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A Few Stories About Mustangs

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Page 01 Stories
One Sweet Ride
Mom Learns to Ride!
You're Fired!
Sudden Stop Syndrome
Here are a few stories, these change from time-to time, so come on back soon. There are also many stories to read in the Mustang News that is sent out to all MMCOA members. Join Today!


One Sweet Ride
By Don Gillock

I bought it on Ebay — Sept.9, 2002 from a guy in Kansas City, Missouri. He threw it in a pick-up and brought it to my house for free. It was a mess, didn't run very good, and had a rod knocking. I immediately found MMCOA and Jim Cavanaugh. With a ton of emails, we tore it down and fixed everything that was wrong with it. Got all my parts from Alan Wenzel, and he was helpful too. Alan didn't do email back then, so we used the fax machine a lot. He would send me parts with a bill. Then I would pay him. Who does business like that these days? It was great.

I rebuilt the engine, straightened the frame that was bent, then dolled up everything else. It actually had a pretty good paint job and seat. I did some rechroming on rusty parts, and bead blasted the aluminum parts to make them look new. The tires were good too.


It's a rider, not show quality, but it runs fine and is fun to ride. I have a bunch of build pictures as I went along. Jimbo and I brainstormed about how his build should be (see Jimbo's build in the Forum). Slight modifications here and there, not "factory", but determined "for the better". It's the street rodder in him.

The Mustang is a simple machine, but talking to people that have been there and done that make the rebuild a lot more pleasurable. That is what I got from Jimbo. Of course now after five years, we talk about everything. I have seen him once at Paris, Texas and the rest is all email and pictures. Never let it be said there is no such thing as an email relationship. I would sure bet he shows up at the next nationals with a prize winning TB in his truck!

— Don Gillock

Mom Learns to Ride!
By Jack Tennant

When I was 17 years old I had a Mustang, I don't remember what model it was but I purchased it in1953 from a local dealer. This dealer, unknown to me, kept the owners manual. I suppose to make sure people came back to him for maintenance.

Anyway, one day my mother asked me if she could ride my bike. I immediately said yes but she wanted to ride up the driveway towards the garage. I advised her not to do this but she insisted and so I let her. She got on the bike and had it in 1st gear and open the throttle and released the clutch, well as you might imagine she rode my bike right into the back wall of the garage because she was not familiar with it and she froze on. That bent the front forks.

I worked at a Auto alignment shop at the time and so I had to take the forks off and get them back in shape with a hydraulic press. That worked and I never had any problems with the bike. I never allowed my mom to ride my bike again and she never asked, I suppose we both learned a lesson that day. Never let someone ride that is not experienced or familiar with your equipment.

— Jack Tennant Ocean Springs, MS

You're Fired! — Factory Story
By Jim Cavanaugh, Mustang Motorcycles Production Manager

One of the most serious ongoing problems with the production of Mustangs was labor turnover. I mentioned this before, I know but not in a specific detail. A good part of my time was training new employees the methods and use of tools to perform their contribution to the work assignments. No sooner than I had a new guy trained he would be gone, usually after receiving his first paycheck and the cycle would start all over again.

One of the assembly jobs would be to install the upswept exhaust pipe. I would instruct a “newbie” when installing the muffler assembly, to always place the wooden 2 X 4 block between the rear tire and the vertical rear fender brace before drilling the retaining hole for the muffler, to prevent puncturing the tire & tube. I don’t know why the fender braces were not predrilled and they should have been. I would always warn them that if they ignore this procedure and drill into the tire, they would be fired on the spot. No warnings! This may seem cold and calculus but to rework a bike that is almost complete by removing the rear wheel assembly and replacing it, only slowed the team down considerably, not to mention scrapping a brand new tire and inner-tube.

Too often, while doing my regular work, I would hear the old familiar “POW!”, a sound that was unmistakable. I had no choice. I knew what I had to do. I just would walk up to the employee and say, YOU’RE FIRED!

