told Stan Hicks. "If that garage was locked, as
                             Hibbard says it was, no one has been doing this. It’s simply a mechanical
                             problem. That I can handle."

                             This time Gus found Hibbard and Regan circling each other, perplexed,
                             talking softly and warily.

                             "The garage ," Regan reminded Hibbard, "was locked all night, until you
                             opened it this morning to get out your car. Maybe you think I know how
                             to pick locks, Bert?"

                             "Maybe," Hibbard said.

                             "It’s those atomic-bomb explosions," Regan declared.

                             "Maybe," Gus cut in, "one of those flying saucers landed and one of those (3 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:21 PM]
Gus Pursues The Little Green Men

                             little green men from Mars did it."

                             Gus was all business now, his eyes alert beneath his heavy, graying
                             brows. The distributor cap again was scattered about in bits. What was he
                             to do now? Gus asked himself. One thing he wouldn’t do was to blame
                             the neighbors, atomic explosions or flying saucers. Perhaps that new rotor
                             he had put in was too long—yet he knew it hadn’t been.

                             Inspecting the broken pieces of distributor cap, Gus gathered the
                             impression that they had been blown outward rather than smashed inward
                             by an outside blow.

                             Internal combustion…

                             In a gasoline engine, this meant gas fumes, ignited by a spark, in a
                             confined area. In the distributor there was a confined area, and as these
                             explosions must have occurred just at the moment Hibbard tried to start
                             his car, there would be a spark from the flash of the ignition points. The
                             sound of the explosions might have been muffled by the grinding of the
                             starter motor.

                             But how could gas get in the distributor? Could it get from the crankcase,
                             up through the distributor shaft? It was possible but not probable, in
                             enough concentration to fire. Where else could gas fumes come from?
                             What other opening was there into the distributor from a source of gas or
                             gas fumes? How about the automatic vacuum spark control? Gus eased
                             his back muscles as he thought about this.

                             "Stuck, Gus?" Hibbard queried anxiously.

                             "Maybe," Gus said thoughtfully.

                             The vacuum control, a diaphragm connected by tubing to the intake
                             manifold, retarded the distributor timing under heavy load, and advanced
                             it when the load eased up. Thus the manifold was a possible source of gas
                             fumes. What if the diaphragm were punctured?

                             If conditions were right and fumes collected in the distributor, a spark
                             from the points would blow the cap apart. But if conditions were not just
                             right, if the fumes did not collect in the right proportions, it wouldn’t
                             happen. Gus snapped his fingers. This would account for several days
                             elapsing between explosions. He began to tear down the vacuum spark-
                             advance control unit.

                             Sure enough, the diaphragm was defective.

                             "It didn’t blow the cap apart the first time," Gus explained to Hibbard,
                             "because the spring clips flew off easily. But after I bent them and (4 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:21 PM]
Gus Pursues The Little Green Men

                             attached them firmly the cap exploded under pressure."

                             Gus’s installation of a new vacuum control unit ended the mystery of the
                             exploding distributor caps, even to the satisfaction of those who were
                             inclined to see fiery saucers, pink snow and little green men. And the next
                             Saturday morning, driving by Hibbard’s place, Gus saw Bert holding the
                             ladder for Mike Regan while he sawed at a dead limb on the big maple
                             that hung over their adjoining lawns.


            Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (5 of 5) [11/10/2003 9:59:21 PM]
Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt

                                                                                    e (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:23 PM]
Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt

                                  From the June 1955 issue of
                                       Popular Science

                        Gus Wilson was considerably surprised, early one morning, when
                        Hank and Nancy Stoneman drove into his Model Garage in their
                        Jeep, only an hour after they had started out on their uranium-hunting
                        expedition. Nancy Stoneman was practically in tears.

                        "We’ve planned this trip for so long, Gus," she wailed, "and we’ve
                        only got a weeks vacation—we can’t waste a minute of it."

                        "Trouble?" Gus asked, not knowing what else to say.

                        "You said it, Gus," Hank Stoneman said. He heaved his lanky frame
                        from the Jeep disgustedly. "This crate has been running like a watch
                        ever since I got it a month back—uphill, downhill, empty and loaded.
                        But now, when we start our trip, it throws a rod on the first hill."

                        "Is that all?" Gus spoke lightly, hoping to dispel their gloom. "You’ll
                        soon be on your way—won’t take long to put in a rod bearing."

                        "I wouldn’t have planned this trip if the fellow I bought the car from
                        hadn’t told me it was in fine condition," Stoneman said bitterly. "It
                        seemed to be, too—didn’t even have to add any oil during the time I
                        drove it."

                        Silas Barnstable, who had idled over with Pete Vancourt, looked at
                        the Stonemans and sniffed audibly.

                        "Maybe," he said sourly, "the automobile ain’t one to put up with
                        wild-goose chases all over creation."

                        "Wild-goose chase!" Stoneman exclaimed." We might get rich. The
                        Government pays big for locating uranium. Besides this is a sort of
                        delayed honey-moon for us—we didn’t take one when we were

                        "Honeymoon!" Silas snorted. "Rubbish—chasing around with a tent
                        and skillet like painted Indians." (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:23 PM]
Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt

                        "Why, you dried up old coot," Pete Vancourt retorted, "Gus and me
                        and Elmer Stoddard plan to live in a tent on our vacation. Come on,
                        Silas, let’s get out of here and let Gus fix the Jeep."

                        "I don’t care what he says." Naancy Stoneman’s chin came up. "It’s
                        going to be fun. We planned to camp at Meeker Springs tonight. But
                        it’s getting late."

                        "Your can still make it, Nancy," Gus said, lifting the hood. "We’ll
                        have you on the road in no time."

                        That was what Gus thought at the moment. But when he cocked his
                        ear to the motor, a puzzled expression came to his face.

                        "Rod out, you say?" he asked. "This motor sounds just fine, if you
                        ask me."

                        "Don’t let it fool you, Gus," Stoneman said. ""You should hear it on a

                        "I’d like to," Gus said, "Jump in and we’ll see."

                        The motor sounded sweet until they hit the first steep hill out of town.
                        Then it developed a knock that did sound considerably like a rod
                        bearing. Gus drove back to the garage silently, his mind searching the
                        possibilities. One bun guess , he thought, and these kids lose a day of
                        their vacation. To them that’s a year out of their lives.

                        Back at the garage, Gus wiggled the throttle from idle to quick
                        pickup, held it at medium cruising a moment. Very queer, he thought.
                        A rod comes in sharpest from idle to pickup, a piston at sustained,
                        unloaded revolutions. But there was no knock there. Could it b a
                        main bearing?

                        But with the pan off, he could find nothing wrong with the mains. He
                        didn’t take any chances on the rods. He pulled the caps, inspected
                        each one for snug fit. One of the center rods had a small piece broken
                        out of the very center of the shell.
                        "Ah!" Gus grunted, as he pushed himself out to get a new bearing

                        With this installed, Gus continued to probe for trouble, turning the
                        shaft, watching the rods turn on their journals, looking for side play (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:23 PM]
Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt

                        that would spell misalignment and a possible knock. Then he put the
                        pan back on and poured in the drained oil, which appeared new.

                        "Just put in new oil, didn’t you?" he remarked.
                        "Yeah," Hank Stoneman said. "Scott changed it last night."
                        "Fine," Gus said. "Hop in, and we’ll try her out."

                        It seemed to Gus that he’d never heard a smoother-running Willys
                        engine—until they hit the first steep hill out of town. Then the knock
                        came back, as strongly as before. Gus said nothing as he turned back
                        to the Model Garage, but his face was drawn and thoughtful. Nancy
                        Stoneman was eagerly awaiting their return, all smiles.

                        Gus ran his hands nervously through his grizzled hear, his mind
                        racing. Nothing wrong underneath—it had to be somewhere on top.
                        He found himself taking a compression check, hoping that a sticking
                        valve might be striking a tappet push rod. He checked valve setting,
                        timing, ignition wiring—fiddling around. He looked at the
                        clock—two hours gone.

                        "Can’t you find the trouble, Gus?, Nancy Stoneman asked anxiously.
                        "We cane to you because we were sure…"

                        "Thanks," Gus grunted, angry with himself. Was he a mechanic or a
                        backyard tinkerer?
                        Again he reviewed the facts. Sure he’d found a cracked rod bearing,
                        but the bearing was snug—he felt at the time that it wouldn’t have
                        caused that knock. .

                        His ear had told him, right at the start, that the knock was timed to the
                        revolutions of the main shaft.

                        The trouble was down there—why was he wasting time up here? He
                        crawled under again and removed the pan.

                        Gus lay there, looking at the bottom of the motor, asking himself
                        what he could have missed here—the mains and rods were right,
                        there was proper alignment and side clearance. A drop of oil fell from
                        the round, floating oil-suction assembly, with its protecting screen.
                        Gus wiped the oil from his weathered cheek impatiently, began to
                        probe the bottom of the motor with his shop light. The shop light was (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:23 PM]
Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt

                        too bulky to be moved about among the rods, so he fumbled out his
                        pencil light, began to play its beam along the shaft.

                        The brilliant beam of the pencil light was reflected from a tiny bright
                        spot on one of the center crankshaft counterbalances. "Ah!" Gus
                        breathed. "Now what caused that? Maybe the counterbalance has
                        been striking the oil stick."

                        Gus grunted as he turned the shaft over slowly. No, the
                        counterbalance hadn’t been striking the oil stick. There was nothing
                        near enough to strike the counterbalance. And what if there was? It
                        would strike all the time, not just on hills.
                        Gus was inclined to disregard the bright spot on the counterbalance.
                        Maybe, he thought, he’d scraped the power-bar handle across it when
                        he was taking down the rods.

                        Another drop of oil fell from the oil float. It just missed Gus’s left
                        eye. He snorted as he wrung a greasy knuckle in the eye socket. Then
                        he relaxed and just lay there, looking up at he offending oil-suction
                        float, thinking of knocks that didn’t come in for a month, even on
                        hills, and then suddenly came in, and only on hills. He reached up to
                        waggle the oil float up and down for the length of its travel on its
                        movable arm. He crawled out to call Scott Service.

                        "Scot," he said, "this is Gus Wilson. You’ve been servicing Hank
                        Stoneman’s Jeep. How is she on oil?

                        "Fine," Scott replied. "That Jeep don’t use hardly any oil. It was
                        down a quart when Stonmeman bought it, but seeing that he was soon
                        to start on this uranium-hunting expedition, we didn’t add any. We
                        changed the filter and filled her to the mark with new oil last night.

                        "Thanks, Scott." Gus hung up.

                        He was like a hound on a hot trail now. He slid under the Jeep and
                        began taking off the oil-float assembly. As he had expected, there
                        was a bright, dented spot on the top. He took the assembly to the
                        bench and worked on it a moment, washed it out, crawled under and
                        replaced it. He slapped up the pan, reached a brawny arm out to his
                        tool kit for a speed wrench. Something in his movements seemed to
                        communicate a sense of success to the Stoneman’s. Nancy came to
                        squat down and peer under at Gus. Hank hastened to join her.

                        "Please hurry, Gus," Nancy pleaded. She added wryly, "We’re late (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:23 PM]
Gus Sparks a Uranium Hunt

                        for our honeymoon."

                        Gus smiled cheerfully. "I’ll have you on your way in minutes."
                        "What in tunket was it?" Hank asked.

                        "The oil float," Gus said out of the corner of his mouth as he worked
                        to buckle up the pan. "It works on a moving arm, with a stop that lets
                        it float only so high. This stop has been bent so that the float
                        bypassed it, going so high that one of the crankshaft counterbalances
                        struck it…that knock didn’t quite like a rod to me."

                        Stoneman was puzzled. "But why did it strike only on hills—and why
                        didn’t it strike until we started our trip?

                        "That’s what had me fooled, " Gus chuckled. "It didn’t strike before
                        because you were a quart low on oil. It didn’t strike even after Scott
                        had filled the pan with new oil to the high mark, until you hit a steep
                        hill. Then the oil ran to the back of the pan and raised the oil intake
                        float high enough so that it did strike. I simply bent the stop back
                        again so it couldn’t be bypassed."

                        Gus chuckled again. "I couldn’t find it until it almost spit in my eye.
                        Things like this sure get me down."

                        "Stoneman laughed. "Don’t kid us, Gus. You love it."

                        "Maybe," Gus said ruefully, "but I sure do get frazzled around the
                        edges sometimes. There, the pan is on. In with the oil and you’re on
                        your way. Meeker Springs, here you come."


  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:23 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

                                              By Martin Bunn

                             From the March, 1955 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                                  Gus Pulls a Switch

                             Three cocky schoolboys get a grounding in auto wiring
                                      and a new respect for their elders.

           It was ten-thirty and long past Gus Wilson’s usual quitting time when a pair of dim and
           doleful headlights turned in to the Model Garage and a 1940o sedan pulling a trailer
           limped up. Three teen-age boys and a middle-aged man hopped out.

           "We’re having battery trouble," the tallest of the boys said. Throwing an impatient
           look at the middle-aged man, he added, "Again!" (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           The man came forward, his eyes behind his rimless spectacles as dim and doleful as
           the headlights of the car. He removed his felt hat and scratched the fringe circling his
           bald head.

           "I fear there is something very wrong with my battery," he said in a precise voice.
           "Although it is virtually brand-new, this is the third time in three days we have been
           compelled to have it recharged."

           "Sounds like a short," said Gus easily. He lifted the hood and began probing around
           with his flashlight. There was a familiar hot-insulation smell, but it was too faint to

           The little man peered over Gus’s shoulder. Three pairs of youthful eyes followed the
           beam of Gus’s light.

           The boy who had first spoken said, "Mr. Wismer, would it be a good idea to find some
           place to spend the night, since we may be stuck here for quite a while?"

           "An excellent notion," exclaimed the man. "I’ll do that right away."

           "Might try the Commercial Hotel," Gus suggested over his shoulder. "I have a couple
           of rooms there and it’s mighty comfortable."

           "Thank you. Do you have a phone?"
           "Right by the door," Gus said without looking up.

           When Mr. Wismer was out of hearing, one of the boys exclaimed, "The only good
           thing about this rig is Ned’s trailer."

           The tall boy chuckled loftily. "Thanks, Arnold. Made the whole thing myself," he
           explained to Gus. "Started out with a front axle from the junk yard."

           "So," said Gus. He loosened the clamps on the battery cable. "We might as well give it
           a quick charge while we’re looking for the short."

           "The Whizzer insisted we use his car," Ned told Gus. "Felt responsible. Didn’t even
           want me to attach my trailer. He was afraid something would go wrong. Something
           went wrong, all right, but with his precious car, not my trailer."
           Mr. Wismer returned from the phone. He shook his head sadly. "No vacancies."

           "Where are you bound for?" Gus inquired, clipping on the leads from the quick
           charger and easing up the charge-rate control. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           "Williamsburg, Virginia," replied Ned. "They’re holding the finals of the National
           Early-American Crafts Exhibit there tomorrow. All the winners of the state contests
           are competing. We’re representing our state. My trailer’s full of our stuff."

           "What time do you have to be there?"

           "We have to check in not later than tomorrow at seven p.m. At this rate we’ll never
           make it."

           Arnold, by this time tired and discouraged, could contain his impatience no longer.
           "Gee, Mr. Wismer, I should think you would have had your car checked before we

           "I did, Arnold," replied Mr. Wismer patiently. "Right after my last history class, the
           day before we left. I had it thoroughly checked over."

           "Probably had his wife sweep out the back seat with a whisk broom," one of the boys
           muttered. Mr. Wismer didn’t hear him, but Gus did.

           "Tell you what, boys," the proprietor of the Model Garage suggested. "There’s a
           hamburger joint across the street. Why don’t you run over and stoke up? It’s going to
           be a long night. If you took turns driving, you could get to Williamsburg easily by
           tomorrow afternoon."

           "Not with this old crate breaking down every hundred miles," Ned retorted.

           "Bring back a pair of hamburgers and coffee for your teacher and me," said Gus.
           "While you’re gone we’ll scout out the trouble."

           The last statement elicited an anonymous hoot as the boys turned and headed across
           the street.

           "They don’t have much faith in us, do they?" Gus observed, puffing thoughtfully on
           his pipe.

           Mr. Wismer coughed apologetically. "They’re pretty discouraged by now. You know
           how kids are. They think that because I teach history, I don’t know anything else."

           Gus turned back to the car. He couldn’t help liking the little schoolteacher who stood
           beside him. He rocked the trailer with his hand. "Seems pretty sturdy," he said. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           Mr. Wismer nodded. "Can’t blame this trouble on the trailer, I’m afraid."

           Gus turned his flashlight on the under-part of the trailer, ran it along the steel supports,
           over the wooden body and back to the two tail lights.

           "Where are these plugged in?" he asked.

           "On the other side," Mr. Wismer replied. He led Gus to the left rear tail light. "Right
           here. Ned made an attachment for plugging in the trailer lights."

           Gus bent over and pulled the plug out. The wire was suspiciously warm.

           "I think we’ve found your trouble," he said quietly. He examined the prongs of the
           plug and ran an expert eye along the wires, which were stapled to the side of the
           trailer. He looked at the bewildered little schoolteacher quizzically.

           "What do you say we teach those young smart alecks a lesson?" he suggested. "Do you
           mind a little deception—in the interest of education?"

           Mr. Wismer’s pale eyes twinkled. "In the interest of education, why not?"

           A half-hour later, when the boys returned, they found the garage dark and the doors
           locked. Gus had gone home. Mr. Wismer was seated at the wheel studying a map by
           the illumination of the dome light. He accepted the hamburger and coffee that the boys

           "Where did the garageman go?" one of the boys asked.

           "He recharged the battery and went home," Mr. Wismer replied.

           "Did he fix the trouble?" Ned asked.

           "He just went home," Mr. Wismer said.

           "That square didn’t know anything about cars," Arnold announced.

           Mr. Wismer let that pass.

           "We might as well get going," Ned suggested. "We probably won’t get far, but we
           can’t sit here all night." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           The boys piled in. Mr. Wismer carefully folded the map and put it away. There was a
           moment or two of silence as they waited for their teacher to start the car. Instead, Mr.
           Wismer thoughtfully drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.

           "By the way, Ned," he said, "after the garageman left, I took the liberty of going over
           the wiring on your trailer."

           The air was electric with surprise. Ned was the first to find his voice. "Sir?" he

           "I noticed that you grounded one of your wires to the frame of the trailer."

           "Y-yes, I did."

           "And the frame of the trailer is attached to the chassis of my car."

           "That’s right," said Ned.

           "I also observed," Mr. Wismer went on, trying not to show how much he was enjoying
           himself, "that one of the prongs of your plug appears to carry current from the battery
           while the other goes to the grounded wire. Is that right?"
           "Why, yes, sir."

           "Of course," Mr. Wismer said modestly, "I’m only a history teacher and don’t know
           anything about wiring, but"—he paused; in all his teaching career he had never had
           quite so much attention from his students—"but I probed around a bit, and I’m afraid,
           Ned, that you overlooked something."

           "But, Mr. Wismer," Ned protested, "that’s how you’re supposed to wire them. You
           have to have a ground wire, and ground wire--"

           "The ground wire must be attached to the frame," Mr. Wismer said.

           "Yes . . ."

           "What happens," Mr. Wismer continued, "when the wire from the battery goes directly
           to the ground?"

           There was a thoughtful silence as the import of his question sank in.

           "I guess," Ned said, "there would be a short." (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           "Exactly!" exclaimed Mr. Wismer. He opened the car door. "Come around here and let
           me show you something."

           The three boys followed their teacher to the back of the car. Mr. Wismer took out his
           flashlight and directed its beam at the place where the tail light was attached to the
           socket on the car.

           "Well?" Ned’s voice was defensive.

           Mr. Wismer pulled out the plug and let it drop, apparently by accident, from his hand.
           "How careless of me," he said. "Plug it back in, will you, Ned?"

           Ned quickly inserted the prongs.

           "Tsk! Tsk!" muttered the teacher reproachfully. "Just as I thought. You are a bit
           careless, Ned."

           "But, sir--" Ned began.

           Mr. Wismer pulled the plug out, twisted it, and re-inserted it. "There," he said. "It just
           takes a twist of the wrist."

           Ned bent down to examine the connection more closely.

           "That’s just what I did," he protested.

           "Not quite," explained the teacher. "The way you connected it, the prong wired to the
           ground was, most regrettably, making contact with that part of the socket that leads to
           the battery. A short circuit would have been—as I’m afraid it has been—the
           lamentable result when the lights were switched on."

           Sudden understanding glimmered on the faces of all three boys. "Shall we go on our
           way?" Mr. Wismer suggested.

           They pulled out of the garage and headed down the dark street in silence.

           Finally Ned spoke up. His voice was respectful. "I guess you know a lot more than we
           gave you credit for," he said.

           They were passing the long, friendly front porch of the Commercial House. A man was
           seated there in a rocking chair, smoking a pipe. Mr. Wismer gave two sharp toots on (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           his horn and waved. The man waved back.

           "What did you do that for?" Arnold asked, looking around blankly.

           "Just giving credit where credit is due," said Mr. Wismer.

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:24 PM]
From the November

                       From the November, 1955 issue of
                                Popular Science
                                                    This story donated by
                                                         Hugh Davy

                                                                Gus Obeys Orders
                                                                                Martin Bunn

                                                                                    November 1955

                                                     How much would you charge," Silas Barnstable inquired
                                                     suspiciously of Gus Wilson, proprietor of the Model
                                                     Garage, "to put a new clutch in my Ford?"

                                                     Gus, who was engaged in putting the usual two gallons of
                                                     gas in Barnstable's dilapidated Ford, could hardly believe
                                                     his ears. Silas, well known as the town tightwad usually
                                                     scrounged worn parts from a junk yard, and either tried to
                                                     fix his car himself or hired some kid to do it for him.

                                                     "It's about time," Gus said, hanging up the hose, "that you
                                                     did something about that chatter when you shift gears.
                                                     Every time you shift, you're in danger of being thrown out (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:26 PM]
From the November

                                                     of the rig."

                                                     "None of your sarcastic remarks," Silas snapped, peering
                                                     angrily over the tops of his glasses. " What’ll you charge
                                                     put in a clutch?"

                                                     "Depends," Gus told him, "on what’s required. I can’t give
                                                     you a flat price until I check over the job."

             "Oh, no you don't," Silas said warily. "I'm on to how you garage fellers work. You
             poke around and hem and haw and make believe a lot of things need fixing that
             don't. Time you get done, you've chalked up a bill that’s worth more than the car."

             Gus was tempted to tell the stingy old coot that it wouldn't take much of a bill to be
             worth more than his third-hand Ford. But he refrained from doing so. He made the
             mistake of trying to reason with Barnstable, making him more suspicious than

             "It's this way, Silas," he explained. "You think that you need a new clutch, and
             from the way your car acts, undoubtedly you do. But I can't be sure until I check it
             out. This Ford has gone over a hundred thousand miles - loose and worn universal
             joint, transmission bearings, drive bushings, and even loose truss rods could be
             causing your chatter when shifting. Even if you do need a clutch overhaul, the
             price would depend on how many parts I had to put into it."

             "Quit beating around the bush," Silas demanded. "Nobody works on my car until I
             know what it will cost me. If you won't give me a straight answer, I’ll take my
             business somewhere else."

             "All right," Gus said wearily. "A clutch overhaul it is. I'll put in an exchange disk,
             facing and pressure plate, and it will cost you 28 dollars."

             Barnstable rose up in his seat like a hooked salmon. "What- d'ya mean 28 dollars"
             he yelled.- "That's highway robbery."

             The cantankerous old codger shifted low, roared the motor with a clatter of pistons,
             and lifted his foot from the clutch.

             The car leaped from the gas pumps with a shuddering and chattering that (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:26 PM]
From the November

             threatened to shake off its dilapidated, flapping fenders.

             "Take his business somewhere else," Stan Hicks said, coming from the grease rack.
             "I wish he would."

             "It takes all kinds to make a world," Gus said amiably. "We might even miss the
             old man if he didn't come around at least once in awhile."

             "Why?" Stan queried. "Occasionally he buys two gallons of gas. In the meantime,
             he fills his leaking radiator and tires with our water and air every day. When he
             needs oil, he dips it from our waste barrel for free. Most of the bolts and nuts in his
             old jalopy he filched from our junk box."

             "Kind of ingenious character, isn't, he?" Gus chuckled. "I wonder who he'll find to
             put in a clutch for less than 28 dollars?"

             Gus didn't have long to wonder. Barnstable made the rounds of the town's garages,
             and then showed back at the Model Garage, as Cantankerous as he ever was.

             "I've decided," he told Gus, "to let you fix my clutch. But mind you, I’ll have my
             eye on you every minute. So don’t try slippin’ in any beat up parts"

             " I won’t", Gus promised. "But you’d better let me check the car over first. I might
             save you…"

             Now," Barnstable warned, "don't start trying to hornswoggle me again. I know
             what I want - just see that you give it to me."

             "You’re the doctor," Gus said grimly." Back the car under the chain hoist Stan -
             I’II get right to work on it."

             Gus hooked the back of the chassis to a split chain, and hoisted the rear end high.
             He got under on a creeper, and lay there awhile, looking up at the bottom of the old
             Ford. The clutch, he thought, would really have to work smooth on this baby when
             he was finished with it to make her take off without any chattering. "I'll bet every
             bearing, gear and bushing between clutch and rear wheels could stand replacing,"
             he muttered half aloud. Gus' mind went back to depression days, when junk heaps
             in this condition had been common. He grunted as he began to unhook spring,
             universal joint and other connections. He backed the rear assembly out from under,
             put a jack under the rear of the engine, and removed the transmission. He removed
             the flywheel housing, prick-punched the flywheel and clutch cover, and eased the
             pressure-plate tension off carefully by backing off the studs all the way around. (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:26 PM]
From the November

             Then he removed them and took out the pressure plate and facing disk for closer

             "Hmm," Gus grunted, wiping a slight bit of moisture from the edges of the parts
             and smelling it. "You've been squirting gas in here recently-"

             "It's none o' your business," Barnstable said belligerently. "I'll do as I please with
             my car."

             Gus had a mental picture of Barnstable running around trying to beat down his
             price, and failing. Then, as a last resort before coming back to Gus, he had squirted
             gasoline into the clutch in an attempt to wash out grease to stop his chatter. The
             humorous thing about this was that there was no grease on the clutch facings. Gus
             began to inspect the pressure plate and disk carefully for cracks, burns, warpage
             and adjustment of pressure-plate springs.

             "Now look here, Gus," Barnstable protested. "I was to get new parts. I ain't going
             to stand for any tinkering around on these old… ."

             "All right," Gus interrupted, and moved to draw out an exchange pressure plate and
             a lined disk from his store in the stock room.

             Gus worked systematically to install the parts. In spite of the fact that Silas had
             insisted that his trouble was caused by a bad clutch, Gus kept his eye open for
             other easily visible defects, such as loose truss rods and transmission out of line.
             Gus intended to road test the completed car, but Barnstable got in it and drove out.

             "I'll test it myself," he announced testily, as he left with a lurch.

             "Brother!" Stan Hicks chortled, "I never expected to see the day when Silas
             Barnstable would pay for a first class repair job."

             Gus poked thoughtfully at a gob of grease that had leaked onto the floor from the
             old Ford's transmission as it lay there. He got a scoop of sawdust to cover up the

             "Yeah" he said finally, "and neither did I. The trouble is, it wasn't a first-class
             repair job. Barnstable's clutch was bad enough for any normal driver to want to
             have it rebuilt. But it wasn't bad enough for Barnstable to have wanted it rebuilt.
             I'm not so sure the clutch was causing his shift shudder and chatter after all."

             "You don't tell me" a beauteous expression of mirth came to Stan's face. "Is this (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:26 PM]
From the November

             good - the old coot paid for a job that, if he'd known it, he might have been happy
             to go without."

             "Maybe," - Gus said thoughtfully. "That's just where the shoe may pinch. What's
             going to happen if his car shudders and chatters when it shifts the same as it did
             before? Sounded like it would when he drove out."

             "Crimminy!" Stan breathed. "Sure as shooting, the ring-tailed character will come
             back in here like a mad dog with a tin can on its tail."

             Gus shrugged helplessly. "I tried to tell him," he said grimly. 'I wanted to check the
             car out but he was so darned suspicious. Golly, here he comes now."

             Barnstable drove into the Model Garage, brought the Ford to a shuddering halt, and
             leaped out like a spindle-shanked rooster.

             "You gypped me" he yelled. "It's worse than it was."

             "Not worse," Gus said placidly. "You got a new clutch-remember."

             "I'll sue you," Barnstable threatened.

             "What for?" Gus queried, leaning calmly against the bench and lighting his pipe.
             "You got what you insisted on having, didn’t you?"

             "That's right, Silas," Stan agreed.

             Gus and Stan could see the awful truth now dawning on Barnstable's face - he had
             guessed wrong, forced Gus to follow his guess and, worse yet, put out money
             without curing his trouble.

             "Do you mean to tell me," he began weakly. "that I…?"

             "No," Gus said, anticipating his words, "I don’t. I shouldn’t do it, but if you’ll quit
             being so suspicious, and give me a free hand, I’ll try to fix you up without any
             further charge… Where did you get that grease that you have in your

             " What business is that of yours?" Barnstable sputtered.

             Stan Hicks cut in. "He got it," Stan said sharply, "from Robler, when he drained the (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:26 PM]
From the November

             summer grease from his trucks - Robler told me so himself."

             "And," Barnstable said triumphantly, "Robler didn't charge me anything for it,
             either. You can still get a bargain at some of the garages in this town."

             "Ah" Gus grunted. "So that's it. That grease would be far too heavy for the
             transmission of your light car, Silas. It could be the thing that's causing your shift
             shudder and chatter."

             "You knew it all the time," Barnstable

             'I didn't," Gus told him, "and I don't know it for sure now. I only suspected it after
             you drove out when I noticed some of your transmission grease on the floor.
             Ordinarily such heavy grease might not cause a car to chatter when being shifted, if
             the car was in good condition otherwise. But with a hundred thousand miles of
             wear on transmission gears, universal joint and drive bushings, it could be the
             cause of it."

             "Let's see.. Stan drain and flush Silas's transmission and fill it with the proper

             When this job was done, a much-chastened Barnstable permitted Gus to road test
             the Ford. The shift shudder and chatter were largely gone.

             "Maybe," Stan Hicks told Gus later, "this will teach the old coot a lesson."

             "I doubt it," Gus said. "Hang it all, if a man doesn't trust his mechanic, he'd best
             hunt up one he does trust."


  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:26 PM]
Gus Seizes at a Straw

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1956 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg

                                                Gus Seizes at a Straw

           Gus Wilson, proprietor of the Model Garage, came across the stalled pickup on a steep
           grade on the Cedar Creek route. A blazing summer sun beat down on a startling variety
           of household goods. Gus, halting his truck behind the pickup, noted a hutch of white
           rabbits resting on the open tailgate and, inside, several baskets of what appeared to be
           food, a couple of rolled-up tents, fishing poles, folding chairs, a folding table, and odds
           and ends of camping gear.

           A tall, spare man uncoiled from the shade of the truck to peer uncertainly at Gus.

           "I’m Gus Wilson," the Model Garage owner announced. "A passing car told me that
           you needed a mechanic." (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:27 PM]
Gus Seizes at a Straw

           "She won’t pull the grade," the man said, his voice holding a note of complete
           discouragement. "The kids have been looking forward to this camping trip out on
           Eagle Lake for weeks, but at this rate I don’t know if we’re ever going to get there. It
           seems like it takes a mechanic to get us over every stiff grade the last hundred miles."

           "I see," Gus said.

           "If that’s the mechanic," a woman called from the cab, "don’t you hold him up with
           jawing at him, Henry Morgan."

           Deciding that he was up against a routine case of gas starvation, Gus blew out the gas
           line, checked the tank for fuel, inspected the fuel pump and carburetor-float setting. He
           cleaned the carburetor and filter screen, made sure that the gasket of the ceramic filter
           unit wasn’t sucking air, blew out the carburetor jets, inspected the windshield-wiper
           vacuum line for leaks and tightened the intake manifold. Then, to make certain that he
           wasn’t scouting the wrong tack, he ran a routine ignition check. After that, he started
           the motor, moved around to look into the exhaust pipe. The whitish color of the inside
           of the pipe convinced him of food compression and clean firing.

           Turning, Gus found himself looking into the eyes of a half-circle of children, ranging
           from about three to 10 years old. They stood there, silent and big-eyed, three overalled
           and cowlicked boys and a tiny, honey-haired girl.

           "Our rabbits are thirsty," the little girl said. "They haven’t had any water all day."

           "Don’t bother the mechanic, children," Mrs. Morgan interrupted as she stepped from
           the cab, a buxom, motherly woman, the strain of worry and heat on her pleasant

           "No bother, lady," Gus told her, his eyes moving to where the rabbits lay, sides
           heaving in tortured breathing.

           "There’s some shade trees over the hill," he told Morgan. "Let’s try to pull over. I’ll
           drive right behind you."

           The pickup started off with a surge of power. It was about a mile to the top of the
           Cedar Creek grade and the pickup almost made it before it faltered to a stop and the
           engine died.

