A Mechanics' Nightmare

A 1964 Ford Fairlane came into the shop one day. It was a very nice car and had even been featured in several magazines. The car was powered by a 427 hooked to a Richmond 5 speed.

This car was so scary fast that I was afraid of it. I goosed the throttle one time and nearly wet myself. I've driven so many high dollar cars in my work that I never mess around in them because there's just too much risk. Unless the owner complains about a vibration at 6,000 rpm or something, there's no reason to rally on a customer's car, no matter how fast it is.

And so it went with this car, everything was fine on a bunch of pretty granny test drives to iron out some tire rub and coil spring issues. Except on, literally, the last test drive I figured it needed, the engine decided to come apart.

The owner of this crazy nice car was using it as a daily driver, parking it in a public parking garage in downtown Portland every day, and completely driving the snot out of it every day and, of all things in the world to happen, a $15,000 engine decides to grenade itself on my watch.

This engine roared like a lion and shook the ground. It was awesome. That is, until I pulled out into traffic and that roar turned into a rattling, grinding whimper. I managed to nurse it back to the shop, but by then it sounded like a dying kitten.

I was mortified and freaking out. I figured there's no way that the owner would believe that I was just "driving along" and suddenly the engine grenades. Just a test drive, not racing for pinks, but he was pissed anyway.

I pulled the valve covers and discovered flat cam lobes and mountains of metal filings in the top end. A call to the builder who put the engine together was able to lower my oil pressure and avoid a heart attack on my part:

This was a full race, original iron 427 side oiler with aluminum heads, a huge lift and duration camshaft and high compression. It was never meant for street driving, much less daily driving. Apparently by the time it gave up, it had something over 20k street miles on it. The engine builder told the owner point blank that he was insane for driving it on the street, but he did it anyway.

It wasn't my fault. Oh, thank the heavens that I wasn't on the hook for that 15k!