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Gates Power Grip Radiator Hose Clamps Are Coming To Fifth Avenue...

Posted on 12/2/16 with No comments

The Gates Power Grip Hose Clamps are coming to Fifth Avenue. The Gates Power Grip hose clamps are far superior to metal band clamps and they never need re-tightened! Let's learn more...

Conventional metal band hose clamps have been around for nearly a hundred years in one form or another. They have a few inherit defects, one being they tend to become egg shaped if they are overtightened. They also tend to damage the radiator hose they are clamping when the clamp is over tightened. We have all watched car owners tighten a metal clamp until little pieces of rubber squeeze up between the slots on the metal hose clamp. That shortens the life of the radiator hose for obvious reasons.

Part of the reason for the coolant leaks in the winter months, is that rubber coolant hoses shrink in diameter when they get cold, while the clamping force from the metal clamp does not change. The result is a slight coolant leak that appears on the garage floor. Then the big tools come out and that clamp will get squeezed to within an inch of its life just like the radiator hose before it.

The fix is the new Gates Power Grip hose clamps. They are a heat shrink fit, and when it gets cold they shrink along with the radiator hose. As a result there is no leaks. You install them using a heat gun, the same one you use to heat shrink a wiring connection. The writing on the clamp turn color, from green to gray when they have had enough heat.

Gates Power Grip clamps will fit and seal any shape radiator neck, even one that is slightly out of round, which is quite common in antique vehicles that have been around for fifty plus years.

They come in all of the standard sizes for heater and radiator hoses, starting at 1/4" diameter and going all the way up to 3-1/8" in diameter. Once you have tried them for yourself you will decide to buy them by the box (10 to a box) which is the cheapest way to buy them anyway.

Here is a size chart that explains what size of Power Grip clamp you need for your application...

And Here Is A Copy Of The Official Installation Instructions

The Gates Power Grip hose clamps are perfect for antique vehicle applications, because they can make allowances for out of round radiator hose necks and uneven surfaces. They are easy to install and are resistant to gasoline, brake fluid, engine oil, and all types of antifreeze coolant. Finally... there is a radiator hose clamp that will seal up our antique cooling systems once and for all, and stop those pesky leaks we can all identify with.


What Is "Killerglass"... And What Is It Used For...?

Posted on 12/1/16 with No comments

What is Killerglass...?
“Killerglass” is a patented product that is exposed to a three-step chemical hardening process that makes standard Pyrex glass 300 to 400 percent more impact resistant. The result makes "Killerglass" glass the ideal product for severe duty automotive and industrial applications. The patented three-step hardening process was developed by the largest scientific glass apparatus design and manufacturing company in the United States. One of their largest customers besides the US Government is the Gates Rubber Company of belt and hose fame.

Pyrex History...
Pyrex glass came about thanks to a railroad glass scientist who created a lantern lens that when in use, did not shatter when exposed to rain or snow. He named his new glass lens "Pyrex" Glass. The word Pyrex comes from the Greek Word “pyro” or fire, and “ex” which refers to the type of glass. Pyrex glass does not expand or change shape when heated. (If you drop it, it will shatter.) That is why Pyrex glass was used in the 1960s and '70s in the construction of the windows of the Apollo and Gemini spacecraft. Killerglass is like Pyrex glass on steroids!

How Is Killerglass Used In Automotive Applications...?
Killerglass has become very popular with engine builders. When you run an engine on a dyno or test stand you can easily watch for things like bubbles in the coolant, or traces of motor oil in the coolant which are signs of head gasket or other engine sealing issues. Killerglass can also help identify issues such as water pump cavitation, and a stuck thermostat.

As most any engine builder will tell is better to find out you have engine sealing issues early on... instead of after it is too late, and the antifreeze has washed down the cylinder walls and the engine oil has become diluted with antifreeze. Without Killerglass, you have no way of finding out until it is to late.

You can also easily install Killerglass in your antique vehicle to watch for the same symptoms. Most everything we drive is fifty years old or older so the use of Killerglass becomes cheap insurance. In some cases... besides the cost, it is the difficulty of finding replacement parts that becomes the issue.

Installation Is Simple...
Simply lay the Killerglass on top of the straight portion of the top radiator hose and mark both ends with a piece of chalk. Next you will need to drain about a gallon of coolant from your radiator. Cut your radiator hose and then install the Gates Power Grip clamps (provided) onto the ends of the radiator hose.

Install the Killerglass into the radiator hose and slide the gates clamps in place. Heat the clamps using a heat gun on the high setting, keeping the heat gun in motion around the clamp. When the letters on the clamp turn gray you are done. Let cool, add back your engine coolant and enjoy. Complete detailed install instructions and a pair of Gates power grip clamps will come with your Killerglass kit.

Besides the obvious technical benefits there is a "cool" factor to watching the coolant circulate thru your engine. It is like being inside the cooling system and watching it work. It clearly takes the mystery out of how the cooling system works.

Word Of Caution...
As with most innovative products that become "game changers" the knockoff products soon appear. So it is with Killerglass. There is a product being sold thru Ebay that at first glance looks to be the same as Killerglass, but is priced much cheaper. This is a clear case of buyer beware! Here is the differences...

The Killerglass With The Barbed Fitting Ends...
The Killerglass has barbed ends to help the radiator hose seal to the Killerglass. With the Gates Power Seal clamps (included) the chances of a coolant leak are eliminated.

The Knockoff Example With The Single Raised Ridge
Looking at the sealing surface of the knockoff and it is easy to see that it would be difficult to seal the radiator hose to the end of the knockoff tube. With the knockoff example, you would have to find a way to stretch you radiator hose on the inside to go over the rib on the end of the knockoff glass, then shrink back down so it can seal well enough to not leak coolant under pressure. That might explain the two clamps on either end of the knockoff. It might also explain the coolant splattered on the fan shroud.