FWIW! — Jimbo

Editors Note: Although this story seems a little negative, remember this happened about 50 years ago. Times (and people) were tougher and working conditions were harsh by today's standards. Jimbo had to do his job, to keep his job. This does not mean he enjoyed firing people! This is a great account of actual Mustang History. If you drill a hole be sure to guard them tires! Thanks Jimbo!

Sudden Stop Syndrome
By Jim Cavanaugh, Mustang Motorcycles Production Manager

During the many years I worked at Mustang Motor Products, I often had to view, inspect and repair, SUDDEN STOP engine damage. When this occurs on an aircraft engine usually, every reciprocating part must be replaced or Magna fluxed. With a sixty year old Mustang engine, it can be catastrophic.

What is Sudden Stop Syndrome?(SSS)
Sudden Stop syndrome is a condition whereby the engine, operating under load, suddenly stops without warning.

What causes Sudden Stop Syndrome?
• Insufficient motor oil in the engine
• Oil pump failure
• Prolonged over revving of the engine (6000 RPM plus)
• Overheating (piston seizure)
• Connecting rod failure (improper torque,stretched rod bolts, fit & clearance problem)

What happens when the engine suddenly stops?
Depending on engine speed when it suddenly stops, is relative to the engine damage. For example, say the rider was traveling at 45 MPH and the engine suddenly stops for one of the above reasons. Before the rider can depress the clutch lever, the rear wheel is already locked up and skidding. If the rider maintains control, he or she is lucky. The worst condition scenario would be that, while the engine stopped suddenly, the momentum of the flywheel did not stop quite as sudden, and keeps rotating, resulting in severe damage to the crankshaft keyway, usually not repairable. At the factory, we would just scrap the crankshaft. Perhaps Alan Wenzel has a repair procedure for this now. The flywheel keyway and hub usually are also badly damaged and beyond repair .The good news is, Alan offers replacement flywheels. Crankshafts are becoming very hard to locate and very pricy.

What can I do to prevent this damage should my engine suddenly stop?
The first thing you should do is remove your flywheel and carefully inspect both the keyways of the crankshaft and the flywheel. Remove the (steel) flywheel key and throw it away as far as you can!  This steel key is what causes all the damage should you have a SSS event! If both keyways are in good condition replace the steel key with an aluminum one. If Alan does not offer an aluminum key, visit your ACE Hardware store and ask for a length of 3/16 square aluminum stock. It usually comes in three foot lengths. Just cut it to length. Now you have a life time supply or can share some with your Mustang buddy. THIS IS CHEAP INSURANCE to protect that almost irreplaceable crankshaft. THINK ABOUT IT! DO IT NOW! If you don’t have the proper flywheel puller or holder, contact Alan. I would also replace the flywheel retaining bolt with a new grade #8 cap screw and a new lock washer.

FWIW! — Jimbo

Sids Pony
By Sid Dickerson

My Mustang pony was Galaxy Blue, a medium blue, almost metallic. My bike had an "Upswept" exhaust that put burns on many a girls leg. It did have a chrome luggage rack and "crash" bars but, I don't remember a chrome fly-wheel cover. Other equipment included a speedometer, front wheel hand brakes and a folding kick starter. It also had a wide saddle seat.

There weren't many motorcycles in rural Arkansas in those days, just a lot of Cushman scooters. I am not totally sure, but believe that my father bought it for me from a young man, who had bought it from a guy driving through with two of them in the back of a truck. After a couple of years, he decided that he wanted a "big" bike and sold this one to my dad for me.

Sid Dickerson & his beloved Pony.

That bike and I spent some great times out on back roads of Southern Arkansas without many mishaps. I had built a seat cushion to mount on the luggage rack so friends could ride around town. Once a friend and I were taking him to band practice and hit some loose gravel going around a curve. I saw that I couldn't control it so I went for the ditch. Ran down the ditch between a power pole and a street sign. When we went back, we could barely get the bike through pushing it! Never got hurt. Went down on ice a couple of times. I would just stick my leg through the crash bar and ride it down.

I think gas was somewhere around $.23 a gallon, so that wasn't a problem either. Probably worked out to less than a dollars worth every couple of weeks.

