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The Original Bacon Rind Story
It wasn't my car - in fact one could scarcely call it my experience except for the fact that I was along on the trip and helped to make the repair and subsequent run home a possibility.
The car was a Ford roadster and its condition was far removed from what we are pleased to term the "pink of perfection." As a matter of cold fact, we had absolutely no business attempting even a short trip on a car in such bad shape even had the driving conditions been ideal as to grades and roads, not to mention weather.
But then, in my calling, I get around to our western and midwestern branches only infrequently; and when I do drop in on one, every move is made and every step taken to have me cover as much territory as possible during my short stay.
And so it was this day. I had happened in on Denver late in the summer - last summer - and had cleaned up about all the work in immediate vicinity of the "Mile-High" town which had been allotted me - with a day to spare. And then Strong, attached to our Denver branch happened along with a tale of a case of trouble which needed immediate action - and the scene of the festivities was laid way over the mountains, across from what the Denverites term Berthude Pass, if I am not mistaken.
And only this particular Ford was available!
So we started. We hit westward along the concrete highway out of Denver toward the mountain range, which was in plain view from the start. Eight to ten miles of travel brought us into the foothills, past Table Rock and skirting the edge of the town of Golden, which some time back-Strong said it was "B. P.", or before prohibition-was the capital of the State of Colorado.
And then began a thirteen-mile ascent, which was good when it ran only as high as 12 per cent, but which in spots reached 17 to 18 per cent. The figures are vouched for by Strong, who is a Denver boy. Of course, I had no gradometer or other means of verifying the gradient.
But at any rate, from the moment we passed through the gate to the Rocky Mountain Parks just outside of Golden, and attacked that grade, the Ford might just as well have been without a high-speed clutch-for it played absolutely no part in the performance of the engine.
It was a case of lean heavily on the low-speed pedal, give it all the throttle possible, and just fan the oil out of the crankcase with the rapidly whirling crankpins as the car slowly edged its way up the steep slope. Happily however, the roadway was good, the grade surface being in fair shape and while narrow in spots, especially at the sharp bends and "switch back" corners, at the best speed we could make on the up-grade there never was the slightest danger of losing control and dashing through the brown-stone-pillared, wire-rope fence which edged the roadway and gave one the feeling of partial security.
And I confess, that feeling was comforting to me, a newcomer in these parts.
The car had a knock in it when we started. Strong said that when in good condition it would take most of the less steep gradients on high, but this day each up-grade meant miles of low-gear work.
We were not sensible, however, to any increase in engine noise as a result of the hard treatment we accorded the little power plant, and even in its poor condition, while it got hot and very hot, it did not actually overheat to such an extent as to cause a falling off in pulling power which was noticeable to us.
Several miles up and at about an elevation of some 8,000 feet, if I remember rightly, we passed Lookout Mountain peak and the Cody (Buffalo Bill) monument, which tops it in grandeloquent style-and then after quite some further working up to heights of greater supremacy, we finally tapered off to level for a few miles and then began a descent of equal steepness and seemingly interminable extent.
Still no rest for the engine.
Neither service brake on the transmission drum nor emergency brake on the rear wheel drums gave perfect satisfaction and a feeling of full safety. And so the engine was brought into play again to act as a brake and check the car speed to apoint consistent with the road conditions and the numerous twists and turns which we encountered.
Straight down to the level of Clearwater Creek we traveled in this fashion, with the motor turning over nearly as fast as on the up-grade. Then we skirted the creek for miles and miles of approximately level traveling, out through Idaho Springs, past the Stanley mines, past the little city of Empire, which is the last settlement on the eastern side of Berthude Pass.
Then began the real ascent. Grades of interminable length and extreme steepness; road surface slippery and skiddy because of showers which preceded us. It was tough going, not only on us, but on the motor.
We had just about reached the timber line at an elevation of some 11,000 feet, and with miles and more miles of ascent ahead of us, when the inevitable happened-we 'shot" a front connecting rod bearing.
We blessed the salesman who used that particular car on his route for not seeing that it was kept in proper condition we blessed ourselves for not having filled up with proper oil at Idaho Springs or Empire-but that was only giving vent to our feelings-feelings which naturally were somewhat wrought up at facing a seemingly impossible mechanical repair, miles from nowhere, without the slightest chance of meeting a soul and not a bite to eat.
That was the principal rub.
So we sat down on the running-board to size up the situation and see what could be done. The most obvious suggestion was to work the car around and coast back to Empire - but that was impossible, for while the general trend of the road had been upward at accelerated rate, there were several level stretches and some downward grades which we knew full well we could not surmount.
