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Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

When I was in the lower VI I once met my Chem teacher in the pub at lunchtime,

I stayed late after school with the chem lab tech, my best friend, and we're doing some "tests" in the lab. The Chem teacher walks by at one point and asks what we were doing..

"Nitrating glycerne." we responded.

"Oh.. ok.". He suddenly stopped and slowly turned around with this pale look of fear. "What?" And then carefully took the test tube and took it outside. There was a loud "bang" when he tossed it in the field behind the school. Surprisingly, no cops showed up, no neighbors were upset. All we got was "don't ever, ever do that again".

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Pint

Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

.... a long, long time ago, in a place far, far away... well, actually at SWCFE we had to come up with a nice pretty experiment to demonstrate at the open day.....

.... needless to say we managed to talk our chemistry lecturer into "donating" a few goon-bags of cheap red wine & spent the day merrily distilling it......

Wasnt until late in the afternoon when one visitor actually asked what it was that we were distilling.... by then none of us cared..... and it all gets very hazy around that time.......

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Economics - the real reason

Gloves would have to be replaced if damaged, but students fingers will probably heal...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

You light the gas coming out of the hole in the lid, then wait for the gas/air mixture to become stochiometric. At which point the flame will ignite the gas mixture, and the lid will pop off.

This, incidentally, is why you should not try to light your farts. There's no lid to pop off...

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Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

My secondary school Head of Chemistry used to walk around with a mixture of mercury and iron filings in his lab-coat pocket, and he used to walk behind the pupils and throw pinches of the mixture into the lit bunsen burners on the bench. Very hard to concentrate when a low-grade thermite reaction is going off in front of you!

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Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

"Due to the volume and the small holes, the mixture was slow to reach its kaboom point, so the experiment was put aside to do its thing while other experiments were demonstrated."

In other words, you were being shown why you don't put an experiment aside until you're sure the reaction has actually completed.

I nearly took off a science teacher's eyebrows with the sulphur and zinc reaction. Mine studiously failed to go off until he quizzically leaned over it to see what was wrong - and it went off about a minute after it'd been taken off the bunsen.

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Facepalm

Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

a mixture of mercury and iron filings in his lab-coat pocket,

Magnesium, dammit, not mercury

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Pint

Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

Been there, done that :-)

I often think that the "post" button activates my internal parser/splel checker.

Relax and have a homebrew.

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I would agree with the inadvisability of wearing gloves. The thing you had to look out for then was to make sure that any spilled liquid nitrogen did not come into contact with a ring on your finger or under a metal watch strap. Very painful but thankfully not too long lasting.

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Re: 'gloves were forbidden'

Sure. Mars Bars. My lab had a burn-in oven, purged using several good sized tanks of LN2. The usual habit was to freeze the candy bars with the LN2 and then slam them down on a bench, resulting in handy sized fragments.

In the old days film for the instant photo head of the macrocamera needed to be coated with a preservative. The preservative would be packed in a one time use sealed tube about the size of your thumb. Load the tube with a few CCs of LN2 and carefully chewed up fragments of paper and place it in an inconspicuous spot. The pressure would build up and eventually the tube lid would pop off with a loud POP and a shower of confetti would fill the air. "Veddy Bootiful" to quote the Three Stooges

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Re: "and gloves were forbidden"

Back when I was in college a all knowing under grad chem major would mix ammonia and Iodine to produce Amonium Iodide, a low level contact explosive used mainly by students to amuse unsuspecting visitors. One day he set a batch on the windowsill to dry; a breeze came up and scattered the sample over his dorm room, producing unexpected small and occasional larger unexpected explosions until the room was thoroughly cleaned.

