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Motor Check: 1924

Motor Check: 1924

Washington, D.C., 1924. "Havoline Oil Co." Participants in the "Wasson Motor Check" at the Texaco Station on the corner of Florida Avenue and 14th Street. National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Free Check

Prominent in some advertising was the fact that the Wasson Motor Check was free. While the test may have been free, the cost of the oil was not for the customer. You also needed to make two visits to the check station. The first visit was to have your oil changed and to make an initial test of your engine and record the results. Approximately 200 miles later, you needed to return and have the engine retested. The card below shows sample measurements after the second test.

Period documents state that the Wasson Test Stand was leased to the service station/garage. In addition to measuring gas leakage past the cylinders mentioned by "zumma" below, it also had a still for measuring oil dilution, and a flow meter for measuring gas consumption. A close-up of one of the gauges, which was made by the same company that made the MotoMeter radiator temperature gauges, is shown in the Shorpy photo is below.

More details of the Wasson Check Station can be found in a November 15, 1924 Petroleum Age article here, and the patent is here. At the same Petroleum Age link there is a short summary of how the whole system worked on page 55 of the August 15, 1924 issue, as well as more details if you search the issue for "Wasson."


"John R. Pendleton," the name on the tire cover, was only a Studebaker dealer for about two years. The cover is interesting because it appears to have been designed to fit a variety of tire sizes (note the extra snaps near the top). In addition to being a Studebaker dealer circa 1923 - 1924, he was a Nash dealer in 1926. Two of his advertisements from D.C. city directories are below.

Pendleton was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia in 1888 to Robert and Sophie [Rust] Pendleton. He was a chauffeur and machinist before becoming involved in automobile repair by 1914 until around 1917. His first stint at selling vehicles was with Standard Auto Service Company where he sold Federal Trucks as well as the Truxton truck attachment. This device converted a car into a truck by means of a replacement rear axle and frame extension (picture below).

Where he worked between his year or two of selling Federal Trucks and the time he began selling Studebaker's isn't clear. After he stopped selling Nash cars, he was employed by Studebaker Corporation of America in their D.C. office before he moved on to selling cars at Wallace Motor Company in 1929, which sold Nashes, in the District for a couple of years.

The 1930s saw him back in the auto repair business, operating a gas station, and a five year run as the superintendent of an apartment building which continued into the early 1940s. By 1942 he was working at a mortgage and real estate firm that belonged to his uncle Harry Lee Rust.

Eventually he and his wife Marie moved to Florida where she passed away in 1971. John Pendleton apparently moved back to the D.C. area, and he died at the age of 88 in Maryland in 1976.

Excellent, Lo-Tek motor condition check

They're checking the level of "blow-by" gasses. Modern cars (since 1965 in Calif) re-burn these fumes via the PCV system. In those days, a draft tube spewed them into the air.

Higher readings = worn piston rings and/ or valve seats.
additional symptoms: Heavy blue smoke & power loss.
Solution: Overhaul. much less expensive in those days.

With the inferior oils & metallurgy of the day, overhauls could come every 10,000 miles or so. These guys & their device could give you a pretty good idea how much longer your motor would last.


Figures could top 50 BHP back in this time. Why bother?


The fellow with the cigar could be cast as one of Nucky's Atlantic City henchmen.

Just Love It!

Nothing more to say.

Quiet Please!

Man sitting in window on the right to his wife: "It's hot, there's no AC, and with this window open all we hear is those motors running. We gotta move!"

Checking it out

The fellow with the cigar in his mouth is in charge of checking for gasoline leaks.

Dynamometer granddaddy

This must be the grandfather of all chassis dynamometers.

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