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Old Cars Q&A: 2020 no. 4

Kit Foster answers all of your old cars questions
Answer Man

Q. As a multi-decade subscriber to Old Cars and as a person who’s primarily involved in the classic-vintage Thunderbird community as a writer, editor, president, judge and current Technical Director for the Vintage Thunderbird Club International (VTCI), I saw Mr. Helphenstien’s question (Q&A Mar. 26) regarding the metal clip on the cowls of 1950s T-birds and immediately knew what he was asking about. This is a bonding clip that allowed the hood to be grounded to the body when closed. Variations of this clip were used through the 1960s, but in most all cases, the clip had a couple of points on its end that allowed it to dig into the paint and make contact with bare metal. A part of the reason for the clip was for static suppression. 

For the record, Ford used not only a bonding clip between the hood and cowl, it also used for a time in the early 1960s a stamped metal spring-like washer/clip on the front spindles that was anchored by the large hex nut and keyed washer that kept the front wheel bearings and, in turn, the front brake drum/hub assembly in place. Fingers of this device contacted the inside of the hub’s grease cap, allowing the spinning cap to come into contact with the stationary clip and transfer the static electrical charge generated by the rotating hub/drum assembly to the car’s structure. Most of these were discarded when the front wheel bearings were removed and repacked.
— Alan H. Tast, Olathe, Kan.,

Q.In the Mar. 26 Q&A, Paul Helphenstine asked about the copper-looking metal strap mounted to the cowl and rubbing against the hood lip on 1955 to ’58 Thunderbirds. My ’66 also has that. It is curved to give a spring effect with rough cuts on the edges, so as to rub against the under-hood lip. It is my understanding it is to create a ground from body to hood. I never heard the reason to ground the hood, but I would guess it has to do with static electricity. I have found the T-Birds had a lot of strange little things like that. 

— Charles Poole, Hampstead, Md.

Q. In your March 26th issue you were asked what the metal (copper) clip on the top of the cowl of the T-birds is for. I believe he is referring to the radio interference suppression clip. I have them on my two 1970 Mustangs and my ’72 Ranchero. I once drove a friend crazy at a show when he was waiting to be judged. I told him that there was something wrong with his pristine Boss 302. He couldn’t believe anything was wrong until I showed him that his suppression clip was installed backwards. It actually scratches the underside of the hood and stays in contact when the hood is closed. Actually, I never tried the radio without them. 

— Jim Bowers, Allentown, N.J.


A.Thanks, Alan, Charles and Jim. Jim Llewellyn also emailed from Charlotte, Tenn. I was sure the T-bird community would know. 

As for the “static electricity,” I think both Jims are right about radio interference, since when car radios were AM-only, it was a big deal. Spark impulses from the distributor and spark plug wires caused loud popping noises from the radio. If I’m not mistaken, early Corvettes had metal shields on the distributor and plug wires, as the fiberglass body provided no attenuation for spark interference. When installing an aftermarket radio, there were individual resistors to place on the spark plugs to smooth out the voltage pulses and reduce the interference. However, by the 1950s I think resistance spark plug wires were commonplace, performing the same function as the individual resistors and largely eliminating the problem. It became even less important with FM car radios, for technical reasons I can explain more fully if anyone’s interested.

Q.[Regarding Ron Caputo’s hunt for the ID plate on his 1949 Ford (Q&A Mar. 26)], Ford hid the ID plate on the ’49 cars. It’s on the firewall in the cubbyhole under the passenger-side fender, next to the fresh-air vent. 

— Daniel Clark, via email

A.Thanks for that. As I remember, on 1950 and ’51 Fords they’re easier to find.

To submit questions to this column:
or mail to: Q&A, Old Cars,
5225 Joerns Drive, Suite 2,
Stevens Point, WI 54481.

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