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Q&A with Kit Foster: June 18, 2015

0618-Buick Model F

Q. This is my grandfather’s car, in a picture from 1914. I can’t find what it is. Can you?

— Richard T. Meyer, Auburn, N.Y.

A. The radiator shape and outline looks just like a Model F Buick. This was a popular two-cylinder car built from 1906 to 1910. I think the photo shows the 1910 model, which had prominent vertical tubes in the radiator. I believe the emblem in the center may be from an automobile club, not AAA or ALA certainly, but perhaps a local organization in upstate New York.


Q. Can anyone identify the fender guard in this picture? On the back it has the letters and numbers: DP 1364134 LH CD 8855. It’s only a guess, but could the letters stand for Dodge-Plymouth-Chrysler-DeSoto?

— Ronald Weinger, Berkeley Heights, N.J.

A. Yes they could, because they do. The DP-over-CD legend appeared on many Chrysler Corporation parts in the pre-1960 era. From its appearance I thought your fender guard looked like 1951-52 Dodge, but the part number comes up as a left-hand stone shield for 1951-52 Chrysler and DeSoto station wagons.

Q. To add thoughts to Robert Lemen’s question about the blocking of left-side vehicle doors, one might consider that drivers often didn’t want to walk into the roads to get to their left-side doors. In the early 20th century rural roads weren’t paved. Urban streets used by horses left manure on the pavement. In short, it often was pleasanter to get into the car from the sidewalk.

Christian F. Weeber, Jr., a Ford agent in Albany, N.Y., in early 1908, objected to the Ford Motor Co. putting the steering wheel on the left side for the new Model T. He preferred the steering wheel on the right, as it had been for the Model N and Model S Fords. Responding for the Ford Company, Stanley Roberts wrote on March 26, 1908, “...As to the steering gear, this, we believe is going to be a decided selling point. It permits the driver to run up along side of the curb and get out on the sidewalk, without stepping out into the road and then walking around. In the winter, and particularly on wet, muddy days, it is a decided nuisance to get out into a muddy road before getting to the sidewalk. Furthermore, it places you in a position where you can watch the oncoming traffic, and you can handle your car to a great deal better advantage...”

For more from this letter and for more about Weeber as a Ford dealer, look for the new book “Weebermobile: Christian F. Weeber, Jr., Inventor, Entrepreneur and Manufacturer,” which will be available free on the New York State Museum website, Check, if you wish, in the “Publications” section of the website and look for “Record 6.”

— Geoffrey Stein, Albany, N.Y.

A. Geoff Stein is the retired history curator from the New York State Museum in Albany. He is currently a consulting historian to the Museum. My first reading of this seemed to advocate approaching the curb on the wrong side of the road, so as to put the driver close to the sidewalk. In a subsequent email Geoff pointed out that, as I had mentioned in my response to the original question, on Model T’s the hand brake obstructed the driver’s exit, such that from 1914 open T’s did not have a driver’s door. Mr. Roberts, writing for the Ford Motor Co., was advocating that the driver slide across the seat to the right side, and step onto the sidewalk from there.

Dan Clark wrote from St. Louis, Mo., that the Missouri town where he lived had a law on the books as late as the 1960s that cars parked on city streets at night were to have a red lantern hanging from the left door so as to not startle horses. He has never heard of it being enforced.

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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