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Q&A with Kit Foster: July 10, 2014


Q. A few issues ago, you identified some items I had purchased, saying they are horn buttons (March 13). In the same box was this item. Do you know what it is?

— Herb Stuesse, Sheboygan Falls, Wis.

A. As a matter of fact I do. It’s a wire wheel “knock-off” from a sports car, used to secure the wheels to their splined spindles. The actual securing part, a threaded section, seems to have been removed. I haven’t yet identified the legend in the center, though. Suggestions are welcome.

The arrows show the direction in which to tap it to remove cap. Typically the arrow is accompanied by the word UNDO. Opposite sides of the car have different threads, to keep the caps from being loosened by the turning wheel. On many British cars they are labeled “Nearside” (which is passenger or curb side) and “Offside” (driver’s side). There’s an old joke about a fellow peering at one of these and saying to the owner “That’s a nifty Offside Undo you’re driving.”


Q. In the May 22 issue, Satch Reed asked about a pair of little lights he calls “turn signals.” In the years after World War II, a lot of cars needed to have the headlights “updated” from the old separate lens and reflector type headlight to the newer sealed beams to meet safety requirements. On the cars made with the old lens-type lights, some had cowl or fender lights, but most had a small parking light bulb built right into the reflectors above the main high and low beam bulb. When you pulled the headlight switch out halfway, or turned it one position to the right, the parking lights would come on. (Not like modern cars where the parking lights come on with the headlights.) When the cars were converted over to sealed beams, you no longer had the parking lights in the reflector. Most states required the parking lights for safety inspection.

The lights as pictured were never for any specific car. They were an item you got at an auto parts jobber, accessory outlet like J.C. Whitney or from any dealer as an add-on parking light. You had to drill a hole in the headlight housing (or anywhere on the car) and connect the wires from your parking lights to these so they lit up when the switch was turned or pulled. Most pre-WW II cars did not have directional signals. I am not sure if any of them had them. So these are not turn signals, although if you still have parking lights there is no reason that you could not use them as such (if you do not mind drilling holes to install them). They are not original for any car. Real restorers hate them, but there are hot rodders or custom car builders today who still like them as an add-on.

— Donald Axelrod, Headlight Headquarters, Lynn, Mass.

A. Thanks. That makes perfect sense. Everett Fox in Fifield, Wis., says that he purchased some similar lights as accessories in the early 1950s from the Gamble store. Max Brand, at Green Mountain Vintage Auto in Brattleboro, Vt., remembers similar lights with faceted glass mounted on chrome stalks that clamped to front fenders. These were for ease in parking, and were sometimes mounted on the right side only. He had some on his first car, a 1934 Ford, and believes he purchased them from the Warshawsky catalog, another part of Roy Warshawsky’s J.C. Whitney enterprise. The lights Satch asked about could have been on a 1937 Chevy, for any of the above reasons.


Q. The question from Ken Felty about the flashing lights on his 1955 T-Bird (May 1) reminds me of a problem I had with my 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible back around 1960. Periodically my headlights would flash off and then come back on while I was driving at night. I accidentally found the problem while fixing another issue. My radiator had developed a leak, and after I removed it for repair, I noticed the wire connecting the headlights to each other was routed beneath the radiator and a tear in the insulation was visible. I wound electrical tape around the spot and after reinstalling the radiator, I never had another problem

— Dennis Krueger, via e-mail

A. Good point. In your case, the wire was shorting to ground, causing the circuit breaker in the switch to trip. We also heard from William Peterson in Santa Maria, Calif. He had flashing lights on his 1967 Mustang. He was told to buy an aftermarket switch, which he did, and had no further problems.

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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