By Lauryn Poynor
|Authors Note: I'd
like to acknowledge the NPR "Car Talk" guys, Tom and Ray Magliozzi (AKA
Click and Clack the Tappet brothers) for giving me many hours of entertainment
with their weekly broadcast and for inspiring me to cross over into new
fanfic territory. Special thanks also to Susannah who showed how it could
be done by giving us (NPR's) Guy Noir, Private Steele.
This story has been rigorously inspected by the Big Three. No, not Chrysler, Ford, and GM! My editorial board (and test drivers) Anne Rose, MJ, and Susannah. Thanks for steering me in the right direction and sticking with me to the final lap.
Usual disclaimers apply with one very important addition. Do not contact the author for car advice. Read at your own risk. Keep in mind that the author once took ten minutes to open the hood latch of a rented Ford Taurus.
|Car Talk Steele: Steele / Donald / Mildred / Laura / Guy / Bernice / Murphy / Fred|
|[Car Talk theme
- Dawgy Mountain Breakdown by Dave Grusin]
RAY: Hello, and welcome to Car Talk from National Public Radio. We're Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers and we're broadcasting this week from the Spring Cleaning Division of Car Talk Plaza in Cambridge, MA, Our Fair City. We're breaking out the heavy duty Dustbusters for this special show, scouring the attic for tapes of our finest moments in broadcasting from years past. Our intrepid recovery efforts make raising the Titanic look like a snooze in the shade. Speaking of snoozing, don't worry, you listeners can kick back while we do the heavy lifting for you - those boxes of National Geographics are a chiropractor's dream! Watch out for that falling eight track tape collection! [reverberating crash noise] Tommy, where's my hard hat?
TOM: Without further ado, here is the Best of Car Talk -Spring Cleaning Edition - for your listening - or snoozing - pleasure.
TOM: 1-800-332-9287. Hello. You're On Car Talk.
REMINGTON: This is Remington calling from Los Angeles.
RAY: So, Remington. That's some moniker you've got there. Tell us, were your parents in a shotgun wedding by any chance?
REMINGTON: Not to my knowledge.
TOM: Too bad. I thought maybe you and say, Annie Oakley might have something in common.
REMINGTON: Ah. Annie Oakley. As in 'Annie Get Your Gun.' Betty Hutton, Howard Keel. MGM, 1950. Of course Judy Garland was supposed to have played that role but -
TOM: And I thought it was Ethel Merman.
RAY: Shows how much you know, brother of mine.
REMINGTON: Ethel Merman was in the stage version.
TOM: Well, I was half right. Fifty percent accuracy. Close enough for grease monkeys. [sings, off key] 'there's no business like show business, like no business -'
RAY: Puhleeze. The man's called a pair of quantum mechanics from Car Talk for help. Not Joe's Karaoke Bar and Laundromat.
TOM: If you're not a product of a shotgun wedding, given our clues so far, are you perhaps a product of UCLA Film School?
REMINGTON: Movies are just a hobby of mine. Though I've been asked, on occasion, to do a bit of lecturing. And here in the movie mecca of Los Angeles, a good looking chap such as myself - thick, glossy black hair, steely blue eyes, strong jaw line - tends to be mistaken for a film star. An occupational hazard but one learns to live with it. Why just the other day I was sitting at my usual table at Valentino's -
TOM: Hate to interrupt but our assistant producer is frantically reminding us of the occupational hazards of radio, like segments running overtime.
REMINGTON: I find the movies
a never ending source of inspiration. Art and life are interwoven on so
RAY: Speaking of threads,
let's back up before we lose the vanishing thread of this conversation.
Where did you get the
REMINGTON: It's after a favourite typewriter, I believe.
TOM: No fooling. Could have been worse. Your mother could have named you Underwood. Or Olivetti.
RAY: Or Smith-Corona. Remember that old Underwood #11 that I used to type my term papers on? Now that was a mechanical marvel. Not to mention a workout. Ten pounds of pressure per key. I sprained my wrist typing 'Shakespeare' once and -
REMINGTON: I'm sure typewriter aficionados will find that fascinating but you wouldn't perchance have some mechanical knowledge of cars, would you?