           "Made quite a piece," Morgan remarked, avoiding Gus’s eyes.

           The children descended from the car to swarm around Gus. (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:27 PM]
Gus Seizes at a Straw

           "You didn’t fix it," the little girl declared accusingly, her eyes straying to the rabbit

           Gus smiled down at her, touched her hair with his hand.

           "Why don’t you kids get some water from that tank in my service car for your rabbits,"
           he said. "There’s a canvas there, too. Put it over the hutch for shade."

           Their eyes lit up as they ran toward the service car.

           "We’re country people," Mrs. Morgan said quietly. "Our kids sort of take to animals."

           "I know," Gus told her. He tightened all fuel-line connections, removed the ceramic
           filter unit and replaced it with a new one. Water and other foreign elements sometimes
           clogged these units.

           "Let’s try it again," he told Morgan.

           When the motor started, Gus saw the pulsations of the pump instantly fill the glass
           bowl of the filter element. Then, with the children all aboard, the truck pulled to the
           top of the grade, where Morgan parked on the shoulder.

           "Seems to be all right now," he said. "I’ll pay you and we’ll be on our way."

           Gus cocked an ear to the nicely idling motor, eyes wary.

           "Let’s get this straight," he said. "You’ve been calling in mechanics every time you hit
           a steep grade for the last hundred miles. They always get you rolling over the grades
           but the trouble occurs again. That doesn’t sound right to me—there’s something
           screwy here."

           "Seems that way," Morgan said. "You’re the fifth man we’ve had work on this rig.
           They all seemed to think that they had us fixed up for good. We always hoped that
           they were right. They weren’t."

           "Any mechanic worth his salt," Gus said, "would spot this as gas trouble the minute he
           laid eyes on it. Any mechanic would undoubtedly do the same things I did, and
           someone has put on a new gas pump recently. What has me puzzled is why these
           fellows, including myself, got your load over a steep grade if they didn’t fix whatever
           was wrong. Now if you’ll pull down into the shade of those trees, I’ll take another (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:27 PM]
Gus Seizes at a Straw


           It was hot, and as Gus walked back to his service car he found himself hungering for a
           cold, thick, malted milk, so thick that when you tried to suck it up with a straw, the
           straw flattened and you had to use a spoon. Gus smacked his lips and drove beneath
           the trees.

           He approached the job now with an air of fresh determination. Under the watchful eyes
           of the children Gus cut the valve stem out of an old inner tube, together with a portion
           of the surrounding rubber. He removed the gas-tank cap, placed the opening of the
           bottom of the valve over the tank filler pipe and wound the balance of the rubber
           tightly about the pipe, tying it securely. He then attached a tire pump to the valve stem
           and had Morgan pump vigorously as he crawled about under the pickup. He traced the
           gas line from tank to carburetor for leaks but found none.

           He crawled out, lifted the hood and looked at the motor, a baffled expression on his
           face. He shook the dirt from his graying hair, and with a stubborn look got a jack from
           the service car.

           "Pump a bit more, will you, Morgan?" he said, as he jacked up the rear wheel and
           rammed his head under the fender.

           Slowly, a barely perceptible spot of moisture appeared on the line. It was something
           that a person almost imagined he saw, disappearing in the heat of the day as fast as it

           "Ah!" Gus grunted, pulling his head from beneath the fender, moving to get a hacksaw
           and brass tubing connector from his kit. He released the air from the line, sawed it in
           two, coupled it together again.

           "I have an idea that she’ll take you now," he told Morgan.

           "We’d admire to have you eat a bite with us," Morgan said, nodding to where Mrs.
           Morgan had spread a picnic lunch.

           Gus was about to decline the invitation when the honey-haired little girl came to slip
           her hand in his.

           "You’re the nicest mechanic we ever had," she declared solemnly. "You saved our

           "Thank you," Gus told her, smiling. "It’s been a long time since I picnicked with a (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:27 PM]
Gus Seizes at a Straw

           pretty girl."

           Sitting in the shade with a sandwich in hand, Gus explained to the Morgans what their
           trouble had been.

           "Lack of gas on steep grades," he said, "is such a common occurance in this business
           that we mechanics have pretty well adopted a routine trouble-shooting schedule for it.
           When I found that several mechanics had worked on your rig, and all muffed it, I knew
           that it had to be something out of the ordinary. Holes and leaks in gas lines are, of
           course, common—most mechanics would spot such a thing at once. But this hole was
           so small that it was practically nonexistent. It neither leaked gas nor sucked air, except
           when you got on a very steep, long grade with a load.

           "You see," Gus went on, "a motor naturally requires more gas on a heavy pull. The gas
           pump takes a longer diaphragm stroke, creates more vacuum pull on the line. It is also
           pulling the gas uphill, against the pull of gravity. Only under these conditions did this
           pinhole in your line cause trouble. I first suspected it when I thought I saw tiny air
           bubbles in your glass filter bowl just as we topped the trade. Such tiny bubbles, if the
           grade were long enough, would build up an air lock in the line and starve out the

           "Why didn’t those other mechanics find it?" Morgan wanted to know. "They fixed us
           enough to pull the grades."

           "Because," Gus told him, and he grimaced, "of routine procedure in a case like this.
           Each mechanic immediately uncoupled the gas line and spun the motor to see if the
           gas pump was working. In doing this they pumped out the air lock and fixed you up so
           you could pull the grade. Naturally, they did this and that also, and when you pulled
           the grade they took it for granted that they had corrected the trouble."

           "How come you didn’t?" Morgan asked.

           "I didn’t want to be just another mechanic who got the Morgans over a hill," Gus said.
           "And then I got to thinking about a nice, cold, thick, malted milk, so thick that the
           straw would flatten when you tried to suck it up and you had to use a spoon. Your gas
           line couldn’t flatten under extra-heavy suction, Morgan, but it could suck air, even
           through a pinhole."

           "I’d like a malted milk, right now—a real thick one," the honey-haired tot said.
           "Strawberry flavor."

           "Stop at the Model Garage as you pass," Gus told her as he left, "and the malted milks (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:27 PM]
Gus Seizes at a Straw

           will be on me. In fact, I think I’ll even have one myself."

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:27 PM]
Gus Saves the Livestock

                                               By Martin Bunn

                           From the October, 1956 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:29 PM]
Gus Saves the Livestock

                                              Gus Saves the Livestock

           The local critters wouldn’t stay alive long unless Gus solved the mystery of Pete
           Blinstock’s crazy driving

           By Martin Bunn

           When Gus Wilson heard the rumor that Pete Blinstock was getting so old that he was
           entertaining his second childhood he got a chuckle out of it. The rumor originated with
           Pete’s rather excitable neighbors, Ezra Hendricks and Tom Hanratty. These three old
           codgers, who owned adjoining farms at the edge of town, were really the best of
           friends. But they took great delight in needing each other unmercifully.

           "I tell you, Gus," Ezra Hendricks confided, his gray beard fairly crackling with
           indignation, "Pete’s getting so old that he’s beginning to slip his cable—acts like a
           Plymouth Rock pullet with her first egg."

           "That’s right, Gus," Tom Hanratty declared. "Only yesterday he scooped up my bull
           and plastered it against a rail fence."

           "Scooped up your bull!" Gus breathed. "Now wait a minute, boys . . ."

           "It’s a fact," Hanratty insisted. "I was leading my bull across the road when here he
           came, around the corner and down the hill on two wheels in his old rattletrap, foxtail
           waving in the breeze, scooped up my bull on his front bumper and slewed it into the

           "Foxtail!" Gus ejaculated. "Do you mean to tell me that Pete Blinstock is running
           around with a foxtail on his car?"

           "Right," Ezra declared. "And, if you ask me, with scrambled brains."
           "Can you picture Pete Blinstock," Stan Hicks, Gus’s helper, said, mirthfully, after the
           two men had left the Model Garage, "dashing around with a foxtail flying from his
           radio antenna?"

           "Yes," Gus chuckled, "I can. Since Ezra and Tom are always making fun of Pete’s car,
           it would be just like him to wave that foxtail in their faces just to get back at them. And
           it would be just like Tom Hanratty to lead his bull slowly across the road just as Pete
           Blinstock came along, to get a rise out of him."

           Gus didn’t see any of the three for a few days. Then, one afternoon, they drove into the (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:29 PM]
Gus Saves the Livestock

           Model Garage in Pete Blinstock’s car, buzzing like a trio of angry hornets.

           "This has gone far enough!" Ezra Hendricks yelled, shaking his finger under Pete
           Blinstock’s nose.

           "We’ve got the evidence on him this time, Gus," Tom Hanratty declared, holding up
           three very lively White Leghorn pullets with their legs tied together.

           Gus could hardly hear himself think with the yelling and the cackling of the outraged

           "If you weren’t too dang tight to feed your chickens, Ezra Hendricks," Pete roared,
           "they wouldn’t be pecking around in the county road where they could get scooped up--

           "Easy now," Gus stepped into the mix-up with a broad grin. "What’s this really

           "My chickens," Ezra said indignantly, "were taking dust baths in the road, but did Pete
           slow down? Not on your life. He just leaned on the horn and swished in amongst ‘em."

           "So," Hanratty said grimly, "me and Ezra to together for a showdown."

           "Showdown my eye!" Blinstock retorted. "If they’d keep their stock out of the county
           road, Gus, everything would be all right. If there was another way around, besides
           down that hiss in front of their places, I’d take it. But there isn’t. Now and then my car
           slips out of gear on the downgrade, and before I can clap on the brakes, away we go.
           And here’s their stock all over the road . . ."

           "Hold it." Gus held up his hand. "Let’s forget the livestock for a minute. Did you say
           that your car slipped out of gear on the hill, Pete?"

           "That’s right," said Pete, "and that’s what I’m here about. I wouldn’t put it past these
           two characters to have had a hand in this gear-jumping business. Mighty peculiar, ain’t
           it, Gus, that the hill in front of their places is the only hill where my car slips out of

           "I wouldn’t know about that," Gus said grimly, "but if your car is slipping out of gear,
           Pete, you’d better have it fixed, and quickly."

           "Pay him no mind, Gus," Ezra said. "That’s just one of his slippery alibis. There’s
           nothing wrong with his car that hasn’t been wrong since it came over on the (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:29 PM]
Gus Saves the Livestock

           Mayflower. And it’s only been the past few days that he’s taken to cutting up didoes
           with it, like a teen-ager."

           "Maybe," Gus commented, rolling out his tool bench, "but I think we’d better take a
           look anyway."

           Gus’s first thought was to check and see if the studs which held the transmission to the
           bell housing were tight. When he found that they were, he checked the drive-shaft
           universal joint for wear and looseness. Finding nothing seriously wrong here, he then
           checked the U bolts at the rear springs, thinking that looseness might have caused them
           to shear the centering pin on one spring or the other, causing it to move about and
           throw the drive shaft out of line.

           Gus found his mind occupied with Pete’s statement that the car only flew out of gear
           on the particular hill in front of the farms of his two neighbors.

           "Let’s go for a drive," Gus said.

           "We’ll go along, Gus," Ezra announced firmly. "We want to be on hand when you get
           the goods on him."

           With the trio in the car with him, Gus drove around town, putting the car down the
           Pine Street hill. Everything seemed to perform perfectly, except the brakes, which
           certainly did need attention. In fact, Gus was vaguely disturbed because things
           functioned too perfectly. It seemed to Gus that the last time he had driven Pete’s car
           the clutch had been grabby, and that he had recommended that it be worked over. It
           occurred to Gus that the hill before Ezra’s and Tom’s places broke over a rocky ridge
           and that it made driving pretty rough.

           Accordingly, he drove Pete’s car out to a hill that was similar and started down it,
           putting the car against compression. He was halfway down when it suddenly jumped
           out of gear. The sudden release of the holding power of compression caused the car to
           shoot away like a rocket. Gus slammed on the brakes and managed to come to a
           shrieking halt that caused the chickens to cackle loudly in protest.

           "There," Pete crowed. "You see, it does slip out of gear."

           "Probably," Ezra said sourly, "pulled out of line by that foxtail waving around in the

           "I didn’t put that thing up there," Pete protested, "and I wouldn’t have left it up there if
           you fellows hadn’t got your wind up over it so much." (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:29 PM]
Gus Saves the Livestock

           "You didn’t put it up there?" Gus queried.

           "No," Blinstock said. "Tony Triesta hung it there—you know Tony, Gus."

           Gus did know Tony, a lad who lived down the road from Pete a couple of miles, who
           had a shine on a girl over in Stanfield, and a great yen to become a mechanic like Gus.

           "How," Gus queried, "did Tony happen to do that?"

           "Well," Pete said, sort of shamefaced at being caught in a kindly deed, "you see, Tony
           hasn’t a car of his own and he was in a lather to take that girl friend of his out in
           Stanfield. So I let him use my car over a weekend. He tied the foxtail on the thing.
           He’s a nice boy, Gus, and proud. He didn’t want to be beholden to me for the use of
           the car, so he paid me back by putting in a new clutch plate."

           "He put in a new clutch plate!" Gus breathed. "I see."

           Gus did see. Tony, in his zeal to become a mechanic, had rigged up a workshop in his
           father’s machine shed, where he tinkered on his friends’ cars, and worked on the farm

           "Maybe," Gus said thoughtfully, "we’d better have a look at your transmission. Let’s
           go back to the garage . . ."

           When Gus pulled the four studs that held the transmission to the bell housing, slid the
           transmission back and shone a light on the two milled faces, he found a small bit of
           gravel, crushed by the pressure when the stud had been tightened. He cleaned the
           milled faces and bolted the transmission tight against the bell housing.

           "That shop of Tony’s--" he asked Pete, "it has a gravel floor, doesn’t it?"

           Pete nodded.

           "Well," said Gus, "when Tony put on your new clutch plate he picked up a it of
           gravel—just enough to tip the transmission over out of line with the clutch. That threw
           the car out of gear when going downhill against compression."
           "But it’s all fixed now, eh, Gus?" Pete wanted to know.

           "No," Gus said flatly, "it’s not. It won’t jump out of gear any more, but you have no
           business, Pete, running around with such poor brakes, and you know it." (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:29 PM]
Gus Saves the Livestock

           "You might as well talk to a post, Gus," Ezra Hendricks cackled. "Pete’s so tight that
           he wouldn’t dig up the money for a brake job unless you hog-tied him and pried it out
           of him with a crowbar."

           "Is that so!" Pete shoved his nose practically into Ezra’s bushy whiskers. "Well, I’ll
           show you a thing or two. Gus, put on the best brake lining you’ve got. Ezra Hendricks,
           get your whiskers out of my face or I’ll . . ."

           Gus winked broadly at Stan Hicks as he prepared to do the brake job. The three old
           codgers watched him for a few minutes, and then went down to the drugstore together
           for an ice cream soda.

           "Human nature," Stan Hicks remarked, "is sure peculiar."
           "Isn’t it though?" Gus chuckled as he pulled a rear wheel.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:29 PM]
Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the June, 1958 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:31 PM]
Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

                                       Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

          Gus Wilson was installing a new clutch in the Model Garage service truck when his
          helper took a phone call in the office.

          "A man by the name of Prouty," Stan reported. "In a hurry. Headed this way—but says
          his car won’t pull the Birch Mountain grade."

          "Won’t pull the grade, eh?" Gus said. "Probably nothing much wrong. I’ll run out there
          in my car . . ."

          Topping Birch Mountain some 10 miles out from town, Gus came down the steep
          grade on the far side. As he neared the bottom he saw a heavy sedan parked on the
          shoulder. Hitched to it was a massive house trailer—it seemed to Gus nearly 40 feet
          long. He stopped.

          A short, stoutish individual bustled over.

          "Gus Wilson?" he inquired, seizing Gus’s hand and pumping it vigorously. He peered
          into Gus’s face through thick-lensed glasses that gave him the appearance of a genial
          barn owl. "My name’s Ebenezer Prouty, Grand Exalted Wagon Master of the Friends
          of the Open Road."

          "Grand exalted what?" Gus asked, gazing at the monstrous trailer.

          "Wagon Master," Prouty said. "I’m the man who goes ahead to arrange for the
          rendezvous of the Friends—but no matter. Fix my car so I can get under way. I’m due
          in an hour."

          "I see," Gus said, although he didn’t. "That’s a pretty big trailer to pull with a car, isn’t

          "I’ve got a state permit to pull it," Prouty said. "Never had a bit of trouble when the car
          is running up to form."

          "You don’t say," Gus said.

          "That’s right. But right now this car wouldn’t pull the hat off your head."

          Gus got behind the wheel, started the motor. He gunned it, listening to the engine
          stagger, falter, lope, shake in its hangers. The symptoms were as familiar to him as the (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:31 PM]
Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

          ringing of a phone.

          "She’s loaded up on gas," Gus said.

          "Now that is what I call efficient mechanical detection , Wilson," said Prouty. "As
          Wagon Master for the Friends, I have to make efficiency my byword. No doubt you
          have the remedy, Wilson?"

          "It isn’t that simple," Gus said. "Loading up could be caused by a number of
          conditions—faulty fuel pump, clogged air cleaner, clogged air-mixture passages or
          jets, a faulty float needle seat in the carburetor, or a faulty automatic choke. I’ll have to
          run it down."

          "Well, let’s get on with it," Prouty said, glancing at his watch. "I simply must get into
          town immediately."

          Being accustomed to clients in a hurry, Gus went to work in his usual systematic
          manner. He disconnected the fuel-pump line at the carburetor, turned the motor over
          with the starter. A satisfactory flow of gas resulted, but having no pressure-analyzing
          gauge, Gus couldn’t be sure that pump pressure wasn’t too high.

          He removed the air cleaner, washed out its element with gas from a can in his car.
          Next, he checked the hot-air screen of the automatic choke and saw that the parts
          worked freely. He checked and set the carburetor float level, and with a tire pump from
          his car, blew out the carburetor jets, paying close attention to the air-mixture passages.

          With the parts back in place, he tried out the engine. Again it loaded up, loped, shook
          in its hangers.

          "Really, Wilson," Prouty said worriedly, "this can’t go on. I simply must get to this

          "Figuring this one out," Gus said, "may take a little time, and I certainly can’t tow your
          heavy rig in, even if I had a trailer towing hitch. Excuse me, but just what is your
          hurry, Mr. Prouty?"

          "As Wagon Master for the Friends of the Road, I have considerable responsibility,"
          Prouty said. "If this trailer of mine isn’t parked where it is supposed to be by noon, in
          plain sight of the main highway, the Friends will be running around in circles. Two
          hundred of them."

          "Two hundred!" Gus echoed. (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:31 PM]
Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

          "At least," Prouty said. "The Friends are an organization of folks who own house
          trailers. Several times a year we pick a central point for a rendezvous."

          "I see," Gus said. "And what does this trailer have to do with it all?"

          "As Wagon Master," Prouty explained, "I am advance man for the rendezvous. I have
          made arrangements with a contractor in your town, Mr. Matt Henderson, to
          rendezvous on some vacant land where he starting a new subdivision. None of the
          Friends knows exactly where this spot is. Each has been informed by mail that my
          house trailer, which is well-known to all, will be parked on this tract, in sight of the
          main highway as they drive through town.

          "Not only must I act as decoy, Wilson, but I must direct each trailer into a spot in a
          huge circle, using the loudspeaker system on my trailer. If I am not there by noon, the
          Friends are going to be very annoyed at me."

          "Not half as annoyed," Gus said solemnly, "as a policeman named Jerry Corcoran is
          going to be with me, if I let 200 house trailers come into town to circle around in
          traffic, not knowing where they’re going. It would be a madhouse."

          "Precisely," Prouty said. "Perhaps we had better fix my car."

          "Perhaps we had," Gus agreed as he dove back under the hood.

          He knew that if the fuel pump was delivering too much pressure, it could be
          overloading the engine with gas. The trouble might also be in faulty-seating of the
          carburetor float needle. Another possibility, and the easiest to check, was the automatic
          choke. Gus removed the air cleaner, started the engine, and held open the butterfly of
          the automatic choke while he gunned the engine. While it loaded up and loped, the
          carburetor becoming wet outside with gas, he knew that the choke was not responsible.
          His suspicions fixed on the carburetor.

          This time Gus pulled the offending unit apart, searching for clogged passages, loose or
          worn jets, a jammed float needle or float. Removing the latter to inspect the needle
          seat, he reached over to set it in a safe place on the fender. In midair his arm froze.

          Gently he rocked the cylindrical float back and forth in his fingers. Its weight seemed
          to shift from side to side.

          "Ah!" he breathed. "We’ve got it." (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:31 PM]
Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

          "Got what?" Prouty snapped.

          "There’s some gasoline inside this float," Gus said. "That makes it float low and logy.
          Instead of shutting off the gas, it lets the level rise in the bowl, so your motor loads up
          and stalls."

          Gus shook the float hard, searching for the place where the gas had entered.

          "Can’t seem to locate the leak," he said. "It’s probably so small that this gas has taken
          weeks to seep inside."

          "How are you going to get it out?"

          "There’s only one way."

          Reaching into his kit for a push drill, Gus fitted on a 1/16-inch bit. He drilled a hole in
          one end of the float, put his lips to it, and blew mightily. On the surface of the float
          now he was able to detect a hair-like crack, revealed by a seepage of gasoline forced
          out by the air pressure.

          Gus drained the gas out of the float through the hole he had drilled, then with his six-
          bolt soldering iron laid a film of solder over the drilled hole and the crack. After
          reassembling the carburetor and installing it, he buckled down the hood. "Try her
          now," he said.

          The engine surged to life, buckled down to a smooth purr.

          "That does it!" called Prouty. "I must be off!"

          "Right behind you," answered Gus.

          Roaring in low gear, the big sedan buckled into the grade, hauling the huge trailer
          easily behind. Gus followed it to Matt Henderson’s newly cleared subdivision property
          south of town, then drove back to the Model Garage.

          Getting out of his car he saw a long trailer disappearing around the corner. As he was
          washing up, it appeared again. The man driving the car that hauled it had a stunned
          expression. Gus stepped outside.

          "Hey, friend," the driver called to Gus. "Where can I find the Wagon Master’s rig?" (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:31 PM]
Gus Blows Away A Traffic Jam

          "Turn south at the next corner, friend," Gus called back. "Go half a mile beyond the
          city limits, and you’ll see the rig you’re looking for parked on a knoll. It wasn’t there a
          few minutes ago, or you’d have spotted it coming into town."

          "Thanks, friend." The man drove on.

          "What’s this ‘friend’ business?" asked Stan. "That guy’s a stranger, isn’t he?"

          "Not to the right people," retorted Gus. "Whom you and I will meet tonight at the big
          dinner. We’re going by special invitation of the Rendezvous of the Friends of the Open
          Road. I’m betting it will be a fine feed."

          It was. Sitting within the circle of trailers that evening, before a glowing cookfire, Gus
          listened with well-fed contentment to 300 voices raised in song. Then, looking around
          at the great bulks of the 200-odd trailers, he let out a slow whistle.

          "Huh? Anything wrong?" asked Stan.

          Gus grinned. "I was just thinking what could have happened in town today—if I’d run
          out of wind there on the Birch Mountain grade."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:31 PM]
Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

                                              By Martin Bunn

                               From the May, 1958 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:32 PM]
Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

                                        Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

          When a passing motorist notified Gus Wilson that a man 10 miles down the highway
          needed a rental battery, the burly proprietor of the Model Garage immediately went to
          the rescue. Pulling up before the stalled car, Gus swung down from the cab with a 12-
          bolt battery swinging on a carrying strap. The motorist, a youngster of about 20,
          greeted him cheerily.

          "About time, Pop," he said, reaching for the battery. "Here, let me take that. It’s a bit
          on the heavy side for you."

          Gus was so astonished that he relinquished his grasp on the battery. "The name," he
          said, "is Gus Wilson. Model Garage."

          "Never heard of the joint, Pop," the young fellow said as he raised the hood of his
          sedan, whipped a wrench and battery pliers from his pocket, and began making the
          battery exchange.

          Gus leaned over his shoulder to glance at the date-of-sale stampings on the lead cell
          connectors of the car’s battery.

          "This battery shouldn’t have failed after only a year," he said. "There must be a short
          in your wiring or a defective generator."

          "You just leave that to me, Pop," the young man said briskly. "After my motor went
          dead I ran the battery down trying to start it. I knew what was wrong, of course, but
          hoped to get it going long enough to pull over the next rise, so that maybe I could coast
          down nearer a service station or telephone."

          "I see," Gus said. "What is wrong?"

          "Blown condenser. Any mechanic could tell that, and I’ve had four years’ experience
          in big-time garages in the city. It would be hard to explain to the layman, but the action
          of the condenser is very important. If you have a blown condenser the spark is too
          weak to jump across the spark-plug electrodes against compression. Say, I hope the
          Model Garage sent out a condenser for this model car. If not, you’d better rustle your
          bones back to town after one. I’m due to report on the job right away."

          "What job?" Gus asked.

          "Oh, didn’t I tell you? I’m Fred Cosgrove—sent out from the city to take charge of the (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:32 PM]
Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

          mechanical work for the Henderson Construction Company. They’re a big outfit that’s
          building homes in a new subdivision in the town. I’m to take care of their equipment,
          sort of a master mechanic’s job. An outfit like Henderson’s couldn’t have apple-
          knocker mechanics fooling with their expensive machinery."

          "Yeah," Gus said, as Cosgrove finished the battery exchange. "I know Matt
          Henderson. Pretty big outfit."

          "That’s what I hear," Cosgrove said. "By the way, what’s your job with this Model
          Garage outfit, Pop?"

          "Oh," Gus said, "I do just about anything that comes to hand."

          "I see," Cosgrove said. "Sort of handyman about the joint. Now how about a condenser
          for this rig?"

          A flicker of amusement came to Gus’s eyes as he said, "The Model Garage only sent a
          battery out with me. But I just happen to have a condenser, too. Now, where did I see it

          He rummaged around in the service truck and brought out a condenser.

          "That one won’t do," Cosgrove snapped. "It’s too big. You couldn’t fit that thing
          inside my distributor with a hammer. You’d better hustle back to town and get one
          made for this car."

          "No use in that," Gus said. "I can tow you in as I go."
          "Oh, no you won’t!" Cosgrove exclaimed. "Wouldn’t it look pretty for the new master
          mechanic for the Hendersen Construction Company to be towed into town because he
          couldn’t fix his own car on the road!"

          "I never thought of that," Gus admitted. "A fellow like you does have to watch out for
          his reputation. Say, couldn’t you just sort of stick this condenser to the side of the
          distributor, or maybe hang it on the coil, and tie the wires to it? It doesn’t have to be
          inside the distributor, does it?"

          "Well, now," Cosgrove said, "come to think of it, it might work that way long enough
          to pull me into town."

          "Let’s go try it," Gus said.

          Cosgrove managed to attach the condenser to the side of the distributor by using one of (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:32 PM]
Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

          the screws that fastened the breaker plate and connected the condenser lead to the
          primary wire terminal. The motor started instantly and ran smoothly.

          "I’d better get this battery of yours on the line," Gus said as he climbed into his service
          truck. "You can follow me in and have the right condenser installed. The Model
          Garage is on West Main Street."

          "I’ll find it," Cosgrove said, glancing at his watch. "I’ll be stopping on the way in for
          lunch. I’m hungrier than a dog."

          Gus drove away with a frown on his face. "Pop!" he repeated to himself. "Give me that
          battery, he says, it’s too heavy for you, Pop!"

          Gus had been at the Model Garage for about an hour when Fred Cosgrove phoned.

          "Model Garage?" he said. "This is Cosgrove, the man you sent that battery out to a
          while back. Get Pop out here again, and this time see that he brings the right condenser
          to fit my car. The one he brought last time went out. I had to walk a mile to a farm to

          "Be right with you, Mr. Cosgrove."

          Gus found young Cosgrove parked on the highway shoulder with the hood raised.

          "That’s what I get," he declared angrily, "for listening to an apple-knocker mechanic
          like you. That phony condenser blew out within two miles. I haven’t got enough spark
          in this rig to see in a coal mine."

          "No spark at all?" Gus asked. He turned the ignition on, leaned over the motor, pulled
          the high-tension wire from the distributor and removed the distributor cap. Holding the
          secondary ignition wire close to the engine block, he snapped the exposed ignition
          points with his thumb. Nothing happened.

          "Even with a blown condenser," Gus said, "I should at least see a weak spark, reddish
          instead of blue, with no snap or jump to it. I’d say you’ve got a bad coil, not a blown

          "Is that so?" Cosgrove said. "And how do you account for the fact that my coil was all
          right just a couple of miles back?"

          "Well," Gus said slowly, "such things do happen. Sometimes when you put a fully (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:32 PM]
Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

          charged battery and a new condenser on an old coil, the coil goes blooey. Like when
          you put a new set of batteries in a flashlight. A light bulb that might last a long time
          with weak batteries blows out under the load of the new."

          "Flashlights aren’t automobiles, Pop," Cosgrove said. "Here, give me that new
          condenser." Swiftly Cosgrove installed the new condenser, buckled down the hood,
          got into the car. "See you in town, Pop," he said as he turned on the ignition, engaged
          the starter. When the motor failed to start, he kept engaging the starter, a baffled
          expression on his face.

          "Better cut that out," Gus cautioned as he raised the hood, "or you’ll run the battery
          down. Leave the ignition on."

          Once again Gus pulled the high-tension wire from the distributor, removed the
          distributor top, held the secondary wire close to the engine block, snapped the ignition
          points with his thumb.

          "You haven’t got any more spark here than a dead buzzard," he declared. "You need a
          new coil. I’d better tow you in."

          "You aren’t going to tow me anywhere," Cosgrove said. "And why haven’t you got a
          new coil with you? What kind of a screwball outfit is this Model Garage?"

          "Usually they send everything I might need," Gus said. "But you telephoned that all
          you needed was a condenser. Naturally, knowing that you were a master mechanic . .

          "Knock it off, Pop," Cosgrove interrupted, "and get into town after a coil. I’m in a

          "Not so fast," Gus replied. "It doesn’t seem to me that this coil is old enough to have
          gone out completely. Now, this 12-volt coil of yours is basically a six-volt coil with a
          replacement resistor in the bottom to cut the voltage in half. I’ll bet you the best dinner
          in town that all that’s wrong with the coil is that the resistor is burned out. Often such
          coils are thrown into the trash can by mechanics who don’t know that they do contain
          an easily replaced resistor. We could pull the cover from the bottom of the coil, which
          covers the resistor, remove it, if it’s burned out, and put the primary-circuit wires
          together. You’d run then, but you’d soon burn up your ignition points. As it is, I just
          happen to have a new resistor for this coil with me."

          "Just happen, eh," Cosgrove said, his eyes suddenly wise with wry humor. "Maybe I’m
          not as far out in the sticks as I thought. Fix it, Pop. And I hope you’re not as hungry as (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:32 PM]
Gus Meets a Master Mechanic

          I am, because I’ve got a hunch I’m buying your dinner."

          "The best dinner in town, mind you," Gus chuckled. He removed the burned-out coil
          resistor, installed the new one, started the car. "You know, Cosgrove, us apple-knocker
          mechanics are always hungry."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:32 PM]
Gus Mends Some Fences

                                              By Martin Bunn

                        From the November, 1958 issue of
                                Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:34 PM]
Gus Mends Some Fences

                                             Gus Mends Some Fences

          The car was brand-new and ran like a dream—but Steve begged Gus to find something
          wrong with it

          By Martin Bunn

          Strolling towards the Model Garage, his jacket flung over one arm, Gus Wilson looked
          up at the early-morning sky, cloudless but hazy—a promise of Indian summer after a
          premature cold snap.

          "Hope it holds for the barn dance," he mused, catching sight of the pile of pumpkins
          Stan Hicks, his assistant, had arranged in front of the pumps. Stuck in the center was a
          sign, "Are You Squared Away for the Square Dance? Get Your Tickets Here." At the
          bottom sprawled a young man, his crew-cut head pillowed between two pumpkins.

          "Hi," Stan greeted his boss. "Look what I found when I opened up this morning." He
          pointed to a big, new, shiny car parked off to one side, and then to the sleeping figure.
          Gus recognized Steve Jenkins.

          "What’s young Jenkins sleeping off?" he asked. "Thought he was off to college."

          "Home for the holidays," Stan said, "and for the barn dance—I guess."

          "You guess?" Gus draped his jacket over a pump standard. "What’s the story?"

          Stan shook his head. "He was here when I arrived. Said he’d been up all night trying to
          find something wrong with his father’s new car. Then he asked for you and fell asleep,
          like you’d see him there."

          The kid had busted something and was afraid to bring the car home, Gus figured.
          "Check the car?" he asked Stan.

          "First thing," Stan answered. "Nothing wrong; it runs like a dream. I’ll show you." He
          slipped behind the wheel, turned the ignition key and stepped on the starter. The
          engine purred.

          "Mr. Wilson!" It was Steve, getting to his feet. "I’m in trouble, Mr. Wilson, real

          "Not car trouble," Gus said. "If I remember, you were top man in auto mechanics back (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:34 PM]
Gus Mends Some Fences

          in high school, Steve. Listen to that engine."

