Do You Know What These Car Instruments Do?


Do You Know What These Car Instruments Do?

Sara Paulson, Associate Archivist


Edelmann Number 900 TV Freez-D-Tector

This vintage detector tool dates to about 1951, and was used to check the antifreeze in the cooling systems of motor vehicles. The instructions printed on the back detail the cooling-system capacities of the following cars by manufacture year: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Crosley, DeSoto, Dodge, Ford, Frazer, Henry J., Hudson, Kaiser, LaSalle, Lincoln, Mercury, Nash, Oldsmobile, Packard, Plymouth, Pontiac, Studebaker, Willys-Jeep. Four labels chart the appropriate amount of coolant to add to an empty radiator based on type, Methanol, Alcohol, Ethylene Glycol, or Super Alcohol. Mechanics could also use the charts to determine how much extra to add based on the desired temperature protection.

Some mid-century motorists only used an antifreeze in the winter months, and relied on water with an anti-rust additive during the summer. Alcohol-based solutions were also common, but because alcohol evaporates with use, mechanics were advised to check levels often in order to prevent overheating or freezing engines.  Ethylene Glycol was first introduced as an antifreeze in the mid 1920s, but its widespread use during the war effort led to increased use by motorists in the '50s. Thereafter, it dominated the antifreeze market for the remainder of the twentieth century.

This tool was manufactured by E. Edelmann & Company, an automotive products company founded in 1909 in Chicago, Illinois by Eric Edelmann.


Vintage Clamp, Ca. 1950


This fastening device resembles a traditional C clamp, with a crank in the place of the screw.


Turner Brass Works Blow Torch, No. 12

While modern blow torches are typically gas-fueled, early ones used liquid fuel such as gasoline or butane. This early twentieth-century torch is from the Turner Brass Works, a company that Edward S. Turner founded in Chicago, IL in 1871. After approximately four decades, which happened to include some of Chicago’s most turbulent industrial times, company President Charles Reckitt moved the headquarters approximately an hour west to Sycamore and added auto-parts manufacturing as a focus.

Contemporary advertisements dubbed this model, Hot Blast No. 12, the “Old Reliable” of gasoline torches. By the time this piece was manufactured, the Hot Blast design was already familiar to customers — Turner Brass Works acquired the patents from their Chicago rivals, White Manufacturing Company, while still headquartered in Chicago.

Our blow torch has been polished over the years, and as a result, the Hot Blast markings on the front of the can are barely legible. Alterations may have also been made to the valve wheel and pump.


Vintage Mechanic’s Stethoscope

This mechanic's stethoscope dates to approximately the 1960s, although it is not much different from its modern counterpart. Similar to the doctor’s tool, it is used to diagnose and pinpoint the source of a mechanical problem inside the engine, transmission or other car part.


Vintage Ignition System Synchronizer in Wooden Box

This 1933 tool is from McColpin-Christie Corporation, C & C Products, of Los Angeles. In-depth instructions are included on the lid of the wooden box, which explain how to use the tool on “modern ignition systems.”


Sun Motor Tester

This 1944 vintage master model motor Sun Motor Tester is designed to test engine compression, ignition, and carburation. It is a product of Sun Electric Corporation, manufacturers of Sun Scientific service equipment. The tester is mounted on a cart base that is adorned with vehicle product stickers that date to the '80s, '90s, and '00s. The Archive also has copies of the accompanying instruction manuals and service station reports.