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heftylefty

"Showroom Stock" not always the best thing to do.

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There has been a lot of the usual discussion of the street rod vs. restoration thing of late. In general, I'm inclined to agree with the restorers, but to take a car back to factory is sometimes not a very good thing to do.

Most cars go to the junkyard with all their original bits intact. The engine, transmission, rear end, everything are all stock. In most cases today the head and the oil pan have never been off the engine. When I junked my Dodge Neon, it was 100 percent stock and all that ever had been replaced was the CV joints and one brake rotor. It was a perfectly good car structurally. The transmission finally gave out and its market value was less than it would cost to fix it. This is essentially unchanged today from fifty years ago except that back then most cars had a lot of rust damage that made them structurally questionable or impact damage.

A car that gets a different engine or transmission, custom bodywork, or is fitted with custom equipment when it is new or a late model with value, is statistically rare, maybe more so today than fifty years ago, but even then wasn't common. It usually has a story and that story is often interesting and sometimes historically important.

The best example I know of was, sometime in the late 1980s, a 1940 or 1941 Packard that was found in a garage outside Kansas City when its owner died. The car had been fitted with a four cylinder Cummins diesel engine, because diesel fuel wasn't rationed in the war, and the car was to be used to take the owner's wife to the doctor or hospital when necessary. The husband was a Navy Captain at the time and the wife had a serious respiratory ailment which was why the car was bought in the first place, it being the only air conditioned car available at that time. The installation was done with Cummins factory assistance, and was a beautifully engineered affair that involved several custom castings of aluminum such as a bellhousing and oil pan. Back then, that engine was more expensive than the car itself and today would be an interesting collectible in and of itself (yes, there are old diesel engine collectors).

The wife died sometime right after the war and the car went into the back of a shed, on blocks. The owner, who survived the war, remarried and that was the end of that, until the owner died and the offspring sold the estate.

The car was bought by a Restorer. And Restore it he did, just the way it came out of the Packard factory. The Cummins engine and all the castings were unceremoniously hauled to the scrap yard and kicked out of the back of the truck. The factory documents including a letter signed by Clessie Cummins were thrown out too.

What had been a unique piece of history was just another moderately common Packard.

I don't know where that car is today, but if it's now a Street Rod with an LS6 under the hood, a nine inch Ford rear end and the suspension lowered to an inch off the pavement, I'd enjoy seeing it.

Less dramatic examples include the Fordillacs and Studillacs built in the 50s, most of which were not "hot rods" but intended for people who wanted a faster, inconspicuous car, ham radio operators' cars fitted with Leece Neville alternators and high voltage three phase tapoffs, the Wilcap diesel conversions in the 70s and Ak Miller's turbo and propane installs.

Many dealers in the pre-EPA days offered modified cars to buyers, too. Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago was one of the more famous ones. Sure, you can rip all that stuff off, but you are making something that was distinct and sought after in its day into something ordinary and common.

We need to cultivate judgment and an appreciation of real history (as opposed to the current narrative) when dealing with these important and fascinating cars.

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I agree with you. I have always enjoyed a car modified with period equiptment, whatever type it is. And a car made as an original one or two or however many number of individualized constructions at the time of manufacture is really not replaceable. They are a special part of automotive history. I don't mind Hot Rods that are made of parts and frames of cars that are no longer restorable. I do hate to see old cars in good condition be stripped to make rods and I would call the Packard described above in this category even though it was not made as all the rest were at that time.

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I do hate to see old cars in good condition be stripped to make rods

It is something we all have to get used to, as the mostly older people who like stock prewar cars are either not buying any more, nor restoring any more. Then, if the cars are no longer desirable to "stock" "buyers", then either the car gets modernized or gets shoved back into poor storage if it does not sell.

I do a simple search for 1932 cars on ebay, using this search on cars/trucks: "1932 -ford". I am not really interested in looking at a hundred 32 fords, so I get results for every other make, by using the "minus ford". The search, once a week, gets only about SIX cars! I see some great cars, but in stock form, you can't really cope safely and peacefully with todays driving conditions...so they don't get good bids.

I have 2 1932 cars; one a stock engine Nash, and a Ford old style 50s rod. I hope I can find a place to drive the Nash in peace, but I doubt it. I will never rod the Nash, and likely will never sell it, so it may sit there as shop art.

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It is something we all have to get used to, as the mostly older people who like stock prewar cars are either not buying any more, nor restoring any more. Then, if the cars are no longer desirable to "stock" "buyers", then either the car gets modernized or gets shoved back into poor storage if it does not sell.

