The story about a Studebaker with a mind of its own.

It was a warm summer day and Uncle Matt and Aunt Norma were coming over to the Spring Lake Heights house for a cookout like they had so many times before. This time Uncle Matt appeared at the door of the old yellow farmhouse with a very worried look on his face. "That car has a mind of its own! It just takes off like a bullet when I barely touch the gas!"

Now most of us would be happy to have a car that responded so well, but this was different. Matt asked Bob to try it out, but to be very careful because "it will get away from you."

Now Bob had driven many fast cars in his life. He had the job of doing tune ups on the Westwood Police Department's cruisers and of course had to "test drive" them to see if they could indeed pursue and overtake a bank robber in a Corvette. So Bob wasn't too worried about the Studebaker. True, it did have a huge V8 under the hood and it was well tuned and running smoothly. Bob started it up and dropped it into drive. A very light touch on the gas and it burned rubber and took off down Old Mill Road like Matt had warned him it would. But it only went a hundred feet or so and then slowed down. One thing Bob did notice was that the accelerator pedal had gone to the floor when he just barely touched it. His initial thought was that the return spring on the accelerator linkage had broken. But that was not the case. Try as he might he couldn't find anything wrong with the linkage. No binding, no bent links - nothing.

Bob stood there scratching his head wondering what could possibly be wrong when he noticed something. The top of the air cleaner was scuffed - scratched looking, with fuzzy looking fiberglass on it. Upon further inspection he found that the underside of the hood had a wear spot in the insulation which lined up perfectly with the air cleaner scuff marks. It was obvious that under normal circumstances the air cleaner could not possibly touch the under side of the hood. Bob proved that by putting a stone on the air cleaner and carefully lowering the hood. It closed without any effort. There was at least three inches of clearance!

The only way that the air cleaner could possibly rub the under side of the hood would be if the engine lifted up and touched it. Hmmmmmm.

Bob blocked the wheels and set the hand brake. He left the hood open and started the engine. He carefully dropped it into drive and touched the gas pedal. The engine jumped up on the left side and began to race. Bob observed the accelerator linkage going from the firewall to the engine. He could see that it was forcing itself to open the throttle all by itself as the engine torque lifted the engine from its left engine mount! He quickly turned off the ignition and watched the engine flop back down onto a broken motor mount. That was it! In engineering terms this is called positive feedback. As the engine torque increased with a slight touch of the gas pedal, the broken motor mount allowed the left side of the engine to lift. Since the car was not yet moving ahead the torque remained high enough to continue lifting the engine from its broken mount. As it lifted, it pulled on the throttle linkage causing the throttle to open even further, thus increasing the torque to further lift the engine and so on until the car had reached 40 or so miles per hour where it shifted into second gear and the torque was reduced sufficiently to let the engine back down onto its mount.

A quick trip to the parts store and Bob had a new motor mount. He installed it and Uncle Matt, Aunt Norma and the whole family enjoyed a summer dinner of fresh corn, tomatoes, steak and cold beer. And the Studebaker was tamed and just sat there in the driveway knowing that it was once again under control of its owner.


1. Jack stands (required)

2. Floor Jack

3. 3/8 drive socket set with extensions and flex sockets

4. Pry bar, heavy screwdriver.

5. wood blocks for shoring up the engine and to put between the oil pan and the jack.

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Copyright © 1996 by Bob Hewitt - All rights reserved