Missionaries Missing Starter Mystery

Jan 29, 2011

RAY: This puzzler came from a very interesting letter I got four or five years ago. Here it is:

"Four of us have been working as missionaries in a small African village and we had to make our way to the next village some 50 kilometers away. So we engaged one of the locals to take us in his Toyota Land Cruiser. We put our belongings on the roof, you know, in typical fashion -- and tied everything up with rope and we began our journey.

'At one point, we pulled off onto a sandy shoulder to let another vehicle pass. As luck would have it, our driver stalled the engine trying to pull out of the sand and when we went to restart it, it wouldn't start.'

TOM: Oh!

RAY: 'The starter motor was dead. We tapped on it, we spit on it, we cajoled it, we rubbed it. We did everything, including the incantations, but the starter motor had just started for the last time. That was it.

'Now, we knew there was no way we could get it push-started in the sand so we looked around the Land Cruiser for things with which we could start the engine.

'All we could find, in addition to our suitcases, was the regular jack, the kind that can jack up one corner of the vehicle at a time; about 30 more feet of that rope that was used to tie all the suitcases onto the roof; and a quart of Philippo Barrio Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

'Night was coming on fast. We were starting to panic. The buzzards were circling; the hyenas were closing in. Our driver says, 'I have a plan.' Within a minute or so, we had the thing started and off we drove.

'What did we do?'
RAY: Here's how we get the car started. We jack up one of the rear wheels and anyone who has ever started a lawn mower probably knows what we did. We carefully wrapped the rope around the tire in such a manner that the four of us were able to pull it. And when we got the tire spinning fast enough, the driver would just pop the clutch with the key in the "on" position and it would be tantamount to push-starting the vehicle.

TOM: Wow!

RAY: And the reason it works is that the differential is peculiar in that if you have one wheel up off the ground, only that wheel will get power and the other one won't and once the thing was started -- then we could simply put it in neutral, lower the thing down and drive away and hope that the knucklehead driving it doesn't stall it.

So who's our winner?

TOM: The winner this week is Fred Miller from St. Petersburg, Florida. Congratulations, Fred!

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