With the amount of coolant on the fan shroud, it looks like even two clamps to an end were not enough to prevent a coolant leak with the knockoff example above.

Look how much smoother the radiator hose ends are with the Killerglass. Also notice there is no coolant leakage, clearly a better sealing surface with the Killerglass.

The Safety Factor...
Looks aside the other important factor to consider is safety. There is quite an extreme temperature change in a cooling system, especially when you consider the outside temperature may be below freezing while the coolant temperature inside the engine may exceed 300 degrees. 

Imagine what would happen... if the knockoff glass coolant hose shattered because of the sudden temperature extremes, the outside of the glass being below freezing but the temperature on the inside of the glass suddenly being close to 250 degrees when the thermostat opens and the hot coolant rushes in.  Killerglass is the only chemically hardened glass available. The cheaper knockoff is clearly not worth the risk.

Sizes Available...
For the antique vehicle applications I have worked with the engineers at Killerglass to develop a Killerglass for antique, classic, and hot rod applications. The Killerglass for our applications will be 8" overall length with 6" of exposed glass, the amount of space you need is 8" total. Sizes offered will be for radiator hoses with an inside diameter of 1-1/2" and 1-3/4"the two most common sizes. Feel free to call 785-632-3450 or email with any questions... 

Killerglass will be available in the "Parts" section of the Fifth Avenue Internet website under cooling products. 

Now you know what Killerglass is, and the differences between it and the knockoffs. The Killerglass costs more because it is a superior product that costs more to manufacture, and is better engineered. It is lifetime guaranteed against breakage. The hose ends seal better and being chemically hardened it will clearly stand up to the most severe automotive applications. 

If you want to know what is going on inside of your cooling system and at the same time dazzle your friends, who chances are... have never seen coolant flow thru an engine before, Killerglass is what you want. Be sure you buy the authentic Killerglass, the name will be etched into the glass. 

The knockoffs don't put their name on their product, and there is no mention of a warranty so there is clearly not much pride and confidence in their product! Good luck trying to find them if you have a problem!

How Tough is Killer Glass...?
The company that makes Killerglass has made scientific and industrial glassware for more than twenty five years. Killerglass came about because the engineers working at the company are car guys. They took an established product and applied the technology to automotive applications. They didn't do it for the money, they did it because they are car guys. We get the benefits. The engineers made a video early on for themselves, to document strength of the Killerglass product. You can watch it below.

Disclaimer... Don't try this at home and definitely don't try this with any of the knockoff products on the market. Prepare to be impressed. 



History of Bumper Cars And How They Work...

Posted on 11/29/16 with No comments

"Two brothers Max, and Harold Stoehrer, of Methuem Massachusetts spent two years developing a car they proudly named the Dodgem. Soon after the Dodgem was introduced to the public, the Scientific American Magazine did a test on one of the cars. The review was less than flattering…stating that the cars were "highly unmanageable, with the steering only relative". The two brothers later admitted that with their cars…." until you have learned how, you often try to go someplace, but often may not end up where you intended on going". . . Never the less, the cars became extremely popular, despite their bad reviews.

The success of the Dodgem cars caught the attention of Joseph Lusse and his brother Ray who together owned the Lusse Brothers Machine Shop Company. The Lusse Bros decided to design and build, their own car and fix, the defects in the design of the Dodgem Cars. The bothers would spend the next nine years working on their car during which time they were awarded eleven patents.

The Lusse Bros. introduced their "Auto-Skooter" car to the public in the Spring of 1930 and the cars were an immediate hit, in part because they had truly solved most all of the problems associated with the Dodgem cars. The Lusse Bros Auto-Skooters quickly established themselves within the market and easily outsold the Dodgem cars.

A 1940's Company advertisement for the Lusse Bros Auto-Skooter proclaimed that "Our cars are built to exacting Lusse standards, which means built-in quality and stamina to spare…"

Among the improvements the Lusse Bros. perfected in 1928, was to mount their engine vertically in the front of the car.

Power could then be transmitted through two couplings to a ring-and-pinion final drive that had a small wheel attached with the rim keyed to each end of the output shaft. This design was much like that used by BWM for the Isetta.

The advantage to this design was that the whole assembly could be mounted on bearings and could be aimed in any direction by turning the steering wheel. There were stop locks installed that prevented the steering from going to far in either direction. Soon enough, young drivers would discoverer that the Auto-Shooter could travel just as fast in reverse as it could forward!

From 1935 on the Lusse Bros., Auto-Skooter Company experienced strong growth and prosperity. A minor interruption during World War 11 only made the company more secure. Improvements continued including updated headlights, fiberglass bodies, and air-filled bumpers instead of solid rubber bumpers.

The cars were driven by an electric motor powered by a curve shaped piece of metal with a copper or brass metal lining called a "spoon". The spoon is firmly attached the end of a wooden pole. These spoons provided electricity to the motor in the bumper car when they rubbed on the underneath side of a series of metal grids located in the ceiling.

 These same spoons could be made to arc and spark (which was cool to watch) when the cars were involved in a multiple car pile-up. Learning how to innocently create a multiple car pileup was an art into itself.

Watching the cars in action while waiting your turn to ride, you could easily spot the faster cars, the ones with the best connection between the spoon and the wire grid in the ceiling. The fastest car would give you a slight advantage, which you could then put to good use.

