Q&A with Kit Foster: October 25, 2012

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Q. You are correct in naming the unknown hood ornament in the Sept. 13 Q&A as from a Studebaker truck. My book shows it being used from 1941 to 1948.


— Ray Geweke, Sherwood, Wis.

A. Thanks. We also heard from Ray Gray, who said it’s the same as the one on his 1941 M-15.


Q. In the Sept. 6 Q&A, Dave Lewis asked about changing the automatic transmission fluid in his 1956 Plymouth with a Powerflite transmission. If the fluid is light brown, it definitely should be changed. GM specified Type A for their early Powerglides before going to Dexron. Everyone I know has used Dexron in their Powerglides without difficulty. Chrysler’s Torqueflites also used Dexron.

As you mentioned, the trick here is getting all the old fluid out of the pan and torque converter. According to my 1958 Motor’s manual, Mr. Lewis is in luck. It states on p. 242 that there is a drain plug in the torque converter. He’ll have to drop the cover plate off the bottom of the bell housing and bump the engine a few times to find it, but it’s there somewhere. After draining the torque converter, he should replace the drain plug gasket and torque it to 45-50 ft.-lb. The oil pan plug should be torqued to 20-25 ft.-lb. To refill, Motor’s says to add about 5 quarts, start the car, and then add about another 8 quarts after it has idled in neutral for two minutes, being careful not to go past the “full” mark. After that, he should shift through each range, drive the car about 10 miles, and top off the level as needed.

In this case, I would still change the transmission fluid twice, just to make sure all the old fluid is removed. I would drive it about 100 miles between the changes. If he wants to make sure things are really clean, and the new fluid can do its magic loosening old deposits, I would drive it about 1,000-2,000 miles before doing another change. There is also an oil strainer on the pickup tube in the oil pan. While draining everything, it probably wouldn’t hurt to take it out and clean it with a spray can of “carburetor cleaner” (nowadays usually called “throttle body cleaner”). The Motor’s manual doesn’t show whether it has gaskets or seals on the tube, but I’d guess it probably does. The cross-section drawing in Motor’s shows it’s a unique design that has two tubes, so two seals would be required. I would check with one of the automatic transmission parts vendors on that, as well as a new pan gasket.

—Ted Brooks, Raleigh, N.C.

A. Thanks. Fortunately for us old car folk, “our” cars frequently have drain plugs on their torque converters. As time went on they were eliminated, presumably to save money as recommended fluid change intervals increased.


Q. I was at a car show recently and a guy with a beautiful 1977 Olds had a sign by his car saying that it had a Chevrolet 350 engine in it from the factory. I looked at the engine and it looked like a Chevrolet 350 motor to me. Many Olds enthusiasts disagreed with the owner that Olds ever sold a car from the factory with a Chevrolet engine. They insisted someone had removed the Olds engine and put in a Chevrolet engine. Although 1977 was a long time ago, I seem to remember there was some lawsuit against GM for using Chevrolet engines in Oldsmobile cars. Is my memory accurate about this?

— Joe Page, Noel, Mo.

A. Yes, you remember correctly. I touched on this a few weeks ago. In 1977, because only the Olds 350 was certified for California emissions, General Motors faced a shortage of engines for other makes in the Golden State, so they used Olds engines in other GM cars. This in turn caused shortages of Olds engines in the other 49 states, so Chevy 350s were put into a lot of Oldsmobiles.

As I remember, the lawsuit you mention was in response to an Olds dealer’s refusal to work on a Chevy engine. I don’t recall how the suit played out, but eventually GM came clean and began referring to their engines as “corporate” powerplants built by “a number of GM divisions.”

It’s interesting to see that an owner is now boasting about his Chevy-engined Olds, whereas 35 years ago previous owners were upset. GM divisions still had their own engineering departments in those days, and brand loyalty ran deep. The Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick 350s were all different, having been designed by different teams. If you compare the bore and stroke dimensions you’ll see the difference. If I remember correctly, Cadillac used an Olds 350 in the 1976-80 Seville, but chose to design their own heads for it.

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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