Q&A with Kit Foster: March 12, 2015

Q. I don’t know if anyone followed up on [the Oct. 30 question about fake sidewalls made by Bearfoot Sole Co. in Wadsworth, Ohio], but since I live near Wadsworth I Googled it. What I found is that the current location is occupied by a rubber products company: Goldsmith & Eggleton, Inc., 300 1st Street, Wadsworth, Ohio 44281,  www.goldsmith-eggleton.com.

— Kevin Kiewel, Medina, Ohio

A. Thanks. On the website the company refers to itself as “a world leader in the manufacturing and distribution of rubber raw materials and black masterbatch.” I note it was founded in 1968, which is soon after the reference I found to Bearfoot Sole in the early 1960s. I doubt that Goldsmith & Eggleton were involved with the faux sidewall items in question, but it’s interesting to know that a similar business remains at the site. It’s not an accident, clearly, that the address is near Akron, Ohio, the Rubber Capital of the World.





Q. I need help identifying this part. It is a hub cap center. I have a set of wire wheel hubcaps and this center fits them. The wire wheel hubcaps are from a 1954-’55 Chevy, but the centers on them have a Chevy emblem. I am guessing this one is from the same time period.

— Harold Drake, Torrance, Calif.

A. The emblem is Hudson, and the cap is indeed from the same period. Hudson’s 1953 Merchandiser’s Catalog offered accessory faux wire wheel covers that bolted onto the hub. These caps covered the lug bolts once the wires were installed. Hudson also offered genuine wire wheels, but they had a simpler cap with a triangle in the center. Thanks to Kenneth Cates of the Hudson Essex Terraplane Club for pinpointing the application.




Q. Regarding the question of gas turbines in cars (Dave Ring, Dec. 4), while fuel consumption was high (so was the exhaust temperature — you should have seen the size of the pipes on those Chrysler cars), I think the main reason for non-production was just plain cost. While a gas turbine engine is simpler than a pushrod engine, the high temperatures it operates at requires exotic and expensive materials and careful manufacturing. (Remember the sealing problems with early rotary engines?) I remember reading that replacing a gas engine with a turbine would more than double the price of the vehicle. Consider the lead time for the manufacturing capability that needed to be developed (computer technology was close to non-existent in the industry), and an infrastructure of  repair facilities and trained mechanics that needed to be created,  it would have taken at least the rest of the decade (1960s) to get a production car on the road. By 1970, government safety and environmental regulations were stretching the budgets of the Detroit companies and the gas crisis cut even more. Throw in the “Big Three’s”  fear of “being radically first” (look how long it took to put disc brakes on their cars) and general inclination to take a good idea and screw it up (the aluminum-block Vegas and 1970s diesels), the death of automotive gas turbine cars should be no surprise.

— Ronald Weinger, via e-mail

A. I agree that all of those factors weighed against the gas turbine as an automotive powerplant, but I think it was the fuel crisis that really nailed its coffin shut for good.




Q. In regard to the recent question about availability of big-cubic-inch Olds motors (400s or 455s) in Cutlass-series bodies (Dec. 18), I’m sending a photocopy of the specification page in the 1968 Oldsmobile full-line sales brochure. There was also a Cutlass-specific 1968 brochure, but we seem to be sold out of that item. The full-line brochure supports your position that the 455 was not a regular production item for 1968 Cutlass models.

— Bob Christiansen, Brushy Creek Collectibles, Salvisa, Ky.

A. Yes, it’s pretty clear big engines were not regular production options, but irregular cars do get built from time to time. Scott Peterson (Feb. 12) recalled two Cutlasses he formerly owned that were so equipped, and appeared to be original, but without build sheets it’s difficult to know for sure.


To submit questions to this column: E-mail angelo.vanbogart@fwmedia.com or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.


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One thought on “Q&A with Kit Foster: March 12, 2015

  1. Leon Dixon

    Regarding gas turbines… The old chestnut myth that exhaust temperatures were extremely high is hauled out again here. Why people continue to believe this is a mystery. Chrysler’s twin-regenerator gas turbines as used in their Ghia test car fleet of 55 (not 50 as often stated) cars were COOLER at the end of the tailpipe than conventional engine exhausts! Fact. I have photos of George Heubner squatted down, holding a piece of paper fluttering in the exhaust of a turbine car. He tried to show the press, but the myth continues to this day. These wild stories of turbine exhausts are based on un-evolved turbines that were simply converted over from aircraft with no regenerators or refinements for automotive uses. And cars like the early jet-plane-like GM Firebird that was mimicking the shape and look of a jet aircraft with a huge tail pipe, that was indeed hot, but this was not a refined, automotive application here.

    As for what killed the turbine, it originally was the issue of meeting NOx and other smog requirements… and money…in a time when there were no computer controls. BUT what is conveniently overlooked–even rejected are some cold, hard facts that always manage to NOT be mentioned:

    • People thought that leaded gas and GOOD meant the same thing back then. Lead was death to turbines (deposits built up on turbine blades) and the mere mention that turbines couldn’t use the stuff SEEMED like a bad thing to minds of the time. Take the lead out of gas? No way! Way. Actually the reverse was true. Unleaded gas in the 1960s was dirt cheap compared to leaded gas. It had almost no uses (people used to use the stuff to clean paint brushes!). But this was all painted somehow as a BAD thing in the 1960s. So what kind of gas do we use today in conventional engines? Hmmmm? AND somehow the oil companies figured out a way to make the unleaded stuff cost MORE than the leaded stuff! And, by the way, lead wasn’t doing good things for the environment either. Turbines were trying to tell us about the future, but no one was listening.

    • RE: fuel consumption… I am one of few people who drove both the Ghia cars and the DOE Turbine Aspen and others. I can assure you those cars got comparable or BETTER mileage than my late-model Dodge Ram truck–with its computer-controlled engine. And if you are burning corn squeezings or recycled cooking oil from the fryer at McDonald’s this is not the same as hauling in another tanker of black gold from Saudi! The fuel crisis of the 1970s? If anything, that should NOT have been the “nail in the coffin” of the turbine, but the final impetus to go full bore in producing turbines!

    • RE: engine complexity… Has anyone making such statements ever really looked at a Northstar engine? How about a Mercedes V-8? Complicated, and yes, high-tech, aluminum engines are commonplace today. And expense? One always needs to include a little factor known in business circles as “economies of scale.” The more you make, the lower the cost goes. And in today’s technology and level of expertise, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about making a gas turbine automotive engine. To suggest otherwise makes no sense. If this was such an impossible thing, then why are gas turbines dominating unlimited hydroplane boat racing… and why are turbines powering American military tanks?

    The public has been duped into believing a lot of silly myths about gas turbines. They should have been built and George Huebner’s work should be applauded far more than it has.


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