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Porch Mechanic: 1941

Porch Mechanic: 1941

October 1941. "Radford, Virginia. Sunset Village, Farm Security Administration housing project. Fred B. Williams from Savannah, Georgia, cleaning car distributor on the porch of his home, 803 9th Street." Medium format nitrate negative by Marion Post Wolcott. View full size.


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I'll take a stab at it

He's not changing the points, he's filing them to remove the pits and burrs. Looks like he is holding the points open with the screwdriver and I believe his right hand is holding a points file. We all know that the job's not finished until the points are polished a little with a piece of crocus cloth or a match book.

Love the pedal car

It's tucked under the porch on the left-hand side.

Shadetree mechanic

I've heard the moniker "shadetree mechanic" is an amateur who works under a tree for shade, not in a stall or building. This "porch mechanic" looks uncomfortable, bending over to work on the distributor. We used to pull the distributor to replace the points and condenser, then clamp it to a Sun distributor machine and spin it up to and see if the points bounced. The points and condenser can be replaced with the distributor in the vehicle, but setting it up on a distributor machine was the professional way. I doubt this fellow had access to such a high tech piece of equipment back then, so he must be replacing the bushings or breaker plate which does require distributor removal and disassembly. Yet, he doesn't have the tools to take it apart. I'm stumped.

Autolite Distributor

Probably Mr. Williams has removed his distributor to make it easier to install new points and condenser. This was a tough job with the distributor still installed in the car on flathead six or eight cylinder engines with an Autolite distributor. His car might have been a Chrysler product, a Hudson or a car from a number of other independent car makers, all of which used Autolite electricals.

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