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Raging Pencils is a celebratory conceit of:

Mike Stanfill, Private Hand
Mike Stanfill, Private Hand
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Impact in 3... 2....1....

I always wondered what I would do if my brakes suddenly gave out. If I pressed my foot down and felt that sickeningly soft response as the brake pedal sunk to the floor.

Well, I found out this weekend.

While traveling downhill at a reasonable speed towards a busy intersection the right front wheel-cylinder on my car blew a gasket. I then realized I was bearing down much too fast on the all-too-conspicuous rear end of an unsuspecting vehicle sitting in the right-hand lane. I down-shifted, turned the motor off and yanked hard on what I jokingly refer to as "the hand-brake".


Let me tell you about my car. It's a 1965 Mustang convertible for which I exchanged the then-handsome sum of $450 for back in 1975. It's been my only car in all that time, save for an avocado green 1971 Dodge Swinger I owned for a brief period in 1992 when the Mustang was side-swiped by an SUV during a rush-hour rainstorm, whereupon it subsequently spent a few weeks in intensive care at the local body shop.

In all those years I have slept in it twice, though I do not recommend this. I have made love in it twice although, again, I do not recommend this. It's not only small and cramped but every piece of interior hardware that can possibly make you horribly uncomfortable should you try to do anything but drive in it, does. Otherwise, pure driving bliss.

In 1989 I yanked the back seat out and lowered the top, then drove to the local engine store. They lowered a new engine into the back and I drove it home and installed it myself. It's been running like a champ ever since.

On January 1, 2000 I turned the odometer over to 300,000 miles. That was a special day.

In all these years it's never left me by the side of the highway as a result of a breakdown. Even under the most severe circumstances it's always managed to limp home where simple repairs were quickly made. This time the car and I were both defeated by something doomed to fail in a most spectacular fashion. In Ford circles it's referred to as "the fruit jar". The rest of you call it a single-cylinder master cylinder.

You see, in order to save a few bucks back in 1965 Ford used these cheap bastards in the 6-cylinder cars. It connected the brake pedal to the brakes on all four wheels. If one of the braking systems of any of the wheels failed, they all failed, as they all failed me on Saturday. In 1967 Ford upgraded all Mustangs to dual-cylinder master cylinders, meaning if the front brakes failed the rears would still work, and vice-versa. I plan on having mine upgraded once it's in the shop.

So what happened that day? Some good luck and some bad luck.

It was a Saturday so the bank parking lot to my right was deserted so I steered towards it, jumping the curb... right into the concrete pedestal of a light pole that was hidden by a spray of decorative bushes. The left front of the car took the brunt of the impact straight on. Apart from the brakes themselves failing that was the bad luck.

The good luck was that the concrete base, about 18" in diameter, pushed completely out of the ground, bouncing me to the right and slowing my momentum. The left fender digging into my tire did the rest and I came to a quick stop before doing any more damage. This all happened in a few seconds.

Had the concrete base been more robustly constructed, and had not moved at all when I struck it, the damage to the car, and me, would have been much more substantial. I have a feeling the base was designed that way. Good thinking, says I.

Here's the aftermath:

mike's mustang

If I hadn't hit that concrete base I might have sailed into one of several buildings or possibly even have hurt someone at a nearby car wash. You may or may not be pleased to know that I walked away from this without a scratch. That was the best luck of all.

(Pauses to take breath. Wonders if any detail left unexplored. Re-examination says yes but no one cares. Moves on to summation.)

As I write this I'm uncertain of the fate of the Mustang. On Monday morning the insurance company will inspect it and deem it either worthy of repair or, I fear, they may total it. We'll see. Either way, in lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to the Ford Museum in the name of Mike's Mustang.


end rant

Raging Pencils salutes the Mystery Readers of
Halifax, England
Whoever you are, thanks for reading my ham-handed little 'toon.

end rant

A blast from the momentous past. The RP from 8-22-08.

mr. splashypants meets the pope.

end rant

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Today's Google Chow.

The Pope and his evil minion Cardinal Fang have erected a box-trap, baited with colorful Easter Eggs, and they're going to trap children in order to perform unspeakable sexual acts upon them. In other words, the usual.

Pope: "Shhh. Here they come."