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Remember Driving the Big Buicks in Snow?


JZRIV
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When was last time anyone had to drive their big RWD car for daily transportation in snow belt regions?

In my early driving years in late 70s I had to drive the 67 Riviera or a 1970 Coupe Deville to work. Calling off work because of snow was not an option like it is for so many in today's society. Living in the sticks in SW PA with many hills it was a real challenge at times to make the 28 mile trip. Sometimes a little late but almost always made it. Going down hill was as exciting as going up. Braking required good skills as did accelerating. The cars seemed to like to do tail spins due to weight and braking distribution. I always carried a shovel, boots, warm hat, gloves and sand. Looking back I can't believe some of the snowy roads I negotiated with that front-heavy RWD open differential car. Surprising how few cars had limited slip differentials. Winter tires and weight in trunk only helped so much.

We have become so spoiled with FWD and AWD cars its easy to forget what a challenge it was. After a couple years I sold the Caddy, saved up and got a 4WD truck and used it during winter.

 

So a question for you older chaps? How did the 30s and 40s Buicks go in the snow?

Edited by JZRIV (see edit history)
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Me either! Still drive a two wheel drive Yukon XL!  When I was shopping for it here in Northern Indiana where we get bunches of lake effect snow, (usually well over 100 inches per winter) the young whipper snapper salesman said “You can’t drive around here in a two wheel drive because the snow is too bad. We can’t even order them at this dealership!”

 

My response, “Sonny, you just lost a sale” and I came home and got on the computer and found one at another dealer and picked it up the next day! Still going strong!

 

Like Ben, I’ve never had any problems! Just takes a little common sense and patience! I do understand there is not a lot of either around any more!

 

Also had 69 LeSabre, 73 Centurion, 78 Park Avenue and several older Buick’s while living in snow country! You just did what you had to do! Actually I don’t ever remember being stuck in the snow! Mud yes! In a 39 Buick coupe, but that’s a whole ‘nother Story!

 

Gary

Edited by g-g-g0 (see edit history)
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I used to drive a Buick Century to high school.  School was about 12 miles from the house. The main roads were usually cleared and it was only one mile to the nearest dirt road.  Driving in snow on top of dirt was never a problem.  I had a 66 Riviera with posi later when i moved to KC.  It sometimes presented problems but nothing I couldn't over come.  That was with radial M&S tires.  I bought a set of recapped snow tires and had them studded.  Nothing could stop me then.  Learning how to start in2nd gear in the old 50 Buick made starting on slick surfaces much easier too.

 

Later I had an El Camino with posi (talk about a light weight rear end! WOW fun and grins) Trying to back out of my driveway was always a challenge.  Both rear tires would spin and I'd slide sideways off the driveway.  I finally figured out how to set the parking brake with enough friction to keep the wheels from spinning. With a peg leg rear end, at least the non-spinning tire would keep our other car in a straight line going up the drive.

 

The biggest part of driving in snow is slow and easy and anticipate what the other guy is going to do.  

 

I've got a posi in the Roadmaster Wagon, but we haven't had the kind of weather in the last couple of winters for me to see how it will handle in real snow.

 

 

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I've only ever driven RWD and I had one 4x4 when I lived at the beach, never snow driven.    I will say my new truck with the driver controlled posi-traction is nice, but when I lived further north, I drove a rwd dodge ram and never missed work. I would shovel the truck out, putting as much as I could in the bed and go.  Now I have a different approach, loyalty is not as rewarded, so when it snows, I have a sled and a bottle of bourbon at home.  Whether I can drive in it or not, snow days are my rare, but guilty pleasure!

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Can't speak about anything older than a 65, but where I lived, a heavy car was considered an asset in the snow.  One thing I taught myself and my kids is to throw it in neutral when losing it, or just before coming to a stop.  It may not have been recommended for the transmission but I doubt it hurt anything.  It just doesn't work on ice. 

 

Once when I lived in Rochester NY, and was driving our 1987 Ford Van, I came to a traffic signal on the main road in town.  The tires locked up immediately on the black ice and there were cars waiting to enter the intersection at the light.  All I could do was blow the horn and flash the headlights while I slid through the intersection.  Luckily the folks waiting saw,  and did not move,  while I slid through.  It could have been a real disaster!

