I few sets of cylinder heads and five complete

I punched in 3-7-5-2 and
hit Send An electric motor gave a muffled buzz, and the door clanked and hinged
until it was overhead. From the dim opening, the smell of gasoline, motor oil,
and lacquer thinner slowly escaped. I smiled, carefully stepping over a few
stacks of cardboard boxes and ducking below the bumper that hung from the
rafters, I reached the switch. After a short pause, a noisy fluorescent bulb
flickered and then illuminated the garage. My heart beat a little faster. I
stood there for a moment and took the whole scene in. The garage was in
complete disorder, but I can’t say I was surprised; I’d known its owner long
enough to expect that. I counted four engine stands. A greasy push rod V8 sat atop
the one nearest to where I was standing. A faded badge on the valve cover gave
away its identity as a Buick 400. On another rested a supercharged Pontiac
3800. Probably from the Bonneville sitting outside, I thought. The other two
stands had covers over whatever formidable power plants occupied them. I
glanced over a few sets of cylinder heads and five complete sets of Buick
rallies on my way to the other light switch, which was hidden behind a dusty
sand blaster. Another hesitant fluorescent bulb lit up the far side of the
building, the side I haven’t seen before. In contrast to the mess of automotive
parts behind me, this side was organized and clean. Next to the wall sat the
diamond in the rough. I looked down the side of the beautiful machine. Not a scratch,
a dent, or even a 14 hint of orange peel. The black convertible top was almost
as shiny as the aquamarine steel that it was attached to. Over the smells of
various fossil fuels, I sniffed a trace of Armor all. The chrome emblems still
had the mirror finish, but I already knew what I was admiring. Skylark Convertible,
I thought to myself, sixty eight or sixty nine. I heard my hood latch release.
I emerged from the wonderful world that is a gearhead’s garage. Compared to the
beauty I had just seen, my car looked like it was ready for City Scrap. I stole
a glance down the body. The deep scratch from the air compressor and the
sizable dent from my dad’s car made me cringe. I peered under the hood to find
that he already had my fifteen-dollar chrome air cleaner off and was adjusting
the old Quadrajet. I looked with envy at the shiny Holley that sat on a shelf
to my left. I had been wanting to replace my carburetor for a while, but I
couldn’t justify the cost. My car was running well enough. It idled roughly,
and like a spoiled child, refused to move if it thought it was too cold outside
of the garage. My car came alive. He started whistling to himself as he checked
the timing. We talked about my car, his car, his friend’s car, cruising, and
drag strip nights. For a while I think he even forgot that I was dating his
daughter. As the mid-day heat was just starting to bake the driveway, I filled
the oil pan with fresh Mobil One and the tune-up was finished. I swung open one
of the big red doors, sat down on a square of beige carpet that covered the
tear in the seat, and turned the key. The small block started without
complaint. Even with brand new oil, I was annoyed when I heard the old rocker
knock still ticking under the hood. This is quite common in Buick engines of
the sixties and seventies; Buick couldn’t seem to make an adequate oiling
system. I started thinking about ways to improve the oiling system. My train of
thought shifted a few times, and before long I had a prototype for a completely
revolutionized internal combustion engine rotating on an engine stand in my
brain. So, have you thought about what you want to go to school for?  Yanked back to reality, it took a moment for
me to comprehend the question. I had been asked it many times before, and I never
had a confident answer. At that moment, though, I felt as though I had a fairly
solid grasp on it. Right now, it’s looking like mechanical engineering. 15 He
nodded, seemingly impressed. I was certainly more impressed than he was. I’d
never really come to a conclusion on a college major, but after a few hours
under the hood, I felt like I knew what I wanted to do. As I drove my
delightfully smooth running 71 Buick Skylark home, I began to envision my
future as a mechanical engineer.

x

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