College pranks for real men

Sep 20th
Posted by shambo  as Cars, engineers, guys, Technology

Bored engineers - not good

Let me say this about that.

I was watching the “College Game Day”¬† program on TV last Saturday in preparation for a glorious day of holding down the couch and watching football.¬† During the preview of the Michigan State¬†- Notre Dame game there was a segment that showed a group of students on the front lawn of a fraternity house on the Michigan State campus.¬† The fraternity had towed a junk car onto their lawn, painted it¬†in Notre Dame colors and were encouraging the Spartan faithful to pound the hell out of the car with sledge hammers.

I think the car was a 1985¬† Nissan, which¬†was made out of an alloy of pig iron and Kryptonite, and is basically indestructible.¬† Anyway, not much damage was done to the car, no Notre Dame fans fainted from shock, and the Michigan State fraternity guys came off looking like a bunch weenie-boys.¬† This effeminate display got me to thinking about college life for the current ‘politically correct’ generation and how much it has changed since I attended college.

I went to college at one of the toughest engineering schools in the country.¬† Basically it was 4+ years of hell on earth.¬† I rarely got more than four hours of sleep a night, worked my butt off seven days a week, and felt lucky to carry a C+ to a B- average.¬† When a rare chance to have a little fun came along, we cut it loose like we had been given¬†a ‘death row’ pardon.¬† The “beating the hell out of a car with a sledge hammer” on the Michigan State campus last weekend reminded me of a similar college prank when I was a sophomore – way back before the age of political correctness – back when college pranks could be lethal.

The year was 1965 and a fraternity¬†had towed a¬†1952¬†Ford Victoria¬†onto their front lawn, painted it with our football rival’s colors, and were charging a dime (remember 45 years ago¬†a dime was real money) to smash the car with a 9-pound sledge hammer.¬† Great fun … for about ten minutes.¬† A crowd of fifty or so engineers standing around watching some guy slug an inanimate object with a hammer gets boring in a hurry.¬† So, someone in this gaggle of geeks decided to… kick things up a notch.

Within minutes the junk car was engulfed in flames and the rancid smell of burning Naugahyde was burning our eyes.  BUT, this was infinitely more entertaining than watching a car being bludgeoned to death.  As the flames started to scorch the leaves from overhanging trees, we could here the sound of sirens headed our way.

By the time the fire engine pulled up, the crowd had swelled to over a hundred guys chanting “GO Tech – GO Tech”, presumably in reference to the upcoming football game.¬† It took only a few minutes to extinguish the¬†blaze and the fire truck returned¬†to the fire house, leaving¬†faux leather Naugahyde-covered seats and headliner a hodgepodge of charred debris.

By this time, there were about 200 engineers standing around, now more bored than ever.  Boredom and engineers are a lethal combination.

Not ten minutes after the fire engine had left the scene, some enterprising young techno-nerd solved the problem by soaking an old discarded tire in lighter fluid and tossed it into the charred Ford Рalong with a marine emergency flare.  WOW !!!  The fire was really going now Рand the smoke, jeez !!!  This bulbous cloud of grey-black smoke enveloped an entire city block forcing the growing crowd to move upwind.

Five minutes later the fire truck re-appeared, accompanied by a red sedan driven by the local fire chief.  After a few thousands gallons of water were sprayed inside the poor Ford, the fire chief climbed on top of the truck and produced a bull-horn.

“OK fellows, you have had your fun, now break it up and and go back to your studies.”

Yeah, right.

Five hundred of us watched as the fire chief’s sedan¬†and the pumper truck rounded the corner -¬† quickly replaced¬†by a dozen of our brothers carrying a couple of ‘railroad ties’ from a nearby abandoned railroad¬†yard.¬† ‘Railroad ties’ are huge wooden railroad track foundations, 9″¬†x 7″ in girth and 8 1/2 feet long.¬† But the fun part is that they are pressure treated in Creosote, a coal-tar substance that waterproofs the wood¬†- and¬†is flammable as hell !

Into the Ford go the railroad ties, followed by a water-balloon filled with gasoline, followed by a bottle rocket Рa truly ingenious method of adding an accelerant to a fuel supply, followed by a damn clever method of remote ignition.


We thought the¬†burning tire had produced a lot of smoke, but this was in a whole other league.¬† The smoke was so thick it was knocking birds out of the sky.¬† Flames leaped forty feet into the air, igniting the overhanging oak tree.¬† The crowd had swelled to well over a thousand – totally entertained – engineers chanting an odd verse from “The Wizard of Oz”¬† and pointing toward the old Ford.