Turning the steering wheel to full right or left would cause the car to go into reverse. With a little practice, you could become very good at creating havoc on the bumper car highway

Now...For The How They Work Part
First up, the bumper cars need electricity to work. That makes it complicated because bumper cars are one of the few rides that is able to travel forward and backward, side to side, and in circles all at the same time, and are not attached to any controls directly ran by the ride operator.

The better the connection between the spoon and the grid the faster the car will go. A clean shiny contact between the spoon and the grid is what made the fastest cars. Sometimes you would get a really, slow car and the operator would have to take some steel wool and polish the topside of the spoon that had accumulated a corrosion film on top of the spoon That could turn a slow car into a fast car.

The remaining electricity is discharged through the metal floor to ground. So, if there is electricity on the floor… why don't you get shocked if you touch the metal floor while the ride is turned on? Because…the voltage present in the floor has "potential" but not enough amperage to do any work or any harm to you.

Electricity can do work, (turn a motor to power the bumper car for example) when the voltage goes from a higher voltage to a lower one. Most of the amperage, which is what does the work is used up by the bumper car motor, so what electricity that is left, has no amperage. You might get a slight tickle but that is all. The odds of getting shocked were reduced even more if you are wearing tennis shoes, which most kids wore in the summer.

Using the garden hose analogy the voltage is like the pressure in a garden hose and is what forces the current thru the wire. The amperage is like the volume of water present and what actually does the work. You can still have voltage present even though the amperage present is minimal having been used up to do the electrical work, as in this example powering the electric motor in the bumper car. you get it now...?

To make the bumper cars slide around more and to prevent the cars from getting to much traction and hitting to hard, powdered graphite was sprinkled on the floor.

So…What Became Of The Two Original Companies…?

The Dodgem Company lasted up into the early 1970's and continued to make both portable and permanent design rides, all the while holding onto their original 110 volt design when the industry had switched to a 90 volt DC standard. Competition from three different Italian companies eventually proved too much for the company and it was closed in the early 1970's.

As for the Lusse Company, Ray Lusse Jr. ran the company after his father's death in the 1960's. In 1989 Ray Jr. got into financial trouble with the IRS but managed to shuffle money and assets around until 1994 when the bank accounts were finally empty. He died that same year. The rights to the Auto--Skooter were then sold to Designs International located in Dallas Texas. The remaining inventory of original parts and pieces, were sold off, by the Lussse''s last landlord to recover back rent.

And there you have it...the history and the "how it works"...of Bumper Cars. If you have ever thought about buying and restoring an old Bumper Car and put it on display in your office or basement here is a little incentive. Start looking!


Playing The "Diggers..."

Posted on 11/16/16 with No comments

Most of us growing up had the opportunity to visit the traveling carnival when it came to town during the summer months. I went because it was fun to check out all things mechanical. I studied how the rides worked and how they operated. In our small community we got the older carnival rides and equipment that had often seen better days. One of my favorite stops on the midway was the mechanical digger game. For a quarter I had a chance to use the crane to try and pickup a prize buried in the gravel. To me the prize was almost secondary, I just enjoyed the challenge, and eventually got pretty good at picking up "the good stuff." As I look back now seldom was the "good stuff" worth even the quarter. For me...the satisfaction was "making the machine pay out" when others tried and failed.

By the time, I began playing in the late 1960's…I had to pay the attendant every time… to get him to start the crane. To me…in my young mind… it would seem more logical to just install a coin mechanism so kids like me could take care of ourself, and not have to bug the attendant every five minutes for a game.

Now… all of these years later, I now know why it did not work that way. Let me share a little digger crane history with you. Then like me, you will understand that things were not as simple as they first appeared, even in those days.

The first "digger" crane was built in 1896 from a child’s toy and was intended to be a penny candy vendor. The miniature steam shovel was encased in a solid oak cabinet with glass windows on three sides. It was all mechanical, and did not use any electricity, not even an electric light.

During the 1920s and 1930s, many other manufacturers began producing their own version of a digger game. By 1939, there were over 35 companies building and selling digger games. Many of those companies offered the so-called "modern" digger games, which were electrically operated, and had virtually no element of skill. Two of the most popular manufactures of electronic diggers were the Exhibit Supply Co. of Chicago and International Mutoscope Reel Co. of New York.

With the emerging popularity of coin-operated slot machines, tavern owners soon figured out that the digger machines could easily be converted into gambling devices. Clever operators offered silver dollars, paper currency, and little bundles of coins wrapped in cellophane tape as the reward for lucky play.

During this golden era, some models were designed to fit into the décor of the fine upscale hotels and railroad stations. These deluxe models quickly became known as "hotel" models and are highly sought after by today's collectors.

After World War II, the federal government began taking notice of the digger games being used as possible gambling devices. Digger game operators began placing large quantities of Japanese novelty items in the prize field to cover-up the coins and currency that was still being used as the real lure to attract players.

By the end of the 1940s most diggers were working for 10 ¢ per play and were still very profitable. The new trend was for large independent operators to own dozens of machines, and have them operating at multiple locations in units of 10 or 12 games, each. Lee Moss, and Tommy Wells, of Hot Springs Arkansas were two well known large operators of the carnival style diggers.

The commercial operation of diggers changed abruptly, and forever, in 1951 with the implementation of the Johnson Interstate Transportation Act. This new law made it a Federal crime to transport gambling devices across state lines, and all diggers were automatically placed in the gambling device category. Thus, the business of operating traveling commercial diggers ended in 1951

Lee Moss, of Hot Springs, Arkansas, had purchased the Erie Manufacturing Corp. back in 1946 along with his brother-in-law Tommy Wells. During the 1940's they had been operating over 35 traveling units of 12 diggers each, but now, were suddenly out of business.