I have 2 1932 cars; one a stock engine Nash, and a Ford old style 50s rod. I hope I can find a place to drive the Nash in peace, but I doubt it. I will never rod the Nash, and likely will never sell it, so it may sit there as shop art.

A lot of old cars can be made to keep up with traffic today and still look stock or nearly so, without being a "rod". Whether the Nash falls in that category i don't know. I know that you can make a Model A/B Ford put out about eighty horsepower and still look dead nuts stock from the outside. The car will then do okay except on the turnpike where everyone goes ten over the limit.

But some old cars just aren't meant for the highway and should be kept for city or country use. Or do what a friend did with his Bebe Peugeot, put it in the living room.

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It is something we all have to get used to, as the mostly older people who like stock prewar cars are either not buying any more, nor restoring any more. Then, if the cars are no longer desirable to "stock" "buyers", then either the car gets modernized or gets shoved back into poor storage if it does not sell.

t.

I surely can't agree with this statement, there are lots of us "older people"' and a couple of younger people too, who are both buying and restoring stock early cars. Your generalization is broad and false, as are most such statements...

As far as drivability in modern traffic, stay on the back roads and enjoy the scenery, just rushing to get somewhere isn't the point of driving an old car. My 1931 Pierce Arrow can do 70 mph all day long, but I still prefer back roads for the enjoyment of driving a vintage car.....

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I have to agree with Trimacar. I recently sold my 1929 Model A Ford Phaeton. I have both shown the car up to Repeat Senior Grand National, as well as driven it on multiple tours. I sold it with intentions of replacing it with a 1930's car for extensive touring. I enjoy showing and judging, but touring is more fun. I don't need such a pristine "showcar" anymore, but the car that I buy for touring will be original or restored to original condition. I see no reason for modifications to a car to be able to drive it extensively. When I want to drive on the Interstate, I will drive a modern car.

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I have to agree with Trimacar. I recently sold my 1929 Model A Ford Phaeton. I have both shown the car up to Repeat Senior Grand National, as well as driven it on multiple tours. I sold it with intentions of replacing it with a 1930's car for extensive touring. I enjoy showing and judging, but touring is more fun. I don't need such a pristine "showcar" anymore, but the car that I buy for touring will be original or restored to original condition. I see no reason for modifications to a car to be able to drive it extensively. When I want to drive on the Interstate, I will drive a modern car.

Well, that's a defensible position, but if I had a Model A I guarantee I'd have hydraulic brakes at least and probably some period correct stuff along with an engine build to give me as much compression as reasonable and a full counterweighted crank. That said, my original point wasn't so much about altering an existing original car as undoing a modified one simply out of a sense that "original is best". Indeed, if I had a PERFECT really original (not restored) A I'd sell it at a premium to someone wanting such a car and get one that's not perfect because it wouldn't be perfect anymore after driving.

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Without trying to be be obnoxious, If properly restored Model A Ford mechanical brakes are reliable, and will skid all four tires, why would you feel a need to "upgrade" to less corrrect and no more reliable hydraulic brakes? I must admit that I get tired of hearing that you have to change to hydraulic brakes on a Model A Ford. If the car's brakes are worn out and neglected, fixing them correctly is just as good or probably better than changing to hydraulic brakes. The original Model A Ford design was a great design. It is a great car. Most people have more experience with worn out and abused Model A Fords and tend to use that as their reference point of what a Model A Ford is like. Try a good correctly restored one for a change.

.

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Well, that's a defensible position, but if I had a Model A I guarantee I'd have hydraulic brakes at least and probably some period correct stuff along with an engine build to give me as much compression as reasonable and a full counterweighted crank. That said, my original point wasn't so much about altering an existing original car as undoing a modified one simply out of a sense that "original is best". Indeed, if I had a PERFECT really original (not restored) A I'd sell it at a premium to someone wanting such a car and get one that's not perfect because it wouldn't be perfect anymore after driving.

Lefty, didn't you really mean to begin this thread on the HAMB web site? They love modified cars over there.

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I surely can't agree with this statement, there are lots of us "older people"' and a couple of younger people too, who are both buying and restoring stock early cars. Your generalization is broad and false, as are most such statements...

As far as drivability in modern traffic, stay on the back roads and enjoy the scenery, just rushing to get somewhere isn't the point of driving an old car. My 1931 Pierce Arrow can do 70 mph all day long, but I still prefer back roads for the enjoyment of driving a vintage car.....

I defend my statements. There are a few still buying, but it is very limited. My son says his generation "might" have a bit of interest in a 60s muscle car, but that it would need to be a Mustang or Camaro, because it is a brand still made in modern time that they can relate to. He says they have no idea what a GTO is :)

I look at what is going on in the marketplace over the last 40 years, and I see a day when the typical prewar "average brand" car won't be worth much at all. Not talking classics, just car brands that a typical person bought new.

