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Q&A with Kit Foster: May 17, 2012


Q. I found this T-head engine next to a barn of an old car friend of mine. The crankcase and clutch-transmission case are a one-piece casting. I believe the flywheel is at the front of the engine and the cams are driven at the rear. What do you think it is? I think it has a four-inch stroke and a four to four-and-a-quarter-inch bore.

Tedd Zamjahn, Greendale, Wis.

A. I’m not a great authority on cars of that era. I sent your photos to my friend Joris Bergsma in The Netherlands. His website,, specializes in cars built internationally prior to World War II. Two people commented that it’s a 30-hp Maxwell, circa 1909-’11. You’re right: the flywheel goes on the front, and the individual cylinder jugs mount to the crankcase. Thanks to Joe Goss and Bob McAnlis for the ID.


Q. I have had a 1935 Ford for about 10 years. Though the shocks have never leaked, I thought I should check the fluid. In an old maintenance manual, I found that it requires Ford Shock Absorber Fluid M-4633-B. Is this similar to hydraulic fluid or more like an oil?

R.P. Forman, Puyallup, Wash.

A. The Houdaille (HOO-day) hydraulic shock absorber was a dramatic advance on the 1928 Model A Ford. Model T’s had no shocks whatsoever, and owners had to rely on aftermarket add-ons like we saw in “Q&A” for March 22. Maurice Houdaille had patented the design in 1907, but before the Model A, they had been solely the province of prestige cars such as Lincoln and Pierce-Arrow. This type of shock absorber was standard on Fords through 1948. From reading a number of Ford forums, I’ve concluded that Ford used three types of fluid over the years: a glycerin-based formula, castor oil and mineral oil. Further, I see it mentioned that some people now use hydraulic oil. I believe your era of car used castor oil. On the other hand, several suppliers advertise “Ford shock absorber fluid” that is good for all 1928-’48 cars. Which type it is, they do not say. There are also a number of rebuilders for these shocks, which are not easy to service. Readers with hands-on experience are invited to comment.


Q. The dashboard pictured in “Q&A” for April 12 is for a 1930 Franklin. The left side did have a roller-type speedometer, odometer with trip mileage and clock. The right side had an ammeter, gas gauge and, in 1930, an oil pressure gauge. In 1931, the pressure gauge was replaced by an oil level indicator. The center area, missing on your picture, had choke, spark, light switch and a Franklin emblem. The dash was used on 1931 Franklin Transcontinent series, but not the Airman series that year, as the Transcontinent series were left-over 1930s with slight modifications to freshen up the car. The Airman series was Franklin’s new model, on which the future of the company rested. It was a totally new body and interior design, but the deepening depression spelled the end of the company by 1934.

Neil Sugermeyer, via e-mail.

A. Thank you for your quick ID. I hadn’t ventured as far as Franklin in my search. Pierre Lavedan concurs that it’s a 1930 Franklin panel, and says the same design was used in 1928 with the panels reversed.


Q. Mr. Gonyer complains about his Ford retractable stalling at stop signs, etc. (April 9 “Q&A”). This was a common problem, caused by defective or missing dashpots that operated by vacuum or were spring loaded. Many thought the car would run without them, by advancing idle speed, but that was not true. I am familiar with the problem. I sold Fords for 50 years. Have Mr. Gonyer check or replace the dashpot, which is attached to the carburetor. That should solve problem.

John Gottschalk, via e-mail.

A. Thanks for that advice. I don’t have any direct experience with Fords of that era, so was not familiar with this problem. Some readers have other ideas. Rick Galantha suspects the top section of the carburetor may be warped, causing fuel to spill over into an airbleed. He says the fix is to install two bowl gaskets. The cause might actually not be fuel-related. Ray Daniels solved a similar problem on his 1957 Thunderbird by changing the ballast resistor on the ignition, at his wife’s suggestion.

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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