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  • Need a different transmission

    Hello Everyone!

    Work is proceeding on my 57 Hawk off-frame restoration. This car was manufactured with a flathead 185 engine and flightomatic auto transmission. Not the most efficient combination in the world. I would like to keep the flathead, but I need more high end for the interstate. I have considered about everything, including an S10 5 speed transmission. Also, the Stude overdrive transmission is an option, but I don't know much about it. I've talked briefly about it on the forum before. How does the critter work? I've driven alot of column shifts in the past, but none had an overdrive. How does it enter overdrive? Also, what kind of top end would this give me? With the automatic trans I could only do about 55 to 60 without feeling like I was over-reving the engine( I don't know what the rpms really were---no tach). I would like this car to be able to cruise at 65 mph. I think the engine will pull it at that speed after the modifications I am doing to the engine. Instead of 101 horsepower I plan on having about 125 hp--still no rocket ship, but better with reasonable fuel economy. I assume I would have to replace the steering column to switch to the overdrive trans? Still not sure what I will do but, no harm in picking your brains on this. Has anyone done the switch? By the way, I'm aware that some think I should throw the little six out the window and just put in a v8---still considering that as well. Right now i've got my hands full getting a rolling chasis up and ready for a new engine & trans. Thanks to all in advance------Dan ps How many overdrives are out there & about what should I expect to pay?

  • #2
    Hi, DWard,

    Go with the Borg-Warner overdrive. It is a bolt-in and your Champ will cruise at 65 MPH with no problem. I put 50kmi on a '56 Flight Hawk with a 4.56 rear gear and overdrive. It ran 70-75 if I pushed it. The ratio in overdrive was about 3.2

    Not sure what gear you have, but many Flightomatics came with a 3.31. This would be too high to pull an overdrive, as most of them came with 3.73, 4.10 or 4.27. With your built engine, any of these would work, but I'd probably go with a 3.90 or a 4.10.

    thnx, jv.

    PackardV8
    PackardV8

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    • #3
      Dan, post your general location, and maybe you can find somebody nearby who can take you for a spin in a car with functioning overdrive.

      Yes, to go from automatic to overdrive, or even straight 3-speed, you'd have to change the column, unless you were to go with a floor shift.

      Overdrive has two control functions: manual and automatic. The manual control is a cable worked by a dash handle, and it is really just a lockout - pull out the handle, and overdrive is disabled.

      Handle pushed in: overdrive is enabled. That means direct-drive gears are "free-wheeling"; there is a one-way clutch in the overdrive unit that lets the engine drive the car, but won't let the car drive the engine. The one-way clutch is needed to release torque on the driveline to permit the automatic OD shift to take place. (and it's the presence of the one-way clutch that makes the lockout control necessary, so you can have engine braking in direct drive in hilly country).

      Normally, with the OD handle pushed in, you accelerate through the gears, 1-2-3, and once you reach about 27-30 MPH in third, you momentarily release the gas pedal, and the OD automatically engages. You'll notice a SLIGHT degree of engine braking now, since the planetary gears bypass the one-way clutch. The transmission will now stay in overdrive until either the road speed drops well below the cut-in speed, or the accelerator is floored. Flooring the accelerator forces the overdrive to shift down to direct drive, where it will remain until the accelerator is released. This is entirely analogous to the passing gear in an automatic transmission; it's just that the shift is accomplished by electromagnetic widgets instead of hydraulic widgets.

      It might take you a few days to get used to using overdrive, but it will soon become second nature. It's nowhere near on the order of difficulty of learning to drive standard shift for the first time. Most of the overdrive's function occur automatically, and don't require any counter-intuitive action the driver's part.

      There should be lots of short-tail T96 overdrives out there. As a rough guess, I'd say $100 for a rebuildable core, and about $300 for a freshly rebuilt one. You need all the ancillary parts: lockout cable and brackets, kickdown switch and bracket, relay*, solenoid, governor, and wire harness. *You might not need a relay if you use the late-model 12 volt solenoid.

      Also consider that you will probably want to change the rear axle ratio in order to get the most out of your overdrive. A six cylinder with overdrive would be happiest with a 4.10 or 4.27 rear axle. The 3.73, which is probably what your Flightomatic runs, is a little too tall for overdrive. Overdrive lets you have your cake, and eat it , too, gear-wise. You can have those 4.27 gears for blazingly fast getaways off the line, and then kick in overdive on the highway, and cruise at an effective 2.88 ratio. Practically all modern cars, be they overdrive or automatic, now follow that formula.

      A six without overdrive is half-crippled, IMHO. Overdrive really makes those Champions come alive. Nice to have in a V8, too, but the six really needs the extra gears.

      Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands
      Gord Richmond, within Weasel range of the Alberta Badlands

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      • #4
        quote:Normally, with the OD handle pushed in, you accelerate through the gears, 1-2-3, and once you reach about 27-30 MPH in third, you momentarily release the gas pedal, and the OD automatically engages.
        You also don't need to be in third gear to slip in to overdrive. The threshold is determined by a governor on the overdrive unit; reach the speed necessary to engage OD and, even if you're in second gear, you can release the throttle and slip in to second over. Not sure what the strain would be on the 185. Entering an Interstate with the V-8 in second over is the cat's meow!

        If you manage to do the swap to a T96, you may want to try it first with the rear you have. Ohio isn't the hilliest state in the nation and, if it gives the performance you want, the rear you have will give you fuel mileage out the wazoo. If not, then change the rear.

        Brad Johnson
        Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
        '33 Rockne 10, '51 Commander Starlight, '53 Commander Starlight
        "All attempts to 'rise above the issue' are simply an excuse to avoid it profitably." --Dick Gregory

        Brad Johnson, SDC since 1975, ASC since 1990
        Pine Grove Mills, Pa.
        '33 Rockne 10,
        '51 Commander Starlight,
        '53 Commander Starlight "Désirée",
        '56 Sky Hawk

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        • #5
          I've discovered that in CITY driving, with stop lights galore, my best method is 1st gear, 2nd gear, then 2nd OD. This requires only one real shift, saves wear/tear on the clutch, and also allows me to stay in 2nd when approaching a light (it kicks down to non-OD as you slow down)... if it turns green before I stop, I'm already in 2nd (no OD) to take off again. 2nd OD is high enough for most in-town driving.

          Las Vegas, NV
          '51 Champion Business Coupe G899965 10G-Q4-1434

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          • #6
            If you're near New England, I have a pair of T96's that you can buy. Need to rebuild it (them).

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            • #7
              Paul, this might give someone the impression that below approx. 30 the trans. actually downshifts to direct second (with deceleration).

              What it actually does is just the opposite, it freewheels! Coasts with NO deceleration! However as stated upon acceleration again, it will have dropped out of Overdrive so you will have excellent direct second gear acceleration again until releasing the gas to shift back up to Overdrive again.

              quote:Originally posted by vegas paul

              This requires only one real shift, saves wear/tear on the clutch, and also allows me to stay in 2nd when approaching a light (it kicks down to non-OD as you slow down)... if it turns green before I stop, I'm already in 2nd (no OD) to take off again. 2nd OD is high enough for most in-town driving.
              Sounds like you are getting used to driving with your "new" overdrive, GREAT, it is the best!

              StudeRich
              Studebakers Northwest
              Ferndale, WA
              StudeRich
              Second Generation Stude Driver,
              Proud '54 Starliner Owner

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              • #8
                Thanks to everyone again----you guys are saving me!----Dan

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