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Q&A with Kit Foster: December 6, 2012


Q. Attached is a picture of a radiator cap I inherited from my father when I cleaned out his house following his death. A friend of mine suggested I send a pic to you to see if anyone can identify what car it might be from.

— Dave Clark, via e-mail

A. According to the late William C. Williams’ book “Motoring Mascots of the World” (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company, 1990) it’s called “Viking” and was used on 1929-’31 Chevrolets. The 1929 cap was threaded, while 1930-’31 had a bayonet-type, twist-to-lock fitting.


Q. Regarding the Oct. 18 Q&A discussion by Ed Thompson about the early Ford Mustang front bench seats, I offer the following first-hand information. My story begins with my father, who was a graduate of Lehigh University School of Engineering and an acquaintance of Lee Iacocca, a fellow alum.

Dad couldn’t wait to trade in the aging family 1958 Thunderbird hardtop we owned for the new smaller, sleek 1965 Mustang as soon as he saw one. My dad always boasted he knew the creator of the car from his college days. The car he purchased was a Phoenician Yellow convertible model, 289 2V automatic transmission package, no less. Being a convertible, one of its best features was the full-width bench seat that came with car from the factory. The car was purchased off the lot, not special-ordered, from Westfield Ford in New Jersey. The car had a standard black interior and few other options other than the bench seat and back-up lights. The seat was as described, consisting of two standard-looking front bucket seats connected together with smooth padded center section in place of the console. The backrest portion was also smooth vinyl and slightly lower than the two seats and folded down to create an armrest that both front passengers could share. The backrest of each side’s seat also folded down for access to the rear seat. The seat was mounted on two tracks, one on each side of the floor and controlled by a single lever under the driver’s seat. This option was very nice in the convertible so three people could ride in the front seat and avoid the harsh wind-in-your-face experience of the back seat at highway speeds, not to mention the option of having your girl sit next to you at the drive-in without the hard console between the seats. It was a feature I used quite often once the car was handed down to me around 1970.

As for the shifter, there was no console at all with this seat option. The Cruise-O-Matic shifter was a chrome tee-handle with a push button lock on the drivers side to release it from park. It had a square chrome bezel with a curved slot with lighted gear markers. It was bolted directly to the floor through the carpeting. The same shifter was used in the automatic transmission Bronco at the time (and maybe other models).

I drove the car until 1972 when it was hit from the rear and sandwiched between cars in a freeway chain-reaction crash. The car actually buckled in the middle, leaving it totaled and was sent to the crusher. Thankfully, no one was hurt seriously; we only had our 1965 lap belts and non-locking seat backs.

— Jeffrey Taylor, Scotch Plains, N.J.

A. Thanks for sharing your experience, and for corroborating my conclusions. There’s another wrinkle, however, regarding the shifter. Read on.


Q. In 1964, I was 14 years old and I remember the introduction of the new “1964-1/2” Mustangs in April 1964. I remember one day walking to school with my brother and my cousin in September 1964 and there parked on one of the side streets was a brand new 1964-1/2 Mustang, black exterior with red interior. Being the car enthusiasts that we were, and I still am, we immediately went over to look at it. To us, a Mustang was the coolest performance car of the times. Upon a few glances of the Mustang on the outside and the inside, we all immediately gave it the thumps-down because not only was it a six-cylinder car, but it also had a front bench seat and a column shift automatic transmission. In all my years as a car enthusiast, I have never seen nor have I heard of another Mustang with a front bench seat and a column shift automatic transmission.

— Edrie J. Marquez, Bethlehem Township, Pa.

A. So apparently there was a column shifter at one point. Presumably, like other aspects of the so-called “1964-1/2” Mustang, it used Falcon parts. I wonder if it shows up in the parts books.

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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