Q&A with Kit Foster: August 16, 2012 - Old Cars Weekly

Q&A with Kit Foster: August 16, 2012

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Q. The June 28th Q&A had a question about radial tires and shock absorbers. As for the standard GM rear-wheel-drive car, a single-action shock was used with both bias and radial tires right up into the late 1990s. With a few exceptions, the first year for GM cars with radials was 1975. On large cars, like Sherman Shiflett’s Olds 98, no change was made to the shocks. This car was built for a comfortable ride and not fantastic handling. Most aftermarket shocks are double-action and that nice soft ride is lost with replacement shocks.

Phil Aubrey, Merlin, Ore.

A. As I said in response to Mr. Shiflett’s question, I have put radial tires and so-called “radial-tuned” shocks onto two cars, a 1963 Ford Falcon V-8 and a 1969 Buick Skylark. I was more than happy to lose the “nice soft ride” and get better handling. I remember renting a Chevy Nova in 1975 or ’76 and being pleasantly surprised at how well it handled. It was apparently supplied new with radials, although I don’t know what shock absorbers it had.



Q. I have what might be an unusual question. My girl Debbie and I own four little three-wheeled trucks called Trivans. They are different in that they have the single wheel in the rear. They were built here in Pennsylvania back in 1963 for a very short time. Approximately 145 of them were built before bankruptcy in less than a six-month period. Many parts were farmed out to Ford. The front suspension, steering column and wheel, and three-speed transmission are all Ford Falcon items. In fixing these trucks, we have found the master cylinder that works both the brakes and clutch to be from a 1960-’66 Chevy truck. The wheels are four-lug, 15-inch Studebaker. The engine is a 32-hp, 62.2-cid two-cylinder, four-cycle Kohler air-cooled generator motor. The rear bed reminds me of the Corvair Rampside, with a folding gate (although a bit different), but no rear access. It has the same kick-up at the back where the Corvair had the engine nestled in, except this one has the single rear wheel riding under that space.


My question is this: The rear wheel is an enclosed unit of unknown origin (at least to me), with a right-angle drive ratio of 6.54 to 1. Needless to say, a speed demon it is not. Projected top speed from the original brochure is listed at: “55 max.” With gradeability and the “standard” 6.70 x 15 tires (in gears, percent) 1st: 10 mph, 25.6%; 2nd: 16 mph, 13.5%; 3rd: 26 mph, 8.0%. I am wondering, is there any way to change the ring and pinion to a different, more workable or acceptable ratio to make street travel a bit easier on the vehicle? I understand these were not meant for highway use, as they were marketed towards industrial warehousing applications. Although International almost chose it as its “alternative” to the bigger trucks it offered, IH backed out at the last minutes of the short-lived history of this truck. I would be thankful for any information you or readers might have concerning the truck. This gearing is driving me nuts. Forget little old ladies on a Sunday afternoon. I get beaten by kids on skateboards.

Bill Fidler, Reading, Pa.


A. In order to find a different ratio ring and pinion, you should really know the source of the one you’ve got. It looks to me like there’s room for an overdrive behind the transmission, which would require “only” shortening the driveshaft. I don’t believe Ford offered overdrive on Falcons, but I see some web chatter about installing a Borg-Warner T-86 transmission with R10 or R11 overdrive, used in two-seat T-Birds and some Studebakers, in a Falcon. Maybe that would work for you.

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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