“Ding dong, the witch is dead.¬† The wicked witch is dead.”

Unbelievable !¬† I was¬†back in¬†1692 at¬†the ‘Salem witchcraft trials’¬† and we were burning a 1952 Ford Victoria¬†at the stake.¬† This gruesome mental picture faded¬†at the sound of sirens approaching¬† – again.¬† This time the fire chief was accompanied by two fire engines and three police cars.


The fire did not die so easily this time.  After all, Creosote makes wood waterproof - from fire hoses as well as rainfall.  But after twenty minutes or so, the last of the smoke and flame disappeared as the police chief took his turn atop the fire engine with the bull horn.

“Now listen, you freakin’ little delinquents.¬† We’ve had about enough of this crap.¬† Somebody is gonna get hurt.¬† If we have to come back out here, we’re gonna take the lot of you to jail – got that !?!?

Now you have to understand something here.¬† Guys become engineers because they live for¬†challenge.¬† If it’s not a¬†damn-near impossible task, it just isn’t fun.¬† And here, my friends, was the ultimate challenge.¬† Set the evil¬†Ford Victoria¬†aflame one more time, and you become¬†a near deity to¬†the growing¬†crowd of the ‘Brotherhood of Geeks’.¬† But get caught, and you go to jail on felony charges,¬†to say nothing of¬†getting¬†expelled from¬†school.

It was just too much to resist, and I had the perfect partner.

My roommate was a Chemical Engineer, a more dark and depraved profession than¬†dentistry.¬† He and I skulked away from the crowd¬†while our brothers vented their¬†indignation¬†at¬†the police chief’s threat, and¬†showered his departure with hoots and jeers of derision.¬† My roomie and I¬†crept into the second floor lab of the chemistry building and jimmied open the chemical locker.¬† There we found the base element of¬†the impending fame and adoration of our peers – ‘powdered magnesium.’

For those of you not familiar with powdered magnesium, suffice to say it was the primary component in the explosives used to fire-bomb Tokyo during World War II.  When ignited, a coffee cup full of the stuff will bring down a house.

Oh yeah baby, this should do the trick !!

Returning to the site of the¬†Ford Victoria¬†execution, we found some 2,000 of America’s future engineers huddled around an unrecognizable hunk of metal and whispering to one another about the possibility of further ignitions.¬† My roommate tossed a¬†Mason jar, half filled with the powered magnesium, into the remains of the car and shouted¬†for the hushed crowd to¬†“RUN FOR YOUR LIFE !!!”

At this point, simply setting the¬†old Ford¬†on fire would have been rewarded with yawns, so a degree of aplomb was called for.¬† With the crowd safely set back 20 yards, I produced a “Cherry-Bomb” fire-cracker and a ‘sling shot’.¬† I placed the “Cherry-Bomb” into the sling, my roomie lit the fuse and I fired the “Cherry-Bomb” at the magnesium covered old car.¬† This was a method of remote detonation that even the Taliban could appreciate, and at only 20 yards, a hit was pretty much assured.¬† After 3 or 4 seconds, the fire-cracker went off – followed by an explosion that could be measured my most of the seismographs in the southeastern United States, and producing a fireball of intense white and blue light.

The mushroom cloud that followed the fireball would have been the perfect ending to this stunt Рhad it not been for the oak tree being blown out of the ground and falling on top of the corpse of the long-dead Ford Victoria.

This act was NOT going to be followed.

After the explosion, the crowd evaporated as quickly as ‘the car formally known as Ford’, fully understanding that the police chief would make good on his word.¬† When the expected gaggle of police, fire, and emergency vehicles arrived, they found nothing other than a charred spot on the ground where the¬†Ford¬†once sat¬†- and a dead oak tree.¬†A group¬†of subsequent police interviewers found only a bunch of nerdy-looking, bleary-eyed engineering students with their noses firmly planted in their physics books.

So, to¬†you ‘good fellows’ on today’s college campuses, I say to you …..¬† if you want to pull a prank suited for real men, go find yourself an engineer.

And, that’s all I have to say about that.









  1. arbgit  19th March 2024  

    thanks you for sharing

  2. mystery shopping  25th March 2012  

    I was very happy to find this site. I wanted to thank you for your time for this particularly fantastic read!! I definitely appreciated every little bit of it and i also have you bookmarked to check out new information in your web site.

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