RAY: Well, what had happened was when the original guys put the clutch in, they failed to put in a little tiny piece of wire that goes from the engine block to the body of the car. It's the conductive path for electricity that goes from the battery to the starter motor, through the block, through the body of the car and ultimately back to the battery. In the absence of this cable, the electricity must find a new conductive path to get from the battery, through the starter and back to the battery. Because this cable is missing and there is no other conductive path, it uses the clutch cable, and it burns it up. It makes it brittle.
TOM: You ain't got no path for me, I'm going to find one.
RAY: Right. What finally happens is it burns up the cable. You step on the cable that one last time and the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back comes into play. The cable breaks and then it won't start. That's why I asked him if the engine would start. When he said, "I don't know," I bet it wouldn't. Because now he had no conductive path because the cable was broken, and the car wouldn't start at all. We put in a new clutch cable and a 25-cent piece of wire, for which we charged him $80, and he was on his way. Who's our winner this week?
TOM: The winner...
TOM: What? The winner is what? Tom Toutchavis [SP?] from Lincoln, Rhode Island.
[ Car Talk Puzzler ]