Q&A with Kit Foster: August 8, 2015

plym-1956-savoy

Q. I have a 1956 Plymouth Savoy with a 277-cubic-inch V-8 and manual three-speed transmission. Changing the oil filter is always a hassle due to the cartridge-type oil filter. You have to be careful to make sure the gasket sits right while trying not to cross-thread the bolt, all while lying on your back. I don’t have the luxury of a lift, nor do I want to always have someone else do it for me. Is there a conversion kit made to change to a screw-on type filter? I have checked through Old Cars Weekly and other magazines with no luck. Any help will be appreciated.
— Gerald Rtichie, Grady, Ark.
A. I have no experience with early Plymouth V-8s, but there are plenty of people on the internet Forward Look Forum who agree with you. Both Wix and Fram appear to make spin-on conversion kits, and O’Reilly Auto Parts carries them. Most, however, are for Chevys and Fords. The only one I see for Mopars is Fram’s K21. Applicability includes “1955-1964 Plymouth.”
Forward Look Forum posters are divided in their satisfaction with the K21, some saying it works well, while others have had trouble sealing it. Most are reporting on 318s; I’m not sure if or how your 277 differs. Some mention Mopar parts for the job, specifically 2402103, “plate”; 4897939AA, “gasket”; and 3671602, “adapter.” The adapter and gasket seem to be currently available, but the Chrysler Mopar Parts website says the plate is “discontinued.” However, I found it on a site for Toad Marine Supply. Moparists, have any of you done this conversion on a 277?

Q. In answer to Don Reichert’s question about Port-a-Walls and the manufacturer Bearfoot Sole Co. in Wadsworth, Ohio (Oct. 30, 2014), you ended with the sentence “Clearly it was a pretty small outfit.” To the contrary, although Bearfoot Sole is no longer around (it closed in 1983), the company employed 565 people in its prime. It also contributed to the WWII effort among its other projects.
Since I live within five miles of the original factory site, I thought I’d clear this up. There are several excerpts from the Wadsworth Historical Society that I thought you’d find interesting. Also, an Old Cars advertiser, Lucas Classic Tires, still offers Port-a-Walls.
— Frank J. Scott, Seville, Ohio
A. Clearly I should not have used the word “clearly.” My only data point was the 1960 industrial directory I cited, which listed a skeleton crew of employees. Mr. Scott’s commentary from the Wadsworth Historical Society says Bearfoot Sole Company was founded in 1925 and manufactured stocking protectors, sold under the Dr. Scholl label, and rubber soles and heels, as well as crepe and molded rubber, soling sheets and top lift sheets. By 1950, it turned out 25 million pairs of soles and heels annually for “some of the largest shoe manufacturers.” Its Wadsworth plant had its own laboratory, sub-station, boiler room, machine shop and rail siding, on 35 acres of land with 111,470 feet of floor space.” Bearfoot Airway Corporation, an affiliate, was the “world’s largest producer of attachable whitewalls for tires. The ‘Glitter Ring’ whitewall topper product of this firm won two top awards in the 1963 National Automotive Accessories Parts Exhibit in Los Angeles for the Best Designed Product and for the Best New Rubber Product.”
Don Reichert should be pleased with his find. Those are no ordinary Port-a-Walls. Thanks for bringing us up to speed.

Q. I have noticed that some 1954 Chevys have the rear-view mirror mounted on the dashboard, not in the “normal” position at the top of the windshield. I’ve seen this in original ads and brochures, and also on cars at shows. Do you know why this would be?
Also, a friend and I have often wondered about the name “Willys.” We’ve heard it pronounced different ways.
— Tom Benson, Maple Grove, Minn.
A. I think if you pay close attention to those ’54 Chevys you’ll find that only the Sport Coupe hardtops have the mirror on the dashboard. I believe this may be because the rear window on the hardtop roof is lower than on sedans, and would limit the field of view if the mirror were mounted at the top. In looking at photos, I see it is also true for 1953 Chevys.
Most people pronounce Willys as “Willies.” However, John North Willys’s grandson, John Willys de Aguirre, used to be a neighbor of mine, and he and other family members pronounced their name “Willis.” When I mentioned this to a friend from northern Ohio, where Willys cars and Jeeps were built, I was told the locals all said “Willies,” particularly with respect to the cars. That may be so, but I remember in the 1950s, when the Aero Willys cars first came out, they were advertised on TV as “Willis.” This was on a program called “Omnibus” hosted by Alastair Cooke and sponsored by Willys-Overland. So I always say “Willis.”

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One thought on “Q&A with Kit Foster: August 8, 2015

  1. Roger V

    I bought up a half dozen of the Plymouth spin-on conversion kits from Schuck’s some years ago, last ones available locally, in case someone like Gerald needed one. You can write me at vanhilla@pacifier.com if you want one at cost plus shipping. It’s a Fram K-21 kit. Application is 1956-62 Plymouth V-8 “A”, 1960-early-65 Dodge-Plymouth 6 passenger cars, some Dodge trucks.

    HOWEVER, you MUST have a 1956 Plymouth 277 “A” engine. This engine was originally installed in all 1956 Belvederes and all V-8 models with Power-Pak four barrel. The standard V-8 for 1956 Savoy and Plaza models was the 270 ci Dodge engine.

    The 277 has sawtooth edges on the bottoms of the valve covers. The 270 [and 1955 260 and 241] have scalloped bottoms on the valve covers. Also on the 277 the intake manifold doubles as the valley cover. On the 270 there is a separate valley cover and the intake is open. In addition, the 277 has the breather tube on the back of the right valve cover; the 270 breather tube comes out of the mid-back of the intake valley.

    The 277 became the 301 and later the fabled “wide block” 318 [which isn’t really wide but that’s another story].

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