When Muscles Aren't Everything

The Puzzler

RAY: The crux of this puzzler was sent in by a fellow named Hugh Rawlins and I added the crock.

Here goes:

Back in the 60's, I had the misfortune of living across the street from the world's biggest, and most insufferable, motor head. American muscle cars were just coming into their own in the '60s and this guy had jumped in with both feet. Hardly a week went by without my having to listen to this guy's latest automotive exploit.

Just outside of town there was an abandoned stretch of highway. It was straight and flat for miles and the perfect place for my neighbor and his kind to race each other in their Chevys and Dodges and Pontiacs and Fords.

I was never invited to race my car which had a four-speed manual transmission and a three-cylinder engine. It was a Saab.

One day I challenged my neighbor to a race: my Saab versus his muscle car. I just had one condition: we race in reverse. That's right, backing up. He thought about it for a second and then said, 'Sure! What do I care? I'll go backwards, forwards. I'll race you any way you want.'

Now I didn't possess any particular prowess so far as driving in reverse. Nor was I aware of any particular handicap on his part. So at high noon there we were. Engines running, our rear bumpers inched up to the starting line, awaiting the signal. And, then, we were off.

Within a minute, he was far ahead. But little by little I closed the gap until finally I caught up to him and passed him. His engine was straining. It was on the verge of self destruction, with the tachometer at the red line, as he watched me cross the finish line first.

How did I beat him in reverse with my Saab?

Think you know? Drop Ray a note!

[ Car Talk Puzzler ]

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