When Scott posted on Facebook about nearly running out of gas, and playing the coast and careful throttle game to make it to the pump, it made me laugh as I’ve done the same thing so many times I’m sorta known for it. It got the two of us talking as we figured that there have to be jillions of similar stories that all of you have. So share them with us after reading Scott’s escapades below. The first is from Facebook. The other is even more colorful and is from his days as a limo driver. It is epic. Read it. I promise it is worth your time.
(Words and Photos by Scott Liggett)
Running Out of Gas Story #1
After work, I was racing up to the north end of town to run errands. The Kearney Expressway is a four lane road that is more a highway. I was hauling the mail, about 70 mph and 3000 rpm, when the engine started cutting out. I didn’t panic. At first, I thought it was just another old car thing, a vacuum leak, points going out, or spark plugs fouling again. Then I realized I had no idea when I last filled the car with gas. No the gas gauge still doesn’t work. I was more than a mile away from any gas station. My mind began to race to figure out how much I drove the car lately since that unknown date I last gassed up.
I left off the gas and the car slowed and it started running right again. Not to take any chances, I changed my route towards that nearest gas station. This required a hard left around one of those stupid round abouts. The car sputtered and coughed again. Then settled back down as soon as I straightened out the wheel. Yep, I was running out of gas. No doubt now.
I had a straight shot about a mile away to the gas station. No stop signs, no street lights. I accelerated slow and smooth to gain speed in case I wouldn’t make it. The car wasn’t happy, but kept going faster. I was doing close to 70 at this point, which would allow me to coast a 1/4 mile if it ran dry. I made it about halfway when the car coughed and sputtered again. I shoved in the clutch and it caught again, so I let out the clutch. It went a bit farther before repeating the cough and sputter. I tried to give it gas and it backfired. Not good.
The car was still running, sorta, when I got to the driveway of the gas station. What would have normally been a slow turn into the driveway, was far more kamekazi. I flew in, hitting that transition hard enough for everything in the trunk to hit the trunk lid and slam back down. The suspension and I am sure much of the frame bounced off the concrete leaving behind sparks and dust. I roll up to the nearest empty gas pump when the engine coughed one last time, then sneezed back through the carb before it croaked. Every one outside the gas station witnessed this. I just hopped out with a big smile. Takes too long to explain.
Whew!!! I made it. The 20 gallon gas tank took 19.9 gallons.
Running Out of Gas Story #2
You don’t have to be a die hard gearhead to have been there. That moment when the car suddenly dies, cranks, but won’t start. Then you heart sinks when you realized you ran the gas tank dry in your heap. If you are like me who drives 50 year old rusty pieces of crap where the gas gauge doesn’t function, and probably never will again. Or, you are one of those people who think the “E” on the gas gauge means another 100 miles of driving. We all love being passengers in these vehicles and their drivers. Ever ridden with someone on a road trip, look over at the gas gauge and see that warning light on? It is not a good feeling.
This past Monday, on the way home from work, Project Mud Bomber ’64 Galaxie started coughing and sputtering on the highway doing about 70 mph and 3000 rpm. I managed to keep the car running and, more importantly, moving 5 miles to the closest gas station. With the car was coughing, sneezing and even backfiring from not liking only having fumes to inhale, I flew into the gas bouncing the frame off the driveway, skidding to a stop in front of the nearest available gas pump.
It was a total win, even though everyone who witnessed my entrance to the gas station was thinking I was some kind juvenile hoon. It is always a win when you make it to the gas station without having to walk several miles to the get there, or bust out your AAA card to call for a rescue.
While standing there pumping gas thinking of how I dodged a longer night than I wanted, I was reminded of a time that I used years of saved up luck to make it into a gas station. It was back in the late 1990’s when I was a limo driver living in Sacramento, CA. I was still fairly new at the job, still making mistakes, and learning from most of those mistakes. The company I worked for at the time had a fleet of white Caddy limos like the stretch in the picture below. Most of these were backyard hacks at best, where a regular Sedan De Ville literally got cut in half and the stretch part of the stretch limo was added. They had patched together wiring, two piece drive shafts, and then were stuffed with seats and bar equipment that looked like they bought at Brothels Are US!.
On the night in question, I had a pair of couples who wanted to go up to Reno to hit the casinos for some gambling and see a show. To say it was a long night was an understatement. We left Sacramento with the remnants of the evening rush hour still out on the roads. And, we didn’t leave Reno to head back until after 3 am. I had caught a few winks here and there in between running the clients between different casinos. I was dead dog tired when we hit the road, but was excited we were heading back.
