Even in the automotive world, it sometimes seems that everything old is new again.
Case in point: Roger Graham recently wrote us about a tire pressure monitoring system. Big deal, you say, since manufacturers have been required to equip all new cars with TPMS since 2008.
Right you are, but get this: The system Graham wrote about was available in 1930 and it was manufactured right here in Wichita. The Simpson Manufacturing Co., located where Century II now stands, made a mechanical system that warned you if your tires were underinflated.
John Stone, who like Graham is an avid old car buff, had found a set of Simpson "Snappers" on eBay and bought them. The devices had to be attached to your tire rim and, if your air pressure was low, they would make a snapping sound each time the device came around, like those old clickers we drove our folks nuts with as kids.
Graham and Stone did some research and found out the Simpson Co. had given out sample kits to potential sales reps. The company said a salesman could make $300 to $1,000 a month selling the kits. The guys figure the snappers that occasionally show up online are probably samples from salesmen who didn’t make the grade.
So there’s one example. Another was the ingenious "hill holder clutch" that came as standard equipment on several manual-transmission Subarus we have owned over the years.
I used to get a charge out of describing how you could magically set the brake on an uphill grade by pushing in the clutch pedal while holding down the brake pedal. If you kept the clutch in, you could release the brake pedal, but the brakes would remain engaged until you let out the clutch, thus preventing the tricky phenomenon known as "roll back."
Those Subaru engineers sure came up with a good one, I thought. Then I learned that Studebaker had offered the same feature on its 1936 President model. Doh!
I find this stuff fascinating. So if you know of other examples of "new" gizmos being offered on cars that actually were available a long time ago, drop me a note at: firstname.lastname@example.org.