I've only got one photo of me sitting on it and it's not too clear. I had not remembered how low to pavement it was until running across this picture a week or so ago.

— Sid

By JIm Cavanaugh

Mr. Tarno was hired while we were still located in the Colorado Blvd. plant before the Mustang group joined us. At the time, I was promoted to Foreman of the engine assembly division. Tarno, he liked to be called Tarno, at first was trained to build the many sub-assemblies before he took a position on the engine assembly line. At the time, we were producing mostly the industrial versions of the engines. Models  4 horsepower to 7.5 horsepower. Tarno was a senior citizen, in his early 70’s, completely gray and moved slow but his every move was very efficient. He loved to talk about his lady friends always bragging about his conquests. I don’t think many of us believed his stories but we had no reason to doubt them either. His work was excellent with no problems after his training. Soon he could take any position on the assembly line and build all of the sub assemblies which included the Mustang magnetos and the difficult rotor assemblies.

The engine division was separated from other Gladden Products which was then dedicated to aircraft hydraulic and electro-mechanical products, by partitions. The engine assembly consisted of a very long room with a conveyor belt and an engine test cell for live testing of the completed engines behind a fire wall of this long room. Completed engines would actually enter the test cell thru a small opening in the fire wall. The engine assembly area was noisy with almost every station using air powered impact wrenches. Lots of activity constantly and maybe this is the reason Mr. Gladden only on rare occasions would have a walk thru. As I mentioned in a previous story, we always had an early warning of his visits because of his heavy French cologne, which would arrive before him….

Mr. Tarno

On one occasion, Tarno was seated in a chair and assembling  Mustang  Magnetos at the assembly bench. Mr. Gladden frowned on anyone sitting down on the job, no matter for any reason. I mean this would make him furious! Of course, this was the day Mr. Gladden walked by. He immediately saw Tarno seated. Tarno had about 25 units completed and stacked up in a couple piles. Mr. Gladden walked over to Tarno and just watched him for a minute and never asked Tarno or me a question. He looked up and made sure we made eye contact and then I knew I was in trouble…

The next day, thru my supervisor, I was instructed to deliver enough components to assemble 100 magnetos to the department next to ours. This department, mostly females assemblers mainly assembled small electro-mechanical items contracted by other companies. Yes, the girls were allowed to sit at their stations along a conveyor belt. I was instructed to train the girls to produce the unit systematically down the conveyer belt. This took several days including training a lead lady. Before leaving them, I made sure all knew their job. This was a time & motion study as all others with everyone clocking in and out of the job until completed. They already had the time study of Tarno from a previous job. About a week later, the mags were delivered to our department. They still had to be tested since the testing device was attached to our assembly bench. Tarno went to work! After testing the 100 units Tarno showed me the many rejections, most of which did not have proper voltage or amperage for the lighting system. After a meeting, it was decided to have our department repair the mags. We found later that Tarno’s time was 50% faster in his casual pace. We were never charged back for the work effort and no mention was ever made about our methods again. Mr. Gladden really thought his automated assembly department could be a better cost effective operation. But he really wanted to give me an object lesson. He just never liked me! Keep em’ rolling

— Jimbo

The Road to National Recognition
By Marvin Snyder

Leaving the snow covered ground of Ohio and heading south to warm and sunny Florida was a long awaited pleasure. My 1950 Mustang Model 3 Delivercycle was complete and ready to be judged at the first AMCA event of the year. The drive was over 1300 miles and would take two days. This is an annual event for my wife and I. We would stop halfway in Alabama to join up with my sister and brother-in-law for the drive to Eustis Florida. The Mustang was riding secured in my trailer. Although some of the roads were quite bumpy, I felt sure the Mustang would be OK tied down in the trailer.

We pulled into the Lake county fairgrounds to see a large crowd had already gathered in the vendor area. The swap meet was always the main attraction for people hoping to find that illusive part needed to complete their vintage project. As I pulled to my vendors spot, I noticed a familiar face. It was Eley Anderson. Eley is the area rep for our Mustang Club in this area and a long time member. As a matter of fact, I bought my yellow ’56 Pony from Eley. Eley knew I was restoring the Model 3 and asked if I had brought it. I answered I did and proceeded to open the side door of the enclosed trailer to show him.

