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Q&A with Kit Foster: June 28, 2012

Q. I need to replace front shocks on my 1972 Olds 98 Sports Sedan. The original-equipment tire size was J78-15. I have installed P225/75R15 radials, with no handling or ride problems in 3,000 miles since 2005. Are OEM shocks, part #3188933, correct with radial tires? The Olds Parts Manual shows this as replacement part number. The manual shows part #3188934 for “firm ride,” and in neither case is there a reference for use with radial tires. Can you advise the correct OEM shocks to use? The vehicle has just under 37,000 original miles.

Sherman Shiflet, Pittsburgh, Pa.

A. Unfortunately, I can’t. My experience with fitting radial tires to 1960s cars involved selecting appropriately-sized tires and installing aftermarket “radial-tuned” shocks, whatever that meant. (I don’t remember the brand; it might have been Sears.) The difference from bias-ply tires and worn-out shocks, whether OEM or replacement, was so dramatic that I was always satisfied with the result. I’ll let readers with more experience offer their opinions on this topic.


Q. This car is a mystery. There is no name on it, but the owner calls it a 1905 Binford runabout. The only history goes back to the 1950s, from which there is a black-and-white photograph, perhaps taken on a Glidden Tour. I contacted the son of the late owner, but other than remembering his father saying it was built in Cape Cod (Mass.) and was one of two, no other history is known. Several years after the tour, the car is pictured in a now-defunct Long Island Museum [no doubt the late Austin Clark’s Long Island Automotive Museum]. In the picture it is yellow. Today, it is red. The engine is a Davis water-cooled opposed two-cylinder. After several months of research, no reference to this car has been found. The consensus is that it was a “kit” car built from catalog parts... or was it? Maybe a reader knows.

Larry Boardman, Weatogue, Conn.


A. It took me a while to track this one down. Your reference to “Glidden Tour” sent me to The Bulb Horn, magazine of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America, an alternating sponsor of the modern revival Glidden Tours (AACA is the sponsor in intervening years). Indeed, this old photo appears in The Bulb Horn for October 1954, captioned simply “Bob Schonborg and his 1905 Binford” and accompanying an article on the VMCCA’s “First Annual Popping Johnny Tour” for one- and two-cylinder cars. It was not without incident, for Bob “had the misfortune to damage the brake bands…and had to make an unscheduled stop for welding.” Working backwards in time, I found the July 1953 issue reported that the “1905 Binford Special” was the second-oldest car at the May 24th Mt. Wachusett Hill Climb (and noted that owner Schonborg was from nearby Shrewsbury, Mass.).

Certainly the car was then well-known, but finding out just what it was proved more difficult. A long-time VMCCA member recalled the car from the 1950s, but said it had a vertical twin engine with an uneven firing pattern, not the opposed-twin Davis unit in the car today. My curiosity was finally satisfied by the July 1951 issue, which relates the following concerning that year’s Mt. Wachusett Climb: “Few vehicles had any difficulty… although several Fords were seen to steam considerably near the summit. Robert Schonberg’s (sic) “Jackson” just barely made it, but had a good excuse, viz. wrong size sprockets on the jackshaft. For the benefit of those who don’t know the history of this car, an explanation is in order. It is a home-made machine built about 1908 using components from other cars and a good sprinkling of plain blacksmithing, the power plant being a two-cylinder Jackson engine of about 1903. When Mr. Schonberg and Sully Garganigo [Sully and his brother Al ran an auto museum at Princeton, Mass., into the early 1960s] began to restore the “Binford Special” (as this car has since been renamed), the jackshaft sprockets were missing and they had to guess the correct size.”

So indeed the engine must have been changed since the 1950s. Is this car familiar to any long-time readers?

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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