Q&A with Kit Foster: April 11, 2013

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Q. This is a picture of my uncle from many years ago. Can you help me identify his car? Also, who deals in under-dash hi-fis from the 1960s?

— William H. Gunter, Stuart, Va.

A. Your uncle’s car is a 1941 Packard One-Ten, the entry-level six-cylinder model. As for under-dash hi-fi in the 1960s, the first one that comes to mind is the RCA unit optional on 1961 Chrysler Corp. cars. That one used conventional 45-rpm records, in contrast to the 1956 Hi-Way Hi-Fi, also offered by Chrysler, which needed special 16-2/3 rpm discs. Who’s the expert on these units?



Q. This photograph is sent in response to the first question in the Feb. 21 Q&A. It shows the light mounted on the front of the Boyce MotoMeter radiator cap on my 1922 Willys-Knight. Pressed into the nickel-plated ring is “Nite Lite, Reg, D – P, Chicago.” The wire, as you can see, passes through the radiator. It is spliced into the wire to the headlights. The light does indeed make it easy for the driver to see the water temperature at night.

— Denney Freeston, Clemmons, N.C.

A. Thank you. That’s what I was looking for. I gather that the wire must be removed from the cap in order to check or fill the radiator. I haven’t been able to find any period reference to “Nite Lite” to see whether it pre-dated MotoMeter’s own light, which was announced in 1921. Interestingly, Irving C. Valentine of Winsted, Conn., wrote to Popular Mechanics magazine in June 1929, describing an “ordinary dash lamp on a bracket extended from the radiator cap” the he made and installed on his car.


Q. Regarding Mr. Hambach and the discoloration of interior vinyl (Q&A, March 7), after recently acquiring two yellow cars with yellow interiors in the same day, I found the years of staining difficult to remove. Goof Off worked, but it did melt the vinyl and I didn’t want to use that on the leather interior car. What I came up with was to lightly coat a small 6x6-inch area with Flitz and lightly spray the area with Simple Green. I then used a soft toothbrush with small bristles to work the mixture into the grain. The soft brush with small bristles allows the slightly abrasive mixture to get into the small crevices. This worked wonders. I hope this helps.

— David Gruthoff, Denver, Colo.

A. Thanks for that advice. Jeff Lorito also wrote in to recommend Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner. He said it’s “magic on car interiors and convertible tops.”


Q. In 1917, my grandfather and another entrepreneur sought to establish a dealership in Fort Wayne, Ind., called the “Erie Motor Sales Company” (distributors of the “Erie” and “Detroiter” cars). I have searched without success to learn about the Erie or the Detroiter automobiles. There is no mention of them in the Standard Catalog. Can you or your readers help me find more information about them?

— Thomas Palmer, Brookfield, Wis.

A. My “Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942,” third edition, has three entries for “Erie” cars (page 539). I think the one your grandfather was considering was the Erie Motor Car Co. of Painesville, Ohio, which built cars from 1916 to 1919. They were four-cylinder vehicles, priced at $795-850. Apparently the company did better supplying trucks to the World War I effort, and failed shortly after the armistice.
The Detroiter (page 449), built in Detroit, Mich., from 1912 to 1917, was a bit more successful. The Briggs-Detroiter Co. introduced its car at the Detroit Auto Show in January 1912. An assembled car, it used, at various times, Continental four-cylinder engines, Perkins V-8s and then a Continental six. Sales were good initially, but soon faltered and the company went into receivership in the summer of 1915. It was bought by A.O. Dunk, who specialized in scooping up troubled auto companies. Dunk kept it going for about a year and a half, but by December 1917, the remains had been sold at auction. Your grandfather and his business partner wouldn’t have done very well with either of those franchises.

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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