I didn’t become a licensed driver until Remembrance Day, 1955. The day after that, I started a job as a driver of a 1948 Ford F-48 panel truck. Sam Fogel of Flowerdale Florist on Toronto’s Vaughan Road was my very patient boss.
My interest in vehicles was sparked by a Ford Model A pickup truck that my brother Morris, ten years my senior, owned. In 1952 we attended the Model A meet in Dearborn, Michigan. The elderly vehicle barely made it back. What an adventure that was! However, I fell in love with that truck. I’m now driving my third pickup, a high mileage 2007 Mazda B3000.
Now that I’ve established my ‘creds’ as an automotive journalist, l’ll get on with this week’s topic, “What the 1950s Cars Had – and Didn’t Have”. Cars were really different from each other back then. I’ll start at the front and work my way to the back.
Front bumper was strong enough to push-start another vehicle. (Secure a carpet or door mat to the bumper to avoid scratching.) Front licence plate had to be changed every year. (It would take less than 12 months for rust to marry the nuts and bolts into one almost inseparable unit.) Bug screens were attached to the grille for the long drive to visit the relatives in Ethelbert, Manitoba. No running lights that turned on as soon as the engine is started. Sharply protruding hood ornaments that could impale a pedestrian. (Safety measures eventually mandated that they be reduced to being flush.) For better aerodynamics, windshields were slanted but still one-piece, or two-piece V’s for even better streamlining. Whitewall tires – often painted on. Wire curb-feelers to prevent scuffing of the whitewalls. Triangular wing windows to draw outside air in. Turn signalling was done by extending your arm outside after manually cranking down the driver’s window. (Nobody ever came up with a way to do an imitation of a four-way emergency flasher.) Foot-operated floor button to operate the high beam headlights. Clutch pedal to the left of the brake pedal to allow shifting of the manual transmission. (After having my left knee operation. I used a toilet plunger to depress the clutch pedal.) Tube radio that received AM stations. Three-foot high radio antenna. Cigarette lighter and ash tray. Bench seat to accommodate three up-front. No seat belts. There was no such thing as tinted glass for the comfort and privacy of the rear-seat occupants. Trunk contained a full-size spare tire on rim. (Not like the ‘emergency doughnuts’ that are provided these days.) Rear bumper was strong enough to have the car with the dead battery push-started by another vehicle. The gas cap was removed long enough to put a $5.00 fill-up into the almost empty tank. (A fill-up is done just as quickly these days, but…) Yes, the rear licence plate also had to be changed every year.
End of tour. If you were born before WW II, please tell me what I missed and any comment you can add.