Q&A with Kit Foster: March 28, 2013

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Q. On the domestic “Big Three” cars (plus AMC), when did AM/FM radios become available as a factory or dealer option? For GM, I’m going to guess by 1963 (witness Dan Espen’s ’63 Bonneville, Jan. 31 OCW), and it seems I’ve seen them in some ’63 Corvettes (I’ve always liked the ’63-’67 ’Vette “vertical” radios). Also, when did eight-track tape decks become a factory or dealer option, and what was the last year they were offered? When did factory cassette stereos begin and end? (In the 2008 rental fleet, the Ford Crown Vic still had a cassette, plus a single CD.)

— Ed Thompson, Milwaukee, Wis.

A. Although admittedly a secondary source, the Krause “Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975” indicates that 1963 was the first year for factory AM/FM radios in American cars, offered as options in Cadillacs, Lincolns and Corvettes. Chrysler’s first came in 1964, and American Motors’ Rambler Classic and Ambassador not until 1965. AM/FM radios were already popular in Europe, where Becker multiband radios had been common in Mercedes-Benz cars for several years.

The eight-track, designed by Richard Kraus at William Lear’s Lear Jet Corp., was offered by Ford, some say across the board, in 1966 as “Stereo Sonic,” interestingly with AM radio only. It appears that if you ordered the AM/FM radio, you didn’t get the tape player. An eight-track was available in Oldsmobiles in 1967 and Buicks in 1968. It’s difficult to tell when the cassette tape player took over from eight-track, since the “Standard Catalog” entries tend to say simply “stereo tape player” or “tape deck,” without indicating which type. The changeover is generally agreed to have been in the 1970-’75 period. My 1979 Chevy Suburban had a factory-installed cassette stereo.

The New York Times, in a February 2011 article, quoted “experts” as saying the last car with a factory-installed cassette unit was the 2010 Lexus. Their “experts” were not all that expert, however. The following summer I rented a Mercury Grand Marquis, a 2011 model built in December 2010 and one of the last of the breed. It was equipped with a Bose stereo with cassette player and CD capability, albeit a six-disc changer.


Q. With regard to battery post corrosion (Feb. 7), when I had my garage, there were felt washers on the market to put around the terminals to stop the corrosion. The directions called for a coating of grease to be applied to the washers. What this did was seal the small crack between the terminal and the battery case, stopping the acid fumes from coming through. Since then, I have only used grease to seal the crack. This leaves the terminal and battery end as clean as it was when it left the factory. I have also found that Westleys whitewall cleaner will remove the corrosion when sprayed on and rinsed with water. The grease trick seems to work only if there has never been any corrosion on the terminal.

— Andrew Love, via e-mail

A. I have had some of those felt pads, but didn’t realize they needed to be coated with grease. Thanks. George Schneider from Fort Steele, Wyo., wrote in to say that many years ago, he learned from an aircraft mechanic that pancake syrup, applied with a small brush, makes a good corrosion inhibitor. It dries hard and shiny, but washes off with water. He said it works well.


Q. I have a 1987 Cadillac Allanté, one of 3,363 built that model year. It’s a fun car, but the sun visors will not stay up. Drive a little and they fall down and block my vision. I have asked around, but nobody has any suggestions on how to fix the problem. Do you have any helpful hints?

— Glenn Simmons, Concord, N.C.

A. I’m not intimately familiar with the details, but from photos, I deduce that the visor swivels on a rod. I think you need to get some additional friction material in there somehow. Anybody have experience with this?



Q. This wrench is three inches long. The open end is a quarter inch, the box end 5/16. One of the flip-outs is a slotted screw driver. The other is a 20-thousandths feeler gauge. I know this must be for installing and adjusting points on an old car. Any idea who made it and what car it is meant for? I know it’s over 50 years old.

— Larry Brewer, Hernando, Miss.

A. Indeed, it’s an ignition wrench. Those dimensions are pretty common for many old cars using points and condensers. I suspect it’s a universal aftermarket item. Hudsons of the 1950s were pretty consistent in specifying a 20-thousandths breaker gap, but there were others, too.

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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