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You Wanna Put What Where...?

Posted on 4/6/17 with No comments

The plan was to put this 1929 Ford Model A into the lobby of the local theater to highlight my involvement in the movie LA Confidential.  The car belonged to a local customer who was more than excited to help out.

Here Is What The Car Looked Like In Place 

Those were the exact words of the local theatre manager in Manhattan Kansas when I asked him if I could put a life sized car in the lobby of his theater. The year was 1997 and I had worked on the antique vehicles in the upcoming movie release LA Confidential. All of the vintage police cars along with the 1950 Chevrolet that Danny DeVito drove all had my 6-volt alternators and cooling fans installed on them.  The original plan to to have a movie premier in Kansas City because that is where James Elroy lived who wrote the book the movie was based off of.

I had an alternator customer in the Kansas City area that had a 1940's Packard Limo and I had arranged to have him pick up James and deliver him to the premier. James got called out of town at the last minute so I had to come up with Plan B. I decided to put a full sized car in the movie theater closer to home in Manhattan Kansas and explain my part in the movie.

So after I explained to the theatre manager what I wanted to do he hesitated for a while then said..."we have never had a full sized car in our lobby before but it might be interesting...can you find one that will fit? I had an alternator customer in Manhattan Ks with a 1929 Ford Model Roadster that had the same alternator installed as I had used on the movie cars, and because the alternator fit on the left side of the engine it would make for an easy display.

The Doors And Door Hardware Had To Be Removed To Get The Car Inside The Theatre

I measured the doors of the theatre three different times and finally determined the only way the Model A would fit is if we took the doors off along with all of the hardware off of the door frames and then there would be only two inches to spare. It would be close.

Moving in day was on a Thursday during the afternoon matinee. With the doors and hardware off we carefully drove the Model A onto the sidewalk and aligned it up as best we could. Then we pushed it into the theatre by hand with barely an inch to spare on either side.

Not Much Room For Error...

One inside the car owner who was in his early 70's took advantage of an opportunity of a lifetime. He started his car and drove two laps around the snack bar and lobby before parking it in the display area! The grin on his face was a mile wide. He had clearly been waiting his whole life for an opportunity like this. The theater manager, the door repair guy, myself and about a dozen bystanders stood with our mouth open in amazement. Nobody saw that coming.

Two Laps Around The Snack Bar Ought To Do it...!

He Never Expected To Have His Car In the Lobby Of The Local Theater

I got the display setup in the lobby, while the doors got put back on the hinges, and the hinges back on the door frames, and all was good. The premier went off without a hitch. The theater manager and I took pictures of the display and I wrote a story that described my part in the movie. We sent that into the national theater trade magazine and the Manhattan Kansas theater won a marketing award for the best local promotion of a movie.

As for of the highlights of the movie was seeing those six police cars coming over the hill at night with the lights and siren blaring full blast.  I could not have asked for a better testimonial for my 6-volt alternators. They clearly did the job and put an end to dead batteries and dim headlights. I explained in my display that I invented a 6-volt alternator and that my alternator will fix the common problems of hard starting and dim headlights that are commonly associated with antique vehicles. When I explained that to the movie patrons before the movie, most had kind of a glazed look on their face and it was clear they had no idea what I was talking about.

After the movie it was a different story. When those same movie patrons saw my 6-volt alternators in action it was an "aahaw" moment and they finally connected the dots. Many of those same patrons stopped by after the movie to look at the Model A a little closer, and ask more questions, as they now understood what my alternator did. Mission accomplished!

A Real Life Sized Antique Car In A Movie Theatre Draws A Lot Of Attention

The locals had no idea I worked on cars for the movie studios. This being my fourth such project is was time to educate the locals and have a little fun. Hopefully by looking at these pictures you can understand what is was like to put a full sized antique car in a movie theater.

Taking The Doors And Hardware Off Again To Get The Car Out

Yes It's Close... Go Slow....!!

This Is What He Was Looking At...

We Made It...That Was Fun


Electric Radiator Cooling Fans...What You Need To Know

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When shopping for an electric radiator cooling fan, they may all look alike… with the only difference being the price. Are they really all the same…? Read on…

When shopping for an electric radiator cooling fan one of the first things you need to look at… is the pitch of the blades, and how many there are. As common sense would tell you the more blades the more air the fan will move. But that only works if the pitch of those blades is aggressive (or angled steeply) to move the air. But…the steeper the pitch and the more blades there are…the larger the motor will have to be to spin those blades. If a fan has a lot of blades but the pitch of those blades is flat… you will get the riverboat paddle wheel affect where the fan will make a lot of noise but not move much air, like a riverboat paddle wheel.


Which brings us to the fan motors. The majority of aftermarket electric radiator cooling fan motors are bushing motors. They are less expensive to manufacture will have slightly less horsepower and require more electricity from your charging system.

Ideally, an electric radiator-cooling fan should be built with a ball bearing motor. Ball bearing motors are much more efficient (less internal friction) so they develop more horsepower and require less electricity from your charging system. That means a fan can be built with more blades and those blades can have a more aggressive pitch to move more air, which is the purpose of installing an electric radiator-cooling fan in the first place.

Also be aware of CFM (cubic feet a minute) ratings of electric radiator cooling fans. Most of those ratings are established without the fan being attached to any radiator. But in the real world when you attach an electric radiator cooling fan to a radiator... the actual air flow you get on the output side of the radiator will be much less (sometimes as much as 50% less) depending on the radiator design, how close the fins are, how big the tubes are, and the thickness of the radiator.

