Petrol Pump Blues
Octagon Newsletter … January 1994
Actually this story involves my car and another belonging to my buddy Lonnie. His car, a '75 MGB, was having problems with its U.S. specification inertia fuel cut‑off switch. My car had a fuel pump problem. We heard tell of some hot deals on British parts in Eugene, Oregon. Unfortunately we were in Salem which is 50 miles away. We were each nineteen years old so the fact that neither car was running well seemed no issue for such a trip.
Now, you may have guessed, to get my "B" to go I'd just whack the fuel pump with an old splintered axe handle. Of course I had removed the battery cover to make it easier. My car was ready to go. Lonnie's car on the other hand needed a little different treatment. The switch would fail causing the fuel pump to stop.
The carb would suck the system dry and everything else would stop. He would reach under the dash, reset the switch and then (and this is the weird part) put his mouth on the fuel filler hole and blow with all his might to re-prime the after-market fuel pump. We were young, indestructible and ready to go!
Southbound on the I-5 we were about 20 miles out of Salem when it began to rain. Water started leaking in around the base of the windscreen and pouring onto my legs. This meant nothing because the road spray flying around in the battery hole by the fuel pump was making my hand slippery and it was getting tougher to keep hold of my short axe handle which was now being reduced to the mother of all toothpicks and leaving shards of wood in the car and on the Interstate to, no doubt, guide me home like so many bread crumbs.
I had to pull over about every ten minutes to watch Lonnie go through his little routine at the filler cap. After about the ninth time he was beginning to lose his patience. He was soaking wet and all that blowing in the fuel filler had left a black ring around his mouth making him look like Al Jolson's little brother.
About 10 miles out of Eugene, I decided to help him out with his inflation duties as he was starting to look ill. Now I became Al Jolson's second cousin, twice removed.
Four hours after starting out we puttered up to 'Willamette British', road-weary and wet, to read the sign: CLOSED ON SATURDAY.
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