August 24, 2017

The Polar Opposite of Normal

Illustration by George Danby

Illustration by George Danby

• By John F. Chisholm •

For whatever reasons, I don’t do normal.  Years ago, when I was a kid, I tried.  I mean I really tried.  What kid doesn’t want to be just like everybody else?

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, it simply didn’t work.  The graft never took.  What’s odd about that, I never expect it to extend to every portion of my life.

It does.

I’m always surprised by the extent.  The abnormal expecting the normal.

That’s me.  Go figure.

For example, I sincerely expected that the Daimler would, sooner or later, grow into a reliable set of principles defined by its origin and history.  In other words, I thought that it would turn into a normal car.  Wouldn’t you imagine that I’d  have known better?

Hello!  Look at its associates.  Look who does the maintenance.  Honestly!

The coil is the latest issue.  Lucas made, it’s an antique, oil-cooled unit.  I began noticing a predictable pattern in my Daimler runs.  The car would start out like a house afire, zinging and zipping with performance to spare.  But 30 to 35 minutes into the trip, the zip gradually zinged instead of the other way around.  The spark became intermittent and unreliable.

A quick pat would confirm that the coil overheated.

Yes, I’m sure.  The first time I left my hand there too long.

As a result, I replaced the original with another antique Lucas unit that I’ve had on the shelf for years.  (Remember that I’ve owned British cars before.)  Unfortunately, the second behaves exactly the same way, inspiring wonder until it, too, overheats from the experience.

I’ve spent a lot of time limping home from 30 to 35 minutes away.  Depending on the ambient temperature and my average speed, that can be quite a distance.  Strangely enough, that isn’t the biggest issue.  That’s a supply problem.

Go ahead.  Try finding a replacement coil for a 1959 Daimler, SP-250.  Good luck.  Your local, downtown auto parts store won’t be much help.  You have to get creative.  Out of desperation, I installed a Bosch coil.  Oh, horrors!  A German unit in an English car?  Forgive me, I had to do something.  Every gasoline-powered car, even a modern one, requires a coil.

Alas!  The consequences were dire.  My car began speaking in tongues.  Certainly in a foreign language.  I’m serious.  It sounded completely different.  Oh, it started and ran adequately enough.  Neither did the coil overheat.  But ― and this is the truth ― the zip was missing.  Gone.  Totally.  The car ran.  Ho-hum.  Worst of all, it behaved as if that were normal.

Excuse me!  This is a Daimler.  Whatever else it is, it is NOT ho-hum.  Neither is it normal, despite my foolish expectations.  To say the loss of performance was notable is a wild understatement.  The change was palpable in the engine’s every revolution.

The result?

I did what I had to do, what every British car owner would do.  While I search for another coil, I reinstalled the original and packed the spare in the trunk.  That way, I can get home from 30 to 35 minutes out with the same panache with which I set out.  Of course, I have to stop once there, lift the hood, remove one coil ― trying hard not to burn my fingers ― and replace it with the other before turning around and running for home.  Literally.

It makes me wonder though.  What sane person does that?

Exactly my point.

For whatever reasons, I don’t do normal.