Category: Hemmings

On the rebound: Five facts about shock absorbers and struts – Mark J. McCourt @Hemmings


As you motor down the road, does your vehicle invoke motion sickness from the bobbing and weaving it continues to do, long after you’ve passed over that pothole or speed bump? Does it adopt a nose-up attitude worthy of a wheelstander each time you take off, or affect a gnarly slammed stance upon braking? If you answered yes to any of these, check your shocks or struts, pronto.

The shock absorber, and the related strut, represent parts that aren’t typically seen or even thought about, but whose job is crucial in keeping cars and trucks stable, comfortable, and safe. In broad terms, shocks and struts change kinetic (movement) energy to thermal (heat) energy through friction; they’re also–and more accurately–described as dampers, because they control excess suspension action as your wheels roll.

Unlike the tires, whose tread becomes visibly shallower as they wear, shocks and struts rarely physically show the deterioration that use and years compound. It’s therefore important to spot the signs of failing dampers, and to understand what these components do and how they differ, should you choose to upgrade them from standard replacement units for improved performance on the street, at the track, or off-road.

What’s the Difference?Shock absorbers have come a long way since the late 1800s, when their concept originated with dry, solid-material friction: to absorb suspension movement, rubber and bendable metal coils kept tension via compression, stretching, or bending. Fluid friction was a major advance in the early 1900s, when double-action rotary shocks were supplanted by lever arm, and then telescopic, or tubular, shocks. And the introduction of gas-charged telescopic shocks moved damping technology still further.

An offshoot of the shock absorber is the strut, the most common version patented in the late 1940s by Earle MacPherson. This component, often used by automakers because of its space-efficient design, consists of a shock absorber cartridge located in a tubular housing that can support a coil spring and connects to the hub or axle on the bottom; it’s linked to the body/frame by a lower control arm or wishbone (and, in front-wheel applications, a steering tie rod). Another type used in some rear-wheel drive racing and street applications is the Chapman strut, named for Lotus founder Colin Chapman. This design features a coil spring surrounding a shock absorber, and the tubular shaft’s lower connections to the body/frame are a driveshaft and radius arm.

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The strange story of how J-586 was – and simultaneously wasn’t – the last Duesenberg Model J built – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


When J-586 took the stage at the 1937 New York Auto Show, nearly everybody involved in getting it there knew the end for Duesenberg grew near. However, few people could tell at the time whether this particular Duesenberg Model J would sound the death knell for the company or whether, more than 80 years later, collectors would even agree whether this or some other ultra-luxe J would become the last production car to carry that fabled name.

Apart from the grille and the sheer size, J-586 didn’t look much like its Model J predecessors. Gone were the curved louvers in the hood sides, the massive headlamps, and enough chrome to blind sunny-day onlookers. Instead, it sported a modern look with skirted fenders, bullet headlamps, smaller wheels, and a wider and lower body, all changes that coachbuilding firm Rollston implemented on the last 10 complete Duesenberg production vehicles as part of a plan to modernize the nearly decade-old Model J.Known among marque enthusiasts as the Model JN, these final 10 cars were “E.L. Cord’s 11th-hour effort” to update the Model J, according to Dennis Adler’s Duesenberg book.

They were also meant to appeal to the richest of the rich, and as the standard-bearer of the Model JN line, J-586 had to look like only something millionaires could afford, the Depression be damned. It sat on the longest production Duesenberg wheelbase of 153.5 inches. Its hood stretched all the way to the base of the windshield, the height of fashion at the time. Its front fenders curled over the wheels and tires, pontoon style, and both sets of fenders tapered to points in a nod to the streamlining futurists.

Described by coachbuilder Rollston as a Convertible Berline, it featured both a fully convertible roof and a disappearing glass partition, making it suitable as an owner-driven or chauffeur-driven car. And, naturally, it boasted a price tag of $17,000, or 20 times the selling price of a new Ford, making it the highest-priced motor car at that year’s New York Auto Show.

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Find of the Day: This ’32 Ford panel truck is a retrophile glamper van waiting to happen – David Conwill @Hemmings

The first time I went to The Race of Gentlemen, back in 2014, I encountered a guy camping on the beach in an early ’50s Chevy panel truck. This was an idea I’d had myself, but I’ve never owned a vintage panel truck. To see it in action was quite inspiring.

Now, I’ve got a family, so to take them camping would require something more akin to a Model AA chassis built up as a house car. But if I were, I dunno, an itinerant photographer or a guy with a Harley 45 who wanted to see the United States without destroying his kidneys, I think this 1932 Ford Panel Truck for sale on could be a cool rig.

The exterior on this one is starting to shade past “patina” and into “decay,” so I could see a re-spray in a period Ford commercial color. This one looks like it might have been Medium Cream, but I’d be tempted to go with Vermillion Red (possibly the original color, according to the seller).

The nice thing about this truck is that it’s built on the passenger-car chassis, so you’ve got a ton of flexibility. There have been ongoing experiments with the Deuce frame since 1932. I would be tempted to set aside the original (right-hand drive!) chassis, complete with its four-cylinder drivetrain. All that would be neat under a Model A roadster body someday.

