Back on the Road Again


Not having had much time to update my blog, this will update readers on my cross country trip (again) with my 1934 Pontiac, “Phiona”.

Wednesday started out well and I felt fairly hopeful that this trip with the newly installed overdrive would present me no problems or ones that were manageable. My brother in law Richard is accompanying me and all seemed well until we were 209 miles away in Fairfield/Hamilton, Ohio when, starting out from a stop and shifting into first gear, all I heard was grinding. A second attempt produced the same unsettling sound. This can’t we good, I thought. Allowing the car to coast into a parking lot, I tried again and still the awful grinding noise. Hanging my head, I slumped over the steering wheel - not AGAIN!                                

A few moments of just absorbing the situation, my first call was to Lloyd Young in Canal Winchester, OH, from whom I had bought the overdrive. He had me contact Glenn Metzler in Circleville, OH who did the actual work installing it in my car. Both offered that I get the car to Glenn 112 miles to the East. Next, the call to AAA to get a flatbed truck to come fetch us and take us to Circleville. Nearly an hour later, a tow truck arrived telling us about 6 other companies had turned down the job because they were afraid of loading and hauling an antique car. This driver, however, was a true ‘\"car guy” and, though young was fearless in taking on the task. 

Glenn met us at his machine shop near sunset, where we unloaded Phiona and put her up on the lift. There it was discovered that a plate, basically a spacer to fit the unit to the driveshaft and rear differential, had a broken weld that caused the unit to move and thus damage some gears which prevented it from engaging. 

Glenn and his wife Mary offered to host us as houseguests while the repairs were being done, a very generous and gracious gift to us poor, stranded travelers.

I should mention that Lloyd Young is 86 years old and reconditions old Borg Warner overdrives, updating them to work electronically, not manually. Unknownst to me beforehand, I found his wife Shirley had passed about 3 weeks ago and Lloyd had just been released from hospital for his own health issues. I had met Shirley in June when we took Phiona to them to install the overdrive. She was an avid “car person” and was an AACA judge for nearly 60 years, plus she had an incredible collection of vintage cars at their home in Canal Winchester. I felt bad for coming back to Lloyd under such trying times for him, but he was very anxious to remedy the situation so that we could get back on the road without further difficulties.

The next day, Thursday, Glenn and his helper Bob disassembled the unit from the car, finding the damages. We then traveled to Lloyd’s place and picked up a new overdrive that Lloyd had already prepped. It measured slightly differently which would require some machining of parts to provide an exact, tight fit. After all the machining, shaving off metal on a lathe, they had the parts fitting precisely. By early afternoon it was reassembled and time for a test drive. Unfortunately it would not shift into overdrive. Calls to Lloyd went unaswered, so Glenn tired to figure out the problem on his own. Back to the shop, further tinkering, second test drive, again - no go. Once again, back up on the lift, further inspection and adjusting. Third time is always a charmer they say. Well, not so in this case. Again, calls to Lloyd went unanswered, for surely Lloyd would have a good idea of why this unit was not working. Talk also included installing the former base unit back in Phiona, but it was after dark by then and it was time to let it rest overnight.

Later that night Lloyd did call Glenn back and told him a small rod, accessible from under a freeze plug was the likely gremlin holding up the proper working of the overdrive. Glenn doubted that, but the next morning (now Friday)  we returned to the shop, and found that tiny little rod was hung up and not releasing completely. After working it back and forth numerous times it finally seated itself and then functioned as intended. The next test drive was perfect, and allowed us to then quickly get back to our travels. 

Of course, I had to re-route us to try to make up for the lost time, including the drive on the Ohio River Scenic Byway, following the Ohio River on the Indiana side to near Louisville, KY. Instead we drove across most of Southern Indiana on US-50 and ended the day in Grayville, Illinois.

And so, now Saturday evening and we have made it to Little Rock, Arkansas for tonight. It was a very pleasant day for driving. And did I ever drive - 472 miles! That is quite a daily distance in a 1934 Pontiac. Yesterday, we drove from Circleville, OH to Grayville, IL  in the south of that state. Today I drove from 7:20 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with lunch stop and fuel stops of course, including a stop at Cave in Rock, IL where there is a huge limestone cave along the Ohio River, where, reputedly, bandits and others of ill repute once preyed on unsuspecting river travelers. But the best part of Cave In Rock was crossing the Ohio River on a ferry. They even waited for me when they saw us driving toward the launch dock. The ferry ride was free, much to my surprise. A day driving along scenic rural roads, rolling hills, some Fall color and then another (bridge this time) crossing of the Ohio into Cairo, IL and returning across another bridge over the Mississippi. Cairo is where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers converge.

One of the best parts of the day was driving nearly non-stop on US-67 from Pocahontas, AR to Little Rock, AR. With an initial plan to stop today in Searcy, AR. but, not being tired, and trying to make up time, I decided to burn daylight and continue on to Little Rock instead. Initially I had been driving between 55 -58 mph, but this afternoon I bumped it up to 60+ and Phiona with her overdrive just purred along. It is nice to drive without all the engine noise when in direct drive.

Tomorrow the plan is to hit Hot Springs, AR. where I just may spend the day, maybe getting a spa treatment, mineral bath and mud wrap. 

I think Phiona may have a case of the vapors, however, as she refused to start after registering at the motel tonight. That would be vapor lock. At least I HOPE that is why she is not starting. I’ll try not to stress too much tonight and just see what happens in the morning….


u © Donald E. Kline 2012