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How to Run Out of Gas in the Desert on I-15 in a Muscle Car

Firing Up: Gas Monkeys

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So, while heading home from Las Vegas, reflecting on a great weekend at the 2017 Holley LS Fest West, myself and Brian Brennan, editor of Vette and Street Rodder, were cruising southbound on Interstate 15 through the California desert at a casual 70 mph in Project Orange Krate, the Chevy High Performance 1971 Camaro project car, when the aggressive note of the stroked LS3 was suddenly interrupted by a subtle cough followed by an eerie silence. The only sound I heard was the wind whistling through the Camaro’s half-open windows. Well, that and the higher-than-normal-pitch of Brennan’s voice yelling at me about how stupid I was for not having a functioning gas gauge and trying to drive farther on a tank of gas than I should have. In my defense, the 10-mile-long traffic jam we hit 15 miles outside of the Nevada/California state line “slightly” skewed my internal fuel mileage calculations.

Either it’s the luck of the Irish, which I’m less than 1/8th, or I possess this unearthly ability to know exactly how much fuel is in the tank of my Camaro (I never got around to connecting the fuel sending unit to the Racepak) at any given time while driving through desolate areas. I’m pretty sure that luck I’d inherited is more “dumb” than “Irish.”

So, as dumb luck would have it, there was a Shell gas station about 100 yards to our immediate right with an off-ramp (up hill, of course) about 400 feet in front of us. Fortunately the Camaro was carrying just enough momentum to make it to the top of the off-ramp with some speed left over so I could muscle the car to a hard right turn (manual steering at this point) while “somewhat” ignoring the Stop sign, and proceed to coast down the hill back toward the gas station. With a light depression on the brakes, I was able to stop the car perfectly alongside pump #2 (the only one open, by the way). From there, I casually put the car in gear (no functioning parking brake), opened the door, got out, swiped my credit card at the pump, and fueled up the Camaro as if it was all part of my plan.

In utter disbelief, Brennan and myself thought it best we not discuss what had happened in that 30-second time period and just accept that karma was on our side this time.

I fired the car back to life, carefully turned the car around—still amazed at what just happened—and once again headed south on I-15. Still not talking about our “little” escapade, we were well aware that if the car had ran out of fuel just 10 seconds earlier or 10 seconds later than it did, we would have been pushing about 3,500 pounds of vintage Camaro up a road that required more muscle than either of us possessed. #thatwouldhavesucked.

On the remaining drive home, Brennan kept close tabs on our miles traveled with the GPS on his smartphone, making sure we made multiple fuel stops along the way with plenty of room for error. He was convinced that we were completely out of luck—dumb or Irish—and wasn’t going to push it. I really can’t blame him at this point.

Maybe one day I’ll mention to him how I ran out of gas in similar fashion just the day before. Nah, it’s probably best I keep that one to myself.

Connecting that sending unit just moved to the top of my “hit list,” because, you know, I don’t wanna push my luck, or my Camaro.

You in?

Photography by Taylor Kempkes

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