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McCulloch/Paxton longevity and the fate of used Studebaker-Packards so equipped

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  • McCulloch/Paxton longevity and the fate of used Studebaker-Packards so equipped

    Over on the Packard forum, a member mentioned seeing two '57 Packards for sale, disappointed neither having the supercharger present. I replied with this:

    I wish I'd kept accurate count over the fifty years I've been looking at for-sale Studebaker-Packards which had been factory-equipped with superchargers. I'd say of the many used-unrestored supercharged cars I've looked at, nine of ten did not have the supercharger in place. Most times the blower was long gone. The other few times, it was in the trunk or on the shelf in the garage and went with the car - "can be rebuilt."

    When a '57-58 Studebaker Golden Hawk '57 Packard or '58 Packard Hawk is operating without the supercharger, it is slower than most. With only 7.5 compression ratio and 2bbl carburetor the engine will only produce at best 200hp when the McCulloch isn't there to make the boost that gave the 275hp rating. To confirm this, back in '61, looking to buy a used Stude C/K, I once raced and beat a blowerless '57 GH three times straight with a '55 259" 4bbl car. I liked the looks of that '57GH, but the '55 was a faster car for less money, so I bought it instead.

    Today at shows many restored cars arrive with the supercharger drive belt off and install it when no one is looking. Can't blame the owners for worrying about the longevity of the unit. Others have learned it costs a couple of MPG to pull the supercharger, about the same as an operating AC unit.

    Having a supercharged Stude is like dating some beautiful girls I knew back when. When she's in a good mood, everyone is looking at you as you cruise the drag and life is good. When she's in a bad mood, she'll spend your money, cause you unending grief and everyone says, "Serves him right." Back to that '57GH; I didn't buy it at the time because no one locally knew how to rebuild the McCulloch and the cost of a new supercharger exceed the value of the used car.

    What have been your experiences with McCulloch/Paxton Studebaker-Packards over the years?

    jack vines
    PackardV8

  • #2
    While I don't have any personal experience with the superchargers, I can go by what Andy Granatelli said in his book "They Call Me Mister 500". He said when he became owner of Paxton Products, he discovered the failure rate of superchargers was extremely high.

    After investigation, he discovered it wasn't a basic design issue why they weren't reliable...it was assembly line quality control. The planetary balls were all taken from a common hopper, regardless of what production batches they were from. That meant minor variations in dimensions were causing the high failure rates. Proper assembly and reliability demanded all the balls being identical dimensionally. What was happening was planetary balls of oh-so slight differences in diameter were mixed in the same supercharger and the larger balls were taking more of the load than they were designed for, thus causing early failure.

    Once this was discovered and proper quality control procedures instituted, the problem went away and the failure rate went way down.

    I'm guessing that the problems with the McCulloch and earlier Paxton blowers all derived from this and it affected the perception of poor reliability, even after the problem was identified and solved. I'm sure poor maintenance has ruined a bunch as well over the years, but once properly rebuilt and maintained they're quite trouble free designs.
    Poet...Mystic...Soldier of Fortune. As always...self-absorbed, adversarial, cocky and in general a malcontent.

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    • #3
      Neglecting to change the fluid on a regular basis also shortened the life span of many S/Cs. I think that many original/early owners thought that you just ran the unit and it didn't require frequent service.
      Gary L.
      Wappinger, NY

      SDC member since 1968
      Studebaker enthusiast much longer

      Comment


      • #4
        I had a Packard Hawk,the supercharger ratcheted while being turned due to flat spots on the planetary balls.I had it rebuilt by John Erb in Kansas City & it preformed well up until I sold it 9yrs later(mistake),It was F/S about a year ago & I noticed the belt was off the S/C.I havn't owned the car for 15yrs. so maybe it failed again

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        • #5
          While on the topic of these superchargers. What are they worth? The one I have in mind has been sitting a shelf for years. I am not sure that anything is there but the body of the supercharger. Brackets are doubtful.
          Last edited by JRoberts; 08-26-2010, 07:18 PM.
          Joe Roberts
          '61 R1 Champ
          '65 Cruiser
          Eastern North Carolina Chapter

