A CLUTCH ISNíT ALWAYS A HANDSHAKE!

By Norris Chambers

             If it had been a Model T Ford I would have known what was wrong immediately and would have know what it would take to fix it. But this was a í32 Chevrolet that I had just acquired by selling the twelve hogs that I had coaxed to a marketable condition by careful feeding and a bit of good luck. The old Chevy drove like a dream, but when it stopped one night seventeen miles from home and close to midnight, it was as helpless as a buggy without a horse. I had started up a rather steep grade on a narrow, sandy road that was carved through thick brush.

            Suddenly the automobile stopped and the engine began racing noisily. Of course I guessed that there was a problem somewhere in the driving mechanism between the engine and the rear wheels. I got out and looked under the running board. It was so dark that I could not have seen a defect if one had been visible. My quick diagnosis was that I had clutch, transmission or differential trouble. I also knew that there was nothing I could do to fix it on the spot.

            I was about four miles from the nearest house where I would feel comfortable waking the folks in the middle of the night. One of my uncles and his family lived southwest near the point where the narrow sandy road merged with one a little wider and a little better maintained. I knew my cousin Doug would help me, so I started the long midnight trip up the hill and through the dark woods. I had barely reached the top of the hill when a dog with a vicious sounding bark came running toward me from a house somewhere on the right. I didnít see a heavy stick handy so I hastily pulled out my trusty Barlow and opened the long blade. I figured I could cut him to pieces while he was eating me up!

            Luckily he turned out to be a peaceful fellow and after a few tail wags he went back to his lair. I guess I didnít look like a threat to the property. I didnít have any more dog trouble until I approached my uncleís house. His two big dogs started to take me apart, but when I greeted them by name they were glad to see me. I knew that one of the three doors on the front porch opened into the room where Doug and two brothers slept. When I knocked on the door he greeted me with surprise.  I explained my problem and we soon had the Chevy under a tree near the barn and had made the twelve mile trip to tell my parents I wouldnít be home. By the time we got back to my uncleís it was almost morning, so we didnít attempt to sleep. The chores were soon finished and after a hearty breakfast we approached the big mechanicís job facing us.

            Doug didnít know any more about fixing a Chevy than I did, but he was anxious to learn. We soon determined that the trouble had to be in the clutch so we took the flywheel housing off and took a look. There was a big heavy thing with a bunch of big coil springs in it and many bolts holding it on. The clutch was on the spline shaft that protruded from the transmission. A small bearing on the end fit into the middle of the flywheel. The hub of the clutch was riveted to the plate and all of the rivets were stripped, leaving the clutch with no circular motion to transfer to the transmission. The transmission had to come out before we could get to the clutch, so we started removing bolts. It soon became evident that the whole rear section of the automobile had to be removed to get it out after removing the bolts from the transmission. After jacking and stacking rocks and sweating we finally pulled it out and attacked the pressure plate. We started removing bolts and before long it exploded! Some of the bolts were holding it together and keeping tension on the big springs. A few more bolts removed the mess from the flywheel and we got the disabled clutch plate out.

            A two hour trip to Brownwood to get a new clutch went without incident and we began the tedious job of putting everything back together. Getting the springs pressed back into the pressure plate was a real problem. We should not have removed the springs. We placed the parts under the barn and attempted to bring it together with a jack. The barn lifted up instead. Those were very stubborn springs. We eventually jacked it together by taking it to the woods and finding two big trees the right distance apart for the jack and the plate.

            A little after dark we finished the job and the onlookers cheered. It worked just like a clutch should. Doug and I were known as Chevy clutch experts after this successful repair job.

            Was there fun connected with this job? Yes, one of the onlookers got careless and fell into the big horse trough. We stopped work long enough to laugh about that!

            This sad experience just illustrates that no matter how hopeless a situation may appear, someone may fall into a horse trough and inject a little FUN into the endeavor!