- Car Talk Steele - Part I
Date: Monday, June 25, 2001
- Lauryn Poynor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Car Talk Steele - Part One
by Lauryn Poynor
I'd like to acknowledge
the NPR "Car Talk" guys, Tom and Ray
Magliozzi (AKA Click and Clack the Tappet brothers) for giving
me many hours of entertainment with their weekly broadcast and
for inspiring me to cross over into new fanfic territory. Special
thanks also to Susannah who showed how it could be done by giving
us (NPR's) Guy Noir, Private Steele.
This story has been rigorously inspected by the Big Three. No,
not Chrysler, Ford, and GM! My editorial board (and test
drivers) Anne Rose, MJ, and Susannah. Thanks for steering me
in the right direction and sticking with me to the final lap.
Usual disclaimers apply with one very important addition. Do
not contact the author for car advice. Read at your own risk.
Keep in mind that the author once took ten minutes to open the
hood latch of a rented Ford Taurus.
Those of you who don't read WIP's until complete can read these
separately. All parts are self contained and are not meant to
be happening in real time succession. It's a highlight show of
the "best callers" over several years.
Car Talk Steele - Part One
[Car Talk theme - Dawgy Mountain Breakdown by Dave Grusin]
RAY: Hello, and welcome to Car Talk from National Public Radio.
We're Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers and we're broadcasting
this week from the Spring Cleaning Division of Car Talk Plaza
in Cambridge, MA, Our Fair City. We're breaking out the heavy
duty Dustbusters for this special show, scouring the attic for
tapes of our finest moments in broadcasting from years past.
Our intrepid recovery efforts make raising the Titanic look like
a snooze in the shade. Speaking of snoozing, don't worry, you
listeners can kick back while we do the heavy lifting for you
- those boxes of National Geographics are a chiropractor's dream!
Watch out for that falling eight track tape collection! [reverberating
crash noise] Tommy, where's my hard hat?
TOM: Without further ado, here is the Best of Car Talk -Spring
Cleaning Edition - for your listening - or snoozing - pleasure.
TOM: 1-800-332-9287. Hello. You're On Car Talk.
REMINGTON: This is Remington calling from Los Angeles.
RAY: So, Remington. That's some moniker you've got there. Tell
us, were your parents in a shotgun wedding by any chance?
REMINGTON: Not to my knowledge.
TOM: Too bad. I thought maybe you and say, Annie Oakley might
have something in common.
REMINGTON: Ah. Annie Oakley. As in 'Annie Get Your Gun.' Betty
Hutton, Howard Keel. MGM, 1950. Of course Judy Garland was supposed
to have played that role but -
TOM: And I thought it was Ethel Merman.
RAY: Shows how much you know, brother of mine.
REMINGTON: Ethel Merman was in the stage version.
TOM: Well, I was half right. Fifty percent accuracy. Close
enough for grease monkeys. [sings, off key] 'there's no business
like show business, like no business -'
RAY: Puhleeze. The man's called a pair of quantum mechanics from
Car Talk for help. Not Joe's Karaoke Bar and Laundromat.
TOM: If you're not a product of a shotgun wedding, given our
clues so far, are you perhaps a product of UCLA Film School?
REMINGTON: Movies are just a hobby of mine. Though I've been
asked, on occasion, to do a bit of lecturing. And here in the
movie mecca of Los Angeles, a good looking chap such as myself
- thick, glossy black hair, steely blue eyes, strong jaw line
- tends to be mistaken for a film star. An occupational hazard
but one learns to live with it. Why just the other day I was
sitting at my usual table at Valentino's -
TOM: Hate to interrupt but our assistant producer is frantically
reminding us of the occupational hazards of radio, like segments
REMINGTON: I find the movies a never ending source of
inspiration. Art and life are interwoven on so many profound
levels. A thread that runs -
RAY: Speaking of threads, let's back up before we lose the
vanishing thread of this conversation. Where did you get the
REMINGTON: It's after a favourite typewriter, I believe.
TOM: No fooling. Could have been worse. Your mother could have
named you Underwood. Or Olivetti.
RAY: Or Smith-Corona. Remember that old Underwood #11 that I
used to type my term papers on? Now that was a mechanical
marvel. Not to mention a workout. Ten pounds of pressure per
key. I sprained my wrist typing 'Shakespeare' once and -
REMINGTON: I'm sure typewriter aficionados will find that
fascinating but you wouldn't perchance have some mechanical
knowledge of cars, would you?