Upon looking in at the bike, Eley said, “How did you break the frame?” I responded, no, the frame was broken, but has been repaired. “No,” he said, “The frame is broken”. I looked in at the area where the repair had been made, and sure enough, the frame had broken again, where the repair had been made. OH NO, how could this have happened? I was heart broken. All that work. The trip all the way to Florida only to have the frame break again. I was ready to get right back in the truck and drive back to Ohio.

Larry, my brother-in-law came over to see what all the commotion was about. After seeing me so distraught, he said, “maybe we can clamp it and you can still have it judged”. This did not seem possible to me at the time. I was too upset to think about some kind of temporary repair. Even if I did, how could it be judged in this condition?

We backed the trailer into my slot and unloaded the Mustang for a better look. Yep, sure enough, the weld where the frame had been repaired had broken. Since this is the front support for the cargo box, I had to do something to secure it or even more damage could be done. We thought about Zip ties. No, that wouldn’t work. Then Larry suggested one of those hose clamps. He just happened to have a couple in his truck that when attached together was long enough to hold the two pieces of the frame together. This would at least allow me to get home without too much more damage.

I wasn’t even thinking about having it judged at this point, just getting it home without doing any more damage. Larry said, “You know, everything else on that bike is so correct, I bet you would only get a deduction in points if you went ahead and entered it for judging”. I thought, well I had come this far, maybe he was right. I would enter it for judging on Sunday.

When Sunday came around, I cranked it up. It always started on the first or second kick. Alan had rebuilt the engine and gearbox so I knew it was in good shape. I rode it slowly up to the judging area, keeping an eye on the hose clamps. They were actually holding very well. I pulled into my designated spot and awaited the judging.

I was surprised to find that Larry was right. There were only a few deductions including the deduction for the hose clamp repair. As you know by now, the rest of the bike was in very good condition. When the awards were handed out, the Mustang scored a 98 ¼ out of 100 points. That was good enough for the Junior First designation. I was ecstatic.

As I went back out, there was a guy there with a very impressive camera closely examining my bike. He asked if the bike was mine, I said it was. He then said he was a photographer with American Iron magazine and would like to do a photo shoot of my Mustang, if I didn’t mind. MIND, are you kidding. Of course I didn’t mind. He asked me to move it out to the back area where there were few people.

We posed and drove around taking pictures for about 45 minutes. He said he was just a photographer and didn’t know if the magazine would use the pictures or not. He said if they did decide to use them, an editor would call me for an interview. I thought, yea sure, my Mustang in a Custom Harley Magazine, right, I won’t hold my breath.

I rode the Mustang back to the trailer to load it back up. I turned the gas off before I started so as to drain the carburetor before loading up. I started up the ramp on the trailer. As I got to the top, the engine died. I rolled back down backwards. Now that is a feeling I don’t want to experience again. I yelled to Larry and another friend for a push up the ramp. I was at the front steering and they were pushing from the rear. I didn’t realize there was such a short distance to the rear wheels. As we got about half way up the ramp the wheel rolled up on my right foot. As I went down to my knees, I twisted my foot up on edge. When I yelled, they stopped pushing. Now, the bike was stopped right on top of my foot, which was turned on its edge. I screamed to back up. As I got up, I thought my foot was broken. Luckily, it was not, although as you can imagine it was sure sore.

The trip back to Ohio was uneventful, thankfully. I knew I would have to completely disassemble the Mustang to have the frame welded. This took much careful attention so as not to damage the paint. I took the frame to a reputable welder. He reinforced the connection where the break occurred and did a beautiful weld. Next I had to find a good painter and have the frame repainted being careful to have a perfect match. All came out well and the bike looked better than ever.

I took it to the National meet in Paris this year in July, and won first place in my division as well as the Presidents trophy. I am very proud of the way this bike has turned out.

