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Q&A with Kit Foster: September 15, 2011

Q. Regarding Jack Howes’ search to improve the power in his 1952 Chevrolet (July 28 “Q&A”), he probably doesn’t want to hear this, but adding carburetors will only increase his trips to the gas pump. The problem is the Powerglide transmission. They weren’t made for performance. I’m in my early 70s, and the best car I ever owned was a 1951 Chevrolet hardtop, stick shift with a ’54 Blue Flame six engine. It also had a Truckstell overdrive, which was a dealer option. The car got 25-26 mpg on trips and was beating flathead Ford V-8s. All this was accomplished with a single stock carburetor. I wish I still had that car.

Pat Brost, Portland, Ore.

A. Jack Howes, who started this chain of responses with a question (April 14 “Q&A”), probably doesn’t want to hear it. He stated that he liked his Powerglide and wanted to keep it. You are correct that Powerglide is an energy sink — “slip and slide with Powerglide,” we used to say. That’s why early Powerglide cars had more powerful engines from the factory. You’re also right about overdrives — I had a V-8 overdrive Studebaker that would equal your mileage experience, with a four-barrel carburetor, yet dust off most any Stovebolt six at a traffic light. Like much else in life, owning a collector car brings lots of tradeoffs. Fuel economy may simply be a lower priority than performance on a car driven few miles a year.


Q. Can you or one of your readers identify this steering wheel center? Is it an aftermarket steering wheel? I found it lying in a junk Ford Mustang II.

Marv Hunger, Winona, Minn.

0915 7271A

A. I think it’s from a Mustang II Stallion, which was mainly a dress-up package available, if online comments are accurate, in 1976. The same stylized horse head appeared prominently on the car’s front fenders. A similar steering wheel, with a different emblem, was used on the Cobra II model. Interestingly, although its name suggests otherwise, the Cobra II package was also an appearance group and could be had with four-cylinder, V-6 or V-8 power.


Q. I’ve noted a number of questions about converting old cars to a 12-volt electrical system. I had a 1953 Ford pickup, and all I did was change the generator to a 12-volt unit. I left the six-volt starter on it, and drove the truck for five years until a friend bought it. He drove it another three years and the starter never failed. The engine would turn over at almost double the speed. What I did was drill and tap the 12-volt battery at the middle cell connecting bar, to get 6 volts to ground. At this point, I installed the wire that feeds all the instruments and accessories. Install the wire marked “battery” from the 12-volt generator to the negative post, so the battery sees a 12-volt charge. My friend installed two smaller six-volt batteries when he had the truck, and tapped the accessories and lighting wire between the two batteries. Another tip is that when you have to remove a brass bushing from a generator with a blind hole, use a tap. As you turn the tap, the bushing will “walk” out.

Ken Lowden, Brookfield, Wis.

A. “Q&A” readers know I’m not bullish on 6- to 12-volt conversions. However, the configuration you describe, which I’ve encountered before, is about the most straightforward way to accomplish it. It avoids the complication of voltage-dropping resistors for instruments and accessories, which also waste power by dissipating it as heat. The one criticism I’ve heard is that power is drawn unevenly from the two halves of the battery, which may cause uneven charging and affect battery life. Your friend’s two-battery solution may be better, in that the two batteries can be periodically swapped to even out any internal wear and tear. Starters, as you say, don’t seem to be adversely affected by a double shot of voltage. You used a 12-volt regulator as well as the battery, I presume, and your advice about connecting it to the negative post of the battery is because your Ford was positive ground. A negative ground vehicle, of course, would be connected the other way around.


Q. A while ago there was a question about cleaning whitewall tires. The best product I’ve ever used is Westley’s Bleche-White, which I purchased at AutoZone. It seems to have just the right amount of bleach in it to bring out the white and remove all the old weather stains.

Roger Stephan, Louisville, Ky.

A. Thank you for sharing your experience. Mr. Stephan sent a Bleche-White label that reads: “Spray On! Wipe Off!” It claims to work on blackwall tires, too. It appears that it comes in a squeeze-trigger bottle.

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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