Commodore Comedy Capers - Torrens 427

By: Glenn Torrens, Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

holden commodore grille holden commodore grille

A simple mistake sparks chaos for our favourite bush mechanic Glenn Torrens

With Triple-J in the background and a few cold Coopers at hand, I’d spent Saturday night in the garage tinkering on my brown ’79 VB Holden Commodore SL wagon. I wasn’t doing anything serious, but quiet shed-time is what I sometimes do on a Saturday night if a busy week means I couldn’t be bothered with anything else.

Plus, I wanted to wake early on Sunday for a Cars & Coffee. Not long after 7am, I opened my yard gates and garage door, jumped into the mighty brown wagon, pulled the choke out and twisted the key… to be greeted by nothing more than a click from under the bonnet.

Bugger! I’d fitted a second-hand starter motor a few days before… Must be stuffed. But I was determined to cruise to Cars & Coffee this sunny Sunday morning so I decided to use some bush mechanics.

The starter worked when I shorted the solenoid’s big terminals with a fat screwdriver. It worked, too, when I strung a wire from the battery to its small terminal. Satisfied I’d isolated the problem to the starter switch or its wiring, I turned on the ignition at the key and climbed back under the bonnet to hot-wire the starter.

Of course, the engine started. Then my car started to move backwards …

I desperately grabbed the battery terminal (on my VB Commodore, the original old-tech push-on ones) and ripped it off… but that did nothing (yes, I already knew that – it was more of a reflex action than a carefully considered decision!)

Then I noticed the driver’s door open. I lunged around the front corner of the car and kicked the door closed about one second before it would have ripped backwards against the edge of the garage door. I frantically followed the car and re-opened the driver’s door, aiming for the ignition key and brake pedal but tripped under the car.

Many older readers will recall Paul Hogan’s 1970s stunt-man character Leo Wanker… That’s what I must have looked like as I barrel-rolled away from the front wheel and somehow slammed the driver’s door closed again before it could be destroyed by the gate post.

I got to my feet and again chased the car. A quick glance showed no approaching traffic so a little more calmly I again opened the door, got in and switched the car off just before it would have smacked the gutter on the other side of the street.

Then I sat there wondering what the *%*# had just happened. The reasons why are worthy of an episode of Crash Investigation Unit!

The night before I’d wanted to place the engine bay directly under my ceiling lights. So instead of starting the car from cold just to move it a metre, I’d leant in through the driver’s window, let-down the handbrake and knocked the T-bar out of P so I could push the car. Except… I’d obviously only moved the shifter as far as R… Reverse! That meant the starter motor’s in-gear inhibitor switch had disabled the starter (the real reason why the starter didn’t work from the key) and the car was in-gear for when it fired. I hadn’t noticed the shifter position the next morning. Plus, I’d pulled the choke out to lift the engine revs which is why the car shot off backwards! The final piece of the puzzle was the click sound: it wasn’t a weak starter solenoid, as I’d thought, but an air-con relay.

After I’d calmed down, I felt a pain on my chest… I’d burst some stitches I’d had two days before. Yes, that hurt… but not as much as if I’d been run-over, or the hurt to my wallet if I hadn’t opened the gate and garage door before I tried to start the car!

 

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