My Wheels — Chapter 28
1978? Yamaha 400

In the previous episode of My Wheels I mentioned that both that chapter and this one would suffer from foggy memory regarding timing. I also mentioned that in this installment I would try to at least explain how the vehicles were related even if I couldn’t explain when. That I will and I’ll even tie up a loose end from several chapters back.

Once again the vehicle I actually owned is not the one pictured. I’m not even sure it’s the right year. The photo shows a 1978 model and it looks about right so the model of the motorcycle being discussed must have been within a year or so. The bike was a gift of sorts from my oldest son. Regular readers may recall that the Mazda in the previous chapter came into my possession when that same son could no longer handle a loan I had cosigned. When he moved to California he presented me with the Yamaha more or less as payment for dropping the Mazda in my lap, etc.

I initially shied away from riding the bike because of brakes. My Wheels — Chapter 21 concerned my 1979 Chevy Van and ended with the phrase “until a trade opportunity came along.” This was it. A mechanic friend put new brakes on the Yahama in exchange for the abused Chevy. I rode the bike some after that but not a whole lot. It really wasn’t the bike I would have bought for myself had I gone shopping for a bike which I hadn’t.

Before long another trade opportunity came along. I had ignored the RX7 so long that the rotor became frozen in place. I knew a fellow who was familiar with Mazda rotaries having raced them for awhile, and we worked out a deal to get the idle Mazda running in exchange for the nearly idle Yamaha. He did get the rotor free and cleared up some other issues but did not have complete success. The friend who bought the car had to pay someone to get it running. I clearly wasn’t the winner in either of those trades but there was a lot of that sort of thing going on then. It was the season of my second divorce.

My Wheels — Chapter 27
1985 Mazda RX7

Details of timing are lacking for both this and the following My Wheels chapter. I think I’ve got the sequence right but I’m not even entirely certain of that. The two are connected by more than a lack of precision in dates but I don’t expect this chapter to explain things very well. Hopefully I’ll be able to make things clearer in the next chapter when all the pieces have been identified.

The subject of this chapter was my oldest son’s car. I cosigned the loan and he made all the payments on time and handled all other expenses, including insurance, right up until he needed it. At some point the financial load became a bit too much and he decided to sell it. No need to insure a car you’re going to sell. Right? As often happens, the decision to sell and the decision to drop insurance preceded the decision to stop driving and, pretty much on cue, there was an accident. It wasn’t a huge one and it was a single vehicle thing but it left him with something that could neither be driven or easily sold. What happened next was pretty much on cue, too. Dad the cosigner became sole owner of the undrivable, unsalable, uninsured, and unpaid for Mazda. That’s not the actual car in the photo but it’s a perfect match except for the sunroof.

I got the damage repaired and the car insured and I drove it for awhile. It was a rather a fun car to drive. The rotary engine seemed like it would accelerate — at least a little — forever. It was, however, a toy I really couldn’t afford at the time. As I said at the beginning, details of timing are lacking and some of the related details involve my second marriage and divorce. I know I had the car both before and after the short lived marriage but I’m understandably just not capable of fitting all the pieces together.

Either during or shortly after the marriage, my younger son bought the car. I’m fairly certain he did it for my benefit. He was in the Navy with no expenses. He also had no driver’s license. He hadn’t felt the need in high school and had entered the Navy on graduation. Plans were made for him to get his license then see a bunch of the country driving the Mazda to his assignment in San Diego. There was only time for one shot at a license and it was a miss. As I recall, the big dig was activating turn signals way too early but I’m guessing that a general nervousness contributed a lot. He flew to San Diego and the Mazda was parked in the garage to await his return.

Although he did eventually get his license (The Navy needed him to drive something.) he never took possession of the car. After a year or so he/I sold the car to a friend. I had let it sit idle for too long and it took some effort to get it running again. It became a daily driver for its new owner until a winter ice attack in traffic brought about its demise.

My Wheels — Chapter 26
1986 Acura Legend

We were shopping for a lamp. My daughter wanted to take piano lessons and her birthday present had been a little spinet piano. A piano lamp was needed so one day she and I went shopping. We picked up a traditional looking fake brass model rather quickly and were on our way home when I decided to take a look at a recently introduced car I’d been hearing about. The new lamp arrived home in a new car.

