In answer to an earlier note that the plumber wouldn't have been able
to get a heavy enough "van" back around 1949, I dug up a bit of info.
In 1955-59 the 3805 Chevy series was a ONE TON Panel Van.
In 1935-1938 the Dodge Four Point was available as a 3/4, 1, and 1 1/2
ton panel van.
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I believe that one of the driving forces for streetcars in major
cities back when horses were the standard power plant was the horse
manure. There was an army of street sweepers employed in those cities
to shovel the crap. And when it rained.... you didn't want to be
Personally, I wish the days when there weren't windshield washers, power
brakes and air conditioning weren't around. Nothing like not being able to
see out the window in the bad weather. It is always fun trying to get warm
before heaters, too.
I suggest that if you leave in the Northeast, you just go in your car. Don't
turn on the windshield washer. Keep the off. And simulate not having power
brakes by stopping real slowly. And just for fun , don't turn on the heat.
Then tell us if they make things better.
The electronic gadgetry doesnt make much better. Electric windshield wipers
great step forward from those manifold vacuum driven Ps.O.S.
We always had heaters in our cars, even back to the 41 Ford we drove.
Air conditioning came later, but was a godsend. It did not have a $600
It had an on/off position and a thermostat. Not bad, really.
The point is not that modern cars are not "better" in that they have
more features, the heaters and wipers work better, the transmissions
are more efficient, etc,. But that's just refinement. The basic
design of the vehicle is the same, the functionality is the same, and
in many ways there's not much different even in the "better" part. A
1960 Caddy didn't have great handling perhaps but it was comfortable
and had all the creature comforts of any significance unless you think
cup holders constitute basic functions of a car.
They've also been around for close to 70 years now. I'm not aware of
any mainstream vehicles that used vacuum wipers past the mid-50's.
I'm guessing that Packard was one of the last; and by the end, most
vehicles used an auxiliary vacuum pump off either the fuel pump or the
oil pump instead of manifold vacuum. I will grant you that there were
some pretty dramatic improvements in vehicles during the first half of
the 20th century; the difference between a "brass era" car and a 50's
car is incredible.
You could pluck anyone off the street today and put them behind the
wheel of a decent 50's car and with a little familiarization they
could drive it safely and comfortably in today's traffic. Which was
the whole point that several people were trying to make earlier in
A case could be made that the American automotive industry peaked
around 1971 and it would be difficult to argue with that; certainly
the period between about 1976 and only a few years ago was witness to
some seriously suckful products put out by once-proud manufacturers.
Ford Falcons of the early '60s had vacuum wipers, and American Motors
used them through the late sixties.
The later fifties was a great era for gaudy automobile design. Chrysler
took it a step further with their land yachts that had such quirky
features as big tail fins, a rear view mirror that stuck up from the
dashboard, an odd shaped steering wheel, and push-button transmission
controls. The 57 Plymouth gave a preview of the dual headlight look
with the parking light next to the headlight. It resembled a face with
a black eye.
The best car I ever had was my 69 Firebird 400. It was quieter on the
road then my 99GT, driving position and seat was better, interior was
nicer looking, and steering was actually quicker and more precise
feeling. Handling was worst though. Mileage in normal driving was
not great but I got about 15 mpg on a fast trip and once got 21 mpg
doing a steady 55 mph from phx to LA during the 72 oil crisis. The
99gt is technically a better car and I really like it but it will
never replace the 69 when all categories of "why I like a car" are
added up. And the 69 was still on it's original, unturned front disks
at 125,000 miles. And they were SHOT.
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