Roy Harper and the burning car
We were on our way to a Roy Harper gig in Leeds. Rich was in the front giving me instructions ‘Straight on, Oph. It’s always straight on’. I had a few sixth Form students in the back and we were heading down the M62.
It was winter and there was snow on the ground. It was very cold. We were well wrapped up. But strangely as we went along we were all getting warmer and warmer. Coats, jumpers and jackets were being shed as we thundered along in my old banger.
A car pulled up alongside us and a stricken driver flagged us down. As he looked so frantic I quickly pulled over to the hard shoulder. The car also pulled in but parked fifty yards away. As soon as I came to a stop I could see why. Smoke and flames billowed out from under the bonnet.
Everyone, some in socks, baled out of our car and quickly joined the other driver looking back to survey the burning vehicle.
But this was my car. I couldn’t afford to lose it. It had cost me fifty quid. I had to save it.
I undid the bonnet latch and lifted the bonnet to assess the damage. I was half expecting it to explode. I think everyone else was too from the way they were standing half a mile away and staring.
Flame and smoke was pouring out.
I peered in. It didn’t take long to figure out. A big air-filter sat on top of the engine. It had a large plastic top that was held on by a wingnut. Vibration had loosened the wingnut and it had dropped off on to the red hot manifold where it had caught fire. The flames and molten drops of plastic were streaming back under the car through the forward motion. From behind it had looked like a roaring firework show with drops of burning plastic dripping. Fortunately it was on the other side to the petrol coming in to the carburetor or we would have gone up. No wonder the driver of the other car had been so shaken. It must have looked quite something – like a roaring jet flame about to detonate.
I grabbed handfuls of grass and snow to put the flames out and started stuffing them on the burning plastic. Unfortunately I caught my hand on the red-hot exhaust manifold and took the skin off the back of my hand. I jerked back in a reflex action and banged my head on the bonnet which promptly fell on me.
The students unfairly said that all they could see was a closed bonnet with smoke pouring out and two feet kicking in the air.
It was a story that rapidly circulated around the school. It didn’t do a lot for my image!
I extricated myself, put the fire out and prised the remains off the manifold. Then everyone came back to give advice. Very helpful. It was apparent that the wiring on the near-side had been melted. Fortunately the lights seemed to work and the only casualty was the starter motor.
We had a debate. I managed to persuade them that it was completely safe. Reluctantly they bump-started the car and we set off again. We got to the concert in time and it was brilliant as usual.
Roy enquired why I was blackened and singed and smelt of burnt plastic but other than that it was all very normal.
My hand had a nasty burn and it cost me ten quid to get the wiring seen to but it was worth it – a Roy Harper gig at the peak of his power was not something to be missed!!
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