Category: Automobiles

White-van Speaker Scam

That was weird! I stumbled upon something called the “White-van Speaker Scam” and knew immediately that I had fallen victim to a scam of sorts like this all the way back in 1984 or so.

I had a crappy ($400) car back then and a job making pizzas at a pizza parlor. I was hanging out in the parking lot when someone came by (in a van maybe?) and he had some car stereo speakers to sell — cheap! The price was something I could afford (I don’t remember what it was, but I would be surprised if they were more than $10 each since that would be about what I could swing back then). Somehow I had decided that for the price I could wire them into my car myself and they could only improve the sound quality (right?). So I bought a pair.

I did install them and I don’t think I noticed any real difference in sound quality. They worked though.

But I suppose in the back of my mind ever since I have been wondering — what just happened? Random speaker sale in a parking lot I guess. Okay.

So then I see this Wikipedia article:

White van speaker scam

…The speaker scam was common in the 1980s…

…To find suitable targets, the van operators set up their con in moderately-trafficked areas, such as parking lots…”

Wait, what? This was a thing?

For varying reasons they need to dispose of the speakers quickly and are willing to get rid of them at “well below retail” prices.

I guess I don’t feel too stupid. As I said, I’d be surprised if I paid more than $10 each — how much could the guy have been scamming me then?

So kids, I have learned to be highly suspect of anyone approaching me to sell something.

If you want a thing, seek it out. If a thing comes seeking you, just politely say, “Sorry, I’m broke.”

The Automobile Transmission

Especially with the popularity of cars with automatic transmissions, many drivers today may forget that there are complicated systems of gears that transmit power from the car’s engine to the car’s wheels. Drivers that can work a clutch and a stick shift are certainly aware of a cars gearing but may be clueless as to how it all goes together.

An educational film from 1936 shows how an automobile’s gearing is put together.

When the film begins, it describes the lever and its mechanical advantage. Soon however the subject turns to gears and the modern (for 1936) automotive transmission.

The gearbox they detail, which was standard at that time, is merely a three speed transmission (plus reverse) and yet it is already fairly complex. It boggles the mind what a modern seven speed gearbox must resemble.

I don’t believe it is the case any longer that public schools offer vocational classes. I remember in middle school (junior high) I took a wood shop class. I enjoyed that experience a great deal. They offered metal shop and automotive shop classes as well.

I imagine the following film might have been shown in an automotive class. It’s wonderful how it describes the problem and then the solution that differential gearing provides in a way most students can probably understand.

An educational look at how things work. More films like this, please.
(The actual education content begins about 1:55 into the film.)

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