Bondorella went on her longest journey yet, traveling 263 miles from Orange County California to Las Vegas Nevada, and for the most part, her old flathead did pretty darned well… as long as I didn’t slow down.
Since getting her back on the road September ’10, she’d been running rich, but no matter how many times the carbs were tuned, things didn’t change. Then I talked to a guy at a car show and he told me that was the nature of the Offenhauser/Stromberg setup I had, so I stopped worrying about it.
I shouldn’t have stopped worrying, as I discovered after the Vegas trip. Running rich isn’t normal. But first, how it all came to light…
The Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender was on, and since the idea for the club (the Gasoline Girls) first blossomed there, we had to go to complete the circle! Three of us made the trek, Kristin in her ’55 Studebaker, Becky Sue in her ’61 Comet, and me in Bondorella. The truck did outstanding on the road. I loved cruising her through the desert in a lineup of classics (we drove in a caravan with the Throttle Kings Car Club).
But once we pulled into Vegas, Bondorella started to run bad. Real bad. Like stalling at the lights bad. Maybe I’d pushed the poor old beast too hard trying to keep up with the Throttle Kings (now I know why they’re called Throttle Kings!) She sputtered into the car show grounds where she would sit and be admired for the next four days, and I tried not to think too much about it. Maybe she was just tired and needed a rest.
Call it denial.
The four-day rest, though, didn’t do her any good. On the trip home, she had the same issue with idling, but now she also had a strong fuel smell, something I hadn’t experienced since changing out the gas tank. The second I smelled it, I whipped to the side of the road for a “precautionary pullover” (our new Gasoline Girl catch phrase) and popped the hood. The last thing I wanted was to watch my baby burn to the ground. But I couldn’t find any obvious leak or cause of the fuel smell. Nine hours after leaving Las Vegas, sitting in 20 mph traffic nearly the entire way, poor old Bondorella coasted into my garage. She was done. I wanted to cry. Had I killed my baby?
While going over the symptoms with my feller, all of the sudden it hit me: the rough idle, running rich, the smell of gas… clearly the truck was flooding and fouling the plugs, so I asked my guy, “Is it possible a float is stuck?” He smiled and got all proud and said, “Yep. That’s probably your problem.” No way! I figured it out before he did!! Woo hoo!
Sure enough, the next day I pulled the Strombergs apart, and guess what? One of the floats was indeed sunk. A sinker instead of floater doesn’t do much good. There was a tiny little hole in the float, and it had filled with gas. More then likely, it had been like that all along, which explained why I couldn’t get the carbs to hold a tune, and why she was running so rich! She had some SERIOUSLY fouled plugs!
I put in some new spark plugs, a new float, tuned the carbs, and now she’s running better then ever!
But more then that, I had my first successful mechanical diagnosis!!!! Up until now, I’d been maintaining or doing a job with lots of guidance to learn, but I wondered if I’d ever get to the point where I could figure out the “why” behind the problem–and I did it!!!! Sorry for the overuseof exclamation points, but this is very exciting to me. Thanks for your indulgence.
What’s next for Bondorella? An oil change this weekend to get rid of that nasty dark oil from the truck running so rich, and then we’re off for more great adventures!!!!
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