          "That’s just it, Mr. Wilson. There must be something wrong." His young voice hit a
          falsetto. "There has to be."

          "Your dad know you took his car?"

          "Oh, sure. It’s not my father that’s after me—it’s hers, Cathy’s."

          "Cathy McShane?"

          Steve nodded. "He said he’d blast me with a shotgun if I ever came out to his farm

          "If Bert McShane said that, he must have had a reason."

          "Well, not really, Mr. Wilson. You see . . ."

          The story came tumbling out. He had taken Cathy to a movie and on the way back the
          car had stalled. Instead of walking the girl home, Steve had been eager to show off his
          mechanical skill. He had practically taken the engine apart without finding anything
          wrong. Then Cathy, who had been sitting behind the wheel, had stepped on the starter,
          and the engine caught. But by that time it was after midnight, and Bert McShane, who
          was waiting up for them, blew his top.

          "And now," Steve finished, "when Mr. McShane learns from my dad—they got a
          business deal on—that there’s nothing wrong with the car he’ll really come after me
          with a shotgun."

          "It’s not that bad," Gus said.

          "That’s what you think, Mr. Wilson. But you see, Cathy let slip where the car conked
          out—Lookout Point."

          Gus nodded sympathetically. Lookout Point was the local lovers’ lane. That wouldn’t
          sit well with the father of any pretty teen-age girl.

          "The car did stop last night, honest, Mr. Wilson."

          "I believe you, Steve," Gus said. "Wait till I get my toolbox and we’ll take a spin.
          Maybe your gremlin will show up again." (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:34 PM]
Gus Mends Some Fences

          They were barely out of town, with Gus at the wheel, when the car suddenly died.

          "That’s just what happened last night," Steve said. He watched as Gus ran the starter.
          Each time he returned the key from the START position to ON, the engine died.

          "Get me a jumper wire out of my toolbox, Steve, and we’ll get her started and back to
          the shop."

          "Any ideas, Mr. Wilson?" Steve asked as he handed over the wire.

          "I’m not sure," Gus said as he hooked the jumper wire between the battery and the
          ignition terminal of the coil. "But I suspect that you’ve got an intermittent open in the
          ignition circuit."

          Steve looked puzzled. "Guess I better brush up on my auto mechanics."

          "You see," Gus went on, "this car has a voltage-dropping resistor in the ignition circuit
          to drop the ignition low voltage from 12 volts to about 7.5 volts. The starter solenoid
          engages a separate circuit, direct from the battery to the coil, to feed a full 12 volts for
          starting. That’s probably why the engine runs on the START position yet stops when I
          return the key to ON."

          "Maybe a rough spot in the road shook something loose in the regular ignition circuit?"

          "Could be," Gus said. "Might be a faulty ignition switch or maybe a broken resistor
          winding. Anyway, you probably jogged something back into contact while you worked
          on it at Lookout Point last night."

          Steve was silent on the trip back.

          "Cheer up, Steve," Gus said as they pulled up in front of the Model Garage. "At least
          we’ll find the trouble so that your father won’t have a breakdown and blame you for
          mistreating his new car."

          "It’s not that, Mr. Wilson. Even if I can prove now that I wasn’t lying to Cathy’s dad,
          I’d never be able to get him to hear me out. Cathy is a swell girl, and we had a date to
          go to the barn dance Saturday night. That’s off, I guess." He sighed and got out of the

          Gus, knowing better than to offer sympathy, began checking the ignition circuit from
          battery to switch with a voltmeter. Then he checked voltage at both sides of the (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:34 PM]
Gus Mends Some Fences

          resistor. No amount of jiggling could make the meter hand waver.

          Scratching his head, Gus looked at Steve and said, "It can’t be open between the output
          side of the resistor and the coil. That wire is common to the starting circuit and the
          normal ignition."

          Steve had noted each check. "Maybe this is pretty stupid, Mr. Wilson, but you checked
          on the wire end terminals at the resistor. Could there be a cold-solder joint or
          something, inside the double-wire plastic terminal at the output side of the resistor? I
          built a radio once that wouldn’t work because of a cold-solder joint."

          "You may just be right, Steve." Gus dug for his pocket knife.

          He sliced the plastic coating from the terminal, exposing an unsoldered wire that
          missed connection by a few thousandths of an inch.

          They looked at each other and grinned.

          "This setup to provide 12 volts for starting is pretty keen," Steve remarked as Gus
          repaired the unsoldered wire end.

          "Particularly for cold-weather starts," Gus agreed. "But it can be dangerous. With what
          amounts to two ignition circuits, one for starting, and one for running, the engine can
          run even with the switch off. Be sure the car is out of gear when you’re working on it."

          "Thanks, Mr. Wilson—and thanks for the safety tip." Looking at his watch, he added,
          "Gee whiz, I have to run. Dad will be needing the car."

          "Wait a minute, Steve. I’ll put this on your father’s account, but let me give you a
          receipted repair bill. Maybe it will help you get back into the good graces of Cathy’s

          "It will take a miracle if I’m ever to see her again," the boy replied glumly.

          As Gus drove down the road that passed the neat McShane farm, he spotted Bert
          mending a fence. Pulling the choke on his service car full out, Gus waited for the
          engine to cough, sputter and die. Then he got out, opened the hood and looked under.

          "Hey, Gus," McShane called. "Want me to call a wrecker?"

          "No, thanks, Bert. Guess I can fix the old clunker. Sure have had it long enough to be (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:34 PM]
Gus Mends Some Fences

          on to her quirks. It’s those fancy new cars that develop unpredictable troubles."

          "Yeah?" McShane bit.

          "Yep." Gus closed the hood and wiped his brow. "Why just today some kid brought his
          dad’s spanking new ’58 model into the shop. The boy was out on a date last night
          when it stopped on him for no reason. After he monkeyed with it for quite a while it
          ran fine. We took it out on a rough road and didn’t get a mile before it stopped the
          same way. Real tricky. Turned out to be a bad connection someone had made at the

          "Is that a fact?" McShane commented.

          "Well, I’d better go now and let you get on with your job. Mightly important job that,
          Bert—mending fences."

          "Yeah, Gus."

          The sound of music and laughter came from the big red barn as Gus drove up that
          Saturday night. He parked and handed a ticket to Stan Hicks at the door. A couple
          danced by, waving to him. It was Steve Jenkins and Cathy McShane, decked out in
          blue jeans and gingham.

          Gus waved back as he walked over to a refreshment table where Mrs. McShane was
          chatting with Steve Jenkins’ parents. "Where’s Bert?" he asked.

          "Right here, Gus," came McShane’s voice from behind. "Drop in to remind me again
          how important it is to mend fences?"
          "No, Bert. Just happened to hear the music and couldn’t resist it."

          "Sure—‘just happened.’" McShane winked. "Like your service car ‘just happened’ to
          quit as you passed my farm?"
          Gus grinned sheepishly.

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:34 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

                                              By Martin Bunn

                        From the November, 1959 issue of
                                Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

                                                  Gus Pulls a Switch

           With a bowl of beef stew, apple pie a la mode, and two cups of coffee under his belt,
           Gus Wilson walked leisurely back to the Model Garage. His young assistant, Stan
           Hicks, was sitting at the workbench dropping banana peels into his empty lunch box.

           "You got a one-track mind, Gus?" Stan asked, taking half a banana in one bite.

           "On that, Stan, I plead the Fifth Amendment. But why?"

           "Howie Stone. He stopped by to cry on my shoulder about all auto mechanics having
           one-track minds."

           Gus leaned over and adjusted a wrench hanging askew on the tool board. "So that used
           station wagon of his is still acting up. Were you able to fix it?"

           "I didn’t even get a chance to look at it," Stan said. "When I told him that the
           symptoms he described sounded like a faulty fuel pump he blew his top and drove off.
           And the way his car sputtered and balked, it sure sounded as if it was starved for gas."

           "Howie’s a nice boy," Gus said, "but stubborn, like all the Stones. Guess he just made
           up his mind it’s not the fuel pump, and that’s that."

           "Wish we could help him," Stan said. "He spent all is money on that wagon, got his
           package-delivery service started—and now he can’t deliver."

           Gus nodded. "I know. P. J. Basset told me about it over at the diner."

           "You mean Howie’s going to lose the job of hauling Pete Bassett’s express shipments
           to the railroad station?"

           "Looks like he’s lost it," Gus said. "He missed two trains last week. And Pete’s maple-
           sugar candy got off to the customers a day late."

           The telephone rang in the Model Garage office. Gus answered it, did more listening
           than talking, and came back into the shop. "That was Pete Basset. He’s staying late
           making up a big order that must make the evening train."

           "Gosh, Gus, and Howie probably won’t be able to make it."

           "Pete didn’t want Howie. He wants me to come over and get his old pickup running. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           He hopes to use it to start making his own deliveries again until he can get a new

           "Maybe we could stall," Stan suggested. "Maybe we can somehow get Howie to bring
           his wagon in here and let you check it over."

           Gus grinned broadly. "Maybe we can, Stan, maybe we can—if you’re willing to aid
           and abet."

           Stan looked at his boss eagerly. "Skulduggery?"
           "Not quite that bad, but maybe a few white lies."

           "Count me in," Stan said. "What do I do first?"

           "Check the bins and make out a list of stock parts we need while I make a phone call."

           Stan looked puzzled, shrugged his shoulders and went back to work.

           Half an hour later Stan walked back into the office and handed Gus an order list and

           "Want me to run over to Milltown for these? Nice day for a drive."

           "Sorry to disappoint you, Stan, but I’ve just put in a call for your pal Howie Stone."

           "Oh, no, Gus. With his wagon running the way it is, Howie’ll never make those hills
           on the 10 miles to Milltown and back."

           An engine sputtered to a stop outside. "Here’s Howie now." Gus gave his assistant a
           shove. "Get back in there and keep out of sight."

           Stan pulled his cap lower over his eyes. "The plot thickens," he said, slinking
           dramatically off toward the rear of the garage.

           Outside Gus greeted Howie with an innocent smile. "Glad you got my message about
           that pickup in Milltown. It’s a rush job."

           Howie’s smile wasn’t as cheerful. "Gee, Mr. Wilson, I’m afraid I’ll have to turn you
           "You’re in the package-delivery business, aren’t you?"
           "Well, I thought I was until this station wagon of mine started acting up. I can limp (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           around town okay, but once I get on a hill . . ."

           "What seems to be wrong?" Gus asked.

           "I don’t know—yet. I’ve wanted to ask your help, Mr. Wilson, but after I refused your
           offer to check the bus before I bought it—well, I’ve been sort of embarrassed."

           "But you’ve seen other mechanics?"

           Howie nodded, keeping his eyes down, and shuffling his feet. "That’s right—and they
           all seem to have one-track minds. Fuel pump, fuel pump, fuel pump—that’s all I hear.
           Why, one fellow even wanted to charge me 100 bucks to tear down the engine—just to
           put in a new fuel pump."

           "Maybe it is your fuel pump," Gus said.

           "Shucks, no, Mr. Wilson. I put a new one in myself, and it didn’t make a bit of

           Gus held out the parts list. "Looks like we’re both in a jam, Howie. I need these parts

           "I’d like to help, but . . ."

           "Let’s help each other," Gus broke in. "You take my truck and drive over to Milltown
           and pick up these parts. I’ll phone Ace Supplies so they’ll have them ready. And while
           you’re gone I’ll have a look at your station wagon."

           Howie looked up, a grateful-puppy expression in his eyes. "Swell, Mr. Wilson." He
           took the list Gus handed him and climbed into the Model Garage truck.

           "But you can forget about the fuel pump. Nothing wrong with it." He stepped on the
           starter and drove off.

           When Stan Hicks came out of hiding, he found Gus with his head under the station-
           wagon hood. "Hi, boss, have you forgotten Pete Bassett is expecting you?"

           Gus straightened up. "No, Stan. And if he phones, tell him I’m out on an emergency.
           Now, start this wagon and we’ll see how she sounds."

           As the engine started and settled into a smooth idle, the office telephone rang. And (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           from then on it continued to ring every five minutes with Stan running back and forth
           to answer it.

           Working on the engine, Gus moved the throttle linkage. It raced briefly, then began to
           sputter. Just before stall, he let it settle back to idle and asked Stan to turn the wipers
           on. Each time Gus gunned the engine, the wipers nearly stopped.

           "Cut it," Gus called. Stan did, and ran to answer an insistent telephone ring.

           Gus was at work on the engine innards when his assistant reported back.

           "That was Bassett again. His help’s left for the day. He’s alone at the plant with a no-
           go truck, a big ready-to-go order, and that midget sports car of his that hasn’t room for
           an extra package of chewing gum. And he’s mad at you."

           "I was hoping for something like that," came the muffled voice of Gus as he backed
           off the last fuel-pump mounting bolt.

           When Howie Stone drove up in the Model Garage truck, Gus had just returned from a
           test run in the station wagon. He was putting the engine through its paces. It
           accelerated smoothly, ran like a top.

           Bug-eyed, Howie jumped out. "What was wrong?"

           "Never mind that now," Gus said. "It’s running—and I suggest that you get right over
           to Pete Bassett’s plant."
           "Huh? Mr. Basset wants nothing to do with me. He made that plain enough after I
           missed the train the other day.

           "I think he’ll be glad to see you now, though," Gus said, sliding out from behind the
           wheel of the station wagon. "Now get in, boy, and get going—but don’t tell Pete
           you’ve even seen me."

           As Howie pulled away, Stan cocked his head and looked at his boss. "Talk about a
           mother hen and her chicks. But wait till he hears about that fuel pump." The phone
           rang. "What’ll I tell Pete?"

           "Tell him if his shipment misses that train it serves him right . . ."
           Later that evening there were lights on in the Model Garage. Gus was doing some
           work on his own car when Howie Stone walked in. There was a broad grin on his face.

           "You were right, Mr. Wilson," he said. "Pete Bassett was glad to see me. And you (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           know what?"

           "No, what?" said Gus, pulling a pipe from his coveralls pocket and filling it.

           "He had an order all ready for me to deliver. Said if I made the train he’d sign a
           contract with me for all his deliveries. I made the train."

           "That’s fine, Howie. Now, I’ve got a pot of coffee brewing in the office. How about
           joining me?"
           "Sure thanks. I did want to ask you what was wrong with my car."

           When they had taken their first sips from steaming mugs, Gus broke the news. "The
           fuel pump wasn’t operating."

           Howie put his mug down with a jolt that splashed coffee over papers on Gus’s littered
           desk. "But it was a new pump. I put it in myself," he protested.

           "I didn’t say the pump was bad, but that it wasn’t operating. It’s like this:

           "Combination vacuum-booster fuel pumps have a stronger diaphragm spring than the
           single-purpose types. Once in a while the extra pressure causes the cam to wear. The
           more it wears, the rounder it gets. Eventually there’s a hardly enough lift to keep the
           pump supplying fuel for a slow idle."

           As Howie nodded in understanding, Gus went on. "When you race the engine, the
           carburetor bowl empties faster than the feeble pump stroke can fill it."

           "But why should a job like that cost $100?" Howie asked.

           "Well, to fix it means removing the radiator, cylinder heads and all the valves in order
           to replace the camshaft."

           "And you did all that while I drove to Milltown and back," Howie said in admiration.
           "Well, with the Bassett business I guess I can afford it."

           "Your bill is $14 for an electric fuel pump," Gus said. "My time is free in exchange for
           picking up those parts for me."
           Howie pondered that one for a minute. Then: "I get it. An electric fuel pump doesn’t
           need the camshaft to operate it. It’s self-powered. You switched pumps."

           "Right," Gus said. "Mechanics have one-track minds, Howie, but we know a good (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Pulls a Switch

           switch when we see one."

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:35 PM]
Gus Wins an Easy Wager

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the April, 1962 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:37 PM]
Gus Wins an Easy Wager

                                            Gus Wins an Easy Wager

          "They just don’t make cars like they used to," asserted Dave Rankin, reaching along
          the Okay Diner’s counter for the salt.

          Gus slowly buttered a roll. "That doesn’t mean they aren’t better."

          "I’ll say," put in Doc Hockenjoss. "That ’59 six I bought from my brother-in-law is
          more automobile than any you ever went courting in, Dave."

          Rankin grunted, his sallow cheeks working. "Don’t mean that far back. Take that ’55
          V-8 I’ve got. It has 60,000 miles on it and it guzzles oil. But I’ll bet you have trouble
          with your car on this trip ‘fore I do."

          "Twenty bucks," said Doc promptly. "Gus can hold the stakes."

          "You’re men enough to pay off your own bets," protested Gus. "Going far?"

          "The boondocks," responded Rankin. "Doc knows a fishing spot in Cortway County
          where they bite on bare hooks."

          The veterinarian nodded, eyes watering as he downed scalding coffee. "So far out you
          almost can’t get there from here. I’m taking my car so we won’t be stranded when his
          breaks down."

          "Waste of gas," grunted Rankin. "It won’t be my car that conks out."

          Both men got off their stools.

          "In case I don’t see you before you leave Friday," said Gus, "and in case you both get
          there—good fishing!"

          Gus had hardly opened the shop on Thursday morning when a car rolled up at the
          Model Garage. Rankin stuck his glossy bald pate out.

          "Got a small job, Gus. Can I park it in a corner some place?"

          "Back of that pickup," said Gus.

          The retired grocer parked his battered hardtop and hitched his plump figure out of the (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:37 PM]
Gus Wins an Easy Wager

          car. "It ain’t much, just the ammeter bouncing. Could you fix it fast?"

          "Maybe, it it’s only a loose connection." Gus quickly checked the battery terminals
          and connections at the ammeter and voltage regulator. All were sound, but with the
          engine running the ammeter needle flicked back and forth.

          "Sorry, Dave. It could be anything from the voltage regulator to an out-of-round
          commutator or bad brush."

          "Try a new regulator, will you?" asked Rankin, his eyes on the door.

          "Expecting somebody?" asked Gus.

          "Eh? Oh, no. Could you hurry it up?"

          Finding the regulator points oxidized, poorly aligned, and filed thin, Gus installed a
          new unit. When it was connected, he started the engine again. The ammeter fluttered
          off the pin to full charge, fell back, flickered as before.

          "No good. Have to check some more."

          Rankin nodded glumly. "Okay. Don’t want to be stuck with a dead battery out in the
          sticks. Er, Gus—could we keep this just between us?"

          Gus smiled. "Your car’s sort of hidden behind the pickup. Want me to see why you’re
          losing oil?"

          Rankin shook his head. "That don’t bother me. I use cheap oil, and I’ll take plenty
          along. Fix my chargin’."

          Gus grinned as the paunchy little man peered up and down the street before stepping

          As Gus was about to take the generator off the car, a horn blared out in the shop. He
          walked over to confront Doc Hockenjoss in his ’59 sedan.

          "Got a little job for you, Gus."

          "Didn’t think you’d stopped to talk about the weather," retorted Gus.

          "This here’s a mighty good car," Doc went on. "But two weeks after I got it, it quit (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:37 PM]
Gus Wins an Easy Wager

          charging. My brother-in-law swore that it never did that before, but I had to have the
          generator overhauled."

          "Mean to say you’ve got charging trouble, too?" asked Gus, taken aback.

          "What d’you mean, ‘too’? Haven’t got any other—isn’t one enough?"

          "Sure, sure. Go on," urged Gus.

          "Three weeks after, it quit charging again. Mechanic out west said the commutator was
          oil-fouled. Rubbish—the car doesn’t lose any oil. But he got it working—till it quit

          "I’ll check it out," promised Gus.

          "Not a word to Dave, huh?"

          "Drive the car around back," returned Gus, "and he’ll never know."

          Leaving Stan, his helper, to remove Rankin’s generator, Gus checked the fan belt,
          battery terminals, and charging circuit on Doc’s car. All were sound. The battery was
          low enough to take a hefty charging rate, but a test meter showed nothing coming
          through, even with the regulator’s field terminal grounded.

          Disconnecting the generator lead, Gus scratched it on the block. There was no spark.
          With the engine off, he felt the commutator through an opening in the generator
          housing. It was oily.

          Gus removed the generator and opened it on the bench. Commutator and brushes were
          oil-fouled—a strange thing since this generator had no oil cup. He cleaned the parts
          with carbon tet and found brushes and springs in good condition. Reassembled and run
          on the test block, the generator charged normally.

          Leaving Stan to re-install it on Doc’s car, Gus turned to Rankin’s generator. Outside it
          was thick with oily dirt but, to his amazement, the internal parts were clean and in
          good order. When belted to the bench rig, Rankin’s generator charged steadily.

          Gus rubbed his nose with a knuckle.

          One generator, from a clean engine, had an oil-soaked commutator. Another from an
          engine covered with greasy dirt worked fine—when not in the car. (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:37 PM]
Gus Wins an Easy Wager

          Putting Rankin’s generator back on, Gus made an instrument check; the test meter
          flickered like the ammeter. As he disconnected it, something splashed against his

          It was oil, perhaps flung up by the swirling fan stream. Gus frowned thoughtfully. The
          oil leak Rankin chose to ignore annoyed him. But what could it have to do with the
          charging circuit?

          He got down on a crawler with a drop light and slid under the car. The bottom of the
          engine was encrusted with oily muck. It looked cleanest under the front main bearing,
          where oil was probably leaking past a bad seal. The crankcase seemed oddly atilt, low
          in front. Flashing the light on the engine mounts showed fragments of oil-rotted rubber
          clinging to one. The others lacked even that much of the pads meant to cushion the

          Gus rolled out and stood up, staring down at the forward-slanted engine. Then he
          leaned far over the back of the engine block. Between the canted engine and the fire-
          wall, the braided bonding cable was stretched tautly, all but a few strands torn free.

          Stan spoke suddenly at Gus’s elbow: "That generator I put on charges fine."

          "Thought it would," grunted Gus. He pointed to the almost severed strap. "There’s the
          intermittent ground in this one. Vibration probably grounded the block now and then
          through the metal parts of the engine mounts, so it charged part time. Put on a new
          bonding cable, Stan."

          Just as Gus had his pipe going nicely, Doc Hockenjoss returned. The lanky
          veterinarian raised skeptical eyebrows over Gus’s account of the trouble.

          "It can’t be oil on the commutator. Nobody’s put oil in this engine since the generator
          was last cleaned."

          "You sure of that?" asked Gus.

          "You bet. Nobody checks the oil but me. I like to do it with the engine cold, to get the
          true level."

          "You try to oil the generator?"
          "Quit kidding, Gus. You know that there’s a sealed bearing in that one."

          "Okay," said Gus. He hung a rag over the open generator slots. "Now show me just (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:37 PM]
Gus Wins an Easy Wager

          how you checked the oil."
          "What’s to show?" grumbled Doc. He grasped the dipstick, which stuck up a few
          inches behind the generator. "I pull this up, slant it forward to get it past this whopping
          air filter that’s in the way, and take it out."

          He held up the oily dipstick, then shoved it back in with a snort. Gus lifted the rag off
          the generator and spread it out. On it were two oil spots.

          "That’s it," nodded Gus. "Under that big air cleaner, you never saw it happen. But
          every time you checked the oil the dipstick dripped on or near the commutator. A good
          service-station man holds a rag under the dipstick."

          Doc stared. "Gus, you won’t . . ."

          "When you doctor one horse, do you tell another?" asked Gus.

          A week later, as Gus was finishing a big dinner, Rankin and Doc walked into the Okay

          "Have a good trip?" asked Gus.

          "Swell fishing," said Rankin. "But our bet turned out a draw."

          Hockenjoss nodded. "Neither of us had any car trouble, thanks to you."

          Rankin’s plump face split in a grin. "Yeah, we told each other, Gus. I’d like those
          engine mounts fixed now."

          "Any time," said Gus. He stood up, stretched, and walked to the door.

          "Hey, Tom," boomed Doc. "Doesn’t Gus have to pay any more?"

          The counter man shook his head. "We bet, too. He won a week’s free meals."

          "A bet? On what?" asked Rankin.

          Gus grinned from beside the door. "A sure thing. After you made your bet, I gave Tom
          two to one you’d both bring your cars in before you left."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:37 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

                                              By Martin Bunn

                                     From the Aug, 1962 issue of
                                          Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

                                     Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

           "Now that you have a helper, Stan," said Gus Wilson, "I’m going to the city to buy that
           new equipment for the Model Garage."

           "Sure, Boss. There isn’t much Ted and me can’t handle for half a day."

           "Keep an eye on him. He’s a natural mechanic, but a bit cocky. That’s the kind who
           sometimes goofs."

           "Will do, Gus. No job goes out until I’ve checked it."

           "Okay," said Gus, getting into the wrecker. "Use my car for road calls."

           "Uh—just in case, Boss, would you tune in on the CB radio on your way back?"

           "If you get into trouble," said Gus sternly, "handle it yourself!" As the wrecker rolled
           out, he added: "I’ll turn the radio on at ten past the hour."

           Between routine jobs and selling gas, the afternoon passed quickly. The gawky, red-
           headed teen-ager who had talked Gus into hiring him for the summer seemed to be in
           three places at once.

           "Hold it!" roared Stan as the youngster, racing back from the pumps, made a leap over
           a big floor jack. "If the boss catches you doing that, he’ll either bawl you out or fire
           you. Want to bust a leg sliding on an oil spot?"

           "Nuts!" remarked Ted.

           "Better watch it. Did you tighten the drain plug on that oil change?"

           Ted’s gamin face screwed itself into an expression of strained patience. "Think I’d
           forget a simple thing like that?"

           "What’re you going to do now?"

           "Put this gas money in the till, drive the oil job off the rack, put new plugs in that
           Chevy and . . ."

           "You’ll burn yourself out before you can vote. And you’ll burn out the engine in that (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

           Plymouth you drained," finished Stan scathingly, "because you never did put fresh oil
           back in."

           Confidence oozed from the youngster. "Gosh—well, I was going to."

           He bounded off. Stan noticed, approvingly, that he wiped off the tops of the cans
           before puncturing them.

           A yellow convertible rolled in at three. Stan did a double-take on its driver, a pretty
           girl with corn-silk hair.

           "I need service in a hurry," she said apologetically. "This car skips and misses at times.
           A gas-station man said it needs new points, but he didn’t have the right ones."

           "We’ll put them in, Miss."

           "There’s more. My father was leaving on an important trip, when his car died right in
           the driveway."
           "I’ll go there while my helper puts in those points. What’s the address?"
           She gave it, then stared at Stan until he felt a glow creep up his throat.

           "Anything else, Miss?"

           "I’d better tell you about my father. You probably never heard of him, but he’s famous
           in his field—thermodynamics. That trip is to present a paper at the Polytechnic
           Institute . . ."

           "Thermodyn—that’s physics?"

           "The science of quantitative relations between heat and energy," replied the girl, as if
           quoting. "He’s a consultant for big engineering firms. He knows all about engines—on
           paper. He’ll try to tell you what to do. But he doesn’t really know about automobiles."

           Stan grinned confidently. "Don’t worry about that, Miss . . ."

           "Tannenbaum. German for fir tree." She got out of the car. "Four o’clock?"

           "Sure thing, Miss Tannenbaum."

           A loud if squeaky whistle issued from the back of the shop as the girl left. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

           "Fir tree?" piped Ted. "Willow would be more like it."

           "That’ll do," retorted Stan. "You put in and adjusted points yesterday. Can you do it

           "Easy as falling for that chick."

           "I’ll be back before you finish, anyway," was Stan’s parting shot.

           Standing in the driveway of the two-car garage stood a four-year-old luxury V-8. Stan
           saw that the key had been left in it. He opened the hood, made sure that the coil lead
           was unbroken and both its terminals uncorroded and firmly seated, then turned to come
           face to face with the owner.

           A round-faced little man in his fifties, he carried a notebook and pencil. Two clusters
           of white hair over his ears flanked an otherwise bald head and a huge iron-gray

           "My daughter sent you, yes? But with this engine it will be no use." He tapped a page
           covered with symbols and figures. "My calculations show there is not enough volume
           of working fluid."

           "I was checking the wiring," returned Stan. "Will you try the starter?"

           With a shrug, the little man got in. The engine chugged over—and caught. Working
           the throttle linkage, Stan gunned it to make sure it was taking fuel. "Must have been
           dirt in the gas line," he said.

           Tannenbaum got out, shaking his head. His blue eyes looked right through Stan. ". . .
           an error in the isothermal compression figures? I must rework them . . ."

           He trudged off, still muttering. Stan grinned, checked the automatic choke to make
           sure it had opened, and dropped the hood. The engine was still idling handsomely
           when he shut it off.

           "I put the points in," said Ted. "Didn’t want to leave the shop alone to test-drive the
           car, though."

           "I’ll take care of it later," said Stan.

           But he was just finishing a job of his own when the phone rang. Stan listened, (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

           stammered a reply, and hung up.

           "I’ve got to go out again," he muttered disgustedly.

           Taking along a set of points, a condenser, and a dwell meter, Stan returned to the
           Tannenbaum house. The big car stood a few feet from where he had left it. Leaning on
           a fender, his pencil flying, was the professor.

           "As I told you," he said as if Stan had never left, "for adiabatic expansion is not
           enough working fluid—"

           "Yes, sir. Your daughter says you tried to start on your trip again but the car quit after
           a few feet. I’ll check the fuel system . . ."

           "Fuel schmool! Fuel makes heat only. What must expand to push the piston? Air. Air
           iss the working fluid—only we haff not enough!" He poked at the sheet of figures.
           "Thermodynamics you cannot fight!"

           "No, sir," Stan raised the hood, disconnected the fuel line at the carburetor, and
           triggered the starter solenoid. Gas promptly gushed forth.

           Reconnecting the line, he turned to the distributor and removed the points. They were
           badly pitted. He installed new ones and the new condenser, then set the points with the

           The engine came to life instantly.

           "It’s okay now," said Stan firmly.

           The professor regretfully closed his notebook. "So? Then it is time to go."

           He went into the house. Stan gunned the engine, slammed the hood, and left.

           At ten past four, Gus switched on the two-way radio in the wrecker.

           "Some grief, Gus," began Stan. He told what he had done on Tannenbaum’s car.
           "While I did that, the girl took her car out before I could check it. Now she’s back,
           says it won’t do over 20. And her dad’s car quit dead for the third time. Could you go

           "Okay," said Gus, turning off the radio. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson

           Sitting in his big car, a coat and briefcase beside him, was the professor. He got out as
           Gus came up.

           "Perhaps you will understand." He brandished a big notebook. "I haff it here
           calculated. The volume of air is too small. At isothermic compression . . ."

           Gus nodded soothingly, flung up the hood and lifted off the air cleaner. Gas squirted
           into the carburetor throat on cranking. He opened the air cleaner, inspected the filter. It
           was clear. Leaving the air cleaner off, Gus turned the key. The engine started normally.

           Tannenbaum shook his head. "I must at once recheck my figures . . ."

           He disappeared into the house. Gus put the car into Drive, ran it up and down the
           driveway twice. Then he replaced the air cleaner and closed the hood. Again he put the
           car into Drive and stepped on the gas. The sedan moved—but the engine gasped to a

           When he opened the hood again, smell and sight told Gus the carburetor was flooded.
           A leaky float or jammed float needle? But they’d flood if the engine was revved with
           the car standing.

           Thoughtfully, Gus looked at the fiberglass hood insulation. In many cars a corner or
           two dangle loose. Here all were tight—but the middle of the blanket bellied out.

           Carefully he pulled the sheet off and rolled it up. Closing the hood, he tested the car
           again. It ran fine.

           A harassed Stan met Gus when he drove in. Beside a yellow convertible a pretty girl
           gave the impression of stamping both feet while standing still.

           "Ted set the points right, Boss. But that engine breaks up at any speed over idling. The
           timing light shows the spark doesn’t advance at all. But the vacuum line’s okay, and
           the diaphragm couldn’t go that bad all in one hour."

           Gus walked over to Ted. "Have any trouble at all installing the points?"

           "Naw. A breeze. I dropped a screw, but found a good one in the scrap bin."

           "Show me which one."

           Ted pointed to a screw in the distributor that held on and grounded the stationary (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Teaches the Professor a Lesson


           Gus took it out. "Thread’s okay. How is it different from the one you lost?"

           "Just a bit longer, maybe."

           "Long enough," said Gus, "to bottom and lock the spark-advance plate. Get a new
           screw from the stock room, Ted."

           Ted scurried off. As the girl was paying the bill, her father drove in.

           "My daughter iss here?" he asked. "Ach, Helen, the Institute Meeting iss next month. I
           forgot it was postponed."

           The girl grinned wryly. To Gus, the professor continued, "My apologies. I found error
           in my calculations. There was enough air, after all."

           "No," said Gus, producing the hood liner. "Not while this sagged over the air intake. It
           let enough air leak by for idling, but suction clapped it on tight when the throttle was
           opened, and it choked the engine. Want it put back?"

           "Later, maybe. We go now, Helen?"

           "Mean to say he really spotted that trouble—on paper?" asked Stan.

           Gus grinned. "Well, somebody had to get under the hood, too. But I learned
           something—never ignore a clue."

           "Me, too," put in Ted. "Don’t use just any screw out of the scrap box."

           "I like what I learned better," said Stan.

           "What’s that, Stan?" asked Gus.