That plan was quickly given up and we sought a mechanical solution.
There was no doubt but what the engine bearing was gone, the terrific knock gave ample and convincing evidence of that-enough to satisfy both of us without the necessity of removing the crankcase lower half.
We had just two choices. Leave the car there and walk back to Empire, a distance of several miles, which we probably could cover quite handily by nightfall or rip down the engine sufficiently to make a temporary repair-and then dig up some means of replacing the engine bearing so that we could run the motor at least temporarily
Very frankly, the latter course seemed almost hopeless with the few spare parts and tools which the average salesman's kit contains-and next to impossible when we remembered that the Ford hearing is poured in place there is no shell.
But the attempt was appealing to both of us.
And I had the satisfaction of hitting upon the first suggestion which had the merit of being practicable. In going over the assortment of junk which the turtle back of the roadster contained, we had come upon a couple of good rawhide straps-real leather, properly tanned and in the best of condition.
Why could we not make a bearing liner of leather from one of these and trust in the Graces that it would last us long enough to reach Empire with its lonesome garage, at least?
We could-both so agreed.
And so we started. Despite the absence of suitable tools, we had enough determination between us to get down the crankcase lower half in comparatively short time and managed to do it, too without spilling the oil.
It wasn't a very difficult job to undo the connecting rod bearing bolts, scrape out what little babbitt was left and clean up the cap and the rod bearing ready for the rawhide shell which we intended to put in.
The shell was made in two parts; an upper section which covered the bearing in the rod, and an under section which we formed to fit the cap. Elongated holes were cut for the passage of the connecting rod bearing bolts, and the edges to be pinched between the bearing and the cap were pared down with the knifeuntil we felt that they would just allow suitable clearance when the bo1ts were drawn up as tightly as our poor tools permitted.
Then we put the shells in place with the smooth or flesh side of the leather, which offered the least frictional drag, on the outside, first smearing the surfaces and the pin liberally with graphite grease to reduce the friction to a minimum.
Where did we get the graphite grease way up there on the mountain-side?>br>
For a while it looked like a case of "try and get it." We removed the caps from several of the chassis grease cup and found nothing but lump of hard greenish-yellow soap stock, the remnants of what one had been grease.
Finally we struck two which gave evidence of having recently been repacked, and as luck would have it they were each about half full of fresh graphite grease.
We used as little as we thought would be necessary to do the trick so as not to run the risk of "shorting: the magneto; set up the bearing as tightly as possible, which gave us a shake or play which we estimated to be about five-thousandths of an inch: wired the nuts so they could not back off even it they rattled loose under the pounding action of engine operation, replaced the oil pan and cranked up.
The engine started readily enough and there was no audible evidence of its having a rawhide bearing. We let it idle for a couple of minutes, just to see how the shell was going to stand up-and nothing detrimental happened. Everything worked smoothly and with perfect regularity.
So with some foreboding, I must confess, Strong got in to work the car around and head it the other way. I stayed out so as not to over load the engine, a point which we considered important.
Again nothing happened-the engine pulled just as well as when we started out and no serious knock was audible. And so we started back, easing up on the motor all we could; using the brakes more to check car speed and the engine only when absolutely necessary.
And at each of the up-grades, which happily were not many nor long, we gave it the gas with full expectancy of having it just naturally rip that rawhide bushing out of place on the load-but the little job topped each grade with no show of trouble.
By the time we sighted Empire we had accumulated enough confidence to desire to attempt to keep going till we reached Idaho Springs; when we reached the latter point we had no desire to stop and felt that the engine was equal to the task of pulling us over the grade and back into Denver.
In fact, Strong pointed out that the little narrow-gauge spur of the Colorado and Southern which connects Idaho Springs with Denver covers the very short distance in three hours, which a good car reduces to an hour and 35 minutes without stepping on it.
He felt that we might limp over in two hours or two hours and a quarter and get in late, but still in time to get a bite to eat before bedtime.
We did. We did not encounter any particular trouble, though we went through mile after mile of low gear work and used the engine freely as a brake coming down the Lookout Mountain slope into Golden.
And the strangest thing is that when the engine was torn down to make a real job of our temporary repair, the mechanics found the rawhide bearing in first class shape, with little evidence of having been much used or seriously pounded. I have the shell from the bearing cap as a souvenir of the occasion, and Strong kept the shell from the upper half of the bearing to attest to a repair which brought us home over a difficult route in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties.
Such repairs are sometimes worth trying.