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I drive a 2WD Silverado with snow tires around Rochester. An old Buick with snow tires is pretty much the same configuration. They go through just about anything. I think around 1975 there was a snow emergency and they closed Rochester until midnight for snow removal. I was working the midnight shift in a power plant and drove the 20 miles to the City limit and waited in the Ackerman's parking lot until the City opened, in a '62 Invicta.

 

I bought my Wife an Infiniti QX4 10 or 11 years ago and replaced that with a Tahoe 4WD three winters ago, but she's a wimp. I like my 2WD truck- 5.3 conventional cab.

 

I'm sitting here just kind of shaking my head about the black ice. Can you imagine how  explicitly the President would have to enunciate if he warned someone about the black ice on the bridge?

Bernie

 

 

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)
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We maybe only get a big snow once every few years where I'm from. This year we had a white Christmas. I don't like my mother's Honda CRV, my sister had the Saab and the Jeep had a blown radiator. So naturally we took the 56 across two cities to transport a pregnant woman home. It was pretty fun, the only time I spun tires was when I did a U-turn in the snow and whipped up an empty parking lot after the package was dropped off. It was kind of nice, because everyone around me gave me a wide birth. They probably realised I would cut through their aluminum unibody like tin foil.

 

And then of course all the snow melted the next day, kind of like a freak weather condition with no preparation. 

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I drove in the 60's and 70's with in RWD cars and my father's F-100 pickup trucks in suburban Minneapolis area.  Cars were easier than the pickup but we always carried extra weight in the trunk or the truck bed in winter.  Also we had snow tires until I git tired of the roar usually in March, then after changing back to summer tires there would always be a few more snowfalls.  Ha ha!  After moving to north Texas my first FWD car was a Chevy Citation.  One morning we had a good ice storm and I put chains on the front wheels.  Wow!  I made my first left turn onto a city street and the rear end beat the front around the corner as I downshifted to slow down.  I had to totally relearn how to drive on snow and ice.  

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I apologize but my story is not Buick. My high school years were in the late '60's early '70's. We NEVER had snow days. Our high school was located on a steep hill. Students would stand outside and bet on whether a car could navigate the steep hill on the street next to the school. My 1962 Chevrolet  BelAir always made it to the top of the hill. I never mentioned the sand bags I kept over top the wheel wells in the trunk. As an an aside, no one bet against the Buicks that made the attempt. Zeke

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1 hour ago, CBloomberg said:

I drove in the 60's and 70's with in RWD cars and my father's F-100 pickup trucks in suburban Minneapolis area.  Cars were easier than the pickup but we always carried extra weight in the trunk or the truck bed in winter.  Also we had snow tires until I git tired of the roar usually in March, then after changing back to summer tires there would always be a few more snowfalls.  Ha ha!  After moving to north Texas my first FWD car was a Chevy Citation.  One morning we had a good ice storm and I put chains on the front wheels.  Wow!  I made my first left turn onto a city street and the rear end beat the front around the corner as I downshifted to slow down.  I had to totally relearn how to drive on snow and ice.  

Chuck mentions extra weight in the back.  Remember Newton's first law of motion?  An object at rest OR IN MOTION stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force.  Your vehicle is is acted upon by your brakes.  Unless your extra weight is fastened down there's no outside force to act on it.  If you rear end something, that extra weight continues to move until it is acted on by on outside force - like the back of your head. ? FASTEN IT TO THE VEHICHLE.

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I drove my 1958 Buick Limited the first winter and the second I had my drivers license in the early 70's. Yes the bias ply 8.25 15" tires could slip if one pushed the four barrel a bit but slow and easy as has been stated won the day (as I learned ;)).

 

Dad had a 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight and that 394 with four speed auto transmission needed to be tamed a bit so he went and bought oversized Snow Tires for her. (they were white walls no less :rolleyes:

We lived on a street with only 12 houses and were the last ones in our end of the City to be plowed out. Dad would always back the car in the driveway when he heard we were to get a sizable amount of snow so he could roll her down the slight grade we had and chew his way out to the main road. Once he had made that path, all the rest of the neighbourhood were able to get out too.

