By Ken Lyons
I used to own a 1982 Volkswagen Vanagon camper with a diesel engine. One day as I was driving down the freeway, the accelerator cable failed, and the vehicle slowed to a crawl. I pulled over and verified that the cable was broken. Not wanting stay on the freeway (it was night), I resumed the crawl in first gear on the shoulder with the emergency flashers going. As I was creeping along the road, I saw a small wedge of wood that looked like it had split off the end of a 2×4, so I stopped and used it to jam the accelerator lever on the injector pump in a position that gave a considerably higher idle speed. With this arrangement I was able to use all the gears to go about 30 MPH and got to the exit in a more agreeable amount of time.
At the exit, there was a grocery store, so I stopped and bought some clothes line. The Vanagon had the engine in the rear with a cover that was inside the vehicle. The lever on the injector pump was oriented so that I could tie the clothes line to the lever (with the engine cover removed and stored on the floor) and pull on it from the driver’s seat to control the speed. Since the return spring was so stiff, this proved to be tiring, plus I needed the right hand to shift. Also it was easy to lose the end of the line as this was at night. I ended up tying the free end of the clothes line to a heavy wooden cup holder/cassette rack that was screwed onto the dashboard, with minimal slack. Those Boy Scout knots were coming in handy.
Then I was able to actuate the accelerator by pushing or pulling sideways on the line, as well as no longer having trouble finding the line. Thus equipped, I was able to make it home with about as much speed and control as normal. It was much louder than normal, which was pretty loud. With the engine cover removed it sounded louder than being in a small airplane. Controlling speed was probably eased by the fact that the diesel engine was only rated at 48HP, and since it was a diesel I could get started without needing to apply accelerator when starting from a stop.