Italian Pots and Pans
My Dad was a milkman. For more than 40 years he was a milkman. What drove him mad were the folks who "cut him up". He took it very personally. He simply could not see that a slow-moving milk truck was always going to be passed by high-octane, high-velocity motor cars, and in the process some of them would cut it a bit close. It's just part of life.
Not in his book. It was personal.
So, one summer when I was about 19 he decided that he had had enough. He had the answer to what ailed him. He was going to install a Ford V8 to replace the rather sedate and frugal 4 cylinder that was standard equipment for Ford milk trucks. Money was no object and to hell with the environment - never mind the safety issues - for himself as well as pedestrians and other road users. It was going to happen.
Problem. The milk round is a six-day-a-week-job. How to remove a four cylinder Ford truck engine and replace it with the V8 all in one day? Not easy. Probably not even possible. Even the Old man could see that. Therefore, in his wisdom he decided to borrow another milk truck to do the round and work on the V8 conversion in the evenings. Should take a day or two, he thought.
I was instantly promoted to assistant motor mechanic and all-round dogsbody. My Mum made coffee.
To make things worse, I had recently taken a new job: washing dishes in an Italian restaurant. During the day I was attending classes at University. The plan was - OM does milk round for the day, comes home, gets to work on truck. I go to school, wash a mountain of dishes then come home and help him with the V8 conversion.
I confess I was not entirely convinced, but there was no stopping him. Alert readers may have noticed that there was no time for eating or sleeping built into his plan.
OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and started removing old 4-cylinder Ford truck engine. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. (I'll come to the pans later). I got home about 11:00 expecting to find the old engine laying in the driveway. It wasn't.
It sounds so easy to say "remove Ford engine". It's nowhere near that easy to do. Worked all night. OM's plan was to cut corners, as usual, by unbolting the engine from the gearbox and just removing the engine, leaving the gearbox in situ.
When we did, the gearbox fell down and hit the ground with a resounding thump. Fortunately, I was not underneath it at the time. Unfortunately, neither was the OM.
Still, we almost got the engine out. End of day one.
OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on removing old 4-cylinder Ford truck engine. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. About mid-night we got the engine out. Success. Now, we simply had to drop the V8 in, bolt it to the gearbox (remember it was laying on the driveway at this time) and do the peripherals, like fuel and electrical systems which may, or may not be compatible. Eventually managed to shoe-horn the V8 into the space allotted for a Ford 4 cylinder. End of day two. Not been to sleep yet.
OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on installing Ford V8. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. When I got home, the OM had just about managed to get the V8 in place and bolted to the engine mounts. Now, for the gearbox. Yes, that's the one laying on the driveway under the truck. Well, at least it was out of the rain. OM had rigged an ingenious system of hydraulic jacks and bricks to support the gearbox as we tried to get it up into position. It was slow going, but eventually we got it quite close. Now all we had to do was align the splines of the drive shaft with the clutch (through which it must pass) and bring the two essential parts of the drive train - the engine and gearbox - together. That took two days!
OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on installing Ford V8. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. No matter how hard we tried we could not get the splines to pass through the clutch and into the backplate where they belonged. We tugged. We pulled. We shoved. No go.
Oh yes, did I mention? The only functional way to achieve this precision manoeuvre was the OM laying on his back under the truck lifting and twisting the engine (any idea what a Ford truck engine weighs – even when most of the weight is being taken by the jacks?) whilst I attempted to do the same from inside by holding the gear lever and using it as a tool to move the gearbox. Probably not in the Ford workshop manual. Eventually we got it just sufficiently on to get one of the bell-housing bolts to start in its thread, then another one, then a third, By carefully tightening them one by one, eventually we got the shaft to pop into place. Hurrah! End of day four.
OM delivered milk. I went to school. OM came home and carried on installing Ford V8. I washed a mountain of dishes caked with pasta sauce. Did I mention no sleep in four full days? Actually I was feeling quite good. In a bit of a daze, a bit of a haze but strangely not really tired. And on the fifth day we got the engine and the gearbox in. It was in the early hours, but it was in. I freely confess I'd had it by then. I quit. OM carried on until the dawn's early light when I saw him standing by the side of the truck with a few bits of carburettor linkage in his hand. I'll never forget this scene. OM with “extra bits” in his hand. OM looks at the linkage and says, soto voce, “Now, if I put this SOB there and this SOB over there . . .” Eventually he gave up, threw the “extra” bits away and started it up. It ran. I'd like to say I was surprised but by then I just didn't care.
OM was ecstatic. As it was time to start the milk round, off he went. I went to bed and didn't surface for about 18 hours.
After some time spent barrelling around at breakneck speed and frightening the life out of anyone so timorous as to even attempt to overtake him, the OM's Ford V8 Milk truck blew up, scattering bits of metal and oil all over the tarmac.
Poetic justice I'd say.
p.s. I promised to get to the pots and pans in an Italian restaurant. I left a perfectly good job at a fast food restaurant (not McDonald's) because my sister said she could get me the dish washing job in the Italian restaurant she waitresed in. It paid another 15 cents an hour. She didn't tell me that I was the only dishwasher. So, all the dishes from lunch-time were neatly stacked for me when I got there about 4 in the afternoon. When I waded through them, I was just about ready to start on the evening dishes which had been neatly piling up. Finally I could get to the pots and pans about 9 at night By comparison, pulling back sink at KP in the Army was easy. Italian sauces stick to the bottom of pans like Teflon. And this was before Teflon had been invented! Worst job I ever had, but, at least I was able to claim membership in the Ancient Order of Pearl Divers – the unofficial trade organisation of all dishwashers.
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