The Morris Minor That Could

Mar 22, 2004

RAY:The inspiration for this puzzler was sent in by Jerry Olhaver. I've done a little obfuscation and declarification.

The scene is some miles out on Cape Cod. It's late summer of '54, the day after a hurricane had altered the landscape. The hero of our puzzler is a Morris Minor...remember the Morris Minor? It was the great-grandfather of the modern Mini.

Jerry's problem came with the tidal surge on parts of the Cape Cod peninsula caused by the storm.

Yachts and working boats had been swept miles from the marinas, and actually left in fields! Only National Guards trucks and jeeps, big mainland wreckers, and a few rubbernecking cars were moving on the roads.

Every other set of wheels still on the roads looked drowned. They wouldn't start, wouldn't run, and were waiting for a tow truck. It was an uncertain future, too. You never know what's going to happen when your car gets drowned.

Enter our hero, pedaling his bicycle. He spots his Morris Minor, looking as drowned as all the rest. But, at least the four tires are on the pavement. He tries to start the engine unsuccessfully. It cranks, but won't fire up.

He opens the hood and removes the spark plugs. They're soaked with gasoline. He realizes why they're soaked, because when he takes the distributor cap off, it's full of water. He realizes that he's done for. Yet, in less than 10 minutes, unaided and using only what he had on his bicycle, and in the trunk of the car, he begins a successful drive across the peninsula.

How did he do it?


RAY: What he did, in fact, was he drove his Morris Miner as if it were an electric car. Using the starter motor and the battery, both of which still worked even though they were submerged, he turned the key and actually shifted up through the gears. As he got moving he went from first, to second, to third.

When he came to hills, he would use the opportunity to coast. When he had to go up hills that were difficult, he would downshift where necessary. Considering how big the starter motor and the battery are in this little car, and how small the car is, he was able to drive all the way across the peninsula.

Pretty cute, huh? So who's our winner this week?

TOM: The winner this week is Kate Laguza from Naples, Florida, of all places, home of Don and Dorothy Chalk.

RAY: Indeed.

TOM: And Allen Kaplan. For having her answer selected at random from among all the correct answers that we got Kate is going to get a $26 gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division of And with that certificate Kate can pick up a brand-new Car Talk unmarked bill carrier.

RAY: Which is really a Car Talk gym bag, right?

TOM: Yeah, but it actually says "unmarked bill carrier" on it, so you can load it up with unmarked 20s or dirty gym socks, whichever you have more of.

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