They finally took the burned-out Jeep away from Level 2 of the parking garage next to the multimuimegaplex movie theater downtown. Somehow a Jeep Wrangler burned to the ground in the parking garage. I didn't see it burn, just noticed it there with orange cones and yellow tape around it. It was there for a few weeks. Tires blown and mostly melted. Upholstery reduced to ash. Most of the paint burned gray and black. Mmmmm . . . Makes you wonder what the deal was. Especially in a garage where you park once in a while. Today there were just the cones and tape and ash on the floor. The Jeep was gone.
There was a car burned in front of a house around the corner from here a few years ago when T&P lived here. WJ was tiny (2 or 3) and it upset him a bit. He had to be reassured over and over that their cars would not burn in the driveway. And they didn't, of course. That particular incident was rumored to be "gang related." The kids that lived in the house supposedly ran with a rough crowd and somehow ran afoul of a rival rough crowd. Nobody was hurt, but the car was totaled.
But you don't necessarily have to set a car on fire for it to burn to ground. My dad had a perfect 1968 Oldsmobile Toronado for a while. A massive, manly car with a massive, manly engine. But it was mostly my mom's car. He was driving a Triumph GT6 at the time. It was like an itty-bitty Jaguar E-Type. He was partial to big old General Motors cars and British sports cars. Those were his favorites. The GM monsters were ones he found by chance in good condition at a good price. The British-Leyland things were ones he bought as basket cases and restored.
He took the Toronado to the store one Sunday afternoon and when he got back my grandmother had parked in the driveway and he couldn't get the Toronado in the garage (which turned out to be good thing), so he parked it next to her Buick in the driveway. Sunday dinners were a ritual in those days. Grandma was living in town and she and I would show up at Mom and Dad's every Sunday for dinner and Sixty Minutes and coffee and desert.
When Grandma left, Dad went out to pull the Toronado into the garage. It had tinted windows and you couldn't see inside from the outside. When he opened the door, the thing burst into flames. Big, roaring flames. He was lucky he wasn't fried in the process. My mom called the fire department and I went and got the hose. That may not have been the brightest thing to do. There was no guarantee the damn gas tank wasn't going to explode. It could happen. But in real life, a roaring fire in the passenger compartment doesn't necessarily translate into an exploding fuel tank. At least not right away. Unlike the movies where every vehicle impacted, however slightly, is obliged to explode into roiling clouds of flame and black smoke and flying debris.
Anyway, by the time the fire department arrived, I had the fire out and was pulling smoldering upholstery out to make sure it didn't reignite. Again, I can't remember what made me think that having my head and torso inside a car that had just immolated itself was an intelligent thing to do. The fire department actually complimented me on my thoroughness. There was nothing left for them to do.
It turned out that when my dad parked the car, he moved the seat up to where my mom liked it, like he always did, and the stupid seat
motor never turned off. It stuck at the limit of its travel and just
sat there getting hotter and hotter for hours. I was a little surprised that the battery would support that, but the car had a 455 cubic inch V8 and a battery to match. We found the seat motor later and it had actually melted, believe it or not. We figure that the red-hot motor set what would burn on fire fairly early on, but that with the car closed up, there wasn't enough oxygen for a Hollywood-style conflagration. So it just smoldered. When my dad open the door and let the air in -- blam! The whole interior of the car was on fire big time, instantaneously.
My dad immediately set out to find out how the hell that could happen. General Motors in their infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, had failed to fuse the seat motors, or provide any other sort of fail-safe protection, which pissed him off a bit. He wrote them a flaming letter and told everyone he knew to check their cars out for the same problem.
As nice a car as it was, the blue-book had about run out on it and I think he got something like $2800 from the insurance company. But they let him keep the hulk and he got another couple of thousand or so from a guy who was building a dragster out of a similar Toronado and wanted the engine and drive train, which was undamaged. The Toronado was front wheel drive and this guy wanted to put a second engine in the back of his existing one that would drive the rear wheels independently of the front. Syncing two engines and transmissions to one set of controls would have been an interesting exercise. People have built multiple-engine dragsters and tractor-pull tractors, though, so I guess it can be done.
Which is another semi-amusing memory. When my dad was a kid, he dreamed up a "salt flats" racer that would use two twelve-cylinder Allison aircraft engines with a fluid-drive coupling (sort of like an automatic transmission) between the engines to partially relieve the synchronization problem and a fluid-drive transmission to the rear wheels. We still have the drawings he made of this thing. In the meantime Salt-flats racers that competed for the land speed record went to jet and/or rocket engines (which my dad thought was a travesty). The dumb things needed spoilers that looked more like wings just to keep them on the ground. They would really rather have flown. It wasn't like racing a car anymore; it was more like flying an airplane close enough to the ground to make the wheels spin.
The amusing part was that we were watching a tractor pull on ABC Wide World of Sports, or something, one Sunday afternoon and some guy from Kansas had actually built the same thing my dad had drawn, twin Allisons, fluid coupling and all, to pull pallets of concrete blocks through the mud in arenas across the mid-west. He had separate pipes on each of the 24 exhaust ports pointing upward so that it spit fire yards into the air when he tromped the accelerator. Even though it was built for a top speed of about four miles an hour, it was cool and a sort of vindication for that particular approach to achieving excessive horsepower.
Now, about this damn Logic and Critical Thinking test . . .