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Q&A with Kit Foster: December 5, 2013

Q. The question about the first item in the Aug. 15 Q&A [unusual Flying A medallion] caught my attention. Mr. Wieber’s first glance at the license plate topper was right on the money. The shading that makes it look three-dimensional is just like what Flying A gasoline used in the 1930s, and so is the apparent curvature of the bottom ends of the A. Even the wings look properly proportioned for its size.


As evidence I offer these two examples of Associated Oil Company’s logo, taken from the back panels of their 1934 and ’35 California-Nevada road maps. As you can see, these Flying A’s look just like the one on Wieber’s topper. They also show Associated’s color scheme at the time: a deep forest green, bright red and creamy white [which , unfortunately, we are unable to accurately depict in shades of gray]. Your description of the topper indicates it has a red background, probably intended to act as a reflector, and green outlining of a white flying A. That’s perfect for re-creating the Associated color scheme of that time.

Associated was a Pacific Coast oil company from way back, up to about 1935 or ’36, when J. Paul Getty plugged it and Tidewater Oil Company together. Road maps in my collection show Associated Oil Company as publisher of western maps until 1935, and Tidewater Oil Company until then, too, but 1937 maps of both show the publisher as Tidewater Associated Oil Company. Even after that, each company continued with its own style and brand names for a long time. Flying A, as a brand name for Associated’s gasoline, dates from 1933, according to the maps I have, but 1934 is the first time the Flying A logo appeared on the back cover. Tidewater marketed under the Tydol name from the 1920s until they finally added a Flying A to the map covers, although the gasoline brand remained Tydol, with a Flying A emblem below that name. But the style of the Flying A was not like what you see on Mr. Wieber’s topper. It has no shading, no rounded bottoms on the A and bigger wings. Tydol never adopted the Associated color scheme, either: no green at all. So, to sum up, the Flying A on Wieber’s oval is what Associated Oil started with in 1933 and used until around World War II.

It seems the Flying A logo was suggested by the assertion that the fuel they sold was “Aero-Type” gasoline. Before they came up with that, they advertised Associated “Equi-fractionated” gasoline, whatever that was. You can see why they didn’t persist with that moniker for very long.

— David L. Cole, Santa Maria, Calif.

A. Thanks very much for getting to the bottom of this. Retro Petro, of Paterson, N.J., also recognized the logo as that of the Associated Oil Company.


Q. Recently, someone asked me a question that I couldn’t answer. Perhaps you could. What was the last American car to have three-on-the-tree?

— Larry Printz, Norfolk Va.

A. From memory, I couldn’t either, but the “Standard Catalog of American Cars 1976-1999” is of some help. In 1979, Chevrolet offered a three-speed manual on Camaro, Nova, Malibu and Monte Carlo six-cylinder cars. The Camaro was probably a floor shift, but the others might have had the lever on the column. For 1980, the Camaro and Malibu V-6 could be had with a three-speed, while for 1981 only the Camaro was left. In 1982, the three-speed was history. Ford had no three-speed manual in 1979, and Plymouth offered one only on the Volare, with a floor lever. For 1980, the floor-shifted four-speed overdrive was the only manual. Jeep Wagoneers were all automatic by this time, but the Cherokee was available with a three-speed stick through 1979, although the control is not specified. What have our readers observed over the years? N.B. we’re not talking about pickup trucks, here, which carried three-on-the-tree into the mid-1980s. Larry is the Automotive Editor for the Virginian-Pilot newspaper. He’s also widely syndicated, so you’ve probably read his stuff in your local paper.

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

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