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Q&A 2020 No. 2

Kit Foster answers your old car questions
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Answer Man

Q. I am a longtime subscriber to Old Cars and I hope someone can help me. I recently purchased an exterior sun visor for my 1956 Mercury phaeton. I was advised it would fit a hardtop, which mine is. My 1956 body parts catalog says there were three visors available. There are no numbers stamped on the visor, and pictures I have seen seem to match the visor I have. It attaches into the rain gutters with two brackets in the center. The visor is 52 inches across and my roof is 55 inches straight across to the gutters. I was wondering if anybody had measurements of the roofs of other models so I would know which model this visor would fit? 

— Bill Jessie, Stony Point N.Y.

AMy first reaction was that the phaeton, the four-door hardtop introduced in 1956, might have used a different windshield configuration from the hardtop coupe (sometimes called “Sport”), and for that matter closed coupes and sedans. In looking further, though, I see there were Phaetons in all four Mercury series: Medalist, Custom, Monterey and Montclair. They were designated models 57D, 57C, 57B and 57A, respectively. In the Crestline book “The Cars of Lincoln Mercury” by George Dammann and James K. Wagner, there is an interesting caption: “When the 4-door phaeton hardtop joined the Mercury family in mid-1956 a Custom version was among them…In addition to sharing structural components with all of this year’s Mercury phaetons, it followed the Monterey and Medalist in its employment of a broad windshield header and, on two-tone models, double, color-divided backlight moldings.” 

The phaetons do not appear in the September 1955 full-line brochure for 1956 Mercs. In January 1956, a hardtop-specific brochure was issued, but the broad header and double, color-divided backlight molding are not shown. They do appear in one photo in the Crestline book, implying that it was an even later change. I suspect that the differing windshield headers are at the root of your problem. Mercurists, have you any advice?

Q.Can anyone identify this, make, model, year? 

— Jeff Vincent, via Facebook


A. Identity, yes, but not the application. It’s a Boyce MotoMeter, an early automobile temperature gauge. It’s basically a thermometer that replaces the radiator cap, giving the driver a visual check on the engine’s well-being, before steam begins to hiss out of the overflow. Patented in 1912, they were initially accessory items, but as they became popular the Boyce MotoMeter Company, of Long Island City, N.Y., began to include automaker badges in them, and manufacturers supplied them on new cars. The basic MotoMeter could be purchased from an accessory store and mounted on the car’s radiator cap with the drilling of a single hole.

This one does not show an automobile logo, so it’s hard to tell just which model the cap will fit. From the photo, I suspect it does not work properly. When cold, the indicator fluid should be below the sight circle in the upper section. Proper running temperature is within the circle, and above that you’re risking a boil-over. From your photo, it looks like the fluid registers right to the top, which it should not when cold. The wings are a further embellishment, often used back in the day for a bit more pizzazz. Another ornament frequently seen on MotoMeters is the so-called “dog bone,” which looks like a dog bone. Other firms also manufactured engine thermometers, but this one neatly fits the Boyce pattern.

My 1925 Hudson has an un-branded MotoMeter (shown here without wings or dog bone), and it works perfectly. The car is cold and the fluid can barely be seen at the bottom of the tube. Sometimes the simple things are the best.  

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

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