24.10.2005 01:04 - Dragon Breath
Today is my father's 70th Birthday, and so, in honour of this event, I'm resurrecting the following story, which used to be on my old website.
About 1992, I built a kit-car. A Sylva Striker, to be precise. I did this with considerable help from my Father. The engine for this car came from a wreck of a Ford Escort, which I found in drivable condition in a scrapyard in Cannock. I drove it home, looked at the copious amounts of fibreglass holding the engine bay (and most of the load-bearing elements of the monocoque) together, went white, and never drove it again. The car was duly dismantled. Its engine, gearbox, rear axle and electrics stored away to be re-used or re-fettled, and the rest went straight back to the junkyard, only this time not under its own power.
All other parts were carefully rebuilt, and eventually the time came to try and restart the engine, now installed in the Striker chassis, and ready to move under its own power.
The problem was, the engine wouldn't start, even after a dose of Quick-start.
Now, those of you familiar with the venerable Ford X-flow engine will know that there is an important point to be noted about reattaching the distributor : to whit, you can, unlike other manufacturer's engines, put the distributor on so that it is 180 degrees out of timing. We did not know this, and proceeded to test everything else. In desperation, my father attempted to prove that there was a spark by pulling out one of the spark plugs, reattaching it to the lead, and then earthing it to the block, right next to the hole it came out of.
This is not a clever thing to do.
It is not a clever thing to do because the mixture of petrol and air which has been sucked into the cylinder, rather than being compressed by the rising piston, is squirted out of the spark plug hole, nearby which is a spark-plug, which, due to the fact that the surrounding air is at 1 bar, rather than the expected compressed pressure of 6 bar, and so the resistance to sparking is considerably lower. This leads to a sheet of flame, about six feet in length, passing before the very eyes of my father, turning both his eyebrows into ash.
He stood there, blinking, his face sooted up much like Wile E. Coyote after being hoist by his own petard.
Then, his eyebrows fell off.
The car is known, to this day, as The Little Dragon.
Happy Birthday, Dad.