Gus Works on His First Shelby Mustang
An evening at the movies and a good night's
rest was followed by one of Gus' enjoyable but rare moments, a breakfast without
hurrying. After paying his bill and leaving a tip, he was strolling the short distance
toward the Model Garage when a car pulled up to the curb right next to him. He was
momentarily startled when he realized it was a police car! Closer observation revealed
it was his friend, long-time state patrolman, Jerry Corcoran.
''It looks like you're on vacation the way you are walking to the garage, Gus,''
came Jerry's opening salutation.
''Well, I sure was thinking about it until you pulled up,'' Gus replied. ''You
have that look on your face that tells me something's up.''
''Hop in, Gus, and I'll drive you on to the garage. I know it's a nice morning
to take a walk, but I do have something I need to talk to you about.''
Gus eased into the passenger seat next to the officer. Jerry started talking
as he pulled away from the curb. ''Gus, I just got a call from my boss, Captain Fairbanks.
He received a call from a department north of here an hour or so ago over a complaint
filed about a local garage there. I may need to ask you to take a look at the situation,
but for now, I thought I'd just fill you in on some details.
It seems like a shop may be trying to get a car away from a fellow who claims
he holds legal title to it. Also in the claim, this man says that he's not sure but
what the shop may have caused the problem that they are trying to collect from him
''What kind of a car is it?'' Gus inquired.
''It’s one of those special factory-built hot rod Mustangs from California. For
several years, this company has altered various models for sports car race tracks
around the country and even overseas. I've heard they're quite successful on the
track! Could you go with me if it comes to that?''
''Sure, my mileage clock goes both ways,'' Gus replied.
Jerry dropped Gus off at the Model Garage's office door. ''I'll let you know
soon what's up. Thanks, Gus!'' Jerry called out the open car window as he drove away.
Stan was watching as Gus came in the front office door. ''Wow, even a police
escort to the front door. Special treatment, Boss? Or are you in trouble with the
cops this time?''
''Nothing like that. It may mean I'll be asked to take on a special job soon,
but for now, let's get busy here,'' Gus stated as he picked up the clipboard with
the day's job tickets attached. ''First up is Mrs. Carey's station wagon for that
lube job and oil change.''
It started out as a fine morning with more than a few customers at the pumps.
Stan was closing the hood on a blue sedan which he had just topped off with oil,
when he glanced up. Coming down the street cloaked by a cloud of steam was Silas
Barnstable, a frequent customer that both Stan and Gus agreed was the Model Garage's
hardest-to-please and most trying customer!
''Hey, Gus…'' was all Stan had a chance to say. Silas was so intent on getting
into the garage's driveway and since he couldn't see very well because of the billowing
steam, he barely missed Stan as he jerked his rig to a stop in front of the open
''Hey, Gus Wilson! I gotta have help fast! My truck's burning up!'' Silas looked
like a bantam rooster with his oddly-cocked old felt hat on his head and him jumping
around wildly while the steam continued pouring out from under the hood of his old
Gus quickly went for the hood latch. Without surprise, he found that he had to
first untwist a wire that Silas was using to hold the hood down.
''Just simmer down, Old Timer. You're here now and we'll get your truck cooled
down.'' Gus tried to reason with the excited old man, but Silas was almost as hot-tempered
as his old truck. ''Just step back, Silas. Stan, see if it will start before we take
the radiator cap off,'' Gus directed trying not to get his own temper raised.
''Put some water in it, quick!'' shouted Silas.
Gus was trying to ignore the little old man who was causing such a commotion.
Finally, Stan got the truck started and Gus eased the radiator cap to its first notch.
In a few moments, the steam had subsided, and Gus poured water in slowly. There was
the sound of water pouring somewhere else. It was a lower radiator hose. Gus had
to explain to Silas how the blown hose could have been prevented with an occasional
inspection of his belts and hoses. Being a fairly easy parts replacement, Silas grumpily
paid his bill and set off down the street.
Gus was preparing to open his lunch pail when the phone rang. After a few minutes,
Gus hung up and hurried to the shop.
''Stan, Jerry Corcoran has just called. He's picking me up in a few minutes to
head up north to look at that job. Get my tools and rescue kit ready to go and set
them by the office door,'' Gus was packing several fender covers as well as a small
Feeling confident to leave his garage in Stan's care and seeing that the afternoon's
work looked fairly easy, he stepped out the front door just as Jerry was pulling
up. Gus loaded the tools and hopped in the squad car. Jerry waved to Stan and drove
out almost as abruptly as he had pulled in that morning.
The drive to the town where the complaint had been signed at the police post
was uneventful. Going in to the day officer's desk, Jerry identified himself and
introduced Gus. They were ushered into an inner office where the officer who had
called Jerry was seated.
''Thanks for coming, Jerry,'' Captain Fairbanks said. Gus was introduced and
they both were seated to find out the details of what had happened.
''We've established that Jake McKowen is the rightful owner of the vehicle. But
what we don't know for sure is what the shop might be trying to do. It appears that
because of what this car is, old Tug Martin, the shop owner, may be trying to somehow
hang onto it. We've leaned on him this afternoon, telling him that we want a second
opinion on the problem. He doesn't like it, but since he knows that we suspect him
of several other shady deals, he's agreed to let you look at the car.''
