The Case of the Whistling Oldsmobile Delta 88

Sep 27, 2004

RAY: This puzzler came from a guy named Doug Veeder. Of course, I had to obfuscate it and de-clarify. Here it is.

Doug writes, "When I was in college, I had my very own house painting business. It was great, because most of the jobs were in the small town where I lived, and if it rained, I got to sleep in.

"It was wonderful, except for encountering the occasional hornet's nest. Near the end of the summer, I got a job 20 miles away. When I drove to the new job on the Interstate, my elderly Oldsmobile Delta 88 began howling loudly. The volume and pitch of the noise were directly related to the speed I drove. I pulled over, I opened the hood and looked around, but I couldn't find anything obviously wrong. So, I drove to the job and spent the day scraping, with a heavy heart.

"When I drove home that night, though, the noise had disappeared. And it didn't come back during the 10 days it took to paint the house. I forgot about it.

"The day I finished the job, I loaded up my equipment and headed for home with a fat wallet. As soon as I hit the Interstate, the howling returned. I drove home with a heavy heart, and visions of my paycheck being sucked out by the transmission repair shop. When I finished unloading my equipment, I realized what the problem was. Five minutes later, I had the problem solved without opening the hood, or turning a wrench."

What was causing the problem?
RAY: If you were painting houses what would be the first thing that you would have to think of besides the paintbrushes?

TOM: A ladder.

RAY: Exactly. He had an extension ladder tied to the roof of the car. I'm going to read his words because I love them. He says, "At high speeds the wind blowing through the rungs turn the ladder into a big Aeolian harp.

TOM: What's an Aeolian harp?

RAY: I think Aeolius is the Greek god of the winds. The winds. I had the winds when I ate Chinese beans.

An Aeolian harp is one that makes sound with the winds blowing through it. Of course, when he took the ladder off, that explains why the ten days he was painting the house, the car was fine. The ladder wasn't on the roof. Do we have a winner?

TOM: Of course! Our winner this week is Sue Ellen Kingsley, from Hancock, Michigan. And for having her correct answer selected at random from among all the correct two answers that we got, Sue Ellen will get a $26 gift certificate. Notice it used to be $25, now it is $26 due to inflation.

RAY: Whoop-de-doo, Sue Ellen.

TOM: And with that certificate she can go to the Shameless Commerce Division of and get among other things a distressed Car Talk T-shirt.

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