Good-By to the “Wobble-Stick” (Dec, 1938)

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Good-By to the “Wobble-Stick”

By Julian Leggett

AMERICAN automobile manufacturers are agreed that the “wobble-stick” must go. As a result, the 1939 models are equipped with, or offer at small extra cost, handy little gear shifters located on the steering post to replace the long lever that stuck out of the floor in the driving compartment. Few times in automotive history-have the makers been in such accord. Perhaps other manufacturers took a tip from the favorable response which greeted the steering-post shifter introduced in 1938 by LaSalle, Cadillac and Pontiac, but more probably, they recognized it as the answer to two problems: first, how to clear the front compartment without using an expensive automatic transmission, and, second, how to eliminate noise conducted into the car by the old type lever, or wobble-stick.

This substitute for the gear lever has none of the complicated mechanisms of automatic transmission or clutch. That makes it easy for the owner, because he doesn’t have to learn how to drive all over again. It does the same job of changing gears and it does it in the same way, in conjunction with the clutch, as did the wobble-stick. From the maker’s standpoint, it is so inexpensive that in most cases it can be included without increasing the price of the automobile. However, on some cars, particularly those in the lowest price field, it can be offered only as optional equipment. Chevrolet presents the shift, with a vacuum booster that takes eighty per cent of the work out of gear changing, for ten dollars extra. Deluxe models of Plymouth, and all models of DeSoto, Dodge and Chrysler have the feature as standard equipment.

Pontiac found the shifter popular as an extra-cost item last year, so all new models have it, plus a booster spring that does half the work, as standard equipment. Packard joins the parade by introducing the Handi-shift. Buick turns from the optional automatic transmission of 1938 to the steering-post shift, standard on all models in 1939.

Use of the remote-control shift permits manufacturers to redesign the transmission, making it shorter without altering gear face widths or torque transmitting capacity. Of importance to the driver is the fact that some types of the shift may be adjusted to suit the reach of the individual.

The overdrive, which permits reduction in engine speed without losing car speed, seems to be gaining ground, although it continues as an optional feature in most cases. Packard introduces the Econo-drive, which automatically disengages at speeds under thirty miles per hour.

Chrysler and De Soto introduce a new transmission with the overdrive as optional equipment on all models except the Custom Imperial Chrysler, on which it is standard. The overdrive cuts in between twenty-three and twenty-eight miles per hour. A solenoid device, actuated by press-arm type Knee-Action embodied in a suspension system in which front and rear are scientifically balanced. There are double-acting end-to-end discharge hydraulic shock absorbers front and rear and a new ride stabilizer which prevents undue rolling and swaying on curves. Rear springs are thinner, with tapered ends, and their geometry is changed to give a smoother, softer ride.

In the LaSalle and Cadillac “61,” the engineers have created a new geometry in rear-spring suspension. A principal change comes in a re-location of the ends of the leaf springs, now mounted higher and inside the frame. The fundamental accomplishment is a control of axle weight that prevents periodic axle “hopping,” so annoying to passengers and driver. Through the use of rubber bushings at all points, the suspension requires no lubrication.

Packard, too, takes a step in the direction of rear-end suspension by presenting a fifth shock-absorber system, to stop crosswise shocks. The rear springs have rubber and special alloy inserts between the leaves to achieve easy, controlled spring resilience.

Among the engineering achievements for 1939 is Pontiac’s new ride system, in which Duflex rear springs give one passenger as easy a ride as six passengers and also reduce bouncing and pitching when the car is traveling over bumps. To the conventional leaf spring, and directly below it, has been added a second but shorter auxiliary or helper spring. For light loads the car rides almost entirely on the main or upper unit which affords comfortable motion. As the passenger load increases, this upper spring comes progressively more and more into contact with the helper spring, thus building up maximum resistance to deflection. Front and rear springs have nearly the same oscillation rate, which means that pitching and kick are reduced.

Of considerable importance to the driver is the general movement to increase his range of vision. In cars with Fisher bodies, higher windowpanes and windshields, narrower body pillars and smaller corner radii add twenty-seven per cent to the glass, or visibility, area. For example, the Buick has twenty-six per cent more glass area in the 1939 windshield than in that of last year. This trend marks the manufacturers’ effort to eliminate “blind spots” which have figured in many accidents. Frequently an automobile coming from one side or the other is momentarily obscured from the driver’s vision by a pillar on his own car. Chrysler and other makers offer similar wide-vision windshields.