           "Her name," said Stan. "Helen."

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:38 PM]
Gus Loses a Customer

                                              By Martin Bunn

                          From the February, 1962 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:39 PM]
Gus Loses a Customer

                                               Gus Loses a Customer

          "Emergency? Sure it’s an emergency. I got 15 machines to service," crackled an
          agitated voice on the phone.

          "Okay. Where do I go?" asked Gus.

          "I’m leaving Humbert’s now. I’m parked on a hill so I can roll down to start. Meet me
          at National Drugs—and be sure to bring that new Bendix drive."

          Slightly mystified, Gus drove the Model Garage service truck to the drug-company
          parking lot. A hard-used sedan with the legend "Vend-a-Cup" on its battered sides was
          there—locked. He sounded his horn. A white-jacketed figure ran out of the nearest

          He was a slight man with a snub nose that gave him the appearance of a harried small
          boy. A grin split his freckled face as he dropped two enormous hampers to shake

          "Name’s Jim Melchin. I run a string of coffee, candy, and sandwich machines."

          "So that’s it. I wondered what you meant by having 15 to service."

          "Gotta be dependable. Slack off, and you lose your machine locations to the

          Having loaded sandwiches from the car into one hamper, Melchin thrust a bunch of
          keys at Gus. "Try the starter. Then put in that new Bendix. I’ve got to be on my way
          when I’ve serviced these machines."

          Gus found that the starter whirred energetically but did not engage the engine. He
          proceeded to remove the starter, which on this car could be done from above.

          The drive wasn’t gummed or jammed; its pinion ran freely up the shaft thread. The
          helical spring was intact. The pinion teeth were a bit chipped, but not enough to
          prevent meshing. More likely, Gus thought, a few flywheel teeth were missing. But his
          fingers in the starter opening felt teeth in position to mesh with the pinion.

          "Be down in eight minutes!" Melchin’s high, urgent voice came from an upper
          window. Gus nodded, gave up any idea of checking further. (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:39 PM]
Gus Loses a Customer

          Knocking out the retaining pin, he removed the drive and installed a new one. With the
          starter back in place, the engine promptly cranked and fired.

          "Quick work!" Melchin opened a clinking leather bag. "Hope you don’t mind being
          paid in silver. That’s the kind of money I take in."

          Gus wrote out a receipt for a modest charge and received a fistful of coins. Melchin
          got behind the wheel.

          "I’d like to check the flywheel gear," said Gus. "If it’s damaged, the same thing could
          happen again."

          "Might. This is the second new Bendix drive I’ve had. But I can’t spare the bus
          now—not with the syndicate after my locations."
          About two weeks later State Police Trooper Jerry Corcoran stopped at the Model
          Garage for a generator check.

          "Caught the syndicate yet, Jerry?" asked Gus banteringly.

          "Syndicate? How did you know?"

          Gus’s grin faded. "It’s a gag, Jerry." He explained about Melchin’s vending route.
          Jerry laughed.

          "That’s competition. No law against it yet, and I don’t know of any syndicate in that
          business. No, it’s the old numbers racket we’re after."

          "Thought that was big-city stuff."

          "It’s moved out. A few employees in big offices and plants here sell the slips on the
          side. But we haven’t spotted the collectors who work for the ring, picking up bets and

          "This morning we got a tip from a man at a boat yard. He says the collector drives a
          Merc station wagon. Yesterday he skidded into a sand hole back of the yard, spun his
          right wheel trying to get out, then suddenly quit and walked away. An hour later, a
          wrecker came and hauled the car off. But nobody knows where.

          "That’s all we can get out of our informer. He clammed up. We’ll stake out the place,
          of course." (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:39 PM]
Gus Loses a Customer

          "If the car was damaged," said Gus, "they may be using another one. Enough sand in
          the brake drum could lock the wheel. Keep trying to pull out, with the other wheel on
          firm ground, and you can break an axle."

          Corcoran nodded. "Worth checking garages for a job on a Merc axle?"

          Gus shook his head. "Axles break so seldom nowadays they aren’t often stocked. The
          car may be under wraps waiting for a new one from Detroit."

          Later that day Melchin’s dusty sedan pulled in. The little man looked morose.

          "More starting trouble?" asked Gus.

          Melchin nodded. "Same one. You may as well check the flywheel gear. Lost so many
          locations to the syndicate that I can do my route in half a day."

          He sat down, munching one of his chocolate bars while Gus pulled off the starter. Its
          pinion teeth were covered with chips, but not, Gus saw, from the teeth themselves. He
          put the car on a lift, took down the flywheel housing and called Melchin to look.

          "There’s your trouble—a soft ring gear. See how all the teeth are chewed down at this
          end? Each time you put on a new Bendix, its unworn teeth, a shade longer than the old
          ones, would catch what was left of those until it again wore them out of mesh."

          "Aren’t flywheel teeth hardened?"

          "Supposed to be. Guess somebody goofed and a batch came through soft. We’ll put a
          hard-toothed flywheel on."

          Stan Hicks, Gus’s assistant, was doing just that when a big station wagon trailing the
          odor of hot steel and burned brake lining, screeched into the shop. As Gus walked
          over, a hatless young man with glossy hair and a leather coat leaped out.

          "Gus Wilson? I’ve heard you’re pretty good. Let’s see how fast you can fix that
          draggin’ brake."

          The car was a ’59 Merc, its load hidden under canvas. The heat from the right-rear
          brake drum was so intense it could be felt feet away.

          "It’s too hot to touch," Gus said. "I’ll pull the wheel; it may cool faster." (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:39 PM]
Gus Loses a Customer

          Gus removed the wheel, noticing that the axle nut showed shiny rounding spots, as if
          turned with a slightly too large wrench.

          The drum was still warm when Gus took it off. Marks on the brake-shoe anchor bolts
          suggested recent removal. Both drum and lining were ruined.

          The driver looked at him and swore. "Okay, get with it. Put in new ones."

          Gus mounted a new drum on the hub. With relined shoes in place, he flexed the return
          springs which, hooked across the two shoes, pull them away from the drum surface
          when brakes are released. As if accidentally, he dropped a spring on the concrete floor.
          Then he put both in and finished the job.

          With the car on the jack, he put it in gear, spun the wheel, braked it to a stop a few
          times, checked to see that it still turned freely.

          "What’s the tab?" asked the man.

          Gus told him. "Give it a road test, to see if it still drags."

          "If it does," said the driver, handing Gus the cash, "I’ll be back."

          The moment the car roared out, Gus headed for the phone.

          "We picked him up a block away," Corcoran told Gus an hour later. "He was headed
          back here—with a smoking wheel."

          "I thought he could be," said Gus.

          "In the car," said the trooper, "we found policy slips, sandwiches, coffee supplies,
          candy—and this."

          He showed Gus a sign of the kind that can be hung on a car window.

          "Vending, Inc. That syndicate was in the coffee-and sandwich business. No wonder
          your friend was frozen out. Servicing the machines daily made a good cover for
          collecting. The fellow we caught was switched to another route today. That’s why our
          stake-out failed. But he’s talking. Now that we know how to spot the collectors, they’ll
          lead us to the big fish."

          "So a snapped axle was their Waterloo." (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:39 PM]
Gus Loses a Customer

          Jerry nodded. "This chap did snap an axle in that sand hole. The ring’s mechanic got a
          used one and put it in. But when the brake dragged, he was too far from the home base,
          so he came to you. Says he watched you do all the right things—even check it on a
          jack—and can’t figure why it still grabbed. What gimmicked it?"

          "The return springs," said Gus. "Running hot in the sand took the temper out of them. I
          dropped one and it sounded like a lead nickel. Their man replaced the shoes but not the
          springs. So I left ‘em in, too."

          "But it didn’t drag on the jack."

          Gus laughed. "You can stop a free-turning wheel just by touching the brake. But after
          he hit them hard enough to stoop the car a couple of times, the springs stretched so
          much they couldn’t pull the shoes clear of the drum."

          "I get it," said Corcoran. "Well, we’re sure grateful, and that’s official. Only one thing
          I’m sorry about."
          "What’s that, Jerry?"

          "You’ve lost a customer, Gus—for something like five years."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:39 PM]
Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

                                              By Martin Bunn

                         From the November, 1962 issue of
                                 Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:41 PM]
Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

                                         Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

          "This the fan belt you wanted, Boss?" asked gangling Ted Beamish, the Model
          Garage’s teen-age helper. "The parts man said he doesn’t get much call for these wide
          ones any more."

          "Aren’t many ’41 cars like Mrs. Flanders’ around," returned Gus.

          "Got any real work for me? Like on a car, maybe?" pleaded the young helper.

          "Well, the Flanders car is over there," said Gus. "Think you can put on that fan belt?"

          "Oh, sure," returned the boy loftily. "That’s just basic training in high-school auto

          "Go ahead then. But remember to--" Gus found himself talking to empty air. Ted had
          grabbed the new belt and scurried off. Then the phone rang, making Gus forget what
          he’d meant to say.

          A horn sounded outside and Gus opened the big doors. A ’59 hardtop rolled in to the
          accompaniment of a jackhammer racket from a street-repair job outside. Gus lowered
          the door to restore comparative quiet. The driver of the car, a burly, black-browed man
          in a checked shirt, sat scowling until Gus came over.

          "I’ve got a noise in this car that’s driving me nuts," he said. "Listen!"

          Gus put his head inside on the driver’s side. Over the engine’s tick came a sound
          midway between a squeak and a rattle. Nearby, Ted raised his head to listen.

          "Seems to be coming from the steering column," muttered Gus. "But it could be
          telegraphed from farther down."

          The driver jerked up a chin like a cliff. "The last garage I went to said the same thing.
          They thought it might be the directional-signal plate. I had to wait three days for them
          to get one. They put it in, but when I drove out, the noise was just the same. Now they
          tell me to drive it a few days more and see if it stops. I’ll go crazy first!"

          The man put a cigarette in his mouth and lit it with shaking hands.

          "Give us a couple of hours," said Gus. "All we can promise is to try." (2 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:41 PM]
Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

          The customer got out of the car. "My name’s Meeker. I’ll be back in a while."

          Gus stretched out on a crawler and rolled under the car, letting the engine run. The
          noise was still audible below. He held the edge of the splash pan and grasped each end
          of the tie rod in turn. The sound persisted. Gus rolled out just in time to see Ted
          jockeying a floor jack under Mrs. Flanders’ car.

          "What’re you doing?" he asked.

          "Putting on that fan belt," answered Ted, a defensive quaver in his voice.

          Gus spied the old belt on the floor. It had been cut apart.

          "Tough getting that off?" he asked.

          "Boy!" retorted Ted feelingly. "I never saw one so tight. Even with the generator
          slacked off. I had to saw the old belt apart to get it out. That new one’s worse yet.
          Course, I could pry it on if I had to—"

          "Not in this shop," said Gus sternly. "That goes for any belt, on any car, new or old.
          The cords in a belt have not stretch to ‘em—they’re designed not to have any. Pry one
          on, or use that trick of some all-thumbs mechanics—forcing it over by cranking the
          engine—and you know what happens?"

          Ted swiped oil-streaked red hair out of his eyes. "No, I guess I don’t."

          "That belt looks good as ever. But after a few days the strained cords tear. Then it’s
          unbalanced. The belt turns over in the sheave groove and just rips itself apart. When
          you put on a new belt in my shop, Ted, take the time to yank the generator or do
          whatever’s necessary to install it without straining its guts!"

          "Well, gosh, that’s what I’m doing," returned Ted plaintively. "I wasn’t going to pry it.
          On this crate the front motor mount’s conked out and lets the engine down so far I
          can’t push the belt in between the pulley-damper and the splash pan. So I’m going to
          lift the engine."

          Gus shook his head. "Put the jack away, Ted, before you break that motor mount."

          Crestfallen, the boy did so.

          "What I tried to tell you before you took off," Gus went on, "is that the vibration (3 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:41 PM]
Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

          damper has two flats on it. Its rum is so near the splash pan you can’t slip the belt
          between. But turn either flat down and it’s a cinch."

          "So that’s it!" sighed Ted. "Okay, I’ll give it the old try."

          Gus watched as he pulled out the ignition-coil cable and twitched the motor around
          with short starter bursts until it stopped in the right position. The boy slid the belt into

          "Never had one like this in school," he said with great relief.

          "No," agreed Gus soberly. "They just don’t make ‘em like they used to."

          Driving Meeker’s car around the block, Gus heard the annoying squeak-chirp turn into
          a buzzing rattle on acceleration. He began to understand how it could get on Meeker’s

          "I have to go downtown on an errand, Stan," Gus told his senior helper on returning to
          the shop. "Track down this noise. Some other shop already did work on the wheel; but
          you might check inside the steering column. It’s a fair bet it’s in the linkage."

          Going out to where his car stood at the curb, Gus was surprised to find Meeker
          standing near it, apparently absorbed in the street-repair job and untroubled by the
          racket. He exchanged a few words with him and went downtown.

          Stan removed the horn ring, the steering wheel, and a directional signal plate that was
          plainly new. He found the rubber steering-shaft bushes intact. The noise persisted even
          when he pinched the shaft tight, eliminating any possible vibration. The shift-linkage
          shafts were not touching anywhere inside the column.

          Stan replaced the signal plate, wheel, and horn ring, and left to answer the phone. He
          was still on the phone when Meeker walked through the office door.

          Ted spotted him. "No, sir, he hasn’t found the noise yet," Ted told the big man. "Say,
          maybe if somebody rode with you he could listen other places than up front."

          "I never tried that. It might help," agreed Meeker, cracking long, calloused fingers
          nervously. "I’ll wait."

          "What for?" asked Ted, seeing Stan still at the phone. "Come on, I’ll go along." (4 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:41 PM]
Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

          Meeker got behind the wheel. The sound of air hammers, as the shop door opened,
          alerted Stan Hicks in time to see the car pull out.

          Ted sat up front, head cocked and rigidly attentive. The noise still seemed to come
          from near the steering column.

          "Hold it," said the boy. "It could be telegraphed from any place. Let me ride the trunk.
          If it’s from a rear spring or shock, I’ll hear it there."

          Meeker stopped. He seemed dubious when Ted jumped into the trunk and told him to
          close the lid.

          "Sure that’s a good idea?"

          "Got to, or the lid will clatter and the hinges squeak," the boy insisted. "I’ll be okay."

          Meeker shut the trunk. In pitch darkness scented with rubber and gasoline, Ted curled
          his gangling frame into a comfortable position. The car moved off.

          To his disappointment the noise was inaudible. Soon the sound of jackhammers
          signaled their return to the Model Garage. Meeker stopped near the pumps, where Stan
          was putting gas into a car.

          "Just leave it," yelled Stan over the racket. "I’ll move it in later."

          Meeker nodded, got out with the keys, and, reaching for the door, accidentally banged
          his hand against the edge instead. The keys flew out of his hand and slid along the
          apron. Stan picked them up.

          Meeker pointed toward the trunk, said something Stan didn’t catch, and trudged off.
          Another car pulled in for a tire change. Stan was just finishing this when Gus returned.

          "Seen Ted?" Gus asked as Stan got out of Meeker’s car after driving it into the shop.

          "He drove off with the man who owns the car and didn’t come back."

          "Strange. Okay, Stan, you finish it."

          Stan raised the hood over the running engine. He disconnected one shift link from its
          arm on the column shaft. The squeak—and an echo of jackhammer
          pounding—persisted. He replaced the link rod and disconnected the other one. (5 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:41 PM]
Gus Tackles a Noisy Problem

          The rattling ceased.

          Stan inspected the arm. The metal ring or grommet, that the rod rested in was loose in
          the arm. With a punch and hammer, Stan collapsed it and drove it out, the sound of his
          blows echoing strangely. He set in a new rubber grommet and replaced the rod. There
          was no more squeak.

          "That was it," Stan said as Gus came up. "Guess the other shop had a car where the
          noise was in the column, and thought it was here, too. Hey! Is this bus haunted?"

          Gus shut off the engine. A dull pounding remained. The thuds evidently came from the
          trunk. Stan unlocked it and Ted sat up, blinking.

          "So that’s what the man meant!" murmured Stan.

          The boy clambered out. "I thought maybe that noise was telegraphed from in back. So
          I rod the trunk. But it wasn’t. Am I fired, Boss?"

          "No, but I think you’re cured of riding in trunks," answered Gus. "Finding car noises
          takes common sense, patience, and luck. If you can hear it with the car standing still,
          as in this case, you ought to know it probably isn’t in the shocks, springs, or drive

          "Engine vibration can kick up a racket, though, from a loose splash pan, clip, tubing,
          or even sloppy steering joints. You check by looking for such things, holding them
          tight, or disconnecting them. When the noise quits or even just changes pitch, chances
          are you’ve closed in on it."

          "I get it, I think," said Ted. "But how come Meeker was so jumpy from a little noise?
          Bet he has a really quiet job."

          "Not exactly," returned Gus. "Mr. Meeker’s job is running a jackhammer."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (6 of 6) [11/10/2003 9:59:41 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

                                               By Martin Bunn

                              From the October, 1962 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

                                 Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

           "Duck, Boss—here comes trouble," warned Stan from the door of the Model Garage.
           A familiar 1956 V-8 crept painfully up the apron.

           Gus Wilson looked up just as the engine, evidently starved for gas, expired. From the
           driver’s window glared the lantern-jawed face of Silas Barnstable—a man who never
           spent a nickel without making sure another wasn’t stuck to it.

           "You comin’ out, Gus, or want I should bring a law summons?" he bawled.

           "Keep your shirt flap in," advised Gus, striding out. "What’s up?"

           Barnstable’s bony Adam’s apple bounced indignantly. "First off, you cheated me on
           them plugs I got a month ago. I got to the coast but only halfway back when she
           started to miss. The man showed me them plugs was burned. You told me they was
           colder than my old ones."

           "They were and you needed ‘em," retorted Gus. "You saw the blistered insulators and
           eroded electrodes on your old ones. If those cold plugs burned, you were scorching the
           road—or, something else was wrong. You wouldn’t let me tune the engine,

           "Waste of money!" snarled Silas. "I ain’t paying that bill I owe for them no-good plugs
           neither. Had to buy new ones to get back."

           Gus turned and walked off. "Come back when you’re ready to settle up."

           "Hey, wait!" Alarm squeaked through Silas’ raucous voice. "’Tain’t plugs I come to
           see you about."

           Gus paused. "Sure sounded like it."

           "Fixin’ to trade up, get a ’58 car—two years newer’n mine," Silas went on. "Got me a
           buyer for this one. Sell private, buy private. Don’t pay no dealer profit that way."

           "Then how come I saw you drive into the car dealer’s an hour ago?" asked Gus.

           "Had a leetle trouble," confided Silas. ‘Didn’t aim to bother you."

           "Didn’t want to show up on account of that unpaid bill," retorted Gus. "And your (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

           trouble’s not a little one—you just squeaked in here with a dying engine. No buyer
           would touch that car with a six-foot pole, the way it is now."

           "Those smart Alecs asked 20 bucks for a fuel pump!" whined Silas. "Why should I buy
           a new pump if I’m sellin’?"

           "So you can sell the car."

           "Aw, come on, Gus. Jest patch it up so it runs. I ain’t guaranteein’ it."

           Gus sighed. "For the sake of your buyer, I’ll try. Crank it over."

           Silas turned the key. The engine cranked but made no effort to start.

           "Sure you have gas?" asked Gus, aware that Silas would drain most of it from a car he
           was expecting to sell.

           "Left in two gallons when I drove out," snapped Silas. "But once she quits, she won’t
           start for about 15 minutes."

           Facts clicked into place: To Gus’s ear the engine had sounded gas-starved. The
           agency’s diagnosis was fuel-pump trouble. New cold plugs had burned badly in a few
           thousand miles. And once dead, the engine would restart only after a wait.

           "I’ll fix both your troubles—the stalling out and your plugs burning—in ten minutes or
           less," offered Gus. "But it’ll cost you a dollar for each minute or fraction of one.

           Silas’ eyes narrowed. "You’re on—but if you take more than 10 minutes I don’t pay
           you anything."

           Gus looked at his watch, hoping he hadn’t outguessed himself. Then he disconnected
           the gas line at the carburetor and had Silas crank the engine. No gas pumped out. Gus
           reconnected the line, then reached down under the fuel pump, and backed off the big
           thumb-screw that held on the glass sediment bowl. Removing the fiber-glass element,
           he dumped the bowl and wiped it out, then sauntered into the shop.

           Five minutes were gone when he turned with a new filter and gasket. He carefully put
           the gasket and new filter in position, slid up the bowl, and tightened the big knurled
           nut. His watch showed two minutes to go when he straightened up. Silas was watching
           with explosive tenseness. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

           "Ain’t you done yet?" he burst out.

           "Got to recheck the gas line," said Gus, leisurely going about it as his watch crept past
           the nine-minute mark.

           "Okay. That’s 10 bucks, Silas."

           Barnstable snorted and turned on the starter. It cranked over, but the engine stayed
           dead. Silas shut it off.

           "Guess you lose, Gus," he cackled. "Now finish fixin’ it—for free!"

           "Not just yet." Gus knew he might be wrong, but felt that the odds were still with him.
           "Try again."

           Scowling, Silas resumed cranking. It would take some time, Gus knew, to refill the
           fuel bowl. Only then would the gas reach the empty carburetor.

           With a roar, the engine took off. Gus held his hand out for payment.

           "Not just yet," snapped Barnstable. "I’m giving it a good test run. Then I’ll deliver it to
           the buyer. If it cuts out again, I don’t owe you nothin’."

           That afternoon, on a road call, Gus spotted Silas driving into the dealer’s service shop
           again. But the car was a 1958 model this time. Gus was only mildly surprised when it
           rolled into the Model Garage some time later.

           "See you sold yours," Gus remarked, looking up from a brake job.

           "Yup, ain’t payin’ you 10 bucks, though," said Silas with sly triumph.

           "That so? Got a good reason?"
           "A bet’s a bet, Gus. The car ran okay, but you promised to fix whatever burned them
           plugs, and you never touched a thing but the fuel system. I watched!"

           Gus got up, walked into his office, and brought out a sheet of paper.

           "Here’s a service bulletin from the spark-plug manufacturer. Read it yourself. It says
           that low fuel pressure leans out the mixture at high speed. That lean mix causes
           overheating, which can burn plugs and even valves. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

           "Low fuel pressure can be caused by a punctured diaphragm, weak diaphragm spring,
           worn cam or pump rocker arm—or a clogged filter. That last was you trouble. I put in
           a new filter and fuel pressure went back to normal. Pay!"

           Grudgingly Silas handed Gus a $10 bill. "It’s robbery for 10 minutes’ work, but beats
           payin’ 20 for a pump I didn’t need."

           Gus chuckled. "Wish I had a buck for every new plump that’s sold because its fiber-
           glass filter is clogged. You can’t blow that kind clean—the fine weave accumulates
           fine particles until it’s so loaded gas can’t squeeze through.

           "When the engine’s off, some outside dirt sinks down, gas seeps through, and you can
           start again. But as soon as pump pressure picks up the same dirt, it clogs the filter

           "How much is a new filter?"

           "Bit over a buck," said Gus. "Your tenspot pays for that, my time, and the new plugs
           you got a month ago—which you’d still be using if you’d let me check and tune the
           engine then."

           Silas grunted. "Guess I’d have paid you for them plugs some day anyhow."

           Gus glanced at the trade-in. "What’s wrong with your new car?" he asked.
           Silas flashed him an amazed look. "How’d you—who said anything is?"

           "I’d still be waiting for my $10 if there weren’t."

           A scowl overspread Silas’ features. "The cheapskate I got it from only left a quarter
           tankful of gas in it. I used most of that trying out the car before I paid for it. So right
           after, I went to a gas station.

           "That guy there knew me. Soon as he heard I’d bought the car, he laughed fit to bust a
           hyena. He says it’s a gas hog. The owner swore he’d sell it cheap because even the
           dealer couldn’t stop it from guzzling gas."

           "What’d they say at the dealer’s shop?"

           "Tried to sell me a tune-up. But I give a mechanic four bits and asked him private.
           They tried new points, plugs, and carburetor jets but none of it did not good, he said.
           Gus, you gotta fix it—I been cheated!" (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

           With a droplight, Gus inspected the gas lines, carburetor, and automatic choke. The
           choke was open and working freely. Cranking resulted in no sign of a sticking float
           valve or improper float level. The flexible fuel link was sound and the fuel-pump
           housing was dry.

           Gus pulled out the oil dipstick and sniffed it. Mixed with the odor of oil was the reek
           of gasoline. He opened the fuel filter and drew out the cartridge. It was surprisingly
           clean—and also smelled of gas. Gus replaced it.

           "I know the trouble, Silas. If I fix it, you’ll have to pay spot cash."

           "Go ahead," growled Barnstable.

           Gus backed out the bolts holding on the fuel pump and pulled it off.

           "See that rocker arm? Most are oily and dirty. This one’s washed clean—by gas
           leaking into the crankshaft."
           "Going to stick me for a new pump?"

           Gus didn’t answer. Silas watched suspiciously as Gus opened up the fuel pump at a
           bench and inspected the diaphragm. To Gus’s surprise he found no sign of the pinholes
           he had expected. Then he noticed that the flange of one washer on the actuating rod
           wasn’t turned up all around. He pulled the diaphragm gently away. Where the flange
           lay flat against it was a short open slit.

           "There’s your lost gas mileage. Faulty stamping left this washer flange flat at one spot.
           In time, the flexing of the diaphragm against that sharp edge cut it through. The pump
           still delivered gas to the carburetor—and a squirt into the crankcase each time."

           Silas nodded glumly. Whistling, Gus took apart the diaphragm assembly, put on a new
           diaphragm and a properly flanged washer. Then he buttoned up the pump and installed
           it on the engine.

           "That tames your gas hog," he said. "Costs you much less than a new pump. Want to
           change that gas-thinned oil?"

           "Yup, but not here. Station out my way gives a free lube job with each oil change.
           How much are you askin’, Gus?"

           Stan shook his head as the car drove out of the shop. "Boss, you’re too good to that
           skinflint. I’d have sold him two new fuel pumps." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Puts the Squeeze on a Penny Pincher

           Gus shook his head. "No, you wouldn’t . There’s just one fellow Silas has to watch out

           "Who’s that?"

           "The one who’s just as sharp as he is—and a little more crooked."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:42 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the August, 1963 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

                                             Gus Gets a Tip from TV

          "An old friend to see you, Gus," said Stan, peering around the office door of the Model

          Stifling a yawn, Gus shoved his ledger aside and went out to the shop. Seeing the
          pinched, sour face of the man waiting in the ’59 Buick there, Gus scowled. Stan, Gus’s
          helper, hastily lost himself under a car hood.

          "Hello, Silas," said Gus without enthusiasm. "How’s your bargain car doing?"

          "Nothin’ wrong with it!" retorted Silas Barnstable, the stingiest man in town and easily
          Gus’s worst customer. "I’m here to make you a deal."

          Gus sighed inwardly. "What kind?"

          "Remember them agency fellers that kept filling the differential too full, so it leaked on
          my garage floor? Well, a month ago I found where it was comin’ out. Stopped it, too,
          by dab!"

          "Well, bully for you," returned Gus.

          "No call to get sassy," said Barnstable indignantly. Then he turned on what he thought
          was an ingratiating smile. "Been wanting to check the grease again, but I get cricks
          crawling under. Thought maybe I could put the car on your rack a couple of minutes.
          Now, here’s the deal. If it needs grease, I’ll buy it from you. Hold on—" Silas hastened
          on as Gus opened his mouth. "It won’t cost you nothin’, and I already done you a
          "I was going to say okay, since the rack isn’t in use," Gus replied. "But if you did me a
          favor, I’d better check it out."

          Barnstable’s Adam’s apple joggled. "Tryin’ to tell you, ain’t I? Went out to look at
          some prop’ty this mornin’ and stopped for some stuff at the Route 9 shoppin’ center on
          the way back. There was this furrin-looking car coughin’ and bangin’ in the parking
          lot, so I asked the driver if he wanted a tow cheap, bein’ as how I was right there

          "The young feller talked kinda funny, like maybe he was a furriner, too. He said he had
          some spare plugs he’d try. Time’s money, so I didn’t wait. But I told him if it don’t run
          right to come here, ‘cause you wouldn’t charge him no worse’n most garages, and ‘d
          do a lot better job." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

          "Thanks a lot," said Gus dryly. "Okay. Put your car on the rack."

          Gus watched the car until it was safely in position, then headed back to his office,
          yawning. At the door he stopped, struck by a thought that he now realized had been
          gnawing at him for minutes.

          Turning, he saw that Silas was unscrewing the grease plug in the differential housing.
          Gus ran toward him.

          "Hey, Silas! Hold it," he warned. "How did you stop—"

          With a small explosive pop, the plug flew from its hole and struck Barnstable on the
          forehead. A spurt of viscous black grease followed. Silas yelped and sprang back.
          Under the car hood, Stan had heard Gus’s cry. He’d looked up in time to see the whole
          thing and was overcome by an uncontrollable fit of choking.

          Wordlessly Gus handed Silas a rag.

          "I’ll sue!" Silas sputtered as soon as his face was free of grease. "I’ll charge you with
          malicious mischief and causin’ personal injury, Gus Wilson!"

          Gus made no answer.

          "You knew that would happen!" raged Barnstable. "You yelled, to take my mind off
          what I was doin’ and—"

          "I tried to stop you," retorted Gus. He walked under the car and inspected the rear-axle
          housing. "Come here, Stan. I want you for a witness."

          Silas, still fuming, watched with Stan as Gus pointed to a small plug set in at the top of
          the housing. "That’s a pipe plug. But on this car there should be an open vent line here,
          to release the pressure built up as working parts warm up in operation.

          "Because it oozed grease, Silas took off the vent line and screwed in this plug. It
          bottled up the pressure, probably forced some grease past the bearing seals, and blew
          up in his face just now. Still want to sue, Silas?"

          "A lawyer’d cost me more than I’d get. I’ll forget it if you put back that vent thing. I
          never threw it away. It’s in the trunk."
          "Maybe it was my fault at that," mused Gus after Silas had driven out. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

          "Aw, how could it be, Gus?" asked Stan.

          "If I’d been wide awake, I’d have caught on as soon as he said he’d stopped that ‘leak.’
          But I watched a late TV movie last night and I’m sleepy."

          "Well, I wouldn’t bother feeling sorry for pinch-penny Silas," returned Stan. "Nor
          believe that fairy tale about sending you a customer, either."

          The phone rang. Stan answered it and came back looking confused.

          "You won’t believe it, Gus, but that was a road call from the man Silas gave your
          name to. The car backfired so hard it blew an exhaust joint. He wants us to come and
          get him."

          "Well, go ahead," said Gus.

          "He hung up too soon. I don’t know where he’d stuck. He said he’s near the
          ‘roundabout’ off Route 9."

          "The traffic circle," explained Gus. "He’s at the shopping center, Barnstable said."

          Stan returned with a Peugeot in tow. From it stepped a young man with a fair
          mustache and straw-colored hair.

          "Gus Wilson?" he asked as Gus rolled a creeper under the car. "Very decent of you to
          come to a stranger’s help so quickly."

          "That’s what we’re here for," said Gus.

          "Name’s Neville Sands—exchange student. The car belongs to some American
          friends. They lent it to me to see a bit of your country."

          Stan came out from under the car. "I slipped that joint back. No sweat."

          Sands looked questioningly at Gus.

          "No difficulty about that exhaust joint. What’s your engine trouble?"

          "There wasn’t any, you know, until yesterday. The owner had a new condenser,
          distributor cap, rotor, and points put in before I started. Last night the motor began to
          miss. When I stopped for petrol, I had the sparking plugs cleaned, but that did no good. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

          "This morning an agency mechanic suggested the carburetor was at fault. He cleaned it
          and installed an overhaul kit. The motor seemed to run better at first, but after a bit it
          got so bad I had to stop at that car park where your friend met me."

          Gus winced where it didn’t show. "We’ll check it for water in the gas, see if the fuel
          pump’s delivering, and go back over the ignition," he said.

          "Good show. I bought a new coil from the agency, with the thought that it might be
          useful. You’ll find it in the boot. I’ll have a spot of tea meanwhile. Is there a pillar box
          close by?"

          "Turn left when you go out," directed Gus. "At the end of the block."

          Stan was busy. He drained a little water from the gas tank, checked fuel-pump delivery
          and found it good. He opened the distributor. The points were properly gapped and in
          good condition. With the ignition on, Stan flicked them open by hand while holding
          the coil lead near the block. A rather thin spark jumped over.

          "Could be a bum coil," Stan said to Gus. "Where’d he say we could find that new

          "In the trunk."

          "Ah yes, the bloomin’ boot. And what’s this pillar box he’s going to for his dish of
          tea?" asked Stan.

          "A mail box," said Gus with a grin. "I’m surprised you don’t understand the Queen’s
          English, Stan."

          Stan grunted, found the trunk key and installed the new coil. But manual opening of
          the points produced no better spark than before; and when he started the engine it still
          ran very roughly, with occasional back-pops, as if it might be out of time.

