July 1925 - December 1970

Gus Wilson's Model Garage

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     By Martin Bunn (John L. Bellah)

POB #156 La Habra, California 90633-0156  (562) 301-4507  pfmteched@yahoo.com

It was a cool winter afternoon at The Model Garage. Gus Wilson, burly owner, cleaned off his hands after completing an sutomatic transmission service, and was headed to lunch when the phone rang.

“Gus, it’s Jim Gardner. I’m glad I caught you.”

“What’s the problem, Mr. Gardner?”

“Well, my Plymouth seems to be leaking oil again and now I’ve noticed a strange engine vibration. Recently, it has no pep and it seems to run hot. Any idea as to what’s wrong.”

“Sorry, Jim. I can’t tell what’s wrong over the phone. Could be a number of things. Bring it over and we’ll have a look at it.”

It was late afternoon when an older Plymouth station wagon pulled up to the shop entrance. Jim Gardner eased himself from the driver’s seat. “Hi Gus, this is the “beast.”

“And what’s it been doing?”

“I first noticed a bit of an oil leak near the front pulley a couple of years back. I had the dealer replace the front timing cover oil seal under their 5-year, 50,000-mile warranty. Now I feel an engine vibration and hear strange noises from the front of the engine. Lately, when on the road I noticed performance and mileage are way off. I did a tune-up—plugs, points, and condenser, and reset the timing. And now it’s hard to start in the morning.”

Gus eased the Plymouth into the shop.

Once on the rack, Gus raced the engine, feeling the vibration, which seemed to come from the front of the 318-cubic-inch V-8 engine. There was also a strange noise from the area near the vibration damper, which also appeared to have a slight wobble.  Gus shut the engine off and brought #1 cylinder to Top Dead Center. Looking at the vibration damper, Gus noticed the timing mark did not line up with the timing marks on the timing gear cover.

Gus called out to his assistant, Stan. “Order a vibration dampener for Mr. Gardner’s Plymouth. It has the 318 engine. Also, order a seal for the crank pulley, and a new set of belts for this”

Gus then went to work in removing the radiator shroud, fan, all of the accessory drive belts and front crankshaft pulley. Using a puller, he carefully removed the vibration dampener and the crankshaft seal. Surprisingly, when the dampener dropped to the shop floor, it came apart in two pieces. After cleaning up, Gus went across the street for a quick cup of coffee. When he returned to the Model Garage, Stan along with the requested parts had already arrived. Gus installed the new crank seal and then compared the old vibration dampener with the new one. Grabbing a container of “White Out” from the office, he marked the timing mark. Gus then installed the new dampener, bolted on the crankshaft pulley and re-attached the drive belts, fan and radiator shroud. Gus then hooked up a timing light and reset the ignition timing. Just as he finished the job Jim Gardner walked into the shop. “What’s the verdict, Gus?”

Picking up the dampener pieces, he handed them to Mr. Gardner. This is the vibration dampener, also known as a harmonic balancer, from your car. These are made in two pieces. There is an inner and outer piece, attached to each other by an elastomer bonding—a rubber-like substance which sandwiches the inner and outer pieces together. Over time, heat, engine vibration, perhaps your earlier oil leak, can cause the elastomer to deteriorate and eventually that outer piece will loosen and “walk” around the inner piece. This will make it difficult to set ignition timing and cause your excessive noise and vibration. Extreme cases will see the outer piece completely separate from the inner portion and can cause serious damage, such as a broken crankshaft or send it through the radiator. You’re lucky, we caught it in time. We also replaced the alternator, power steering, and water pump belts as they appeared to be worn. The loosened elastomer bonding made the timing mark inaccurate. When you reset the ignition timing, the mis-matched timing marks had you set the timing way too retarded. This caused your loss in mileage, performance, hard starting, and overheating.

As Gardner left the Model Garage a familiar-looking MGB-GT drove up to the pumps. Judy Davis emerged from the driver’s seat. A tall, middle-aged man, of about 50, with silver hair unfolded himself from the passenger seat. “Hello Mr. Wilson, this is my father, Arnold Davis. We have some MG questions for you.”

“Go ahead, Miss Davis.”

“Mr. Wilson,” began Arnold Davis, “My daughter’s MG has been running poorly when hot and occasionally stalls in heavy traffic. Let it sit for a few minutes with the hood up and it will fire right up—until it gets hot again.”

“Open the hood, Mr. Davis, and let’s have a look.”

With the hood raised Stan Hicks strode over to look at the British manufactured four-cylinder engine, noting the aftermarket air filters mounted on the twin S.U. Carburetors. “What’s been done on this?”

“Well, a shop in Stanfield did a tune-up, overhauled the carburetors, and replaced the coil and ballast resistor.”

Stan interjected, “What happened to the carburetor heat shield?”

“It was rattling and I guess they left it off.”

“That is one problem,” added Gus. That heat shield needs to be attached between the carburetors and the cylinder head. The other problem is while the air cleaners on your car look nice, they contribute to vapor locking.

“How is that?”

Gus replied, “The stock air cleaners have air horns to direct cooler air from below the car to the carburetors. Putting the carburetor heat shield back on along with the stock air cleaners should solve the problem. I came across this problem once when I was working on an MG. Idle for several minutes in hot weather and it would quit. Fifteen minutes later it would fire up again. Engine heat can cause the fuel to vaporize in the carburetors. You might want to experiment with different brands or grades of gasoline. Refiners blend fuel for various parts of the country, depending on location, season, and altitude… Find what works best in your car.

Now, if what we advised doesn’t work, bring your car in and we can relocate or maybe modify the fuel line to reduce the chances of it absorbing excessive heat.

And, if you develop fuel pump issues, I understand S.U. has just come out with a replacement fuel pump which is solid-state, and is superior to the old-style pump which uses contact points, which can stick and burn.


©John L. Bellah, 2022