RAY: Not according to our legal department. But that's another
TOM: Now that our attorneys at Dewey, Cheetham and Howe have
sorted out those pesky malpractice insurance problems, I suppose
it's safe to answer the man's questions.
RAY: What sort of automotive mystery has you stumped? Vexed?
Feeling terribly lonely and confused?
REMINGTON: Sticky lifters.
TOM: Sticky lifters? Again? Did you call last week? I was hoping
for something with a little more je ne sais quoi. You know, it's
pledge week and they're really breathing down our necks about
ratings. But if it's the best you can do -
RAY: Ignore my brother. He's sucked in way too many exhaust fumes
from that 1963 Dodge Dart of his. Not recommended in your formative
years. So. Remy. Can I call you Remy?
REMINGTON: Not if you expect me to answer. Can I call you
RAY: So. Remington. Give us some essential background here.
What sort of car do you drive?
REMINGTON: She's an undisputed classic. An Auburn. 1936
supercharged Boattail Speedster.
TOM: Hello ratings! I think that qualifies as je ne sais quoi.
What a beauty! Al Leamy design, straight 8 Lycoming engine, 150
RAY: Whoa! Hold the phone. Al Leamy left the Auburn Company in
'34. The 1936 Auburn was by Gordon Beuhrig, once chief designer
of the Duesenberg. And of course the revolutionary Cord 810 and
TOM: Au contraire. The Auburn boattail design was a Leamy
signature. Beuhrig just refined it.
REMINGTON: How gratifying to see you both have an appreciation
of the classic design elements. Now if we could just get back
to the original reason for my call.
RAY: Just trying to educate the listeners out there.
TOM: Yeah. All two of them. Hi mom and dad!
RAY: Sticky lifters, huh? Is that a professional opinion or
something in the neighborhood of a wild guess?
REMINGTON: Both, I suspect.
TOM: A wild guess by a professional. We're familiar with those.
RAY: Could you describe what kind of sound the car is making.
REMINGTON: [mimics the sound] something like that.
TOM: That's very good. You could get a job on '60 Minutes.'
REMINGTON: I don't follow you.
RAY: Don't mind him. He watches too much television.
REMINGTON: Ah. Television. The small screen. Anathema to a
cinemaphile. Deadens the mind, corrupts the soul.
RAY: Funny, that's what our listeners say about radio. Back to
the car. Does this noise happen when the engine is cold or hot?
REMINGTON: Both actually.
TOM: Then it's probably not sticky lifters. Maybe a loose heat
shield or something. Any engine vibration will trigger it.
RAY: That, or you have a time bomb or a rattlesnake under there.
Seen anyone suspicious poking around under the hood?
REMINGTON: Other than my mechanic?
RAY: Before we embark on an in-depth analysis we always ask a
few pertinent questions of our callers.
TOM: Like, did you bring your checkbook?
RAY: Or do you work for the IRS? But, no matter what the
answer, we are dedicated to solving your automotive conundrum.
We start with the car/owner relationship. It can be very complex,
sometimes on the most Freudian level, and it often has a bearing
on the problem.
TOM: Or not.
RAY: How would you describe your car to someone who's never seen
REMINGTON: I'd say it's very stylish without being flashy.
Daring, yet understated.
TOM: Let's get to the heart of the matter. You're driving one
of the most breathtaking American automobiles ever built. A one-of-a
kind classic of automotive design. A car that makes your fellow
motorists turn green with envy as you pass on the highway. I
have to ask because we get a lot of calls on this, does your
car give you incredible luck with women?
REMINGTON: Hard to say, really. When one is preturnaturally
gifted with looks and charm, the outward trappings are somewhat
RAY: So what you're saying is that if you were driving a lime
green Pacer from Rent-a-Wreck women would still be falling at
REMINGTON: I think that's a fair summation.
TOM: Paging Dr. Freud. I'm having deep rooted feelings of
inadequacy right now. Let's talk about the car. Exactly when
did this problem start?
REMINGTON: It's rather mysterious, actually. The Auburn seems
to have developed quite a few shakes and rattles since we acquired
her. Can't imagine why. Well, it's true we did, um, dismantle
her a couple of times but I don't think she's missing anything
RAY: Dismantled? The plot thickens. Why were you taking the
REMINGTON: The car had a very curious history. It was rumoured
that an item of great value was hidden in it.