You can buy brand-new side rails and crossmembers for a 1932 Ford. The path of least resistance would probably see me going the 1980s street-rod route with parallel leaf springs in the back and a solid axle with four-bars in the front. It’s not period correct but it’s stupidly simple and solid, which is what you want in a road-trip car. Paint it black and let it disappear.

For wheels and tires, the aftermarket offers really convincing replicas of 1940-’48 Ford 16-inch steel wheels. That would give the truck the look of something still in service during or after the war years, when 16-inch tires were the most common and easy to get. I might be tempted to add a dropped headlight bar and a pair of Guide 682c sealed-beam headlamps with integrated marker lights—another popular retrofit in the ’40s and useful for adding turn signals.

We’re going to go back to the 1980s under the hood, too. The fuel-injected 302 and AOD transmission from an old Crown Victoria should do the trick. Paint it flathead green and never open the hood with other people around. The trans I’d control with a ’40 Ford-style column shifter, as it would free up leg room. The associated ’40 Ford steering wheel has been appearing in ’32 Ford roadsters for about 80 years now, so it would look right at home in the panel truck.

Inside, I see a pair of bucket seats, probably contoured somewhat to alleviate miles behind the wheel since presumably this is a vehicle meant for getting somewhere. If you wanted to bring a motorcycle, you could leave one side open with tie-downs for that. Otherwise, I’d see bunks on one side and cabinets on the other with cooking gear and a chemical toilet for emergencies. The aesthetic could take a page from 1930s U.S. Navy vessels, which were marvels at utilizing space.

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Over a 30-year run, the Jeep Wagoneer hardly changed and entirely transformed at the same time – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


The horizontal grille of the very last 1991 Grand Wagoneer luxury sport-utility vehicle hid some of the same sheetmetal stampings that supported the basic and utilitarian upright grille on the very first 1963 Wagoneer. That’s long led to a belief that the Wagoneer remained relatively unchanged from its Brooks Stevens origins, but over those 28 years the Wagoneer saw far more than just cosmetic changes. It moved upmarket quickly, it weathered multiple parent companies, it adapted to fuel crises, and it wore a number of different nameplates, culminating in the Grand Wagoneer name it was best known for in the latter quarter of its existence – a name that will soon be resurrected on an ultra-premium hybrid mountain of an SUV from Jeep’s current globe-spanning parent corporation. Not bad for a four-wheel-drive rig from Toledo.

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From an inherited turbo Buick to garage cleanups and road trips, these were our favorite articles from 2020 -Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


If we’ve learned anything from the never-ending train wreck that was 2020, it’s how much we really rely on our neighbors, friends, and family. The people closest to us are more than just names and faces – they’re the people who set us straight, the people who keep us safe, the people who check in at random times to lend an ear and a chuckle even when things aren’t great. They’re the people who we connect with, whether they’re six feet from us or somewhere off in quarantine.We publish car magazines here at Hemmings.

It might seem inconsequential in the larger scope of things, but for more than 65 years we’ve also served as a means of connection with other car enthusiasts around the world. Sometimes those enthusiasts you connect with are the people behind the bylines here, and this year we’ve made more of an effort to share our personal experiences in the old car hobby and to communicate the things that excite us most about old cars.So, as we look back on the year that was (but shouldn’t have been), rather than just count down the most-read stories, we’ve asked our writers to share the stories that they count as their favorites.

Could be because they put a lot of effort into the story. Could be because the stories generated a lot of comments and connections. Could just be because the writers liked the subject matter.We’ll start with David Conwill, who pointed to his coverage of the Eight Flags Road Tour at Amelia Island, from which we took the dramatic lead photo above.

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Henry Ford digitization project reaches 100,000 artifacts, Detroit design exhibit now open – Tom Comerro @Hemmings


The Henry Ford Digitization Project Hits a Milestone

The Henry Ford has announced a milestone in the massive effort to digitize its enormous collection of artifacts. Last week, the museum staff scanned its 100,000th artifact, a photograph of the 100,000th Fordson Tractor. To celebrate, The Henry Ford has been giving guests behind-the-scenes looks at the digitization process.“If you’ve visited our website, read a blog post, shared a social media story from our channels, or simply walked through the museum, you’ve encountered the work of our digitization team.” said Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO, The Henry Ford.

“Digitization has opened our doors to guests far beyond what we could have ever imagined. People can now view the Rosa Parks bus, the Wright Cycle Shop or Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory from anywhere in the world at any time they choose.”The process is very detailed, requiring many steps such as cleaning, special handling, or the application of other extensive treatments before digitization. Artifacts are either photographed or scanned, while the curatorial team drafts a summary giving an overview of the item’s significance.