RAY: Not according to our legal department. But that's another story.
TOM: Now that our attorneys
at Dewey, Cheetham and Howe have
RAY: What sort of automotive
mystery has you stumped? Vexed?
REMINGTON: Sticky lifters.
TOM: Sticky lifters? Again? Did you call last week? I was hoping for something with a little more je ne sais quoi. You know, it's pledge week and they're really breathing down our necks about ratings. But if it's the best you can do -
RAY: Ignore my brother. He's sucked in way too many exhaust fumes from that 1963 Dodge Dart of his. Not recommended in your formative years. So. Remy. Can I call you Remy?
REMINGTON: Not if you expect me to answer. Can I call you Creighton?
RAY: So. Remington. Give us some essential background here. What sort of car do you drive?
REMINGTON: She's an undisputed classic. An Auburn. 1936 supercharged Boattail Speedster.
TOM: Hello ratings! I think that qualifies as je ne sais quoi. What a beauty! Al Leamy design, straight 8 Lycoming engine, 150 BHP -
RAY: Whoa! Hold the phone. Al Leamy left the Auburn Company in '34. The 1936 Auburn was by Gordon Beuhrig, once chief designer of the Duesenberg. And of course the revolutionary Cord 810 and 812.
TOM: Au contraire. The Auburn
boattail design was a Leamy
REMINGTON: How gratifying to see you both have an appreciation of the classic design elements. Now if we could just get back to the original reason for my call.
RAY: Just trying to educate the listeners out there.
TOM: Yeah. All two of them. Hi mom and dad!
RAY: Sticky lifters, huh? Is that a professional opinion or something in the neighborhood of a wild guess?
REMINGTON: Both, I suspect.
TOM: A wild guess by a professional. We're familiar with those.
RAY: Could you describe what kind of sound the car is making. Ticking? Tapping?
REMINGTON: [mimics the sound] something like that.
TOM: That's very good. You could get a job on '60 Minutes.'
REMINGTON: I don't follow you.
RAY: Don't mind him. He watches too much television.
REMINGTON: Ah. Television. The small screen. Anathema to a cinemaphile. Deadens the mind, corrupts the soul.
RAY: Funny, that's what our listeners say about radio. Back to the car. Does this noise happen when the engine is cold or hot?
REMINGTON: Both actually.
TOM: Then it's probably not sticky lifters. Maybe a loose heat shield or something. Any engine vibration will trigger it.
RAY: That, or you have a time bomb or a rattlesnake under there. Seen anyone suspicious poking around under the hood?
REMINGTON: Other than my mechanic?
RAY: Before we embark on an in-depth analysis we always ask a few pertinent questions of our callers.
TOM: Like, did you bring your checkbook?
RAY: Or do you work for the
IRS? But, no matter what the
TOM: Or not.
RAY: How would you describe your car to someone who's never seen it?
REMINGTON: I'd say it's very stylish without being flashy. Daring, yet understated.
TOM: Let's get to the heart of the matter. You're driving one of the most breathtaking American automobiles ever built. A one-of-a kind classic of automotive design. A car that makes your fellow motorists turn green with envy as you pass on the highway. I have to ask because we get a lot of calls on this, does your car give you incredible luck with women?
REMINGTON: Hard to say, really. When one is preturnaturally gifted with looks and charm, the outward trappings are somewhat secondary.
RAY: So what you're saying is that if you were driving a lime green Pacer from Rent-a-Wreck women would still be falling at your feet?
REMINGTON: I think that's a fair summation.
TOM: Paging Dr. Freud. I'm
having deep rooted feelings of inadequacy right now. Let's talk about the
car. Exactly when
REMINGTON: It's rather mysterious, actually. The Auburn seems to have developed quite a few shakes and rattles since we acquired her. Can't imagine why. Well, it's true we did, um, dismantle her a couple of times but I don't think she's missing anything essential.
RAY: Dismantled? The plot
thickens. Why were you taking the
REMINGTON: The car had a very curious history. It was rumoured that an item of great value was hidden in it.
TOM: Funny you should say that. In my line of work it happens all the time. I've found two fossilized eight track tape players in the last six months. Luckily I was able to preserve the species for posterity.
