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Fifth Avenue Makes Donation To McPherson College Automotive Restoration Program

Posted on 6/13/17 with No comments


Curt Goodwin Accepts Training Materials from Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts.

Who is going to carry on our love for antique vehicles after we are gone? That question has come up a lot recently in discussions with car club members and antique parts vender's. The baby boom generation is getting older and the first of the group are not able to work on and drive their cars like they did twenty years ago. Membership in car clubs is declining as the older generation retires and there is not enough younger generation members to take their place. So... how will we carry on the tradition and share what we know with the next generation?

We all need to do our part to insure the next generation has the same opportunities as we had. Think this does not matter to you...? Think what your restored antique vehicle will be worth if the next generation has no interest in it because they did not have any involvement in its restoration or for that matter never rode in it. You pride an joy will end up on the auction block at no reserve. It is happening now.

Here is part of my solution...

Randy Rundle owner of Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts recently purchased and then donated all of the educational training materials he acquired from the Cowie Electric Company (established 1917) to the McPherson College Automotive Restoration Department to be used to help students gain a better understanding of the inner workings of all types of antique vehicle automotive systems.

The Cowie Electric Company served as the regional training center location for all of the major automotive manufacturers including Delco-Remy, Autolite, Rochester Carburetors, Holly Carburetors, Wico Magnetos, and dozens more aftermarket companies from 1917 up thru the 1980’s. Automotive mechanics could attend six week long classes at the Cowie Company location, taught by the factory representatives, to become “certified” by the those manufacturers.

Curt Goodwin Associate Professor of Technology said, “The department is extremely grateful for Fifth Avenue’s donation. This kind of training material is very difficult to find in any condition, and the quality of Fifth Avenue’s donation is outstanding. We can’t thank Randy enough…!”

Brian Martin Director of Auto Restoration Projects added…” To be able to teach our students using the original teaching materials they used 70 years ago is very valuable to us, …

Randy Rundle, owner of Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts says…” I am happy and honored to donate these teaching materials to an excellent program. I know they will be put to good use, and there is no better way for students to learn than from the original teaching materials developed by the manufacturers during the era in which the parts were originally introduced…”

A Sample Of The Training Materials Donated To McPherson College.

I had known about this training material for about a dozen years but the current owner wasn't sure what he wanted to do with the material. The classrooms and the material were stored on the second story of a building built in about 1916.  Eventually the roof began to leak and I panicked. If the leak became bad enough it would ruin everything.

The Cowie Building was once in the same neighborhood with all of the new car dealers on what was one the busiest streets in downtown Wichita Kansas. As times changed the new car dealerships moved out along the new interstate, until eventually it was only the Cowie Company left in the old automotive neighborhood.

Business slowly declined, the older generation retired and the next generation tried to just maintain the business. Eventually in the 2000's the business closed. To give you an idea how long ago this business was established...their customer number at Delco -Remy was number 33. The current owner said they had received an invoice from that company every month since May of 1917 or for more than a hundred years.

The Cowie Collection included workbooks, filmstrips, 331/3 records, 16mm movies, large flip charts, blueprints, anything that the factories ever used for training was there. Many of the movies were still in their original boxes with the EFD (remember that company) shipping label attached. It cost 90 cents to ship one of the large 16mm movies from Detroit to Wichita in the early 1940's.

Finally I convinced the current owner to put a price on all of that training materials reminding him that with a leaking roof it soon all be lost. Once I got a price I contacted the McPherson College to see if they would be interested in the material. I tried to describe the training materials over the phone which was kind of difficult. Also I don't think anyone at the college truly believed that training material that old still existed in usable condition, especially because so much of it was paper.

I got the deal done in Wichita an spent a long day carrying material down two flights of stairs. There was actually more material there than I first inventoried, as every closet, shelf, cabinet, and desk, had materials hidden away. I had a truckload when I was done, all of it in pretty good shape.

McPherson College in McPherson Kansas is the only place in the United States where you can get a four year degree in automotive restoration. During your time at McPherson you will learn everything from shaping metal to running a lathe in a machine shop to build parts that are no longer available. You also learn upholstery, wood working,  and the proper way to research what is historically accurate when restoring an antique vehicle correctly. They literally research every nut bolt and screw to be sure the proper length, thread count, pitch, and screw is accurate. Their restoration projects have won many Concours events. The students work summers under internship programs in the top automotive restoration shops across the United States including Jay Leno's Garage. Jay also provides a scholarship to the McPherson College Auto Restoration program.

                                              A Video Tour OF McPherson College

A few months later I made arrangements to deliver to the college. They were still a little hesitant at first which I understand. Some of their donations in the past have included 40 year collections of hot rod magazines that were stored in a basement or garage and had significant water damage.

I explained this material was all in really good shape...but if they did not like what I delivered they were under no obligation to accept it. Fair enough.

