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 warm spring morning at the Model Garage. After opening up and unlocking the gasoline pumps, Stan Hicks, Gus Wilson’s able assistant was replacing some burned-out florescent light tubes in the light fixtures above the service apron of the Model Garage when a MGB GT drove up and parked next to the pumps. The sports car seemed to be idling at an excessively high speed and when the driver shut off the ignition, the engine went into after-run mode for several revolutions before it stopped.

The driver, a petite redhead, about nineteen, stepped out of the driver’s seat and approached Stan. “Are you Gus Wilson,” she asked. Stan, unable to take his eyes off the tight tank-top and hot pants outfit she was wearing, stammered; “N-no I’m Stan, Gus’ assistant. What can we do for you?”

“The accelerator seems to stick. It almost caused me to have an accident. By the way, I’m Judy Davis.”

“It’s Stan Hicks, Judy. Uh, I mean, Miss Davis, how long has this been going on?”

“My father, replaced two of the accelerator cables. Then, I took it to a shop in Stanfield—run by a friend of my father’s. So far, the throttle cable has been replaced three times. They work for a few days and then they begin to stick on occasion. Daddy says if it isn’t completely fixed, I’ll have to get rid of the car. He recommended this place.”

“Well, leave it here and we’ll check it out.”

“Fine, my boyfriend will pick me up in a few minutes. Here’s the key.” A few moments later, an older Corvair Monza drove up to the service apron. Judy Davis jumped in the passenger seat and with the throaty roar of the exhaust, the Corvair left The Model Garage, leaving behind a trail of engine oil droplets on the service apron.

Gus Wilson arrived at the Model Garage a few minutes later, while Stan was working under the hood of the MG.

“Whatcha got, Stan?”

“Girl that owns this says, the throttle is hanging up, Gus.”

“Well, let’s order a new cable and make sure everything is properly lubricated.”

Stan went to work under the hood. While removing the old cable assembly, he noticed the throttle cable was excessively warm. “Hey Gus, this cable assembly is hotter than a pistol.”

“Well, you know what to look for next, right, Stan?”

“Yeah, appears to have a poor ground somewhere. I’ll start at the batteries.”

Crawling into the rear of the British sports car, Stan removed the rear cushion to access the twin 6-Volt batteries behind the front seats. Grabbing one of the negative cables of the dual batteries, Stan was surprised when the cable came completely apart at the connector. “Hey, Gus. Check this out! The ground cable just slid out of the terminal clamp. Do you want me to bolt an aftermarket battery terminal clamp on to the ground cable?”

“No Stan. Let’s do it right. Install a factory ground cable. I don’t like those cheap bolt-on battery terminal clamps, as they tend to corrode easily. To be on the safe side, make sure the connections are clean and tight. I would also add an extra ground strap between the engine and body, to be sure. It seems with that bad ground; electricity was grounding through the throttle cable housing and arc-welding itself to the cable. I would also run a quick check of the charging system to see if nothing is amiss.

It was closing time and with the sun setting the weather grew cool. Stan locked the last gasoline pump when Judy’s boyfriend’s old Corvair drove in. Stan almost didn’t recognize Judy Davis, as she now was clad in a light jacket and bell-bottom Levi’s. She approached Stan, who was staring at the oil smeared on the rear and the growing oil puddle emitting from the engine of the Corvair.

“Is my car ready, Stan?”

“It sure is, Miss Davis. You can settle the bill in the office with my boss, Mr. Wilson.

Judy and her boyfriend, wearing a tie-dyed shirt, who she identified as Larry, walked into the office as Gus was completing the repair order. He then explained to Larry what the problem on the MGB-GT was and what was done to repair it. “Mr. Wilson,” interjected Larry, “can you give me some advice as to why my ‘Vair leaks so much oil?”

“First of all, Larry, the Corvair engine is made of aluminum, which expands and contracts much more than cast-iron which most of today’s engines are made of. After 1965, Chevrolet later added wider stiffening braces to help seal the valve covers. When you change valve-cover gaskets, make sure all of the sealing surfaces are flat, straight, and level—and use the improved braces. Don’t over-tighten the fasteners—remember, the engine is aluminum and you don’t want to strip the threads. Use a torque-wrench.

As old as your car is, I’d replace the oil filler tube and cap. With those flat-6 engines, running at expressway speeds, the flying oil will eventually distort the sealing surfaces. It would be cheap insurance to also replace the oil-pressure sending unit. Eventually, they tend to leak, which isn’t specifically a Chevrolet issue, as the same manufacturer makes them for a variety of different makes. Keep an eye on the fuel pump. If the diaphragm goes bad it can spray oil out of the engine, or worse, dump gas into the crankcase.

Last, but not least, oil leakage issues on Corvairs are leaking ‘O-rings’ on your pushrod tubes. These can be damaged if the engine is overheated—say by tossing a fan belt. The stock Chevrolet ‘O-rings’ are made of a neoprene compound. Recently, the gasket manufacturers have come up with improved Viton ‘O-rings’ which tolerates the higher temperatures. You can tell the improved Viton ‘O-rings’ as they are brown. Factory ‘O-rings’ are black. You can replace the pushrod tube seals fairly easily, and you don’t even have to remove the cylinder heads. Also check the pushrod tubes to see they don’t leak. A kicked-up rock could damage pushrod tubes.

If you plan to do your own work on your Corvair, do yourself a favor and buy a shop manual and a torque-wrench. Follow the torque specs to the letter. Pay close attention to the procedures in tensioning the fan belt—and always carry a spare fan belt. You probably already know this, Larry, but tire pressures are critical on Corvairs. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.”

“Gee, thanks, Mr. Wilson. I’ll give you a call when to schedule fixing the oil leaks. And Judy thanks you, too. She really loves her MG and didn’t want to sell it.


©John L. Bellah, 2022