          "I checked the firing order, and the plug leads aren’t mixed up or so close they’d be
          crossfiring," Stan said as Gus came over to the car. "If he hadn’t said that this
          condenser is brand-new, I’d yank it and try another."

          Gus nodded. Suddenly he switched off the droplight Stan was using. "You’ve hit
          it—almost. Look at that."

          He pointed at the condenser, which was mounted on the outside of the distributor case. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

          Small red sparks flickered around the mounting screw. Gus pressed a screwdriver
          against it.

          Instantly the bucketing engine settled to a rhythmic idle.

          "Wizard!" said Sands when he heard the smoothly ticking engine a little later.
          "Compared to you, those other mechanics were rather clods."

          "Only the first one’s to blame," said Gus. "He must have lost the metric-thread screw
          and used a slightly undersized American one. When it loosened, the condenser was

          Sands frowned. "Oh, I say, you mean unearthed? Perhaps I’m the clod. Always
          thought a condenser was merely to keep down static in the wireless. What’s it do,

          "Other condensers do kill radio interference," said Gus. "But the vital condenser is in
          the low-tension ignition circuit. When the points close, current flows in the primary
          winding of the coil and sets up a magnetic field around it. But it’s when that field
          collapses that it induces a high-voltage current in the secondary, which fires the plugs.

          "Connected across the points, the condenser acts like a tank or reservoir. When the
          points open, the primary current rushes into it, letting the magnetic field collapse in
          milliseconds. That fast drop generates a strong spark. Also, by absorbing the
          interrupted current, the condenser prevents arcing and lengthens point life."

          "And that loose screw cut the condenser out?" asked Sands.

          "Yes, intermittently," said Gus. "With no condenser, the primary current tried to jump
          the points by arcing across them, so the coil’s field didn’t collapse fast and the spark
          was weak. Arcing also delayed the break, making the spark so late that it sometimes
          fired when the rotor had moved to the next cylinder. And that was what caused the

          "I’m really much obliged," said Sands. "Now, if I may settle my account and be on my
          way . . ."

          "How come you caught on to this guy’s lingo," asked Stan as he and Gus were closing
          shop, "when it threw me?"

          "Oh, I read an English car magazine now and then," confessed Gus. "Keeps me up to
          date on foreign cars." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Gets a Tip from TV

          "You never got ‘pillar box’ that way. For somebody who lost sleep over a late movie,
          Gus, you were pretty sharp—still hitting on all cylinders."

          "You know, old top, even that helped!"

          "What? The late show?"

          "Uh-huh," Gus said with a grin. "It was an English movie."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:43 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

                                              By Martin Bunn

                          From the December, 1963 issue of
                                  Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

                                    Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

           "Hush, Tommy. We’ll go as soon as the nice man fixes the car." Red-haired young
           Mrs. Fennel turned again to Stan. "I’m taking him to see Santa Claus at the County
           Shopping Fair. Will it take long?"

           "Can’t say till I know what to do," said Stan, who was in charge of the Model Garage
           while Gus Wilson was out on a road call. "You say the seat belt squeaks, but I never
           heard tell of that, Ma’am."

           "Mine does. You’re saying the same as they did where I bought it, when I went back to
           complain. Then they tried to tell me it was bad shock absorbers, so they could sell me
           new ones."

           "It just could be," admitted Stan.

           "Only it isn’t! I had the seat belts put in three days ago. That’s when the squeaking
           began. So it’s the seat belt."

           Helpless before this kind of logic, Stan shrugged. "Best thing is for me to road-test the
           car, if you don’t mind waiting a few minutes."

           Mrs. Fennel didn’t mind, and after ejecting Tommy from the car with some difficulty,
           Stan drove it around a few blocks. A rasping squeak at once made itself so evident he
           could understand why Mrs. Fennel wanted it stopped. The noise was like the one he’d
           tormented schoolgirls with as a kid—the agonized squeak of chalk rubbed hard on a

           Thinking it might be the door weather-stripping or a hinge, Stan opened the door a bit
           and kept driving. The squeak kept on. He drove back to the shop. Gus had returned.

           "Everybody’s installing seat belts these days," Mrs. Fennel was telling Gus. "So when
           this store had a sale I thought I’d get them there. But when they couldn’t stop that
           awful noise, I knew I’d better come here, as my husband always does."

           "We’ll sure try to fix it," promised Gus as Stan checked the belt anchorages.

           "I’m ashamed of that hole Fred—my husband—cut over the back seat," said Mrs.
           Fennel. "It’s for a new kind of rear-seat speaker he ordered but hasn’t got yet."

           Gus glanced at the oval opening in the rear-deck panel. "Well, it beats carrying a slew (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

           of packages up there, as some people do. In a quick stop, they can flu off and hurt
           passengers. The hole is harmless."

           Gus was to remember that speech wryly later in the day.

           "Can’t we go now?" put in Tommy.

           Stan had removed the anchorage bolt of the left-hand strap which screwed into a
           threaded hole in the car floor. He looked through the hole at a frame member under it,
           then examined the end of the bolt. On it was a small shiny spot. The trouble light,
           maneuvered over the hole, revealed a like, though darker, spot on the frame member.

           Putting a washer on the bolt, he screwed it back tightly; the washer would raise it
           enough to clear the frame. "If it squeaks when you drive out, Mrs. Fennel, come right

           "Let’s go!" wailed Tommy, tugging at his mother’s arm.

           Some hours later, Gus left on a turnpike call. Following a cold snap in November,
           there had been low temperatures until the last two days. Now a thaw had set in, but the
           air had a raw, wet edge to it.

           The road call proved to be nothing but a broken ignition wire. Gus installed a new one,
           turned the wrecker around and headed for home.

           In his mirror, Gus saw the car come up, none too steadily. It skimmed past his rear
           bumper with little to spare, staying abreast of him longer than it should have. The red-
           headed young woman driving it stared straight ahead, a cigarette hanging from her
           mouth, hands rigid yet twitchy on the wheel. She reminded Gus of Mrs. Fennel, but
           there was no child beside her. He eased off the gas to let her pass.

           It was well he did, for suddenly the sedan swerved sharply in front of him, so close it
           would have ripped into his fender had he maintained his speed. Back in the right lane,
           it roared on at turnpike speed. The trunk was partly open, its lid tied down over a
           package too bulky to permit it to close.

           Simultaneously Gus realized several things. The car was wandering in a series of
           overcorrected lurches. And the driver was Mrs. Fennel. Remembering the hole in the
           rear deck, he made a quick decision.

           Throttling down, Gus swung into the passing lane. He overhauled the sedan and blew
           his horn. Side by side with the car, he saw Mrs. Fennel glance at him through her (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

           closed window with no sign of recognition.

           Gus made urgent signals for her to pull over. The sedan lurched closer, nearly
           sideswiping the truck. Staring at the pretty, vacant face, Gus sounded the horn again in
           staccato bursts. Something finally broke through the woman’s inattention. She looked
           at Gus with startled recognition—and the car slowed, wavered off the road onto the

           Stopping in front of it, Gus jumped out and ran back. The driver’s door was locked. He
           rapped on the window. Seconds crawled by as Mrs. Fennel slowly unlocked the door.
           Gus flung it wide, unsnapped the seat belt and hauled her out.

           "Where’s Tommy?" he demanded, switching off the engine.

           "I—I left him—with Mother, after shopping," she said thickly. "What happened? Did I

           "You’re going to be all right." Spotting a blanket on the rear seat, Gus wrapped it
           around her and made her sit on the door sill, then opened all the other doors.

           Cars whizzed by. Except for a curious look or two, nobody paid them any attention.

           "I’d like a cigarette," said Mrs. Fennel after a few minutes.

           "Not yet," said Gus. "Right now you need lots of fresh air—to counteract that carbon
           monoxide you’ve been breathing."

           "Monoxide?" She seemed to take the word in slowly. "But Fred’s so careful about that.
           Didn’t he have you put on a new muffler last week?"

           "Yes, but this didn’t happen because of a defective exhaust system," explained Gus. "It
           was partly due to that hole I said couldn’t do any harm."

           "The one Fred made in the back? How could that let in exhaust gas?"

           "Your trunk was open. Monoxide would have seeped in through the rear seat back
           anyway. Through that hole, it got in faster. How do you feel now?"

           She shuddered. "I have an awful headache, but I don’t feel as sick as I did."

           "The car’s been aired out enough. Better get in to keep warm, but don’t drive off. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

           I’ll be right back."

           Gus’s efforts to raise Stan on the two-way citizens-band transmitter in the wrecker
           failed. That wasn’t surprising, as Stan listened for calls only every hour on the hour.
           Gus sent out a general "anybody-listening" call.

           "This is 2W7673," announced a voice. "Anything I can do?"

           "This is mobile 2W4233," said Gus. "Would you phone the state police, and tell them I
           stopped to help a sick woman north of turnpike milestone 274? Ask if they can spare a
           man to drive her home. No ambulance needed. Over."

           "Will do. North of 274. Right? Over."

           He found Mrs. Fennel more alert an apparently recovering nicely. Untying the trunk
           lid, Gus lifted the huge package out and loaded it onto the wrecker. He closed the
           sedan’s trunk and saw that it was securely locked. For good measure he crawled
           underneath and checked the muffler and tailpipe joints. All were sound.

           In 12 minutes a state police car arrived. After brief explanations, the second trooper in
           it undertook to drive Mrs. Fennel to her home. With relief Gus let both cars pull away.

           A late repair job claimed all his attention when he got back to the Model Garage. Only
           when closing up did Gus remember something important.

           Today was Christmas Eve, and Mrs. Fennel’s package—which he suspected was a
           present for Tommy—was still on the wrecker.

           Pushing it through one of the wide doors of his sports coupe, he drove to the Fennel
           home. Fred Fennel answered the bell.

           "Oh, it’s you," was his comment.

           "Seems we all forgot this," said Gus, lifting the heavy package over the threshold. "I
           figured Tommy would miss it."

           Fennel swung the door wide. "Guess he would—it’s his big gift. He’s spending
           Christmas Eve with his grandmother, but she’ll bring him here tomorrow. Gives him
           two Christmases—and us a chance to trim the tree."
           "Is Mrs. Fennel feeling all right?" (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

           "Just about." Fennel paused. "Look, I’m grateful and all that, and if it hadn’t been so
           late I’d have come to see you."

           "What’s on your mind?"

           "I just don’t understand how it happened," Fennel burst out. "So the trunk was open
           and there was that hole for the speaker. Where did the exhaust come from?"

           "From the car’s own tailpipe."

           "I don’t buy that. Here’s a car doing 60, running away from its own exhaust. If there
           weren’t a leak under it—from a defective muffler or a bad joint, monoxide couldn’t
           have got in. What kind of job did you do last week that would have killed my wife—if
           you hadn’t spotted her by sheer luck?"

           Gus took a deep breath.

           "Let’s save the question while I explain what your wife was in no shape to hear. A
           moving car creates a low-pressure area behind it, a sort of suction drag. A car does not
           run away form its own exhaust. It pulls some along with it. Station wagons are
           especially prone to do this. Some people leave the rear window of a wagon open for
           ventilation. That sucks in exhaust.

           "With that package holding your trunk lid open, fumes were sucked into the
           trunk—and then through that hole in the deck. If there’d been no hole, they’d have
           seeped through the seat back, but more slowly. As for your question, I checked the
           exhaust system on the spot. It’s tight."

           Fennel swallowed in obvious embarrassment. "Instead of asking dopey questions, I
           should be thanking you over and over. Anything I can do to make up for it?"

           Gus smiled. "Sure is. Tell me what kind of toy comes in that sassy box?"

           Fennel began to rip open the carton.

           "A kid’s electric drive-it cart. Look."

           His face fell as he hauled out a collection of wood, wheels, and hardware. "Omigosh!
           It’s one of those ‘easy-to-assemble’ things. I’ll be all night putting it together."

           Bemused, Gus picked up two parts and fitted them together. Fennel looked at him with (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Picks Up a Package of Trouble

           sudden hope.

           "Say, any chance you would—Lucy’d put on an extra plate for dinner. I know it’s
           asking an awful lot, but . . ."

           "It’s Christmas, isn’t it?" Gus dug out more parts. "Besides, I always did have a
           hankering to work on a car this size."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:45 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

                                              By Martin Bunn

                        From the November, 1963 issue of
                                Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

                                     Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

          Gratefully Gus swung his wrecker into the alley behind the Model Garage and parked.
          He stepped from the heated cab, his breath fogging in the chill November air. Snow
          changing into ice the night before, with temperatures to match, had brought a rash of
          emergency calls all morning.

          The big Chrysler parked near the pumps, could be one more. If so, it could wait until
          he’d warmed up over coffee and a pipe, Gus thought. But if it had gotten this far, why
          hadn’t Stan put it into the shop?

          A swirl of artic air almost blew Gus through the back door when he unlatched it.
          Forcing it shut, he felt the cozy warmth created by the shop blowers. He saw nobody in
          the office or out on the shop floor.

          "Ov-ve-ver here, G-G-Gus," called Stan.

          Gus’s helper was huddled under the largest blower in the shop, teeth chattering and
          ears beet-red with cold.

          "What happened to you?" asked Gus.

          The eyes Stan turned on him were as woebegone as a scolded spaniel’s. "That road
          locomotive out front, Boss. Oscar Nielsen’s car."

          Nielsen was an occasional, and usually difficult customer. While admitting that he
          knew little about cars, he had definite ideas about what he wanted done any time he
          brought his in.

          "I’ll start coffee, Stan. Come tell me about it when you’re ready," said Gus.

          Gus switched on the percolator and a radiant heater. He was glad to find no more road
          calls on the pad in the office. As he readied two cups, Stan trudged in.

          "Get outside this," said Gus, shoving a cup of steaming java in front of his helper.
          "Where did you manage to get so chilled?"

          Stan drank as if inhaling warmth. "Out front, Gus. That’s where that stubborn Swede
          said I’d have to find the same short he didn’t have last year." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

          "Seems it kept well," grunted Gus. "Back last March, I remember, Nielsen wanted you
          to find out why his circuit breaker kept clicking on cold mornings."

          "Only, he thought it was the ammeter! Well, I couldn’t hear it click, or find any short.
          So he forgot it all during the good weather. Today, in the worst cold snap we’ve had
          yet, he shows up with the same beef and has to have it fixed. He parked out there and
          wouldn’t drive it in; said I’d have to hunt the short in the cold this time, because that’s
          where it happens every time."

          Gus nodded thoughtfully. Nielsen, the best carpenter in town, was a mule once he’d
          made up his mind. "He just could be right, at that."

          "Yeah? I’ve been all over the wiring, switches, and accessories. Not a thing wrong any
          place. My fingers got so stiff I had to quit a couple of minutes before you showed up.
          Maybe he’ll forget about it for another year."

          Leaning back, Gus slowly packed his pipe. "Something happens, Stan, or Nielsen
          wouldn’t have come here. How did he say the car acted this morning?"

          Stan shrugged. "Same as last year. He has no garage and parked in the back yard last
          night. This morning he came out to start the engine—he always warms it up while he
          eats breakfast, he says.

          "It started okay, but then he noticed the ammeter needle going crazy. From normal
          charge it would suddenly snap to full discharge with a loud click, go back to charge,
          then do it all again."

          "Did you ask what accessories he had turned on?" inquired Gus.

          "Sure, and he asked me what kind of fool I took him for. At night he just switches off
          the ignition, because he knows that kills the accessory circuits. But mornings, before
          he even puts the key in, he says, he first switches off the heater, electric wipers, and
          radio so the battery can put all it’s got into cranking."

          Gus dragged on his pipe. "Sounds like what Nielsen would do. I’ll buy that."

          "Un-huh. Well, the windshield was all iced up this morning and he had to get to work,
          so he switched on the defroster and let the engine run, still clicking. When he came out
          after breakfast, the ammeter was behaving and the clicking was gone. I let the engine
          get stone cold again before I checked it, like he told me to. But no clicking, no
          short—just frostbite." (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

          Gus nodded. "I’ve got a hunch you just told me why it happens, though I don’t see it
          yet. Make you a deal, Stan—I’ll double-check with a meter and take care of Nielsen.
          You take the next customer or road call, whichever it is."

          "Boss, that’s no deal—it’s a favor."

          The next customer drove in with a complaint of hard starting, and Stan sold him a
          badly needed set of new plugs. Gus bundled himself up again and went out to
          Nielsen’s car. The first thing he did was look at the oil on the dipstick.

          Then with the ignition on and a multimeter connected, he checked everything from the
          stoplight wiring to the radio switch. Every accessory checked with known values.
          There was no sign of leakage to ground, let alone a short. Almost as chilled as Stan
          had been, Gus finally went back inside.

          Could Nielsen’s habit of switching off only the key, instead of individual accessories,
          be the tip-off? But these did draw power through the ignition switch—Gus had
          checked that, just in case somebody had rewired things. With the key out, all auxiliary
          circuits were indeed dead. Besides, it was with the engine running that the discharge

          Two more road calls took Gus out of the shop. One was a tow job that brought him
          back with a sports car dangling from the hook. Shortly after, with dusk darkening the
          sky, the summons of a horn outside made Stan open the main shop door.

          A big Pontiac rolled in, its windshield almost opaque with frozen slush. Only through
          the window could Stan see the driver. He was a stranger. But the passenger who
          emerged was Oscar Nielsen, his lanky six-feet-two crouching to avoid hitting the door
          frame. Gus came forward as the carpenter set down an enormous tool case and glanced
          at Stan.

          "Ay got a feeling you didn’t find the trouble with my car."

          "We didn’t find any short," said Gus.

          The carpenter snorted, his shrewd blue eyes on Gus. "You are an expert, Gus Wilson,
          so ay believe you. But some kind of trouble my car has got, for sure."

          He turned to indicate the other man.

          "My friend Mike Moran drove me—ay be glad not to walk after a long day working. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

          He has trouble, too. Maybe you can fix his better than mine?"

          "We’ll sure try," said Gus. "And we haven’t given up on yours. Maybe Stan can help
          you, Mr. Moran. What’s wrong?"

          The stubby little man jerked a thumb at the windshield. "See the muck on that? Think I
          drive like that because I enjoy it? It’s like this: whenever I use the windshield washer,
          my engine bucks like it’s about to give up the ghost. Watch!"

          Hopping into the car, Moran started up the engine. Then, as twin jets of water sprayed
          the dirty windshield, the engine’s smooth idle broke into a ragged, bucking gallop.

          "You see? Didn’t need it this morning, once I cleaned off the ice. But all day the car
          wheels have been throwin’ up dirty slush, and it would sure be a help—"

          "Stan can fix that in a jiffy," said Gus, grinning. He’d just been presented with a
          missing clue. "Mr. Nielsen, you’re sure that you always turn off everything before you
          start the engine in the morning?"

          "Sure. Ay want to save the battery in cold weather."

          "Let’s go to your car," suggested Gus.

          Gus started the engine of the Chrysler, turned on the heater, headlights, and wipers,
          and got out.

          "You get in," he said to Nielsen. "Imagine you’ve just arrived at home. Do exactly
          what you always do."

          Nielsen killed the engine. The hum of the heater died. Wiper blades halted in mid-air.
          The headlights faded out.

          "Now," ordered Gus, "pretend it’s morning and you want to warm up the engine."

          "But now is not the same," protested Nielsen. "Now it is warmed already."

          "I’ll allow for that." Gus watched as Nielsen shut off heater and wiper switches. As he
          turned the ignition key, Gus seized the nearer wiper. It surged in his fingers. He held it
          firm. Nielsen, intent on the ammeter, didn’t notice.

          In about 10 seconds there was a loud click, and very soon another. Gus released the (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

          blade, and both slid to their off position and stopped.

          "You heard it?" asked Nielsen.

          "I did. I was causing an overload by holding one wiper," returned Gus. "The motor was
          trying to move it, and drew so much current your circuit breaker snapped open."

          "How could this be?" demanded Nielsen. "You saw me—ay turned off the wipers."

          "That’s right, but there’s a bypass circuit that powers the motor until the blades are
          back in their off position in a corner of the windshield. Soon as you turned of the
          ignition, that circuit was closed."

          "Ay was not holding any wiper blade this morning!" declared Nielsen.

          Gus chuckled. "No—it was frozen tight, where it stopped last night. Once the defroster
          thawed them, both blades swept back and the motor shut off, ending the overload. But
          this morning you didn’t have to use the wipers at all. The condition Stan was hunting
          wasn’t there."

          Nielsen nodded. "It was all my own doing. Ay will turn things off at night."

          "If you don’t mind some advice," said Gus, "your engine would crank easier and your
          battery stand up better in this cold if you’d change your oil. Use a multiviscosity oil
          instead of the heavy one that’s in now. And I’d skip the long warmup. Engineers now
          agree that a car shouldn’t be idled long on cold mornings, but simply driven off at
          reasonable speed. Just be sure your thermostat opens at the right temperature for the
          antifreeze you’re using."

          "Good advice I’m glad to take." Nielsen’s blue eyes crinkled. "It will anyway give me
          five minutes extra for breakfast."

          Warm and cozy in front of the heater, Stan winked at Gus as he came in. "Sure
          outfoxed you when I got that easy job and let you rassle with Nielsen."

          "Turned out there was nothing to do on his car." Briefly Gus explained.

          "Moran’s job wasn’t that tricky," insisted Stan. "I couldn’t find any vacuum leak, so I
          twisted around the washer tubing to see if it was okay. When Moran punched the
          button, the answer hit me smack in the eye—a squirt from near the T-connection
          middle of the cowl." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Warms Up a Cold Customer

          "That’s using your head," said Gus.

          Stan flashed him a suspicious glance. "I let go the tubing to wipe my face, and it aimed
          that squirt right at the distributor. Soaked the wire to number-six plug, so that cylinder
          cut out. All I had to do was cut the tubing back to the pinhole."

          "You’re right then. My job was tougher than that. Much tougher."

          "What’d you do that you haven’t told me?"

          "What sometimes seems the hardest job in the world," replied Gus. "Think."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:46 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

                                               By Martin Bunn

                            From the October, 1963 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

                                            Gus Settles a Family Feud

           Leaving the dairy where he had just revived a moribund milk truck, Gus Wilson turned
           his wrecker into Dwight Road. Even this early, there was a long line of cars waiting for
           driving-license tests. At sight of the uneasy applicants and bored inspectors, Gus
           reflected on how long ago he had taken his own first test.

           He had driven halfway past the lineup when the head car pulled out. Closing in to three
           car lengths behind it, Gus saw it was a 10-year-old jalopy, brave in hand-brushed,
           streaky body paint and whitewall wheel disks. Sitting ramrod straight beside a broad-
           shouldered inspector was a black-haired teenager.

           The car moved off jerkily, as though some of the youngster’s nervousness
           communicated itself to steel and rubber. Making an avenue stop, with Gus now close
           behind, the boy started around a corner just as the station wagon whipped out from the
           curb across his path. The car stopped, and the wagon raced off. As Gus waited
           patiently behind the car, its starter churned.

           The engine came to life, but the car hadn’t budged before it died again. The boy’s neck
           stiffened with tension. Again the engine caught. The car lurched off as its young driver
           let the clutch grab. At the next corner he turned left—from the wrong lane and without
           giving a turn signal. Gus shook his head in silent sympathy and drove on.

           "We just got a call for a rental battery and recharge, Boss," reported Stan as Gus drove
           into the Model Garage.

           "I might as well go right out on it, while you finish that brake job," said Gus.

           Stan hoisted in a charged battery and gave Gus the address.

           It was a new split-level just outside of town. Gus pulled into the driveway behind an
           almost-new Ford.

           "Thank you for being so prompt," said a voice as he stepped out of the truck.

           With mild surprise, Gus saw that the speaker was a round-faced Chinese. He had the
           bland expression that Westerners associate with Orientals.

           "We try to be," returned Gus. "Shall I test your battery first?"

           "If you wish, but I am sure it is discharged. I must go into the city at once. If you will (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

           recharge it, I will bring back your battery later today."

           "Sure thing," agreed Gus. He noted that the battery and terminals were clean and the
           clamps tight, but his meter showed every cell below par. In minutes he had the rental
           battery in place. It cranked the engine with enthusiasm.

           "That will get you there," he said. "The car’s new, isn’t it? Normally the battery
           shouldn’t run down. Drive much at night, or use the radio a lot?"

           "Because it is new and I am not used to it, I have not yet driven it at night," the man
           answered. "But once last week the battery was dead. I complained to the agency that
           sold the car. They made electrical tests. All was okay."

           "Could just be a bad battery."

           "They say it is good. That time, my son had the radio on all day as he cleaned the
           garage. Yesterday, when he was alone here, I think he practiced driving for the license
           test he’s taking today. Often he lets the clutch out too fast, so he must start the engine
           again and again. That is why the battery is now so weak."

           "We’ll put it on charge. You can have it any time after four," promised Gus.

           It was after three when an ancient Dodge chugged into the shop. Gus recognized the
           hand-painted finish and white wheel rims he had seen that morning. From the
           venerable jalopy stepped Ernie Byers, a high-school senior Gus had watched grow up.

           "Got a stumper for you this time, Mr. Wilson," said Ernie. "But first meet Tommy
           Chang. His dad’s opening a big new Chinese restaurant downtown."

           The slim, black-haired youngster who stepped from the car raised a hand and grinned
           in greeting. "Hi, Mr. Wilson. Ernie says you’re tops. If you can settle our beef, I’ll sure
           go along with that."

           "Well," said Gus, "I better tell you I was behind you when you stalled this morning,
           Tommy. Still want me to try?"

           Tommy’s round face sobered. "Sure do. Because I didn’t stall both times. The engine
           just quit. That—and maybe something else—got me so rattled I flunked out."

           "Better luck next time," said Gus. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

           "I hope so," said Tommy soberly. "Anyway, somebody’s got to cure this jalopy of
           what ails it before I shell out $85."

           "That’s my price for the crate," explained Ernie. "The deal was that I’d put in a new
           coil, condenser, oil filter, and points, let Tommy take his driving test in the car, and
           he’d buy it."

           "But not if it’s going to cut out and go dead," put in Tommy.

           "I just drove you here," retorted Ernie. "It never missed a beat, did it?"

           "Okay, let’s see." Gus snapped open the distributor. The points proved to be set right
           within the tolerance range. The new condenser was tight, all connections secure. He
           buttoned up the distributor, hooked up the timing light, and started the engine. It ran
           smoothly. Timing checked out on the nose, and the spark advanced smoothly as the
           engine was revved.

           "All okay, isn’t it?" asked Ernie.

           "Seems so," agreed Gus. "Only—"

           "Yeah, what?" asked both boys.

           Gus turned to the Chinese lad. "Only you know, Tommy. How far up was the clutch
           when the engine quit?"

           "A bit, the first time, when that wagon ran out in front of me," admitted the youth.
           "But the second time the pedal was still on the floor. I’d just touched the gas."

           Gus grunted. It had seemed to him that morning that the engine hadn’t stalled, but
           died. He felt the low-tension ignition wires for internal breaks, scanned them for worn
           insulation, and found neither. Again he opened the distributor.

           "I took it apart and cleaned it before I put in new points," said Ernie.

           "Did a good job," murmured Gus, fingering a small, wasp-waisted retainer clip on the
           vacuum-advance shaft. The clip turned easily in its groove.

           "Look at this," said Gus, and three pairs of eyes converged on the clip. "Say the
           engine’s running fine and you gun it. The extra vibration makes this clip turn. Ever see
           that toy with a propeller on a notched stick? You rub the notches—and the prop turns. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

           Same here. It doesn’t matter, until the clip swings like this."

           Gus turned it. "Now it’s touching the breaker arm, and shorting out the points. No
           spark. Engine’s killed.’

           "Hey!" breathed Tommy. "You’re okay."

           "Guess you spread that clip a bit taking it off, Ernie," suggested Gus. "But you can fix
           it." He handed the boy a pair of sharp-nosed pliers.

           Removing the clip, Ernie carefully bent back the ends of the legs, squeezed the
           encircling loop a trifle smaller and replaced the clip. It now turned reluctantly in its
           groove, and the legs safely cleared the breaker arm.

           "Okay, Tommy? Deal?" asked Ernie.

           "Sold," agreed the Chinese lad, pulling a sheaf of bills from his pocket. "Thanks to Mr.

           He had just counted them out when a sleek new Ford rolled in.

           "Oh man," groaned Tommy. "It’s Pop!"

           "He doesn’t know about our deal?"

           "Oh, that’s okay—Pop’s kind of square, but he’s a good guy—it’s something else. He
           thinks I drove his new bus yesterday." The slanted young eyes were somber. "First
           time he’s ever thought I’d lie."

           Gus walked over to the Ford as Mr. Chang got out, staring at the two boys, who stayed
           quietly talking near the other car.

           "So you know Tommy, Mr. Wilson? He is my number-one son."

           "Just met him today, Mr. Chang. How was your car? Battery okay?"

           "I am not sure," said Chang slowly. "When my business of some hours was finished, it
           seemed to me perhaps the starter turned more slowly than when you put in this

           For a long instant Gus looked into the man’s dark, unreadable eyes. There was (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

           something, Gus realized, that Chang wanted very much, and Chang knew that he knew
           it. Without a word, Gus got into the Ford. As he turned the key, the engine cranked
           briskly—as it should after a long drive.

           Getting out, Gus connected a test meter to the voltage regulator. It cut in and out
           reliably. At a thousand revs, the generator charged at the specified rate. All
           connections were firm. Gus shut off the engine, checked fuses and under-hood wiring
           for any trace of a short, past or present. There was none.

           Inside the car, Gus briefly tried the horn, dome light, heater, and headlights. All
           worked normally, but he paused with his fingers on the headlight switch. The knob and
           escutcheon felt warm.

           Unscrewing a lock nut, Gus released a spring catch. He pulled out the switch with its
           connected wires and something else—a coiled resistance element sticking out of the
           ceramic barrel of the dash-light dimmer. Gus found Chang beside him.

           "Here’s the trouble," said Gus. "This resistance wire is supposed to be wound on the
           insulating ceramic. It came loose and was free to touch the dash. When it did, enough
           current drained off to kill your battery in a day or two."

           "But I have not driven at night. I never touched that switch," said Chang.

           "If you had, you would have noticed it was warm. Didn’t matter whether it was on or
           off—that resistance wire is alive all the time. You got a short whenever it touched the
           dash, but going through a resistance, it was never enough to blow a fuse. I’ll clip off
           the wire and you can have the dealer put in a new switch."

           "I am grateful," said Chang quietly. "For your help with the car and because you have
           showed me I was wrong in an important matter. I must speak to my son tonight."

           Chang had paid and driven out, his original battery back in the Ford. The two boys
           strolled over to Gus.

           "Thought we’d better wait and let you get Pop straightened out," said Tommy.

           "It wasn’t hard," returned Gus.

           "Guess it’s up to me to pay for our job," put in Ernie. "What’s the tab?"

           "It’s Tommy’s car, isn’t it?" (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Settles a Family Feud

           "Yeah, but I agreed—"

           "Your father paid for what I did on the Ford, Tommy. Your job is on the house."

           "And you’re invited to a special dinner on opening night, Mr. Wilson, also on the
           house. But what’s this jazz about my job being free because Pop paid for his?"

           "Oh that," said Gus, straight-faced, "that’s what I call my family plan."

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:47 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

                                              By Martin Bunn

                           From the September, 1963 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

                                           Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          "Lady to see you, Gus," Stan called through the open office door of the Model Garage.

          "I have to go out on a call," answered Gus Wilson, hanging up the phone. "But I guess
          it can wait a minute . . ."

          He looked past his young assistant. Seeing who the customer was, he grinned.

          "A minute won’t do for Daisy Allen," Gus amended. "I’ll leave her to you, Stan."

          Stan groaned. "Not me, Boss . . ."

          "Get with it," insisted Bus. He let himself out the back door as Stan trudged morosely
          back into the shop.

          "Mr. Wilson’s on a call. Can I do anything, Mrs. Allen?" Eyeing the ’53 Ford six she
          had driven in, Stan remarked, "That isn’t your car, is it?"

          "No, it’s my parents’," replied Daisy Allen. "I’m staying with them this month while
          my husband is on a business trip. They take it to a garage in Newton, but I think it’s a
          nice change for a car to be taken to a different garage sometimes, don’t you?"

          "Yes, ma’am," said Stan numbly.

          "Of course there’s nothing actually wrong with it—nothing you could fix. I told my
          father, but he’s old and doesn’t understand, and wants it looked at. I did want to go
          shopping, so I brought it here."

          "Sure, Mrs. Allen. But what is—I mean, what’s supposed to be wrong with it?"
          pleaded Stan.

          "Oh, it skips or misses. Like a naughty horse that doesn’t want to leave its stall. And
          for the same reason."

          "I’ll check it out," promised Stan. "Please call back later."

          Daisy Allen bobbed a hat strewn with improbable blossoms. "I will. But don’t do
          anything drastic to it, because it runs fine once it’s a few miles away from home." (2 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          Meanwhile, Gus, turning off onto Wayne Avenue, rolled along the paved side of the
          newly widened highway, noting that the other side was still under repair. Three miles
          farther on he swung into the gateway of a housing development for senior citizens and
          stopped in front of number 17.