As far as who wants what... I spotted the viewing stats on this site a few months ago...the TOP NUMBER ONE "brand specific" forum on AACA is the Buick Reatta forum. There's the proof. People want a modern driving car that has all the modern junk, is still fairly new, parts somewhat easier to get..etc etc. Then look at some of the other brand-forums that are only old cars...Just 2 or less people viewing...because...Nobody cares anymore. However, the prewar Dodge boys are putting in a good amount of posts, though.

In my area of CT, the Model A's are still holding their own as far as being driven, but real pricing has dropped drastically in 40 years. Back then, a excl quality resto 30-31 roadster w/sidemounts etc, was worth what a brand new LTD or Impala at the showroom. Not anymore.

As far as back roads in my area...they are also going to fast, tailgating, cell talking, try to pass, .... and the poor economy is not helping their demeanor...they are either rushing to get to a job they hate, or rushing home to a life they can't stand. The world has changed... Truth

Edited by F&J (see edit history)

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I have driven A Fords with mechanical and with hydraulic brakes. I agree that when perfectly adjusted the mechanicals work OK but they don't stay that way, constant adjustment is needed, and since the car can always be converted back I personally prefer hydraulics for consistency and safety in my opinion. I am not for making anyone convert theirs, I'm just saying that's what I'd do.

Henry Ford was a very smart guy in some ways and very stupid, to be blunt, in others. I won't get into his non-automotive opinions, but he had a famous aversion to hydraulic brakes, and to six cylinder engines because he got the crankshaft firing angles wrong on one of his early models. Mechanical brakes were not used on any other American make of car for many years, AFAIK, before Ford finally went hydraulic in, I believe, 1939 (someone correct me if I'm wrong.) That famous (and, having owned five of them personally, in most ways well designed) example of Henry's best pal over in Germany's hobby car for the masses, the Volkswagen, had mechanical brakes as originally designed too and this was changed out in the first few years of postwar production. Most of the early cars in Europe were converted to hydraulics too at some time in their life because if not constantly adjusted they were squirrely. I have never driven a mechanical brake VW, but those who have say it's a handful to adjust and it only stays that way for about twenty stops.

As for HAMB, yes, I read it, but those guys are beyond redemption:-) However, most of what they do is based on all repro stuff or on common enough cars no one cares.

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Chrysler had hydraulics in the mid 20's, as did Hupmobile and others....the technology was available, but for the size car mechanical brakes were fine, the engineers at Ford weren't stupid, and a million cars can't be wrong...

I too have driven a Model A that was correctly restored, and the brakes were great...

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We are certainly off the original topic... oh well..

the engineers at Ford weren't stupid
No, but they darn well knew they were under Henrys thumb. He died in 47, and the 49 models were finally on coil springs. Who would have imagined that the old Horse Buggy transverse springs would still be on any auto in 48? Only Henry.

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F&J,

While I would like to see more people on the Model A Forum here, there are too many alternatives out there. Fordbarn and some others are way more active than our Reatta Forum here. There are several reasons why the Reatta Forum is the most active one on this site, but that does not mean that it is the only collector car that people are interested in. I don't think that the prewar hobby future is nearly as limited as you seem to think. Feel free to point me to any of those low priced Model A Fords. I am in the market for a 1931 Fordoor or Town Sedan, preferably a Slant Windshield one, but will consider 1930 or early 1931 as well. The prices that I have seen have certainly not been less than they used to be.

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I don't think that you can ever accurately forecast trends in this hobby. I personally prefer cars from the 30's even though I was born in 1960. My kids also like cars that are much earlier than their years of birth. There are more young people out there that like those early cars than some people seem to think. Some of them grew up in the hobby, and some did not. Although lots of folks think that the Model T Fords and Model A Fords are all going to be for sale cheap because none of the "younger generation" will want them, I keep seeing young people driving Model T Fords and Model A Fords. I am sure that there are some regional differences, but the hobby is alive and well. AACA membership is growing and while it tends to be an older person's hobby due to a lot if different reasons, there are still young folks who will continue to collect, restore, and drive the early cars.

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F&J,

While I would like to see more people on the Model A Forum here, there are too many alternatives out there. Fordbarn and some others are way more active than our Reatta Forum here. There are several reasons why the Reatta Forum is the most active one on this site, but that does not mean that it is the only collector car that people are interested in. I don't think that the prewar hobby future is nearly as limited as you seem to think. Feel free to point me to any of those low priced Model A Fords. I am in the market for a 1931 Fordoor or Town Sedan, preferably a Slant Windshield one, but will consider 1930 or early 1931 as well. The prices that I have seen have certainly not been less than they used to be.

