When Muscles Aren't Everything

The Puzzler

RAY: Here's what I did to win the race. As I drove up to that abandoned stretch of highway, I turned the engine off and let the car coast. I put the transmission in neutral and with the car coasting I stepped on the clutch, put the transmission in reverse, turned the key on and popped the clutch.

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: The engine started and the car was going forward. But the engine was running backward. And you say, how could that be? Well, that Saab three-cylinder had a two-cycle engine and it could run either forward or backward, it didn't care. Whichever way you turned it, it started.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: You can't do that with a four-cycle engine. But you could do that with your chainsaw or your weed whacker or whatever, if you could turn the crankshaft the other way. So now I had one forward gear and four reverse gears.

So even though he beat me out of the gate I shifted from first, to second, to third, all the time going faster and faster backwards until I caught up to him.

TOM: And meanwhile he's in reverse.

RAY: He's in reverse and the governor in his transmission probably wouldn't let him go over 60 miles an hour, and that tachometer was right at the red line, it was getting ready to shoot a piston through the hood, and I passed him and won the race. Pretty cute, eh?

TOM: Ex-cellent.

RAY: Do we have a winner?

TOM: We certainly do. Our winner this week is Therese Cooper from Portland, Oregon. And for having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got, Therese gets a $26 gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division at cartalk.com with which she can get one of our brand-new boxed sets of Car Talk CDs.

RAY: Congratulations, Therese!

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

Support for Car Talk is provided by:

Donate Your Car,
Support Your NPR Station

...and get a tax break!

Get Started

Find a Mechanic

Promo tile

Rocket Fuel