When they saw what I had they were like two kids in a candy store. I could tell from the expression on their faces that neither Brian or Curt expected this and it was almost too good to be true. I knew right then that I had done the right thing and I had just made a good investment in the next generation of antique vehicle owners.



Amp Gauges vs Volt Meters...Separating Fact From Fiction

Posted on 6/7/17 with No comments


If you own an antique vehicle built before 1965 chances are it has an amp meter in the dash. One thing you need to understand is what an amp gauge is actually telling you. An amp gauge measures the actual amount of electrical current flowing into or out of the battery. The amp gauge needle will move to the (+) when the generator output is recharging the battery. The amp gauge needle will move to the (-) when current is flowing out of the battery, such as when the generator output cannot keep up with the electrical load. 

An amp meter does not (as many car owners assume) tell you if the generator charging system is working properly. While indirectly you may "assume" if current is flowing into the battery that the generator is charging and producing an output. Just keep in mind that an amp meter does not directly measure electrical output from the generator.

In other words an amp meter measures the volume of current being used from the battery, much like a water meter measures the amount of water passing a given point. Amp meters will also show you the amount of current coming into the battery to recharge the battery. Amp meters were standard on all types of vehicles beginning in the early 1900's up thru the early 1970's.  

Before alternators were invented generators provided the electrical current and most of them did not have an output at idle and low rpms. As a result current flowed into and out of the battery on a regular basis and the amp meter simply measured the amount of current and which direction is was going. 

As a vehicle owner back in the day you knew that if the amp meter showed a discharge at highway speeds or even above fast idle, that the charging system needed attention because current was flowing out of the battery when the generator should be replacing it.

To give you an idea how this worked in the old needed to drive you antique vehicle ten miles at highway speeds in order for the generator to have time enough to replace the current used from the battery for one start of the engine. That explains why you always see the amp gauge two thirds the way over to charge most all of the time but the battery never seems to get fully charged. The generator, especially with a lot of town driving or short trips couldn't keep the battery fully charged. It was common even up thru the 1950's to connect a car battery to a battery charger overnight at least once a week, especially if the vehicle was only driven a short distance too and from work.

Volt meters were introduced in the mid 1960's soon after alternators became common. A volt meter simply measures the voltage or electrical pressure behind the current. It does not measure the volume of current (amps) being used. As charging systems became more reliable and were able to provide a constant output at idle and low rpms, the constant flow of current into and out of the battery was all but eliminated. That is why batteries last much longer today than they did in the generator days.

For the first time a battery, became a storage battery. It stored the current used for starting the engine, then the alternator took over and provided the current to run the electrical accessories and could replace the current in the battery in a matter of minutes. As a result in was no longer necessary to measure the volume of current flowing into or out of the battery. Only a small amount of current was used from the battery for starting which was quickly replaced by the charging system.

So a volt meter simply measures the pressure or "voltage" present in the electrical system. The assumption is that if the voltage is between 13.8 and 14.2 (a 12 volt electrical system) that the battery is fully charged and the electrical system is working properly. Alternators are built using solid state components which means less mechanical parts to wear and a more accurate charging system with better and more accurate control of the voltage output. So a volt meter makes sense for modern applications.

But for the antique vehicles we drive and build, I still use and recommend using an amp gauge especially with a generator charging system. I want to know how much current is being used. With mechanical gauges and non solid state electrical accessories, the electrical load in an antique vehicle can vary greatly.

So... if your antique vehicle came with an amp gauge, leave it in there. It will work fine even with an alternator. Because an alternator charges at idle and low engine rpms you will see about 10 amps charging when you first start your vehicle then the needle will fall back to about a needle's width above zero in less than 30 seconds (most applications). That tells you the alternator has already recharged the battery. An amp gauge will get less of a workout with an alternator, than it did with the original generator charging system.

When you increase the electrical load such as turning on the headlights or heater blower motor, the alternator will automatically increase the output to cover the increased electrical load. The additional electrical current needed to run the headlights will come from the alternator, not the physical battery. As a result, there will be no change in the amount of current going into, or coming out of the battery, so the needle on the amp gauge in the dash will stay slightly above zero just as it was before the headlights were turned on.

Is An Amp Gauge Safe...?

Absolutely they are safe. The were the standard measure of automotive electrical current in all types of vehicles for the first 60 plus years the automobile existed! While all of the output of the generator or alternator passes thru the amp gauge on the way to recharge the battery or to deliver battery current to the electrical system, the same amount of current is also traveling around thru the rest of the wiring harness. Bare wires and missing insulation are dangerous in any wiring harness.

Are They Safe To Use With An Alternator...?