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          • #6
            For what it's worth, a long time SDCer in our chapter, Don Eierman (now deceased) bought a '64 R-2 Avanti new. At over 140,000 miles the supercharger was still original. He removed the supercharger at regular intervals, turned it upside down and dumped all the oil, He refilled it upon re-installation.
            Paul Johnson, Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
            '64 Daytona Wagonaire, '64 Avanti R-1, Museum R-4 engine, '72 Gravely Model 430 with Onan engine

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            • #7
              Another problem with both superchargers and turbochargers is lubrication issues. With turbochargers, dino oil tends to coke if the engine shut down just after use of the turbo. Switching to expensive synthetic helps to avoid this, if the common sense isn't there. Superchargers, as I understand, can also have wear due to the oil supply shutting off. In both cases, idling for a minute or two with full oil pressure can avoid these issues, but who does that every single time? Or forgets, and comes onto it sometimes too soon after startup for everything to be warm and lubricated. If both cases, if there had been an electric oiling system to keep the oil flowing and cooling crucial parts after turning the key off (and once the physical dimensional issues were addressed) then failures might have been reduced.

              Another thing is the oil changes themselves, as Gary rightly points out. Never having had a supercharged Studebaker I'm not certain, but weren't there difficulties in changing the oil completely in the superchargers? i.e., you could add, but to remove the oil it wasn't as simple as draining an engine, but having to suck it out as with a turkey baster or something similar through the top-up hole?

              (I just noticed Paul's posting about Mr. Eierman's servicing of his supercharger. I know various Kaiser Manhattan people do this too, and keep their VS superchargers running just fine. Its not a simple and easy procedure though, compared to an engine oil change)
              Last edited by Jim B PEI; 08-24-2010, 01:43 PM. Reason: cleaning out the oil in the supercharger

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              • #8
                I've been told, and I'm certainly no authority, that for a Paxton or any other planetary ball design blower, that synthetic lubricating oil is not good for them. Allegedly the synthetic stuff is so thin and slick, the planetary balls don't rotate as they're designed, but skid around in place, creating hot spots on them that increase wear and hasten failure.

                FWIW, that's what I've been told.
                Poet...Mystic...Soldier of Fortune. As always...self-absorbed, adversarial, cocky and in general a malcontent.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hi

                  Every '57 Packard Clipper I've looked at for sale over the years had the supercharger off, most of the time missing. The one car I bought, rusty and parted out, had it's unit in the trunk. The previous owner told me lubrication problems were what did it in. He claimed the car was unbeatable at the stoplight when the supercharger worked but it didn't last long.

                  What a shame S-P didn't just put the same four-barrel 289 in the cars as they used in the President Classic. For most buyers, they could care less whether the horsepower rating was the same as '56. Better yet, sans supercharger, they could reduce the price by a couple hundred bucks, make the car more price attractive, perhaps match the $3,069 MSRP of the '56 Clipper Custom.

                  Although I have no proof, I suspect they might have sold a 1-2 thousand more Clippers at a lower price. As it stood the price differential between the '57 President Classic and the '57 Clipper Town Sedan was $673, a very steep jump for buyers of a car that everyone recognized was a restyled Studebaker and not all that basically different

                  Steve

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                  • #10
                    Or suppose in 1957 Stude had gotten in front of the performance market and put the supercharger on the 8.8 compression 4bbl engine - an easy 300 gross horsepower with premium fuel. Even better, suppose they had continued the Packard V8 and put the supercharger on that also. The 374" Caribbean 2x4bbls with a supercharger would have been a rocket ship. Since history shows relying on CASOs was a doomed strategy, better to go down with your best shot.

                    jack vines
                    PackardV8

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                    • #11
                      Very interesting subject. Puts me in mind of the air pumps on the 60s and 70s Camaros, etc. They would sieze at a young age; so we'd pull the three bolts from the pulley and pry out the plastic fan behind it. That would give you just enough clearance for a shorter belt. Put the new belt on and you're back on the road! When we had time we'd unbolt the pump and brackets, cut the plumbing off, and put plugs where they screwed into the exhaust manifolds; then throw the whole works on the scrap pile.

