DIRTY STUFF

FROM THE WAY THE ENGINEERS HAD INSTALLED STUFF INSIDE THAT CROWDED ENGINE BAY, THEY OBVIOUSLY THOUGHT OWNERS OF RENAULT 12S WOULD SIMPLY BUY A NEW CAR WHEN THEIR STARTER MOTOR FAILED

WILLIAM PORKER

I HAVE real bad memories of an Easter Thursday, and a Renault.

I have an auto sparky mate who needs a hand when he has too much work in, so go in a few days until the panic returns to normal. So it was in this week before the Easter break; we were steadily getting rid of the urgent stuff, until the Thursday was looking almost clear and we were talking of getting away early. There was one still to come, some guy with a Renault with a starter motor problem, booked in at one o’clock.

FROM THE WAY THE ENGINEERS HAD INSTALLED STUFF INSIDE THAT CROWDED ENGINE BAY, THEY OBVIOUSLY THOUGHT OWNERS OF RENAULT 12S WOULD SIMPLY BUY A NEW CAR WHEN THEIR STARTER MOTOR FAILED

So this white front-engined thing arrived, which, from painful memory, I identified as a 12. But soon got to call it something else after I got the job of removing what we tested as a dud starter motor. You can normally rip out these compact motors really quickly, so we reckoned three hours max to get it out, fix and refit it, then shut the doors to shoot through by four o’clock. Ha! Got out the metrics, briefly studied the problem, and realised that the French design engineers had installed this starter motor on the four-pot engine and then stuffed a multitude of components into the spare space around it. So the removal was going to be difficult without actually lifting the mill out.

Believing anything was possible, I ripped in and began unbolting likely looking gear that was obviously in the way of sliding the motor back and hopefully up and out, and got bloody nowhere. The mongrel 12 was going to fight all the way, and already I was losing skin and bleeding heavily. I put a jack under the sump, ripped off an engine mount, and the starter moved exactly 50mm. I took off the other

engine mount, pushed the engine sideways – more sharp-edged stuff in the way again, and the starter moved exactly 50mm and fell back to where this nonsense all began. And then the bloody engine dropped off the jack!

And so the afternoon went on, with me pissing sweat out in the sun, maligning the parentage of every Renault ever made whenever some sharp metal bit got me again. And still somehow I just kept going backwards, as the faint hope could remove this thing of hate now receded.

“Where are you going?” my mate Kevin asked.

“I know a bloke uptown who has a box of gelignite hidden in his shed,” I replied. “I’m going to borrow a sweaty stick, and blow that bastard starter motor clear out of its hole!”

“You can’t do that! Jack next door will be straight to the cops! And how are you going to put it all back, anyway!”

“Dunno. Have you got an axe?”

“Look. It’s just gone four o’clock, so I can give you a hand now. Two of us should be able to somehow extract the stupid Froggy motor now that you’ve got rid of all that other gear around it.” So thanks to a crowbar and a large hammer, this Ducellier-made starter finally lay on a bench at exactly 4:30. While I washed off blood and lay on the concrete to try and stop my violent twitching, Kevin ripped in and had it apart inside 10 minutes, to say it just needed new brushes and bushes and we could begin to refit it by at least five o’clock. That made me throw up into a pot plant, fixed by shoving my head under a cold-running tap. Then Kev had it running on his test bench, and there was nothing else but to charge in again and suffer more bodily torture.

We swore and shoved and bashed things with the knockometer, and Kev knew more really bad words in Frog than did, so millimetre by millimetre we fought that motor back into its hole, and dug enough bolts out of the dirt to hold it all together. The engine fell off the jack twice and the sunset was happening over the industrial buildings when Kev finally sat in the front seat and hit the key to bring in that bastard-bred motor.

I don’t suppose it was the fault of Ducellier that made this simple job so difficult. From the way the engineers had installed stuff inside that crowded engine bay, they obviously thought owners of Renault 12s would simply buy a new car when their starter motor failed, a devious plot to increase vehicle sales and fill up the wrecking yards.

I really wanted revenge for all those hours of pain and angst, to sit in that front seat and turn the key and hear the rebuilt motor actually cranking the four-pot engine. But there was too much blood on me and Kev was really worried I would start throwing hammers and spanners and go get the gelignite if the starter motor failed to work.

So I leaned against a wall, too tired to even hate anymore, and that mongrel motor spun the flywheel as if nothing had happened to disturb its existence, and the bloody engine coughed into life.

I don’t know what the owner finally thought of all this. I didn’t really want to punch him for Easter buying Thursday, this crap car I remember! in the first place, s but every Easter Thursday, I remember!