Moss and Wells immediately brought their equipment home. The FBI quickly began raiding other operators who did not cease their operations. Those operators now in violation of the new federal law, immediately had their machines seized and destroyed.

Lee Moss then organized a small group of former digger operators in an effort to establish a lobbying campaign to have the gambling classification removed.

After two years,  the group was finally successful in changing the "classification" of certain types of digger games from "Gambling Devices" to "Amusement Devices". Diggers could again operate, but only under new and very strict rules. No electrically operated games were allowed after 1951.

Starting in 1953 the diggers began their new life as carnival games exclusively, and only the mechanical (Erie type) were allowed under Federal laws. Gone were the coin slots. Instead, the player was required to pay for each game "over the counter", and the attendant had to manually activate the machine by pulling a string on the back of the cabinet.

In addition, no cash money could be offered as prizes, and no prize could have a value of over $1. The charge to play could not exceed 10c, and the diggers were only legal to operate at agricultural fairs and celebrations.

With the relaxation of Federal laws in the 1970's, mechanical coin slots began to reappear on digger games. Starting in the late 1960's, the cost to play was raised to 25c. Finally, the twenty-year moratorium on coin-activated diggers was over.

By the late 1980s however…the digger business was gone for good. The original mechanical digger games were replaced with more modern computer controlled games.

So...where did all of the original Erie Digger cranes go...?

There were such large numbers of digger cranes produced from 1924 to 1946 that it is puzzling to many collectors as too why so few of them have survived.  The answer lies in coin-op history. Erie Diggers were a favorite of the early traveling operators and remained so up to, and even well past, the Johnson Interstate Transportation Act of 1951.

Most of the original cabinets were used and abused during years of carnival service, and when the machine parts wore out they were often crudely repaired by the carnival operators who owned them.

When Lee Moss and Tommy Wells purchased the remains of the Erie Manufacturing Corp. in 1946, that cut off the source for replacement parts.

The final destruction of most originals came with a mass re-modification by digger owner/operators following the Johnson Act.

The operators who owned Erie diggers were frantic to get back into operation so to be in compliance, they immediately began scraping the coin entries, the intricate mechanical coin mechanisms, and removing the cabinet backs.

They cut-out parts of the cabinet backs in order to reach into what was once the coin mechanism area to manually start the machine using a piece of heavy string. Those are the ones I grew up with.

Some operators even blocked-off the prize chutes to make the game appear more 'legit'. With some cabinets already in sad condition the owners just threw them on the burn pile and built new cabinets of their own design, often in multiples to mount on trailers.

As a result... few originals from the traveling carnival era survive. The survival rate of the deluxe machines was much better because of the surroundings they operated in, and many have been restored. Here are a few sample pictures of some of the deluxe models. Until I decided to do a little homework after seeing an Erie Digger in a museum, I had no idea these fancy models even existed.

The Johnson Act said in part...

(1) any so-called "slot machine" or any other machine or mechanical device an essential part of which is a drum or reel with insignia thereon, and (A) which when operated may deliver, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property, or (B) by the operation of which a person may become entitled to receive, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property; or (2) any other machine or mechanical device (including, but not limited to, roulette wheels and similar devices) designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling, and (A) which when operated may deliver, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property, or (B) by the operation of which a person may become entitled to receive, as the result of the application of an element of chance, any money or property; or (3) any subassembly or essential part intended to be used in connection with any such machine or mechanical device, but which is not attached to any such machine or mechanical device as a constituent part.

Not much wiggle room there... and there is more....this part covers the transportation of so called gambling devices..

(a) It shall be unlawful knowingly to transport any gambling device to any place in a State or a possession of the United States from any place outside of such State or possession: Provided, That this section shall not apply to transportation of any gambling device to a place in any State which has enacted a law providing for the exemption of such State from the provisions of this section, or to a place in any subdivision of a State if the State in which such subdivision is located has enacted a law providing for the exemption of such subdivision from the provisions of this section, nor shall this section apply to any gambling device used or designed for use at and transported to licensed gambling establishments where betting is legal under applicable State laws:
Provided, further, That it shall not be unlawful to transport in interstate or foreign commerce any gambling device into any State in which the transported gambling device is specifically enumerated as lawful in a statute of that State.

The new laws were very specific and to the point. They were written
to be easily enforceable with no wiggle room. It worked. The digger
business would never be the same. I clearly got in the the end of an
era. Hope many of you also have fond memories of the digger cranes
and as Paul Harvey used to say..."and now you know the rest of the

How Come The Switch From Generator to Alternator...?

Posted on 10/17/16 with No comments
I get asked quite often why the car companies switched from generators to alternators, and who did it first. To answer the first part of the question you need to understand how a generator, and an alternator each make electricity. I will try to explain those differences without making your head much. As to who introduced alternators first it was Chrysler in 1964, with everybody else following suite the next model year. When you are finished reading this entry you should have a good basic understanding of why the switch was made from generator to alternator.

The Generator...
The generator has a single set of windings used to generate electricity. All of the electrical current made by the generator passes thru the two carbon brushes that ride on the commutator end of the armature.

Because there is only a single set of windings in a generator the output is limited at idle and low rpms, and the overall output is limited by the size of the field coils and the rest of the internal parts. Spinning the generator faster at higher rpms (above factory recommended rpms) will not increase output (will actually reduce output) because the brushes will begin to lift off of the commutator.

The other thing that happens is the generator overheats from excessive voltage, which causes the solder to melt that holds the segments onto the armature. When that happens the segments will come loose... bind up with the field coils and your generator is toast.

In the old days they called this..."throwing the solder out of the generator..." The same can happen when you adjust the regulator to increase output above the factory settings. The generator will overheat the solder will melt and you know the rest. You have caused more harm than good!