In high school the teacher demonstrated the effect of a small amount of adding Phosphorous to a small beaker of water--mainly bubbles, hissing and similar low level effects. This was mildly amusing so the next day a student decided that if a little was amusing, seeing a large amount dumped into a nearby pond would be a most spectacular sight. Unfortunately in haste he grabbed the wrong sample bottle--it was not Phosphorous but Sodium. The most unfortunate part of this episode was that the resulting explosion broke all the windows of the assistant principal's apartment building. The student might still be in the detention room

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Boffin

BTW unless you are wearing open toed shoes you are unlikely to freeze your toes by spilling LN2 on them. The leather of your shoes might crack though. Open toed shoes are discouraged in the laboratory.

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Anonymous Coward

Open toed shoes are discouraged everywhere especially with socks.

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Coat

It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

Oh, come on, lighten up. I was fortunate enough to go to the local equivalent of what in Britain call grammar schools which specialized in sciences (in fact attached at the hip to the local Uni) in the days before H&S and political correctness spoiled everything.

We had the first year physics profile (equivalent of UK year 10) get hold of liquid nitrogen on regular basis and sneak it into the canteen. You DID NOT leave your meal unattended. If you did you could find it in a state where you could break a knife trying to cut a meatball or the spoon was sticking out straight up out of the soup with ice forming on it.

That was one of the more harmless pranks. The chemistry profile the year after me did things like drilling carefully chalk with a compass or the cartridge of a ball point pen, filling it with silver acetylenide and leaving it at the blackboard amidst other chalks and lighting a fuse. A few mg make a relatively harmless bang which will at most bruise a palm if you blow it up in the middle. Lots of noise, little damage. Putting it in the middle of a chalk, however... if done right... You could get a cloud one third the size of the classroom. Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it.

Those were the days... Me coat, the one draped over the zimmer frame.

So it was just a harmless flask sitting somewhere. Not like it was poured into your coffee or something (that one is fun).

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

in the days before H&S and political correctness spoiled everything

I still remember the name of one my chemistry compatriots who refused to believe that the pencil sharpeners were made from blocks of magnesium and decided to prove us wrong with the help of a bunsen burner. It made a terrible mess of the teacher's desk on the level below. After burning its way through the floor ;)

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

or the spoon was sticking out straight up out of the soup

At my school the dinner ladies ensured this would happen even without the aid of liquid nitrogen.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

And making explosives in the chemistry lab was easy. They didn't even keep tabs on the quantities of chemicals used in legitimate classroom activities. Nor were there locks on any of the cabinets. We even had access to real acid, and things like toluene and benzine ... And strangely enough, kids rarely got hurt. Probably because they taught real chemistry back then, not the watered down crap of today.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

Then there was the Medicine student in Adelaide who “borrowed” a severed penis from a cadaver, sewed it to his jeans (outside, otherwise right where it “ought” to be) and went for a walk through the town centre.

I reckon the Bill would have had a problem. After all it was not his John Thomas on display. Wasn’t even connected to a living human.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

you name it.

Our chemistry lab sinks didn't have simple "U-bends" to prevent reflow, they had large plastic pots that could be unscrewed to clean out sediments, so they held a lot of water & air. Drop a sizeable chunk of sodium into one and after a few tens of seconds fizzing the resulant explosion would send a jet of flame several feet long back out the plughole, by which time the culprit was back at his own seat looking innocent. Not much the teacher could do, given his own admission that as a Uni student he'd tipped a 1lb lump of sodium off a bridge into the local river to see what would happen.

We also demonstrated that mains water pressure was higher than mains gas pressure, by connnecting the two taps together. All across the lab, bunsens began to splutter & then emit a jet of water, raining down on the class. Apparently the gas pipes still gurgled years later.

And then there was the nitrogen tri-iodide spread across the desk as a precipitate. Harmless when wet, but once dry even setting a sheet of paper down caused a chain of explosions...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

“borrowed” a severed penis from a cadaver, sewed it to his jeans (outside, otherwise right where it “ought” to be)

The version I'd heard was that it was sewn to the botton of the trouser leg, so it bounced on his shoe as if too long to be fully contained.