                      Nowadays that stuff is worth real money for those doing correct restorations of those cars
                      Proud NON-CASO

                      I do not prize the word "cheap." It is not a badge of honor...it is a symbol of despair. ~ William McKinley

                      If it is decreed that I should go down, then let me go down linked with the truth - let me die in the advocacy of what is just and right.- Lincoln

                      GOD BLESS AMERICA

                      Ephesians 6:10-17
                      Romans 15:13
                      Deuteronomy 31:6
                      Proverbs 28:1

                      Illegitimi non carborundum

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                      • #12
                        My rebuilt Avanti will be supercharged and will use a rebuild Paxton Sn-60 rebuilt by Jon Myer. Jon uses planetary balls from a supplier who makes them to NASA specifications +/- 0.0001" diamter varianence. He also can use a helical shaped vane versus straight vane if you want more boost. The original factory manual calls for Type A automatic transmission fluid. Jon Myer recommends using a good quality Type F which replaced type A. There are those on the forum who have tried synthetic oils and added a tbsp of STP or some variation of that for the extra viscosity needed to keep the plantenary balls spinning correctly. Again I will go with Jon Myer's recommendation and use Valvoline (my brand of choice) Type F and change it frequently like every 3000 miles. To do this dosen't require taking the Supercharge off the mounts and turning it upside down.

                        Here's an easy procedure for changing fluids ... (from Bob Johnstone's Studebaker-info.org page)

                        Fluid Change - Supercharger-
                        I've used the brake bleeder tool method for removing supercharger fluid
                        and it works well. I use the brake bleeder to cause a suction in the
                        sealed jar the old brake fluid is sucked into on brake jobs, with the
                        input tube to the jar fitted with a straight piece of 3/16" brake line
                        that slips into the supercharger filler hole.

                        Another and cheaper suction method I've used more frequently is to buy
                        a 60 cc plastic syringe from a medical supply house and fit it with a
                        rubber tube and the straight length of 3/16" steel brake line.
                        The brake line is inserted through the fluid fill hole and you create the
                        vacuum by drawing back on the syringe's plunger handle. Repeat three-four
                        times and all 8 to 10 ounces of old fluid are out.
                        sigpic
                        John
                        63R-2386
                        Resto-Mod by Michael Myer

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Gunslinger View Post
                          I've been told, and I'm certainly no authority, that for a Paxton or any other planetary ball design blower, that synthetic lubricating oil is not good for them. Allegedly the synthetic stuff is so thin and slick, the planetary balls don't rotate as they're designed, but skid around in place, creating hot spots on them that increase wear and hasten failure.

                          FWIW, that's what I've been told.
                          Makes sense then, that STP of the original sort was used as an additive (I think I have heard) in the Studebaker superchargers, due to its sticky film, for both remaining on surfaces and providing the right 'heft' or 'bite'. The synthetic I mentioned as being the "cure" for some turbo lubrication problems. Superchargers are a different beast.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jim B PEI View Post
                            Makes sense then, that STP of the original sort was used as an additive (I think I have heard) in the Studebaker superchargers, due to its sticky film, for both remaining on surfaces and providing the right 'heft' or 'bite'. The synthetic I mentioned as being the "cure" for some turbo lubrication problems. Superchargers are a different beast.
                            It's possible this might work and ..

                            http://www.royalpurple.com/racing-tr...ion-fluid.html

                            A e-mail to Royal Purple replied that it would be OK for a supercharger; however, I am going to stick with Type F as per Jon Myer's recommendation and change it everytime I change my engine oil.
                            sigpic
                            John
                            63R-2386
                            Resto-Mod by Michael Myer

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                            • #15
                              A propos of the 'easy' drain procedure, how difficult would it have been for McCullough/Paxton to design and tap a drain plug at the factory, with instructions to drain and refill with ... at every engine oil change? Okay, access might be tight, but other than that <g> By not putting one in, they were inviting people to not take it off regularly and drain it upside down <gg> Can you imagine in today's terms what the servicing cost at a dealer would be to do that? Would make Mercedes or BMW look like pikers. I distinctly remember the quoted GM shop Manual rate for removing and replacing the Powerglide transmission in my Corvair convertible so that the bands could be adjusted--2 shop DAYS!!!! (the inspection plate was not accessible officially unless you did things the right way, which involved disconnecting everything imaginable, and dropping the engine/transaxle--one day out, one day back--and 15/20 minutes to adjust the bands.) That led me to buy my first workshop manual at 17 and do it myself
                              Last edited by Jim B PEI; 08-25-2010, 04:44 AM.

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