According to a recent Curbside Classic article, Honda’s new Acura division may have actually been aimed at Buick owners. I wasn’t aware of that at the time and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the exact Buick owner they had in mind. My Buick was a bottom of the ladder 4-cylinder Century. Of course, driving a bottom rung Buick that was already showing some quality issues in the form of detaching trim made Honda’s new upscale offering look even better. The build quality reminded me of the Audi I had owned several vehicles back which was not at all like the Chevy, Renault, Buick that had followed.

New automotive divisions need need new customers and when the smoke cleared I was driving a Acura Legend LS for about the same monthly payments as the Buick. There was a catch however. I had the Legend on a lease. A five year lease. It remains the only auto lease I’ve ever signed. One of the things I disliked was the small window for ending the arrangement. I don’t recall details and it may not have been as awful as I remember but I believe that ending the lease on either side of a one month or so window would have resulted in unpleasant financial penalties. The other thing I didn’t like was the five year part. At this point, I’d owned twenty-five cars over twenty-three years or a little less than a year per car average. Five years seemed forever. Times change of course. I’m now driving a car I’ve had for just over six years with no real plans to dump it.

That first generation Acura really was an impressive car. I described it as something that, like the Audi, was built by people who thought they might have to ride in it someday. I don’t recall ever having a mechanical problem with it. However, it was once in the shop for a long time. Piano lessons were again involved.

As I drove my daughter home from her lesson one morning we encountered a long overpass covered with ice and cars in random positions. I don’t think there had been any contact but as cars started sliding everyone stopped as best they could. This included a large ambulance on my left and a little bit ahead. Drivers had gotten out of some of the cars and were trying to flag others to a stop before they reached the ice. One of the vehicles that didn’t get stopped was a large firetruck. This was behind me and in my rear view mirror the bright red fire truck turned sideways and sliding toward me looked like the biggest thing I had ever seen. My daughter and I leaned back against the seats as the truck hit a brand new Mustang, a nearly new Cadillac, the Legend, and the ambulance. Fortunately the ambulance was not carrying a patient but ladders and other equipment was scattered everywhere.

Because of laws covering municipalities and liability, my insurance company had to cover the repair. They may have eventually recovered all or part of the cost but I don’t really know. The cost was well over $5,000 and it took months. There weren’t many Acura parts in the U.S. yet.

The picture at the top of the article was taken from the internet. I do that a lot more than I like but sometimes I just don’t have my own photos. Sometimes I do. I still have the lamp.

My Wheels – Chapter 25
1985 Buick Century

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who didn’t think the 1985 Century was particularly photo worthy. Not only have I no pictures of mine but the only internet picture I found of something similar is the one at right. Mine was new so had wheel covers and all its chrome bits but it may have looked much like the picture at some point in its life.

The Century was Buick’s member of the A-Body family which included the Chevrolet Celebrity, the Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, and the Pontiac 6000. I was drawn to the family by a company owned Celebrity that the service manager drove and praised. I found my car in a newspaper ad where I think it was the low-end come-on among pricier and more desirable LeSabres, Regals, and Rivieras. It had the inline 4-cylinder which was not, I’ve read, very popular. Neither was it, I soon learned, very peppy. It was hooked to a three-speed automatic. The car had power locks but not power windows. Nor did it initially have a right hand mirror.

The absent mirror is easy to remember because it was the last piece of the deal. I had come to really depend on mirrors on both sides and ended negotiations with, “I’ll take it if you include a passenger side mirror.” The factory installed mirror on the left side was flat black and in a day or so I had a matching one on the right of my new purchase.

Although it wasn’t very powerful, smooth, or quiet the 2.2 liter engine did an adequate job and delivered pretty good mileage. Actually, “adequate” is a pretty good description of the whole car. It once carried two adults and four kids, one a teenager, to and from Myrtle Beach. It wasn’t roomy or particularly comfortable. It was adequate.

The American auto industry was not known for its quality in the mid-1980s. The Century’s materials may have been slightly better than those used in the company’s Celebrity but the build quality was about the same. A couple pieces of interior trim were already falling off when I traded the car at about a year old.

My Wheels – Chapter 24
1983 Renault Alliance

There was a time when I was truly smitten with this car. Others were too. It was Motor Trend‘s “Car of the Year” and it was included in Car and Driver‘s “10 Best”. Many were the automotive writers who praised the first offering from AMC under Renault ownership. That experts praised the little car certainly influenced my opinion but I recall that I sincerely hought it was physically attractive. Yeah, that’s the kind of smitten I’m talking about.

