Q&A With Kit Foster: Aug. 22, 2015

GreyhoundOrnament[1]

Q. This is definitely a greyhound-looking ornament, but with a “GEM Chicago” stamp on the base. Who and what vehicle does this belong to? When was this figurine manufactured and by which company?
— Markus Delirious, via e-mail
A. Yes, it’s a greyhound, and I’m pretty sure it was made by Gem Manufacturing Corp. in Addison, Ill., near Chicago (https://www.gemcol
lectibles.com/). The website gives no company history, but a business information site says it was established in 2004. Gem manufactures a wide array of novelty ornaments, as well as accessory bumper guards. Its current catalog does not seem to include this particular greyhound, which has a ring for a bolt or MotoMeter mounting, but there’s another such dog with a solid base. I believe it’s a modern reproduction, without any specific vehicle application. As I’ve said about other generic accessories, if it fits, your car can wear it.

Q. Concerning the pronunciation of the auto/truck/Jeep nameplate “Willys” (Aug. 6), you are entirely correct that Ohio folks say “Willies.” I grew up in Toledo in the 1960s, within bike-riding distance of the world-famous Jeep production plant, which was erected in the early 1900s and stood until its demolition in 2002. Even though the vehicles were assembled by the Kaiser-Jeep Corp., everyone referred to the facility as the “Willies” plant. I worshipped at St. Agnes Church a short distance from the plant, and we could hear the “Willies” plant whistle during the afternoon weekday worship.  Many church parishioners worked at the “Willies” plant. Nobody ever said “Willis” in Toledo, Ohio — ever.  That pronunciation gives me the willies!
— Greg Nussel, San Antonio, Tex.
A. Nobody except the family. As I wrote, I knew John North Willys’s grandson, now deceased, and have met his son, John Willys de Aguirre III. Both of them pronounced their name as “Willis.” The corporate preference seems mixed. I found two YouTube videos online. This one, https://www.you
tube.com/watch?v=rxXzwWyy7_M, a 1950 “infomercial,” says “willies,” but this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdHp5mM56ts, a TV commercial for the 1954 Aero Willys line, clearly says “willis,” in both male and female voices. (If the links don’t work, just search YouTube for “Willys commercial.”) I remember those Aero commercials well, as it was the first time I had heard the name pronounced that way. The next time I’m in northern Ohio, though, I’ll be sure to mind my manners.
Q. Did Mercury ever make a car with a rumble seat? I have had several debates in the past week. I said they didn’t and the other guys involved say they sat in them. Who’s right?
— Jim Theurer, Grantville, Pa.
A. Whoever sat in one must have built it himself. Ford Motor Co.’s last rumble seat was in the 1939 Ford Deluxe convertible coupe. Although Mercury was introduced for 1939 and offered a convertible, it had an “indoor” rear seat like Ford adopted in 1940. Mercury never had a rumble seat.

Q. This is in reference to Mr. Clint Powell’s question in the July 30 issue. Mr. Powell had found that his 1964 Chevrolet Impala had “Oct 11 1963” stenciled on the transmission hump and was wondering if anyone had seen this before. I had a 1964 Impala, and the seat belts were marked “1963” in white stencil on the black belts, and the power brake booster was from left-over 1963 parts. The boosters were different: one year they were bolted together and the other year they were riveted. I can’t remember which year was which.
— Todd Nelson, via e-mail
A. Using up older parts has always been common. Henry Ford had a fetish about it. I think Mr. Powell was referring to the apparent date his car was assembled, from the stencil on the floor pan.
Manufacturers often place a date on a data plate somewhere on the car. For 1960s Chevys, it’s on the trim tag riveted to the cowl, and is accurate to a month and week. If Mr. Powell can tell us the two-digit code at the upper left part of his trim tag, we can figure out if it matches the Oct. 11 date on the floor. For Chrysler Corp. cars, it’s a schedule date, to month and year, and is also on the cowl. Ford put them on the driver’s door edge, also accurate to a month and week.

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