When completed, each is catalogued in the Digital Collections for viewing. With more than 26 million artifacts in the collection, expect many more milestones over the coming year

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Which one of these four pony performers from the ’80s would you choose for your Dream Garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


In our latest round of This or That we deliver to you a fresh round of four options to fill yet another bay in your unlimited Dream Garage, this time from the pony car market. But rather than offer up your typical selection of Sixties steeds, it’s time to dig out your favorite cassette tapes and the old stone-washed denim jacket: We’re going back to the Eighties. Let’s examine a few that are available now in the Hemmings Classifieds and hopefully serve as thought-starters for your automotive wish list.

Today we’ll start with one of the more obscure performance pony cars from the decade: this 1985 Mercury Capri ASC/McLaren convertible. Unlike other ASC/McLaren conversions of the era, folks within the Mercury division were more focused on image that outright performance, so the stock 5.0-liter engine remained unaltered while the body and suspension were modified. The ASC/McLaren Capris were built in limited numbers, as explained by Mark McCourt in his detailed report of an ’86 edition that appeared in the February 2005 edition of Hemmings Muscle Machines magazine. As to this one currently available, the seller states:

This car, along with one other Mclaren, was purchased by a Canadian man from Hines Park Lincoln Mercury, Plymouth Mi., and brought to BC., where the purchaser mainly stored the two cars for 25 years. He drove one car occasionally. He eventually moved to Atlanta, Georgia, taking only one of the Mclarens with him, and passed my car on to its second owner, who also mainly stored it for 6 years. He intended to pass it on to his son, however, the son showed no interest in the car and it was sold to me. I have driven it infrequently….mainly to car shows.

The car is as it left the dealership, with absolutely no changes to it other than a battery or two, and possibly tires. It is possibly the purest ASC Mclaren on the market. The accompanying photos show its originality, and that it is a true survivor.

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The Studebaker Bellet was almost the future of the company – @Hemmings


I’m curious what you think of the compact sedan pictured here, and I’m especially interested if you’re a longtime Studebaker enthusiast. Why? Because this was almost the future of Studebaker cars worldwide. Presenting the almost 1966 Studebaker Bellet, designed by Isuzu— the car that really might have saved the company.
By 1964, Studebaker car production for the U.S. and Canada was centered in Hamilton, Ontario. In 1965, the president of Studebaker Canada, Gordon Grundy, was searching for an import car to supplement the Studebakers his dealers were selling (and, possibly, an import that could be assembled in Canada). Studebaker Canada was already involved with importing foreign cars via a deal with Volkswagen of Canada, which was paying a hefty duty on cars brought in from Germany. With the new Canada/U.S. Auto Pact agreement, Studebaker was allowed to import any foreign car, duty-free. So, Grundy made a deal to import 31,600 VWs at a duty-free savings of $165 per car. These were sold to VW Canada at $150 profit per car, pocketing a net profit of $4.74 million—while VW saved $474,000. It was strictly a paper transaction, and all perfectly legal.
Looking for other ways to generate profits, Grundy met with Nissan in Japan to acquire the rights to sell Datsuns in North America. Some of the Datsuns would be badged as Studebakers, and eventually, even built in Canada. But, in the middle of negotiation, management instructed Grundy to break off talks with Nissan and pursue an arrangement with Toyota. The end result was that neither company wanted to do business with Studebaker. The lawyer behind this unfortunate debacle? Future U.S. president Richard Nixon.
Grundy next looked at the Prince, a Japanese auto they could offer as low as $1,895. Also investigated was the DAF line of cars; several were brought over from Europe for testing. In the end, neither Prince nor DAF were considered viable because they wouldn’t have appealed to enough Canadian drivers. But the next car investigated, the Isuzu Bellet, certainly would have.

Hemmings Muscle Machines marks its 200th issue, so we look back at muscle cars then and now – Kurt Ernst @Hemmings


Counting backward from 200

In the fall of 2003, The Matrix franchise was pulling big numbers at the box office, Nelly and P. Diddy were blowing up the airwaves, gas was around $1.60 per gallon (and falling), and a new specialty car magazine hit newsstands and mailboxes. Hemmings Muscle Machines, our first title dedicated exclusively to “American performance cars, regardless whether they were powered by four, six, eight, ten, or even 12 cylinders,” debuted with the October 2003 issue, which featured a red ’65 Chevelle SS stacked up against a red ’64 Plymouth Fury on its cover.

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Flathead V-8-Powered 1954 Ford Customline – Hemmings Auction


Flathead V-8-Powered 1954 Ford Customline

What’s this? A 1954 Ford with a flathead V-8 instead of a Y-block? How can this be? Though Ford discontinued its famed flathead V-8 for the 1954 model year, Canadian-built cars continued with it until the 1955s came out. This handsomely hued Customline Tudor, a mid-range model, was actually built in Canada. So, this car is doubly historic as it represents the final year of the first-generation Customline trim level at Ford, and the final year of flathead production in Canada. Color schemes don’t say “Fifties” more loudly than coral and white, and this Ford’s got them. The seller of this trim Tudor says she’s never driven it in foul weather during her period of ownership, which dates to 2015

See the listing here

Flathead V-8-Powered 1954 Ford Customline

Related – Canadian Flathead Block Identification By Fred Mills