          A woman came out, almost girlish in a shift house dress. She had silver hair and
          snappingly bright blue eyes.

          "I’m Mrs. Townsend. Mr. Townsend is asleep, and I’d rather not wake him. He didn’t
          want me to call you. Please come here."

          She led the way to the attached garage and stood by as Gus raised the door, revealing a
          popular V-8 sedan. There was a strong odor of gasoline.

          "Smell it?" she asked. "It even gets into my kitchen, which is right alongside. I’m
          afraid to light the stove some mornings. Usually I open the garage to get rid of it, so
          when my husband gets up it’s not so strong. Sometimes I don’t smell it at all. But
          today it was so bad I left it shut and called you. My husband insists there’s no gas leak
          in the car, but I think there must be."

          "Does seem that way," agreed Gus.

          The woman went into the house. Gus inspected the carburetor, fuel pump, sediment
          bowl, and fuel lines. Everything was tight and dry. Whistling softly, he went behind
          the car, lay down, and shrugged himself under the gas tank.

          A dry film of road dust testified to its soundness—except at one end. Here a moist
          stain showed where gas had seeped around the corner of the tank and dripped to the
          floor. Gus felt up the curve of the filler pipe. It was slippery with fuel. He wiped it dry.

          After a minute or two, he checked it again. Only a faint trace had reappeared. Sliding
          out, he almost cracked his head on the bumper as a voice startled him.

          "Didn’t find anything, did you?"

          Rising, Gus’s eyes traveled up a stocky little figure in shorts. Gray eyes under an egg-
          bald skull repeated the question. In one hand the little man cradled a large pipe, while
          the other was knuckled over a lighter.

          "I wouldn’t light that just now," said Gus mildly. "Smell the gas?"

          Townsend sniffed. "Tell the truth, I don’t. Had a cold all week. But don’t tell my wife. (3 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          She fusses." He put pipe and lighter away. "Mean to say there is a leak?"

          "When did you last fill the tank?"

          "Midnight, after the late shift at Murdock’s. Got a part-time job there."

          Gus nodded. "Looks like it’s lost all it’s going to, so we won’t drain any. You see, that
          gas was cool when it went in. Then the car stood in this sun-heated garage. The gas
          had to expand. With the tank full, it had no place to go but out the edge of the filler
          cap, down the pipe, and onto the floor.

          "Even when you get gas daytimes, it comes from a cool underground tank. Fire
          departments get complaints every hot day about cars spilling gas because they’re
          parked in the sun. Just don’t say ‘fill it up.’ Leave some room for expansion."

          Townsend nodded. "I should have thought of that myself. What do I owe you for
          setting me straight?"

          Gus told him. As Townsend handed over the price of a road call, he cocked his head
          apologetically. "Would this cover a bit of advice about my power mower?"

          "Why, sure," agreed Gus.

          "It’s a two-cycle rotary that worked fine last year. But it’s lost a lot of pep this season.
          I had the carburetor cleaned, and put in new points and a plug. That didn’t help at all."

          Townsend had pulled the machine out.

          "Don’t start it," said Gus.

          Pulling the cable off the spark plug, he tilted the machine enough to put a wrench on
          the nuts that held the exhaust pipe on the cylinder.

          Squeaking protest, they came off. Gently Gus wriggled the pipe free. The exposed
          exhaust port was rimmed with a thick black edging of carbon.

          "There’s what mower owners usually skip when tuning up fuel and ignition systems,"
          explained Gus. "That carbon deposit cuts the size of the exhaust port way down. Back
          pressure then fights the engine, reducing power. Sometimes it causes pre-ignition and
          overheating. (4 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          "Crank the engine over so that the piston is out of the way, and scrape out the carbon.
          Take care not to scratch the opposite cylinder wall or nick the port edges, though.
          You’ll find the old pep is back. I always yank off the plug cable first, because these
          one-lungers could start up when you pull the blade around by hand—and I need all my

          "Me, too," said Townsend. "I’m a machinist. Thanks for both jobs of trouble-shooting.
          All I got to worry about now is telling my wife she was right."

          On his return, Gus found Stan sweating from more than the day’s warmth.

          "Got Mrs. Allen straightened out?"

          "Boss, I can’t even straighten myself out. She told me the engine misses, but not to fix
          it because it runs fine away from home. I locked up for five minutes to drive it around
          the block. No miss."

          The telephone shrilled.

          "No, Mrs. Allen," said Gus as soon as he could wedge a word into her chatter. "The car
          ran well when we test-drove it. Exactly when does it seem to miss?"

          "Only when we drive it away from the house, of course. After a few miles it knows
          who’s master, and behaves. It just likes to stay in the garage."

          "Mrs. Allen, you say it acts up only when you drive away? Not other times?"

          "Of course not. And it runs nicely all the way back, too, the way horses used to do
          when they knew they were going back to their stables at—"

          "Sorry, Mrs. Allen," interrupted Gus in desperation. "Somebody at the pumps."

          He hung up and went back to Stan.

          "According to Daisy Allen, we’ve got a homesick Ford on our hands."

          Stan grinned fiendishly. "See what I mean about that dame, Boss?"

          "At least she has an open mind."

          "Yeah. A hole in the head," muttered Stan. "Look, Gus. Compression checks out good. (5 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          Fuel pump ditto. The carburetor is new, and it’s the right one. Float level’s okay, the
          choke works, ignition points are good and gapped right, spark is hot and regular,
          timing right on the button, plugs clean. Now what," Stan demanded, "could I have

          "Whatever makes it miss when it’s headed away from the garage."

          "Boss! You don’t believe that horse-to-its-stall flap?"

          Gus shrugged. "In trouble-shooting, you listen to every tip and then parlay your
          hunches. I had a man complain his car went clickety-clack only on Webster Avenue.
          Couldn’t find a thing wrong, so I drove it there myself. Sure enough. It was an echo
          from a picket fence."

          "Okay, I’ll drive the car where she . . ."
          Stan fell silent.

          "Well, what’re you waiting for?"

          "It’s her folks’ car," explained Stan. "I don’t know their name or address."

          It was Gus’s turn to grin fiendishly. "Then you’ll have to wait and drive there with her
          when she gets back."

          "Oh, no," wailed Stan as Daisy Allen minced up the ramp. He put her in the car and
          came to the office.

          "They live in that development for retired people out Wayne Avenue. It’ll take about
          half an hour, I guess."

          "Wayne Avenue?" mused Gus. "Stan, want to play one of my hunches?"

          "Sure do, Boss," said Stan fervently.

          "Try Hickman Road first. If the trouble shows up there, come right back."

          Ten minutes later, Stan returned with the car and Mrs. Allen, voluble as ever. ". . .
          didn’t dream it would act that way anywhere else. My father is right. I do hope you can
          do something . . . of course, it could be just temperamental . . ."

          Gus emerged from the office. "There’s a cup of coffee for you on my desk, Mrs. Allen. (6 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          Want to sit there and relax?"

          With fluttery thanks, she went off.

          "Don’t know how you guessed, Boss, but it bucked like a rodeo steer on that rough
          road. On pavement, it’s smooth."

          "Let’s look for loose connections."

          With the engine running, Gus and Stan checked every terminal on the battery,
          regulator, coil, distributor, and ignition switch. All were tight. The switch itself was
          sound; wiggling the key in it caused no skip in the motor’s idling beat. Then, together,
          Gus and Stan rocked the car violently side to side on its springs.

          The motor coughed a little but kept running.

          "It’s flooding," said Gus. Taking a drop-light and a hammer, he shone the light on the
          glass bowl of the carburetor, then shorted out a plug with the hammer head. The
          engine, which had settled back to a smooth idle, rocked as that cylinder cut out, then
          sputtered as before. Inside the bowl, Gus saw the float rattle from side to side.

          "See that? The float hinge in this new carburetor is too loose," he told Stan. "On a
          rough road, the fuel level jumps all over. The engine floods, bucks, and the float gets
          shaken up even more."

          "Got it, Gus," said Stan with relief.

          Turning off the engine, he lowered the bowl and gently squeezed the eyes on the float
          hinge closer. With the float free to move up and down but not to shake sideways, he
          replaced the bowl and again checked the float level. On Hickman Road, the car
          performed faultlessly.

          "Funny about her," said Stan as Daisy Allen drove out. "She tries to tell you the facts,
          but you have to throw out the hokum to spot ‘em. Like that flap about the car bucking
          when it leaves home but running okay on the way back."

          "That was no flap."

          "Aw, Boss. Don’t give me that. I’m still trying to figure out how you knew the trouble
          would show on Hickman Road." (7 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Helps a Homesick Car

          "Because it’s a rough dirt lane."

          "Yeah, but I remember that development has paved streets, and Wayne Avenue is a
          two-lane concrete road."

          "Last time you looked, maybe. They’ve been widening it since," said Gus. "The
          northbound lane is finished, so the car ran fine when headed home. But the southbound
          lane—the one coming this way—is all torn up. As Daisy Allen said, that car knew it
          every time it was leaving home. The bumps told it."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (8 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:48 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

                                               By Martin Bunn

                               From the April, 1964 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

                                              Gus Referees a Big Deal

           "Hey, Gus!" bawled a raucous voice from the car that had just rolled into the Model
           Garage. "I want service! Get moving; time’s money."

           Gus Wilson switched off the grinder he’d been using and walked to the car, a ’53 Ford.
           Its engine was running at an excessively fast idle, with a trace of roughness.

           "The squawk’s familiar and so is the face," said Gus to Silas Barnstable. "Who’d you
           deal out of the car?"

           "Not bad, eh?" asked Silas smugly. "Old, but clean and pretty sassy on the road. Got to
           sell it, though. I took it for an overdue mortgage payment."

           "Shut it off," ordered Gus, "before you fill the shop with fumes."

           "Not till you promise to fix it. Engine keeps stallin’ in traffic, an it won’t start again
           until it sets a spell."

           Behind Barnstable, Stan Hicks, Gus’s assistant, grinned.

           "Anything else wrong?" asked Gus.

           "It sort of pounds on the turnpike, shakes all over. I had it to a cut-rate wheel-balancin’
           place, but they didn’t do it right. Anyway, ain’t no shake till you hit 50, and I won’t
           drive that fast with a prospective buyer."

           "You just want the stalling fixed?"

           "Well, sure. Can’t sell a car that quits at every light," sniffed Silas vigorously. "It
           costs, too. Got me a five-dollar ticket for blocking traffic."

           "Okay," said Gus. "Leave the car there."

           Silas’ scrawny face twisted. "Leave it? I got a buyer wants it today. Every minute that
           car ain’t sold costs me interest! You got to fix it right now!"

           "Can’t," said Gus. "We have some jobs to finish, and another coming in—from a
           woman who phoned about it yesterday. If you won’t leave it, take it away." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

           Silas glowered at him. "I’ll go make them balance them wheels over again. Mebbe I’ll
           be back and mebbe I won’t."

           He drove out indignantly.

           An elderly luxury sedan appeared in the shop shortly after noon. Its driver was a dark
           young man wearing a scowl.

           "You Gus Wilson? I’m Chet Younger. My sister wants you to see if anything’s wrong
           with this car. I don’t think so."

           "She said on the phone that it stalls on warmup, and burns too much gas."

           "It only stalled once this morning," said the youth. "Then it ran fine."

           "Today’s mild," Gus pointed out. "She said it’s in cold weather it stalls most."

           The boy shrugged. "She just wants to be sure ‘cause Aunt Jane wants to buy it. With
           the money, Sis can get a Ford from the man next door. But she doesn’t want to sell
           Aunt a lemon."

           "I’ll put my helper on it."

           Stan started work as the boy watched. The ignition analyzer gave the coil and points a
           clean bill of health. Stan pulled a couple of plugs. They seemed fairly new, but showed
           signs of carbon fouling. He cleaned and replaced them.

           The plug chart showed that they were of the correct heat range for this car in normal
           driving, yet they had evidently been running cold.

           "Does your sister make mostly short trips?" Stan asked.

           Chet shook his head. "She teaches at Gravesend. Drives 40 miles a day."

           A call for gas, and then a flat tire, took Stan off the job for a time. When he returned to
           it, the car had cooled. He found the automatic choke and the manifold heat valve both

           Taking the car out, he saw the temperature gauge climb normally within a few blocks,
           indicating that the water thermostat permitted proper warmup. By the time he drove
           into the shop again, the choke and heat valve had both swung open. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

           Stan nudged the heat valve’s counterweight. It swung freely. He revved the engine in
           short bursts. The weight hung steady.

           "I checked that," said Chet. "Everybody knows if a heat valve’s stuck open you get
           slow warmup and burn gas mileage."

           "Don’t use oil on a jammed one," advised Stan. "The heat carbonizes it. There’s a
           special solvent for the job."

           He revved the engine again briefly.

           "See that? The exhaust flow should jiggle the counterweight, but it doesn’t. Chances
           are the valve plate inside is rusted away, and doesn’t direct heat to the intake system.
           The mixture stays cold and you get stalling or even carburetor icing. Wastes gas, too.
           I’ll pull the valve."

           He did so. Exposed, the valve plate resembled a piece of rusty Swiss cheese. By the
           time Stan had installed a new valve assembly, Chet had mellowed.

           "I’d never have spotted that," he admitted. "Glad you did. That Ford will be more fun
           to drive than this crate."

           "You said it’s a neighbor’s," remarked Stan. "Where do you live?"

           "Overhill Road, up on the heights."

           Stan paused, wrench in hand.

           "That wouldn’t be a ’53 Ford, from a fellow named Barnstable?" he asked.

           "Yeah. How’d you know?"

           "Just a guess," mumbled Stan, and hastened to finish the job.

           Two hours later a short, smiling man in white dungarees strode in.

           "Gus Wilson? I have a message for you."

           "I’m Wilson," said Gus.

           The man smiled even more. "I’m Jim Paddock. Barnstable got a Ford from me. He (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

           took it for a payment I owed, thinking it’s worth 50 bucks more."

           "And it isn’t?" asked Gus.

           "Might be, if it didn’t have a couple of bugs nobody can cure. I have another car, so I
           don’t mind much, especially after what I went through with that one. Except in cold
           weather, it stalls every other block and won’t start again until it cools off. Glad to be
           rid of it.

           "I tried a new coil, two sets of points, put in new plugs twice, had the carburetor apart
           three times, and installed four new economizer valves. Nothing helped, but Barnstable
           tried the car out on a cold day when the trouble didn’t show. There’s also a vibration at
           high speed."

           "Uh-huh. You had a message?" asked Gus.

           "Oh, yeah. Barnstable’s stuck with the car at Main and Grand, smack in the shopping
           section. He’s scared of getting a summons if he goes off to phone, so I promised to tell
           you to come."

           "You sure took your time getting here about it."

           "Didn’t I, though? It’s worth the 50 bucks to think of him sweating it out with that
           car," concluded Paddock.

           The Ford had been nosed into a parking space when Gus arrived in the wrecker. A
           pretty young redhead sat beside Silas, who leaped out at sight of Gus.

           "Took you an all-fired time to get here, Gus," he sputtered. "Would have had a ticket
           for sure if a car hadn’t pulled out so I could push mine in here. It’s all you fault for not
           fixin’ it."

           "Isn’t that Miss Younger with you?"

           "It is, and she’s fixin’ to buy that car. Don’t you queer the deal, or I’ll have the law on
           you," snapped Silas.

           The girl nodded smilingly at Gus as he walked by. On opening the hood over the
           flathead V-8 engine, he was at once struck by a strong odor of gasoline. Wet seepage
           showed at the carburetor bowl. It appeared that Silas had pumped the gas in trying to
           start the engine and flooded it. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

           Gus got into the car, floored the gas pedal and turned on the key. After a few
           revolutions the engine caught.

           "You could have done that yourself and saved the price of a road call," he told Silas.
           "It’ll probably stall again when it’s hot. Want to drive it to the shop so we can check

           Gus let the Ford precede him to the Model Garage. It made the few blocks without
           stalling, but died as soon as it rolled inside.

           Gus put the hood up at once. What had been seepage was now a steady dribble.

           "Maybe the needle valve’s stuck," offered Stan, who had brought a light.

           "Carburetor’s been checked out," said Gus. "That gas is boiling in the bowl, as if the
           heat valve’s shut."

           Stan played the light on both manifolds and their crossover behind the radiator. "Can’t
           be that. This car hasn’t got one."

           Gus shook his head. "Take out the crossover, Stan."

           Mystified, Stan set to work. The girl got out of the car. Silas paced the floor. From a
           corner of his parts cubby Gus rooted out what he was looking for—a curious V-shaped
           object a few inches long.

           From the car came clanging and mutterings as Stan wrestled with rusty bolts. Finally
           he straightened up, the smooth crossover pipe in his hands.

           "What’ll I do with it, Boss?"

           "Yank out the heat valve," said Gus.

           Surprised, Stan looked into the pipe, then got a pair of long pliers and grappled inside
           it. With difficulty he withdrew a corroded object like the one Gus held, then shook his
           head. "Other ’53 Fords I’ve seen had shaft-type heat valves."

           "They used both kinds between ’49 and ’53 or ’54, I think," said Gus.

           "Expensive folderol," growled Barnstable. "Ought to be left off cars." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Referees a Big Deal

           "Like other things, heat valves do make trouble if they’re neglected," admitted Gus.
           "But without one, you’d stall often, foul spark plugs, and burn extra gas. If the valve
           doesn’t open once the engine’s warm, on the other hand, the overheated carburetor
           causes stalling and hard, hot starts. That was the trouble with this one."
           Inserting the new valve as Gus directed, Stan worked the crossover into position.
           Barnstable turned to Miss Younger.

           "That price I gave you didn’t allow for no fancy repair work," he whined. "I’ll have to
           tack on what it costs me . . ."

           "About the pounding you said you felt on the pike, Silas," put in Gus. "Want that taken
           care of, too?"

           Silas glared at him.

           "If you don’t," Gus went on, "I’ll only charge for half a road call and replacing the heat
           valve. You and Miss Younger can sit in my office to sign the car over."

           Five minutes later Barnstable stalked out, having paid Gus’s bill.

           "I bought the car for the price we had agreed on," the girl told Gus. "Is there something
           else that should be repaired?"

           "That pounding I mentioned? I think it will be gone," said Gus. "Let’s see."

           The car started easily. Driving out, Gus headed for a nearby expressway. On the
           stretch, the car moved up to 60 effortlessly. There was no vibration or pounding. Gus
           drove back to the shop.

           "That high-speed vibration was due to engine roughness," he told the girl. "The stuck
           heat valve made one bank run hot and caused back pressure on that side, so the engine
           ran unbalanced. It’s fine now."

           "Silas didn’t come out of that deal as rich as he hoped," remarked Stan as the girl
           drove out.

           "He still made a few bucks," said Gus. "But we sure had the old tightwad worried."

           "Yeah," said Stan, "for a while I thought he was going to pop a valve."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:50 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

                                              By Martin Bunn

                            From the February, 1964 issue of
                                    Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

                                Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

           "Man wants a rental battery and recharge," reported Stan, hanging up the Model
           Garage phone. "Want me to go, Boss? It’s out Hathaway Lane."

           "I’ll take it," said Gus Wilson. "You’d better finish the Dodson car."

           "Roger. Just as glad not to have to switch batteries in this cold," confessed Stan. "Beats
           me why some people try to scrape through winter with a battery that’s dead on its

           "Sometimes," said Gus, "it’s because it’s because it’s not the battery that’s dead."

           With that, he hoisted a rental battery into the wrecker and drove out.

           Hathaway Lane was just outside the town limits, a moderately new subdivision. Car
           ports outnumbered garages. A the address given, a two-year-old compact stood under
           one such wall-less shelter. Gus stopped behind it.

           Promptly there was a banging of house doors, and a middle-aged man, dressed for the
           road, came out to the wrecker.

           "Name’s Strand," he said. "Thanks for coming. I should be getting on my way."

           "If a hot battery will start your car, Mr. Strand, you soon will be."

           "Oh, it’s the battery, all right. It’s the second time this month it’s dead."

           Taking the rental with him, Gus went to the car and raised the hood. The battery
           terminals were clean and tight, but plugs and distributor were overlaid with grime that
           testified to long neglect. Gus turned the key to "start." A click of the solenoid was the
           only response. He removed the battery and installed the rental.

           "Want to try it now?" suggested Gus.

           As Strand got in, Gus watched the throttle linkage. The starter churned vigorously, but
           only after several revolutions did the engine fire. To Gus’s ear it sounded badly in need
           of a tune-up.

           "You know," he said to Strand, "the battery may be okay, but run down because
           something makes starting tough. For one thing, I noticed you pumped the gas when it (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

           didn’t take off right away. That floods the manifold, and the battery has to crank
           longer to clear it."

           Strand flushed slightly. "I know better. It’s sort of reflex."

           "Plugs could be dirty or badly gapped," said Gus. "Want me to check ‘em?"

           The man’s jaw set stubbornly. "It took off fine with a good battery, didn’t it? So that’s
           all it needs. If mine’s shot, tell me and I’ll buy a new one."

           Gus nodded, picked up the weak battery, and trudged back to his car. He was
           surprised, as he hoisted it aboard, to find Strand beside him.

           "Sorry I barked like that. I’m short of sleep and grouchy because she woke me up
           again—my neighbor, I mean."

           Gus must have looked as puzzled as he felt, for Strand went on. "This woman next
           door works an early shift at the telephone exchange. She leaves around five a.m.
           Several mornings now she’s hopped into her car and sounded off long and loud on the
           horn before driving away. Once awake, I can’t drop off again."

           "That’s rough," said Gus. "She driving a car pool or something like that?"

           "No, she’s alone. Some time ago my wife asked her why the horn bit. Know what she
           said? Unless she does it, the car won’t start! Do you buy that?"

           Strand was so intense that Gus had to iron out a grin hurriedly. "Never heard that one
           before, and we have one woman customer who gives us some dandies," he added,
           thinking of Daisy Allen. "But there’s usually a grain of sense in what she says, if you
           can find it."

           Strand snorted. "Not with this one. ‘I just have to blow the horn, or the engine won’t
           start,’ she says. Wacky dame!"

           Gus climbed in. "Want to come for the battery, or shall we bring it out?"

           Strand seemed suddenly preoccupied. "Eh? Don’t know yet. Better phone."

           "Well, how was that battery?" asked Stan as Gus drove in. "D.O.A.?"

           "What’s that?" (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

           "TV hospital lingo. Dead on arrival."

           Gus grunted. "Dead enough. It may come around. Put it on the line."

           Stan lifted it out and did so.

           "Guess you’ll have to go out Hathaway Lane next time, Stan," said Gus.

           "Sure thing. Any special reason?"

           "We may get a woman customer there who’s right up your alley. Her engine won’t
           start unless she blows the horn first."

           "You’re kidding!"

           "Honest. And since you do so well fixing way-out troubles for Mrs. Allen . . ."

           Stan groaned.

           ". . . I’d want to send you—our offbeat troubleshooter," finished Gus.

           Gus wasn’t surprised to find that Strand’s battery was taking a charge nicely. Shortly
           before closing time he asked Stan to phone the customer.

           "I told him he could come for it in the morning," reported Stan later. "But he wants
           you to bring it out by eight-thirty, even though it’ll cost him a call."

           "Okay. You can take it while I open up," said Gus.

           Stan grinned. "If you say so, Boss. But he specially asked you to come yourself."

           Light snow was falling as Gus turned into Strand’s driveway next morning. He had the
           battery in place before Strand came out.

           "Hello. You’re very prompt again."

           "Your battery came up fine. Anything you wanted to see me about?"

           "Well, you said something about checking the plugs. Guess they are old—they’re the
           ones that came with the car." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

           Gus got out a wrench and set to work. The first two plugs he removed told all.

           "Old’s the word. These electrodes are so burned you have almost double the normal
           gap. One reason for hard starting."

           Replacing the plugs, Gus opened the distributor and inspected the points. They were
           pitted, the rub block was well worn, and the gap a scant few thousandths.

           "Here are a couple more reasons your battery has it tough," Gus pointed out. "The
           points are set so close they don’t make a really clean break, so the spark’s not as hot as
           it should be. Also, this small gap makes the spark late.

           "It’s easy to diagnose a no-start as battery failure, but sometimes that’s only the last
           straw. What you really needed before your battery quit was an engine tune-up. With
           good ignition, the battery probably wouldn’t have run way down like that."

           Strand nodded thoughtfully. "Funny how a fellow’s willing to settle for a battery boost
           to get the car started, and once it’s running doesn’t care why it let him down. I’ll be in
           for that tune-up today."

           "Sleep better this morning?" asked Gus. "Did she quit blowing the horn?"

           "Er—yes. I mean no. Look, it’s been happening every other day or so. I know, and you
           know, that blowing that blasted horn can’t have a thing to do with starting the engine.
           But I’m not a mechanic. I thought if you told her . . ."

           "Me? But I thought she left at five."

           "Not today. She’s off duty, and my wife’s made her promise not to use the car until
           you’d had a look at it."

           Gus picked up his tool kit.

           In the next carport stood a not-very-new Pontiac. Strand rang the doorbell. A wispy
           but pretty little blonde came out.

           "This is Mr. Wilson, Miss Carr. I’m hoping he can show you that it’s not necessary to
           blow the horn."

           Miss Carr’s mouth tightened. "Well, it is. Not every morning, but some. I’m sorry it
           wakes you, Mr. Strand, but it’s the only way, and I can prove it—to you and to him, (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems


           "Right now, Miss Carr?" asked Gus.

           "Yes," she said triumphantly. "Because this is one of those mornings it won’t start
           otherwise. I came out earlier and tried it, without blowing the horn. When I do, it will
           start. You’ll see!"

           "That’s impossible!" blurted Strand. "I know enough about engines to be sure the horn
           hasn’t a thing to do with it. Has it, Mr. Wilson?"
           "It’s just possible," said Gus, on whom a suspicion was beginning to dawn, "that it
           may have. How did you find out that blowing the horn helped, Miss Carr?"

           "Temper, I guess. I was already late, and the supervisor is fussy about that, so when
           the engine wouldn’t chug over I could have shrieked. Instead I blew the horn hard.
           That must have calmed me, because then I tried the starter again, and it worked!"

           "How does it act evenings?"

           "Oh, it always starts right away in the afternoon, when my shift is over. I needn’t blow
           the horn then."

           "Let’s have a look, Miss Carr," he said.

           "She unlocked the car and, as Gus got in, gave him the keys. He turned the ignition
           switch to "start." There wasn’t a sound or a twitch from the engine.

           "Battery’s dead," pronounced Strand.

           "No, it’s not," said Miss Carr severely. "Now you blow the horn and . . ."

           Gus got out. "I’d like you to do that, Miss Carr. But let me open the hood first, and
           don’t do it until I signal you."

           She nodded and got in. Beckoning to Strand, Gus swung the hood up.

           "It’s only a hunch," he said to Strand. "But watch both battery terminals."

           Strand nodded. Gus waved his arm. A furious blare came from the horn. Between the
           positive battery post and its spring clamp a small blue arc flared briefly. An instant
           later the starter ground and the motor roared to life. (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Solves a Couple of Current Problems

           Gus cleaned both terminals, reset their clamps, and told Miss Carr she wouldn’t need
           to blow the horn to start.

           "But tell me why," said Strand. "I still can’t believe it."

           "Well, instead of honest bolts, those clamps have only springs to grip the battery posts.
           In time they weaken. Corrosion forms between the clamps and the posts—often just
           overnight. It builds up so much resistance that current can’t flow."

           "But it must have. The horn blew."

           "Sure," said Gus. "But the effect of a resistance depends on how much current is trying
           to squeeze through it. In other words, the voltage drop depends on the current across
           that resistance. The horn doesn’t take much, so that corroded connection caused only a
           small voltage drop, leaving enough to form an arc that burned away the corrosion."

           "But the starter circuit—even the starter solenoid—takes so much more current that
           there was a big voltage drop the instant she turned on the key. There wasn’t enough
           voltage to jump an arc over, and what little current passed couldn’t even kick in the
           solenoid—until blowing the horn burned away the resistance."

           "Well, thanks," said Strand. "Now I’ve got something to look forward to."

           "What’s that?"

           "Sleeping till eight tomorrow."

           Stan looked up as Gus drove into the Model Garage.

           "How’d we do, Gus? Did you get that goofy dame for a customer?"

           "Uh—you might say she got me."

           "She sure sounds spooky. How did you handle her trouble?"

           "I’d better not tell you," said Gus. "You’d think I was blowing my horn."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:51 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

                                              By Martin Bunn

                             From the March, 1964 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

                                           Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

           It was shortly after he had turned his car onto an old, concrete-surfaced road that Gus
           first noticed the sedan. A few hundred feet behind, it kept its distance at Gus’s own
           brisk speed.

           At the Jorgensen mailbox, he slowed and swung into the turnabout in front of the
           farmhouse. As this brought him back facing the road, he saw the other car roll by
           slowly, as though also stopping.

           "It’s Gus, Niels!" cried little Mrs. Jorgensen. "Niels will be right along. Come have
           some coffee while you wait."
           "Only stopped to leave these ignition points for his tractor," said Gus. "But you’ve
           twisted my arm."

           Headed back to the Model Garage a few minutes later, Gus had to swing around a
           sedan stopped partly on the road. It was the one that had tailed him—an elderly
           Plymouth with patches of rust and sanded steel on its battered body. The driver, a teen-
           aged girl, glared at Gus as he went by.

           A moment later Gus heard the sedan’s starter grind and its engine fire up. In the
           mirror, he saw the Plymouth start off once more behind him. Must have taken the
           wrong road, thought Gus.

           His own car was purring like a steel kitten, and there was a smell of warm earth in the
           air. Gus relaxed, enjoying the ride and the feel of the road, even the rhythmic bounce
           of the divider strips in the durable old pavement. At the yellow sign of Billings’
           service station he pulled off again. Seconds later the Plymouth passed—and drew off
           the road a hundred feet ahead.

           "Hi, Hank," said Gus, as a lanky crane-like figure stepped out of the office. "Here’s
           your regulator valve. Hope it’s the right one."

           "Sure is," said Hank Billings gratefully. "Now I can get my compressor running again.
           Come on in and get paid."

           Five minutes later Gus drove out, passing the Plymouth, which still stood off to the
           side. The girl didn’t glance at him this time, but he hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile
           when the sedan reappeared in his mirror. Again it kept pace with him.

           Surely the girl couldn’t be trailing him deliberately, thought Gus. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

           Now slightly upgrade, the road ran through a desolate wooded area. On impulse, Gus
           braked and rolled off the highway. The sedan passed, then vanished over a short rise
           ahead. With a chuckle at his suspicions, Gus started off again, well ahead of a heavy
           trailer toiling up the grade.

           He was taken completely by surprise as he crested the hill. Only a wild swerve saved
           him from hitting the Plymouth, now stopped squarely on the road. The girl stared at
           Gus, mouth open. Remembering the coming trailer, Gus made a quick stop, jumped
           out, and ran to the sedan.

           "Get off the road—quick!"

           "I can’t yet," said the girl.

           "Yet?" shouted Gus. "There’s a truck coming. Take off your hand brake."

           The girl grabbed at the brake. Gus hooked his fingers around a door hinge and shoved
           on a fender. Slowly the car edged onto the comparative safety of the shoulder. Like a
           storm blast the truck roared by, its horn blaring angrily.

           Gus was angry, too. "That was stupid. If you must trail me, use some sense about it.
           Stopping here could have killed you."

           The girl’s eyebrows soared. "Trail you? You’ve got a nerve. Every time I stop, there
           you are behind me."

           The absurdity of it calmed Gus. "But I stopped first, every time. What’s going on?"

           She flung herself out of the car. "Nothing to do with you. It’s just the way this car
           behaves on concrete roads."

           "Try another story. You’re talking to a mechanic."

           "It’s true! When it quit this time, it wouldn’t roll far enough to get off the road." To
           Gus’s uneasiness, she now seemed near tears. "If only I hadn’t taken this short cut, I’d
           be there by now. It runs just fine on the blacktop roads. Darn, darn, darn! Are you
           really a mechanic?"

           "Yes. Name’s Gus Wilson."

           The girl’s face brightened. "My father knows you. I’m Barbie Winters. Maybe you can (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

           fix this car so it’ll run on concrete. It keeps stopping. I have to wait every time before
           it’ll start again and I was in such a hurry I forgot this time. Please! I just have to get to
           the Little Players’ Theater by 10."

           Watched by pleading eyes, Gus flung up the hood, exposing a rust-flecked engine.
           "It’s past 10 now," he pointed out.

           The girl didn’t answer. Gus gave the wiring a quick check. He found no loose
           connections or obvious breaks. The sound of someone running made him look around.
           Barbie was racing for his car as fast as perfect legs could carry her.

           "Hey!" roared Gus. "You come back."

           She got to the car before he could break into a run, was in, and had the engine going
           just as Gus touched the rear fender. It moved off under his fingers.

           Not a pop resulted when Gus tried to start the old sedan. Too chagrined to try any
           troubleshooting, he waited five minutes and tried again. The engine now caught. He
           tore after his vanished car.

           A mile farther on, the Plymouth quit as if somebody had corked up the gas line.
           Inwardly fuming, Gus waited a couple of minutes and tried the starter, without result.
           He stretched the wait to five minutes and tried again. The engine fired.