5a5eca11a3f8a_1959Olds98-Winterof1969934PointPeleeDrLeamington-Copy.thumb.jpg.3111cf7e3267ace0fc70548e86594bcd.jpg 

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2 hours ago, RivNut said:

Chuck mentions extra weight in the back.  Remember Newton's first law of motion?  An object at rest OR IN MOTION stays in motion until acted upon by an outside force.  Your vehicle is is acted upon by your brakes.  Unless your extra weight is fastened down there's no outside force to act on it.  If you rear end something, that extra weight continues to move until it is acted on by on outside force - like the back of your head. ? FASTEN IT TO THE VEHICHLE.

 

The stuff in the bed would be acted on by a static friction until that is overcome due to a change in acceleration. If you're going slow enough and you have, say sandbags that weigh a lot, it probably won't move at all. But you're right, they should most definitely be held down! 

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Grew up in a city (Paterson, NJ) where it was always a crap shoot as to when your street was going to get plowed. It wasn't necessarily on the same day that it snowed, which made it interesting. In those pre-snowblower days you had to shovel out your driveway and hope that you got out before the plow came through and doubled your workload. Worse yet if we had one of the cars parked on the street that you had to dig out. Of course if we got out before the streets were plowed the drive was pretty interesting in our '69 LeSabre or later '73 LeSabre, which were pretty terrible in the snow without chains. Then there was the adventure of getting back into your driveway if you got out before the plow came, but got home afterward.

 

We're certainly able to get around reasonably well and safely back then as we honed a different set of foul weather driving skills, but we have it so much easier today with front wheel drive and radial tires. We had to do all we could to get moving back then, and once we did we kept mindful of the fact that it was slippery precisely because of the trouble we had to get the wheels turning instead of slipping. That's the good news. The bad news is that modern FWD and 4WD vehicles now make it easy for those who lack honed skills and common sense to get enough traction to get up to speed where they can do some real damage.

Edited by Machine Gun
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11 hours ago, zeke01 said:

I apologize but my story is not Buick. My high school years were in the late '60's early '70's. We NEVER had snow days. Our high school was located on a steep hill. Students would stand outside and bet on whether a car could navigate the steep hill on the street next to the school. My 1962 Chevrolet  BelAir always made it to the top of the hill. I never mentioned the sand bags I kept over top the wheel wells in the trunk. As an an aside, no one bet against the Buicks that made the attempt. Zeke

Yes I recall similar hills that everyone talked about. Some were given names; one in particular was deadmans hill as it had a sharp curve in it. If you made it up one of these notorious hills first try on a bad snow day you were crowned as a bad a** driver for that day. Some hills you could not get much run for and whatever momentum you could get was your best friend. Always planning your strategy long before you got to it. Common that drivers would wait at bottom to make sure the car in front would make it up because if they didn't coming back down was never pretty and you did not want to be right behind them.

I recall driving miles around my direct route just to avoid certain hills especially those that had a stop sign or red light.

 

 

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20 hours ago, JZRIV said:

Calling off work because of snow was not an option like it is for so many in today's society. 

We have become so spoiled with FWD and AWD cars its easy to forget what a challenge it was. ...

 

I drove a 1973 Riviera as my regular car for a couple of years.

That was long after it was made, but before it became an antique.

Like others, I had no trouble:  Having grown up in snow country

(northwestern Penna.), one learns how to drive, and puts a

couple of sand bags in the back.

 

And I see no difference in "today's society" in terms of snow-driving ability.

We can have a foot of fresh snow, and stores and businesses remain open.

In snow country, there isn't the dread of snow that one sees in

occasional-snow regions.  The radio report simply states,

"Roads are snow-covered and slippery.  Excercise normal winter-driving caution."

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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I had a 1977 Buick Century I bought new and would park it in the winter in my grandfathers basement, He spent his winters in Florida. I would buy a "winter beater" and drive them. They were a 1962 LeSabre four door sedan, 1966 Chrysler four door and a 1969 Lemans four door. Three cars, three years. They all seemed to go anywhere at anytime especially when a little alcohol was added. I am much older now and drive a Chevy Avalanche and no alcohol is required or used.

