By Jordan W. Charness
I love older classic cars. Some of them look better than the new cars we have today and although the technology is nowhere near as good or as safe as in today’s cars, there is still something to be said for 350 cubic inches of raw V8 power. Granted, older cars are not the greenest of cars but on the other hand they are rarely used on a daily basis.
As anyone who reads this column can attest, my current classic car and most favourite of the bunch is my silver anniversary Corvette. It is now 32 years old and I spent the past 10 years rebuilding, restoring and repairing it. It’s actually been in excellent driving condition for the past five years or so but I rarely drive it more than a couple thousand kilometres per year. It never goes out in the rain and is stored throughout the winter months.
This summer’s big project was changing the differential. It took several months to find a rebuilt 1978 Corvette differential and then took several hours to install it. By the time that job was completed I had concluded that the car was finally in perfect shape…except of course for the intermittent voltage leak that drains my battery when I least expect it. Every year I spend a few more hours looking for the source of the leak but I pretty much have learned to live with it.
On a bright sunny day, and probably one of the last remaining days for drives in the Corvette, I took it over to my parent’s house, a mere 20 kilometres away. After a nice visit I drove it back onto the freeway and headed home. Actually, that’s what I intended to do; what really happened was that the car inexplicably stopped. To be more specific, the engine died but all the electricals remained on, except of course those that ran off the engine such as the power steering and power brakes which would have been particularly useful in that situation.
Fortunately, I was able to steer onto the shoulder and I pulled over as far away from the active road as I could. I pulled up right in front of a sign which said that only one company could be called to tow a car off the freeway and before doing so the police had to be called as well.
Although this smells of protectionism and an end to the free market process, it is actually legal for the government to pass laws granting exclusive rights to one tow truck company to pick up cars that are stranded on the side of a highway. In theory these contracts are given out as a result of a public tender but for some reason just one tow truck company seems to have had this contract for the past 20 years.
Just be sure, I called a friend of mine who owns a tow truck company as well as a garage. He can usually be counted upon to rescue me when I get stuck. He told me that he was absolutely not allowed to pick up any cars on the highway and that if I couldn’t solve the problem myself I had better call the approved tow truck company.
The first thing I thought of was that I had simply run out of gas. The gas gauge, however, read three quarters full. Every time I tried to re-start the engine, it caught for a few seconds and then died. Eventually it wouldn’t re-start at all.
I checked the electric fuel pump I had installed to see if it was still running and it was still pumping its little heart out. I took the top off the air cleaner and looked into the carburetor (none of those fancy fuel injectors in 1978!) and manually pumped the gas spring to see if gas was actually shooting into the carburetor. I didn’t see any and in fact the carb was bone dry. My conclusion was that the gas gauge must be broken and I was out of gas.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, my lovely wife took an hour out of her day to take a gas can and fill it with gas and come and rescue me. That fixed the problem, but now I have to figure out what’s wrong with the gas gauge. Oh well. Maybe I’ll leave that for next year’s project.