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#1: Making a hot car hotter

When I was 18 (about 1979), I owned a 1973 Camaro Z28. It was blue with a black vinyl top, and had these goofy, “opera” windows (aftermarket) in the back. It was an automatic, but a 3.42 positraction differential made it scoot. One day, I decided to rebuild the carburetor, but needed some solvent to use. An old mechanic’s trick (before carb cleaner was widely available) was to use gasoline, so not having any cleaner around, I decided to use gas.

Unfortunately, the only gas available was in the tank of the car. That’s when I looked under the hood, and saw the fuel line hanging over the intake manifold, nearly begging me to tap into its supply of liquid gold. “I’m a genius” I thought to myself. “Now I just have to find a container.” Oops! The only thing I could find was a plastic 1-gallon peanut butter bucket.

Now, if you’re a thinking person, you’ll realize that I have already had several moments of brain-dead behavior to get to this point in the story. I was about to take it one further. I thought about it, and realized that if I cranked the engine over, it would run the mechanical fuel pump, and pump gas out of the fuel line and into the waiting bucket. “I’m a genius!” Bucket in place, I proceed to reach in the driver’s window and turn the key for a test run.

Crank, crank, crank. Works like a charm. Let’s fill ‘er up! Crank, crank, crank. At this point, I didn’t think about the fuel vapor that was spilling over the side of the bucket, and being drawn into the open intake manifold. I should have thought about it. As more and more vapor was drawn in… you guessed it, the engine backfired.

An interesting thing about gasoline vapor. It’s quite flammable. The backfire of the engine came up through the manifold, and then caught the gasoline in the bucket. (Did I mention this was a PLASTIC bucket?) “I am an idiot!” This can’t be good. I stood there, watching in horror as the gasoline burned, slowly starting to melt the top edge.

This cannot be good.

Now, for the most part, I don’t panic often. I tend to keep a cool head in emergency situations, and am known for being dependable under pressure. I ran to the garage, and found an old canvas newspaper carrier’s bag. It occurred to me that I could cover the burning plastic bucket with the bag, and if the burning gas spilled over the sides, it would be soaked up by the bag as I carried it. Once again, I thought, “I’m a genius!”

I got the bag, covered the fire, and managed to pick the whole mess up and successfully move it to the middle of the driveway without burning the car or myself.


Alas, the victory was short-lived. After the canvas bag was consumed by the fire, there was still gas left in the bucket. The bucket melted further, and now the burning gas was starting to make its way down the driveway toward… MY CAR! “I am an idiot!”

Back to the garage, I found another canvas bag. I rushed back to the fire, and managed to soak up the remaining gasoline as the bucket burned itself out.

Rather than make things worse, I decided at this point to wait for my parents to get home, and take one of their cars to the auto parts place and buy some carb cleaner (with steel bucket). This was one of the few intelligent things that I did all day.

As soon as Dad got home, I got the keys from him and started out the door. He stopped me with, “What happened in the middle of the driveway? It looks like you had a bonfire or something.”

“Yeah… something like that,” and I closed the door.


1. A Fool and his Words are Soon Parted » Stupid Human Trick #1: Making a hot car hotter - December 31, 2005

[…] Moved to Pages. […]

2. jonathan - August 3, 2006

hi uncle tim i read your blog it was a very stupid idea I thougt. I am glad that you are still here. I luv ya,man

3. Tim - August 3, 2006

I’m glad I’m still here too! Thanks for stopping by! Luv you too, Big Guy! – Tim

4. Marie (The other sister) - October 25, 2006

Sheesh. How did I miss this? Or perhaps I was part of the cover up?

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