Q&A with Kit Foster: March 12, 2015

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Q. I don’t know if anyone followed up on [the Oct. 30 question about fake sidewalls made by Bearfoot Sole Co. in Wadsworth, Ohio], but since I live near Wadsworth I Googled it. What I found is that the current location is occupied by a rubber products company: Goldsmith & Eggleton, Inc., 300 1st Street, Wadsworth, Ohio 44281, www.goldsmith-eggleton.com.

— Kevin Kiewel, Medina, Ohio

A. Thanks. On the website the company refers to itself as “a world leader in the manufacturing and distribution of rubber raw materials and black masterbatch.” I note it was founded in 1968, which is soon after the reference I found to Bearfoot Sole in the early 1960s. I doubt that Goldsmith & Eggleton were involved with the faux sidewall items in question, but it’s interesting to know that a similar business remains at the site. It’s not an accident, clearly, that the address is near Akron, Ohio, the Rubber Capital of the World.

0312-qa

Q. I need help identifying this part. It is a hub cap center. I have a set of wire wheel hubcaps and this center fits them. The wire wheel hubcaps are from a 1954-’55 Chevy, but the centers on them have a Chevy emblem. I am guessing this one is from the same time period.

— Harold Drake, Torrance, Calif.

A. The emblem is Hudson, and the cap is indeed from the same period. Hudson’s 1953 Merchandiser’s Catalog offered accessory faux wire wheel covers that bolted onto the hub. These caps covered the lug bolts once the wires were installed. Hudson also offered genuine wire wheels, but they had a simpler cap with a triangle in the center. Thanks to Kenneth Cates of the Hudson Essex Terraplane Club for pinpointing the application.

Q. Regarding the question of gas turbines in cars (Dave Ring, Dec. 4), while fuel consumption was high (so was the exhaust temperature — you should have seen the size of the pipes on those Chrysler cars), I think the main reason for non-production was just plain cost. While a gas turbine engine is simpler than a pushrod engine, the high temperatures it operates at requires exotic and expensive materials and careful manufacturing. (Remember the sealing problems with early rotary engines?) I remember reading that replacing a gas engine with a turbine would more than double the price of the vehicle. Consider the lead time for the manufacturing capability that needed to be developed (computer technology was close to non-existent in the industry), and an infrastructure of repair facilities and trained mechanics that needed to be created, it would have taken at least the rest of the decade (1960s) to get a production car on the road. By 1970, government safety and environmental regulations were stretching the budgets of the Detroit companies and the gas crisis cut even more. Throw in the “Big Three’s” fear of “being radically first” (look how long it took to put disc brakes on their cars) and general inclination to take a good idea and screw it up (the aluminum-block Vegas and 1970s diesels), the death of automotive gas turbine cars should be no surprise.

— Ronald Weinger, via e-mail

A. I agree that all of those factors weighed against the gas turbine as an automotive powerplant, but I think it was the fuel crisis that really nailed its coffin shut for good.

Q. In regard to the recent question about availability of big-cubic-inch Olds motors (400s or 455s) in Cutlass-series bodies (Dec. 18), I’m sending a photocopy of the specification page in the 1968 Oldsmobile full-line sales brochure. There was also a Cutlass-specific 1968 brochure, but we seem to be sold out of that item. The full-line brochure supports your position that the 455 was not a regular production item for 1968 Cutlass models.

— Bob Christiansen, Brushy Creek Collectibles, Salvisa, Ky.

A. Yes, it’s pretty clear big engines were not regular production options, but irregular cars do get built from time to time. Scott Peterson (Feb. 12) recalled two Cutlasses he formerly owned that were so equipped, and appeared to be original, but without build sheets it’s difficult to know for sure.

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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