Much of the praise that the gurus heaped on the car had to do with its economical operation and good value pricing. Recent changes in my job, living arrangements, and family size brought on the need for an efficient people hauler so maybe I just fooled myself into liking the looks to make the super practicality palatable. Whatever the full thought process was, I was quite proud of myself when I bought a shiny new dark gray four-door four-speed.

For many the shine wore off quite quickly. Mechanical problems were fairly common and rust often appeared quicker than it should. In 2009 Car and Driver actually apologized for putting the car in their “10 Best” list twenty-six years earlier. I don’t know that Motor Trend or any of the other publications that had climbed on the Alliance band wagon delivered their own apologies but neither do I know of any that actively defended their 1983 behavior.

My own problems were minor. The coil sometimes arced in wet weather until I upped the insulation by applying an ugly wad of electrical tape and a starter connection vibrated loose — twice!.

I guess I really didn’t have the car long enough to get hit with rust or any more serious mechanical issues. In their apology, Car and Driver point out that one of the first acts of Chrysler after taking over AMC in 1987 was “the mercy-killing of the Alliance”. My personal Alliance had been the target of its own mercy killing two years earlier. For the first time ever I was at the wheel of a car when it was totaled and it wasn’t even slightly my fault.

I was the last in a line of cars stopped at a light in heavy rain when I was rear-ended by a teenager driving with his mother on a learners permit. The Alliance was advertised as having reclining seats although what they really did was lean back as a unit like a rocking chair. When the other car hit, my seat completely “reclined” so that I was momentarily nearly flat on my back. Then my car was pushed into the one in front of me and I sprang upright and cracked a rib against the floor shift. I’m not sure of specifics but I understood the the boy and his mother had minor injuries of about the same severity and that there were no injuries at all in the car in front of me. I was obviously quite lucky that my injuries weren’t worse and I maybe I could even be considered lucky for being spared the pain of watching my Car of the Year rust away.

My Wheels – Chapter 23
1972 BMW R75

For once I didn’t have to snag a picture from the internet to show what my vehicle looked like. Plus, unlike the previous My Wheels chapter, there’s no need for paid models to spice things up. The photo at right shows my future ex-wife riding my future ex-motorcycle.

I hadn’t been exactly eager to sell the Chevelle and I was less than comfortable with a truck being my only transportation. My ears perked up when I heard that a neighbor’s brother was selling his motorcycle. In some corner of my mind I’d always wanted a BMW. I started to make that seem more generic by saying I’d always wanted a touring bike but the truth is that a BMW is the touring bike I had in mind. I remember seeing my first Beemer when, as a high school junior or senior, I stepped outside the school as a shiny black one rolled past. I recall its windshield and teardrop saddlebags. The slightly futuristic looking bags might have been part of the attraction but I believe what impressed me the most was how purposeful it looked. That bike was made to go places. It may have been the first vehicle that produced the phrase “road trip” in my mind. I took one test ride on the proffered three-toned motorcycle then bought it.

The motorcycle itself was blue. The after market faring and saddlebags were white and the trunk was black. With all that luggage space and the “made to go places” thinking of the previous paragraph, you might reasonably expect me to spend the next summer touring the country on two wheels. If that’s what you expect you will be disappointed. I did and I was.

I had a nearly new van that functioned as a camper which made it a natural choice for overnight trips. It was also a good people hauler and was a popular vehicle for group outings. That left the BMW with only solo journey duty and, since I was heavily involved with the lady in the photo, there weren’t many of those of any length. I crossed the river into Kentucky several times and made it to Indiana once or twice but the BMW spent almost all of its time in Ohio where I often did take the long — sometimes really long — way home from work.

I laid it down once. I was off to visit a friend living on a gravel road. I moved slow in the ruts that previous travelers had made. It was dry and those ruts had been pretty much cleared of gravel. I let my speed creep up. By the time a gravel ridge did appear, I’d let it creep too much. I shoved the bike away from me as it went down. In my mind’s eye, it rose high in the air while spinning over and over waiting for me to slide under it and be crushed. In reality it was probably never more than a foot off of the ground and flipped exactly one and a half times. It was enough to snap off the windshield and leave scratches on both bike and rider. My scratches healed and the bike’s weren’t bad enough to worry about. A new windshield was purchased.

