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It Happens To Me Too...

2/28/18

I spend a lot of time preparing cars for the Great Race. And what I learn from those "hands-on" experiences can be applied to most any antique vehicle. So when you call and talk to me on the telephone and ask an electrical, cooling, or fuel related question, and then wonder how I can give you an answer immediately without hesitation, it is because I have fixed problems just like yours, dozens of times before. So the next question that eventually comes up is "how come nothing bad ever happens to your antique vehicles...?" Well guess what...it does happen to me too!


Here is my latest victim to the modern gasoline. By the way... this is how your orders get delivered to the post office most days. I am located a quarter mile from the local post office so I deliver orders to the post office using this 1966 Cushman Lobster.

Lobsters were built by the Cushman Company of Lincoln Nebraska, the same company that built all of the scooters that are so well known and fondly remembered, especially if you were lucky enough to have one to use on your paper route.

Cushman built Lobsters only one year in 1966, and only built about 500 total. They quickly became the Edsel of the Cushman Company. They steer from the front using a boat cable steering setup compliments of OMC (the boat company) who was part owner of the Cushman Company at the time.

Lobsters used the variable speed transmission from the Cushman Golf carts, mated to a two speed gearbox...one forward gear and one reverse gear. That means the Lobster travels 18 mph in reverse... the same speed as it does forward. What could possibly go wrong with that setup...?

The Cushman foundry had pretty much disappeared by this time so the Lobsters were built using 8 HP Kohler engines, the same engines that were used in the Wheel Horse garden tractors of the era.


This is a picture of the Lobster when I bought it. This is the good side. The RH front corner had been damaged and the whole right side had been creased like it had been scraped next to a wall or building. The engine was tired, brakes were coaster brakes, bald tires, you get the idea.  

(Former employees told me they used to haul 600 pound dies back and forth from the plant to the tool and die shop using this Lobster, which explains a lot.) Payload rating was 500 pounds including operator.

Meanwhile... back to our lesson. The lobster ran when I got it in 2009, but barely. It had been sold new to Boeing Aircraft in Wichita Ks, which explained the yellow color, as Lobsters were typically painted safety orange new from the factory.

With the Lobsters being difficult to sell, Cushman would paint them any color you wanted if you would buy one, and especially if you would buy more than one! Anything at the Boeing factory that traveled next to the flight line... that didn't fly, was supposed to be painted yellow, so yellow they were.

Boeing reportedly bought a dozen or more Lobsters, at a bargain basement price, and most were damaged beyond repair over time and hard use, and were scraped. They all had a very hard life much like this one did.

After I learned to drive the Lobster, I understood the damage to the box. Driving a Lobster can best be described as like driving a sheet of plywood. It has a wide (20 feet diameter) turning radius and not much accuracy with the boat cable steering... and no suspension except the air in the tires.


When I restored the Lobster in 2013, I overhauled the engine, fixed the brakes, removed all of the dents, repainted the body in Boeing safety yellow, cleaned out the fuel tank and replaced all of the fuel lines with OEM Kohler factory fuel line hose, and modern filters. It looked and ran like a new one, until the end of 2017 when it became hard to start and seemed to not have as much power as it used to.

I replaced both fuel filters and cleaned out the carburetor (which looked pretty clean inside) and all seemed good for another month. Then back to the same old symptoms. By now it was January and to cold to ride to the post office so it was time for an upgrade.

I put it onto the lift in the shop and pulled the fuel line off and looked inside. Sure enough it was starting to fail from the inside. I could see little black specks inside the fuel line that looked like coarse ground pepper. So I did what I tell all of you to do... and I replaced all of the fuel line with the modern Barrier fuel line.


After some research on the internet, I learned that the older Wheel Horse tractors from the 1960's were having the same fuel delivery issues I was having, (these Kohler engines came with a mechanical fuel pump) so they had some special low output (as in 1.5 psi output) 12-volt electric fuel pumps made for their tractors. Being the same engine I figured their electric pump would work for the Lobster... and it did.

As you know I am a believer in fuel filters... and this application is no exception, so there is now one clear see-thru filter between the fuel tank and the electric pump, and another metal housing 30-micron fuel filter after the electric fuel pump and before the carburetor.

This combination fixed the fuel issues and the Lobster starts and  runs better than new. So I just wanted you to know, that what happens to you, also happens to me.


1 comment

  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I've come to love my father-in-law's Lobster over the last ten years, and even though he's now gone from the world, he left the Lobster to me to keep running. Good to know it's bot the only one out there still kickin! -WhiskeyChick

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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.