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Q&A with Kit Foster: July 31, 2014

Q. Your recent Q&A columns about the first power windows (May 8, June 26) reminded me of an encounter a few years ago at a Flint Region AACA car show in Michigan. I met an old couple who, as I recall, had a Flint automobile. This old couple was most happy to demonstrate the “power” windows on their Flint. The details are now vague, but as I recall, the windows were manually lowered. This procedure must have pre-loaded a spring, because when you released a lever, the windows glided upward (closed). I especially enjoy your method of asking readers for their input if you do not know the answer. As you mentioned, there’s lots of knowledge out there and readers enjoy sharing their knowledge.

— Patrick Bisson, Flushing, Mich.

A. If readers didn’t pitch in, a considerable number of questions would remain unanswered. As to the power windows, we also heard from frequent OCW contributor Gregg D. Merksamer, who is also the historian for the New York International Auto Show. See his comment below.


Q. As chronicled on page 92 of my New York auto show history book, “spectators (had) a fine time playing with hydraulic power windows” that were newly available on the 1941 model Lincolns, Packards, Cadillacs, Buicks and Chrysler Imperials exhibited at the National Automobile Show sponsored by the AMA at New York’s Grand Central Palace from Oct. 12-20, 1940.

— Gregg D. Merksamer, Warwich, N.Y.

A. Thanks. Gregg’s book, “100 Years of New Concepts, Debuts and World Firsts: A History of the New York International Auto Show,” was published by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association in 2000. His entry adds Cadillac and Buick to our previous lists. Gregg includes a quote from an article by “LKB” in the Oct. 19, 1940, New York Times: “Almost as much time and effort must have gone into some of the theatrical displays there as were expended by whoever it was first made a gasoline engine run a buggy. Crankshafts are displayed as though they were rare pieces of old English silver and rear axle housings are presented with as careful regard for their decorative value as an art gallery might give to a Brancusi bronze.

“Popular sport for spectators is playing with electric windows on Packards, Lincolns, Cadillacs, Chryslers, Buicks and testing seating capacity of little Crosley.

“As for color, the painters appear this year to have gone in for shades that made me think of things to eat. I never saw so many chocolate, caramel, taffy and purée of split pea body jobs in my life; a maple nut Oldsmobile and a spinach colored Buick look downright nourishing.”


Q. Pat Jacobs, June 19 Q&A, asked about the tire pressure he should use in his 1962 Buick Special Skylark. The important thing to remember is radial tires are designed to use a higher pressure than the original bias ply tires. My opinion is the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure is useless when going from bias to radial tires. This is a topic that generates a lot of discussion even among owners of new cars. Most people feel the vehicle manufacturer knows best and you should follow their recommendation. I have a different opinion.

My preferred tire pressure is 33 psi and I keep all my tires from 32 to 33 psi. Since I keep my cars a long time, I have had the opportunity to go through several sets of tires on the cars I have owned. Many years ago when I replaced the tires on one of my cars I checked the sidewall to get the tire manufacturer’s max pressure. At the time it was 35 psi. I kept the tires at that pressure until it was time to replace them. What I found was the center of the tires wore slightly more than the edges, indicating they were over inflated. The next set of tires on the same car I set the pressure to 33 psi. When it was time to replace that set I found the tire wear was even across the tread. From then on, I have kept my tires at 32 to 33 psi and find the tread wear to be even across the tread. As tire pressure drops so does fuel mileage, and that is another reason I keep the pressure up.

At one time I owned a 1961 Buick Special that had the 15-inch wheels on it. I put radials on it as soon as I got it and kept them at 33 psi the whole time.

— Bob Nist, Glen Burnie, Md.

A. Thanks for sharing your experience. It generally corresponds to mine, although I have not been as meticulous or scientific in tracking the results. In the mid-1980s, I purchased a low-mileage 1969 Buick Special Deluxe (the entry-level Skylark sibling with dog-dish hubcaps). It came with bias-plies, blackwalls of course. A set of radial tires and new shocks transformed it from one of the worst-handling cars I’d ever owned to into one that was a pleasure to drive.

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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