I also got one ticket. A small group of friends were spending the weekend at one of the group’s family cottage near Indian Lake. I was taking one of the wives on a tour when flashing lights appeared behind us. I stopped and was told I had failed to stop at a stop sign. I really believed that all forward motion had ceased for a second and the officer seemed to agree. “But your feet didn’t touch the ground”, he said. We weren’t far from the cottage so my rider simply walked back while I followed the officer to the unmanned station which he unlocked. I was able to pay the fine which means it couldn’t have been more than $25 or so. As he wrote out a receipt, I commented that if they stopped every motorcyclist whose feet didn’t touch the ground they were probably making a lot of money. He looked up with a smile that stopped just short of a grin and said, “We do alright.”

The last story is about a malfunction. The clutch cable broke on the way to visit a friend in Cincinnati. I don’t recall whether it snapped as I pulled up to the light or started to pull away and I don’t recall whether it was panicked braking or a panicked key removal that killed the engine. Whatever the specifics, I found myself without a clutch at the bottom of the last hill to my friend’s house.

Shifting a moving motorcycle is no big deal and neither is getting it into neutral for a stop. Getting a motorcycle moving without a clutch is significantly more difficult. One way is to start the engine then get things rolling enough to slip into some gear. It’s rather easy going down hill, kind of tricky on level ground, and essentially impossible going up hill. I had my choice of the latter two. There was an empty parking lot about a half block way where I could get the bike started and ride it abound in circles. The reason for the circles was to time my arrival at the the light with it being green. I failed at least once but made it on the second or third attempt.

There were a few more malfunctions and probably a minor adventure or two but nothing big. As I recall, there were some electrical issues with the bike when I changed residences. I left it in a storage area at the apartment complex I was moving from and other things in my life kept its retrieval a low priority. It eventually just disappeared.

My Wheels – Chapter 22
1970 Chevelle

chevelle70redUnfortunately I’ve found no photos of my 1970 Chevelle. Fortunately the internet is absolutely filled with photos of 1970 Chevelles. Unfortunately not many of those look very much like mine. The era of the Chevelle and the era of the muscle car are pretty much one and the same. As I’ll demonstrate shortly, non-muscular Chevelles existed but it’s tire smokers like the big block Super Sport at right (Tom Mullally’s Red One) that get pampered, photographed, and posted.

When I ordered the van, I anticipated reserving it for camping and other long distance trips and having the Audi around for normal daily use. All that changed with my tree encounter so I was a ready recipient when my now former mother-in-law decided on a new car. The Chevelle that replaced the Chevy II I had seen through its final days became mine for about $300.

chevelle70bluechevelle70greenMy Chevelle looked more like a composite of the two at left (also snatched from the internet) than the one at top. It was a blue 2-door hardtop but without the vinyl top. I think it had full wheel covers like the green car but I admit I’m less than certain. Like the Chevy II before it, the Chevelle had spent its life outside in an apartment complex parking lot and was seriously dinged and dinghy. It was not a rusty wreck, however, and was mechanically sound. With its 307 V8 and automatic transmission, it was neither as economical or as fun to drive as the Audi but it wasn’t bad. I suspect new shocks would have helped considerably.

I owned the car less than a year and really have no stories about it. As the number two vehicle in a one driver stable, the Chevelle became something of a loaner in my circle of friends. A semi-frequent borrower needed something long term and pushed me to sell the car. I was far from anxious to part with it but he needed the car and I didn’t. I sold the Chevelle for exactly what I had paid and told myself that the sale was better than a permanent loan.

My Wheels – Chapter 21
1979 Chevrolet G10

chevvanThere are surely better pictures of this van around but this was all I could find as I wrote this post. It was my first new vehicle and one of only two that were custom ordered. A friend who worked at a dealer in Cincinnati handled the order. It had a 305 CI V8, 3-speed automatic, air-conditioning, cruise control, and no interior. By no interior I mean it had a basic driver’s seat and nothing else. I stopped on the way home from picking up the van and bought a pair of “captain’s chairs”. I sold the single stock seat back to the dealer for a few dollars.

chevvan1I clipped that opening shot from the photo at left. I’m helping my sons with a Christmas present so it must be late December which makes the van, delivered in September, just a few months old. The “conversion” may have started but I’m sure it had not progressed very far. Fletcher did eventually solo and so did Cris.

