July 1925 - December 1970

Gus Wilson's Model Garage

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     By Martin Bunn (John L. Bellah)

     It was the end of a sultry July day and a state police cruiser drew up to the locked gas pumps at the Model Garage, idling unevenly and suddenly stalled. Sergeant Jerry Corchran blipped the siren and yelled; "Come on outta there, Gus. This is an emergency!"

    Gus Wilson, proprietor ambled through the one open shop door. "We're closing up. What's the all-fired emergency, Jerry?"

    Starting the big Ford, Jerry remarked, "Listen to this cruiser of mine, Gus. It sounds like a cement mixer. It feels as if its about to stall, and pick-up is lousy. At high speeds it stumbles, going 'who me,' half the time. You've gotta do something for me as the police garage is closed."

    "What's it been doing, Jerry?"

    "At the beginning I noticed a slight hesitation right off cruise when I was beginning to slightly accelerate. I brought it into the police garage and they overhauled the carburetor..."


    "The problem was still there. I brought it back and they replaced the carburetor base gasket. That didn't work either. Then they noticed the primary throttle shaft was loose so they replaced the bushings. That helped and I thought that fixed it--until the first stop light. Almost quit on me."

    "If the carb was so worn, why didn't they just replace it?"

    "Gus, you know how cheap the state is. Soon this cruiser will be replaced with a new '69. I guess they just don't want to spend the money."

    "Okay, open the hood, while I go get some tools." Returning with a pair of Channel-Lock pliers, a shop rag, and a can of aerosol carburetor cleaner. Gus removed the air cleaner assembly from the massive police interceptor V-8. Wadding a shop rag over the primary barrels, the idle smoothed out and speeded up, indicating a large vacuum leak. Using the Channel-Lock pliers, Gus pinched off the large vacuum hose running to the power brake booster, however the engine continued it's uneven lope, indicating a very lean mixture.

    "Hmmm, as lean as this seems to be running, I would have sworn the booster was the culprit." Gus methodically pinched off the remaining vacuum hoses, with no change to the big engine's lumpy idle. Given the whine of the oversize alternator, and the roar of the fan, Gus could not hear any specific vacuum leak. And knowing the throttle shaft bushings were replaced when the police garage overhauled the unit, he sprayed some carburetor cleaner along the thick base gasket and the engine immediately sped up. Hmmm, Gus thought, maybe I'm on to something--like a porous carb spacer.

    Quickly removing the 4-barrel carburetor, he used a straight-edge to check that the base and the intake manifold weren't warped. Satisfied everything was flat and even he got a new spacer from stock and reattached the carburetor.

    The galloping idle persisted! Gus stepped back and thumbed tobacco into his pipe and lit up. Reviewing his work and what the police garage did, he concluded perhaps the intake manifold was porous. An extremely rare condition, and something Gus could not repair in a few minutes.

    Grabbing the can of carb cleaner he once again sprayed its flammable spray against the base and again the idle smoothed out and speeded up. "This is crazy, Jerry! One porous carb spacer is unusual, two is impossible, but three? About the same odds of a porous intake manifold."

    Gus returned to the shop and placed a plastic extension nozzle on the carb cleaner and very carefully aimed the aerosol spray at the joints between the carburetor and intake with little results. Then he sprayed the primary throttle shaft--again with little change. On a hunch he aimed the spray at the secondary shaft and the idling engine sucked in almost every drop! "Eureka, Jerry I think I got it this time!"

    "That's all well and good, Gus, but how are you going to fix it? I'm not going to pay for a new carburetor on a policeman's salary, nor will the state."

    "Take it easy, Constable. We recently changed out the carburetor on Lou Heck's big Ford wagon. It also has the 428 engine. It shouldn't be too hard to pull the shaft from his old carb and put it in yours. We should have it buttoned up in time for dinner."

    "Looks like I'm buying, Gus."

    The next morning Stan Hicks arrived and Gus briefed him as to what happened to Jerry's cruiser.

    "I don't understand, Gus. You say the secondary shaft was bad? I can understand the primary throttle shaft and bushings wearing out. I can understand that. But the secondary? The secondaries only operate when you floor it."

    "Darndest thing I ever saw, Stan. There must have been some grit that got in between the shaft and bushing. Eventually it wore a flat about a quarter way through the shaft. Vibration, or opening up the secondary barrels, they would shift position. sometimes you had a vacuum leak and sometimes not.  

    One for the books, I guess.


ŠJohn L. Bellah, 2018