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Q&A with Kit Foster: November 3, 2011


Q. Pictured is something I had to have when I saw it. Aluminum cast housing, the lens rings are chrome, lenses are amber. The big lens is four inches outside diameter, the small lens is three inches. The back of the lens reads: “CORNING, REG. US PAT. OFF. MADE IN USA. 40x234. S.O.1935.” A steel bracket mounts on a big round corner. Hot rod stuff!

Alvin E. Bunge, Merrill, Wis.

A. Well, Corning is a glass company. It made the lenses. These things look like they might not be automotive related. Railroad lights, perhaps?


Q. I have a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle SS-396 with the L78 engine and four-speed manual transmission. I bought it while living in Arizona 30 years ago. This is a different Chevelle. It appears to be a factory experimental. The car has a 110.5-inch wheelbase. The engine is set back 1-1/2 inches, and it’s tilted up in the front about 23 degrees. I assume it’s for aiding the power-to-weight ratio. It has a unique, wider General Motors fan shroud, since a stock shroud wouldn’t even cover the fan. The car also has cowl plenum induction and a hood factory-stamped in front for hood pins, which weren’t available in ’69. The car has special-order Monaco Orange paint with matching code numbers. I’ve been in the hobby for 40 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this. I worked in GM dealerships back then and dealt with many muscle cars. I even owned a ’69 SS new. I’ve had many car collectors and older GM mechanics look at this car, and they all agree it was factory built for racing. There are absolutely no signs of the chassis being tampered with. The crossmember looks like those on any other Chevelle, except that it’s set back 1-1/2 inches and tilted. The car has a dragster front suspension. By that I mean when the wheels turn all the way to the right or left they lie downward like a dragster — they tilt way out. I took the car for an alignment and it was right on the money. The A-arms and tie rods appear normal to me. I can’t see how GM did it. My friends are amazed when I turn the wheels all the way. I talked to a man from GM, and he gave me the number of a salvage company that receives these factory experimentals so they can be destroyed. I called, and the person told me most of these cars had a prefix “EX” before the VIN, but some didn’t. Either way, these cars were not to be sold to the general public. Somehow, a GM executive must have managed to sneak this one out the back door. When I bought the car it had no title. The DMV in Arizona told me I had to post a bond and have the car inspected with the VIN by the sheriff’s department. After six weeks of inspection the car came through OK, so Arizona issued me a clear title. I don’t think experimentals had titles, did they? This is an unrestored car that looks good. It’s been in storage for at least 30 years and well cared for, and I just started driving it a year or two ago. I’d like to know your thoughts about it.

Name and address withheld by request

A. I don’t usually print questions without a name, and preferably a location, but this reader is concerned that he’ll receive unwanted phone calls from curiosity seekers. I’m making an exception in this case, and will forward all replies directly to him. I don’t have much knowledge of GM factory experimental cars, but I know that many of them have been sent to the well-known Warhoops salvage yard outside Detroit. Many of the concept cars that Joe Bortz restored have come from Warhoops. Occasionally, the “must destroy” edict is ignored and a car is hidden away for reasons known only to those involved. No, experimental cars do not leave the factory with titles. Actually, no cars leave with titles. They have manufacturer’s certificates of origin. A title is issued only to the first private owner. An experimental destined for destruction would have neither title nor certificate of origin. What do readers think about this car?


Q. I have a 1941 Pontiac Sport Coupe, body style 2527. How many were made? I’ve read many old car magazines and have never seen another.

Shirley Collins, via e-mail

A. According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942 and John Gunnell’s Crestline book 75 Years of Pontiac Oakland, the 2527 Sport Coupe body style appeared in the Deluxe Torpedo Six line (also sometimes referred to as Sedan Coupe). Unfortunately, I’ve never found production figures by body style for Pontiacs in this era. I can tell you that 117,976 Deluxe Six cars were built for 1941.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Ron Kowalke, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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