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Bob Norwood's Mishap with a Supercharged Mustang - All Fingers and Thumbs

Bob Norwood
Sep 1, 2004

I originally had a completely different subject in mind for this month, but events led me to change from a column with a technical flavor to a rant about my own stupidity. More importantly, here is what you can do to avoid the consequences I'm suffering as a result of the aforementioned stupidity.

So, what has led to my current state of mind? Well, I have a minor problem with my fingers. Or should I say a lack of fingers? Allow me to explain.

There I was, trying to diagnose a misfire that was causing some problems with a potent supercharged Mustang I've been tuning. The car in question is a low 7-second car that runs a massive, prototype centrifugal supercharger. The car was idling as I checked the coil connections and plug wires in search of the cause of the problem. In a moment of pure ineptness, my right hand came within 5 inches or so of the supercharger inlet and before I knew what was happening, the massive suction grabbed my hand and dragged it into the compressor wheel.

I don't remember the pain, nor do I remember pulling my hand back out. What is indelibly engraved on my memory is the shocked expressions of the other guys in the pits as I held up my hand to examine the damage. Blood pumped all over the place. A quick count confirmed that I still had five digits on my right hand. Or should I say a total of three-and-a-half.

The turbine had shaved the end off of two fingers and completely removed the top of my middle finger at the top knuckle joint. All of this happened in the blink of an eye...

The next thing I know, the races have been stopped to allow the track ambulance to take my sorry butt to the local hospital for treatment. (I felt worse about stopping the races than I did about modifying my digits.) The end result is two fingers that are significantly shorter than they were and one that can only be described as a "stubby."

Of course, the internet rumor mill got hold of this pretty quickly. While I was getting patched up, the stories were circulating across the web like wildfire: "Norwood loses an arm in supercharger" and "Norwood torn limb from limb," etc.

I was back at the track the next day and thankfully, the supercharger was undamaged. Thanks to the miracle of modern painkillers, I was able to get back to work without too much delay (albeit slightly handicapped). Luckily, I'm a lefty, so it's not as bad as it could have been. The guys in the shop have given me a new nickname, "Stubby Norwood," and my ability to communicate in a non-verbal way is not quite what it used to be. I now have a unique 'V' sign and giving Chris Harrington the "one-fingered salute" will never be the same again.

So, due to a moment's lapse of concentration, I'm now suffering the consequences. What is this all leading to? For a start, don't-I repeat-do not, dangle your hand anywhere near the inlet of a supercharger (duh) and while you're wrenching on your car, concentrate on what you're doing.

Basic shop safety can be improved by keeping the shop clean and organized. I am a little anal about the cleanliness of my shop. I'm often seen patrolling for oil spots with a shop rag and a can of solvent. Why? Because I've slipped on oil and busted my rear end in the past and it's not a fun thing to do.

Another good tip is to make sure you use the correct tool for the job. If you want to avoid skinning your knuckles, make sure that the wrench fits correctly.

Another useful tip is to avoid using a hammer towards yourself. I remember a guy who used to work for me trying to beat an awkward exhaust clamp loose. He was laying under the car at a peculiar angle and could only swing the hammer one way. Of course, the inevitable happened; he missed the clamp. The hammer came back and whacked him right between the eyes. Oh, how we laughed as he staggered around the shop with a broken nose, uttering expletives.

Take it from one who speaks from experience. Concentrate on what you're doing at all times. Use the right tool for the job and keep the shop clean. It's basic stuff, but it can save you the hassle of joining the Norwood "Dumb-ass" Club.

By Bob Norwood
2 Articles

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