Octagon Newsletter … January 1997
By Peter Lee
I am acquainted with the Motoring Gremlins. Over many years, I have seen them in their many disguises, their timing is amazing as they lull you into false sense of security and then strike. How many of you have said "Don't say anything about the car, they (the Gremlins) will hear". They come in different nationalities, i.e. Fiat, VOW, Renault and MG. Corvette owners swear that they have none, but I know better. There is even a speciality Gremlin, such as the Lockheed Gremlin and the Lucas Gremlin.
Well, the SU Gremlins came out with us on our trip to Portland Thy probably saw it as the annual Works Vacation. I thought that I had thrown them off by fitting a new pump prior to the trip, but this was my first mistake. We made it to Portland on Friday with the occasional hesitation and, once they had lulled us into a feeling of confidence, the Gremlins caused us to spend two very exasperating hours trying to cover three miles of freeway through the centre of Portland. Upon reaching a sanctuary, I removed the pump and called Mark Hadley of the Portland MG Club. He had foolishly given me his number and said "Now if there is anything …". The Gremlins tapped the phone line, his pump did not work, but an hour later my pump was working well enough to risk the rally. Up early on Saturday for an hour's drive to the rally start, everything worked perfectly. The MGA was doing a comfortable sixty when a distressed TF came into sight. We stopped to find he had been assaulted by Lucas Gremlins, his rotor had broken in two, so I helped him diagnose the problem and in the process borrowed his spare SU fuel pump. While our backs were turned, the gremlins must have had a high-level meeting to discuss battle plans, because upon resuming the trip, we began encountering those earlier hesitations.
By the time we reached the start, it was decided not to do the rally but to help with the check points. On the first checkpoint, the TF with the broken rotor came in with fuel pouring over the engine from the rear carb. As I helped to fix this, I was thinking "As long as the Gremlins are on the TF, my MGA is safe", but not so because the afternoon ended with a push into the parking lot of the Hood River Hotel where I fitted yet another borrowed pump. After the celebration, we were to return to Portland, but five miles down the road, the pump had different ideas. We fitted yet another borrowed pump and made it another five miles to Cascade Locks. It was now six o'clock in the evening and obviously we were not going to make another forty miles on that pump. At this point, the car was abandoned at a Best Western Hotel and we got a ride to reach our friends' house by one in the morning!
The next morning, a council of war was convened to combat the Gremlins. I decided to assist the unwilling pump by pressurizing the fuel tank (Mark Hadley's suggestion), so we raided a wine-mating supply store for a large cork with a hole in it and a length of plastic tubing. We needed a pump to pressurise the system. A bicycle pump would have given too great a pressure. I thought a bulb, similar to a blood pressure cuff would be sufficient. It turned out that Chris (our friend) is a home visit nurse and a rummage in the basement provided a host of items suitable for the job. Our recovery vehicle was a two‑seat pickup, so my wife Daphne was relegated to minding the phone for the morning and forty miles later found us fitting various pieces of medical and fermenting equipment to the hapless MGA. We ended up with a plug into the filler pipe fitted with a visual connector to an intravenous tube and a pump bulb from a blood pressure cuff
At this point Karen and Mark Hadley came by on their way home. They recognized the car and made the mistake of stopping to help. Their laughter slowly died as they realized that I was serious and Karen offered to pump as I drove. The system worked, we covered the forty miles of beautiful scenery along the Columbia Gorge with no hesitations and by the end of the workout Karen was able to bend six-inch spikes bare handed!
Calling in at Schuck's Auto Supply, we purchased a universal fuel pump for $26 (US), then on to Mark's shop to fit it into place and connect electrics. The car was at last running without outside assistance and I am pleased to say the journey back to Victoria was uneventful.
Thanks to the help of our friends Chris and Alan and many of the Columbia Gorge MGA Club, we engaged the enemy and did battle for two and a half days before we managed to throw the Gremlins into the Columbia Gorge. But be careful: they are easily awakened by the sound of an MG … So Beware!!
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