Ocean City Today

Evil clutches and cars

By Stewart Dobson | May 18, 2017



printed 05/19/2017


I always wanted a hot car when I was young, but the best I could do was a 1949 six-cylinder Chevy that I pretended was a four-speed monster by shifting into second twice.

Sloppy transmissions on old beater cars would do that … for a while. Persistent double-shifting, which fooled no one, will take you only so far. Literally.

Apparently, my limited knowledge of cars caused me to misinterpret the sound of transmission-related parts grinding themselves into metal fuzz as “interesting.”

This ill-advised technique should not be confused with double-clutching, which is another disaster-in-waiting under certain circumstances.

One such circumstance would be if you borrowed your mother’s car because yours no longer has a functional transmission —“It fell apart for no reason. I can’t understand it.”

There are bad times and worse times to test the old mom-mobile. The bad time is when you think it just might be faster than Dougie’s straight-eight Army tank of a Pontiac, especially if you double-clutch for no good reason and blow that clutch into a zillion pieces about 30 feet from where you started.

A worse time is when you not only blow the clutch, but fail to realize that you forgot to latch the hood after ceremoniously checking the oil before the great race (because it looked important, OK?) and having the aforementioned hood separate from the car completely, and sail unrestricted by nuts, bolts, screws or hinges into a cornfield.

The absolute worst time to do that sort of thing is when you blow the clutch, lose the hood, offer a weak, “It fell apart for no reason. I don’t understand it,” only to have your sister rat you out.

It’s been half a century since that day and I’ve never forgiven her. I’ll send her a Christmas card that says, “Happy Holidays … even though you ratted me out in 1965.”

It happened because she wanted to buy a car and didn’t have enough money. My parents recommended that we buy one together, a suggestion she quickly rejected on the grounds of “I’d rather not say.”

As statements to your parents go, this is like telling them, “I am hot to tell you everything, just make it look good.”

She held out for, oh, two minutes before she boo-hoo-hooed the whole story: “The thing with your car — the clutch, the hood — He Was Racing!”

And then tears, that said, “You could see that they forced it out of me, right?”

That was all she wrote. And no matter what I said — “Not exactly a race, but more of a spirited short drive,” I was sentenced to endure “cheap, reliable transportation,” which in world of high school coolness is like wearing a bow tie and black-framed glasses.

By the time I finally did get a hot car, it was too late. I mean, I had it, I loved it and people noticed it. Still, when a passerby says, “Gun it, pop-pop,” it’s time to move on.


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