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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

The Leak was no Geek

By Gary Peters

Well, drag racing fans, if you have been following our short blasts from the past, you will be familiar with some of the stories on towing, and how folks get their nicknames. Those topics were all generated from our past experiences going back to the good old days some 30 years ago.

But hey! It's 2002, and it didn't take too long for an up to date story to present itself to the new partners in the Hemi Hunter. So here is the latest story, which involves the two topics I described above, towing (my favorite part of drag racing -- yuck) and how folks get that nickname.

We had accepted a date to take the HH to the "Show, Shine, Swine, and Dine" nostalgia get together in Henderson, NC. From our home base in Allentown Pa., it is about a 7-hour tow to NC. We had been borrowing the Chevy truck from the dealership who helps us with the car. This truck is well used, but has so far been reliable. However, knowing what we know about towing, a 10-year-old truck is not exactly on our list of "wow is this thing cool." Along with that, it is only a 350 small block, and its tongue is usually hanging out.

We needed to drive around Baltimore and Washington, DC, to get down to route 85 into Henderson. Somehow, I pictured us stuck on one of the beltways around either of these major cities. You know the saying "been there, done that," and we should be older and wiser than that now. So what to do?

Fate steps in and we hear that a long time friend has just purchased a dually pick'um up truck, 454 big block and all, just what we need to get us down south. Ron (his nickname will come later) had worked for years at one of the local speed shops and we knew him for 45 years. We run into Ron at the Vargo reunion, and ask him if he would be so kind as to tow us to NC. We'll pay all his meals and rooms and give him a team shirt to wear along with gas money naturally.

Ron lights up like a Chrondek Christmas Tree, and he says he'd be more than willing. Jeez, what a great guy! Not only is he a life long friend; he always had a heart of gold. He buys a new hitch, rewires everything for our trailer, and we're all ready to go. We decide to leave about 9AM in the morning. Plenty of time to get to NC.

We heard Sox and Martin were displaying their car at a local Chrysler dealership in Henderson, so we thought it would be cool to take our little old rat motored car to the dealership, too. Might as well have a little controversy to get the locals cranked up. We should get there about 4PM in the afternoon, just enough time for our dealership showing before the reception at the hotel for all us old timers.

Experience, experience. That's what it takes to get along with the towing gremlins. We were smart enough to check out the hook ups to Ron's truck the week before -- who needs surprises at the last minute? We have spares of everything from Ron; he's also taking no chances. He had bodywork done the week before; his truck is all waxed and ready. He said he didn't want to pull down the HH reputation. I look at Carl and Adam, we all roll our eyes, and we hook up the trailer.

We plug into Ron's truck and bingo! No lights. Can't figure that one out, they worked the week before. We check the brakes and they work, so were off. We'll check the lights in NC. I get into Ron's truck, the rest get into my truck (too light for towing), and off we go. Ron and I are shooting the bull about the last 30 years or so, laughing about all the crazy things and people we knew over the years. It's a beautiful day; the temperature is hanging around 90 degrees by the time we get past Baltimore.

Ron checks his gauges and notices the truck's running a little warm on the temperature gauge, about 220. Nothing to worry about, I assure him; they always run high when towing. We'll check it out at the first gas stop.

We stop for gas just outside of DC. We check the lugs on the trailer's wheels with a torque wrench, look at the HH inside, and check the truck. Everything looks fine and we're off again. Traffic is extremely heavy as we approach the DC beltway. All of a sudden, the temperature of the engine jumps up to 240. We keep going. Now the dash lights up telling us to check the engine. We pull over, and Carl who is driving my truck pulls over, too.

Up goes the hood. The engine's hot, but not cooking over. The gauge shows 240 degrees. Traffic is flying by at 80 MPH. "Get back in," I said, "and start driving." We turn the heater on full blast. The temperature drops to 210. It's a little hot in the truck, what with the 90 degree outside temperature, and it feels like my feet are on fire. I remove my shoes and put my feet up on the seat. We go up a big hill and the temp sores to 250. We coast down the backside of the hill to cool off the engine. The temp goes higher.

