Friday, May 01, 2015

Ahead of my time

A 1963 Ford Falcom
I just read a description about "green automobiles" in an on-line magazine that states one of the options used in today's modern automobiles to save fuel and reduce pollution is called "Cylinder Deactivation." 

They state:

Cylinder deactivation, which saves gas by shutting down one or more of an engine’s cylinders when they’re not under load, such as when you’re cruising on a level highway

Back in 1973, Uncle Tom Feeney gave me Aunt Jo's old 1963 Ford Falcon. It had been Aunt Jo’s mother’s car and only had about 50,000 miles on it. But she was a bit past her prime (the car, not Aunt Jo) and was affectionately known to everyone as "The Blue Bomb." This nom d ’plume was partially related to the fact that the Blue Bomb had once actually been painted blue. She now had an attractive additional coating of gray primer paint on many of her surfaces with an equally lovely touch of romantic rust brown and white Bondo. She was a sight to be seen.

But the major reason the Blue Bomb was the blue bomb was because she was known to produce a lovely, effervescent aroma of burnt oil as it oozed a whitish-blue haze out of the exhaust pipe. When sitting at a stop light, the “haze” would sometimes become a full, immersive, smoke screen and completely mask the Bomb from sight. She was demure, and apparently didn’t want to be seen in public.

One time, while venturing across the Upper East Side of Manhattan, always a dangerous thing to do, I asphyxiated two old biddies on Park Avenue and was cruelly chastised by their doorman. Another time, while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the BQE, I got signaled by two of NYPD’s finest and made to exit off at McGuiness Blvd. As the smoke enveloped us, I feigned innocence and swore that “it just started doing this a few minutes ago, officers…” They let me go with a warning and I tried to stay away from traffic jams from that point forward.

The reason for the Blue Bomb’s digestive and effluence problem was the fact that she was only running on three and a half of her six cylinders. One was completely shot – a view into the cylinder head with the spark plug out revealed a black hole protecting a thick greasy quagmire of gunk. I suspected the connecting rod had long ago given up the ghost and any potential for combustion. The other sick cylinder, which I suspected was the primary culprit, probably had lost most of its compression from worn out seals on the valves. I would have to pull the spark plug out every thousand miles and clean off the grease and burnt carbon deposits. When she ran at high RPMs, the spark would fire and burn off any oil that had seeped in. But while sitting at idle, the valves would leak and the cloud would appear.

The Blue Bomb needed a complete engine re-build, along with a couple of thousand dollars of other things, and was only work about $12 in scrap metal. But she religiously got me around NYC, to school and other activities as needed and she was a fun old girl to ride.

The amazing thing about the Blue Bomb was that she got incredible gas mileage. Even though the price if gas in those days was a micro-fraction of today’s prices, I was getting 30-35 mpg. What I spent in motor oil, I made up in great gas mileage. I used to say she got 35 miles to the gallon of gas and quart of oil.

All I can say now is that this new information about “cylinder deactivation” means that the Blue Bomb was the first car in America to employ this technique as a means of improving gas mileage. Who knew we were so ahead of our time…

Image Credit: Image from American Motorcycle's YouTube page

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