Knowing that he had to accurately diagnose what was actually wrong with the car,
he asked the captain,''Jerry told me earlier that the car's owner suspects that the
car may have been sabotaged in some way. Is that correct?''
''Yes, it is. Proving it may be tough, but if you can show me conclusively that
old Tug had something to do with it, we'll close him down right now,'' the captain
retorted. ''If you’re ready, we'll go out there taking two cars. Gus, you go ahead
and ride with Jerry, and I'll take another officer with me. We'll stop by the hotel
and pick up McKowen.''
The captain proved his words to action and before long, both patrol cars had
pulled up by a dingy, 2-bay shop that looked like it hadn't been cleaned in a long
time. Empty oil cans littered the pavement near the trash barrels and old, worn out
tires were stacked everywhere.
It was quite a procession that entered the shop with Captain Fairbanks leading.
''Tug, we're here to look at that Mustang,'' the captain spoke in his no-nonsense
tone of voice,''Is it still around back where you parked it?''
A middle-aged man with graying temples and the dirtiest t-shirt Gus had ever
seen stood up by an old car that was perched above a grease pit.
''Yah, Captain, it 's still out back. ''
''Okay, Tug. Let's go. We're all going out to where that car is sitting. Mr.
Wilson here is going to look at it. I also want you to know that if you're responsible
for any of the problems that Mr. McKowen claims, we'll lock this place up and you
can explain it all to the judge. Understand?''
Jerry drove his patrol car through the gate that opened into the fenced impound
yard behind the garage. It was no less littered than the front.
Two Mustangs sat side by side in the lot. One was a beat up old primered coupe
that Tug had been tinkering on for several years. To the other side sat a white Mustang
with two broad blue racing strips down the top and aluminum wheels with wide tires.
Its extra center-mounted head lamps announced that it was something very special.
Gus was the first to speak. ''Mr. Martin, tell me what you've found to be the
''Well, the transmission is shot. There is a huge vibration, and I think it's
coming from the transmission tail stock. I pulled the front drive shaft yoke, re-lubed
the U-joint and it vibrates as bad as it did. The owner here is just trying to get
out of paying the bill.'' Tug finished his narrative with a scowl at Jake McKowen.
Gus took the keys, unlocked the car and sat down in the close-fitting bucket
seat. Looking around at the interior, he was beginning to see why someone might be
tempted to try to keep the car. Starting the engine and slipping the transmission
into first gear, he gradually let the clutch out part way and could feel the shaking
as he started rolling forward. Slipping the Mustang back into neutral, Gus got out
and asked to put the car over Tug's grease pit.
Tug protested that he had a car sitting there. However, Captain Fairbanks firmly
told Tug to back it out and they would push McKowen's car into the shop. Gus stepped
down into the grimey pit and looked up at the driveshaft and its associated front
and rear U-joint housings. Gus asked Tug for an old front yoke which was found in
a pile of parts. Quickly, using a ½ inch wrench, he removed the four nuts from the
rear yoke U-bolts and pushed forward on the drive shaft to disengage the rear U-joint
from the differential. Wrapping some black friction tape around the caps, he carefully
pulled the drive shaft from the transmission, slipping the old yoke into it's place.
Gus came up the steps from the grease pit and carried the drive shaft over to
an uncluttered part of the floor. Laying it down, he pointed to the color bands painted
on the drive shaft. ''Captain, these stripes indicate it as one for a regular small
block Mustang. I'll bet if you look under that other car, you'll find that the shaft
has been swapped with this one. I suspect there will be a red rusty powder around
the other drive shaft's worn out U-joint. I also noticed the transmission mount insulator
is broken which could be the cause of the clutch chatter.'' Gus finished his report
to the captain who was looking directly at the shop owner.
''Well, Tug, do you have anything you'd like to say before we go downtown?''
questioned the captain.
''Naw. As Wilson said, I just thought it would be easier to swap the drive shafts
than change the U-joint'' admitted Tug,''I didn't even consider the transmission
mount as a problem.''
Stepping forward, Jake McKowen asked Gus,''Could you get it together so that
I can get settled up and go? I really need to head home,'' Looking at Captain Fairbanks,
Gus received a nod of approval. A little over an hour later, Gus had replaced the
transmission mount and returned the original drive shaft to the Shelby after installing
a new front U-joint.
Thinking it best to take a test drive, he was finally able to assure the owner
that the car hadn't fallen victim to any other instances of Tug's negligence.
On the way home, Jerry and Gus stopped for a meal at Carroll's Roadside Diner.
''Well, Gus, you did it again. Everybody's happy except for the shop owner, and
he has a few things to answer for. I think you still would make a good officer.''
Gus was quick to answer, ''You've said that before, and I've also said that if
you'd give me a case that didn't have a car involved in it, I'd probably lose my
job. I think I'm happy right where I am,'' Gus finished by enjoying his last bite
of the tender steak.
Thanks to Dave Taylor for his technical assistance and story additions. firstname.lastname@example.org
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