Buttercup’s Latest

You know, I do believe Buttercup can read.  Really.  And she’s been reading the blog.

Just as we’re ready to whisk ourselves away and up the coast sailing, she threw a major hissy fit last Thursday.  She was running a bit rough earlier in the day and David started driving her much more aggressively.  Those two have always had their…well…shall we say “issues?”

David picked me up after my physical therapy session downtown and we headed back to the boat to finish up putting seals around the new doors David made for enclosing Mahdee’s engine compartment.

Not 15 minutes into the drive, with David accelerating hard and pushing dear Buttercup.  Yes, you do hear sympathy in my voice here.  Buttercup is an old lady–she’s allowed to degrade and well, it is her nature to have hissy fits when she’s not the center of attention!  David should know better than to push her.  Buttercup always wins.

So…back to the story, 15 minutes into the drive, just as we were cresting the Coronado Bridge we began to hear a tap, tap, tap and Buttercup triumphantly said “so see what you made me do???”  and “so THERE!” she blew up the exhaust valve on her number 1 cylinder.  We coasted into a parking place in front of a church.

As I accusingly glared at David, saying “how COULD you do this to poor Buttercup?” he just glared back and called Buttercup something I won’t repeat here.  David popped the valve cover gasket off and checked the valves.  Nothing obvious there.  So, he got the folding bike out of the trunk–where we often keep it since we go from anchorage to anchorage and often David rides the bike to pick up the car or drop it off at the next anchorage we’ll be in–and rode it the 3 miles down to Fiddlers Cove and picked up Wesley along with the car diagnostic tools.

A short while later, we discovered no compression in Buttercup’s number 1 cylinder and called for a tow truck to take us to North Island’s auto hobby shop.  Thank goodness for USAA’s free towing service with our insurance!  David drove me home and then later took the head off the engine, stared at it in disbelief as he looked at the full extent of Buttercup’s hissy fit.  She’d blown up the valve and a couple tiny bits were welded to the top of the piston.

David was ready to just give up on Buttercup but since he’d been hoarding an old spare engine for her that someone gave us last year, he couldn’t quite look me in the eye and say “lets get rid of her.”  The next morning we drove over to the hobby shop parking lot where Buttercup sat and I took a look at the piston.  It looked fixable to me without pulling the engine.  A tiny bit of blown up valve welded to the piston where it could be filed off. Yes, this looked doable.  And, thank goodness the good-ole-packrat personality of David came to the rescue here with that spare engine head.  So, I ordered engine gaskets for overnight delivery and we said if they arrived by the weekend, we’d just install the new “spare” head from the other engine.  If not, we’d take the spare head to a nearby wholesale automotive machine shop where it could be resurfaced, pressure tested, and cleaned.

The gaskets didn’t arrive.  Not only did they not arrive, I learned that though all the auto parts places list these gaskets, none seem to have them.  We took the bad head as well as the spare head to the machine shop where the spare is being spiffed up into something quite nice for Buttercup as I write.

I really puzzled over this blow up wondering how it could have happened with Buttercup being fairly low miles for a Saab and all.  She had less than 70K miles when purchased in 1999 and now has around 150K.  Well, then David said “oh, yea, remember when we swapped out the head on Buttercup? We put Pepe’s old head on her because we thought her head might have problems?”  Ahhhh! Now it makes sense.  Pepe, our 1974 Saab 99le had over 460K when we “let him go” to car heaven due to body fatigue.  The head was installed in Pepe in 1983 when Pepe had about 150K…so that was a really, really high mileage head we’d saddled poor Buttercup with.

But, all is well, we’ll be picking up Buttercup’s spiffy rebuilt head from the machine shop tomorrow and (in theory) gaskets should all be here by next weekend.  So–Buttercup will be back to the road again.

During all this Buttercup-itis–it’s been 6 weeks since my surgery and I can now drive again–I’ve had the opportunity to drive Wesley (the 1987 900 Turbo)  and I was appalled.  Poor thing, he needs new wheel bearings that David has been withholding!  So, to reward Wesley for being such a good sport about it, I ordered new front wheel bearings as well as an outer CV joint for the passenger side.  David will be doing penance and installing these on the weekend.

I do believe I’m going to have to more closely supervise David’s relationships with both cars–I really think they’ve had way too much abuse from him.

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