Dave squatted to look at the small pool of oil left by the old car he had just backed out of the garage. It was not just a few drops, as the pool was about six inches in diameter, and a millimeter or two deep. He dipped his index finger into the pool and rubbed it between finger an thumb. Then he smelled it and looked at it. He seemed to be investigating whether some strange intruder had broken into his garage and secretly placed a pool of oily substance disguised to look like motor oil under his engine. This was obviously CSI territory.
"You want me to call Columbo?" I said.
"It's not the drain plug" Dave was having none of it.
"We could call click and clack?" I retorted.
"I'm driving it. I checked the oil, and its good." Dave was on a mission, and deadly serious.
"Nobody will think less of you if you ride with one of us Dave." Clay was trying to be helpful.
"That's because we cannot possibly think less of you to begin with." Bob was not trying to be helpful.
"Let's go." Dave glared.
"Now you've practically forced him to drive it." I said to Bob discreetly.
"C'mon we're late. We'll have to haul ass to make it." Kevin was right
This will end badly I thought to myself.
We walked to the cars, started them, and got underway. Now 30 - 40 year old vehicles have a natural tendency to break every now and then just due to age and fatigue. If you neglect the maintenance of them, they tend to fail more often. If you boost the performance of those vehicles without regard for what new weak points you might expose, you are in effect requesting a failure. If you see the signs of a problem and ignore them, you are begging for a failure sooner rather than later. If you then take a spirited ride which tests the limits of said vehicle, you are daring the gods to strike you down. Dave had all of the factors in place. The gods said "bring it on".
It was cold and we had our windows up. Otherwise, Clay might have noticed the smell of oil in the air from Dave's car. As it was, there was no smoke of any significance, and the oily residue on clay's car was not noticed until later. What Clay did smell he attributed to his own engine as he had more holes in his firewall than.....well let's just say that "wall" is a generous term for what separated him from his engine. It was more like a manic collander of some kind. But I digest.....We pulled into a gas station, and Dave checked the oil. Almost a quart low.
"How's the oil?" I asked.
"It's burning a little, but the rings still need to seat. I'm topping it up." Dave truly seemed unconcerned, but added the oil while we were not looking.
"Let's go, now we really need to haul ass!" Kevin was the self-appointed hauler of hind quarters.
Had we not been in such a hurry to leave, we might have noticed the oil pool left in the spot that Dave pulled away from.
With everyone gassed up, Kevin set a blistering pace for the vintage iron we were all driving. Five grand plus on the Tachometers. It was not long before Dave and Clay dropped back. It was a few minutes before Bob noticed, and flashed his headlights at me. We both slowed down. A lot. Then we pulled over. No sign of them. I called Dave's cell phone. No Answer. I called Clay's cell phone. Disconnected. I suggested that Bob catch up to the others and let them know, while I got off at the next exit and headed back, watching the opposite direction all the time.
2 exits, no sign of them. I got off and reversed course again getting off at the first exit. Nothing. At the second exit I found them in an Amoco gas station. There were two empty quart bottles of Amoco oil, and Clay was under Dave's car. Dave gave me the don't-even-think-about-cracking-a-joke face. I looked under the car to see a sizeable pool of oil. Clay was trying to see the source while avoiding the hot bits. Oil was still burning on the headers.
"Well now we have the Amoco Valdeez to match the Exxon Valdeez" I said.
"I think it's the rear of the oil pan, what do you think." Clay stifled a laugh but spoke in a serious tone for Dave to hear.
"No way, I double-checked that twice!" Dave was close to blowing a fuse.
"Does that mean 4 times?" I couldn't resist, and besides, with his fuse blown, Dave would surrender to cooler heads with his infamous "Do-whatever-you-want-I'm-selling-this-thing-tomorrow response.
I grabbed a piece of cardboard from the dumpster and replaced Clay under the car. The back of the pan had a lot of oil that seemed to come from one spot. I used a piece of newspaper to blot the area above it since I could not see up there. The paper came back dirty, but no oil. I did the same around the side of the block and it was soaked. It was soaked right up to the oil sender. I changed positions, and reached up to grab the sender. It fell off with just three full turns. It also revealed threads which were partially destroyed. I disconnected the wire and crawled out.
"Columbo has solved the mystery, now you need McGuyver." I handed the sender to Dave.
"19 millimeter." Said Clay
"A lug bolt might work, but check the thread pitch." I headed for the outside restroom. By the time I returned, Clay had a lug bolt in place with some plumbers tape (doesn't everyone have plumbers tape in his travel tool kit?).
"That plumber's tape can melt and get into the oil. Ask me how I know." Dave said to Clay
"How do you know?"
"You don't wanna know."
We drove slowly to an auto parts place and got a 19mm bolt to make the swap and get four bolts back on all four wheels. The car ran for another 5 minutes or so with all three of us watching nervously. Then we drove one exit and checked again. Then the two remaining exits to the event. No oil pool. After the event we returned to the car and a small pool of oil was under the car.
"@#%%^## (*&(%) !!" Said Dave
"%*%$()#&*% !!" Said Clay
Bob couldn't contain himself and collapsed in laughter as he held up an empty container of Castrol. It took a while for Clay to start laughing, and Dave eventually cracked a smile.
Pools of motor oil (or pancake syrup, or olive oil) mysteriously appeared around Dave for many months following, until the incident with the lift and the hypoid oil. But that is another story....
Names have been changed to protect the innocent.....and the guilty....