Doc Marvin was driving along at a fair
clip. Gus Wilson, the owner of the Model Garage, was in the seat beside him.
It was well past midnight and the two men were anxious to get home and into
their beds. The two old cronies had spent the evening in the city at the
Traffic was light - just an occasional
car - so Doc was making good but cautious time. As he slowed for a curve,
Gus noticed a car up ahead, parked off on the road's shoulder. Standing in
the fan of light from the car's headlights was a man frantically waving his
"Maybe we better stop and see what the
trouble is," said Gus.
The Doc replied with pressure on the
brakes that slowed his car to a stop less than a half-dozen yards beyond the
man and the car.
"Need a hand?" Gus called as he opened
the door and climbed out.
"Sure do," came the reply. "Been
trying to flag down a car for a half hour, but you're the first folks who
even as much as slowed."
By this time, both Doc Marvin and Gus
Wilson were within a few feet of the man. He was elderly and his face was
wreathed with anxiety.
"Trouble?" Gus asked.
"A heap. My wife and I have been
touring. About three-quarters of an hour ago she was seized with violent
cramps - just about doubled her up. I stepped on it to try to get to a
doctor. Then my engine sputters and quits and won't start."
"Where is your wife?" Doc Marvin
asked, striding toward the car.
"She's huddled on the back . . ." But
before the man could finish, Doc had opened one of the rear doors and was
"Who's he?" the man asked, bewildered.
"A doctor, fortunately," replied Gus.
A moment later, Doc Marvin poked his
head out through the open door. "Gus," he called, "give me a hand, will you?
We've got to get this woman to a hospital right away."
When Gus and the Doc had made the
woman as comfortable as possible on the rear seat of the Doc's car, Gus
turned to the man. "Lock up the car and give me the keys. I'm a garageman.
I'll come back here in the morning with my tow car."
It was well past three by the time Gus
had left Doc and the woman at our town's hospital and had found a room for
the man. He'd learned that the man and wife were a Mr. and Mrs. Kinkaid from
a small New England town, that the man had retired around the first of the
year, and that they'd been off on a sight-seeing motor trip. However, it
hadn't turned out to be a very pleasant one. Their 1942 car had plagued them
with troubles almost from the start - and now Mrs. Kinkaid was ill. Well,
thought Gus as he yawned and finally turned off his light, Doc Marvin will
take good care of Mrs. Kinkaid.
In spite of his lack of sleep, Gus
opened the Model Garage on time the next morning. When Stan Hicks, his
helper, arrived about 10 minutes later, he said, "Let's get going, Stan. Get
into your work clothes. We've got a car to pick up with the wrecker
about eight miles south on the state road."
"Smash up?" asked Stan, pulling on his
"Nope, just a stalled car," explained
Gus as he climbed into the driver's seat. The wrecker's engine caught with a
full-throated roar. "Luckily Doc Marvin and I happened by last night on our
way home from the fights," he added as Stan climbed up beside him. "An
elderly man with a sick wife and a stalled car. Doc took the wife right to
When they reached the car, it didn't
take Gus long to decide there was something wrong with the car's fuel
system. Plenty of gas in the tank, but the carburetor wasn't getting any.
"No sense trying to troubleshoot it
out here," he said as he closed the hood. "Rig up the tow gear and we'll
haul her back to the shop."
"Might be a plugged gas line," offered
Stan, as he fastened one end of the tow chain.
"Or a bum fuel pump," shrugged Gus,
climbing back on the wrecker. "But let's not jump to conclusions."
When they got back to the garage with
the car in tow, Mr. Kinkaid, looking a little less harassed and not quite so
old as he had the night before, was waiting for them.
"Morning, Mr. Kinkaid," Gus called as
he maneuvered the wrecker and the car into the shop. "How is Mrs. Kinkaid?"
"We sure were a couple of lucky people
when you two fellows came along last night. Doctor Marvin operated just as
soon as he could after he got her to the hospital. Acute appendicitis!"
"How is she now?"
"Doing fine. At least that's what the
nurse at the hospital told me a short while ago. They're letting me see her
this afternoon, so that sounds good."
"Great," grinned Gus. "Now, let's see
what luck we can have with this ailing buggy. She been giving you a lot of
"A heap of it," grumbled Kinkaid.
"Over $100 worth in 500 miles, and she still won't perk as she should."
Gus let out a low whistle. "Well, at
the moment," he said as he walked to the car and opened the hood, "I'd say
she's got fuel problems - a fouled gas line or a bad fuel pump."
"Oh, don't say that, Mr. Wilson,"
groaned Kinkaid. "It just can't be. That's the third new fuel pump I've paid
to have put on in the last five days. Maybe I'd best start at the beginning
and tell you the whole story."
"Good," said Gus, thumbing shreds of
tobacco into the bowl of his pipe.
"Well, the first three days of the
trip went smoothly enough," Kinkaid explained. "Then the trouble started in
Virginia. The motor suddenly quit dead. After a 16-mile tow to a small
garage, the trouble finally was laid to a stripped camshaft timing gear.
After a lot of trouble, they finally installed a new gear.
The car seemed to run fine, so we
started off on our way again."
Gus nodded, puffing on his pipe.