           It happened once more just within sight of the cross-country highway. This time he
           used the five-minute wait to check the flexible fuel line. It was neither leaking nor

           When the engine started, he turned onto the blacktop. The sedan hummed along for
           five miles without a skip.

           Scratch that guess about a fuel pump out of wack, thought Gus. Then he reminded
           himself that it was no business of his and rolled toward the converted barn that was the

           When he arrived, Gus found cars as thick as ants around a dropped doughnut. He
           spotted his own car in the parking area—the girl sitting in it. As he walked toward her,
           a white convertible roared in and slid to a tire-smoking stop. The tall blond boy who
           leaped out had the highest crew cut Gus had ever seen.

           "You’re late!" called the girl, scrambling out of the car. She saw Gus the same instant.
           "Oh! Come on quick!" (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

           The boy joined her on a dead run. Hand in hand, they scurried into the gloomy depths
           of the theater. From somewhere came the unmistakable smell of burning rubber.

           Gus peered into his car. The smell wasn’t from it, and she had left the key. Grumpily,
           he got in and drove off, headed for the Model Garage.

           "Nice day for a ride, Boss?" asked Stan Hicks as the car rolled up the ramp.

           Gus’s answer to this sally from his assistant was a heartfelt snort. He locked himself
           into his office and tackled the paper work he detested. By midafternoon he was able to
           remember his mornings adventure with rueful amusement.

           Stan was out getting a replacement part when, with a toot of its horn, a Chevrolet
           convertible rolled into the shop. Nudging its bumper came the old Plymouth. The girl
           got out and approached Gus.

           "I don’t know what you must think of me—" she began.

           "I had a few notions, none good," said Gus sternly.

           "I’m terribly sorry. It was an emergency—if I hadn’t been so desperate—the tryouts
           were for 10 sharp, and I knew there’d be a huge crowd."
           Gus let her flounder a long moment.

           "Well, you told the truth about going to the theater," he said at last. "And now you’ve
           come here. So let’s just say I lent you my car for a while."
           "Gosh, thanks. That’s wonderful of you. Now if only I can make it up to Bud."

           "I guess this is Bud?" asked Gus, looking at the crew-cut youth.

           "Oh, no—that’s Jerry. Bud’s only my brother. It’s his car and I took it without asking.
           If you could fix it, he might forgive me, too. He’s tried a new fuel pump, a rebuilt
           carburetor, a new ignition coil, and—oh, yes—points."

           An acrid smell of burning rubber caught Gus’s attention. "Got a short in your car?" he
           asked the tall young man.

           Jerry shrugged. "I thought so, but I can’t find any. It’s been smelling like that all
           morning. I stopped twice to make sure I wasn’t on fire. That’s why I was so late." (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

           "We’d better check," said Gus.

           But no sizzle of sparks or smoking wire appeared when he raised the hood. Gus felt the
           brake drums. They were cool. Besides, the smell was rubber, not brake lining. It
           seemed strongest near the engine.

           "When were the new plugs put in?" asked Gus, playing a sudden hunch.

           "Yesterday. But how’d you know?"

           "I sort of smelled it," returned Gus.

           Getting a pair of long-nose pliers, he looked at the plugs until he found what he
           expected. He detached the terminal clip from the last plug in one bank, withdrew
           something, and snapped the clip back.

           "There’s your trouble," he said, displaying a scorched, odoriferous bit of rubber. "A
           rubber insert from the mechanic’s plug wrench. It holds plugs while he starts them. But
           when they get oil soaked, inserts often pull out of the wrench. This one stuck on the
           last plug, so close to the manifold that it burned."

           "I should’ve seen that," said Jerry.

           "You didn’t know what to look for," snapped Barbie. "Mr. Wilson, couldn’t you please
           fix Bud’s car, too?"
           Gus mentally reviewed the sedan’s odd behavior, its possible causes, and what had
           already been tried to cure it. Playing another hunch, he drove the car outside and rolled
           under it on a crawler.

           With a can ready, he unscrewed the gas tank’s drain plug. Rusty fluid and solid matter
           spewed out. He replaced the plug, rocked the car, and drained out some more until
           clean gas flowed out.

           "Never knew gas could make rust," remarked Jerry, an interested onlooker.

           "It doesn’t, but there’s always some water in a tank," explained Gus. "Luckily it settles
           to the bottom and isn’t picked up. But it does rust the tank in time. What killed the
           engine was that scale I just drained out.

           "On the concrete road Barbie came over divider strips bump the car up pretty
           regularly. That lifted some flakes off the bottom, up to where fuel-pump suction could
           pull them against the fuel pickup. When enough flakes clogged it, the gas was cut off. (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets Taken for a Ride

           Then it would take five minutes or so for suction to die out of the line and let the scale
           drift away from the pickup. If you tried to start too soon, pump suction would only pull
           it back again."

           The boy whistled. "’Course, that could only happen to an old crate like this."

           "Or one not so old," warned Gus. "The time to prevent it is while a car is much newer.
           It’s smart to drain gas tanks every season. Cuts down rusting and may save you a
           frozen gas line in winter."
           While the girl was paying Gus, he asked, "After all the excitement, how did you make
           out at the theater?"

           "Like a bandit," said Barbie. "We got the part."

           "The bandit bit I get," said Gus, "but one part? For the two of you?"

           She sighed. "Two parts like one. Just dreamy . . . We’re Romeo and Juliet."

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:52 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

                                              By Martin Bunn

                                From the August, 1965 issue of
                                       Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

                                       Gus Gets the Show on the Road

                                       Gus expected trouble on this scorching day
                                          but not with elephants and acrobats

          Yawning as he walked the short distance to the Model Garage, Gus Wilson eyed the
          bright morning with little enthusiasm. It had been a warm night, and he had slept only
          in snatches. Today was going to be hot.

          He could tell what it was going to be like in the shop. This hot spell would bring
          flooded carburetors, vapor-locked fuel systems, and overheated engines.

          The sensible thing to do on a day like this was to go fishing. There was a place he
          knew only a few miles north . . .

          Coming in sight of the Model Garage, Gus was surprised to see the door still shut, the
          gas pumps locked. Then he remembered he’d ordered Stan to pick up some parts and
          had intended to open up himself. He was 15 minutes late. As if in rebuke, the phone
          was ringing.

          "This is Clyde Sims," said a familiar voice with a resonant echo in it. "Remember the
          hard starting I had last year? You said you could do something about it."

          Gus fought down another yawn. "Yeah, we’ve found something that usually helps on
          that model. The carburetor soaks up too much engine heat in warm weather. Soon as
          you shut off the engine and fresh gas stops coming into the carburetor, what’s in the
          bowl gets so hot it boils up out of the jet into the manifold. When you try to start, you
          get such a rich mixture a warm engine can’t fire it.

          "The fix is to install a thick Bakelite spacer between the manifold and carburetor. That
          keeps heat from traveling to the bowl so fast. Drive in and we’ll put it in."

          "Be there this afternoon," said Sims.

          That was the kind of day it was going to be, thought Gus as he hung up. Changing to
          shop clothes, he doused his face with cold water. Stan Hicks, his assistant, arrived and
          unlocked the pumps.

          The first service call came at 10 a.m. By then, the temperature was in the 90s. Gus sent (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

          Stan out and grumpily retired to a bench to overhaul a carburetor.

          "There was this woman stalled in the shopping center," reported Stan on his return.
          "Nothing wrong except she’d flooded the engine. Why won’t people learn that
          pumping the gas pedal shoots in more gas? All I did was hold the throttle wide open
          and crank the engine to clear it, but she acted like it was magic."

          "Just your charm, Stan," said Gus, setting aside the rebuilt carburetor. "Keep it coming.
          There’ll be more calls today. Drivers get panicky when a hot engine doesn’t start, and
          react by jumping on the throttle. If the engine already has too much gas, that really
          does it.

          "I remember one fellow who knew better. But he was sure the automatic choke cooled
          off faster than the engine block, and so choked a warm engine. He wrapped the choke
          thermostat with glass wool and asbestos to keep it warm. Swore it worked."

          A horn squawked outside and Gus went out. An old Chrysler had evidently just been
          pushed in by a hubless two-color Ford, which now drove off.

          A lean young man got out of the Chrysler. "She quit down at the corner," he said
          morosely. "See about it, huh?"

          Raising the hood, Gus found no sign or smell of flooding. He loosened and wrung off
          the air cleaner.

          "Try cranking it," he said to the driver.

          As the engine churned over, Gus peered down the carburetor throat. The little stream
          of gas that should have squirted into it when the gas pedal was pumped wasn’t there.
          He waved a hand, and the driver turned off the key.

          "Second time it quit this morning," he said. "The first time, it started again right after
          10 minutes. This time, it stopped right in the intersection and a fellow was good
          enough to give me a push."

          Gus had been checking. Fuel-line connections were tight, the flexible fuel hose seemed
          in good shape. Memory clicked to frame a question in his mind.

          "What happened to that sheet-metal plate that used to be here, between the fuel line
          and the exhaust pipe?" he demanded.

          "It was rattling. I took it off." (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

          "You’ve got a vapor lock," said Gus. "In today’s heat, that hot pipe evaporates gas in
          the line. When the pump sucks in a vapor bubble, it can’t deliver fuel. Here, pour some
          water over the pump. That may condense the bubble. I’ll rig a shield in place of that

          The driver took the water can offered him and trickled a thin stream over the gas line
          and pump. Gus went inside for wire and sheet asbestos. Wrapping the asbestos around
          the fuel line, he wired it tight.

          He nodded at the driver. The starter cranked for a few seconds. Then the engine fired.
          The young man paid and raced off.

          Noontime came and went without further emergencies, and Gus began to think the day
          might turn out better than expected. He was wrong. The trouble came with a telephone

          "I was on my way to your shop," said the voice of Clyde Sims, "when the engine quit
          at Burroughs and Main. I’m making an awful traffic jam. Can you get here fast?"

          Gus got into the wrecker and drove out. Two blocks from Burroughs Street, traffic
          slowed to a creep. At the next corner he spotted a parking place and continued on foot,
          taking his toolbox.

          What he hadn’t noticed before now grew louder—a calliope and brass band, sprightly
          tunes that sang of summer and peanuts, of elephants and acrobats. Even before he saw
          it, he knew the circus had come to town.

          The parade had funneled into the other end of Burroughs Street, a narrow thoroughfare
          between the truck route and Main Street. But it hadn’t come out. The stopper in the
          bottleneck was a 1957 Ford station wagon, flaunting circus posters as long as itself. It
          was towing a big float carrying several performers dancing and waving.

          Standing across the path of the wagon was Clyde Sims’ six-cylinder compact. From far
          down the stalled parade, music blared.

          "GoshamIglad you’re here!" The words tumbled out in Sims’ deep voice. "When my
          car quit, I coasted in here to get out of Main Street traffic. But this circus car was
          halfway out. Together, we’re blocking all but one lane."

          Gus raised the compact’s hood and got a strong smell of gas. "Been pumping the
          pedal?" he asked. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

          Sims shook his head. Gus got in the car and tried the starter, throttle wide open. After
          several turns, the engine fired, galloped irregularly, and died. Gus got out and removed
          the air cleaner. The automatic choke was properly open, but raw gas was dribbling into
          the carburetor throat, its odor mingling with the smell of circus wagons and animals.

          "The engine was kind of knocking before it quit," rumbled Sims.

          "Knocking?" He must be half asleep, thought Gus, not to have checked it before. Now
          he found the heat-riser valve and nudged its counterweight. It didn’t budge. He tried
          harder. The shaft grated loose. He swung the weight over.

          "This manifold valve is supposed to channel heat from the exhaust to the intake
          manifold when the engine is cold," Gus told Sims. "But it should open once the engine
          is warm. Instead, it was stuck in the ‘heat-on’ position. The hot intake thinned out air
          going through it, while extra gas boiling out of the carburetor made the mixture even
          richer. Try it."

          Sims floored the throttle and turned the key. The engine caught on the fifth turn.

          "Come to the shop," shouted Gus over the blare of horns. "I’ll put special solvent on
          that stuck valve, check the float level, and put in the spacer."

          Sims nodded, inched forward, and disappeared into traffic. From somewhere appeared
          Patrolman Ed Larkin, an ex-Marine whom Gus knew. After speeding on cars in both
          lanes for a time, he stopped traffic and waved the Ford out.

          The wagon’s engine revved furiously. It jerked the float forward, but as a boy
          scampered in front, it came to an equally jarring stop. The engine stalled.

          Larkin yelled at the boy, frantically beckoned the circus car on. Its starter ground,
          slowing ominously. The policeman strode over, face red and collar wilted.

          "Your permit’s for a parade, not for living statues," he roared. "Move it!"

          The starter wheezed to a halt, and the music with it. From Burroughs Street came
          feline roars and monkeylike chittering. A florid man beside the uniformed driver of the
          wagon got out and looked back.

          "Play! Keep playing!" he bellowed. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

          The band obediently started up again.

          "The cats get restless in this heat," remarked the florid man to Gus.

          "So do I!" roared Larkin. "Unless you’re on the way in five minutes, you get a ticket
          and your parade permit revoked."

          Taking off his Stetson, the florid man wiped his three chins and smiled weakly at Gus.
          "She stalls every time we stop—soon’s we slow down from high speed. Always does,
          but it seems worse now. The heat, I guess. Some of the boys are right handy around
          engines, but nothing they’ve tried seems to do any good."

          Two men hopped off the float. One, carrying a whip, went toward the animal cages.
          The other, a tall man in tights, a cape floating around him, came to the car.

          "Break down and ask the man to give a look, Lendon," he growled.

          "Sure!" bellowed Lendon. "I’d give every cent I have on me to get moving."

          On the float, girl performers looked wilted under heavy make-up. The calliope and
          brass band finished a march separately. Somewhere a tiger snarled defiance.

          Gus raised the hood of the Ford and, feeling he was in a rut, once more lifted off the
          big air cleaner. The choke of the two-barrel Holley carburetor was open, but again Gus
          saw gas trickling from the jets.

          A right-angled rod, mounted in a boss on a side of the carburetor, extended across the
          flat top of the float chamber. Its vertical leg, encircled by a spring, stopped short of a
          lever linked to the throttle. Gus pulled the throttle open and let it snap shut. The rod
          did not move.

          Using pliers cautiously, Gus bent up the flat lever until it lifted the rod, exposing a vent
          hole in the bowl cover. He opened the throttle and signaled to the driver. Slightly
          recovered, the battery spun the engine over a few turns.

          It caught with a roar. As Gus released the throttle, it settled to a fast idle. He backed it
          off slightly, gunned the engine once more, dropped it to idle again.

          As Gus closed the hood, Lendon yanked out his wallet. "Every cent on me, I said, sir,
          and that you’ll get." He opened the wallet wide, stared into it, and shrugged. (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Gets the Show on the Road

          "Cleaned out! But wait—"

          With a flourish he produced two tickets.

          "You’re overacting, Lendon," rumbled the tall man. He folded a bill around the two
          tickets and gave them to Gus. "That’s only a loan, Lendon," he added, and swung
          himself back onto the float.

          "It was the anti-percolating vent, of course," finished Gus as he told Stan of the
          incident at closing time. "The throttle linkage normally opens it at idling speed to
          release vapor pressure in the carburetor bowl and prevent flooding. The linkage was
          bent, so the vent stayed shut. Same trouble, different cause."

          Stan pulled the big shop door shut.

          "Too hot to go to bed early," he said.

          With a grin, Gus produced two pasteboards. "I’m just waking up, myself. Let’s go to
          the circus!"

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:54 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

                                               By Martin Bunn

                                From the July, 1965 issue of
                                     Popular Science
                                                  This story was donated by
                                                     Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

                                            Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

                                            It looked like an ideal trade
                                    car with more m.p.g. for a car with more hp.
                                            till Gus upset the whole deal

           On his way to get a wrench, Stan Hicks happened to look out the shop door of the
           Model Garage. Instantly, he veered off toward Gus Wilson.

           "Boss, I’d sure like to start my vacation."

           Startled, Gus looked up. "Right now?"

           Stan nodded eagerly as the murmur of an engine entered the shop. Recognizing the car
           and its driver, a pretty, middle-aged woman in a fruit-basket hat, Gus grinned.

           "The answer," he said, "is no. Get out there and find out what Mrs. Allen wants."

           Stan smote his forehead in mock dismay and walked over to the 1964 Ford Galaxie.

           "Morning, Mrs. Allen. Need air? Or a lube job, maybe?" he asked hopefully.

           "Oh, no," replied Daisy Allen. "But the car is using more gas than it used to, and
           before I trade it to that nice Mr. Fleming I’d like you to fix it."

           "What makes you think it’s using more gas, Mrs. Allen?" asked Stan.

           "I have to stop at my gas station more often!" she said triumphantly. "Ever since it ran
           out of gas two months ago, it takes more than it did before."

           "Maybe you’re driving more."

           The colorful hat shook vigorously. "Oh, no. All my clubs meet the same days, and I
           still do my shopping twice a week, at the very same stores. But I do have to get my
           tank filled more often."

           "I’ll check it out," murmured Stan. (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

           Fuel connections were tight. The fuel pump, fuel lines, and carburetor showed no signs
           of leakage. The automatic choke was wide open.

           Stan attached a vaccum gauge, then rolled out the exhaust analyzer and coupled its
           pickup to the exhaust pipe. At idle, the needle indicated a reasonable 12:1 fuel-air
           ratio. At moderate cruising speed, the indication went to a leaner 12:7 ratio. Stan
           detached the instruments.

           "I’d better test-drive it," he said.

           "I’ll make a phone call meanwhile," said Daisy Allen.

           She relinquished the wheel and headed for the phone booth. Stan drove out. The
           automatic transmission upshifted at the proper points, notched down at the right speed.
           The engine returned to idle at every stop. He returned to the shop. Mrs. Allen was
           volubly engaged at the phone.

           Driving onto a lift, Stan got the car off the ground and turned each wheel by hand. No
           brake drag was apparent. Tire pressure was just right. Knowing how Mrs. Allen drove,
           he didn’t believe poor mileage was due to a heavy throttle foot. He lowered the car and
           hooked up an ignition scope. Its oscilloscope pattern showed the uniform crests
           characteristic of clean, correctly gapped plugs.

           "All those funny little spiked lines," remarked a feminine voice at his elbow. "Are they
           what’s wrong?"

           "No, ma’am," said Stan. "They show that your ignition is okay. So is the carburetor
           and everything else. Your gas mileage should be as good as it ever was."

           "But I ran out of gas! Wouldn’t that make a difference? Once, when I had a dog, I
           unexpectedly stayed at a friend’s overnight, so he didn’t get fed that day. Ever after he
           seemed hungrier. See what I mean?"

           "Uh—I’ll look into it," muttered Stan.

           "The friend I phoned is coming to take me to a sale, so you just take your time," said
           Daisy Allen brightly. "I’ll feel better about trading cars if you fix it first."

           She fluttered out.

           "She thinks it uses more gas," grumbled Stan, "because it ran out once." (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

           "Could be," remarked Gus.

           "Aw, no, Boss. Not you, too!"

           "It wouldn’t be the first time Daisy Allen told us where to find the trouble," said Gus.
           "Like the tank, maybe."

           Without a word Stan got a crawler and rolled under the car. He was back quickly.

           "The tank bottom’s caved in," he said in a thin voice. "It doesn’t hold as much. She did
           have to fill up oftener."

           "Uh-huh. Bet you she says ‘fill it up’ and ‘charge it,’ so she doesn’t realize that she’s
           buying less gas each fill," said Gus. "And her gas gauge probably shows about a
           quarter of a tank less than it should—all since she ran out of gas."

           "You’re kidding!"
           Gus shook his head. "No, that happens with ’64 Mercs and Galaxies. So long as the
           fuel pump pulls gas, the cap vent is big enough to let in enough air. But when gas runs
           low and the pump begins to draw air, the vent can’t let air in fast enough. Pump
           suction then pulls up the bottom of the tank. That buckles the fuel-level sending
           mechanism. Afterwards, the gauge reads an eighth to a quarter of a tank lower than the
           true level."

           "I’ll put in a new sending unit," said Stan, "so the gauge’ll read right. But I won’t have
           to explain the whole thing to that goof—to Mrs. Allen, will I?"

           "You sure will," retorted Gus, "unless you blow out the dent in that tank. If you don’t,
           she’ll still have to stop for gas more often than before, and she’ll be back to tell you so.
           To make sure the tank doesn’t collapse again next time she runs out of gas, you better
           drill some extra vent holes in the cap."

           Disconnecting the fuel line, Stan plugged the opening, then wrapped cloth around the
           nozzle of an air hose to make it a tight fit in the filler neck. Cautious application of air
           pressure eventually resulted in a clanging pop. He inspected the tank again. The dent
           remained only as a ghostly outline.

           After reconnecting the fuel line, Stan removed the sending unit. Its float linkage was
           deformed. He put in new unit, and the gas gauge promptly read higher. In the brass
           diaphragm under the filler cap he drilled two 1/16" holes. They would admit enough
           air to prevent pump suction from collapsing the tank again. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

           An hour later, Mrs. Allen was back inquiring about her car.

           "It checks out find," said Stan. "You won’t have to stop for gas so often."

           "Oh, that’s just wonderful!" she said as she turned on the engine. "You didn’t put in
           any gas, did you?"
           "Not a drop, ma’am," replied Stan.

           "Well, then you’ve certainly done a fine job of making it use less. The gauge already
           shows more than it did when I came in."

           Stan swallowed. "But how could—yes, ma’am," he amended quickly. "That’s what I
           meant when I said it checks out."

           It was near closing time when a 1963 Chevrolet six drove into the shop. The man who
           got out was tall, and had a prominent Adam’s apple. Sad eyes and flabby jowls gave
           him the lugubrious look of a bloodhound.

           "I know it’s late," he said apologetically. "But could you spare a minute?"

           "Of course," said Gus.

           "My name’s Jeff Fleming. I live near the Allens, who’re customers of yours. I’d been
           wanting a more powerful car, and my wife must have told this kookie dame—I mean
           Mrs. Allen. She came around a couple of days ago and said her car was using too
           much gas, so she’d trade it for mine and a cash difference. Before I say yes, how much
           would a valve-and-ring job cost on mine?"
           Gus consulted a rate book and gave Fleming an estimate.

           "Well, I don’t know," the man mused. "It wouldn’t be a bad deal, even if I paid that
           and the difference she asked. But it would cost more than I first thought. Maybe I’d
           better forget the deal. Anyway, it could be risky—dealing with Daisy."

           Gus opened the hood. The engine was clean, the whole car well cared for.

           "What makes you think it needs a valve-and-ring job?" he asked.

           Fleming massaged his throat. "I saw this ’64 Ford I liked at a dealer’s. He talked a
           pretty fair trade-in figure, but then wanted to try my car out. After he did, he said it had
           no pep and chances were the compression was poor, so his mechanic would have to
           check it. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

           "This mechanic took out the spark plugs and turned the engine over with a gauge in the
           plug holes. He wrote down what it said. I was watching and here’s what it read."

           Gus took the smudged card he was offered. The penciled figures read:

           Cyl 1-76, Cyl 2-160, Cyl 3-162,

           Cyl 4-160, Cyl 5-110, Cyl 6-62.

           "The dealer asked me what I thought of an engine with low compression in three
           cylinders. He explained the highest and lowest shouldn’t be more than 20 pounds

           "He’s right there," admitted Gus.

           "Yeah. He said the motor definitely needed a carbon-valve job and most likely a ring
           job, too, so he took 200 bucks off the trade-in figure. It would be different it I traded
           the car to a stranger, but this Allen woman—well, she’s a friend of my wife’s. Besides,
           it would be like taking candy from a baby," concluded Fleming.

           "Suppose I make a compression test?" suggested Gus. "Might find out whether it’s just
           valves, or if you need a ring job."

           Fleming agreed. Gus pulled off the spark-plug wires and loosened each plug one full
           turn. He started the engine at a fast idle. Turning it off after a short run, he removed the
           plugs and the air cleaner. With the throttle blocked wide open, he inserted the nozzle
           of a compression gauge in the number one cylinder, and using a jump switch made the
           starter turn the engine over several times.

           The gauge needle went to 158 pounds. On number two cylinder it hit 162, on three
           161, on number four 160, on number five 154, and on number six 155 pounds.

           Fleming’s eyes popped. "Hey, did you fix it just by loosening the plugs and running
           the engine?"

           "Didn’t the other mechanic do that?"

           "Uh-huh. He just took the plugs out."

           Gus shook his head. "Unscrewing them usually loosens bits of carbon. If just one gets
           under a valve, it can hold it open and give you a low compression reading. That’s why (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Puts a Stop to a Swap

           we break the plugs free first, then run the engine so it will blow out any loose carbon

           "I’ll bet that dealer knew that."

           "I guess he did," chuckled Gus. "But your compression is okay in all cylinders. If it
           were low in any, we’d pour in a little oil and check it again. If the reading came up,
           that could mean worn or stuck rings. If it stayed the same, we’d suspect sticking or
           leaky valves."

           "Guess I can trade with that woman after all," Fleming said. "How much do I owe?"

           Gus replaced the plugs and their cables and made out a small bill.

           Early next morning Fleming walked into the shop, his doleful face longer than ever.

           "Morning," greeted Gus. "Your car okay?"

           "Yeah," was the glum reply. "It’s outside. I just want to ask you a question. Mrs. Allen
           told me you did something to her car that put gas back in the tank. Did you, or is she
           mixed up as usual?"

           "Partly," agreed Gus. "But the gauge did read higher. Stan here can explain how it

           Stan did. "She wanted it fixed so you wouldn’t be getting a lemon. The car’s all right.
           You needn’t be afraid to trade."

           "Who’s afraid?" returned Fleming morosely. "When I went over to close the deal, it
           suddenly hit her that since the bum gas mileage was fixed, and that was her only
           reason for swapping, why should she trade for an older car? The deal’s off. Like I told
           my wife, that Allen dame may be kookie, but she’s not dumb."

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:55 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

                                              By Martin Bunn

                                  From the Nov, 1965 issue of
                                       Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

                                 Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

                             There wasn’t much Mike Kessler didn’t know about cars
                               he thought. And then he crossed wrenches with Gus

          "Looks like Tweedledum and Tweedledee coming, Boss," announced Stan as he
          looked out of the Model Garage’s front window.

          "Strangers to me," said Gus Wilson. He opened the door, admitting two men who were
          remarkably alike—both middle-aged, rotund of face and figure, with pug noses and
          sandy eyebrows. They wore black windbreakers and hunting caps.

          "I’m Mike Kessler," said one. "Got the electric fuel pump I ordered?"

          "My name’s Robbins," put in the other. "Grabbed a ride to bring you the trade-in on
          that rebuilt carb I phoned you about."

          "Oh, yes," said Gus, "I’ve got ‘em both."

          He took a carton from Robbins and lifted out a two-barrel Rochester carburetor,
          stained and worn, but otherwise identical to a gleaming rebuild on the workbench.

          "There’s the new one," said Gus. "It’s guaranteed. Know how to make the

          "My friend doesn’t know much about cars," said Kessler. "I’ll check it out."

          Gus produced another carton. "Here’s your fuel pump, Mr. Kessler. You’ll probably
          want to reroute your fuel line and mount the pump on the firewall."

          "I know that," snapped Kessler. "Already bought the tubing and fittings."

          "We’re retired," added Robbins, " and like to do little jobs like this. Keeps us busy
          until hunting season. Six of us leave day after tomorrow in Mike’s car and mine."

          "Can’t risk breakdowns in the back country," said Kessler. "My old Chrysler’s in top
          shape except that the fuel-pump cam is worn. It doesn’t move the pump full stroke, so
          I don’t get enough gas at high speeds. Been getting vapor lock in hot spells, too. Going
          to an electric pump will kill two birds with one stone."

          "Mike was a standards man on a Detroit assembly line," explained Robbins. "Isn’t (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

          much he doesn’t know about cars."

          Gus nodded amiably and handed both men their bills. They paid and left.

          "What’s a standards man, anyway?" asked Stan. "Some kind of inspector?"

          "Some kind of," returned Gus with a chuckle. "He’s a time-and-motion man who keeps
          assembly-line workers on their toes."

          The following afternoon a ’63 Chevrolet V-8 limped into the shop. Low down on its
          grille a bulb glowed brightly. Gus recognized it as a running light, favored by some
          drivers on the theory that it makes a car in motion more noticeable. The bulb winked
          out as the driver cut the engine.

          "I put that carb on this morning," said Robbins, climbing out. "Been trying ever since
          to get the engine to run smooth. It idles rough and hasn’t any pep."

          Gus opened the hood. "Did your friend help you set the idle-speed adjustment."

          "No. He’s laid up with something. Hope he’ll be in shape for our trip tomorrow."

          Gus asked Robbins to start the engine again. It ran at a rocking, uneven idle. Making
          certain the automatic choke was open and the manifold valve in the "heat-off" position,
          Gus cautiously turned the two idle-mixture screws. The roughness persisted at every

          "Did it idle all right with the old carburetor?" he asked, cutting the engine.

          "Yes. Ran okay too, except at high speeds. Then it sometimes missed. Didn’t have pep
          for passing, or on hills. That’s why Mike suggested a new carburetor."

          Might be a fouled plug, or worn points, Gus mused, but the obvious thing to check first
          was the installation of the rebuilt carburetor. He got a ½" wrench and pulled on two of
          the mounting nuts, noting that the new gasket was in place. The nuts were tight. He
          tried a third, leaning lightly on the carburetor with his other hand.

          Had it moved? Gus tugged at the carb. It did seem to give a trifle. When he pushed, it
          moved a fraction of an inch. Moving up the droplight, he peered at the nuts.

          "I tightened those good," said Robbins. (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

          "They are tight," agreed Gus. "But the carb’s loose. How about the washers?"

          "The ones that were under those nuts? One was split, and they weren’t lock washers,
          so I figured they didn’t really do much. I chucked them out."
          Gus went to the stockroom, returning with four flat, copper-hued washers.

          "You see," he explained as he unscrewed the nuts to place a washer under each, "these
          stud threads stop a little above the carburetor-mounting flange. When you tightened
          the nuts, you ran out of threads before they pinched down the flange. That left the
          carburetor loose enough to draw air in at the joint."

          Gus retightened the nuts evenly, then started the engine. With slight adjustments of
          idling mixture and throttle stop screws, it idled smoothly. Robbins apologized
          profusely before he drove out.

          "You shipped out Tweedledee," called Stan, "and Tweedledum’s on the blower."

          "Looks like that fuel pump you sold me is no good," said Kessler brusquely on the
          phone. "Better bring me a good one. I can’t come for it—the car won’t run."

          "I don’t often sell those," replied Gus, "so I checked that one myself. It works."

          There was a long silence.

          "You better come—but not in a tow truck," begged Kessler. "I don’t want my wife to
          think I’m running up a big bill."

          On the way—in his own car—it occurred to a mystified Gus that Kessler had made a
          quick recovery from being "laid up."

          Inside the garage at Kessler’s stood a big Chrysler. The owner emerged from behind
          the open hood, perspiring heavily.

          "Now watch," he said. He got in the car and turned the key. The electric pump
          chuckled several times before the engine caught. "Now try to drive it off."

          Gus got in, put the car in gear, and let out the clutch. The engine coughed. Gus eased
          the clutch back, revved up a bit more. With an enormous pop, the engine died.

          "I’ve blown out the filter, checked the ignition, cleaned the line," said Kessler. "It has
          to be the pump!" (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

          "Does sound like it isn’t getting gas," said Gus, noting the gauge read "full."

          "I’ve got to meet the fellows at six a.m. tomorrow," said Kessler desperately.

          Under the hood, Gus saw that the fuel-pump opening in the block was neatly blanked
          off. The firewall where the pump was mounted had been scraped clean for a good
          ground. New tubing ran from the pump to the carburetor, and to the flexible hose
          coupling on the tank line.

          Maybe an air leak on the suction side? Gus opened the joint at the pump, saw that the
          brass gland was in place, and retightened the nut. A wire was securely fastened to the
          pump terminal. Its other end was attached to one terminal of the ignition coil, which
          ahd a secured wire on it as well. Gus disconnected the pump wire there.

          "Got another pump in stock, or can you get one in a hurry?" asked Kessler.

          "Won’t have to," returned Gus. He ran the wire he had disconnected to the ignition
          resistor, fastening it to the terminal that received current from the switch.

          "Now, you try it," he told Kessler.

          Again the pump chuckled before the engine fired up. Putting the transmission in gear,
          Kessler revved the engine. The car rolled halfway out of the garage as he let out the
          clutch. Hastily he drove back in.

          "Well, it runs," he confessed grudgingly. "Why change the wiring? There’s plenty of
          juice at the coil—enough for the whole ignition system."

          "But not enough for the pump, too," said Gus. "In a 12-volt system, the coil gets full
          voltage only at starting. With the key at ‘run,’ a resistor gets into the act, cutting down
          voltage to save the points."

          "But I hooked up a running light there once. You couldn’t see any difference in its
          brightness," Kessler insisted.

