Engine ID, Pontiac Cooling Systems, and Other Stories

In this wide-ranging contribution, the writer provides a partial engine ID in response to a past inquiry, differences between old Pontiac cooling systems and those in contemporary vehicles, recalls a successful Overland cars salesman, and reports on a boiler explosion.


| March/April 1968


I may be able to help with a "What Is It" engine ID question John Pine asked in the Nov-Dec 1967 Gas Engine Magazine. On page 923 of Dykes Automobile and Gas Engine Encyclopedia, Preface to the 15th Edition, year 1927, is a picture of the Autocar Model F and G truck engine. Autocar made trucks (2 cylinder) for a number of years previous to the printing of my book. The engine as pictured in the book is water cooled, while Pine's is air cooled, but note the similarity otherwise. In other respects the two are almost identical, even to the mounting feet below the cylinders. His engine could very well have been an earlier model, perhaps for lighter duty. I do not know what year the 2 cylinder trucks were discontinued, but in the truck specifications index page 966 of my book the only Autocar trucks listed are 4 cylinder. I notice they made their own motors, and it's just possible that if Pine's motor was not used in a truck it might have been made by Autocar for some passenger car at some time several years previous to the 1920's. I do not mean this as a positive identification, but you will have to admit that the similarity (aside from the cooling system) is striking. This is only a clue, but I hope it will be helpful.

Pontiac Cooling Systems

Many thanks to Rick Jorgensen for his article on the Pontiac cooling system and the Knight Motors. It's quite apparent that I haven't kept up with the times. I recently noticed that my step daughter's V-6 Buick, also a friend's Ford V-8 station wagon were using the cross flow principle in their cooling systems. However they don't seem to be exactly like the Oakland-Pontiac system. The radiator on them is apparently filled clear full, while the old system only was filled to a depth slightly above the top of the cylinder head, which was about two thirds full, the upper third being used merely to cool and thus condense the steam. I recall reading sometime before about General Motor's vapor cooling system, and when Pontiac first came out with it I figured that was it. I know years ago Fairbanks-Morse built a farm lighting plant using a vapor type cooling system. I don't know however just what would be gained by using the cross flow system if you are going to fill it clear full. Back in those days the styling was high, narrow radiators, and those with the low L head (Flat head) motors made a cooling system of that type easily possible.  Today the radiators are much lower, and along with the overhead valve motors this doesn't provide very much difference in height between the two.

Overland Cars

In regard to the Knight Motors, yes I have suspected that something of the sort might very well have been the trouble with them. Another thing, I've doubted if it would be possible to get as abrupt a valve opening and closing with the sleeve system as with poppet valves. Of course there would be no problem of valve flotation at high speeds as with poppet valves. Apparently there were more companies that tried sleeve valve motors than I had realized. Very good pictures of the Knight motor as well as description can be found on pages 88-89-90 of the Dykes Encyclopedia. I never saw much of any make other than the Willys-Knight. A distant cousin of mine sold them as well as Overland Cars for a number of years. He originally was a Model T Ford salesman and his brother ran a garage doing most of his work on Model T's. He was a great salesman and at one time he had most of the people in the old home town driving Model T's. Then one morning he had a dispute with the Ford dealer and quit the company. Before night he had secured the Willys-Knight and Overland agency. He then put the Ford dealer out of business. Their business dwindled to nearly none at all. He sold those baby Overlands, and later Whippets and Overland Sixes to people that previously would have nothing but Fords. He made money at it too, so it wasn't necessarily done by large trade-in offers. The baby Overlands were a good car at the time. I recall one in particular a box-like enclosed car called the Overland Champion, and as I recall it had 3 doors. One nickname for them that l recall was "Toledo Vibrators." Of course, that was before the days of rubber engine mountings and "Floating Power" which as I recall was introduced by the Chrysler Corp. in the early 30's.

Speaking of salesmanship and cars, what with all the model changes etc., I wonder how many of you have read Vance Packard's book entitled The Waste Makers. Most public libraries are likely to have it, and if you don't find it there, it's available paper bound at most newsstands for around sixty cents. It's very good reading indeed, and so are some of his other books.



Whizzing Bulldog

I recall a rather amusing incident at the Ford garage in the home town a number of years ago. It was an extremely cold morning, and when I walked in the front door the entire personnel were huddled around an old hot air furnace which had been set up to keep the place warm. It hadn't warmed up much yet and they all had their street clothes on. One of the mechanics had a small Boston Bulldog which was walking around the group, sniffing first one and then another. When he walked behind the Ford dealer, who was seated, he sniffed again, then he heisted up a foot and let fly right on the tail of the overcoat. Every one was busy talking and didn't notice it, but having just come in the door I could see it very plainly. I did not tell him about it, then or ever, figuring he would find it out soon enough. However I could not help thinking of it with amusement every time I saw him after that.

Boiler Explosion

There was recently a rather disastrous boiler explosion at the Reliable Cleaner's here in Battle Creek on West Michigan Ave. An old style HRT boiler (The HRT means horizontal return tube, of the fire tube type) was being fired by natural gas. First hearsay reports was that it was a gas explosion. However, that was by people who did not realize that there was a boiler in the place. The building was entirely demolished and pieces of concrete were hurled very high. One of them weighing about 30 lbs came down through the roof of a man's car, striking him on the head, killing him instantly. The owner and his wife were badly injured. Several nearby cars were wrecked and windows blown out at some distance. It was the boiler itself which exploded, and it was found on inspecting the ruins, that the owner had removed the safety valve and had screwed a pipe plug in it's place. On being questioned at the hospital he said it needed cleaning and he had removed it for that reason. He should have left the boiler shut down and not attempted to operate it without any safety valve, starting it up only when it had been repaired or preferably when a new one had been installed. The safety valve is the most important boiler accessory that there is. Some have said that the boiler was old and maybe that was the cause of it. However, the fact that it was being operated without the safety valve and exploded would indicate to me that the trouble was over-pressure, due to no safety valve and failure of the automatic controls. He had no insurance, and there has been some question as to his competency as a boiler operator. I work in a power house and my boss who has known him for years said he wouldn't trust him with a teakettle. There has been some question as to just what to do with him due to his advanced age and condition.














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