"But we hadn't gone 10 miles,"
continued Kinkaid, "before she stalled again and wouldn't budge. Again a
phone call and a tow back to the same garage. This time the verdict was a
broken fuel pump."
"Did they test it?" put in Gus.
"They worked the little lever by hand,
and it seemed to run all right to me, but the two mechanics said I needed a
new one, so I let 'em go ahead."
"It could have had a broken
diaphragm," said Gus.
"Well, anyway, when they were
finished, the car purred as good as ever, so we started off once more.
But another 200 miles along the line
she refused to start again. So, after another tow to another small-town
garage the mechanic there felt sure it was sludge in the gas tank that was
plugging the fuel lines."
"Did he blow out the line?"
"They blew the line and they drained
the gas tank," grumbled Kinkaid, "without finding a bit of dirt. So, on went
another fuel pump. Well, to make a long story short, mechanics at a garage
about 70 miles down the road from here put on the third new fuel pump
yesterday afternoon. And last night it happened again."
Gus rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "You
just didn't happen to save that last fuel pump, did you?" he asked.
"Saved the last two," Kinkaid replied
with an emphatic nod of his head. "They're in the trunk."
"Then let's have a look at 'em," said
Gus walking around to the back of the car.
Kinkaid unlocked the trunk, reached in
behind the neatly stacked luggage, and emerged with two fuel pumps.
Gus took one of the pumps, held his
finger over the outlet hole, and began working the rocker arm up and down
with his thumb. "This one seems okay," he said placing it on his bench.
"Now, let's see the other one."
"Humph," he grunted as he repeated the
test. Then he placed the two pumps side by side on the bench, turning over
first one and then the other. Stan and Kinkaid watched as the veteran
mechanic compared the two. Finally, with a shrug of his big shoulders, Gus
reached up to a shelf on one side of his bench and took down a pressure
"Just to be sure," he said walking
around to the side of the raised hood, "let's give your latest fuel pump a
Disconnecting the outlet fuel line to
the pump, he substituted the fitting on the pressure gauge. Then, calling to
Stan, he said, "Give her a couple of dozen turns with the starter."
Gus watched the needle of the gauge as
the starter churned. The needle didn't budge from zero. "Okay, that's
enough," he called to Stan. Then, turning to Kinkaid, he said, "That fuel
pump isn't even working."
"But it's brand-new," protested
"I know," said Gus - "but now let's
think back to that timing gear. That seemed to be the beginning of all your
troubles. If I remember rightly, you said they had some sort of trouble
installing the new one."
"Seemed to me it took 'em hours. I
know next to nothing about cars, but I heard one of the mechanics say to the
other something about a tight fit and then they began whamming away with a
hammer and finally told me it was all fixed."
"Oh, no," groaned Gus. "But maybe
we're getting some place. Stan, get that fuel pump off, will you?"
As Stan worked on Kinkaid's car, Gus
went back to his bench and studied the two fuel pumps again.
When Stan brought over the third pump,
Gus placed it beside the other two. "Notice anything peculiar about those
Both Stan and Kinkaid looked and then
shook their heads.
Gus picked up one of the pumps. "Look
here," he said pointing to the head of the copper rivet that held the tip of
the laminated rocker arm together. It was almost completely torn off. "And
the rivets on those other are worn in just the same way."
Gus put the pump back on his bench. "I
think, Mr. Kinkaid," he said, wiping his big hands on a scrap of waste,
"we're on the trail of your troubles. If you'll drop back after you've been
to the hospital this afternoon I've a hunch we'll be able to tell you what's
"Blamed if I follow you," Stan said
after Kinkaid had left. "That rocker arm on the pump is supposed to ride on
a cam on the camshaft, so how could that rivet head on the side of the arm
get worn away?"
"That's just it," said Gus, "it is
supposed to ride on the camshaft, but I'm willing to bet you a broken wrench
that these haven't been. I've a feeling the whole trouble goes back to the
monkeys who put on that new timing gear. A timing gear is supposed to be
pressed on, not blacksmithed on, and if you do have to use a few
taps to get it in place you're supposed to clamp the camshaft so it won't
"Now I'm beginning to get it," grinned
Stan. "When they belted the timing gear, the camshaft shifted to the rear
just enough to about the only contact the rocker arm made with the cam was
on the head of the rivet, and it wore away."
"Brilliant, Dr. Watson," Gus laughed.
"Now let's get to work and see if I'm right."
Shortly before five that afternoon,
Gus looked up to see Mr. Kinkaid coming through the repair-shop door.
"How's the patient?" asked Gus.
"Wonderful," smiled Kinkaid. "Came
through it like a youngster. Doctor Marvin allows how she'll be getting up
for a short time each day pretty soon." Then, jerking his thumb toward his
car, "Any luck with the other invalid?"
"She'll be as good as new," Gus
answered. Then he explained how the hammering on of the timing gear had
caused the trouble, and how the worn rivets of the rocker arms had given him
"We'll have to install a new camshaft
gear, replace a camshaft bearing, and put on one of those fuel pumps," he
said. "But by this time tomorrow afternoon she should be ticking them off
just about as well as she ever did."
Kinkaid looked at the three fuel pumps
lined up on Gus' bench. "Know anyone who'd like to buy two slightly used
fuel pumps?" he laughed. "Quite a town you've got here. My wife leaves her
appendix and I leave fuel pumps."