The Lighter Side of Owning a Ferrari


    The Underappreciated  by john babos


        Over the years, I have become extremely complacent and often take for granted the fine mechanics and technical experts that keep my cars running.  The author of the “Last Open Road” series, Burt Levy, refers to them as DMM’s; Doctors of Moving Machinery.  Not part changers mind you, but people who can actually diagnose a bad spark wire from the sound of the engine as well as rewind the field within an alternator. 

What brought this to light were the circumstances that occurred while I was replacing the broken clutch cabled on our Dino.  The cable is fed through a tube under the car connecting the pedal and the transmission, so installing a new one can’t possibly be that hard.  After all, I am a rocket scientist.  My thought was that I could probably complete that job during a television commercial. 

So equipped with a floor jack, a scissors jack and the Wal-Mart kitchen tool kit I bought for Crystal on our last anniversary for $14.95 (yeah, I’m still paying for that one), I decided to tackle the job. 

            I ordered the replacement clutch cable, which ironically cost as much as my first car, a 1967 Firebird, and after a few days it arrived.  But it was delivered in a box that was about the size and shape of Nebraska.  “How could this be?” I thought.  “Maybe the wrong part was sent.”  After opening the box I was taken back.  In it was an eight foot nearly rigid cable; no make that hose, complete with washers, nuts, fittings, 2 million ball bearings and NO instructions. It occurred to me to look at the original clutch cable still attached and make a comparison.  To my dismay, it appeared to be an exact replacement, only without all of the grease and grime. What happened to the short VW like swaged quarter inch cable I expected? As panic began to set in I kept telling myself, “I am a rocket scientist, I can figure this out.”  Crystal on the other hand kept saying, “This ain’t no rocket. It’s much more complicated.  It’s a Dino, give it to Dave Helms.” 

            “No dear, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. And I gotta do this.” I proudly stated. So within a short time the rear of the car was jacked and I started getting dirty.  The clutch cable connections are unique in their own way.  The cable is attached to the pedal via a spring in the front of the car.  In the rear it is attached to a “Thing-a-majig” with a “Deely Bob.” It became apparent that I would need a “Thing-a-majig” and “Deely Bob” taker-offer.  A quick look in the kitchen tool kit revealed that I didn’t have one of those. After jury rigging an old spark plug socket an hour or so later, I got the “Thing-a-majig”and “Deely Bob” off.  I then had to apply three Band-Aids and one stitch to my knuckle. (I learned how to do that in the Army by modifying a safety pin and using old speaker wire for the stitch. And yes my knuckle tingles during thunderstorms). 

The next task was to pull the cable through the tube under the car. I pushed the cable from the front of the car, then pulled the cable from the rear of the car, then pushed the cable from the front of the car, then pulled the cable from the rear of the car and so on, and finally faced the inevitable, I hadn’t made any progress. I realized I would have to violate the very essence of manhood and ask Crystal for help. (It was actually worse than admitting I was lost and needed directions).

            A short time later Crystal appeared in the garage for what I assured her was a 15 minute job. I instructed Crystal to stand at the rear of the car and pull the old clutch cable as I pushed it from the front.  My thought was to force the end of the cable (which is slightly bent) far enough into the tube, so I could tie a line to it.  With that we could pull the new cable through as it followed the old one.  I told Crystal to pull.  As she pulled, I worked to keep the rigid cable as straight as I could and told her again to pull.  Without seeing any movement I decided that she probably couldn’t hear me a full 5 feet away. So I yelled.  “Crystal, pull the gosh darn cable for crying out loud! Pull! Pull harder!”  Then, in a fraction of a second the entire cable disappeared into the tube. Looking up I saw Crystal with cable in hand back peddling past the end of the garage, over the driveway pad, into the pines and finally falling on her keester. Luckily there to break her fall was an old splitting axe and a stack of firewood. (Thankfully she didn’t mess up the stack of firewood)

            After a concession of promises that I have no idea of how I’m going to keep, she came back into the garage.  I figured her facial expression and sailor language was one of job determination vs. anger. 

            At least the cable was now out; we just had to get the new one through the tube.  Positioning myself at the front of the car, I politely asked Crystal (I was no longer telling her anything) to start pushing the new cable from the rear to the front.  It was a five foot tube, so when all eight feet disappeared without coming out the other end I became curious if not concerned and then emotionally I broke down.  Crystal comforted me by drying my tears and suggested we push the cable from the front to the rear.  And then, eureka! It worked!

A short 2 hours later, after adjusting the clutch linkage on the housing, we finished the job.  Just think, a mere 14 hours after starting I, or rather Crystal and I, successfully installed the clutch cable all by ourselves.  In hindsight it was a piece of cake.  If the clutch cable ever needs replacing again, I ‘m sure Crystal can do it in less than 10 hours.

When it was all said and done, my appreciation for the technical experts that take care of our cars, as we rocket scientist like to say, increased by “10 sigma.” That translates to a whole bunch. As a recommendation, I’m not asking you to get touchy-feely with your favorite mechanic and hug him or her, but certainly appreciate his or her extensive knowledge and expertise and then give them a hardy thank you the next time your Ferrari shifts perfectly and purrs like a kitten; I’m sorry, I meant TIGER.



john babos