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22 hours ago, JZRIV said:

So a question for you older chaps? How did the 30s and 40s Buicks go in the snow?

 

I can't say how the "older" Buicks did in the snow, but, being from Michigan we learned to drive in it and just did what we needed to do to get around. My first cars were a '67 Wildcat and a '69 Electra, both of them, with a set of snow tires, would go through a foot of snow without a problem, would almost look like a snow plow at times depending on the drifts. 

 

Yep, we would get 18-24" of snow overnight and still have school the next morning! Granted, there were those that learned to drive there and still couldn't, my sisters, but if you paid attention you could do OK. Of course you could have more FUN in a RWD car than FWD, you just had to find that empty parking lot to have it.

 

Here in NC though, and present time, if there is a hint of snow everything closes!

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Our 2009 Mini van does quite fine going forward (We live in flat land country) but trying to back up our driveway witch has a slight slope.... that's another story!

To ensure happiness at home I try to shovel it before the wife get here! :lol:

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8 hours ago, Machine Gun said:

Then there was the adventure of getting back into your driveway if you got out before the plow came, but got home afterward.

I don't have much experience driving in snow and the only time I needed chains was in a Volvo 240 when I was only able to get 3/4 of the way up a hill at Big Bear Lake before the car refused to go any further on an icy road (about a 200' rise over 1/4 mile or so) . Tried twice with about a 20 mph running start and then had to put chains on in the roadside snow after which had no trouble (BUT taking the chains off when going down the mountain with running melt run off was NOT fun - brrrr but was soaked on my backside).

 

Jim's remarks reminded me of an often time quoted story my dad used to tell. One morning he got up, in Cleveland, to overnight snowfall sufficient to keep him from getting the '39 Buick out of the driveway so he could go to work at the Acme Machine Co. So out came the shovel to clear the drive and then to work he went. Of course the snow plow came during the day so he had to shovel a pile of snow to clear the drive to get the car off the street for the night. When he came into the house he said "Mary, how would you like to move to California?" (where he was stationed briefly before shipping to Europe in WWII and met and married my mom who came to LA from Tulsa and was working at Lockheed deburring P-38 fighters) to which she replied "I'll pack the suitcases right now!" They moved in Spring of 1949 when I was two so I'm "almost" a CA native (where we keep most of our snow in mountains - a very civilized solution I think - although we have way too many people here - many because of our weather).

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27 minutes ago, Gene Brink said:

Jim's remarks reminded me of an often time quoted story my dad used to tell. One morning he got up, in Cleveland, to overnight snowfall sufficient to keep him from getting the '39 Buick out of the driveway so he could go to work at the Acme Machine Co. So out came the shovel to clear the drive and then to work he went. Of course the snow plow came during the day so he had to shovel a pile of snow to clear the drive to get the car off the street for the night. When he came into the house he said "Mary, how would you like to move to California?" (where he was stationed briefly before shipping to Europe in WWII and met and married my mom who came to LA from Tulsa and was working at Lockheed deburring P-38 fighters) to which she replied "I'll pack the suitcases right now!" They moved in Spring of 1949 when I was two so I'm "almost" a CA native (where we keep most of our snow in mountains - a very civilized solution I think - although we have way too many people here - many because of our weather).

 

Great story, kind of similar to my brother’s, well maybe a little.

 

Being from MI, WE were our fathers "snow blower", he always said he was going to strap a snow shovel to the roof of his car and drive south until someone asked him "what's that?" He ended up here in NC and I followed a couple years later, it is not like MI, and for the most part no snow to speak of, but this year has been a little different. Second time this year getting 6" or more, and another that wasn't quite as much. I know that isn't much for northerners, but a bit more than I have been used to over the last several years!

 

IMG_3723.thumb.JPG.c8d21ea07cccb1d097ccb5f7e644ec2b.JPG

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4 minutes ago, Rivman said:

WE were our fathers "snow blower", he always said he was going to strap a snow shovel to the roof of his car and drive south until someone asked him "what's that?"