Of course. Most original antique vehicle electrical systems used in the neighborhood of 40 amps or less, even if you turned on everything at the same time.  You can add an electric fuel pump or electric radiator cooling fan and you will seldom exceed that 40 amps, because you will not have everything turned on at the same time. Even if you do... the alternator will pickup the increased electrical load so the amount of electrical current passing thru the amp gauge will not change.

Common Sense Applies...

It stands to reason that if your plan is to add a thousand watt stereo and a 150 amp alternator to run it, in your 40 Ford Coupe, that the stock amp gauge will not be large enough, especially if the battery can't keep up while you are cruising around rattling all of the windows in the neighborhood. If this is your plan you will have to upgrade the stock wiring harness, switches and a few other things as well, to accept the increased electrical load.  Just don't drive thru my neighborhood when you are done!

A 65 amp alternator is more than big enough for the average antique vehicle application. You will have plenty of current to run all of the original electrical accessories with enough reserve to power things like electric fuel pumps and electric cooling fans. (you will also not have to upgrade the original wiring harness and switches if they are in good condition) At 65 amps you have nearly twice what the stock generator put out on a good day and the alternator has the advantage of an electrical output at idle and low engine rpms, something the generator could not deliver.

Don't get suckered in by the magazine mechanics who tell you you need a 100 amp alternator for your antique vehicle. You don't have near enough accessories nor could you add enough accessories to require a 100 amp alternator. Besides a 100 amp alternator will require a significant upgrade to the wiring harness (20 percent larger diameter wire for example) to handle the extra current. You will also have to upgrade all of the switches and related hardware for the increased current load. You would be the accident looking for a place to happen.

Your goal should be to make your charging system as SIMPLE and as RELIABLE as possible. You should work on your antique vehicle only when you want to... not because you have too. Go drive it and enjoy it...that is the reason you have it in the first place.

Changing Your Electrical System From Positive To Negative Ground...

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Changing Your Electrical System From Positive Ground To Negative Ground Is NOT  Difficult

This is a quick lesson on changing the polarity of your 6-volt antique vehicle's electrical system from positive ground to negative ground. There is enough misinformation floating around on this subject to write a dozen books. My goal here is to teach you how to get it right the first time, and know why you did what you did.

First a little history lesson. Prior to 1955 when automotive electrical systems upgraded to 12-volts  and negative ground electrical systems became the recognized standard, some automotive manufactures like Ford build their vehicles using a positive ground electrical system, while others like General Motors (and the independents who bought their electrical components from General Motors) built their vehicles using a negative ground electrical system.

Technically, there is no advantage to either one. As an electrical engineer  you were taught electrical theory that said electrical current flows from the negative to the positive. A mechanical engineer learned just the opposite, that the current flows from the positive to the negative.

In the mid 1950's when automotive electrical systems were upgraded from 6-volts to 12 volts they also made negative ground electrical systems the recognized standard. This was done in part because of the modern solid state accessories being developed. Unlike mechanical driven  electrical accessories like heater blower motors that are NOT affected by polarity, solid state accessories like radios ARE affected and will be destroyed if they are connected to the wrong polarity.

Car radios began using solid state components to replace the old tubes in the late 1950's. Alternator charging systems (built using solid state components) were introduced in the early 1960's to replace the mechanical generators. Alternators provided increased electrical output and had less mechanical parts to wear out thus were more reliable and required less maintenance.

Most solid state devices are built using what are called diodes, which are simply one way electrical valves. They let current flow in only one direction. Without getting to technical you can imagine what happens when you try and send current backwards thru a diode in the wrong direction, things don't end up well and in some cases it causes the smoke to leak out and ruin your solid state accessory (like your cell phone).

Fast forward to today...and everything is built using solid state components. This includes your modern stereo radio, you ipod, your cell phone, and your GPS are are solid state devices built for negative ground.  I have power inverters available (see the parts section of the website) that will setup 6-volt electrical system current to 12-volts so you can power your modern 12-volt accessories with your 6-volt electrical system. These power inverters are designed to work with negative ground electrical systems, now you know why!

A Power Inverter Allows You To Power 12-volt Accessories From Your 6-volt System


When you reverse the polarity of an antique vehicle electrical system all that you are doing is changing the direction the current flows, but the current will still end up at the same place as it did that means your starter will not run backwards because the current from the battery still arrives at the same battery post on the starter that it did before. It is the same for your dash gauges and ignition coil. as long as you DO NOT change the wiring connections, all of those accessories will work as they always have.

So remember....DO NOT reverse to wires on the ignition coil ( an ignition coil is a step up transformer and takes battery voltage and steps it up to 35,000 volts where it is then sent to the spark plugs.) If you reverse the wires on the ignition coil you will reduce the output of the coil by 30 percent. That will appear as an engine miss at high speeds. If you are not aware of this common mistake you can replace all of the ignition tune-up parts only to still have the same engine miss at the higher rpms, that you had when you started. It should be the first thing you check.

