Going from Tucson to New Mexico should be a reasonable trip of approximately 6-8 hours. Starting out to Roswell to visit my dad, I packed my 1968 Buick with plenty of water, food and my dog.
It was a hot day as it almost always is in these parts, but everything was going very well. Then the car started to jerk a little bit. I thought there must have been some dirt in the gas tank and kept on going. Soon the car started to slow down and I pulled over to let it cool off. “It must be vapor lock,” I thought.
While sitting there a car pulled up in front of me and two men got out, and walked to my car. I quickly rolled up my window leaving about ½ inch open. One of the men came to my window and said, “You having trouble?” “Oh, no,” I said. “I’m just sitting here resting.” The man replied, “No, I think you have trouble.” At that he walked to the front of the car, opened the hood, and stared at the engine. The men said something to each other (I didn’t understand their language), and they started pulling wires and putting them back, talking and pointing. They closed the hood and walked to my window and said, “You’ll be all right now.” They walked away, got into their car and drove off.
Sitting there in wonderment, I thought, “What did they do to my car?! Is it safe to start? Will it run OK?” So I waited a few more minutes and decided to start the engine. The car started immediately, and once again I was on my way.
Coming upon a store (it looked more like a trading post) with Indians standing all around, I decided to go in and call my dad (they actually had a telephone!). My dad said, “It sounds like vapor lock,” and told me to buy some clothespins and clip them along the fuel line in the engine. I started to laugh and thought my dad was joking. “No, it really works.” One of his friends had told him. So I bought a bag of clothespins, and opened the hood of my car (which was a job in itself as a ’68 Buick is all steel). I looked at the engine, and sighing I said, “Oh well, let’s try it.” I placed the clothespins along the gas line like I was told. I started the car and went on my way.
The car started to jerk again and I once again pulled over. I took a rag, wet it down with water, and wrapped it around the fuel pump, closed the hood and waited a few moments, and started again, only to be stopped again along the road. A car pulled up behind me and a man walked up and asked if he could help. I told him the car was having vapor lock trouble and I was waiting for it to cool. He said, “I have a chain. I could pull you to the next town which is only a few miles from here. They might have a mechanic there that could help.” I agreed and he pulled me into a small town – a motel, a gas station and a small restaurant.
Checking in at the motel, I called my dad and told him where I was and that I would be there the next day. Then he told me of another thing I could do for vapor lock. “Get a grapefruit and squash it over the fuel pump,” he said. “Come on Dad,” I said. “What is that going to do?” “I don’t know for sure, but I heard it works.” “OK Dad.”
After ending my call I asked the motel clerk if she had something for some water for my dog. She was very kind, and brought a pan of water.
The next morning I went over to the restaurant for – yes – a grapefruit. I asked the waitress for some grapefruit and she said they were all out. “Do you have an old one?” I asked. She looked at me kind of strangely and said, “There might be one in the trash.” “That would be fine,” I said. So she walked into the kitchen and brought me a half of grapefruit wrapped in foil.
Returning to the motel across the street, I opened the hood of my car. Looking at the clothespins clipped along my fuel line, and the rag wrapped around the fuel pump, I hesitated to add the grapefruit to my collection. “But,” I said to myself, “Oh well, what can it hurt?” And I squashed the grapefruit over the fuel pump, closed the hood and went inside. A knock came at the door. It was the lady from the motel. She had brought a can of dog food for my dog and a piece of toast for me. That was so thoughtful of her!
Ready to leave town, I decided to get some gas and pulled into the station. (When the gas attendant filled your car, he washed your windows and checked your oil for free, and with a smile!) The gas attendant asked if I wanted the oil checked and I said yes (forgetting for a moment about my engine additions). He opened the hood, stood in amazement as he looked at the clothespins, rag and grapefruit, stood back with his hands on his hips, shook his head, and closed the hood.
Upon arriving at my dads, I told him of my adventures. Thanks to the modernization of cars, I believe vapor lock has been eliminated and there will no longer be cars running on clothespins, wet rags and squashed grapefruit!