 

I think that's really hilarious!  But this year you might have to go into Mexico to hear that!

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Here's a funny story.

A friend living and working in Florida drove up

to Pennsylvania to visit his parents for Christmas.

As he was heading north, and the dirty slush from the 

roads sprayed onto his car, his windshield washer

fluid kept freezing on his windshield.  It made driving

quite difficult.

 

He soon realized that he had, naturally, purchased

FLORIDA-grade windshield washer fluid.  The northern

variety has anti-freeze properties that keep it liquid in

the winter, down to at least -20 degrees.

 

He'd forgotten there was a difference.  He'd been in Florida

too long! 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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48 minutes ago, Rivman said:

 

Great story, kind of similar to my brother’s, well maybe a little.

 

Being from MI, WE were our fathers "snow blower", he always said he was going to strap a snow shovel to the roof of his car and drive south until someone asked him "what's that?" He ended up here in NC and I followed a couple years later, it is not like MI, and for the most part no snow to speak of, but this year has been a little different. Second time this year getting 6" or more, and another that wasn't quite as much. I know that isn't much for northerners, but a bit more than I have been used to over the last several years!

 

IMG_3723.thumb.JPG.c8d21ea07cccb1d097ccb5f7e644ec2b.JPG

Yup. Currently 9"in my yard in Durham

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Our original 1971 Buick Riviera was equipped with a non-slip differential  It was low to the ground (somewhat of a snow impediment) and I ran L78x15 tires on it, all-weather.  If the snow wasn't up to the bumper, that car would plow through any snow that Maryland could muster up.  It was like a tractor.  Only in 1979 was it logged down and that time the snow in beautiful downtown Glen Burnie (actually a suburb of Glen Burnie called Severn) was up to the top of the hood deep.  What a snow that was!  It took four days and a big stake truck to get we and the neighbors out of the neighborhood.  The street was deadend on one end with a connector road in the middle.  The guy with the stake truck would run into the snow, back up and all the neighbors shoveled out in front of it.  Then he would run hit the snow again, back up and the neighbors dig out again.  When he broke through I dug a little cubby hole out in front of "Big Red" and she plowed right over the edges of the cubby hole.  She was a h--- of a car for 165,000 miles and supplied a lot of her parts to her restored replacement, "JudyBad".  Of course my wife drove "Big Red" to work every day. She always felt safe.  "Big Red" had a brown vinyl top, otherwise "JudyBad" is an exact replica now.

 

71 Riviera at Tidewater Show.JPG

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January 1963, I escaped a one year incarceration in the great white north (Kincheloe AFB, MI...upper peninsula) and never looked back.  I was only there a few weeks in 1962 before I spun out into a snow bank at 5 mph.  Local law stopped and gave me a ticket:  $60..."driving too fast for conditions"!  (I found out later that the local law and locals in general despised out of state folks; father was in the Air Force and they called us "service trash").  After paying the ticket out of my own limited funds, our father took my brother and I (16 and 17) to a snow packed parking lot to practice recovering from skids... that was fun and saved me and the car in later situations.

This was during the Cuban missile crisis and the B-52's had to be flying constantly, so the runways took priority and the residential streets were last to be plowed.  Since there was NO EXCUSE for my father to be late for work, often the whole family got up at 3 am to shovel the driveway and some of the street to get a running start.  It was only a block to a main street with packed snow, but snow drifts between the houses sometime stopped the car...more digging.  When the plows did finally come they filled the driveway entrance with chunks of hard and heavy packed snow that was more difficult to flip over the 6 foot snow banks.  The family had 2 cars:  a 55 Special and 57 Ford wagon.  The shape of the Buick front bumper seemed to be better at attacking drifts, but the wagon was better balanced and did not need as much added weight in the rear.  The Buick always had about 200 lbs of bagged crushed stone the consistency of kitty litter in the trunk for weight and to throw under the snow tires for traction.  I don't know if it helped or was necessary, but to keep the rear from coming around when stopping I would put the car in reverse with the brakes locked and accelerate while braking... that was fun too!  The cars were outside and if temps were going to be below zero, the the batteries were removed and taken inside.  Some of you know how hard it is remove and replace a battery in a 55 and there were no handles back then; just  gloves and frozen fingers!  There was some snow every month of the year except July and August.  June 1962 we drove the wagon to an abbreviated last day of school and drove through some wet flurries...no big deal except the leaking heater core had been removed for repair, so the the windows had to be wiped with rags inside and scrapped outside.