If you ever witness a limo going way beyond the speed limit late at night, it is probably heading back to the barn. Just like the horse that knows he is on his way home, the driver pushes the big pedal harder to get their sooner. This is especially true after a long hard day dealing with less than sober customers.
I was coming down I-80 from Donner Pass well past the 65 mph posted speed limit. My clients were all sleeping peacefully in the back of the limo as I tried my best to move swiftly and smoothly. It would have been a nice quiet ride with the exception of the one gentleman who was sawing logs about loudly as a broken chain saw. It was an awful sound that was definitely keeping me awake.
There is a section of I-80 between Donner Pass and the mining town of Auburn that is very lonely at that time of night. Very few exits have any sort of services. Even fewer were open all night. This is where the engine literally died and the gas gauge way past the wrong side of empty. This is also where I also remembered that I never filled the gas tank since we left Sacramento 11 hours before. I was out of gas and coasting down hill. I had two choices, pull over and wait a very long time to get help with angry customers. Or, just keeping going. There is a 6000 ft elevation drop between Donner Pass and Auburn, it was all down hill. I had gravity on my side. I shoved the car into neutral and kept right on going.
I-80 isn’t exactly straight in this section and it isn’t all down hill either. There were plenty of places where I had to climb hills. My only chance to make it the next gas station was to keep the speed up as much as possible. That meant that 65 speed limit wasn’t going cut it. I just let that limo run as fast as it would go to make it up those rises. I had to do this without the power steering, nor the power brakes. Stopping a 6500 lb Caddy without the benefit of the vacuum assisted power brakes would require serious leg power and a whole lot of empty space. About those curves, those stretch limos do not handle like a European sports car. More like a school bus on a hockey rink. Gawd awful.
As I sped along with only sound of the wind, the tires on the pavement, and Mr. Client’s snoring, I was passing most every vehicle out there. I was watching way far ahead down the road as I had to plan my reactions way way ahead of time. Thankfully, it was very late and we had very little traffic to contend with. But, I did pass several semis along the way going almost double their speed. Any shred of being tired was long gone by this point. My adrenaline was pumping as fast as my heart. It was winter, cold out, and I was sweating bullets.
I knew there was a very long and steep incline coming up soon. I knew I had to really get the speed up to make it over the crest of that hill. The only problem was a sweeping left hand turn that had a giant yellow warning sign that read 45 mph. I was doing 80 when I flew into it. Normally, when throwing a big tank like this into the corner, you slow down before entering, then using the big engine to power your way out of it. I just went into that turn like a big white cruise missile. The tires were not happy at all and were protesting the abuse even louder than my snoring passenger. I came into the turn on the left shoulder with the tires skirting the center island’s dead weeds. I used up every inch of concrete in that curve, coming out the other side on the right shoulder with the door handles scraping the steel guard rail.
As soon as I came out of that turn, amazed I didn’t fly off the road into pine trees and big rocks, the incline hit that heavy car like an anchor being tossed out the back. It slowed almost instantly. It wasn’t looking good that we would make it the crest of that hill. Not at all. I was rocking back and forth in the seat hoping to keep the momentum up. I was chanting “C’mon baby. C’mon baby!! The car slowed to less than 25 mph but it made it over and slowly started gaining speed again.
We kept this up for near 15 miles when I saw that Chevron sign glowing in the distance. It was the station at Colfax!. I knew it was open 24 hrs! Almost there. I only had a steep off ramp and very hard right turn, a very hard left turn, then up the steep driveway. Then there was that stop sign at the end of the off ramp. How fast can I go and still make the turn. How much speed do I need to get up that hill to the gas station’s pumps? I don’t know.
I was making internal calculations as I hit the off ramp, trying to figure out G forces, drag coefficients, rolling friction of the tires, and the car’s weight versus the gravity and incline of the hills in front of me. I really just guessed to what was needed. I slowed just enough to throw the Moby Dick the limo into the turn at the top of the off ramp. It was going to be rough and noisy and I was risking getting T boned by a truck on the highway overpass. That stupid hard right threw the passengers to one side of the car, then the instant hard left into the gas threw them violently to the other side. Sorry. Can’t be helped!! My internal calculations were spot on and my driving skills rocked as I made it without damaging the car or killing my passengers.
The two hard turns woke them up and were looking around as we pulled into the gas station rolling gently to a stop in front of the pumps. I announced we were stopping for gas liked I had planned it. They smiled, got out and stretched their legs while I pumped the gas. They never knew what happened or why I was sweating like a pig.
Let’s hear about your stories of running out of gas. Or, almost running out of gas.