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I recently read that Toyota has switched all its remote-starter systems for vehicles built after November 2018 to a subscription-based model. Owners have apparently been finding that out the hard way as their three-year introductory period expires and suddenly their key fobs don’t work.
Technically, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’ve never owned a Toyota or a vehicle with remote start. The times I’ve used such technology, it’s been nice for cold days when you don’t want to trudge out to warm up a cold car. On the other hand, a lot of jurisdictions are banning that type of behavior anyway.
Still, I’ve seen the steady creep of subscription-based everything that has come in the wake of near universal smart-phone usage. Some of it makes sense. If something is being constantly updated and improved, that costs money. Somehow, though, I doubt remote start is changing much once it’s installed in a car. Mostly, subscription-based models just seem like a way for companies to turn a one-time purchase into a constant stream of income and I’d rather opt out of that, thanks.
That got me thinking (or ranting) about how most improvements since 1940 have been mere refinements and how much I dislike forced obsolescence. In the interest of positive thinking, though, I decided to take the opposite tack. Here are five pieces of technology that were standard in U.S. automobiles in 1940 and have never really been improved upon, especially in terms of adjustability and rebuildability.
The Down Draft Carburetor
Up to 1932, virtually every automobile used some form of up-draft or side-draft carburetor. These were largely fine from a user standpoint and even had the advantages of packaging, gravity-feed fuel, and almost never flooding the engine, but they were a major airflow restriction. Chrysler introduced the down-draft carburetor in 1929 and the industry soon followed.
Carbs don’t play well with modern emissions standards (at least not if you want any performance), but from a user standpoint, they’re simplicity itself, requiring nothing more than a vacuum gauge to achieve near-peak tuning. The truly detail obsessed can use a wide-band O2 sensor to really get things dialed in, it’s just a matter of turning wrenches and screwdrivers instead of inputting computer code.
Headlights or headlamps, regardless of what you call them and even in six-volt 1940, the seven-inch sealed beam was perhaps the perfect lighting solution for 90-percent of American drivers. I suspect anyone who has driven in the past month likely knows how out of hand the modern lighting situation has become. We’re glad you can see the road, folks, but the rest of us would like to as well.
It happens 1940 was the model year in which the sealed-beam headlamp became standard on automobiles. Later in the 1950s, smaller versions for quad applications became legal, and still later a rectangular version was the standard. Now there is no standard that’s worth a damn, and nobody can see. Just buy a spotlight, people. It’s what they did in 1940.
For many years, electrical systems were the biggest reliability gremlin in new cars. It’s still far from a non-issue, but the basic standard electrical system of 1940 carried on for decades until all of you people started demanding your car navigate for you and order your latte ahead at the next exit.
Since the late 1920s, the charging element had been a standalone part of the engine system. By 1939, that charging element was a three-brush six-volt generator—by 1956 it had become a 12-volt generator; and in the 1960s a 12-volt alternator. Initially, battery charging was regulated by a simple cut-out—which usually resulted in over-charging. In the mid-1930s, the adjustable, mechanical voltage regulator had come along. It remained the standard through the 1960s and was replaced more for manufacturing economy than as a true improvement.
I’ve long maintained that the best driving early Fords were made between 1936 and 1940. They ride fine, they handle great, and they stop predictably. Add a little power to the flathead and you’ve got everything you need for a daily driver that is pretty reliable and really easy to fix when shit does do what it does – break.
By contrast, the shoebox Ford doesn’t steer or stop nearly as well and later 50’s Fords don’t really handle at all. So, in my book… the sweet spot is that four or five years that ended the 1940’s.
This morning I was thinking about all of this when “32csr” posted an add in the classifieds for a 1940 Deluxe Convertible. It’s a survivor off the west coast and it ticks every damned box. The beauty of an untouched car is that no one has screwed it up yet and you get the honors all to yourself. Simply take that near perfect early Ford engineering and do your best not to confuse things while you:
Of all the early Ford V8s from 1932 through 1948, the 1940 model year must rank at or near the top among hot rodders and restorers—next to the inaugural year of 1932, of course. Somehow Henry got everything right that year. We’ve featured the ’40 previously here at Mac’s Motor City Garage. For example, check out this excellent three-minute Ford film, Video: Presenting the Ford Line for 1940 from January of 2017. Now we’ve got an even better 10-minute dealer training film that covers the ’40 in greater detail.
When you’re done watching this original sales training film for the stylish new 1940 Ford, you’ll be ready to hurry over to your local Ford dealer and buy one yourself.
Her name is Debbie Walls and she has contributed to the upgrade of thousands of street rods over the past three decades. Maybe yours. Debbie and her husband, Skip, are the founders of Lokar Performance Parts as well as hard-core hot rod enthusiasts. It’s always interesting to find out what the people who create performance and dress-up products for our hobby, people like Skip and Debbie, have in their personal corral. In their case, the list has been long and includes race cars and muscle cars in addition to street rods.
Henry Ford built and displayed this 1940 Ford Cutaway Chassis to show the wonder of working parts and the new-to-1940 features, such as a manual shift on the column. The cutaway areas show interior details of the all-chromed V8 engine, brakes, transmission, differential and more. It was built for the Ford Pavilion display at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and was shown subsequently at state fairs and dealer showrooms across the U.S. In later years it was used in driver’s education departments as an educational aid. One of the elite 40 1940 Fords invited to the Grand National Roadster Show for the 75th Anniversary of the 1940 Ford.
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