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"PAPER or PLASTIC?" (A Short Mystery Solved)

Jeff Huyck and I were among the last to leave from the 2006 Tiffin meet. Before the meet, Jeff had ridden to my house from Grand Rapids, MI -- well over 400 miles -- so we could ride to the meet together. Now we were going our separate ways. We stopped by the fairgrounds one last time before checking out of the hotel. Roy and LaVera Davies and a few others were packing up for their trips home. After wishing all a safe trip, we got ready to make our grand exit. Jeff's Honda roared to life and my 1940 Four did NOTHING -- nada -- bupkus -- zilch! Talk about embarrassing! Just about the only thing worse would have been dropping the bike.

The remaining faithful began offering theories, from flooding to battery failure. All were dutifully checked and still the Four refused to fire. Then Roy suggests popping the distributor cap. OK. He looks and says, "There it is." "There what is?" I replied, obviously clueless. He pointed the stud that the spring on the points attaches to -- the one where the12-volt wire from the coil connects. "That thing is soaking wet. It's grounding your points." Sure enough, the inside of the distributor was more or less covered with gunk -- a lovely mixture of excess lubricant and whatever other crud had gotten in through the (obviously ineffective) drain hole.

Out came tools; the points and all attaching bits were removed and culprit was revealed. The insulator between the points and the distributor body was soaked with whatever had accumulated and now provided enough electrical contact to ground the points. It would have to be replaced. Surprisingly, no one had a spare NOS insulator handy! We would have to improvise. A discarded Guinness box seemed the obvious choice. A piece was fashioned and installed. Moment of Truth: the Four started on the first kick! Farewells again and off we go.

We barely made it to the gate before, yep, the Four sputtered and died. First thought -- check the fuel taps. Too easy. So again off with the distributor cap. Seems that there was still enough residual goo to soak the beer box repair in just that short distance. Cardboard wasn't going to cut it. Fortunately the fairgrounds folks had recently planted lots of new flowers by the gate, and one of the little plastic markers would serve make a quick repair. That actually worked! We got back to the hotel and I replaced the hurriedly made insulator with a more substantial, more carefully fitted piece. (I have been advised by counsel not to reveal the source of the material used!) Jeff and I both made it home without further incident and that repair has continued to function perfectly. Thanks again to Roy and everyone else.

Epilogue: There was one more lesson to be learned from this experience, it's more of a Tech Tip than a story. So click here to see how it ends...

Jim Walther