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Gus Works on His First Shelby Mustang

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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 for.''

''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 overhead door.

''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 Ford truck.

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 floor jack.

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 problem.''

''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.

Dave Mantor

Thanks to Dave Taylor for his technical assistance and story additions. shastamustang@aol.com


Link to ''Gus and The Model Garage'' Find lots of cool old automobilia here!


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