"We'd better step on it, Gus: the
wife'll have cats waiting by now," Joe Clark urged as he locked the door of
the Model Garage and hastily climbed in beside his partner.
"Huh! snorted Gus Wilson. "You don't
have to tell a hungry old bachelor to hurry when there's home-cooked fodder
The veteran auto mechanic snapped on
his lights, for it had become quite dark, and swung out onto the concrete
road. The gears whined in second while the car gathered headway and then,
as Gus noiselessly shifted into high a sedan whizzed past them at high
"Another guy late at mealtime maybe,"
Gus suggested. "He sure is in one great big hurry."
The sedan rapidly drew away from Gus's
car and the tail light finally winked out as it reached a distant bend in
"Something's funny or else I'm losing
my sense of distance," muttered Gus.
"How did he get around that bend so
quick? Didn't seem to me he'd even reached it."
"G'wan!" Joe grinned. "Of course he
did. Where else could the lights go?"
But when they reached the bend, Gus's
headlights glared on a man standing in the road and waving his arms to
attract their attention. The front end of the sedan was jammed through the
fence on the outside of the pavement.
"What happened?" asked Gus as he
"Lights went out all of a sudden,"
explained the stranded one. "I reached over to see if the switch had
snapped off, and the next thing I knew I hit the fence."
Gus got out a flashlight and rapidly
inspected the wiring. "Here's the trouble," he grunted. "Wire broke off
right at the switch." He reconnected it and the lights came on at once.
Luckily nothing vital appeared to be broken so he backed the car onto the
"Better bring it down to the Model
Garage tomorrow and I'll make sure everything is all right and take the
wrinkles out of that mudguard."
The accident victim muttered something
unintelligible and immediately drove off.
"And not so much as a 'thank you,'"
Joe whistled in astonishment.
"Don't blame him," Gus smiled. "He's
just scared stiff. Kind of 'accident shocked.'"
Gus's suggestion had registered,
however, for the next day the man appeared at the Model Garage.
"My name's Considine," he began, "and
I want to thank you for what you did for me last night. That was my first
accident and it sure did scare the daylights out of me. Spoiled my
self-confidence, too. I'm nervous as a cat now."
"Don't let it get your goat," Gus
smiled as he started ironing the dents out of the mudguard. "It's no
disgrace to be a beginner so long as you don't get to think you know it
all. Trouble is, there's a lot to driving besides shifting gears and
turning the wheel. And most people are lucky if they find that out before
they get into a serious crash."
Considine smiled ruefully. "Yesterday
I'd have said that was a lot of bunk.
Now I know better. What would you
have done if you'd been in my place last night?"
"That's easy," replied Gus. "My foot
would have been pushing a hole in the floor board with the brake pedal the
instant after the lights went out, and I'd have watched the sky line along
the trees to keep me on the road till I stopped.
"But," added Gus, "if I'd been you I
wouldn't have been driving so fast. You oughtn't to drive fast until you've
had more road experience. Lots of things can happen when you are hitting it
up that wouldn't mean anything if you were going slower. A blow out, for
instance, means nothing if you're ambling along, but it takes a good man to
keep a car on the road if a tire lets go at high speed."
"How fast ought I to drive, then?"
"Well," said Gus," when I first
tackled driving a gasoline buggy, back in the days when a progressive gear
shift was the latest thing and cars didn't have any windshields, the man I
was working for took me out for my first lesson. We were roaring along at
thirty miles an hour - dangerous speed in those days - when all of a sudden
the boss jammed on the brakes and I nearly dove over the hood, seeing as how
there was no windshield to stop me. "There,' said he, after I'd crawled
back into the seat, 'I just wanted to show you the first principle of safe
driving, and that is to know how to stop quick. Never drive so fast that
you can't stop within the clear space you can see ahead.'
"That principle is just as good now as
it ever was, and it's a kind of automatic rule, because while you're a
beginner you won't be able to make as quick stops as you will after you get
so that your foot snaps onto the brake pedal without having to stop and
think about it. Whenever there was any doubt in my mind whether I was going
too fast I used to imagine another car darting out of a side road and see
how quick I could stop - but you want to be sure there's no car behind you
when you try it!"
"I thought four-wheel brakes made fast
driving safe," said Considine.
"Safer - not safe," Gus stated.
"Nothing can make driving safe if you're going too fast. Of course, other
things being equal, you can hit it up a bit more if you have four-wheel
"And while we're talking about speed."
Gus continued, "remember that a safe speed on dry roads is a lot too fast
when the going is slippery. And lots of new drivers don't realize that the
roads are much more slippery just after the rain starts than later, after
the downpour has washed away the slime that forms out of the first drops
when they mix with the dust on the road.
"But if you have chains on the wheels
you can't skid," interrupted Considine.
"Yeah?" growled Gus. "I used to
believe that, too, when I was just starting in. It cost me just
thirty-eight dollars to find out it wasn't so. I had chains on, but I went
around a curve too fast on some ice, and the next thing I knew the back of
the car tried to get ahead of the front end. One rear wheel jammed into the
curb and snapped the axle right off. Chains are a help. But you don't have
anything like as much traction with 'em on ice as you have without 'em when
the pavement is dry."
"But you're safe anyway if you go slow
enough - and look at all the time you waste dawdling along," protested
"Rats!" snapped the grizzled veteran.
"You're not safe at any speed on ice without chains, and what's the use of
hurrying to save a few minutes when you stand a chance to earn a ride in a
nice, fast motor hearse by doing it?
"And besides," Gus continued, "when
you do save a few minutes by taking chances you probably waste 'em right
away bragging about it! Speed doesn't cause accidents, but speed at the
wrong time does, so drive always at a speed that you know is safe. If there
is any doubt in your mind, play safe - go slower.
"Going slow isn't the whole story,
either. You can be a regular old slow-poke and still take your life in your
hands every time you go on the road, if you don't get wise to the biggest
idea in safe motoring, and that is:
Never take a chance on what the other
fellow's going to do, nor on what he may think you're going to do. Don't
depend on your horn - the other fellow may not hear it. Keep your eye on
the cars ahead, and signal to the fellows behind what you are going to do.
"There's another angle to this safe
driving business," Gus went on, as he stood off to observe the effect of his
operations on the mudguard. "You want to remember that safety depends a lot
on the conditions of your car. Brakes should be just right and you
certainly don't want anything wrong with the steering gear. I was in a
garage one time when a hot-air merchant was grumbling to everybody about how
loose his steering gear was. But he didn't do anything about it and a
little later when he started out, still shooting off his face, the whole
works came loose in his hands. Before he could stop, he'd busted into a
tree and smashed his radiator. He didn't deserve any sympathy and, believe
me, he didn't get it. The gang razzed him about it for years afterward!"
For more than three and a half years
Gus and Joe have been giving readers of
Popular Science Monthly the
benefit of their long experience with motor cars. And each month these two
veteran proprietors of the Model Garage grow more popular. Many readers
have written that the mechanical advice offered by Gus in Mr. Bunn's
entertaining stories have helped them solve difficulties which every
motorist encounters. What is your particular problem? Let's ask Gus Wilson
about it. Write to Mr. Bunn in care of Popular Science Monthly, 250 Fourth
Avenue, New York City.