It also makes sense that the two biggest wear items on a generator are the brushes and the bearings on either end of the armature. When both are ignored either the brushes will wear down and become short enough that they no longer make good connection with the commutator or the bearing (in some applications bushings) wear out and the armature no longer runs true between the field coils. The armature can then rub on the field coils, damaging both the field coils and the armature. That means you would have to replace both the armature and the field coils...if you can find them! or rebuilt generators often suffer from improper installation. Mechanically, the installation is straightforward but electrically, things are a little more complicated. When the generator is removed from the vehicle for service there is residual magnetism stored in the pole field coils. The polarity of the generator is determined by the direction the current was traveling in the field coils when it was removed from the vehicle.  If... during rebuilding and testing process the current is caused to flow in the opposite direction, (improper testing procedure) the pole shoes will change polarity.

If the generator is then installed on the vehicle, (and the generator not polarized) the reversed polarity will cause the electrical current from the generator to flow in the wrong direction, damaging the regulator (you would be sending positive ground current to your negative ground regulator) and discharging the battery when the car is left overnight. Therefore, all generators must be polarized after installation, and before running the car.

The Alternator...
As we discussed earlier...generators produce direct current which is what all automotive electrical systems run on, even today. By contrast alternators produce alternating current and that current is converted to direct current. It has to do with efficiency... read on!

Alternators have the big advantage of producing a greater amount of current at low speeds as compared to a generator. In an alternator, the "field" windings are placed around the spinning central shaft rather than on "shoes" as in the generator. Two iron pole pieces, cast with "fingers" cover the field windings, and the fingers are interfaced.  The fingers on one pole piece form the North poles and the fingers on the other form the South poles. This assembly is called the ROTOR.

Surrounding the rotor are a series of windings around laminated iron rings, attached to the alternator's case. This assembly is called the STATOR. The engine's crankshaft spins the rotor inside of the stator.

Direct current from the battery is fed through into the rotor's field coil by using brushes rubbing what are called slip-rings. One end of the field coil is fastened to the insulated brush, while the other end is attached to the grounded brush. As the pole fields pass through the stator, current is electromagnetically produced (just like in a generator) but since the rotor is composed of alternating North and South poles the current produced flows in opposite direction every 180-degrees of rotation. In other words, the current is "alternating."

Why is this more efficient? Because the stator windings are made up of three separate windings. This produces what is known as three-phase alternating current. When only one winding is used, single-phase current results (like in a generator). In effect, the alternator produces three times the current of a generator for the same effort on the engine's part. Also, alternators are considerably lighter and smaller than generators and can produce a greater amount of electrical current to cover increased electrical loads.

Converting Alternating Current To Direct Current
Your antique vehicle's electrical system including the battery run on Direct Current also known as "DC" current. The alternator produces alternating current known as "AC" current. Using what are called "diodes", the alternator's electrical output is "rectified" or changed into direct current.

This is done by passing the alternating current thru silicon diodes. Diodes have the ability to allow current to flow readily in one direction only, stopping the flow if the direction reverses. Multiple diodes are arranged in alternators so that current will flow from the alternator to the battery (in one direction only, creating direct current) Diodes are a solid-state device which means they have no moving parts.

The Voltage Regulator...
Like the generators that came before them... most early alternators relied on a voltage regulator that was mounted on the firewall. In the 1970's those regulators became solid state which meant that they no longer had any moving parts to wear out.

The problem with "external" regulators, those regulators mounted away from the alternator, is one of communication. There is often a slight delay in getting the message delivered between the two parties. Dirty or corroded connections along with pinched or broken wires are two common problems that come about with age.

In 1973,  Delco introduced an alternator with a solid- state regulator build inside of the alternator. This increased reliability of the charging system greatly. There was instant response from the charging system and no more broken, pinched, or corroded wires.

When I started building alternators back in 1985 I designed my alternator using the internal regulator Delco design. It makes for bullet proof reliability. I designed my own stator and rotor so my alternator would begin charging at 300 engine rpms instead of the 1200 rpms (which was the idle speed of most engines when alternators were introduced in the mid 1960's).Most antique vehicles built before 1955 have idle speeds of 400 to 600 rpms.

Now we have the best of both worlds. You can install either a Fifth Avenue 6-volt or 12-volt alternator (remember there was no such thing as a 6-volt alternator until I came along)  and have a reliable charging system with minimal "bolt -on" changes to your antique vehicle. You will gain brighter headlights, easier starting, and no more dead batteries. It doesn't get any better than that!

A Brief History Of Automotive Electrical Systems...
We have Allesandro Volta to thank for inventing the automotive storage battery in 1796. He had no idea at the time, that he was inventing what would become a significant part of the modern automotive electrical system. Volta made his discovery 89 years before the first car was offered for public sale. It would be another 25 years before the storage battery would even get a passing acknowledgement from the automakers.

Between 1885 and 1910, most cars and trucks that had gasoline engines did not need storage batteries because they had no accessories that required electricity. Ignition was powered by a magneto, which made its own current. In the rare event that additional electricity was needed, it was provided by a dry cell battery.

By 1911, storage batteries had attained a degree of reliability by being able to hold a charge for 30 days or longer. Once discharged, a storage battery could be recharged and put back into service, unlike dry cells, which were discarded. This degree of reliability was due in large measure to research and development done by the electric car industry, which needed reliable batteries so that their electric vehicles could compete with gasoline models.

The few gasoline car manufacturers who adapted the storage battery, began looking around to see what else they could do with the excess current the storage battery provided, and found electric lights.

