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

 As Gus and Stan were closing for the day a State Police Ford Police Interceptor drove up to the shop entrance, idling unevenly. State Trooper Sergeant Jerry Corcoran emerged from the driver’s seat. “Gus, I’m in a jam.”

“Yeah, Jerry, what seems to be the problem?

“The police garage just did a tune-up on my cruiser…”


“Just as I left the State Police Barracks, some fool in a new Dodge Charger raced past me at over 100-mph. Naturally, I gave chase but my car began misfiring badly.” Glumly, Corcoran added; “And he got away.”

“Well, Jerry, let’s put it on the scope and see where we’re at on this.” Calling out to his assistant; “Stan, roll the oscilloscope over and hook it up to Jerry’s cruiser.”

“Will do, Gus.”

Once connected to the police car, Gus stared at the eight uneven pips on the display on the oscilloscope. Stan remarked; “Is it what I think, boss?”

“Yep, looks like the plugs are splash-glazed.”

Jerry Corcoran interjected; “What’s splash-glazing, Gus?

“Well, it’s like this, Jerry. Police cars do a lot of idling just to be able to operate the flashing lights, and radio equipment. The idling causes the combustion chambers to load up with carbon. When you lit out to chase the speeder, the rapid acceleration quickly burns off the carbon and splashes the spark plugs with deposits. The deposits are conductive, which short-out the spark plugs.”

“Can the plugs be cleaned?”

“You can try, but usually they’re ruined and should be replaced. It often happens often right after new plugs are installed. People sometimes floor the throttle right after a tune-up to check performance, enter an expressway, or pass a truck, which ruins new plugs. Older plugs, which have developed some carbon deposits aren’t affected as much. What we do, is prior to removing the old plugs we run a tune-up solvent down the carb, let it soak in the combustion chambers. Then we take it out on the turnpike. We’ll then complete the tune-up and replace the plugs after we bring the car back to the shop.

“Gus, what can I do?”

I don’t intend to give you, or the state, a free set of spark plugs. Besides, if I bill the state, it would take at least a couple of months to get paid on the voucher I submitted. So, here’s the deal, Jerry. You can roll up your sleeves and I’ll loan you a gap gauge, plug socket, extension, and ratchet, and you can remove the plugs. If they can be cleaned, so be it; the spark plug cleaner is over next to my workbench. If the insulators have a yellow-orange glaze, forget it. Maybe you’ll get lucky.”

“And if they can’t?”

“I’ll be happy to loan you a set of plugs. You take the old plugs, which you removed, back to the police garage, explain what happened and have Carl Catone, your mechanic, give you a new set of plugs. You then come over here and give them back to me, so I can put them back in my stock.”


It was 6:30 when Gus and Stan sent Trooper Corcoran on his way and closed the Model Garage for the night. The following morning, Stan opened up as Gus was delayed by picking up some parts for today’s upcoming repairs. About 10:00-am an almost-new Dodge Charger, without license plates, rolled up to the shop entrance. Stan greeted the young driver, appearing in his early 20’s who wore a ragged T-shirt, goatee, and unkept, collar-length hair. “How can we help you?”

The driver sarcastically replied; “We? I suppose you have a dozen mechanics on standby. I want to see the head mechanic.”

“What seems to see the problem, Mr. …?”

“Uh… er, it’s, uh, Daniels, uh… Jack Daniels. This pig don’t wanna start when cold. I gotta pump the gas pedal a dozen times to get this pig to fire.”

Stan replied; “This looks like a new car. It should be fixed under warranty.”

“Nuts to that, buddy! I gotta beef with the dealer. Just fix it quick, huh?”

Gus Wilson arrived carrying a carton filled with replacement parts. “Whatcha got, Stan?”

“This one’s a strange one, Gus. Kid says it won’t start when cold. Being a new car, it doesn’t even have license plates, it should be under warranty. But the driver wants us to fix it.”

“Well, pop the hood and let’s have a look.” With the hood opened, Stan removed the air cleaner from the big V-8 engine. “Hey, Gus this is one for the books! The choke butterfly is completely missing.”

“Look into the air cleaner housing, Stan—see if any pieces of it remains.” Gus turned to the driver. “Any idea as to what happened, son?”

“Yeah, Gramps. This cop began hassling me yesterday, an’ when I floored it, it made a big backfire through the carb. A second later, when the secondaries opened up, I left the fuzz in the dust, like he was standing still.”

“Son, this may take a while to order some parts. You might want to get some breakfast across the street, while you wait.”

“Sure thing, Gramps.” As the scruffy-appearing youth crossed the street, Gus went to the Model Garage Office and telephoned the State Police Barracks, asking for Sergeant Corcoran. When he finally came on the line, he answered; “Sergeant Corcoran, how may I help you?”

“Jerry, Gus Wilson. What’s the story on your chase, yesterday?”

“Well, Gus, here’s the deal. I was leaving the barracks yesterday afternoon when this yellow Dodge Charger passed me doing about 100. I went after him and when I lit-him-up, he veered to the right, slowed down to about 50, and then, I guess he floored it. I heard a loud backfire and a second later he suddenly took off like a rocket.”

“I’m not surprised, Jerry, my guess is that Charger has the big 440-inch engine. Say, did you get the license number?”

“Sorry, Gus, it had no tags. It might be the Charger which was stolen from the dealer in Stanfield earlier yesterday.”

“I’d suggest you drop by the shop, Jerry. I have a new yellow Charger here with no plates. The driver is across the street having breakfast at the diner. Park your cruiser behind my shop. And don’t forget my spark plugs, Constable.”

“Will do, Gus. Be there in ten-minutes.”

Calling out to his assistant; “Stan, put the Charger on the scope and make like you’re working on it.”

Several minutes later, Jerry Corcoran arrived through the back door. “Dropping a set of spark plugs on Gus’ desk, “Here are your plugs, Gus. It was like pulling hen’s teeth, dealing with the police garage, but here you are.”

“Thanks, Jerry. Now check out the new Dodge Charger in the shop and see if it’s the Charger you lost in your chase, yesterday.”

After examining the Charger, Sergeant Corcoran jotted the identification numbers in his notebook. “Definitely the car I lost yesterday. Let me use your phone, Gus, and check the status of this car.”

“No problem, Jerry. You know where the phone is.”

A few minutes later, Jack Daniels entered the office, immediately spotted Sergeant Corcoran, turned and ran towards the street. Jerry Corcoran took off after him like a hound going after a tossed stick. The hapless, Mr. Daniels, running at full speed, slipped on some gravel just outside the service apron, and Sergeant Corcoran quickly had him handcuffed.

“Gus, let me get this character booked and I’ll send a tow-truck out to impound the Charger.”

Late in the afternoon, sitting in the office, over cups of coffee, Jerry Corcoran began the conversation. “Well guys, we appreciate your help. That was definitely the Charger I lost in the chase yesterday, which, incidentally, was stolen from the Dodge Dealership in over in Stanfield. It was just unloaded off the transport, when someone jumped in and stole it. What I don’t understand is how the choke butterfly blew off the carburetor.”

Stan replied; “If it was just stolen right after it was delivered, there was no Pre—Delivery Inspection performed. I found the timing was way retarded. When he tromped on the throttle, the engine backfired, blowing the choke plate right off the carb.”

“Well, the state police owes you guys on that caper. By the way, his name was not Jack Daniels. His true name is Gerald Hoskinson, and he has a long list of convictions for auto theft. Gus, if you’re counting on him as a customer, it’ll be a few years.”


©John L. Bellah, 2023