New beauty has been built into the 1939 automobiles, but the makers have conend lines are characterized by a sweeping curve. The trunk has entirely disappeared from all Chryslers, in favor of a concealed luggage compartment, another trend in the industry. Studebaker and Nash offer new ideas of design, both with considerable appeal to the eye. The Graham retains its “Spirit of Motion” lines of 1938, giving the appearance of traveling at high speed even while it is motionless. Packard clings to its traditional styling.

Chrysler introduces a new safety speedometer, the indicator of which is illuminated when instrument lights are on. From a standstill to thirty miles per hour, the legal speed in most city driving, the light shows green. From thirty to fifty, it is amber and at fifty, it changes to a brilliant red. Thus the driver is constantly reminded of the speed at which he is traveling, and warned when he approaches a dangerous pace.

Constant-speed electric windshield wipers are another Chrysler feature. Entirely independent of engine action, the wipers are thus free of the vagaries of the vacuum type.

First to offer a direction signal as standard equipment is Buick. This device enables the driver to indicate to motorists in the rear that he is about to turn. The indicator lamp, located in the center of the luggage compartment door, is clearly visible from the rear at all angles. When the driver wishes to indicate a turn, he flips a switch mounted on the steering-post shift lever, without removing his hand from the wheel. This illuminates a modified arrow in the left or right end of the indicator lamp, depending upon the direction in which he expects to go. The lamp is the flashing type. Very close to the switch and visible through a small lens in the shift lever is a small green pilot light which flashes in unison with the flashing signal, when the switch is on.

Another feature is an inside lock which prevents sneak thieves from forcing open the front ventilator windows.

New efforts to make the interior of the automobile more comfortable are evident. Studebaker introduces a ventilating filtering and heating system. Positioned beneath the front floor pan, the unit draws outside air from above the running board at the left. This air is filtered, passed through the core of an efficient heater, and discharged beneath the front seat where suitable apertures distribute it between front and rear compartments to provide equal comfort to all occupants. In warm weather the hot-water supply can be shut off and the unit used to draw in fresh, cool, filtered air. Windows may be kept tightly closed, important during rain or dust storms.

Nash offers the “Weather Eye”—a device which automatically brings living-room comfort to automobile interiors during the cold months of the year. Brought in through the cowl ventilator, fresh, outside air enters the winter conditioning unit under its own pressure. Moisture is removed by “rain shedders” and the air is carried through the filter where it is cleaned of dust and soot, past the motor-driven fan, which can be used to maintain circulation when the car is moving slowly or standing still, through the heating element and into the car. A thermostat dial enables the driver to “tune in” the car comfort level desired, from “cold” through “medium” to “hot” or at intermediate points. Once the dial is set, the weather eye automatically keeps the car at this level.

A “sunshine” top, the roof panel of which slides back to provide vision upward and to let in the sun’s rays, is an optional feature on certain models of Buick, LaSalle and Cadillac. The sliding roof, operated from the inside, is drip and rainproof.

Hupp enters the market with two Junior models, fitted with bodies quite similar to those on the discontinued Cord.

With the Mercury “8,” Ford enters the medium-price field. The Mercury will have hydraulic brakes, an engine with more power than the Ford and other improvements. Use of hydraulic brakes on the Mercury is indicative of Ford’s swing away from the mechanical brake.

3 comments
  1. Stannous says: July 2, 20077:27 am

    Oh… I thought it was an ad for Vigra.

  2. Stannous says: July 2, 20077:33 am

    Love the food ads on pgs 4 & 7-
    Make money selling greaseless triangular donuts! (Um, wouldn’t that just be a cake with a hole?)

    Make quick cash manufacturing your own potato chips!
    Shops, groceries, taverns handle the retailing for you! (yeah, right…)

  3. Blurgle says: July 2, 20075:36 pm

    The story of the Brown Bobby is quite interesting. The corporation went out of business decades ago, but some of the machines are still around and you can find recipes online for them. Baking tips.

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