1898 Columbia Electric Car 

The first electric lights were introduced on the 1898 Columbia. This was an electric car powered with storage batteries. Manufacturers of vehicles with gasoline engines typically used another way to produce light. It was the Prest-O-Lite lighting system, introduced in 1904. It was a steel cylinder containing pressurized acetylene gas that was fed to headlamps and ignited by flame.

With the adoption of storage batteries the automotive manufacturers then revived the dynamo, which had been around for some time. (Today we call the dynamo the generator, but in those early days most called magnetos were called "generators.") The battery then didn't have to be taken out of the car every month for recharging.

A problem encountered with the early dynamo-equipped electrical systems was battery overcharging. That problem was soon resolved with the development of a variable speed voltage regulator developed by Delco Company. This new voltage output regulator was first used on the 1912 Cadillac, which displayed another feature that took the auto industry by storm..." the self-starter."

1912 Cadillac Electric Starter

Once they adopted the self-starter, auto manufacturers had to adopt the battery/generator system to work the starter. However, the system put out a much more current than the starter, lights and horn needed. The car manufacturers soon realized they could harness this excess current and use it for the ignition, thus making the magneto obsolete.

Self-Starter Beginnings...
The self-starter came about by accident -- literally. In the winter of 1910 on a wooden bridge on Belle Island Mich., a Cadillac driven by a woman stalled. Not having the strength to hand crank the engine herself, she was forced to wait on the bridge in the cold until help arrived.

In time, another motorist, also driving a Cadillac, happened along. His name was Byron T. Carter, and he was a close friend of the head of Cadillac, Henry M. Leland. Carter offered to start the woman's car, but she forgot to retard the spark and the engine backfired, and the crank flew off and struck Carter in the face, breaking his jaw.

Ironically, moments later another car carrying two Cadillac engineers, Ernest Sweet and William Foltz, came along. They started the woman's car and rushed Carter to a physician, but complications set in and a few weeks later Carter died.

Leland was devastated. He called a special conference of his engineers and told them that finding a way to get rid of the hand crank was top priority. “The Cadillac car will kill no more men if we can help it," he announced.

When the Cadillac engineers could not come up with a workable solution, Leland invited Charles F. Kettering and his engineers at Delco (still independent of GM) to work on a solution. Delco presented a working device in time for its introduction in the 1912 Cadillac models.

The Kettering Solution...
Kettering's device was a combination starting motor and generator, equipped with an overrunning clutch and reduction gear. Gear teeth engaged the flywheel to provide a reduction of about 25 to 1 between the starting motor and crankshaft, allowing sufficient torque to crank the engine successfully. General Motors brass didn't trust the new system at first, and demanded a backup magneto and hand crank.

As public confidence in the reliable battery/generator/self-starter system soared, it soon replaced the magneto in all General Motors cars. General Motors enjoyed a sales boom, and the remainder of the auto industry soon adopted the system. Of the 462 models shown at the 1911 New York Auto Show, only 19 had battery/generator systems, and they all had backup magnetos. Of 119 makes displayed at the 1924 New York Show, 110 had storage battery/generator systems and self-starters.

Other Electric Milestones...
In 1939, the first sealed-beam headlamps were introduced which made for much safer driving at night. That was followed in 1949, by the combination key operated ignition and starter switch which was introduced by Chrysler and eventually be adopted by all of the manufacturers.

Prior to 1949 on most vehicles, the starter was operated by a separate button on the dash or by a button on the floor above the accelerator pedal. Starting a car with the floor-mounted starter button was sometimes a challenge: your left foot was on the brake pedal, heel of your right foot on the accelerator, and the toe of your right foot pushing on the starter.

That was a lot going on at one time... especially if you were starting out on an incline. We truly have come a long way from those early days.

The Delco Company...
 The Dayton Engineering Laboratories Co. (Delco) Company was founded in Dayton, Ohio, by Charles Kettering and Edward A. Deeds in 1909.

In 1918, General Motors (GM) acquired the United Motors Company which had been formed several years earlier by William C Durant to house several prominent parts manufacturers, including Delco, Dayton-Wright, and the Dayton Metal Products Company.

All of these latter companies were associated with Charles Kettering, Edward A. Deeds, and Harold E. Talbott. Kettering became vice president of General Motors Research Corporation in 1920. He held the position as head of research for GM for 27 years.

Delco Radios...
In 1936, Delco began producing the first dashboard-installed car radios.  Based in Kokomo, Indiana, Delco Electronics employed more than 30,000 at its peak.

In early 1956, Delco developed a transistorized hybrid signal-seeking car radio, which used both vacuum tubes and transistors in its radio's circuitry. Transistors were used to replace the radio's audio output vacuum tubes and also the vibrator. This transistorized hybrid radio was available as an option on the 1956 Chevrolet Corvette car models.

In 1957, Delco produced an all-transistor signal-seeking car radio and was available for the 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham car models. Delco became part of the General Motors Delphi Group in 1997.

Delphi Automotive traces as it's history back to the New Departure Bell Company, founded in Bristol, Connecticut, in 1888 to manufacture the earliest known doorbell-ringing device. The company's talent for innovation soon extended to transportation, with the 1897 introduction of the first bicycle coaster brake.

Other Delphi predecessors have been involved in automobile lighting since 1906 and manufacturing wooden auto bodies beginning in 1908.

In 1908, Albert Champion, who had been making spark plugs in America since 1899, joined Buick Motor Co. to make spark plugs in the AC Spark Plug Division, which was acquired by General Motors founder Billy Durant in 1909. Durant acquired Dayton Engineering Laboratories, which would become Delco, in 1914.

