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Q&A with Kit Foster: September 6, 2012


Q. I am writing in response to Ken Snyder’s question about his rear main seal in his 1948 Ford (June 14). Fel Pro makes split lip-type seals. I have had better luck with these over the rope seals. I don’t know if they make one for the flathead engine, but I have been able to get them for Y-Block Fords and other engines that normally had rope seals. I have had very good results.

— Dan Huttinger, Parrish, Fla.

A. Thanks. We had plenty of advice on rope seals, and learned that Federal Mogul does not make a lip-style seal for flatheads, but perhaps someone else does. With all the Ford flatheads still in use, a lip-style seal should prove popular.


Q. I have a very nice 1951 Hudson Hornet Hollywood hardtop in which I would like to install vintage air conditioning. Do you know of any supplier of an air conditioning system for this car? It is so original I would like to keep it at six volts and make minimum modifications.

— Fred Allen, Loxahatchee, Fla.

A. Off-hand, I don’t, but readers may have come across a specialist in this area. As for adapting a system that will work with your car, the six-volt issue may prove difficult to solve. Hudson’s first air conditioning was offered in 1955, a $395 option. This was a benefit of the oft-lamented shift to Nash unitized bodies. Nash was a pioneer in automotive air conditioning, in that, at the same time as Pontiac, they introduced a system contained entirely within the engine compartment and instrument panel. Other systems used a large evaporator unit in the trunk and blew the cold air forward. Pontiac and Nash had six-volt electrical systems in 1954, and Nash and Hudson in 1955 as well. So you might look at components from one of these systems, if you can find them. Be aware, though, that they were designed for R-12 refrigerant, which is now hard to find and expensive. Street rodders have experience installing all manner of modern, and probably more efficient, air conditioning systems in old cars. There may be lessons to be learned, although the electrical components will be designed for 12 volts.


Q. I just bought a 1940 Packard 180 out west, a nice southern California car. The person I bought it from told me the last time he drove the car it backfired and blew the oil pan off on one side. There was no damage to the block and the bolts are still in it. The bottom end looks good and I poured oil in the spark holes and the oil did not run through. Also the muffler did not blow out. I have never seen this before. Can you tell me what happened and why?

— John Bednash, Valparaiso, Ind.

A. I’ve never seen nor heard of the condition you describe, so I’m only guessing as to its cause. I’ve experienced backfires through the carburetor and through the exhaust, the first due to improper timing or a bad intake valve, and exhaust backfires can be sufficiently powerful to burst the muffler (been there, done that). In order to have some sort of explosion in the crankcase, he must have had some raw vapor in there. I have heard of a ruptured fuel pump diaphragm loading up the crankcase with gasoline, which could produce the condition. You should check that before trying to run the engine. Our readers may also have other ideas.


Q. I’m a bit confused concerning the appropriate replacement of Type A transmission Fluid. I have a 1956 Plymouth with the Powerflite transmission. The transmission has begun to have an unusual shift from low to high. The fluid is more light brown than red. There’s a fair chance the fluid is still pretty much original; the odometer reads 45,000, which I believe to be accurate. Reading OCW, there have been several articles about older type F fluids. Some infer Dexron can be used for Type A, while Type F has also been suggested as a replacement. However, the Oct. 6, 2011, issue seems to say use Dexron. I contacted another source who focuses on the ’56 he said use Type F. As we all know, Type F is getting more difficult to find. What really is the best compatible fluid with Type A still in the transmission to avoid inducing additional problems with seals, clutch bands, etc.? And what replaces Type F that is used in my ’65 Mustang?

— Dave Lewis, via e-mail.

A. I believe the short answer to your questions is to use Dexron/Mercon for everything. We are told that Type F will work, if you can find it, but it will give firmer shifts. In that Oct. 6, 2011, column, George Hamlin argued emphatically that Type A fluid wasn’t much good back in the day, so there’s no reason to use it now. I do remember that rebuilding automatics at 50-60,000 miles was once routine. If your car has a drain on the torque converter (my old Torqueflite-equipped Dodge truck did, a feature I wish was found on today’s cars), use it. Otherwise you’ll have to make as many as three successive changes to get rid of the tired fluid in your car.

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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