The good news is that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the engine — rods, bearings, crankshaft, all that scary stuff.  The bad news is that the problem will still take at least a week to fix and then we have to get the engine back in.  But now that they know what they are dealing with, the Demopolis/Tuscaloosa team seems a bit more motivated to get things wrapped up.  Here’s what happened:

The fitting that holds the air cleaner onto the engine has always been a rattling, rusty piece of engineering.  A couple of months ago in Tennessee, the cheap tack welds that held it on failed and it started to rattle even worse.  One day when we were doing routine engine checks I said to John, “I am going to fix that thing for good” and drilled the welds through for sheet metal screws.  Well, I guess my fix wasn’t any better than the original, because one of the screws worked itself out as we came into the slip here in Demopolis and was sucked into a cylinder where it wiped out one of the pistons.  The mechanic said everything else in the engine looks like new — because it is.

I feel badly because my fix didn’t work, but that fitting has never been right.  When I called Stan Feigenbaum  (the Beta importer and a really nice guy) to tell him what had happened, he somewhat sheepishly said it has been redesigned and is sending me the new model overnight.

Parts have been ordered, and since there is no machining needed, I MIGHT get the engine back Friday, and we MIGHT get it back in Monday or Tuesday, then on to Mobile for Christmas.