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Flame

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"Drop a sizeable chunk of sodium into one and after a few tens of seconds fizzing the resulant explosion would send a jet of flame several feet long back out the plughole"

One of my chemistry teachers tried something very much like this, except in a canal. Apparently, the police had words because they didn't want the local yoofs getting any ideas about depth-charging the ducks.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

We made silver azide at school, filled a drinking straw and set it off in the local park. I was deaf for several minutes - never heard such a loud bang. The other one was a paint tin full of a stoichiometric mix of Fe2O3 and Al powder. Because it was so fine there was lots of air in the mix so once it got going there was a beautiful silver fire fountain and molten iron flowing across the ground. These days we would be banged up in Paddington Green pronto!

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Childcatcher

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"making explosives in the chemistry lab was easy"

Yep, we would leave little bits of nitrogen triiodide lying around on the benches. Kept the next class on their toes. We did get a fairly serious bollocking for making RDX though...

"sizeable chunk of sodium " Here's the OU's take on alkali metals.

https://youtu.be/QSZ-3wScePM

Back in the day, that was required Saturday morning viewing on BBC2.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"sewed it to his jeans "

Would have made more sense if he had superglued it to his forehead.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it."

Beginners! We had a means of inflating balloons with town gas (coal gas). Blotting paper impregnated with sodium chlorate as fuses and several match heads as dets. There were launched outdoors from the bottom of a deep, narrow valley after dark. The bang echoed nicely and the burning match heads arced across the sky.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

We even had access to real acid, and things like toluene and benzine ... And strangely enough, kids rarely got hurt. Probably because they taught real chemistry back then, not the watered down crap of today.

And probably also because the people involved knew that high concentration acids are mildly dangerous and were exceedingly careful when brewing their little conconctions.

It's the same as i'm always cautious when taking things apart that say "DANGER - NO USER SERVICEABLE COMPONENTS INSIDE" to, um service the non user serviceable components. It's potentially dangerous, but as long as your very careful it's fine.

Todays students are used to not handling anything dangerous (because it'd be banned by H&S) and so don't develop caution. After all why should they? They only get allowed to play with acid that's significantly dilated for safety reasons.

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Re: Dilated Acid...

That gives a mental image I'm not comfortable discussing.

Pretty sure "dilute" was the intended adjective

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

At my school the dinner ladies ensured this would happen even without the aid of liquid nitrogen.

The custard at my school was commonly referred to as YellowCake - very, very bright yellow, solid beyond the 'goo' level of bad custard and I am pretty sure that it would glow in the dark.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"Those were the days... Me coat, the one draped over the zimmer frame."

Second year Physics at Secondary Technical School involved our ex-submariner teacher letting us play with a large beaker of mercury. Invariably we then chased beads of mercury across the bench.

A junior Chemistry teacher took us outside on to the lawn and created a pile of chemicals to demonstrate the Thermite action. At the tip of the pile was a magnesium strip as a fuse. It was a windy day - so the boys were formed into a shield round the pile.

Every time the teacher touched a match to the fuse the boys skittered away and the match went out. Eventually he managed to persuade the circle to stay intact until the firework spectacular started. The caretaker was not impressed by the bald patch on his lawn afterwards.

Several chemistry teachers had a brown streak up the back of their clothing from lecturing in front of their bench with the bunsen burner lit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"It's the same as i'm always cautious when taking things apart that say "DANGER - NO USER SERVICEABLE COMPONENTS INSIDE""

I was taught, as an equipment designer, to put one securing screw where it could only be undone by removing the IEC plug, and to ensure that it took long enough to unscrew for any capacitors to discharge.

The other approach is to arrange one screw so that it pushes the lever of a microswitch, so as it's undone the mains circuit opens and a second switch closes and discharges a large mains capacitor. OK for ordinary stuff up to 450V or so, but not when your kit is a lightning simulator and it's discharging 10kV from 22uF, which many switches do not like.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"very, very bright yellow, solid beyond the 'goo' level of bad custard [...]"

