by Lance Hill
Noel had thought it would be a good idea to turn the Mini so she was facing toward the race and we could crash start it forward and although he had achieved that objective, he had given us another hurdle. The Mini was now stuck tight in thick grass that was almost up to its windows….and the grass itself was slippery from the recent downpour. We rocked her back and forth for what seemed like an age.
"Hey Noel - If you have any more great ideas, can you keep them to yourself?”
“COME ONNNNNNNN......AAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh” he said as the Mini reluctantly emerged from the long stuff like a particularly stubborn gumboot off a wet foot. Noel got in, dash lights appeared, second gear selected, brake off, pump-pump-pump-pump-pump...
Noel dropped the clutch when I got her up to speed and the Mini again roared into life. However, it wasn’t the gentle, non-invasive purr she had had previously, it was an unmuffled bellow. Noel panicked, stamped on the brakes and killed the ignition. I hit the back of the car with a splat, as I was still running after it at full pelt to jump in the passenger’s side.
I looked under the rear of the Mini. Sure enough – the exhaust had broken just south of the bottom bend in the header pipe and the entire thing was hanging by one bracket that was attached to the rotten boot floor. I managed to detach this by wiggling it back and forward until the rusted bracket broke free and then I pulled the pipe and muffler out the back of the car.
“What do you reckon we do with this? We can’t leave it here”
“Well, we’ve got no way of reattaching it, so I guess we’ll just have to carry it with us”
I opened the driver’s rear window and fed the exhaust through between the front seats until the front pipe was on the floor in the passenger’s side and the muffler was jammed in the open window. It looked like some weird new exhaust configuration that someone with eccentric tendencies and a penchant for the ridiculous would have employed. Sort of like an idiot’s version of a smoke stack that you see on an old Kenworth.
“Ho.... Beautiful, mate. Just beautiful.”
“You got a better idea? Shaddup and get in the thing. We going for this run or what?”
“Yup!” he grinned as he swung himself in behind the wheel and slammed the door.
Once again the dash lights appeared and the thud-thud-thud of his left foot repeatedly pushing the clutch to the floor……and again she skidded then burst into life. I jumped into the passenger’s seat, grabbed the bottle through the open window and slammed the door, Noel released the clutch and we were away. The speedo climbed steadily to about 15 miles per hour as we made our way down the main race to the road again. A quick check for traffic and Noel goosed the throttle and the Mini rattled loudly out onto the road, heading for Tapora township – about a mile and a half away.
“Geez, mate. How far we gunna take this thing?”
“Dunno. See how it goes, eh? How much gas we got?”
“Lemme see – about three quarters of a tank” I said as I checked the windscreen bottle. “Hey, are you sick of first gear yet?”
“We aint got much choice, do we?”
“There’s three more in the box not counting reverse or neutral, matey. Wanna try for second?”
Noel pumped the clutch like mad while holding the car in a straight line. All of a sudden, the Mini started jerking. He held the clutch in and I pulled the gearstick from first to second. Noel released the clutch and the Mini lurched forward and accelerated to twenty-five miles an hour.
“Hey Noel – look! She’s about to roll over the first whole mile since we got her going!”
“Woohoo!!!” he cried again and took her up to a shaky 30 with the Mini’s engine pulling about four thousand rpm and making one hell of a din under our feet where the exhaust pipe abruptly stopped.
We were about to perform our team-effort and try for third, when there was first a bang, then the Mini lurched a bit, then a series of smaller popping sounds and then a god-awful loud scraping noise that seemed to reverberate through the chassis of the car itself……and in looking out the back window, we saw a huge amount of dust pluming up behind us.
Noel had already started to slow the Mini down as there was another bang, another lurch and the scraping stopped. I was watching out the rear window and started laughing as the dust cleared enough to see what had caused the latest Mini drama. The Mini itself rolled to a standstill and sat there idling like the Massey-Fergusson we’d seen in Dave’s barn. He turned and saw me laughing and when he looked out the rear window, he forgot about the fact the car was in still gear and just opened the door and jumped out to see if his eyes were deceiving him. The Mini jerked forward and pig-jumped a few times before I grabbed the handbrake and stopped its fitful progress.
I sat in the passenger’s seat and unashamedly roared with laughter as I watched Noel head back up the road to pick up what remained of the boot lining sans battery box of his new pride and joy. The jerk into second and the bumps in the rutted road must have finally finished what many years under trees had started and all the moths that had been collectively holding hands to keep the boot floor in had finally gone on strike. Noel swiped the bent and twisted relic up off the gravel and trudged back to the car with a grotty look on his face.
Any concern for my safety that I may have had however, was swiftly nullified and I renewed the strength of my laughter as he opened the bootlid to put the boot floor into….….the boot. Realising what he’d just inadvertently done, the air turned blue with words that would have turned a 20-year-veteran sailor white and he stomped down the driver’s side, opened the door and threw the boot floor into the back seat with the exhaust pipe and the battery.
“Jeez, mate! Watch it! Don’t wanna short that battery!”
“Mutter-mutter-mumble-mutter-battery-mumble-mutter-mumble-bloomin'-boot-mutter-mumble-mumble-mutter-car” said Noel
“Get out and push”
“Hang on – gotta fill up the tank again. Okay – ready!” I said a couple of minutes later
This time we got her up to 15 in first, then went for second and got her to 30 before we had to slow down for the intersection and the turn onto Tapora’s main road. There were a few kids mucking about in front of the Tapora Hall and they stopped when they heard the Mini coming and stared at us – their ball game suspended for the duration – as we made one turn and then another and accelerated toward the Kaipara Heads.
Got to have been a sight – rusty old pink Mini with no front number plate, no front indicators, one headlight swinging wildly and the other not going, exhaust pipe sticking out the driver’s rear window, an arm out the passenger’s front window holding what looked like a windscreen washer bottle full of petrol, no current registration or warrant, still covered in bits of tree and tree slime and making a noise like a dozen Harley Davidsons……it was not one they would soon forget.
We barrelled down Okahukura Road, pumping the clutch and shifting gears and generally happy with the Mini’s progress until she was sitting at a steady 40 miles an hour and we were cruising like we both had driver’s licenses and the world was a wonderful thing. After a couple of miles, we ran out of gas again and while filling the ‘tank’, had a walk-around to see if there was anything amiss with the wee beasty – like maybe the doors were preparing to fall off or something.
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