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Q&A with Kit Foster: May 31, 2012

Q. Why were the Chevy 348 or 409 engines never offered in the Corvette? I’ve never even read where anyone has ever transplanted one of those engines to a Corvette.

Thomas Bittrick, Diboll, Texas

A. The 396 became available in Corvettes during April 1965. As I understand it, the main reason for the development of the big-blocks centered on NASCAR. Fitting one to the Corvette involved some re-engineering of the front end, due to the Mark IV’s heftier weight. As it happened, the big-blocks made a better showing in Can Am and SCCA racing than they ever did in NASCAR. Perhaps some of our readers can sum it up in more detail.


Q. In regard to Tim Wishart’s question about an overdrive unit for his 1959 Ford (Q&A Jan. 26), in your summary of responses (March 22) you wondered about a reader’s comment that 1957 to 1964 overdrives would fit. It’s not correct. The 1957 Ford overdrive is unique, and is one year only. The difference is that they used a fine-spline rear shaft and a coarse-spline input shaft. Of course, you could probably find a coarse-spline 10-inch clutch disc and adapt it to fit somehow.

James Neuhart, Caldwell, Ohio

A. Thanks for that clarification. I cannot overemphasize the importance of understanding the splines on any job involving replacement of driveline parts. The differences are not always obvious, and parts catalogs, particularly in the aftermarket, are sometimes insufficiently precise. I once encountered a clutch disc for a 1980s European car that looked OK, but was unusable because the splines were not correct. The disc had the proper number of splines, but they were the wrong shape. Fortunately, I made a test fit while the transmission was on the floor, before installing the clutch to the flywheel. This caused great consternation to the jobber who had sold it to me as a correct fit. Once he made a few phone calls he discovered that the aftermarket catalogs were wrong, and only the OEM version of the part would work.


Q. Regarding the 1957 Ford retractable that stops running when you let up on the gas (Q&A April 19), although it was not stated, it sounded like the car had a Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. If the Ford-O-Matic kick-down linkage works similarly to my 727 three-speed transmission, when it is too loose (long), or disconnected, the engine will not idle when stopped and all shifts occur at low speeds. When the linkage is set too tight (short), the engine fast idles when stopped and the final gear shifts reluctantly above 40 mph instead of my preferred 30 mph target speed. Adjusting the correct length, particularly after rebuilding or removing the carburetor and the linkage (or cable) setting was changed, can be a time-consuming trial and error proposition, particularly when the engine is hot.

John Buchanan, Attleboro, Mass.

A. If I’m not mistaken, that “727” transmission is a Chrysler Torqueflite, but linkages often work in similar ways. In any case, we’ve had quite a variety of suggestions on the possible cause of Larry Gonyer’s trouble with his stubborn Ford. Hopefully one of them will solve his problem.



Q. I’m trying to identify this license plate topper, which I believe is from the WWII era. It’s about 5 x 5 inches, and was part of my dad’s collection of automobilia that I acquired when he passed away. I’ve shown it to members of my chapter of the Buick Club of America, and have also taken it to the local history-military museum. So far no one’s been able to tell me what it was used for, or what would have gone into the center section. It has slots which appear to be for attaching a letter plate or something similar. Someone suggested that maybe it identified military rank of the driver, or allowed base access. My dad was of the WWII generation, but was never in the military because of a childhood accident. It may have been from an uncle, but they’ve all passed on as well. I’d like to display it on my 1938 Buick, but really would like to know more information about it. Any ideas?

Rich Fink, Villa Rica, Ga.

A. It does look like it might be an access plate for a military base, with additional information, like base name or expiration date or rank of driver, on an insert. I haven’t found a logo like that relating to a Depression-era program or a political campaign. Readers, have any of you seen anything like this before?

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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