When we stayed after school for various hobby clubs there would be cups of tea available for 1d a cup. It was a bonus when there were also 1d slices of jam tart which had been top filled with yellow custard that had set pretty solid. Things were revolutionary in the 1960s when we started to have pink custard.

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Re: Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it.

One bonfire night ny dad got some huge plastic bags (maybe 10 times the size of bin liners) and filled one with coal gas and lit a long fuse to it. The bag peeled back releasing a burning ball of gas that floated up until it got to about two foot across when it exploded with a loud pop.

The next one contained coal gas and the exact right amount of O2 (from a dentist) to combust the coal gas (a uni prof for a dad comes in handy some times) and a long fuse of string and paraffin lit, The flame reach the plastic bag and there was a flash and a bang so loud that you could hear it echo off buildings 15 seconds later - which was impressive as most people were now deaf. It was about 10 minutes before the fireworks in the area recommenced. I still swear to this day that the explosion wrote 'bang' in cartoon letters.

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Pint

Re: Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it.

A pretty cool (and safe for kids, IMO, YMMV) experiment which I still occasionally do to this day is the thermite one. You can buy iron oxide on eBay. I just checked, and it listed as 'related' aluminium powder and magnesium ribbon, that helps source the ingredients. Anyway, mix the aluminium and ferric oxide in a plastic lunch bag. You can work out the ratio from Fe2O3 + 2Al -> 2Fe + Al2O3 . Use some of those cheap digital 'drug dealer' scales from Fleabay. I don't use the magnesium method for ignition, it's a bit risky, I set it off using potassium permanganate. Get the big pile of thermite, put a bit of polythene sheet on top, make a small pile of KMNO4 on that, and pour some glycerine on it. There's no explosion, but you've got about a minute before you end up with molton iron at about 2600K. (That's the temperature limit of the reaction, when the aluminium vapourises.) You can make sand moulds to create cast iron items.

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ed014p320?journalCode=jceda8

Oh, best to do this outside.

p.s. All at your own risk, naturally. You can make thermite go bang, if you try.

https://youtu.be/R1UQ1ff0PIY

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"... he'd tipped a 1lb lump of sodium off a bridge into the local river to see what would happen."

Tried that many years ago with some dry ice: v disappointing just produced a few bubbles. Will try to be more ambitious next time :)

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MJI
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Re: Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it.

thermite is also used for welding

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it.

"thermite is also used for welding"

When BBC TV science programmes were about substance rather than style - there was one about using explosives to shape metal. IIRC in one example they had two steel sheets one above the other - with the top one angled to only be touching along one edge. Setting off an explosive charge between the plates caused the top one to fall flat. It ended up neatly welded to the bottom one over the whole touching surface.

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Headmaster

Re: Hydrogen baloons with lit fuses floating at the ceiling - you name it.

@AC - This one?

https://youtu.be/2vqgKrJUA3w

If not it's a damn good little documentary on the subject anyway.

Oh an as for thermite and welding - it's how they fix railway track lengths together. Quite impressive to watch it in action.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

> town gas (coal gas)

Which was mostly hydrogen with a bit of carbon monoxide thrown in for lethality.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

"Tried that many years ago with some dry ice: v disappointing just produced a few bubbles."

My chemistry teacher tossed a pound of sodium wrapped in newspaper into the school swimming pool.

The hydrostatic shock cracked the pool so badly it was eventually filled in, concreted over and turned into a bike parking area. In the other direction, the splash hit the second floor of a classroom block 30 metre away and made it rain on the far side of the science block that was next to the pool.

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Re: It's all fun and games until someone's toes freeze solid and shatter,

Ah, the days of our yoof...made a hot air balloon out of a trash bag filled with hot air. Attached the better part of a roll of tin foil tailing behind it. I heard the radar personnel at Logan airport thought it was a DC3 that had somehow gotten misplaced.

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Anonymous Coward

RE Gearbox

I do remember, as a Mastercare service engineer discovering that it was possible to get a 1.7 diesel Corsa to wheelspin in second gear in a PC world loading bay at the rear of the store....

