Melvin F 1963 Chevy II Nova

A Used Carburetor for Christmas -- Free!!

I was in the Navy and, in mid-December, 1972, had just gotten back to San Francisco from a West Pacific/Gulf of Tonkin deployment. I had a 1963 Chevy II Nova which had been stored for about eight months and was running a bit rough. An ignition overhaul did not improve performance much so I decided it needed a rebuilt carburetor. A couple of days later, with a rebuilt carb installed, a friend and I headed for Los Angeles to see a friend of his for a couple of days and, while we were at it, Mickey Mouse. On Christmas eve, we left Los Angeles headed north on I-5 back to San Francisco. After some miles, I noticed the car was running rough and gulping gas so I pulled in to Gorman, CA, at about 8:30 at night. There was a gas station/garage, a motel and a bar and, as I remember it, that was about the extent of life at that interchange. The gas station was open, the garage was closed but the attendant allowed me to check the car out. It ended up a factory-stamped indention in the float in the rebuilt carb had cracked and the float filled up and sank; I needed a float. The guy said he could not help me but that I should to over to the bar and look for "Al." (I do not remember the guy's name.) I found "Al" but he said he could not help me at that moment as "I'm not going up on that hill tonight." He then told me to get a motel room and meet him at the gas station the next morning.

The next morning "Al" told me we were going up the hill to get a carburetor and that there was a car up on the hill that he needed back down at the gas station and "Let's go." So, up we went in his tow truck. (I then understood why he would not go up the night before -- ruts, rocks, steep grade up the hill, no lights, ...). He went over to a car with an engine similar to mine, pulled off the carburetor and then went over to the car he wanted off the hill. He made sure the tires had some air in them and that the emergency brake was not set. He then told me to get behind the wheel. He drove the tow truck up behind the car, yelled to me to steer it down the hill and then gave it a push. (I guess he felt I might balk if I knew what he was planning.) The car went flying down the hill under its own weight with no brakes. About a third the way down, trying to steer this tank with no power steering, the back door on the driver's side flew open. But I'm not worried about that as I was trying to aim for a narrow space between the two fence posts. (Luckily, he'd left the gate open.) A few feet from the gate, I hit another rut in the path and the back door suddenly slammed shut. The car coasted to the end of the off-ramp. "Al" then pulled up behind and yelled where he wanted me to steer the car. After "parking" the car, he handed me the carburetor and said "Merry Christmas." I put the float in, cranked up and headed north.

I paid $100.00 for that car, kept it 20 years, put 135,000 miles on it and sold it for $1000.00. When I sold it, the motor, a 194ci six, burned, threw and leaked a quart of oil about every 400 miles, and the interior was ratty as heck (except for the padded dash which had absolutely no cracks -- go figure) but the body and none of the dash had ever been cut. I kick myself every day for ever selling that car.

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