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Q&A with Kit Foster: July 11, 2013

Q. In the June 20 Q&A, Burke Ewing said the warning light on his 1984 Mercury came on at high speeds. I would suggest that Mr. Ewing install an oil pressure gauge on this car. I had a Ford van that had gauges and one day when I had it at higher speeds for some time out west, I noticed that the oil pressure dropped considerably. When I slowed down, it went back to normal. Every time I would go over 70 or 75 it would drop. My mechanic told me that the oil got hot enough to foam and then would not function. I eventually ruined the crankshaft, which had to be replaced just to trade it in.

— Bill Budman, Bristol, Pa.

A. That’s a good suggestion. As I suggested in my response, without a gauge for temperature or oil pressure, you can’t really diagnose what’s going wrong.


Q. If petrolatum-soaked battery terminal felt washers are going to be a big-time topic (Q&A, June 20), I suppose I should add something. They’ve been around for a long time, and are intended to prevent corrosion buildup; in fact, the earliest ones I can remember were branded “NoCo” to market that point. There are other brands. I’m using East Penn’s Deka brand right now. The place to find them is at a battery store, rather than general auto parts. You slide one onto the terminal under the cable, but you want to clean the goop off the terminal before connecting the cable, because it’s for corrosion control, not conductivity improvement. A typical can contains 100 of the things.

— George Hamlin, Clarksville, Md.

A. Thanks for that further information. Big time topic or not, I think we’ve pretty well covered it now.


Q. I’m a long-time subscriber, and when one of my newer relatives learned of my hobby they asked for help in identifying this car they used to own. I think it is a 1918 Davis.

— Gaylord Harvey, San Antonio, Texas


A. It does look somewhat like a Davis, but it seems to be a much larger model. From the shape of the radiator and hood, I’m pretty sure it’s a circa-1921 Winton. A pioneer make that went into production in 1898, the Winton was for most of its life a big six-cylinder car. Sales faltered in the early 1920s, so Alexander Winton chose to liquidate in 1924, rather than try to reorient the product line or merge with another company. Part of the company survived, however, building diesel engines. Purchased by General Motors in 1930, it became the Electro-Motive Division, making primarily railroad powerplants. EMD is now owned by Caterpillar.


Q. On the subject of FM car radios, the unit offered by Lincoln in the late 1950s (Q&A May 30) was Model FM88BH, manufactured by Bendix Aviation Corp., Baltimore, Md. It was not an FM converter, but an FM tuner. An FM converter receives an FM signal and changes it to AM to be fed through the AM radio antenna jack and tuned in just like another AM station. A tuner, on the other hand, receives the FM signal and changes it to audio to be fed through an audio input jack on the AM radio. Converters degrade the FM audio quality. Tuners do not.

Only Lincoln car radios had the jack to connect the FM88BH. Ford, Edsel and Mercury did not. It was an excellent unit, much better than the early solid-state units of the 1960s. The only other company offering FM for the car in the later 1950s was Becker in Germany.

— Edward Evins, Everson, Wash.

A. Thanks for clarifying the distinction between a converter and a tuner. You’re right that converting an FM radio signal to an AM signal to be down-converted and de-modulated is unnecessarily complicated and loses fidelity. In any AM radio with no audio jack, however, there is no alternative. Later AM/FM radios simply incorporated an FM tuner, much like the Bendix unit you describe, into the radio itself.


Q. When did the 9/10ths on the price of gasoline start, and why is it there?

— Paul Filo, Dudley, Mass.

A. I’m not sure when it started. I remember the fractional prices, usually 9/10ths but sometimes other tenths, in the 1950s. I think it’s done for the same reason that other items have prices such $19.95 or $25.99 — a psychological ploy to make the price seem lower.

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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