Escaped  and never looked back!

 

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What great stories!! Well I drove the '64 Electra 4-door and the "56 Century 66R to school (both high school and community college) and don't remember ever having an issue, of course they both got the snow tires put on usually by me every fall!  The only issue I remember the parents having was when my Mom put the '71 Olds Custom Cruiser Wagon across the skinny part of the driveway after an ice storm, that was interesting and somehow we got it out and made it to church on time!

Then as I needed a car cause I had a job and then to college, the '76 Opel Isuzu acquired new in April of '77 and then up to the great white north of NY state, needed snow tires. Nobody had 13" the correct size so I ended up with A78-13 that we way too big, but only one ticket cause the speedo was off and got stuck in the parking lot snow pile and had to get pushed out, by a hockey player, who also needed his '71 LeSabre pushed out, which I helped him do and he promised me a beer downtown next time we saw each other which he did! LOL!

Fast forward moved to Flint, and sold the Opel, bought a '77 Century(should have kept it) traded it in on a '79 Skyhawk, 4-peed, V6, (POS), got stuck 6 times including in the parking lot at work, spun out on I-69 going home from work and traded it for payoffs for a '79 Chevy 4X4 with granny gear and never looked back, have had a 4x4 truck of some sorts ever since. But the '99 Riviera is the preferred daily driver no matter what! 

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Willie you did good to move to Texas, and Racer you shudda have moved to Texas or Florida.  As for me, I moved to Florida, no more snow tires or chains. I have a great snowtires AND chains story (that's right was using both) that is told in my book "The Smile that Lasted a Lifetime" on kindle.  Since the story was about two Plymouths, I won't tell it here.  Buy my book. :)

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I drove many years on bias snow tires when I was young.  They worked okay for me.  I guess all-season tires were better, but I never really noticed that much difference.  However, in the D.C. area we only got really big snow storms over 8 inches about one in three years or so.  Worse case was ice.  Nothing works on ice except perhaps chains.

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During the snowy winter of 1966-67 I was stationed at Fort Holabird in Baltimore and lived with three other lieutenants in a townhouse in a complex called The Colony in Towson, MD (12 o'clock on the Baltimore Beltway) and was the resident eccentric (a lifetime pursuit) because I drove a 1947 Desoto Suburban (8-passenger with roof rack, 139.5: wheelbase, "Happy Days" TV family car), which was known to my military friends as The Green Latrine.  This car had 3.36 gears with Fluid Drive and the clunk-o-matic semi-automatic transmission.  I put snow tires on the rear and in snow lowered the pressure to about 22 lbs.  Using high range (gears 3 & 4) and feathering the throttle, I was the ONLY car to be able to climb two blocks of perhaps 10% grade to our cross street at the top of the hill., having had to almost stop at the bottom due to the speed bump.  Coming DOWN the hill I used low range after ensuring that no cars were near the bottom intersection.

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I still run snow tires and not particularly fond of "all weather" tires, but then, I don't own a Swiss Army knife either.

 

I always preferred firestone Town & Country snow tires. And, if you live in real snow country, lowering the pressure only causes the center of the tread to cup in and you lose traction surface, another old wives tale passed on around the country store cracker barrel.

 

The T&C's were discontinued about 15 years ago. I shifted to Winterforce directional tires at that time and have been very happy with them. But this year my local tire supplier has changed. I recently put four Kelly Edge AT tires for my Wife's Tahoe and replaced the last two Winterforce on my truck with two more. L like them. And I just drive off the end of my driveway and make a loop around the back yard for a track to walk the dog in.

 

I have noticed that the farther south you go, the more questionable the stories about snow tires and many other car anecdotes get. I think I am noticing a pattern.

The-Twilight-Zone-Hocus-Pocus-and-Frisby

 

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