Q&A with Kit Foster: January 1, 2015

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Q. Do you know what make, year, and model this mirrored clock was used for? It is a Phinney-Walker Electric Auto Watch, catalog number 217EM. Thank you.

— Al DeAmicis, MPIA


A. The Phinney-Walker Co. was founded in New York circa 1903. Into the 1920s, it manufactured automobile clocks, and its rim-wind “Embassy” clock became very popular. They can be found today with the logos of many 1920s auto makes. From the 1930s, however, Phinney-Walker became more of a marketer and distributor of timepieces made by others; many of the outsource manufacturers were Connecticut clockmakers, others were in Germany and Switzerland. It also sold a line of travel alarm clocks. Your clock mirror is probably from the 1950s or ’60s. As it seems not to bear an automotive logo, it was probably a universal accessory, usable in most kinds of cars.


Q. Does anti-freeze boil much quicker than water? Some say anti-freeze boils faster. Others say water boils faster. Many people question the same. I would like an answer.

— Carl H. Ney, Jr., Ashland, Pa.

A. It depends on the anti-freeze. The alcohol-based (methanol) solutions used up through the 1950s boil at a lower temperature than water, and the boiling point of the water-alcohol mix is corresponding lower than that of pure water. As I recall, with the common mix it was around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. It was important not to use a high-temperature thermostat with alcohol in the cooling system. Today’s ethylene glycol boils at a higher temperature than water (387 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact), and the boiling point of coolant in the engine is also raised when it’s under pressure. I don’t think many people use alcohol antifreeze today, if it is even available. An interesting fact about ethylene glycol is that a mixture with water freezes at a lower temperature than either liquid does on its own. Pure ethylene glycol freezes at about 10 degrees F, while a 60-40 mix with water doesn’t freeze until minus 49.


Q. Was it possible to get the 455 engine in a Cutlass S convertible in 1968, without the Hurst or 4-4-2 options? Our 1968 and ’70 Cutlasses both have them.

— Philip Wolfe, South Euclid, Ohio

A. My sources, admittedly secondary, multi-make compilations, show the 455 as a Cutlass option only from 1970 onward. It was available in 1968 and ’69, but only with the Hurst/Olds package. That suggests your 1968 Cutlass S has had a heart transplant. Olds folk with further or contradictory information are welcome to chime in.


Q. In recent issues there has been much said about Oldsmobiles making a “whooshing” sound at full throttle. I have another question about these vehicles. I could never understand why in drag races the back ends of these vehicles, especially the 1954 and ’55 88s, will rise up instead of dropping down when starting out at full power. In most cases, it appears that the whole car is being raised up instead of the rear end dropping down. I would appreciate it if anyone could enlighten me.

— Charles Campbell, Bossier City, La.

A. I expect it has to do with the suspension geometry. Perhaps a physicist who is knowledgeable about Oldsmobiles can advise us.


Q. In response to Mark Axen’s question (Oct. 30) about 1950 Chevrolet carburetors, there are some choices. The 1952 Rochester carburetor was much improved. It can be identified by the higher bowl cover (around the outer edge), which had larger and longer retaining screws. Rochesters often have warped bowl covers, causing leakage.

A Carter W-1 carburetor is another choice. It must be from a 1941-’49 car, and can be identified by measuring the throttle bore. The bore should be 1-1/2 inches, as in 1940 and prior it was 1-7/16. The 1949 had several improvements and has the link between the throttle linkage and choke. This link increases the idle speed when the choke is used.

The next choice is a Carter YF. It came along in 1951 and is a simple, more-or-less universal replacement carburetor. It must be for a 216, as the 235 unit has wider mounting stud holes. All of the above have rebuilding kits available.

— Gene Schneider, West Allis, Wis.

A. Thanks, particularly for pointing out that a later carburetor, as suggested in a previous column, might not be a bolt-on to the original manifold.

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

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