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Q&A with Kit Foster: August 1, 2013


Q. I just purchased this item at a yard sale for $5. The guy at the yard sale said it was from a 1949-’50 Cadillac. Now I think I know what it is (a seat track?) and it looks NOS and came with the box. I would like to know what make and what year it fits.

— Daren Leclair, Milford, N.H.


A. It looks like a seat track, but I’m not familiar with Cadillac seats. Readers?


Q. Concerning Burke Ewing’s loss of oil pressure at speed (June 20), I have diagnosed this problem several times in my 65 years as a mechanic. It can usually be traced to the wrong dipstick or dip-tube, resulting in excess oil in the oil pan. With increasing speed the crankshaft whips up the higher level of oil causing a frothy air mixture. The oil pump then looses efficiency. In those engines I installed the correct dipstick or dip tube with an oil change and possibly saved the engine from further harm, and returning proper oil pressure at speed.

— Robert Bojanowski, via e-mail

A. Ah, yet another possibility. Thanks for sharing your experience.


Q. In regards to all the negative effects of E-10 gas, nobody has yet addressed the possibility of reduced engine power. In my 2003 Dodge SRT-4, the turbo gauge goes to 12-13 lbs. in mile-high Casper, Wyo., using E-10. Using non-ethanol gas of the same 91 octane the gauge will register 15 lbs. The owners manual says turbo boost will vary from 10-15 lbs., depending on altitude. Has anyone done a study that would confirm increased power with non-ethanol gas?

— Gordon Wolford, Casper, Wyo.

A. Yes, there have been lots of studies. Ethanol contains 34 percent less energy per unit volume than pure gasoline. In addition to the power deficit you mention, users suffer higher gasoline consumption for a given distance. With ten percent ethanol, this deficit amounts to about three percent, but it’s not a constant nor a linear effect. Sometimes a higher compression ratio will compensate. Your measured lower boost works out to about 13 percent. Where this really comes into play is with the E-85 fuel used by so-called flex-fuel vehicles. US EPA tests in 2006 showed a loss of fuel economy in excess of 25 percent with E-85 gas. If that were the only negative effect, I suspect most old car owners would be content to live with it. It’s the corrosive nature of ethanol and its behavior with moisture that are the most troubling.


Q. Gary Hilton’s headlamp rim (June 6) looks exactly like the ones on my 1939 Mercury, which have sealed beams with separate parking lamps. I recently found a set of 1939 rims marked NOS, packed in the original box with 1944 newspaper for packing! What I have will not fit my son’s 1939 Ford.

— Don Deetz, Stone Creek, Ohio

A. We forget that 1939-’40 Mercurys look like Fords, but their bodies are ever so slightly different. That translates down to items like headlamps. I just checked the one parts listing I have (admittedly a secondary source) and it seems to say that the reflectors on 1939 Fords and Mercurys will interchange (and also with Lincoln) but the lenses do not. That in turn seems to say the headlamp opening in the fender is a different shape. Thanks for clarifying the situation.


Q. A while ago, you solved a problem with my 1963 Jeep Gladiator pickup (positive-negative ground question, Aug. 25, 2012). You asked about vibration with its Tornado overhead-cam six engine. Yes, it’s a “jumper,” even at best idle (740 rpm) it does a hula bounce. All cylinders are within three pounds of compression. It’s just a wobbler by nature, which is strange for an inline six. All of my six-cylinder Fords are right solid runners. This Jeep is most happy at 1,250 rpm. Exhaust manifolds have a habit of cracking (it had two cracks before I bought it, and three since), and that’s just running it around the farm and down to the gas station. The metal looks very brittle from the factory from the looks of the breaks, very grainy composition, probably very little zinc content. Thanks for solving my ground problem. Now I can hook up the dashboard gauges without blowing them up.

— George Weisbrod, Alpine. Ala.

A. Thanks for your report. Always glad for a follow-up when I ask the questions. The cam and cylinder head apart, the OHC six wasn’t radically different from the L-head six it replaced, and that one was as smooth as could be, although, as you note, yours develops its best torque and horsepower at higher rpm.

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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