Dear Dr. Motorhead

I can’t tell how impressed I am with your attempt to find Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat. Just think of it, boating’s Holy Grail! I am sure that the good Reverend Eric Gustavson has tremendous interest in your discovery as well. Not only will you be known the world over for your motor knowledge and skills, but — think of it — you will also be one of the world’s great explorers and discoverers. I know I can speak for all BSLOLers; we are so proud of you and Piston and your accomplishments.

Before I can get to my pressing dilemma, I need to ask you some preliminary questions. Growing up, I watched as much TV as I could. That new invention was pretty cool. Great cartoons wonderful learning shows. For instance: Mr. Wizard; Rocky & Bullwinkle, with Mr. Knowitall; Professor Icabod Mudd on the Jet Jackson Show. They, like you, always knew everything; never stumped on a single problem; men of their time. I am thankful to have you and them as apart of my life. I can only imagine that Piston will only too soon be a part of this prestigious Hall of Fame. Oh, by the way, do you know Mr. Goodwrench?

Now to my problem.
I have a vintage watercraft. This year I decided that through the courage I received from reading Steve Merjanian’s
article, I was going to prepare my own boat for the fun
summer boating season. I did everything perfectly. My
family was so proud. My wife even bought me a timing light for my birthday. In fact, I used it to verify the power timing I previously completed while underway. Guess what! Right on! So, now I know it is in the best timing position for optimal operation. Here is my problem, though. When running wide open for awhile, I start getting this knocking or pinging sound, as my pal Sparky calls it. He says that this sound is from having the timing too far advanced. Well, I know this can’t be, as I have set my timing exactly where it should be. Yet this pinging is ever present, but only at wide-open throttle. I don’t know what could be wrong as the engine only has about 15 hours on it, since the famous Lou Bricity Speed Merchant and Transmission Shop rebuilt it down in Milwaukee, WI. Am I destined to a life of slow boating? Do I need to get used to this pinging? Is it bad for my engine to have this malady? If you know Mr. Goodwrench, do you have his phone number? OK, so what should I do? Oh, and one more thing — did you and Piston find the Ark before Mitch or Todd?

Tommy Burns
Dear Tommy,

Wait a doggone minute here! That old boat I have been looking for wasn’t Noah’s Ark — oh my gosh — there is a terrible mistake here! I can see how you might think that I was looking for the Ark, being on Mt. Ararat and all. Eric, please don’t feel ill of me. I hope you haven’t made any promises to your congregation that there would be a presentation or something. I will not be going down in the annals of ecclesiastic notoriety. Oh, I am so sorry. Here is the real deal. The boat I heard about, and was looking for, was a Riva Super Aquarama, owned once by an Armenian Princess, her name was Princess Rita Hayworthanian, and her Hollywood screen star husband Ali Kahn. As the story goes, before they exiled to North Dakota, they hid their precious boat at the base of Mt. Ararat, hoping one day to return to the homeland to reclaim their pride and joy. Well, they got so caught up in farming and the American way, they never left Jamestown to see the old country again. While on Easter Island for spring break, I met a Shaman who was looking for the real Ark, and told me of his discovery of the Riva. Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember exactly where he saw it, only that he could confirm it was original and kept in the boathouse all this time. As you can imagine, this was really exciting. I called home to say I would be late, and the search was on. I’m not sure how Todd and Mitch got on to it so quick. Maybe they have a phone tap. Anyway, we found it and made a pretty good deal with the present owner. We still have a bit of a delivery problem though; should have it figured out shortly. I’m really excited for all of you to see it and go for a ride.

Now, let’s get down to your pinging problem. There are three problems that could cause this. First, as you suggested, the timing is too far advanced. You have checked and double-checked your timing. This is not what would suggest is your problem. Second, you can have some bad gas. I am assuming that you have a flat head engine and you don’t need real high-octane fuel to make things run properly. If the gas is not good or is of too low octane, the pinging will occur. So either pump this fuel out, or better yet, and a much safer route, go putt around awhile and top the tank with fresh fuel from a reputable gas dock. Third, you are getting some water in the combustion chamber of one or more of your cylinders. This can happen in a couple of ways. You may have a crack in your block or your head somewhere. While you are boating at high speeds, a small amount of water is mixing in with your fuel mixture and causing you the problem. In the old days, engine manufacturers allowed you to mix a small amount of water into the top end of our engine through a control valve. The purpose was to clean the carbon out of your motor — sort of a steam-cleaning if you will. This worked fairly well if you really knew what you were doing. However, most didn’t, and the result was a melt down of the pistons and cylinder walls, destroying the motor. The other way this water can get into the combustion chamber is by bypassing the head gasket between the engine block and the engine head. This is where I would start first. If your anniversary is coming up shortly, perhaps you could ask your wife for a torque wrench. You have to re-tighten the head bolts. It is most certain that after an engine rebuild you have to do this once, if not twice, to get the head to seat properly. As you said, the engine was recently rebuilt by Lou down in Milwaukee. He would never let a crack anywhere get by his watchful eye, so it is most assuredly a re-torque of the head bolts. Set the wrench to 70 pounds and follow the instructions with our new wrench. The best fashion is to start tightening the bolts in the middle of the engine and work your way out to the edges. Boat for five or ten hours and do it again. I think this will solve your problem.

Do I Know Mr. Goodwrench? No I don’t. I did meet his wife once at a symposium in Lake Okoboji. She did not give me her phone number nor her room number. She is much too noble of a woman. If you still need the number, I would contact Steve Davis at Village Chevrolet, I am sure he can help.

I too watched way too much television as a kid. Although it was fun to watch TV and see my Uncle Mr. Knowitall, my second cousin Mr. Wizard and my mentor and Great Uncle Icabod Mudd, while sipping Ovaltine with my nose six inches from the television screen.
Those were the days.
Dr. Motorhead