I also managed to almost get all 4 wheels off the ground on a hump backed bridge with the same car..

AC for obvious reasons...

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Re: RE Gearbox

"AC for obvious reasons..."

Makes sense, I don't know anyone who'd willingly admit they owned a Corsa.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RE Gearbox

In a different existance many years ago, I used to work as a vehicle inspector on a company car scheme that had the mk1 1.2 corsa's ex british school of motoring on their books as a low budget sales option when we defleeted them at a year old, the question everyone always asked me was that would the little corsa's be enough to use occasionally in modern traffic, performance wise.

One day we were moving a corsa and a calibra between branches, down a particulary straight well known wide stretch of road, so it was decided this was "seeewhatit'll do" day.

For my sins, I got the speedo on that little 1,2 corsa up to a indicated 120mph and when I finally brought it into the compound, it stank, you know that ragged abused smell, the brakes smelt hot, the rest of the car etc. We put it in for service early and it got a out of sequence oil change because the boss smelt it coming into the yard and thought we might have baked the fluids.

Later it went on sale for a bit lower than the rest in case it got any extra bills for engine work, and I used to see the chap who had it for his daughters first car, and he always told me how happy with it he was, said it got better than expected mileage and seemed free'er. So, thereon customers asking "its for my daughter to learn in, will it do 70 on the motorway?" could be honestly answered yes.

Almost as much fun as the guy who had a 2l astra sport, and used it for a 1/4 mile journey every day and no further. He wanted out his lease because it kept having issues, so we had it rebuilt, and I got it for long term test for a month to treat as my own car. I was only 20. two sets of tyres later, it ran really really well. He had it back, 3 months later it started again, so he brings it back moaning and leaves it for a test weekend. My boss slides me the keys and says "fancy a weekend out, fuel paid"...

Things like a good using now and again. The pay was crap, and winter conditions terrible, but the perks were great fun.

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Re: RE Gearbox

"Makes sense, I don't know anyone who'd willingly admit they owned a Corsa."

Even less to admit to being a Mastercare engineer.

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Re: RE Gearbox

"it was possible to get a 1.7 diesel Corsa to wheelspin in second gear in a PC world loading bay at the rear of the store..."

That's because even modest diesels have crap loads of torque.

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Boffin

Re: RE Gearbox

Ah yes... Italian tuning.

Also known as drive it like you stole it/thrash the tits off it.

All Diesels with EGRs need this regularly.

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MJI
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Re: RE Gearbox

Many years ago I had a job where the pool vehicle was a shitty Ford of some variety and the gear lever gate was lopsided.

.1.3.5

2.4

It used to keep going 1 to 4 and the clutch was an on off switch. Handled like a turd and the controls were terrible.

I destroyed either the clutch or gearbox. As the car I had at the time had a gear lever directly connected to the box, rather than connected by elastic, and a clutch which was progressive, I treated any inferior transmissions with the distain they deserved.

I managed to break a few Fords until they got an Astra van, so much better!

Last time I had to drive a bad car it was motorway in 4th because the gearlever stuck in my leg in 5th.

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MJI
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Re: RE Gearbox

I do remember the Novas

1.0 shit

1.2 fun

1.3 not much different to 1.2

Not sure if I have been in a Corsa

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MJI
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Re: RE Gearbox

Italian tuning

I thrashed the nuts of a Sunbeam hatch for years. Well maintained, regularly saw 7000rpm, kept it to around 140,000 miles, took it off the speedo.

Not bad for an old push rod lump.

Took off road due to spares taking too long, in end it was the long wait for a clutch cable. Time for a newer car.

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Re: RE Gearbox

As a truck mechanic years ago a group of us had one of the artics up to 50MPH at a standstill wheel spinning on ice in the yard.

It would have been interesting if the tyres would have worn through the ice, Volvo F12's were not renowned for having the strongest half shafts in the business.

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