Friday, January 23, 2015

Coffee Brake: Road Sander

Time for our weekly episode of Coffee Brake, where the coffee tastes like asbestos and the brakes are short pressed.   Today, we hand the keys over to DT regular contributor K2 Mystery Car who sent us an idea, a few pictures, and words to go with it -- here it is:

(K2 Mystery Car) So this is one of my Holy Grails of Cardom, a real unicorn and I am a unicorn hunter...For years I've heard that Packard offered a rare option for an automated "sander" system controlled by the driver. When stuck in snow or on ice, drivers could dump sand in front (the attached photo is not of an exhaust!) of the rear tires via a switch. 

But I couldn't find any proof and resigned myself to the fact that it was just an urban legend. A while ago, I made an acquaintance online and we got to discussing rare options and it came up. They said it was real and they could prove it! Well, they were right and sent me actual pictures of the system. 

DT Editor-Vince:  A quick google search for Highway Safety Appliance Inc Sander and found the following: A 1949 Patent for said device, a vintage newspaper advertisement for the sander and a nice youtube video of the "Sander" in action. 

Imagine all the kids in the 1950s using the sander in summertime so they can do "burnouts" in their underpowered family sedans.  Got an idea for a Coffee Brake feature?  Send it here:


  1. I love the patent drawings and video you found!

  2. I'll see your automatic sander and raise you an automatic tire chain applier and holder
    And this is one you can buy now

  3. Those cars are the size of steam locomotives, so it only makes sense that they have the automotive equivalent of a sand dome. Very interesting.

  4. I found you, K2 Mystery Car!

  5. As a Minnesota man and a Packard fan I find this to be amazing!

  6. It's good enough for public transit!

  7. My invention in reverse...
    My high school car was a 1966 Fairlane station wagon 289. I could barely spin the tires even with brake torqueing.
    So I ran down to the salvage yard and bought a washer reservoir, pump and squirter nozzles. (You know where I am going with this...) I then installed the system to squirt water on the right rear tire (yeah just a one legger) with a push button switch on the dash. Man I could ever do an impressive burn out! That 289 would really get that right rear tire spinning and the dual exhaust sounded glorious. Everyone thought I had a fast car! Ha, ha, ha! Actually without using the burn out tool I actually did very well street racing because my opponent would typically be their spinning tires while my car immediately took off with just an "EERT" from the tires and I was off!

  8. We had something like this in a '56 Plymouth wagon. With the setup we had, though, pipes ran from a center "hopper" to holes near the top of the rear wheel wells. I was only about 3 or so at the time, so I don't remember how well it might have worked, although I don't think it got much use after a year or so! Wish I had a photo.

    1. Our driveway had a very short but very steep hill right as it joined the street. We always had sand in the back of our wagon or in the trunk of the car. We'd jump out, sprinkle sand in front of the car on the flat, then jump back in and take a run at the hill. This would have been a nicer (kid friendly) way to go.

      Where'd we get our sand you ask? The public works department had big green wooden containers at several intersections which were full of sand that anyone could load up for free. Many just put the sand in boxes/bags in their trunk and let the extra weight do the work. So, we relied on the socialism of free sand in MA during the Kennedy years. (the rally cry was 'give me sand, or give me a push!")

  9. My father had one installed on his early 50s Cadillac. As I remember it worked fairly well.

  10. Found this article doing a search for obscure car options. This is just amazing! I've never heard of such a thing. I wonder if any still function. Thanks!


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