Calling what I did to the van a conversion stretches the definition of the word a bit. I covered the floor with plywood and the walls and ceiling with cheap paneling. That paneling went over scraps of insulation retrieved from a furnace manufacturer’s dumpster. Four inches of foam on a raised platform in the back served as a bed. I never did get around to carpeting the interior but that was probably for the best. Another thing I never got around to was seat-belts. The factory seat had a belt attached that went away with the seat. Mounting belts to the replacements was not recommended. What was supposed to be used were extra long belts bolted to the floor. That never happened.

This was a recreational vehicle. It made several camping trips to the Smokies and other nearby spots. It made one trip to Missouri and another to San Diego. In 1982 it attended the Knoxville World’s Fair.

At the time of the World’s Fair trip, all three kids were living with me full time. We were going on to visit friends in Alabama after our one day at the fair so the boys’ bicycles were hung on a rack on the front and the girl’s tricycle was stowed inside. The daughter and youngest son spent the night before in the van to avoid the need to wake up for the early morning departure. We had a great time at the fair although some of us got exhausted quicker than the others. Megan and I spent the last part of the day on a bench while the brothers ran around getting stamps on their fair passports. We were all exhausted by the time we reached a campground south of Knoxville. We were also pretty dirty from the hot day and looking forward to showers. That’s when we discovered we had no towels. Well, most of us had no towels. Only Fletcher had remembered this most important item (Douglas Adams would have been proud of him.) and after he had showered and dried the rest of us did the best we could with the no longer dry Star Trek beach towel.

In 1983 or ‘4 the van entered a new phase in its life. I attended my first of thirteen consecutive Indianapolis 500s in 1981. It was with a group who had several years experience camping at the track and charging into the infield on race morning. Parts of that charge resembled a demolition derby so most of the vehicles used were confirmed beaters. From its time as camper and all purpose transporter, the Chevy van had more than its ahare of dings and scratches but was not yet a beater when it was pressed into service as an Indy car. After a few years, I fully embraced the van’s participation in the annual event and built a deck on its top. Standing atop vehicles to watch the race was standard procedure and the deck made that easier and safer. The deck was made of something like 2x8s on edge and screwed to the gutters with plywood across the top.

I think it might have been the same year that the deck went on that the ignition went sour. A friend removed the ignition switch from the dash and ran new wire to it. It dangled from the dash and worked just fine. Track officials seemed to come up with a new rule or two every year and after several years with the sturdy deck in place, they decided it had to be removed. At that point there was only one person riding with me and, with screwdrivers and a hammer, the two of us ripped the deck off as quickly as we could.

The dangling ignition switch eventually gave out and I replaced it with two wall switches. One turned on the ignition and the other operated the starter. It was a pretty good anti-theft device although the possibility of any one stealing the van at this point was awfully slim. A blown freeze plug interrupted our last drive together. I nursed it home where it sat until a trade opportunity came along.

My Wheels – Chapter 20
1972 Audi 100 LS

audi100My friends had a red one that really impressed me. They were antique dealers and the car had been part of an exchange involving furniture. “If another deal like that ever comes along”, I told them, “I’ll take it.” It did and I did.

That red Audi 100 LS was a two-door automatic. I think it was a year or two newer than the white four-door four-speed that I bought after it was swapped for an armoire. It was the build quality as much as anything that impressed me about the Audis. I commented more than once that it felt like the car was built by people who thought they might have to ride in it someday. The photo is from the internet. That’s not my car but it’s close. The only obvious differences are the fog lights and wide European style license plate area.

The car came with two invisible flaws. The first was a failing second gear synchronizer which, although it couldn’t be seen with eyes, was instantly apparent with a drive. Surprisingly, perhaps, it was almost instantly relegated to a mere inconvenience. Matching engine and gear speed was actually quite easy. With a brief pause in neutral and a restrained throttle blip, a shift to second was usually completed without even double-clutching. It quickly became second nature to me. The other flaw appeared infrequently but was much more than an inconvenience and was, at least indirectly, involved in the Audi’s demise.

The issue was carburetor icing. Under the right conditions, something in the carburetor would freeze and prevent the car from running. There were only a few time that this behavior left me stranded but, since those right conditions consisted mostly of wet and cold, the strandings made an impression. I can’t claim that my sources were all that reliable but, after some consulting and reading, I came to believe that the cause of my troubles was a warped plate in the carburetor. This was known to occur now and then and trigger the symptoms I was seeing. Whatever it was I was reading indicated that replacing the factory unit with a Weber was the thing to do.