In October, I received a call from Jim Babchak, the editor of the “Classics section of American Iron magazine. He conducted the interview and I bent his ear for over an hour. I told him everything I knew about Mustangs, including the club, the web site, the forum, the National meet, and even the Tyler run. He was aware of Mustangs as a kid so he was enthusiastic about the article. The classic section is a relatively short section so I guess he concentrated on the technical aspect of Mustang. Still, I thought it was a great article. It came out in the January 2007 issue. I know many have seen it and the comments are very favorable.

If you come to the National next year, you can get up close and personal with my Model 3. I plan to take it there as well as the yellow Pony and my latest project, a 1961 Stallion. See you there…

— Marvin Snyder #995

Burman Gear Boxes (The two edged sword)
By Jimbo

Every one knew that the Burman gear box was the life blood of Mustang. Certainly, the Burman management knew it. Most of the Mustang dealers knew it but not many knew the “trickle down” problems, The Mustang management had to endure the many quality problems that was a constant ongoing headache for me. I will start with a typical shipment from Birmingham, England. Usually by the time the merchant ship arrives we already are in short supply and getting the order through the US Customs Department was time consuming. It could take weeks! If the gear boxes are really urgently needed we could pay our customs broker a fee to get at least one crate released on bond, and the remaining boxes in due course. Usually one crate contained 25 units. We always requested that each unit be totally wrapped in a special heavy wax paper and to have suitable packing to protect the polished surfaces. The order called out that the shipment was to marked, fragile  was to placed in the ship’s hold, NOT DECK CARGO. Too often, Murphy’s law kicked in and some of these important instructions were ignored.

Unpacking the gear boxes was always an interesting event. They would be packed in excelsior which was curled wood shavings. This material would absorb moisture like a sponge. The worst condition scenario would be that the shipment was placed on deck, the packing was wringing wet from rough seas splashing on them and they did not get the wax paper wrap. This spelled big trouble for Jimbo!. On a brighter side, it was not unusual to find an envelope from one or more of the Burman female employees. Often with a photo of themselves, sometime a bit provocative requesting the finder, (me) to become their pen pal for the time being with the ultimate goal of romance, marriage and eventually  US citizenship. This was always very entertaining and I would share the moment with others and have a good laugh.

If the external surfaces, of the gear box was too corroded I would disassemble them and use most or all the parts for spare parts orders. If we were out of gear boxes at the time I would have to take the corroded parts to the metal polisher to be re-polished and of course, I had to reassemble them into usable units. I believe insurance claims were made and I would never know the outcome. I do remember that a job (project) card would be issued and my time or others would be tracked by time cards against the job.

Too often another scenario would occur late on a given afternoon. I would be testing a bike, either a 3 or 4 speed model and either the kick starter or the gearshift lever, or both would not return to it’s home position. Oh No! It’s 3:00 Pm and I still have six more bikes to test and have crated. I put the bike onto (Jimbo’s quickie stand) and remove the kick starter cover. Sure enough, not enough endplay in either the kick starter shaft or the shift quadrant. I take the parts over to the R&D department to use the engine lathe to machine more clearance in both parts. Oh! Oh! Howard or Chuck is using the lathe. I go back to testing more bikes and will rework the troublesome unit last. It’s 4:30 now and I have to call the truck lines to pick up today’s shipments. Usually most go by one truck line Transcon. I race out to label the crates and go back to the R&D department. Oh good! The lathe is mine! This does not take long to machine and while waiting for the trucks to show up, I reassemble the troublesome unit and retest. To late to crate this one today. It will have to wait for tomorrow.

As much as we would complain to the Burman management about these problems, it went on to deaf ears. The people in their assembly department would just pass these endplay conditions on by leaving the retaining screw loose and then they would pass inspection. On our end, we had to check the screws to be sure that the gear box would not leak.

Sometime the 3-speed units would have a distorted pawl spring or the pawl itself would not have any endplay and bind, but these conditions were easy to fix. Another rare problem would be when the kick starter ratchet would fail upon first start up. If the ratchet teeth had a poor heat treat, the teeth would be brittle and break off. This would make Jimbo very unhappy because my foot and leg would come crashing down and hit the foot peg with enough force to twist  my ankle. OUCH!

— Jimbo

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