Other pre-Delphi innovations included the Ring Terminal, developed in 1930; the first car radio (1936); the first radio with mechanical push-button presets (1939); and mechanical power steering (1951).

As Paul Harvey used to say at noon everyday..."and now you know the rest of the story..."


Radio Antenna 101…How They Work, How to Troubleshoot Them.

Posted on 10/12/16 with No comments

How exactly does a car antenna work anyway? When you get that annoying background buzz in the radio speakers of your antique or classic vehicle..., how do you determine if that buzz is coming from the radio itself, or from the antenna, and once you figure that out, how do you fix the problem?

Most late model radios and modern antennas are a cut and dried event. For this class, I am talking about the factory radios and antennas found on cars of the 1940's through the 1970's.
Many of us want to keep our original radios and have them restored. but it is no fun if the radio does not work as it is supposed to once it is back in the vehicle.

First a little history. The "stick" or "fish pole" antenna that all of us from the "older" generation know best, first appeared on cars around 1937 about the same time that all metal roofs became popular with car makers. Before 1937 the roof insert of most cars were made up of wooden bows with the headliner tacked to chicken wire that was nailed to the wooden bows.

In the early days automakers used the chicken wire in the roof insert as the radio antenna. By attaching a shielded wire to the chicken wire in the roof insert then routing it over along side of the windshield post, the auto manufacturer could advertise the car as being "wired for radio".

A cool custom trick during the 1940's era was to use the side mount spare as a radio antenna. All you had to do was insulate the metal parts of the car body from spare rim. Next, up attach a shielded wire to the spare tire rim. The tire rim then became the radio antenna. If you had dual side mounts, you could have dual radio antennas. How cool was that!

During the 50's if you were really, really, sneaky, you could insulate the trunk hinges and attach the antenna wire to the trunk lid. Then the entire trunk lid became the car antenna. Who would ever suspect that the entire trunk lid was your car antenna?

No matter what part of your car becomes the antenna, the "antenna" must be tuned to your radio and the lead-in wire must be well grounded at both ends just as if you were using a conventional stick antenna. If you have a poor ground or a loose connection, you radio is gonna have poor reception... guaranteed.

If you are getting a lot of ignition noise in your radio, the first place you should look is the antenna. There are only two ways engine noise can get into your radio, from the battery powered "hot" wire, and from the antenna. The obvious way is through the hot wire but most radio manufacturers took care of that by installing noise filters inside of the radio.

So how do you determine if it is the radio, or antenna that is at fault? It's simple...just tune in the radio on AM band to the noisiest spot (which is usually on the upper 1400 kc part of the dial). Now reach down and unplug the radio antenna from the radio. If the noise disappears or is greatly reduced, you have found the source of your radio noise…the antenna. In most all cases, the cause of engine noise in the radio is the result of a poor ground at the antenna end of the cable.

Some of us (we know who we are) never had any radio problems until we painted our car. That is because we spent more time and effort than the factory did priming and painting places that were never painted at the factory. Among the places we painted was underneath side of the fender where the antenna base mounts to the fender. Because paint is an insulator, the antenna is no longer grounded, at the antenna base. No ground, No Elvis. Simple, as that.

To make your radio work again as it did before you need to restore the metal to metal contact on the underneath side of the fender. A tooth washer will help insure that you have a good solid metal to metal ground connection on the underneath side of the fender. While you are tuning up things, you might as well trim the antenna to the radio and the car body.

Antenna Trim Adjustment...
The antenna trim adjustment has a big effect on how well your radio works and how many stations your radio will receive. The trim adjustment also helps to determine if the stations will fade in and out during your favorite song.

The Trim Screw Location Of a 1957 Chevy Car Radio

The Trim Screw Location On The Outside Cover of The Radio

Adjusting the trim is simple and many of the radios built after 1960 have a thumb screw so no tools are required. To adjust the trim tune the radio to a weak station at the top of the AM band (usually around 1400 kc) then turn the trim thumbscrew in and out until the station is the loudest. Next, gently tighten the thumbscrew and you are done.

On earlier radios, the trim screw adjusts with a small flat, screwdriver. The owner's manual will show you where the trim screw is hiding. On some early radios I have found them hidden behind the volume knob. They were pretty sneaky when it came to hiding the trim screws in the early days.

One, final thing. The round ball on top of the metal car antenna is there for what purpose? A) protection from the sharp end. B) a decoration. C) static- discharge?

If you said static discharge, you are correct! While you are driving down the road static discharge builds up and collects on your radio antenna. Without the ball on top of the antenna the static will continue to collect until eventually it forms a visible ball of static sparks known as a "corona discharge" in radio speak. This static discharge will travel through your radio antenna wire causing that annoying popping sound you hear through the speakers on a dry cold night.

Conelrad Symbols on a Radio Dial
Oh, I know someone will ask…the Conelrad symbols, (the little triangles that appeared on car radio dials during the duck and cover days of the early 1950's...) they first appeared on Studebaker and Chrysler vehicles beginning in 1954. Ford included them beginning in 1955 as did Hudson and Mercury. GM and Packard included them starting in 1956. They were there to tell you where to tune your radio in case of a national emergency, like a nuclear attack.

Now you know the basics of how a radio and the antenna are designed to work. Some simple adjustments will keep you and your radio in tune and singing to Elvis and Hank Williams.  Enjoy!!

Psst...Wanna Buy A Tucker Car Radio...?

Preston Tucker had every intention of putting his cars into production. His goal was to produce 100,000 cars his first year. As was standard practise in the industry Preston ordered materials, especially long lead items, well ahead of scheduled production. Motorola was the company selected to manufacture the radios for the Tucker cars. Motorola geared up and made upwards of 10,000 Tucker Radios in anticipation of a brisk sales year.

