It’s Thursday night and Beau is traveling down the North Western Motorway, en route to pick me up from the Auckland Blood Donor Centre.
His plans are thwarted.
Suddenly there’s a bang and an immediate very disturbing rattling noise emanating from underneath the bonnet. The car behind backs off. Moments later, the engine ceases, and the mighty Holden silently rolls to an illegal stop on the side of the motorway just before the Te Atatu off ramp.
A tow truck is called in and the helpless vehicle is transported back to the Kumeu Automotive Centre, where it awaits the weekend diagnosis.
Mustard is a 1971 Holden HQ Belmont. Looking underneath the bonnet I see raw engine, none of this fancy schmancy electronics, tubing, computers, and other mystery components found in modern vehicles. So, a rattling sound causing the engine to cease is indicative of a more serious problem.
Still, we’re hopeful, and begin investigative surgery.
Step one requires removing the primary bolts and spark plugs. So far so good, until the 6th spark plug, which is very well cemented into the engine. It might need replacing. That will be around $6.00.
The wedged spark plug is forcibly removed and revealed to have been seriously attacked by something. It’s probably not just the spark plug that will need to be replaced. Probably a jammed valve as well, that will cost a little more.
Disassembly continues, in front of a growing audience.
Clyde carefully removes the push-rods, optimistically taking note of their positions.
And an hour later, with all the necessary bolts , tubes, and casing removed, it is time for the moment of truth.
The head is lifted off. Fragments of metal drop loose. Not a good sign.
The cause of the rattling is instantly apparent. Catastrophic piston disintegration. It’s irreparable.
After 37 years that trusty HQ has driven its last mile. It’s a sad day.
We leave the partially disemboweled Old-Mustard behind, as we ponder where to go from here. We will investigate resurrection possibilities in the coming weeks, and hope maybe one day that iconic orange car might make its way through Auckland suburbia again.
But right now it’s still too early to tell.