by Murray Jackson

Have you ever grabbed a snack in a truck stop restaurant? If so, perhaps you overheard something like this:

“I was on the flip flop from Shakey Town, rolling down the boulevard about ten yardsticks after a cash register. I was sittin’ in the rockin’ chair in my Pete, draggin’ a reefer. I had the hammer down, dodging alligators, when a ratchet jaw in a bulldog bobtail at the front door did a breaker on the tin can. Seems there was a county mountie in a plain wrapper takin’ pictures and handing out invitations just past the chicken coop. So I dropped her down to the double nickel and slid past him in the granny lane.”

What was that all about? Totally unfathomable? Here’s a translation for those who don’t know an eighteen wheeler (big rig) from a stagecoach (entertainer’s private bus).

“I was on the return trip of a run to Los Angeles, motoring down the interstate about ten miles after a toll booth. I was in the middle of a convoy of trucks in my Peterbilt tractor, pulling a refrigerated trailer. I was speeding along, dodging pieces of tire carcass on the road, when a talkative trucker in a Mack tractor without a trailer came on the CB radio. Seems there was a state trooper in an unmarked cruiser, using a radar gun and handing out speeding tickets, just past the roadside weigh station. So I slowed down to 55 mph and drove past him in the slow lane”.

It’s not only truckers who have a vehicular vernacular customized for their corner of the motoring world. Race drivers, service technicians, hot rodders and motorcyclists all have their own unique jargon.

Gentlemen, start your engines!

The racing fraternity has a rich vocabulary. Try this example:

“We did our burnouts and staged at the Christmas tree. I was running a Mopar with a blown hemi, a radical bumpstick and a six-pack. It was nicely dialed-in and had new gumballs. He had a bow tie shoebox with a 409 tri-power. On the green, I got really hooked-up and pulled a major hole shot. The 409 got too much air and he had to back out of it. I blew through the traps with the low E.T. and popped my chute.”

Drag racing fans will be able to translate that passage as follows:

“We spun our wheels to heat up the tires and moved into our positions at the starting lights. My car was a Chrysler Corporation model with a supercharged Hemi V-8 engine, modified with a racing camshaft and three two-barrel carburetors. It was well tuned and had new rear tires. My competitor had a mid-’50s Chevrolet sedan powered by a 409 cubic inch V-8 with triple carburetors. When the starting lights flashed green, my car had better traction and I left the starting area ahead of my competitor. His car did an excessive wheelstand and he had to let off on the gas. I was the quickest to the timing lights at the end of the drag strip where I released my parachute to help slow my car.”

Moving away from the drag strip and on to your local stock car track, you might hear the following:

“We were under the yellow because someone grenaded an engine, so I pitted and got some wets. When we got the green, I got back into the groove and drafted the No. 1 car. The track was loose up high because of marbles.”

CASCAR and NASCAR fans will understand that this means:

“The yellow caution flag was out because a racer had blown an engine so I made a pit stop and had rain tires put on my car. When the green flag came out, I got back into the preferred line around the track and followed the No.1 car very closely. Traction was bad on the upper portion of the banked track because of tire bits and other debris.”

Customized Communications

To the uninitiated, owners of custom cars and street rods can sometimes sound like aliens. Here’s an example:

“My rod’s a ’49 Merc leadsled that’s been chopped and channelled. I nosed it, decked it, shaved it and threw on some lakes pipes. It’s got suicide doors, a conti kit and skirts. It’s rat-powered and has a full tuck and roll job.”

Whew! What was that all about? OK, here’s a literal translation:

“My customized street rod is a 1949 Mercury with smoothed body joints. The roof has been lowered and the body has been set down over the frame rails to give a lower overall profile. The engine hood and trunk lid have had the chrome trim removed and have been smoothed. The door handles and other body trim have been removed. The factory exhaust has been replaced by a set of side-exit exhaust pipes located under the rocker panels. The doors are rear-hinged, it has an enclosed spare wheel on the rear bumper and the rear wheelwells are enclosed. It’s powered by a big-block Chevrolet engine and it has customized upholstery.”

Note that the layman’s version is more than twice as long as the slang version!

Mechanics’ Mutterings

“What a day! First I did a PDI, then an R&R on an A/C compressor. Later, I fixed a dieseling problem and did a shock upgrade on an SUV that was bottoming. Last up was a steering overhaul but I couldn’t find my pickle fork.”

That one was perhaps a bit easier. Here’s what it means:

“What a day! First I did a pre-delivery inspection on a new car, then removed and replaced an air-conditioning compressor. Later, I fixed an engine that was running on after the ignition key was turned off and installed upgraded shock absorbers on a sport utility vehicle that was reaching the limit of its suspension travel over bumps. My final job was a steering overhaul but I couldn’t find my ball-joint separator.”

Chopper Chatter

Not to forget our friends on two wheels, here’s a snippet from a conversation between two motorcyclists:

“In the ’70s, I was heavily into ring-dings but then I switched to big thumpers. My brother started with a stretched and raked hardtail chopper with ape hangers and a sissy bar. He t-boned a cage once but got away with minor road rash. These days he’s into the HOG scene and prefers a full dresser.”

Those of the single-track persuasion will read the foregoing thusly:

“In the ’70s, I preferred to ride Japanese two-stroke motorcycles. Later, I developed a preference for large-displacement, single-cylinder motorcycles with four-stroke engines. My brother’s first motorcycle was a custom bike with a modified frame, extended forks and no rear suspension. It had very high handlebars and a passenger backrest. He rode it into the side of a car once but escaped with minor cuts and abrasions from sliding on the pavement. These days he’s a member of the Harley-Davidson owners’ group and he prefers a large touring motorcycle with a full fairing, saddlebags and accessories.”

Perhaps the foregoing will be of use at the next cruise-in you attend. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down!

Test your knowlege of automotive language. Play Murray Jackson’ Motor-Cross™ and

Motor Mania.

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