July 1925 - December 1970

Gus Wilson's Model Garage

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By John L. Bellah

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

 The immaculate 1966 Chevrolet station wagon bearing California license plates sounded like a  race car as it pulled into the shop of the Model Garage, filling the shop area with acrid exhaust fumes. "Shut it off," yelled Gus, "before you gas us out of here."

Tim Foley, alighted from the driver's seat of the immaculate old station wagon. "Gus, you have to find out what's wrong with this old beast. This is the third muffler that's blown apart on this car--so far." Gus bent down to look underneath and spotted the muffler was definitely blown, rupturing the seams.

"What's the story on this, Tim?"

"I found this when the company sent me to a conference in Los Angeles. While five years old, it only has 17,000 miles on the clock and is a rust-free beauty."

"It sure is," agreed Gus. "Leave it here and I'll check it out in the morning."

By mid-morning the following day, Gus was about to tear his hair out. Dwell, timing, and carburetion all checked out to manufacturer's specifications. As did all of the exhaust emissions hardware.  Puzzled, Gus stared at the 396 cubic-inch engine. "What's the matter, Boss?" Asked Stan Hicks, Gus' assistant. "Cat got your tongue?"

Thumbing tobacco into his pipe, Gus replied. "I know something is off with this exhaust emission control device, but I'll be hanged If I can find it! According to the shop manual, everything checks out, even the anti-backfire valve!"

The jangling of the telephone distracted him. Answering the phone Gus hears the whining voice of Silas Barnstable, urging him to get over to his house immediately, his car had been vandalized.

Gus took the road call, happy to get away from the backfiring Chevrolet.

"Gus, you gotta fix this quick. Some of the local kids pulled all of the plug wires from the distributor."

"What did you do to get them riled up, Silas?"

"Them durned kids was skateboarding on my driveway--so I run 'em off."

"I see. I can fix that easily, Silas."

"How can that be, those wires are all catawampus."

"Well Silas, this is something even you could fix. The firing order on most cars is usually marked on the intake manifold. On your car, most General Motors, and Chrysler V-8 engines the order is 1-8-4-3-6-5-7-2. Fords are different, however." 

"I ain't no smart-alec mechanic, Gus."

"It's easy once you know how it goes. Your key numbers are 18, 36, and 72--all multiples of nine. Two times nine is 18, four times nine is 36... All you need to do is to insert the numbers four and five in between. 1,8,4,3,6,5,7,2.

"Just fix it, Gus," whined Silas. "Wait, what's your charge?"

"I'll charge you my normal fee for a service call."

"Too danged much!" sourly retorted Silas.

"Bye Silas." Gus replied, entering his tow truck. "Good luck with your project. Call me if it needs to be towed."

"Golddang it, Gus, I'm too tired to argue with you. Just fix it! I'm in a hurry."

Removing the #1 spark plug and bumping the starter so cylinder #1 was at Top Dead Center, Gus quickly set the secondary plug wires in the proper firing order and replaced the #1 spark plug.

Returning to the Model Garage, Gus noticed the Chevrolet was up on the rack while Stan was finishing installing a new muffler.

"Where are we on this, Stan."

"All buttoned up and ready to go, Boss."

"That soon?

"Yes, that soon, Gus."

"So what did I miss?"

"This is the darnedest thing you ever heard, Gus. When I went to California on my last vacation, I visited my cousin who works tune-up and carburetion at a large Chevrolet Dealership. As you probably know in 1966 and 7 new American cars offered for sale in California are mandated to meet exhaust emission standards. GM, Ford and many independents used air injection into the exhaust manifolds to reduce exhaust emissions. This Chevrolet is an example of the early exhaust emissions systems.

Here's the deal on these cars. The Positive Crankcase Ventilation system, (PCV) uses intake vacuum to purge the crankcase of blowby and other contaminates such as water vapor and sludge. This process dumps the blow-by into the intake manifold. Eventually this crud will coat the inside of the intake manifold and turn into carbon. Carbon absorbs gasoline. This is especially true of cars used for short-term driving, like this low mileage wagon. So decelerating down a long stretch, the vacuum from a closed throttle plate will suck out the residual gasoline from the carbon coating on the intake. The anti-backfire valve will induce a puff of fresh air and the air injected into the manifolds will light off the accumulated gasoline from the intake and POW! An explosion and often a blown muffler is the result."

"And the cure?"

Elementary, Gus. This car had low mileage, meaning it was just used in short trips, accumulating a lot of carbon in the intake. I also freed the heat riser valve, which was stuck. I pulled the carb and using a propane torch, I burned the carbon from inside the intake. Should be good to go now.

"Well, Stan. I guess I owe you on that one."

"About that raise, Boss.."

The clanging of the bell indicating a customer arriving at the service apron went off. "Take care of the customer, Stan. We'll talk about your raise at a later time!"


ŠJohn L. Bellah, 2021