This ad says a great deal:

Ford : Other Roadster in Ford | eBay Motors

Notice it is all stock and all there, but did not come up when I searched "Model A Ford". It DID come up under "Street Rod" even though it isn't.

(I hope it's OK to post an auction link. If not let me know.)

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We are certainly off the original topic... oh well..

No, but they darn well knew they were under Henrys thumb. He died in 47, and the 49 models were finally on coil springs. Who would have imagined that the old Horse Buggy transverse springs would still be on any auto in 48? Only Henry.

Henry would never even have made the A if it had been wholly up to him. As I understand it he'd have made the T until he could sell no more and shut down the shop. Some of his ideas were good and some were not so good. Fords improved a lot after he died but GM took over the number one slot and kept it for sixty-plus years.

His reluctance to change made Atwater Kent and a dozen or more others millionaires in making improvements on an aftermarket basis. What worked great in 1909 was not so good in 1926. I'm not saying all Model T owners should have to put Atwater Kent distributors or Ruckstell axles on their T's, but most people understand that they are as much a part of history as the T itself and should be appreciated as such. My whole point was that this same continuity should be extended to historically correct vehicles that are different from how Henry made them in the same way. This is NOT like putting SBCs and Nova subframes on prewar cars, not in any way.

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heftylefty,

You apparently did not read what I indicated I was looking for. Wrong year, wrong body style, wrong condition...

Even though that car has a lot of stuff that is obviously not restored to original condition easily visible in the photos, it will be interesting to see how high it goes. If you want an idea of what is happening in the Model A market, look at completed auctions on Ebay. You will see a lot of folks paying high dollars for cars that are in lots of various conditions. There are lots of other sources of research besides Ebay that you can research as well.

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heftylefty,

You apparently did not read what I indicated I was looking for. Wrong year, wrong body style, wrong condition...

Even though that car has a lot of stuff that is obviously not restored to original condition easily visible in the photos, it will be interesting to see how high it goes. If you want an idea of what is happening in the Model A market, look at completed auctions on Ebay. You will see a lot of folks paying high dollars for cars that are in lots of various conditions. There are lots of other sources of research besides Ebay that you can research as well.

It was just an example. I knew it was not what you wanted, but shows that this car is apparently worth more in the mind of the SELLER as street rod tin than as a proper Model A. I hope it gets restored stock or mostly stock. A little more money would get the buyer a whole new steel bodyshell if he wants a rod and that way it's less work for him and the old car isn't wrecked. That said, I'm not going to buy it as I have enough cars.

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This subject gets talked to death for no reason. There's a simple bottom line to this whole issue:

Like women, the limitations of old cars are part and parcel of their very appeal. If you don't like the limitations, you don't like the car. The complete package, faults and all, are ultimately more challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding then a stand-in.

The world is full of moneyed guys with armloads of women they neither understand nor respect. They just like what they look like, or what they think the woman makes them look like. It's no different for cars.

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It was just an example. I knew it was not what you wanted, but shows that this car is apparently worth more in the mind of the SELLER as street rod tin than as a proper Model A. I hope it gets restored stock or mostly stock. A little more money would get the buyer a whole new steel bodyshell if he wants a rod and that way it's less work for him and the old car isn't wrecked. That said, I'm not going to buy it as I have enough cars.

I don't understand your logic posting that as a response to my post that you quoted. Also, it comes up just fine when I search for Model A Ford on Ebay searching "Title and Description". Looking at the ad, I can understand why it came up while you searched for "Street Rod", but the opinion of one seller on how to best list a project car on Ebay is not something that I am going to lose much sleep over.

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This subject gets talked to death for no reason. There's a simple bottom line to this whole issue:

Like women, the limitations of old cars are part and parcel of their very appeal. If you don't like the limitations, you don't like the car. The complete package, faults and all, are ultimately more challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding then a stand-in.

The world is full of moneyed guys with armloads of women they neither understand nor respect. They just like what they look like, or what they think the woman makes them look like. It's no different for cars.

To get back to the example I brought up in the original post, the car was a certain way already, with limitations and also good qualities. The purchaser did not like how it was and bought it anyway and proceeded to change it drastically (again) on the arbitrary presumption that it was supposed to be a different thing altogether.

