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 the first dry day after a steady two weeks of torrential rain which soaked and threatened to flood the immediate area. A battered 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass pulled up to the service apron of the Model Garage. Gus Wilson, burly owner of the Model Garage went out to meet the driver, a balding, middle-aged man.

“Gus Wilson?” The driver spoke; “I’m Henry DeLamiter. This is my wife’s car and I’ve got a problem.”

“What seems to be the problem, Mr. DeLamiter?”

“Last Thursday my wife was driving home on the turnpike, returning home from visiting her mother in Newton. Suddenly, she almost lost control and the car, which swerved in and out of her lane several times. The experience really frightened her and now she wants to get rid of the car. Gus, I simply cannot afford to get a new car right now.”

“What’s been done to the car?”

“Well, Gus, I think she had the front-end aligned at a local department store, sometime last year.”

Gus then bent down, inspecting the front tires. “Mr. DeLamiter, I’ve noticed a couple of issues. It appears your tires have been under-inflated. Under-inflation can cause your tires to hydroplane, meaning the tires are riding on a film of water, rather than on the pavement. At speeds over 35-mph, a car can likely hydroplane, which can be dangerous, leading to loss of control.

Another issue is as your tires appear to be wearing on the outside of your tread, indicating the alignment is off. At a guess, I’d say camber is off. Also, the cupping wear pattern indicates some looseness in the suspension-—maybe at the tie-rods, idler arms, ball-joints, or even worn bushings. Any kind of looseness in the front suspension will cause problems, causing alignment settings to wander all over the map. This will quickly wear out your front tires and cause your car to consume more fuel. We won’t be able to tell exactly what’s wrong until we put your car up on the rack and do a complete inspection. Once we replace any worn parts, set things up to specs, and you have decent rubber up front, your handling issues, in the rain will be minimized. Also pay attention to tire pressures. Your owner’s manual or the sticker inside the glove compartment or door-frame will advise you the proper recommended pressures for your car. You should check tire pressures monthly and periodically rotate your tires. That way you’ll get the most mileage from your tires.”

“Well, go ahead and give it what it needs, Gus.”

“Fine, I’ll give you a call and let you know what your Olds needs, Mr. DeLamiter.

It was near closing time and Gus had his assistant, Stan Hicks, completely inspected the suspension on the DeLamiter Oldsmobile. Gus and Stan discovered the tie-rod ends were loose, and the idler-arm was sloppy. After replacing the worn parts, rotating the rear tires to the front, and placing new tires on the rear, Gus proceeded to set up the alignment.

“What’s the damage, Gus?”

“You got lucky, Mr. DeLamiter. We discovered worn tie-rod ends, and the idler arm, was loose. We reset the camber, caster, and toe. Both upper and lower ball-joints are fine, so we didn’t need to replace them. Also, your suspension bushings are in good shape. Come up to the office and we’ll figure out the total.”

After Mr. DeLamiter left, the telephone rang. Gus went to answer it. After a short conversation, Gus called out to his assistant. “Stan, can you handle a service call?”

“I suppose, Boss. What kind of problem, and where?”

It’s Mrs. Guthrie’s Chrysler station wagon. You know where she lives, over behind the shopping center. Won’t start. Better bring a fully-charged booster battery. I’ll still be here writing out some monthly invoices when you return.”

“Right, Gus.” As Stan hopped in the tow truck and headed for the shopping center. Forty-five minutes later, Stan returned with a 1967 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon hitched behind the tow truck. Stan dropped the big station wagon down and he and Gus pushed it into the shop.

“Whatcha got, Stan?”

“No start, Gus. It’s got fuel and spark. The starter spins it over, but it won’t fire.”

“Well, let’s lock up for the night and we can look at it tomorrow morning.”

The following morning was cool, but bright and sunny. Stan methodically went to work tracking down the problems. The fuel gauge indicated 1/2 tank of gasoline. Pulling the ignition coil wire, and cranking the engine over showed a fat, juicy spark. He then removed the air cleaner and manipulated the throttle plate of the carburetor. Looking down the carburetor throat, he saw the accelerator pump was working.

“Hey, Gus. Got a problem here.” Gus made his way out from the office.

“What’s the problem, Stan?’

“Gus, I just don’t get it. The starter rolls the engine over normally. It’s got spark, and gas, so it’s got to start! Ya think the timing chain or gear is bad?”

“You say the engine rolls over normally, and there’s spark, and it’s got plenty of gas?”

“Yeah, Gus. The gauge shows ½ tank.”

“But is it gas? Mrs. Guthrie said her car has been sitting outside for a week while they were gone on vacation. That model station wagon has the gas-filler on top of the left fender. With all the rain we had later, if somebody swiped the gas cap, the tank may be full of water. Let’s check, huh?

Stan stuck his finger down a carburetor throat and opened the throttle briefly. Removing his finger from the carburetor throat, he smelled it. “You’re right, Gus. The accelerator pump squirts water. Let’s check the gas cap.”

Gus went to the gas filler and opened the door covering the gasoline fill pipe. “You’re right, Stan. Looks like somebody stole the gas cap. With all the rain we had lately, and the car being outdoors, the gas tank slowly filled with water. That’s a sore point on that vintage Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth wagons.”

“Can we drain the fuel tank?”

“These don’t have a drain. Looks like we’ll have to pull the tank and drain the water out. Additionally, we should blow out the fuel lines, and fuel pump. We also need clear the water out of the carburetor float bowl. We should then pour about twelve ounces of rubbing alcohol in the fuel tank to absorb any water which may remain in the system. I’ll call Mrs. Guthrie and advise what we found.”

“I’ll start pulling the tank, then, Gus.”

Fine, Stan. I think I’ll go home early. Call Mrs. Guthrie when it’s ready so she can pick it up.”

“Will do, Boss.”


©John L. Bellah, 2022