Q&A: April 4, 2019 Edition - Old Cars Weekly

Q&A: April 4, 2019 Edition

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Q. Anyone know what car this ornament goes to? It’s made of gray-black metal. I found it in a box of old car parts while cleaning out an old garage.
— Chuck Drilling, Sandstone, Minn.

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A. Ah, yes — the Heron. It was designed by J.W. Hession, Jr., according to the late William C. Williams’ “Motoring Mascots of the World.” They were manufactured by Ternstedt Manufacturing Co., General Motors’ trim division, and used on 1930-’32 Cadillacs and LaSalles as an alternative to the standard flat radiator cap. There was also a Goddess mascot available. Early Herons were plated brass, while a later version was die cast with a thicker neck due to the weaker material. Yours, however, has a slightly different pattern on the wings, so I expect it’s an aftermarket replacement. It also has a thicker and shorter neck than the originals. Those long necks must have broken many times when they were in use.

Q. In a previous Q&A (Jan. 3), Phil Skinner had a picture of a “Rocket Circle” ornament that was on the dashboard of a 1958 Oldsmobile. It was explained that “The Oldsmobile Rocket Circle” was a type of customer appreciation program. It reminded me of the plaque that we removed from the dashboard of a 1938 Oldsmobile business coupe. We parted out the car many years ago, but I kept the plaque because I thought it was peculiar and I like peculiar stuff. It is a very nicely made chrome piece that has the name “John X Limmer” and “Fourth Oldsmobile” stamped into the sheet metal. The letters and numbers appear to be stamped in, not etched or engraved. You can see the impressions on the back side. It is 7/8-in. wide and 4 in. long. It was held to the dashboard with two threaded studs, above the chrome molding and slightly to the right of center.Has anybody else seen a plaque like this?
— Feltz Terrill, De Leon, Texas

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A. Very interesting. It implies that Oldsmobile had owner loyalty programs long before the 1950s. It is elaborate enough that it couldn’t have been made by an owner. Has anyone else seen anything like this from the 1930s?

Q. I recently bought a 1969 Pontiac Firebird on which the seller had already started the restoration. He told me that it had the original engine, but after pulling it I found markings indicating that it is from 1973. At the front of the block is stamped “153523 YT.” Is there a way to identify what type of car this may have come from? What about engine mounts?
— Joe Gladen, via email

A. The digits are just a sequential unit number for the engine, unrelated to the VIN of the car it came from. The key is “YT,” which decodes as a 230-bhp, 400-cid four-barrel engine set up for the Turbo 400 Hydra-Matic. This unit was used in A-, B- and F-body Pontiacs (LeMans, Catalina, Bonneville, Grand Ville, Safari and Firebird) in 1973. There is also a notation for “High Altitude,” which may indicate higher compression than the standard 8.0 to 1. As for the engine mounts, you have a first-generation Firebird, while the 1973 ’Bird was second generation, but the attachment to the engine block should be the same. Mounts for a 1969 Firebird with the 400 engine should work. Compare them to the mounts you took out when removing the current engine. It’s not straightforward to compare the 1973 engine to your car’s original engine, as GM changed from gross to net horsepower ratings in 1971.

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