In doing so he turned a unique and historically fascinating piece of artisanship into a much more common, generic item. Had he restored it as it was when it was put in the barn-which would not have been that tough, the car had no rust, there was no mouse damage or mold, etc, and the engine had been pickled with heavy oil-he would have had a car that would not have been eligible for show judging in the standard class but would have been a head-turner and would have gotten him a lot of positive attention if exhibited properly. In fact, it turned out later that the Cummins family would have bought the car had they been offered it for enough to buy a correctly restored stock one and then some.

The owner, who has since passed on, didn't care.

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I would like to know more about this "example". The story sounds sort of suspect to me. Cummins first engine was installed in a Packard. Your story sort of sounds like an urban legend based on that car. Assuming the story to be true, the owner did what he wanted, which seems to be what you are advocating in some of your other posts. He or she who pays the money for a car gets to decide what he or she wants to do with the car. As for me that would be to restore a car to its original condtion.

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I would like to know more about this "example". The story sounds sort of suspect to me. Cummins first engine was installed in a Packard. Your story sort of sounds like an urban legend based on that car. Assuming the story to be true, the owner did what he wanted, which seems to be what you are advocating in some of your other posts. He or she who pays the money for a car gets to decide what he or she wants to do with the car. As for me that would be to restore a car to its original condtion.

I don't think Cummins' first engine was installed in a Packard or any other car, as I recall it was a genset that went into a yacht. There were a few Cummins engines installed in both race and road going cars by Cummins themselves but by WWII they had given up on putting diesels in cars and stuck to the heavy trucks, except for a couple of Indy racers. One took the pole position in 1950 or 1951 and DNFed as I recall. You have to recall that a Cummins engine was the price of a whole luxury car in those days and then some, even the smaller ones. American manufacturers of diesel engines gave up on small diesels that could fit in a car because given the volume an imported Perkins or Mercedes engine was far cheaper even with the tariffs. The profit and volume was in truck engines, particularly for Cummins, which depended entirely for their sales a high level of performance and reliability because unlike Detroit Diesel, Mack, or Caterpillar they had no truck chassis or heavy equipment to sell their engines in at a combined profit.

I saw the car myself with the diesel engine and perused the paperwork. It was certainly a prewar Packard with air conditioning, and it was certainly a four cylinder Cummins engine equipped with what was called the "disc pump" as opposed to PT injection. I did not have the money nor a place to put the car and paid it no more attention until I met the seller about a year later, by which time the car was sold. The seller only knew who bought it, I contacted the guy and he told me what he did. As you say, he did what he wanted. He did tell me that he would have let me have the engine if he'd known anyone would have wanted that old piece of junk. It was long gone to the smelter by then.

I didn't take any pictures nor did I ask to get copies of any of the paperwork. I suppose you could contact Cummins to see if a copy of the Clessie Cummins letter to the original buyer is in their archives if you are really interested.

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Without trying to be be obnoxious, If properly restored Model A Ford mechanical brakes are reliable, and will skid all four tires, why would you feel a need to "upgrade" to less corrrect and no more reliable hydraulic brakes? I must admit that I get tired of hearing that you have to change to hydraulic brakes on a Model A Ford. If the car's brakes are worn out and neglected, fixing them correctly is just as good or probably better than changing to hydraulic brakes. The original Model A Ford design was a great design. It is a great car. Most people have more experience with worn out and abused Model A Fords and tend to use that as their reference point of what a Model A Ford is like. Try a good correctly restored one for a change.

.

And if you have a car that came with hydraulic brakes, they'll talk about upgrading them to discs.

I think the point is that somehow people are conditioned to think there must be a huge design flaw in older vehicles that needs to be fixed before they are "safe for modern traffic". Might be lack of power for one person. Fade prone drum brakes for another. Weird and strangely different front suspension for a third. And, another favorite, a modern rear end with a "better" ratio for high speed cruising.

Drove back from a show this last weekend. Drove out by back roads and highways but on the return trip, like a horse headed for the stable, took the freeways. About 870 miles which I split into two days driving with the speedometer (accurately) sitting at 60 MPH. On both days, first day at the hotel, second day at a restaurant, people recognized me as the driver of "the old car that was keeping up with traffic". Here is a list of my mods away from stock on this 1933 vehicle:

1. Electronic regulator for the generator.

2. Quartz-halogen headlight bulbs.

Not sure how other "low priced" cars of the era would do. But I know there are 80 year old cars that, if good mechanical condition, will run pretty well in modern traffic. It is a lot more fun, though, to wander through the back country at 35 to 45 MPH.

However all that is a diversion from the original topic which is how to deal with a vehicle that was modified when new or, at least, a long time ago. In the case of the Cummins equipped Packard I am inclined to agree with the original poster: That setup was unique and historically significant and I would like to see things like that preserved rather than returned to stock.

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