The Weber carb and some other bits had to be ordered which in those days meant snail mail in both directions. I half recall starting the installation then delaying it to get one more connector or something but the swap was eventually made and the car ran fine but not for long.

audiwreckIt’s not at all clear to me what happened but, as is obvious from the photo, it wasn’t good. That really is my car. The official story is that I was drunk and lost control. I also lost my license for several months. I don’t dispute the official story but neither can I confirm it.

What I remember is this. I finished the carburetor swap and set out for a test drive. I stopped at a bar, had one drink, and left for home. I came to in a hospital emergency room. The police dropped me off at home.

Friends I had chatted with at the bar confirmed that I had left after one drink. The location of the wreck was between the bar and my home but not on the most direct route. My blood alcohol level was above the limit though not by much. It’s possible that I stopped at another bar, had another drink — or more — and was headed home from that second stop. It’s also possible that I didn’t take the shortest path home because I was trying out the new carb and that the one drink, scotch & ice, was responsible for my BAC. Even though mentioning it may seem like excuse hunting, it’s possible that something in the newly connected throttle linkage failed and contributed to the accident.

I’ll never know for sure what happened but I will forever be thankful that no one else was involved and that the only damage was to me, my car, and a little landscaping.

My Wheels – Chapter 19
1970 Chevrolet Nova

nova70Again I must confess to a purloined photo gracing yet another My Wheels post. My car did not have the highly visible dual exhausts or fancy wheels of the pictured vehicle nor did it have the unseen 350 V8 and 4-speed floor shift. Mine was a 307 V8 with a 3-speed automatic. However, my car was, just like the one at right, a Cortez Silver 2-door with — and this is important — black vinyl top. It is the only vinyl topped car I’ve ever owned and one of very few I can even imagine owning without some level of embarrassment. While I doubt everyone agrees that the vinyl covering looks pretty good on this car it’s apparent that I’m not alone in thinking so. There are many full restorations of third generation Nova coupes that include a restored vinyl top. And that includes some high-end 396 Super Sports.

There was nothing extraordinary in my acquisition of the car. I bought it from a Chevy dealer’s used car lot for a reasonable but not remarkable price. I don’t recall any of the numbers though I do recall some evidence surfacing while I owned the car that the miles showing on the odometer were considerably less than those actually traveled. Selling used cars has always been something of a craft and its practitioners somewhat crafty.

Viewed in isolation, there was nothing extraordinary about the Nova’s departure, either. However, when seen as part of the My Wheels story, it stands out as the first car I ever sold in drive-able condition to a stranger. Only three cars had previously left my possession while drive-able. The 1952 Ford was sold to a friend, my half of the 1959 Chevy went to my sister who already owned the other half, and the 1969 Opel stayed with my wife who already… well, you know.

The car came and went in roughly the same condition but deviated from that condition a couple of times along the way. One was when I slid off of a wet road on the way home from work and parked it solidly against a tree. That required a bit of popping and painting in a body shop.

Then there was the Joni Mitchell incident. A friend and I were headed to her concert in Oxford, Ohio. While stopped in a line of traffic leading to a parking lot we noticed a cloud of smoke from — we thought — the car ahead of us. When that car moved on and I attempted to follow, there was more smoke but no motion. In time we realized that the lack of motion, the racing engine, and the billowing cloud were all connected. We later learned that a hole had opened between the radiator and a transmission cooler mounted below it. The two different liquids attempted to change places and a goodly amount of each quickly escaped. The transmission stopped transmitting.

We somehow got a wrecker to tow the car to a nearby garage. There was nothing to be gained by hanging out at the garage and the friendly tow truck driver agreed to deliver us to the entrance of the concert hall. While we enjoyed the show, we managed to line up a ride home. After a few days and several telephone calls, I hitchhiked back to Oxford to get the car. While dramatic, things were not as bad as I feared. A little water may have entered the transmission but most of the errant flow went the other way. The transmission was undamaged and a flush and fill brought it back to life. A junkyard radiator replaced the one that caused the problem. The blow to my budget was painful but it could have been so much worse. If only that big tow truck had been yellow.