TOM: Funny you should say that. In my line of work it happens
all the time. I've found two fossilized eight track tape players
in the last six months. Luckily I was able to preserve the species
RAY: What's that got to do with anything? The man's driving a
1936 Auburn, not a 1973 Gremlin. An eight track player! Jeez
TOM: OK, how 'bout a 1936 Motorola AM tube radio.
RAY: Let's get back on track here. Who was involved in this
dismantling process? You and your mechanic?
REMINGTON: Afraid not. Someone slightly more amateur. Rather
charmingly so. Perhaps we should have enlisted our mechanic's
help but there were other, shall we say, compensatory factors.
For a start, she's much better looking than he is. In fact, she's
really quite something. Stylish without being flashy, daring
RAY: Just like the car.
REMINGTON: Exactly. I've caressed every inch of her. Lovely
RAY: The amateur?
REMINGTON: The Auburn. Ah, yes, all those moonlight drives and
cogitating on just how far down that road she will let me go.
RAY: The Auburn?
REMINGTON: The amateur.
TOM: So you and this gorgeous female were working together,
cheek to cheek, in cramped quarters, taking apart a highly
complex piece of machinery. Just how hard were you
REMINGTON: Hard. Very hard. Removing everything was rather fun,
actually. Though the eventual process of putting the pieces back
together was a bit sticky. As you say, it was rather cramped
and difficult to maneuver but we were able to manage. Where there's
a will, there's a way.
RAY: This partner of yours, does she freelance? Because we
could use a hand ourselves.
REMINGTON: She's strictly non-professional. Although she was
surprisingly good. She's always had a knack for the nuts and
bolts operational details. I, on the other hand, have often worked
best in an advisory capacity.
TOM: Now that's a useful phrase. 'Advisory capacity.' I'll trot
that one out the next time my wife asks me to do something around
REMINGTON: It's odd that you remark upon my luck with women
because I had better luck that day under the car with the woman
in question than I've had in it.
RAY: Aha! Now we're getting somewhere. What does that suggest
REMINGTON: I've no idea.
TOM: There are a lot of women out there who find using tools
stimulating. Or maybe she just gets turned on by the smell of
RAY: Let's go back to your assessment of your respective roles.
Methinks there's something there. That day, under the car, were
you operating in an advisory capacity or were you pitching in,
so to speak?
REMINGTON: I was extremely involved. We were both working hand
in glove. Perfectly meshed. Every move a miracle of timing and
TOM: Down to the nuts and bolts operation?
RAY: There's your answer.
REMINGTON: Come again?
RAY: She doesn't want a guy who works in an advisory capacity.
A shirker. A figurehead. She wants someone who gets down to the
nitty-gritty. Sweats the details. Puts his back into it. Believe
me, a hard working man is a huge turn-on for women. Well, that's
what my wife says.
REMINGTON: Are you sure? I mean, couldn't the facts suggest
some other interpretation?
TOM: Let's recap. Since that day, have you gotten anywhere with
the two of you in the car?
REMINGTON: Not nearly as far as I'd like.
RAY: Of course she could just be incredibly nervous. She's
probably riding in a death trap.
TOM: I'd say buy yourself a tool belt and you're home free.
REMINGTON: What about the car?
RAY: After you were done, were there any parts left over?
Engines? Transmissions? Stuff like that?
REMINGTON: No, um, we were concentrating mostly on bodywork.
There were some parts left over but nothing substantial.
TOM: I'm not one to pry but, um, how many left over parts?
REMINGTON: Oh, a desk drawer full of assorted bits and pieces.
RAY: So what you're telling us is you're driving a car on the
highway that has more loose screws than my Aunt Ida.
REMINGTON: It's a very small drawer.
TOM: Do yourself and your fellow drivers a favor and find
someone who does restorations on classic cars. It won't be cheap
but they'll know how to put your Auburn back together. Bring
your ladyfriend. Maybe the two of you could watch. Consider it
part of your therapy, or foreplay, if you will. Then go home
and work up a sweat of your own.
RAY: That is, unless hearing the words 'work' and 'sweat' in
the same sentence is bad for your libido. It sure is for mine.
REMINGTON: I think I'll manage.
TOM: I suspect you will.
- To Part