It's the Oxygen Content, Stupid!

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There exists in the old engine hobby a certain phenomi ... pheenome ... fenomin ... problem that is very often encountered, but seldom understood, by even the most ardent enthusiasts. It is a serious condition that 91 percent of us will contract during the upcoming show season. Tell me if the following scenario seems familiar to you:

The restoration of your 1910 Runz Canardly is finally complete. Everything is factory correct and in perfect order. The paint is the correct shade of 'champagne gold.' The brass oilers are shined to perfection. And it starts effortlessly on the first pull, every time.

Now, it is a known fact that there are four seasons to the year. The usual spring, summer, autumn and winter are the ones everyone knows. But to the engine crowd there is another season. It falls squarely between the date your engine is finished, and the date of the first engine show of the year. This season is called 'Forever.' Some years it seems to last around 27 months. It is November as I write this, and based on current progress, Forever starts in about three weeks. Mark your calendar.

But back to the engine, which has been sitting in germ-free, environmentally stable storage since completion. Show day has finally arrived, and it is time to load it on the trailer. Being the sharp fellow that you are, you decide to run the engine a while before heading out. Nothing like discovering those minor little problems AFTER you get to the show, right?

A twist of the grease cups, a flip of the oiler and a prime of the carb later, you flick the flywheels and the Runz Canardly springs to life. You can set your watch to the rhythmic tunes emitted from the factory correct 22 percent gloss painted muffler. Nothing left to do but load.

Remembering to wear your sterile gloves for the loading process, you proceed about the task of situating the masterpiece onto the trailer. Being careful not to stain the carpet of the trailer is the hard part. All your fears are for naught, however, as the engine settles into place and is cinched down for the trip to the show.

By now the sun has come up, and you are ready for the 15 minute trip to the show that doesn't start until 10:30 a.m. A perfect time to polish the engine again, of course. You find it hard to make the wax stick to the other layers of wax, but somehow you manage. Ain't it a pretty sight?

You arrive at the show. It is a perfect morning -lots of sun, perfect temperature, plenty of friends you haven't seen since last season. You are directed to your assigned spot. You maneuver the trailer into position. You unload the engine (with your sterile gloves, of course).

By now quite a crowd has assembled. Their eyes are burning from the reflection of the sun's rays off the glistening water hopper of the Runz Canardly. Selling sunglasses to the observers of your Mona Lisa of the engine world might be a good idea for the next show. Retinitis Engintosa is a very real probability.

You now set about assembling the chain link barricade that will keep the ever-curious spectators from breathing in the same general vicinity of your prized possession. You can't be too careful in this day and age. Forty-five minutes later the fence is up and the alarm system is engaged. It's Show Time!

In an effort to build some anticipation for the massive crowd, you painstakingly check each and every oil hole. Every grease fitting. The fuel level. The windspeed. The barometric pressure. The Julian calendar. Everything checks out.

You meander to the rear of the engine. You place one hand on the flywheel. You wave and pose for pictures with the other hand. Smiling, of course. You then drop your waving hand onto the opposite flywheel. The crowd holds their breath in unfathomable anticipation.

With a confident pull, you yank the flywheels backward, and then raise your arms over your head in victory. The moment you have been waiting for has arrived, and you want all the pictures to come out perfect! A smile envelopes your face as your eyes scan the crowd, drawing in the praise of the throngs of spectators who now think you are ... well ... an idiot.

You see, the engine is not running. Must be a slight miscalculation. Nope. Everything checks out. You pull again. Nothing. Pull harder. Nothing. Check gas. Check oil. Check grease. Check the electrical system. Check the calendar.

You are now a victim of your environment. You see, while you were busy setting up your stanchions and security system, everyone else on the show field was starting their engines. As they pop and wheeze the day away, you are left to struggle with a condition that you cannot beat. Namely, all of the other engines on the show field are consuming the available oxygen content in the vicinity. This is also why you are short of breath right now. There is not a chance in heck that your engine will start. You might just as well go home, now. Hence the name of your engine, the Runz Canardly. It Runz in the driveway, but Canardly start on the show field.

Contact engine enthusiast Tim Claremont via e-mail at: mclarem1 @