          "A fuel pump’s more critical," explained Gus. "Getting juice through the resistor, at
          less than 12 volts, it was so starved for current it could only deliver enough gas for
          idling. Any time you opened the throttle, the engine simply ran out of gas.

          "It’s mighty tempting to connect accessories to that coil terminal, especially if you
          want them switched on automatically whenever the engine is running. But they won’t (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

          get full power. Besides, there’s an even more important reason not to use that soil as a
          terminal board."

          Kessler paid without demur.

          "Call me when Tweedledee shows up, Stan," said Gus, back at the Model Garage.

          Robbins drove in an hour later. "That miss is still there," he complained.

          Gus got out is plug-testing oscilloscope and hooked its four leads to the battery, the
          center distributor tower, and one spark-plug cable. With the engine running, he
          adjusted the instrument until an eight-spiked pattern steadied on the tube.

          Then he pulled one cable off its plug and sped up the engine. The corresponding spike
          lengthened, but didn’t reach the top.

          "Spark voltage is low," said Gus, cutting the engine. "Be fixed in a jiffy."

          He disconnected the extra wire he’d expected to find on the coil terminal and hooked it
          up to the ignition resistor’s switch side. The lagging trace on the scope rose to the top
          of the tube face.

          "You have full ignition voltage now," Gus remarked. "That should end your high
          speed miss. It was only a bum connection."

          "You fixed that car this morning," remarked Stan after Robbins left. "How come you
          expected friend Tweedledee back?"

          "Something Tweedledum told me. He had connected his pal’s running light through
          the ignition resistor, same as he did his own fuel pump, which didn’t work. The bulb
          did, but it draws enough current to drop voltage to the coil to about 15 percent. That
          reduced spark voltage—say, from 25,000, to about 22,000, volts. At high speed or
          heavy load, when compression is up, the reduced voltage didn’t fire reliably."

          "Kessler thinks he’s a car expert!"

          "He went all out to keep Robbins from knowing about his pump trouble—told him he
          was sick, asked me to come in my own car. He just couldn’t stand losing face."

          "I’d like to see his face," snorted Stan, "when his buddy tells him how he goofed." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Rescues a Do-It-Yourself Mechanic

          "He won’t," said Gus, grinning. "I never told him. Why spoil a hunting trip?"

  Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:56 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

                                              By Martin Bunn

                          From the September, 1965 issue of
                                   Popular Science
                                                 This story was donated by
                                                    Mike Hammerberg (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

                                      Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

                                     Was the suspect’s sedan hot enough to run
                                        away and hide from a patrol car?
                                       If not, the cops had the wrong man

           Pouring himself a cup of coffee in the Model Garage office, Gus Wilson looked up to
           see a familiar lanky figure in the doorway.

           "Morning, Sam. Have some coffee?"

           Chief of Police Sam Eldon, whose heavy-lidded eyes and sagging jowls gave him the
           look of a sleepy hound dog, folded his length lazily into a chair.

           "Can’t do more than poison me," he said, taking the cup Gus handed him.

           "Poison? We’re more likely to be bored to death, Sam. It’s been a quiet summer."

           "Till last night," returned Eldon. "About four a.m. the Benton Electronics alarm system
           went off. It’s wired to the station house, so we were there in three minutes—just in
           time to see a Ford Sedan hightail it out of there.

           "With Carnahan driving, we took off after it. He’s good, but the other fellow was
           better. Held 90 all the way to Grover’s Creek, then hit over 100 until we lost him on
           some curves. But I spotted the car as we shot past the fork at Route 117.

           "When he saw he couldn’t lose us, he must have decided to put on an act. He wasn’t
           doing more than 50 when we pulled him over. Then he started to act as if he didn’t
           know what it was all about."

           Gus set down his cup. "Reminds me of last night’s late show. The chase scene was
           good but the ending was a flop."

           "This show isn’t over yet," said Eldon. "There was no loot in the car—the alarm must
           have scared him off before he got down to business. But we did find a nice set of tools.
           He’s a hard-looking character, name of Burke. Says he’s a mill mechanic and that he
           was driving all night to get to a job in Granton by morning.

           "He also says a car zipped past him just before he reached the 117 fork. I phoned the
           Granton mill this morning. The people there never heard of him. And those tools of his
           could jimmy a door or bust open a cheap safe as easily as they could be used on mill (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops


           Gus stood up. "Well, now that you’ve beat about the bush, what did you come for?
           Want me to look at his car?"

           "No, not his car," said Eldon. "Mine. One of my boys tuned it last week, and it sure did
           fine last night. But this morning when I was doing only 60 it began to knock, and
           power fell off."

           Opening the hood of Chief Eldon’s well-groomed Chevrolet V-8, Gus figured that the
           man who had timed it had probably left the distributor loose. It took him only a
           moment to find he was wrong; the distributor was securely tightened. The spark knock
           Eldon described could hardly be from carbon deposits; Gus himself had ground the
           valves and cleaned out carbon six weeks before. The plugs showed no signs of
           overheating, the fan belt was tight, and the radiator well filled.

           But a stuck manifold heat valve could cause local overheating that wouldn’t show on
           the dash. Gus checked the valve. It was free, and stood in the heat-off position normal
           for a warm engine.

           Getting out his electronic plug checker, Gus hooked up its four leads and switched on
           the engine. As he opened the throttle to take voltage readings at high compression,
           there came the unmistakable, metallic rattle of a spark knock.

           The eight traces on the scope all showed firing voltage to be in the normal range. No
           plug gaps were worn wide, nor were any of the plugs fouled. Gus unhooked the scope,
           disconnected the vacuum-advance tubing from the distributor and taped its end shut.
           Then he connected his timing light and a tachometer.

           At idle, the indicator stood at six degrees before top dead center. Gus opened the
           engine up to 1,6000 r.p.m. The centrifugal advance moved the timing up to nine
           degrees. At 2,3000 r.p.m., it shot up to more than 18 degrees.

           "Too much spark advance at high speed," said Gus, shutting off the engine. "Could be
           the spark-advance springs have gotten weak."

           "All of a sudden, since five a.m.?"

           Gus grinned. "I’ll admit springs don’t usually weaken so fast unless they’re
           overheated. This is where gadgets quit and we start thinking. So the first thing I’ll look
           for is a little rubber bumper." (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

           Mystified, Eldon watched Gus remove the distributor and take it to a bench. Turning
           up the breaker plate, Gus looked at the stop pin.

           Eldon leaned over the bench. "I don’t see any bumper," he said.

           "Because it isn’t there." Peering into the casing, Gus fished out a small rubber fitting.
           "Here it is. It softened through wear and fell off the stop pin—maybe your high-speed
           chase helped shake it off. Without it, the stop pin was smaller and let the breaker plate
           advance several degrees more before the pin hit the slot edge. As the car was already
           tuned for maximum high-performance advance, this was too much of a good thing.
           You got pre-ignition, a spark knock, and a drop in power. I’ll put on a new bumper and
           then check out the timing."
           Fifteen minutes later the police car was buttoned up and ready to go.

           "Suppose you think you’re pretty hot," growled Eldon, with a wink at Gus’s assistant,
           Stan Hicks.

           "There has to be somebody around to set an example for you public servants," said
           Gus cheerfully.

           "Well, you’ve given me an idea," confessed Eldon. "About checking out this suspect’s
           car. We have to book him in 24 hours or let him go. It’s an old trick to use an ordinary-
           looking car with a real hot engine in it. You show me that’s the case, and I’ll charge

           "Didn’t get his license number at the scene of the crime, did you?" asked Gus.

           "No," said Eldon. "But we saw him scrape a fender in tearing out of the alley. This car
           has the marks—of course the suspect says they were made somewhere else, two days
           ago. Come on, get in and let’s go."
           In the courtyard of the station house stood a three-year-old Ford sedan. The body had
           been well cared for, right down to the chrome. The engine also showed signs of care.
           Its block was remarkably clean, oil and radiator coolant clear. But two plugs were
           newer and of a different brand than the rest. The carburetor and ignition systems were
           standard. Gus could find no sign of a special head or other high-performance parts.

           That didn’t prove they weren’t there, or that the standard engine wasn’t well tuned and
           capable of hot performance. Gus inspected the battery posts, the coil, and the two
           wires that ran from its low-voltage terminals.

           "Can’t we start it up?" he asked Eldon. (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

           The chief nodded to a patrolman, who had brought the keys. He fired up the engine. It
           settled into a fast idle.

           With his handkerchief, Gus pulled off one of the plug cables. Taking a wooden pencil
           from his pocket, he held it near the plug terminal, then brought the cable end near the
           other side of the pencil.

           Sparks jumped, flared into tiny blue feathers on the cable side of the pencil graphite,
           and streaked across to the plug terminal. Gus stuck the pencil back into his pocket and
           replaced the cable.

           "What was all that?" asked Eldon.

           "I don’t know about the man," said Gus, "but you’ve sure got the wrong car. This one
           never ran away from you at 90."

           "How do you know?"

           "It couldn’t have," said Gus. "You couldn’t push it over 75. The coil polarity is
           reversed. This pencil test is an easy way to show it. If the spark feathers are on the plug
           side of the pencil, polarity is okay. But when the feathers are on the cable side, the
           positive of the high is connected to the center plug electrodes. That ruins performance,
           because it will take much more voltage to fire a plug."

           "Don’t see why," said Eldon. "Most cars have the negative battery post grounded, but
           some have the positive."

           Gus grinned. "Makes no difference whether a car has negative or positive battery
           ground. The high-voltage polarity should always be negative at the plug terminals. It
           boils down to something called electron emission, on the theory that current is a flow
           of electrons, from the negative side to the positive.

           "The hotter something is, the easier electrons can hop off it. The center electrode of a
           spark plug gets much hotter than the outside one, which is attached to the shell and
           loses heat to it. So for easiest current flow and the best spark, the hot center electrode
           should be negative. If you make the outer electrode negative, you’re forcing electrons
           to jump off a cooler surface to a hotter one. That’s like bucking one-way traffic in the
           Friday-night rush hour."

           "The engine runs, so there must be an ignition spark," said Eldon.

           "Sure, at ordinary speeds. But spark-plug engineers say it takes up to 45 percent more (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

           voltage to fire a plug with reversed polarity. That cuts down on your voltage reserve.
           On heavy acceleration, when compression goes up and it’s harder for the spark to
           jump, you get misfiring. Same thing at high speeds, when the points can’t stay closed
           enough to build up a maximum magnetic field in the coil. Sam, this car couldn’t have
           got away from you, let alone run for miles at over 90."

           "Okay, maybe it couldn’t. Now what does it take to reverse this polarity?"

           Gus pointed to the coil terminals. "Just switching around these two wires."

           "Maybe he switched them the wrong way while we were turning around, to give
           himself an out."

           Gus laughed. "This engine’s clean, but those terminals are caked with enough dirt to
           prove they haven’t been loosened in months. Even if he had time to switch the wires,
           he couldn’t have faked that. Better let the man go, Sam."

           "I had a hunch I should, but I couldn’t put a reason to it. Now you have. Guess that’s
           why I put up with your bum coffee."

           "Come around in the morning," said Gus. "I’ll have a fresh pot on."

           To his surprise, Chief Eldon did show up for coffee the next morning, looking as if he
           hadn’t been to bed.

           "Busy night, Sam?" asked Gus.

           Eldon sipped the black brew morosely. "Had to check out what you said about that car,
           Gus, so I drove it. Began to sputter at 55, and never would hit 70. Then I switched
           those two wires. Made a big difference. I released Burke. He’s probably wondering,"
           concluded the chief, "why his car runs so much better."

           "Too bad the real crook got away."

           "Oh, we got a flash about that. A man broke into a contractor’s office upstate, then
           walked into two patrolmen—with the loot on him—while heading for his car. Same
           make and model, but sassed up like for Indianapolis. Must be the one we chased—that
           fellow sure didn’t have his ignition switched around the wrong way."

           "Guess not," said Gus. "His mistake was trying to switch around other people’s
           money." (6 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Cracks a Case for the Cops

   Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (7 of 7) [11/10/2003 9:59:58 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                                         By Martin Bunn

                                                                             From the January, 1966
                                                                                    issue of
                                                                                Popular Science
                                                                                    This story was donated by
                                                                                       Mike Hammerberg (1 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                           Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                                 A dangerous customer pays a visit to
                                                                                  the Model Garage, heists the day’s
                                                                               receipts—and leaves a strange clue to his

                                                                          Headlights blazed against the glass of the Model
                                                                          Garage door. Gus Wilson, staying late to tidy up
                                                                          some paperwork, hoped the car owner had pulled
                                                                          in only to make a phone call from the outside

                                                                          The brief wail of a siren told him otherwise. He
                                                                          went to the door and opened it. Into the shop swept
                                                                          a big Chevy. Police Chief Sam Eldon got out of
                                                                          the car.

                                                                          "I know it’s after hours, Gus. But I need your help
                                                                          right now," said Eldon.

                                                                          "Sure. You’ve got it. What’s wrong?"

                                                                          "This car’s been losing power for weeks. The
                                                                          police mechanic tuned it, timed it, put in a new coil
                                                                          and new plugs. Each time he works on it, it runs
                                                                          better for a while, but then it starts to fall off again.

                                                                          "Three weeks ago I made him put in the new
                                                                          plugs, though he swore it didn’t need ‘em. They
                                                                          made a big difference. I thought I had it
                                                                          licked—until tonight when I lost a hot car at a
                                                                          crummy 70 per. Just could have been the Friday-
                                                                          night bandit," the Chief concluded morosely.

                                                                          "What channel’s he on?" quipped Gus.

                                                                          "I’m not kidding!" snapped Eldon. "Don’t you read
                                                                          the papers? He’s been sticking up gas stations,
                                                                          liquor stores, delicatessens—and always on Friday

                                                                          Gus swung the hood up, hooked a tachometer and (2 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                          timing light to the engine, and started it. The spark
                                                                          was right on time, and advanced by the hook as the
                                                                          engine was revved up. Disconnecting the light,
                                                                          Gus attached his spark-plug checker. All eight
                                                                          traces on its tube face were normal.

                                                                          "Why check plugs?" demanded Eldon. "I told you
                                                                          they’re almost new, didn’t I?"

                                                                          "Sure. But this gadget also tells me that the new
                                                                          coil is connected right and the high-voltage
                                                                          polarity is correct. Now it’s going to tell me
                                                                          something more."

                                                                          Gus pulled off one of the spark-plug cables. The
                                                                          corresponding trace leaped up, but fell short of the
                                                                          top of the screen.

                                                                          "Hurry it up, will you, Gus? That character hits
                                                                          any time between dark and dawn. I’ve got to be

                                                                          "Spark voltage is low," declared Gus, killing the
                                                                          engine. "Let me check a bit."

                                                                          He made certain the terminal nuts were tight on the
                                                                          coil, distributor, and switch, and the wires firmly
                                                                          crimped in their lugs. Hooking an ohmmeter across
                                                                          the coil and distributor terminals, he flexed the
                                                                          wire between these inch by inch. The needle held
                                                                          steady near the zero-resistance mark. He made the
                                                                          same test from the other coil terminal to the ballast

                                                                          "The car runs; those wires and connections must be
                                                                          okay," Eldon grumbled.

                                                                          "An internal break could leave just a strand or two
                                                                          carrying current, but not enough to saturate the coil
                                                                          at high speeds, when the points close only for
                                                                          milliseconds," said Gus. "An intermittent break
                                                                          might not show on the plug check I made. But
                                                                          these primary connections seem okay."

                                                                          The Chief grunted. Gus hooked the ohmmeter (3 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                          across two terminals on a small rectangular object
                                                                          on the firewall. Taking a reading, he went into the
                                                                          parts cubby, and came out with a duplicate of the
                                                                          object he’d been testing.

                                                                          "It’s your ballast resistor, Sam," he explained.
                                                                          "The thing that’s switched into the primary circuit,
                                                                          after the engine starts, to cut down current so the
                                                                          points last. Resistors don’t often give trouble.
                                                                          Once in a while their coils short to the housing,
                                                                          giving plenty of notice by smell and smoke, or
                                                                          they break and open the ignition circuit. Or, if
                                                                          there are two resistance coils and one breaks, the
                                                                          resistance doubles and lowers your sparking

                                                                          "Your trouble was the sneaky kind. The resistor
                                                                          changed its value. Whether from pitting, corrosion,
                                                                          or whatever, it happens, and the resistance always
                                                                          goes up, not down. The coil gets less voltage, puts
                                                                          out reduced high voltage, and the spark doesn’t
                                                                          fire under high compression."

                                                                          Eldon shook his head. "If it’s that gadget, how
                                                                          come performance picked up when we adjusted
                                                                          points or put in a new coil?"

                                                                          "If the points are out, resetting them will pick up
                                                                          performance a bit. The new coil may have been
                                                                          more efficient, doing the same," explained Gus.
                                                                          "New plugs fire at lower voltage than old ones, so
                                                                          they camouflaged the trouble for a while. But as
                                                                          they got older or the resistor’s value climbed still
                                                                          more, the symptoms came back."

                                                                          "Okay. Put that doohickey in quick."

                                                                          Gus installed the resistor. With the engine running,
                                                                          the trace of the disconnected plug now rose to the
                                                                          top of the screen. Disconnecting the instrument,
                                                                          Gus pushed the free cable back on. The Chief
                                                                          roared out almost before Gus could drop the hood.

                                                                          Busy with figures, Gus thought he heard a car roll
                                                                          down the alley behind the shop, but went on filling
                                                                          out a bank slip for night deposit, and forgot the (4 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                          vague sound.

                                                                          A hammering on the shop door jolted him. He
                                                                          swept the cash into a drawer and got up. The face
                                                                          outside, seen through the glass panel, was
                                                                          shadowed and almost featureless between a turned-
                                                                          up coat collar and a battered hat brim.

                                                                          "Gotta have help!" the man yelled, a note of
                                                                          desperation in his voice. "Car’s quit and my wife
                                                                          and kid are out there freezing in it. It’s only half a

                                                                          "Wait a minute," shouted Gus. He went back for
                                                                          his jacket, gloves, flashlight, and tool kit. When he
                                                                          unlocked the door, something hard jabbed into his

                                                                          "Get back inside. Move it!" barked the man. "This
                                                                          is a stickup."

                                                                          Gus backed into the shop. The stranger followed,
                                                                          slamming the door. He wore a Halloween mask
                                                                          that hid his whole face.

                                                                          "Put the toolbox down. And don’t get smart." The
                                                                          shop’s night light gleamed on a nickel-plated gun.

                                                                          "You’d be smart to scram," replied Gus. "I’m
                                                                          working on the police chief’s car. He’s road-
                                                                          testing it, but he’ll be back."

                                                                          The masked man tittered nervously. "I saw him.
                                                                          The way his crate took off, he won’t be back. So
                                                                          let’s have the dough in that drawer.’

                                                                          The gun gestured. Inwardly furious, Gus walked
                                                                          ahead to the office.

                                                                          "Back up against that wall. Don’t try anything,"
                                                                          warned the man with a high-pitched giggle. "Guns
                                                                          make me nervous."

                                                                          Helplessly Gus watched him take out the bundle of
                                                                          bills and pocket it. Then a gloved hand ripped out (5 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                          the phone cord.

                                                                          "Now go back to the door," rasped the shrill voice.
                                                                          "Easy, and nobody’s hurt."

                                                                          Again Gus preceded the man, opened the service
                                                                          door, and stood aside. Still holding the gun on Gus,
                                                                          the slim man stepped through, looked about, and

                                                                          Half expecting to be met with a bullet, Gus stepped
                                                                          out, too. An engine exploded into action in the
                                                                          alley. Gus flattened himself against the front of the
                                                                          Model Garage.

                                                                          It was a noisy engine. A clank-clank-clank,
                                                                          magnified between the alley walls, accelerated to a
                                                                          rattle as the car leaped out of the darkness. It
                                                                          passed close to Gus, a big, dark-colored sedan
                                                                          without lights, but he had no time to spot any
                                                                          details that might identify the make.

                                                                          The car raced off, tires squealing at the corner. Gus
                                                                          headed for the outdoor phone.

                                                                          Its handset, torn off the cord, lay on the floor.
                                                                          Locking the shop, Gus got into his car and took off
                                                                          for the police station.

                                                                          Monday dawned clear and cold. Poorer by $380
                                                                          for two engine overhauls and several smaller jobs
                                                                          on Saturday, Gus tried for the hundredth time to
                                                                          remember some detail he hadn’t told Eldon about
                                                                          the holdup. The phone broke his revery.

                                                                          "I’ll be right there, Mrs. Starke," promised Gus
                                                                          when the voice paused briefly.

                                                                          Glad to have something to do, he made sure there
                                                                          was a good battery aboard his tow truck, and drove
                                                                          to the Sunrise Supermarket. Mrs. Starke’s
                                                                          compact, immobilized by a defunct battery, was
                                                                          brought back to life with a rental battery. As Gus
                                                                          was packing up his tools, another engine fired up
                                                                          nearby in the huge parking lot. (6 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                          Its clank-clank was familiar.

                                                                          The car was a ’63 Cadillac in the next bay. As it
                                                                          moved out, the license plate came into view, but it
                                                                          was so mud-smeared as to be unreadable. Gus got
                                                                          into the tow truck in a hurry, and followed the car.

                                                                          A woman was driving at an easy-to-trail speed.
                                                                          Ten minutes later she pulled up in the driveway of
                                                                          a modest ranch house.

                                                                          "Not bad sleuthing, Gus," admitted Eldon a couple
                                                                          of hours later. "But you must be wrong about that
                                                                          noise. The car belongs to a Harry Stoner, shop
                                                                          manager at the Hargrave plant. He has a good
                                                                          reputation and he was working with a half a dozen
                                                                          other men when you were held up. In fact, he
                                                                          works the night shift every Friday night."

                                                                          "Find out who’s borrowing his car, then," urged
                                                                          Gus. "I was almost sure from the first that the
                                                                          noise in the alley was from a Caddy. Now I know
                                                                          it was. That one."

                                                                          "Okay," said Eldon. "I’ll check it."

                                                                          When the Chief’s car arrived outside the Model
                                                                          Garage for the second time, a squat bear of a man
                                                                          followed him inside.

                                                                          "Gus, meet Harry Stoner. You were so sure of
                                                                          yourself that I asked him what man at Hargraves
                                                                          got high-pitched or giggly when excited. He gave
                                                                          me two names.

                                                                          "One of those fellows told me calmly where he
                                                                          was last Friday night. The other went green and
                                                                          tried to make a break. We collared him. His key
                                                                          chain had an extra key—for the Caddy. Stoner left
                                                                          the keys in it one night, so this character made
                                                                          himself a duplicate and set out to do a little armed
                                                                          moonlighting, thinking that if the car were spotted
                                                                          it couldn’t be traced to him. We found a lot of
                                                                          money in his room. Could you say how many of
                                                                          what bills you lost?" (7 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Meets the Friday-Night Bandit

                                                                          "Four fifties, 11 tens, 14 fives," returned Gus
                                                                          crisply. "With two red rubber bands around the

                                                                          "Uh-huh, we found it. You’ll get it back, Gus, and
                                                                          much obliged for the assist."

                                                                          "Look," said Stoner. "The Chief said you knew
                                                                          that noise came from a Caddy. So for the love of
                                                                          Pete, what makes it?"

                                                                          Gus laughed. "Nothing fatal. It’s the water-pump
                                                                          bearing. I know," Gus went on as Stoner opened
                                                                          his mouth. "It doesn’t even leak—yet. But on
                                                                          Caddies up to ’63, that bearing is small for its job,
                                                                          and when it wears you get that slam-clank, with
                                                                          nothing to show what’s causing it."

                                                                          Stoner sighed. "It nearly drove me nuts. You’ve
                                                                          done me a real favor. Thanks."

                                                                          "You’re welcome. I owed you one."

                                                                          "You did? What have I done for you?"

                                                                          "Put up with that noise in your car long enough,"
                                                                          returned Gus with a grin, "to save me a fistful of

        Home / Car Care / What Car / Service Page / Software / NHTSA / Model Garage / Garage Hints / Burma-Shave (8 of 8) [11/10/2003 9:59:59 PM]
Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                                           By Martin Bunn

                                                                     From the February, 1966 issue
                                                                            Popular Science
                                                                                     This story was donated by
                                                                                        Mike Hammerberg

                                                                         Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                     New snow—the third this year—lay thick on the ground
                                                                     as Gus Wilson walked to the door of the Model Garage
                                                                     that morning. He was glad to see that Stan Hicks had
                                                                     cleared it off around the pumps and the shop door.

                                                                     "Better put a recharged booster on the truck," Gus told his
                                                                     helper. "Temperature dipped last night. There’ll be calls."

                                                                     The first came before Gus got his coat off. He let Stan
                                                                     take it, and was busy installing a rebuilt generator when a (1 of 7) [11/10/2003 10:00:00 PM]
Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                     ’62 Olds drove up. Gus raised the door.

                                                                     He had never seen the car before, but the young man
                                                                     driving it was Steve Polcheck. Gus had known Steve as a
                                                                     motor-hungry teen-ager, watched him go through a series
                                                                     of love affairs with hot rods and jalopies to become a
                                                                     competent mechanic. Gus was pleased when, following
                                                                     his Army service, Steve opened a little garage of his own
                                                                     in a nearby town.

                                                                     But the young man’s blue eyes were troubled as he got out
                                                                     of the car.

                                                                     "Hi," called Gus. "How’s business?"

                                                                     "Not bad. The shoestring I started on breaks once in a
                                                                     while," said Polcheck,
                                                                     brushing a hand through sandy hair, "but till now I’ve

                                                                     Gus got out his pipe and packed it. "With that new
                                                                     Computer Industries branch near you, you’ll soon have all
                                                                     the work you can handle."

                                                                     "Yeah," returned Polcheck glumly. "The big question is,
                                                                     can I handle it?"

                                                                     "Sure you can. If it’s the money . . ."

                                                                     "It’s not the money. It’s me," blurted Polcheck. "And this
                                                                     blasted car. And Mr. Everett Kirk, blast him."

                                                                     Gus lit his pipe. "Better tell it."

                                                                     Polcheck leaned against a wall as Gus hitched himself up
                                                                     on a workbench.

                                                                     "I’ve had jobs from people at CI since it opened. Business
                                                                     was so good I even had a part-timer washing parts,
                                                                     scraping off gaskets, cleaning up. A good kid.

                                                                     "Then this guy Kirk drove in for a full overhaul, taking
                                                                     care to explain it’s only his second car—as if he wouldn’t
                                                                     trust me with a good one. He’s an electronics engineer at
                                                                     CI, and pretty important. I’d have sworn I did a good job,
                                                                     even cleaned up the engine. Kirk seemed satisfied. But
                                                                     yesterday he drove in again, boiling mad. There was oil all
                                                                     over the top of his engine." (2 of 7) [11/10/2003 10:00:00 PM]
Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                     Gus tapped out his pipe. "You made sure the breather cap
                                                                     was clean, the road-draft tube underneath not kinked or

                                                                     "I sure did. Then I took off the valve covers to see if the
                                                                     oil-return holes were clear, though I’d checked them when
                                                                     I did the job. They were okay, too. I buttoned up
                                                                     everything, cleaned the engine again, put in a free quart of
                                                                     oil—and apologized."

                                                                     "Good public relations," remarked Gus. "But you haven’t
                                                                     found the trouble."

                                                                     Polcheck’s neck reddened. "I’ll say not! This morning he
                                                                     was back, really teed off. The engine was all oily again.
                                                                     He swore if I didn’t fix the trouble he’d tell everybody at
                                                                     CI what a lousy mechanic I am. He will, too. It could bust

                                                                     Gus put his pipe away. "Let’s look at that engine."

                                                                     Polcheck opened the hood and grinned wryly. "I cleaned it
                                                                     again, hoping the leak would show on the way here. But

                                                                     The engine was as clean as a new skillet. If there were
                                                                     positive crankcase ventilation on this model, mused Gus,
                                                                     the metering valve would be suspect. But PCV had come a
                                                                     bit later. Steve had checked the road-draft tube, but it was
                                                                     still possible . . .

                                                                     "I went over the exhaust system to make sure there’s no
                                                                     back pressure," Polcheck put in. "It’s clear. Got any of that
                                                                     fluorescent powder for tracing leaks?"

                                                                     Gus nodded, went to the supply locker, and got a small
                                                                     can and a black fluorescent lamp. While Polcheck put a
                                                                     little powder in the oil-filler tube, Gus hooked up the lamp
                                                                     and doused nearby lights.

                                                                     Polcheck started the engine. In the purplish glow of the
                                                                     ultraviolet lamp the two men watched it. A minute went
                                                                     by. Then a small luminous green spot appeared at the edge
                                                                     of a valve cover, slowly growing.

                                                                     "That’s got it!" exulted Polcheck.

                                                                     "Hardly seems enough of a leak to spray the engine as you (3 of 7) [11/10/2003 10:00:00 PM]
Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                     said," demurred Gus.

                                                                     "It may be worse when the engine’s cold," muttered Steve.
                                                                     "Expansion and contraction of the metal. You think so,

                                                                     Gus grunted. "Your helper may have left a bit of the old
                                                                     gasket stuck on where it’s oozing. But you should have
                                                                     spotted it."

                                                                     "Guess I rushed too much, Gus. Thanks a million for
                                                                     saving my neck."

                                                                     "I’m not so sure I did," returned Gus.

                                                                     Late that afternoon a big sedan with California plates
                                                                     rolled in, trailing blue smoke. Gus detected a clatter of
                                                                     hydraulic valve lifters and a skip in the engine.

                                                                     At the wheel was an elderly woman. She got out spryly,
                                                                     gave her tweed coat a tug, and looked up at Gus severely
                                                                     from a height a foot less than his own.

                                                                     "Are you Gus Wilson? Like to be sure I’ve got the right
                                                                     party," she said.

                                                                     "I am. What can I do for you, ma’am?"

                                                                     "Mrs. Mabel Murphy. My car just limps along. Doesn’t
                                                                     start right off as it used to, either. It ran fine all the way
                                                                     from Pasadena. It’s got to take me back there come April,
                                                                     so I want it fixed."

                                                                     The smell of the exhaust, reeking of oil, hung heavy in the
                                                                     air even though she had shut off the engine. Taking a cue
                                                                     from it, Gus removed the spark plugs. All eight were
                                                                     badly oil fouled.

                                                                     "The engine’s burning oil, Mrs. Murphy."

                                                                     "Well, shouldn’t it?" she demanded.

                                                                     "No, ma’am, only gas. When oil burns in the cylinders, it
                                                                     dirties the spark plugs and makes the engine miss—limp, I
                                                                     mean. And start hard, too. I can clean the plugs, but they
                                                                     won’t stay clean."

                                                                     She pursed her lips. "Well! Go ahead." (4 of 7) [11/10/2003 10:00:00 PM]
Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                     The plugs were reasonably new and, when cleaned, fired
                                                                     satisfactorily under test. Gus put them back and started the
                                                                     engine. It ran without miss, but the blue smoke threatened
                                                                     to fill the shop.

                                                                     "That smoke is a sign of oil burning," explained Gus,
                                                                     shutting it off. "Subject to some tests, it seems you need a
                                                                     ring job."

                                                                     The lady waved a gloved hand. "Because it smokes?
                                                                     That’s just from the stuff I put in for those noisy
                                                                     valves—the little cans you pour into the gas tank."

                                                                     "Upper-cylinder oil? You’re using that for noisy valve
                                                                     lifters?" asked Gus.

                                                                     "Whatever they are, it seems to quiet them some. I used to
                                                                     buy a can for each tank of gas. I even put some cans in

                                                                     "How many cans, ma’am?"

                                                                     "They were selling five for the price of two at the discount
                                                                     store," said Mrs. Murphy triumphantly. "I put them all in,
                                                                     of course. If one is good, five must be better; and I got
                                                                     them cheap."

                                                                     Gus bit his tongue to keep from chuckling. "Guess you
                                                                     don’t need a ring job after all, Mrs. Murphy. Your car’s
                                                                     burning that top oil, not engine oil. Five cans was too
                                                                     much, and it fouled the plugs."

                                                                     "Oh my! I did goof, didn’t I?"

                                                                     "Don’t worry. Each time you get gas, it dilutes the
                                                                     oil—but don’t add any more. And better get your plugs
                                                                     cleaned again before you start back to Pasedena."

                                                                     It snowed again that night. The next day, the phone was
                                                                     ringing as Gus got in.

                                                                     "This is Mabel Murphy," said the caller. "My son’s car
                                                                     won’t start. Would you please come out to Crescent

                                                                     Gus drove out to a new home in a development housing
                                                                     many CI people. In the driveway was a ’64 Comet. (5 of 7) [11/10/2003 10:00:00 PM]
Gus Saves a Friend from a Snow Job

                                                                     "Good morning," said Mrs. Murphy. "My son’s gone off
                                                                     in my car. He was already late because of shoveling the

                                                                     "Guess that’s a problem you don’t have in California,"
                                                                     remarked Gus.

                                                                     "Hmph! If I lived here, I’d have me a sloping driveway
                                                                     like that one," she said, pointing across the street.

                                                                     "Why?" asked Gus, getting his tools.