posted on Jan, 12 2007 @ 06:58 PM
My First Car
My first car was a 1948 Mercury coupe, bought in mid-1952. With 70,000 miles showing, it was already worn out. The price was $995.00. I paid $150
down, and financed it for 24 months at $50 a month. I was making $70 a week, before taxes, and living at home. The car had the 59A block, 239 cubic
inches (3.9 liters) which engine was originally offered in the Mercury line of cars but after 1946, was also used in the Ford line. Up from the
original 221 cubic inches. The 1949 Merc went to 256 cubic inches (4.2 liters) by adding a quarter inch to the earlier 3.75 inch stroke but keeping
the 3.1875 inch bore and the L-head or side valve configuration. Rated at 100 horsepower at 3800 rpm, American car makers had already fallen into the
habit of specifying horsepower in the advertising department, and not the engineering department. On the German’s DIN standard, it would be about
75-80 hp. Ford cars and Mercury cars were exactly the same, but for the Mercury's front axle extended out 4 inches, giving the Mercury a 118 inch
versus the 114 inches wheelbase for the Ford line. This also had the serendipitous effect of shifting the front to rear weight distribution closer to
50/50. With the next size up in tires, better quality seating, more soundproofing and better weight distribution, the Mercury line “rode” and
sounded better than the Ford line. All for a mere $150 premium over the Ford.
Note: In 1939 and 1940, to compete with economy cars like the Studebaker Champion and the Willys Americar, Ford offered a shrunk size V8 of 2.5
liters, 150 cubic inches. It was named and rated as the Ford 60, referring to the horsepower. Interesting, after War 2, the French company Simca,
later bought by Chrysler, used the Ford 60 as the power plant in its top of the line Simca.
My car had the famous Columbia two speed rear axle. Although Borg Warner had offered a superior planetary gearset behind the standard transmission,
Ford had used the Columbia rear axle since the late 1920s. Ford always went first class, but it never revisited a decision. The Ford V8, introduced
in 1932 in 1933 models, causing some confusion in dating, always had cooling problems. It kept those overheating problems until the engine was
replaced in 1949 with a newly designed flathead.
Ford and Mercury cars came with a 3.78 rear axle gear set. With 6.00 X 16 tires on the Ford and 6.50 X 15 tires on the Mercury, both cars had the same
tire rolling distance. The Columbia 2 speed, OTOH, offered 4.11 and 3.25 ratios. 4.11 for acceleration, 3.25 for cruising. The gears were operated by
vacuum and controlled by electric solenoids. The gears could not be changed under power, so you had to depress the clutch before the electric switch
on the dash would let you select the 3.25 ratio. The 4.11 ratio was the default ratio. The speedometer was driven off the transmission. To accomodate
the 2 speed axle, there was a second shiftable mechanism mounted on the firewall just ahead of the speedometer which was also a 2 speed speedometer
The speedometer gears were purely mechanical but because my car’s vacuum was not up to strength, about 1/4th the time, the speedometer would shift
but the rear axle would not. With a 4.11 rear axle and 3.25 speedometer, the car indicated 20% more speed that you were really making.
The car came with Ford’s favorite Houdille brand shock absorbers - American for English dampers. These were fiction shocks. That is, there was a
series of thin steel washers, alternating one on the moving arm to the axle and the next fixed to the frame thought the mounting. A screw allowed you
to adjust the shock very easily and quickly. As a practical mater this kind of device lasts about 5,000 miles then the insides must be replaced.
Ford cars were as good as GM’s bottom line cars, Chevrolet and Pontiac, but Ford had no competitors with the Olds, Buick or Cadillac lines. Chrysler
products, in the 1940s, were durable but the slowest cars of the major makers. I cannot recall the gas mileage of my car, but one reason may have been
the fact gas was 28 cents for regular (76-78 octane) and 30 cents for premium (80-82 octane). Curiously, that was about 1 gallon per 20 minutes of
work at minimum wage, about the same as today. Bulk engine oil was 15 cents a quart. Engine oil was changed every 1000 miles, and the cars usually
had about 12-18 lubricating points in the suspension and steering. It was usual to do the lube job every 1000 miles. Ahh, life in the fast lane!
[edit on 1/12/2007 by donwhite]