Ever since I bought it, my Rambler Marlin has been disarmed. I’m not talking about the missing James Bond-style machine guns behind the turn signals or anything exciting like that, no, I am talking about its wiper arms.
To me, it was one of those strange things that happens to old cars. Some oddball part parts company with the rest of the car. Usually it’s something like a hood ornament or some other item that attracts attention and is easy to remove that goes MIA. Wipers arms? That was odd to my way of thinking. In a way it was kind of good though because at least it wasn’t some part specific to Rambler Marlins that is hard to find or terribly expensive since the cars themselves are pretty rare. On the other hand, wiper arms are a lot like porcupines…they are hard to convince to leave their lodge and they are a bundle of sharp bits that can cut you to ribbons if you press the issue.
I didn’t worry too much about the missing wipers since the car wasn’t going anyplace, ran or shine. Still, seeing those empty spindles at the base of the windshield never sat well with me so on one of my junkyard junkets, I decided to keep my eyes peeled for some replacements.
As it turns out, wiper arms are a very popular item with my fellow salvage yard scroungers. Nearly every car and truck doing time there had been relieved of their wiper arms, particularly the stainless steel variety that my car originally came with. The stainless arms are bright and shiny like the rest of the trim and it would be a fashion faux pas to mix stainless and dull aluminum…the other cars would tease.
Anyway, the junkyard was a bust so I kept the wiper arms on the “want list” and went about my business. A few months later, an original pair of Trico arms from a similar vintage Rambler turned up on Ebay for a very reasonable $25. It was right around the holidays so I treated the Marlin to a little gift. When they arrived, wrapped in a brown paper package just the way Julie Andrews likes them, I wasted little time cleaning them up and putting them on the car.
Trico was the original equipment supplier to Rambler when my car was built and was established as a company by a J.R. Oishei in Buffalo, NY in 1917 as the Tri-Continental Corporation. However, it was Mary Anderson who received a patent for an automatic windshield wiper in 1903. Ms. Anderson’s windshield wiper was lever operated and used a spring-loaded arm to sweep it across the glass. Later, windshield wipers gained motors to power them, some vacuum-powered like in my Marlin and other older cars, and electric motors for others.
Wiper technology moved forward right along with the cars they were on. Multi-speed wipers helped keep up with heavier rains and higher speeds. Windshield washers came along in the early 1930s. Robert Kearns developed intermittent wipers in 1963 here in the United States and John Amos in England. Both men received patents, Amos in 1966 and Kearns in 1967, for their intermittent wiper technology since Kearns’ system used solid-state circuitry while Amos’ was electromechanical. Rain sensing and speed sensitive wiper technologies are the newest thing to hit your windshield, except for that bug you nailed on the way to work this morning.
After I installed the wipers on the Marlin, I fired up the engine (vacuum wipers only work with the engine running) and pulled out the control knob. After taking a moment to think about it, the wipers climbed off their resting place at the bottom of the windshield and slid across the glass, back and fourth just like they were supposed to. They didn’t appear to be in any hurry, which indicates that the vacuum motor may be due for a rebuild.
And that’s fine with me. Since I have filled the big empty spot where the original wipers went missing, I’m in no hurry to mess with them either.