Busted! When I said ‘Gimme a Break’ I didn’t mean an Axle!

June 19, 2014

So, here we are in beautiful Ogunquit, Maine.  We had an uneventful passage from home in Melrose, NY, towing the Speedster so we can go 50+, and the Boys behind in the 50 Hudson.  This morning we drove the speedster down to the other side of town for registration and stickering.  No problems.  Then we drove back to our hotel.  No problems.  Then I went to load the speedster back on the trailer, so we could return the U-Haul we rented to tow it here.  Problem.  As I gunned it onto the trailer ramps, I heard a bang and then Nothing.  The engine still runs fine, but there is no connection to the wheels!  No funny grindy noises, just nothing!  What’s that about?  Can a clutch fail OPEN?  Did we snap the transmission shaft?  We rolled it into a parking slot and started diagnosis.

Now the Great Race family is really a family!  Like fellow travellers or musketeers, it’s all for one and one for all – at least off the course.  We had a big, interested party of Racers around us helping us diagnose.  Luckiest (for us) was the car in the next slot, the 1915 Hudson racer of Frank Buonanno.  Frank owns Black Horse Garage, a top-line restoration shop in Bridgeport, CT – he’s trying for the third time to finish the Great Race!  He noticed that the driver’s side rear wheel had moved out with its drum, exposing the brake shoes to view!  HOLY MOLYBDENUM, Batman – that means we snapped the axle!!!!!  Sure enough, we jacked it up and pulled off the wheel (no need to unbolt it!).  Yep, there it was, the final snap of a long-term fatigue failure, complete with striations (which Navigator Dave, ever the Mech Engg Prof, noted and photographed for use in his next text book!).  It looks like this:

Busted Axle Detail 140618


Lovely, Eh?

Well, that set off a sequence of frustration, despair, anger, etc.  But then we set to a recovery plan.  With my trusty Buick Club of America rosterbook, I called key people who might be a help: John Scheib in CT, Willis Jenkins in MD, Paul Rickman in MI, and Jim Burgess in Buick’s hometown of Flint, MI.  All were supportive and helpful, with Paul offering several others not in the club to try.  It was Jim Burgess who came through first – found a 50 Series axle and packed it up for overnight delivery. BIG thanks, Jim!

Once I knew we had a part available, it was Frank Buonanno right next to us who added the other key ingredient for the plan: he offered his shop to do the repair!  Great!  We called there, confirmed they could take us and got the address for the overnight drop ship of the axle.  BIG thanks, Frank!

So we called U-Haul to extend our rental.  We’ll load up the car again and get up early to meet the axle there in the morning.  Change it out in the first-class Black Horse shop, then zoom back tomorrow night to be ready for the real start Saturday morning.  We’ll miss the shakedown ‘trophy’ run tomorrow, but we’ll be in the Race!  That’s the spirit.  And if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just volunteer as extra workers.

Stay tuned!   Will our axle arrive?  Will it fit?  Will Team 61 (aka Old Age & Treachery) get the car back together?  Will they make it back to Maine in time for the Big Start?  Will the car stay unbroken for at least a day this time?  Check in tomorrow for the next exciting episode in the Adventures of Old Age and Treachery!



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