As we all know, only 51 Tucker cars were built and all 51 were equipped with radios. So the burning question...what happened to all of those extra radios...?

In the early 1950's the assets of the Tucker Car Company were liquidated. The McGee Radio Company of Kansas City Missouri bought the entire inventory of nearly 10,000 leftover Tucker Radios for the modest sum of a dollar each. They began selling the radios as aftermarket add-on radios new in the box with antenna for $20.00 each.

Then in 1955 the car manufacturers switched to 12-volt electrical systems, thus making the McGee radio kits nearly obsolete (with just a few hundred sold via mail order), as all of the Tucker radios were 6-volt radios. Sales of the Tucker radios slowed to a trickle. With hundreds of radios still stored in their warehouse in Kansas City, a fire erupted and the entire warehouse was completely destroyed, including the balance of the Tucker Radios.

Many people assume that the Tucker Radios are quite rare. But we know every car that Tucker built... all 51 of them, came with a radio. So clearly there are way more spare Tucker radios left than there are Tucker cars to install them into.

Some projects are just doomed from the start and do not get better as time goes on, but instead go from bad to worse. When your next project seems doomed and you think it can't get any worse...just remember the Tucker radios. There is always a project somewhere, worse off than yours...


Keeping Cool..When Did Air Conditioning Become An Option in Automobiles...?

Posted on 10/10/16 with No comments
This car which served as a Taxi for the wealthy in New York City was one of the first to be air conditioned in 1933. The biggest problem with this early system was that there was no way to control the output, the compressor ran all of the time so there was cold air output all of the time. This system was considered to be one of the first applications of air conditioning in an automobile, long before it was common in most houses. The inventor of this system lacked proper backing, funding, and marketing skills. As a result he was only in business a couple of years. The cost to add this system to an automobile was in the neighborhood of $450 in depression dollars... way above what the average car owner could afford.

Other Options For Keeping Cool...

Keep in mind that air conditioning in homes was not common until after World War II. Window air conditioners first started to appear in the late 1930 but were very costly and were mostly bought by the wealthy. "Swamp Coolers" worked much like the "Car Coolers" described above and were mainly found in the desert southwest and locations where there was low humidity. Central air did not become common in houses until the mid 1960's.

Most of the Air conditioning units sold and installed in automobiles beginning in the 1950's's were aftermarket units. The big three Ford, GM, and Chrysler considered air conditioning to be a limited market confined to the south and was not worth the development costs. Not surprising Texas was the home to the majority of aftermarket air conditioning manufacturers because they had the three things needed, heat and humidity, plenty of customers, and money.  

The Texas companies had a monopoly for about 25 years, before the OEM companies realized that air conditioning was an option the public wanted, and would pay for. The Texas companies such as Mark IV sold thousands of aftermarket air conditioning units. They established hundreds of "authorized" installation centers throughout the southwest and even up into the eastern part of the United States.

In the 1970's the aftermarket companies even picked up contracts to install air conditioning units in newly imported vehicles from such manufacturers as Toyota and Datsun, who had the air conditioning units installed as soon as the new vehicles were unloaded from the ship, and before they were delivered to dealers. The Texas aftermarket manufacturers even engineered a kit for the Volkswagen Beetle. 

When the OEM manufactures finally caught on, the honeymoon was over, and the Texas companies sold out, consolidated, diversified, or went bankrupt and were liquidated. It is interesting to think about how three main aftermarket companies from the south were able to advertise and install such a popular automobile accessory for more than 25 years, before the OEMs got wise and finally began offering air conditioning as a factory installed option.

Can I Add Air Conditioning In My 6-Volt Antique Vehicle...?

I often get the question from customers..."Can I add air conditioning to my 6-volt antique vehicle...? The answer is yes and no... let me explain. The air conditioning unit requires a blower motor and it does not matter if that blower motor is 6-volts or 12-volts. The actual air conditioning system does not require any electricity. The problem is with the compressor. 

Most early air conditioning units from the 6-volt era had no clutches on the compressors so the compressors ran all of the time. So that means there is also no temperature controls for the air conditioning units... they had a constant output all of the time. The only way to shut them off was to stop and remove the belt from the compressor that was driven off of the engine. 

If you are running a Fifth Avenue 6-volt alternator you have plenty of electrical output to power the extra blower motor(s). Again...the compressor clutch is the issue. Early design air conditioning compressors required 4 to 6 horsepower from the engine. You might be old enough to remember that when the air conditioning was turned on, the idle speed of the engine was automatically increased 600 to 800 rpms to compensate for the horsepower load of the compressor. 

The modern air conditioning compressors are much more efficient than the compressors were... even in the 1980's, (they are also smaller in physical size) and they require about a third of the horsepower that the early compressors did. I have had a few customers do some research and find a modern 12-volt compressor clutch that would engage with voltage as low as 7.0 volts. The output of a Fifth Avenue 6-volt alternator is 7.5 volts so it worked. If you want to do something bad enough you can usually find a way. 

But generally... because most all of the 6-volt compressors used in the early air conditioning units had no clutch, there is no control of the output. It would also be really difficult to find a working 6-volt air conditioning compressor. If you want to add air conditioning to your antique vehicle, it works best in most applications, to upgrade the electrical system to 12-volts. It is not difficult, I help customers do it every day. At least now you know how everything works.

Henry Ford And Air Conditioning

This Henry Ford story is not true of course, but it has been associated with automotive air conditioning since the 1950's and a lot of people have been suckered in, and believe it to be true. Now you know better... but you can still have a little fun at the next car club meeting telling this story.



About Me

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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.