We slow down; hoping one of the semis doesn't blow us off the road. If we stay at 60, with the heater at full blast, we can cruise along with the temp at 240. Ron's so mad, he can hardly apologize enough for all the trouble. I really don't care about the slow going; I just don't want my new Hush Puppies to melt to the rubber floor mats.

We finally pull into the hotel parking lot around 6:30PM. We missed our date with infamy at the dealership. Heck, we just made it for supper at the hotel. Nancy Wilson, the women responsible for the show, comes over and says she's glad we made it. Dale walks over. He and wife Sally went down the day before to have a little vacation and time alone. I tell Dale and Nancy we had a little trouble with the truck overheating -- about 9 hours worth of trouble.

Ron is still upset about his new truck's performance, and in typical racer fashion, we start ribbing him about the overheating problem. Carl tells Ron he's glad he didn't give him his team shirt when we left Allentown, Ron would probably have it all smelly by now. Ron says he's going to find a local auto store and get a new thermostat and replace it after supper.

We all go to our rooms to change, and I need a shower after the ride in the heat. Later, I go out to the truck and see a large puddle of antifreeze under the truck. Ron had decided to drain the coolant in preparation for the thermostat change. He used my truck to go for parts, funnels, gas treatment, and antifreeze.

Problem was, he under estimated the size of the catch can under the radiator drain plug, walked away and the result was a messy parking lot. We carry buckets of water from the swimming pool to wash away the antifreeze before it eats up the macadam surface. At supper that night, I tag Ron with his nickname, "The Leak."

We change the thermostat after supper, start the engine, and fill the radiator with fresh water and antifreeze. We're all set for tomorrow. Next morning we all meet in the lobby. Ron has his new uniform shirt on; we get into the truck and start to tow to the downtown area of Henderson. Guess what happens, by the time we get there, the truck is overheating. We unload the car and set up the area for the folks who are coming by the thousands. Ron is grumbling under his breath, something about the stinking truck not cooperating. I tell him to say a little prayer to the towing gods, and that sometimes they demand a sacrifice to be appeased. Truthfully, we're all stumped as to why that BBC won't cool. A new 4-core radiator and new hoses were part of "The Leak's" preparations for the trip.

We return to the hotel that night and the truck runs hot again. The next day, we leave for the convention center for the second part of this wonderful gathering. I know it's hard to believe, but the truck is still not working well. Ron is completely disturbed, and we keep telling him not to worry. We unload the car. I forget to latch the back door to the trailer. Ron goes to tow the trailer to the parking area, and he pulls away too fast. Guess he was going to show that truck who's boss.

The door flies open, and we're chasing Ron across the parking lot with the rear door dragging and grinding away. I'm waving to Ron and he waves back, but keeps on going. He finally parks the rig, starts walking back and sees the door open. Good grief, what else can go wrong? The car show's over and it is time to get everything reloaded for the tow back home. Just like the old days, we should get home about 2 AM in the morning.

Ron drives up to the curb, and grinds the side of the trailer against a tree branch. It's a hot afternoon, so we all take off our team shirts and change into Hemi Hunter "T" shirts. Ron is standing by the tree and trailer, looking for damage. Carl walks up and asks Ron to remove his shirt. Ron changes into a "T" shirt, walks over to me, and asks if he's been fired.

We thank everyone for the wonderful hospitality shown to everyone for the two days and we're off. Down the road we go. We stop for fuel, check everything we can, and we start the long drive home. Thank goodness, the towing gremlins seem to have left, the truck is working fine. We decide to go home a different way, to avoid the DC and Baltimore corridor. We go right up through Route 17, right through sniper territory. We weren't even aware of the tragedy-taking place all around us.

