Q&A With Kit Foster: Sept. 3, 2015

Q. I have a 1964 Ford Galaxie convertible with the swing-away steering wheel. Can you confirm that it was a factory option?
— Donald Ligon, Lambert, Mont.

A. In a word, yes. I have a 1963 Galaxie brochure that shows it among other accessories, and mentions that it was available “only in combination with power steering and either automatic transmission.” A fuller explanation appears online at www.automotivemileposts.com. The swing-away, initially invoiced as “steering column movable,” first became optional on 1961 Thunderbirds. It was popular and was made standard in 1962. It was added to the Galaxie options list for 1963, and continued on Galaxies, LTDs and T-Birds through 1966. It was never popular on Galaxies, though, so your convertible is probably quite rare.

Q. If any readers have switched to radial tires and not been completely happy with the results, alignment may be the problem. When I switched to radial tires on my 1970 Pontiac LeMans, the tire dealer stated that installing radials can change the front end geometry, in which case the front end needs to be realigned. Since the additional cost was not significant, I went for it. The car handled beautifully.
— John Singleton, Houston, Tex.

A. Good point. When I have new tires mounted, I always have an alignment done. There’s no sense in needlessly wearing new tires with incorrect alignment, even if it’s a collector car driven only a few miles a year.

Q. I recently acquired an all-original 1951 Bentley from the East Coast. One of the interesting items on the car is a Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority medallion mounted on the roadside bumper. The medallion is dark green with yellow letters “TP.” Is the medallion an early version of the current I-PASS so that you would not have to pay the toll on each passage through the toll station? The Bentley is right-hand drive and it would be very difficult for the driver to pay at a toll booth, so an annual pass would have been very helpful.
— Steve Davis, via e-mail

TurnpikePlate

A. I think your explanation is correct. Once toll highways became prevalent in the 1940s and ’50s, many states began issuing “toll plates” that relieved drivers of having to pay tolls on the spot. As you say, they were predecessors to today’s EZ Pass and similar systems, except that they were usually charged as a flat annual fee. Connecticut, where I live, offered toll plates for the Merritt Parkway from the 1930s, and later for the Wilbur Cross extension and the Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95) along the shore. They were of the “plate topper” style, mounted to the front license plate and used until 1988. Most toll plates, however, had more information, sometimes pertaining to a particular toll barrier, a validation for the year and a serial number that could be traced to the car’s owner. Pennsylvanians, did your Turnpike offer toll plates in the past?

Q. Regarding the question from Bernie Pranica about overdrives (May 28), I installed an overdrive from a 1954 Plymouth in a ’40 Plymouth. The transmission and overdrive were the exact same length as the transmission and tailshaft from the ’40. I put it in and hooked up the driveshaft; no other changes were needed. The rear axle ratio worked just fine. Make a wiring harness and kickdown switch (it can go on the dashboard) and you’re ready to go. His ’56 likely needs a 12-volt system, but the solenoid would probably be the only difference. It must be from a Chrysler product, as the transmission mainshaft is special for overdrive units. Use shorter transmission shift arms to reduce shift lever travel.
— Tom Baehler, Rockford, Ill.

A. Thanks for sharing your experience. The axle ratio is a secondary consideration. You’ll know when you start driving whether it’s OK or not. I once converted a Studebaker with automatic transmission to manual-with-overdrive and found the gearing in the automatic axle was much too “tall.” Luckily, the parts car that donated its overdrive had the correct axle so I did a swap. I re-purposed an unused switch position on the dashboard (meant for a fog light switch) with a push button for kickdown. I liked this feature because it allowed kicking down out of overdrive without flooring the throttle.

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