RAY: What's that got to do with anything? The man's driving a 1936 Auburn, not a 1973 Gremlin. An eight track player! Jeez Louise.
TOM: OK, how 'bout a 1936 Motorola AM tube radio.
RAY: Let's get back on track here. Who was involved in this dismantling process? You and your mechanic?
REMINGTON: Afraid not. Someone slightly more amateur. Rather charmingly so. Perhaps we should have enlisted our mechanic's help but there were other, shall we say, compensatory factors. For a start, she's much better looking than he is. In fact, she's really quite something. Stylish without being flashy, daring yet understated.
RAY: Just like the car.
REMINGTON: Exactly. I've
caressed every inch of her. Lovely
RAY: The amateur?
REMINGTON: The Auburn. Ah, yes, all those moonlight drives and cogitating on just how far down that road she will let me go.
RAY: The Auburn?
REMINGTON: The amateur.
TOM: So you and this gorgeous female were working together, cheek to cheek, in cramped quarters, taking apart a highly complex piece of machinery. Just how hard were you concentrating?
REMINGTON: Hard. Very hard. Removing everything was rather fun, actually. Though the eventual process of putting the pieces back together was a bit sticky. As you say, it was rather cramped and difficult to maneuver but we were able to manage. Where there's a will, there's a way.
RAY: This partner of yours, does she freelance? Because we could use a hand ourselves.
REMINGTON: She's strictly non-professional. Although she was surprisingly good. She's always had a knack for the nuts and bolts operational details. I, on the other hand, have often worked best in an advisory capacity.
TOM: Now that's a useful phrase. 'Advisory capacity.' I'll trot that one out the next time my wife asks me to do something around the house.
REMINGTON: It's odd that you remark upon my luck with women because I had better luck that day under the car with the woman in question than I've had in it.
RAY: Aha! Now we're getting somewhere. What does that suggest to you?
REMINGTON: I've no idea.
TOM: There are a lot of women out there who find using tools stimulating. Or maybe she just gets turned on by the smell of axle grease.
RAY: Let's go back to your assessment of your respective roles. Methinks there's something there. That day, under the car, were you operating in an advisory capacity or were you pitching in, so to speak?
REMINGTON: I was extremely involved. We were both working hand in glove. Perfectly meshed. Every move a miracle of timing and coordination.
TOM: Down to the nuts and bolts operation?
RAY: There's your answer.
REMINGTON: Come again?
RAY: She doesn't want a guy who works in an advisory capacity. A shirker. A figurehead. She wants someone who gets down to the nitty-gritty. Sweats the details. Puts his back into it. Believe me, a hard working man is a huge turn-on for women. Well, that's what my wife says.
REMINGTON: Are you sure? I mean, couldn't the facts suggest some other interpretation?
TOM: Let's recap. Since that day, have you gotten anywhere with the two of you in the car?
REMINGTON: Not nearly as far as I'd like.
RAY: Of course she could just be incredibly nervous. She's probably riding in a death trap.
TOM: I'd say buy yourself a tool belt and you're home free.
REMINGTON: What about the car?
RAY: After you were done, were there any parts left over? Engines? Transmissions? Stuff like that?
REMINGTON: No, um, we were concentrating mostly on bodywork. There were some parts left over but nothing substantial.
TOM: I'm not one to pry but, um, how many left over parts?
REMINGTON: Oh, a desk drawer full of assorted bits and pieces.
RAY: So what you're telling us is you're driving a car on the highway that has more loose screws than my Aunt Ida.
REMINGTON: It's a very small drawer.
TOM: Do yourself and your fellow drivers a favor and find someone who does restorations on classic cars. It won't be cheap but they'll know how to put your Auburn back together. Bring your ladyfriend. Maybe the two of you could watch. Consider it part of your therapy, or foreplay, if you will. Then go home and work up a sweat of your own.
RAY: That is, unless hearing the words 'work' and 'sweat' in the same sentence is bad for your libido. It sure is for mine.
REMINGTON: I think I'll manage.
TOM: I suspect you will.
[ Steele A State Of Mind ]