It's about one o'clock in the morning, time for our last fuel stop. Looking for a gas station we can get into and out of easily, we miss the road marker for the interstate turn. We're on business 17 just outside of Martinsburg, looking for Interstate 81 to Harrisburg, Pa. We're cruising along looking for a station. I look at the road and the sign says DANGER BUMP AHEAD. I see the railroad tracks and I yell to Ron to slow down. I'm too late; over the tracks we go. Dale said there was four feet of air under the truck and trailer. Didn't seem that bad from inside.

We pull over and check the hitch and the car inside the trailer. Everything is fine. We spent a lot of money on the basket-type strapping for the car's tires, all four, along with one of those bladders under the oil pan. Money well spent. We get back into the truck and it starts to run hot again. We fuel up and start the last leg home. Right outside Harrisburg, Pa., the whole dash lights up on the truck.

Lucky we were right by an exit with a truck stop gas station. We go shooting into the lot and shut the truck off. We get out, open the hood, and this time the old boy is cooking over. Carl pulls up behind us. Carl, Dale, and Sally come walking over. Carl says to Ron, "Why don't we shut the truck off?" I tell him that it is shut off, that noise is just the oil boiling in the engine. He'll get use to that BBC sound, once we get the HH running.

Ron and Dale go into the store and buy jugs of water. We pour water on the radiator to cool it down. Ron tries to start the engine, but it won't turn over. Probably so hot it's seized. We wait and buy some more water and pour it on the radiator to cool things off. We take the radiator cap off after it was cold to the touch. Not a drop of coolant in the thing. The Leak is living up to his name.

I go back to look for signs of coolant on the trailer, nothing. Were the heck did all the coolant go? We wait about 30 more minutes and try to get the truck started. Ron turns the key and it fires right up. We fill the radiator with water. Sally looks at me and says, quote, "Now you know why you stopped doing these thing years ago." All of us laugh except The Leak; he is totally disturbed. It's now about four o'clock in the morning.

Guess if we leave right now, we can all get back to Allentown in time to go to work. Once again, some things never change with time. The truck works fine all the way home. We unhook Ron's truck and load all the supplies into my truck. I rush home, change, and make it to work on time.

The next morning I talk to everyone I know at work with the same combination for towing his or her trailers. I get all kinds of advice and suggestions. I call The Leak (love those nicknames) and relay the suggestions to him. He tells me not to worry; he's going to get the dang thing straightened out if it kills him. He wants to tow us to Bruce Larson's gathering in November. That is if Carl gives him his team shirt back.

He tells me he's going to flush the radiator, remove the catalytic converter, and change the thermostat and coolant again, along with adding a new fuel pump. I call him next day in the afternoon to see how he made out. He tells me he just returned from the doctor. Seems he had included a bottle of acid with the flush to really help clean out the bad gobbly gremlins from the truck's coolant system. He started the truck up, got it to temperature, and shut it down. Left it cook for a couple of hours, opened the cap to drain the stuff out, and it exploded into his face and all over him.

By the time he got to the doctor, his face was pretty red, and his pants were starting to fall apart in shreds. Oh! I forgot to tell you about that black eye he had all weekend. Seems he tapped some fellow in the rear with his truck on the way over to pick us up Friday morning. Seems the fellow was pretty made at The Leak, and cold cocked him through his open window.

So I guess you figure this is the end to this little tale. Well, almost. Seems after the cooking juice ran out of the radiator, it ran across the ground and into a small stream in front of The Leak's house. Didn't do the fish any good. Lots of white bellies next to The Leak's red face. So, if you are coming to the reunion at Larson's on November 9th, stop by and say hello to us all. The Leak will be in fine attire, and his face should be all healed up by then.

Let's see, it's Halloween time and what did Dracula say? For someone who's only lived one lifetime, you're a wise man Professor Van Helsing. Anybody know a chant to use to the towing gods at this time of the year? Please. Anybody know one?

Gary Peters


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