Remember...if you do not change any wiring on the dash gauges they will work just as they always have.  Just like the ignition coil, just leave well enough alone!

Tech Tip - 
If you are converting your electrical system to 12-volts from 6-volts be sure and keep the original 6-volt senders in all of the gauges. Remember...your original 6-volt dash gauges are calibrated for 6-volts so they require a 6-volt sender. When you install a Runtz (see parts section of the website) the voltage will be reduced from 12-volts back down to 6-volts at the input of the dash gauge so you original 6-volt dash gauges and senders will work just like they did when your electrical system was still 6-volts.

Use A Runtz to make your 6-volt gauge and sender work with a 12-volt electrical system.

Using the gas gauge as an example if you install a 12-volt sender in the tank and connect it to your 6-volt dash gauge, your 6-volt dash gauge will read full all of the time. This is because the 6-volt sender works in a range of between 0 and 30 ohms while the 12-volt sender works between 30 and 90 ohms. So the top of the 6-volt scale is the bottom of the 12-volt scale.

Light bulbs are not polarity sensitive and will work on either positive ground or negative ground. You do not have to specify the polarity of your electrical system when you buy headlight bulbs or taillight bulbs for instance. Once you understand what you are doing and why... it becomes much easier to sort out the fact from the fiction.

Now you also understand why I build my 6-volt alternators as negative ground alternators. Because all modern accessories are negative ground I try to save you the social embarrassment of changing your apple iphone into a road apple because your electrical system was the wrong polarity. It can be a pretty expensive lesson.

If you stick with a generator charging system you will need to get a negative ground voltage regulator and polarize it to the generator to make your generator charging system work properly. Most everyone upgrades to an alternator with the internal regulator to gain the increased output at idle and low rpms which gives you the bright headlights and the fully charged battery for easier starting. Because everything is a bolt on it makes perfect sense.


Keep in mind that electronic ignitions ARE solid state... and ARE polarity sensitive so if you reverse the polarity you will also need to replace the ignition module inside of the distributor to match the polarity of your electrical system. Original ignition points and condenser are fine as long as you do not change the polarity on the ignition coil. When you upgrade to a 12-volt electrical system you only need to change the ignition coil to a 12-volt coil. The points and condenser will be the same for both 6-volt and 12-volt.


Reversing the polarity of your positive ground electrical system is simple! All that you need to do is reverse the battery cables (negative cable from the battery is now ground... the positive cable from the battery goes to the starter) then reverse the wires on the amp gauge or in the case of Fords...straighten the loop of wire out going thru the back of the amp gauge and you are done!

Fords used an inductive style amp meter which means that as the current passes thru the wire, the magnetism created is what moves the needle in the gauge. So you want the amp wire to come in from the opposite direction to make the needle more in the correct direction. If you fail change the amp gauge wires around...nothing bad will happen, the dash gauge will just read backwards. That's all there is too it!!

Ignition Coil Wiring

If your original ignition coil is positive ground the positive terminal of the coil should be connected to the distributor. The negative terminal of the coil should be connected to the ignition switch.

When you upgrade to 12-volts and replace your original 6-volt positive ground ignition coil with a modern 12-volt ignition coil... the wiring connections should be as follows...the positive terminal on the ignition coil should be connected the the ignition switch, and the negative terminal on the coil should be connected to the distributor.

Remember...if you reverse the polarity of your 6-volt electrical system, and keep your original 6-volt positive ground coil, you DO NOT reverse the wires on the original positive ground ignition coil. The negative terminal of the original positive ground ignition coil is still the battery terminal (that connects to the ignition switch) and the coil itself does not care which direction the current traveled from the battery to the negative terminal of the coil. The coil will still work the same as it always has.

If you are installing a Fifth Avenue 6-volt alternator and you are reversing the polarity of your electrical system to negative ground, the yellow exciter should connect to the negative terminal on the coil, the same terminal that goes to the ignition switch.

Buyer Beware...
When I first learned how all of this worked back in my younger days... there was a local shop who advertised that they would do a changeover of your electrical system from positive ground to negative ground for $150.00. They would say "have your antique car at our shop no later than 8:15 am in the morning and we will try and have your car done by 4:30 in the afternoon. With that time frame, one would assume that it was a big complicated job best left to professionals.

Now you know it took them less than 15 minutes to do the job. I have written hundreds of tech articles over the years and every time I explain how to reverse polarity, I get hate mail from a few shops who say ..."Hey...whats the big idea away a trade secret like that...who do you think you are...?"

Who am I...? I am the guy who explains to to do it yourself and how to get it right the first time and not pay some shop $150.00 for 15 minutes work. In case you are slow in math that is $600 an hour.  OUCH! We all deserve better!



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.