A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My 200K Badge 

This is the story of the one time my 122S, the Snow Weasel*, didn't get me to my destination on time. R.Kwas

(*Name courtesy of Tuning SU Carburetters, Speedsport Motorbooks, England, page 110...some sort of Arctic Vehicle?)

The destination, a normal workday at Otis Elevator R&D Center, was only about 3 minutes off as a coworker and I approached (operating in pre-caffeine morning auto-pilot) the road sign indicating our exit in one-half mile. The powerplant of the 26 year old girl with 165K miles was humming nicely at slightly extra-legal road speed when at once, the engine went power off, oil and amp lights illuminated, and a sound similar to a single smart rap on the engine block with a three pound hammer "awoke" us both and sent my heart to my seat. A quick declutching and shift to neutral, turning off of the ignition key, and the avoidance of the urge to do any abrupt handling maneuvers found us still moving along briskly in the left lane, albeit not motoring. Turning the ignition key back on allowed the signaling of our lane changes as we neared the exit on our impromptu coast down test, dropping below 55 MPH probably with a quarter mile or so to go. Since city- outbound morning traffic was light, I decided to see how far off the exit we could coast, since making it straight through the, hopefully, green light would get us into the work complex and therefore preclude the need for a tow--it was not to be. Into view came a red light so up on the shoulder to safety we went. A cursory inspection under the hood revealed nothing obviously wrong but from that bone chilling noise, I knew she was mortally hurt. A quick tow by another coworker on the way in, using my standard equipment tow rope, and we were only 2 minutes off schedule.

My mind was preoccupied that morning at work. Its weird, by my disposition is strangely affected by the state of my vehicle, is it because "I love my Volvo" Dr. Freud?

At lunch I began the check-out: turn over the engine--no start--not even the sound of compression in some cylinders; pop off the distributor cap--no turn (broken timing gear?); remove gas pump and turn over motor, the lobe turns (broken distributor drive?). Later, after pulling the motor and doing the formal post-mortem I found a pinky diameter, two inch long clean metal pin of unknown origin in the sump and the camshaft broken into three ?!? sections. My heart bled--a catastrophic Volvo engine failure!!! Alert the Guinness people.

After careful forensic examination, I was able to piece together the failure scenario: countless temperature cycles along with engine vibration had caused the pressed-in-place idler pin of the oil pump to back out of the pump housing, becoming a loose projectile in the sump. Upon becoming free and acting according to Murphy's Law Third Derivative, this pin flew/bounced up finding a place between the camshaft and the side of the block neatly snipping the shaft into three pieces [see Picture A] the next time a lobe came around. Voila! The first multi-cam B-18? Interesting, but not really surprising is that the rest of the motor was just fine. A new cam and oil pump, and the motor would have been perfectly serviceable. I decided however, to do a proper rebuild since the motor was already out. By the way, in the new engine, the offending pin was peened in place and safety wired [see Picture B], plus the drive got a reinforcement ring...and a belt and suspenders! There are a few other modifications within the bowels of engines that I build these days--all as a result of lessons learned, sometimes the hard way. The Snow Weasel has since passed the one light-second (186K miles) mark in faithful service to me including a 14 hour necessary-stops-only trip to Chicago to visit Bob Gunnels, a good friend who deserves the credit for getting me interested in Volvos.


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