A better judge of the quality of an electric radiator-cooling fan is the number of blades, and the aggressiveness or pitch of those fan blades. Also check to see if the motor is a ball bearing motor (which will provide a much longer service compared to a bushing motor) and will require less electricity from your charging system. This is especially important if your electrical system is 6-volts. If the motor is sealed and is water resistant that is also a plus, as radiators have been known to overflow and force coolant out the overflow. If your fan motor is not sealed the coolant will get inside and ruin the fan motor.

Lastly…the fan mounting is very important. Your fan should mount using metal brackets like these. Some fans use nylon wire ties that pass thru the radiator core. The weight of the fan and the vibration over time will eventually wear a hole in the radiator core.

All Fifth Avenue electric radiator, cooling fans, are built using sealed ball bearing motors, with ten blades and an have an aggressive pitch, and mount using adjustable metal brackets.

 They are available for both 6-volt and 12-volt applications, as “pusher” fans (that mount to the front side of the radiator, and as “puller” fans that mount to the engine side of the radiator.

Like most things… you get what you pay for and when it comes to shopping for an electric radiator-cooling fan buying a quality electric radiator-cooling fan will save you money in the long run.

You will find Fifth Avenue electric radiator cooling fans under the "Cooling" section of the "Parts" Menu


What Are Those Two Guys Doing In That Old Car...?

Posted on 3/17/17 with No comments

If you are entered in the Hemming's Great Race, you paid your entry fee back in January, and as I often tell my Great Race customers..."you are like the pig at are committed..." While that usually gets a good laugh it is meant to also make them stop and realize that time has a way of slipping away and they need to allow time to repair any last minute defects.

Just because their car ran fine last year when they parked it, does not mean it will run fine this year. That advice applies to all of us by the way. Most Great Race entrants will disassemble their car and check everything, replace any worn parts and pieces then have the car back together and running by no later than the first of March. Now they have a car in good shape mechanically, it is time to put some miles on and practice and find any defects like oil leaks, or coolant leaks. Then its practice, and practice some more.

You would not think that just replacing parts and adjusting things would change the personality and how the car drives and stops. But I am here to tell you it does. While it might not change much if you are just driving your antique vehicle for fun...if you are a Great Race entrant, seconds count so knowing the character of your car, and how it will react in different situations is a must.

That is why you will see the Great Race entrants both the driver and navigator out practicing with the car. They will practice on a lonely stretch of road accelerating to 10 mph, 15 mph, 20 mph, 25 mph, and so on up to 50 mph from a dead stop. They will do those same tests over and over until they get the same consistent time for each speed. They may have to practice a speed over a dozen times before they get a consistent time.

The same will happen for stopping. They will practice coming to a dead stop from 50 mph, 45 mph, 40 mph all the way down to 10 mph and like the acceleration practice they are looking for consistent times. They need to be able to stop and accelerate the exact same way each and every time. Then they will make a chart with the times they have established. That will become their "cheat sheet," and in most cases it will be slightly different from last year due to things like tire wear or replacement, anything that changes the diameter of a tire will affect the numbers for example.

The "cheat sheet" is a must have to Great Race entrants because in the directions the entrants receive every day they will have to figure a time correction to most all of the instructions they receive, based on their car and their "cheat sheet" numbers and their driving skills.

For example, an instruction will say maintain 30 mph to the next stop sign, wait eleven seconds then accelerate to 40 mph. No time is allowed to slow from 30 mph to a complete stop because every car is different. So the navigator will look at the "cheat sheet" they made, to determine how long it takes in seconds for their car to go from 30 mph to a complete stop, then how long it should take the vehicle to accelerate from a dead stop up to 40 mph. He will then deduct that amount of time from the eleven seconds shown in the instructions, and they will leave from the stop sign much sooner.

Because every car is different all of the wait times will be different. There is the difference between manual and hydraulic brakes, a difference between the model years of cars, and the types of brakes, how well they are adjusted,  the response time of the driver, and the weather conditions. It could be raining, the wind could be blowing 30 mph and could be either a headwind, a tailwind, or a side wind, all of which will affect the time on their "cheat sheet". The navigator will have to make a metal correction to the "cheat sheet" time based on these factors in order to stay on time.

This time of year is where I get especially busy and explains why I have not updated this blog. While the Great Race are out practicing they are also driving in the real world conditions that they will experience on the race. I work on the electrical cooling and fuel so if vapor lock is an issue I fix that. If overheating is an issue, I fix that. If dead batteries and dim headlights are an issue I fix that. Problems with the overdrive transmission, I fix that.

A car entered in the Great Race MUST be reliable so the driver and navigator can focus on the job at hand. The teams are not allowed any outside help during the day while they are on the clock. As you might imagine just keeping track of the navigation and the speed will keep two people busy without much free time to spare. Great Race entrants are scored down to the hundredth of a second.

If you are thinking that what I and learning during this practice time  and thru out the rest of the year working on Great Race vehicles would make your antique vehicle more reliable and fun to would be correct! The Great Race entrants will drive 2500 plus miles in about two weeks time, along with another 500-1000 practice miles before the race. For me that is like an accelerated course in Antique Vehicle 101.

I have been preparing Great Race cars every year since 1989 and it has taught me a lot about what works in theory and what works in real life. So when you order parts from Fifth Avenue chances are you will talk to me on the phone and because I manufacture most of the parts I sell I know first hand exactly how they work. I also know what you need to make your antique vehicle just as reliable as those entered in the Great Race. I install everything I manufacture onto a Great Race car first before I sell it to my regular customers. I know it what I build survives on a Great Race car, it will easily survive in the everyday world.

My job is the same today as it was 30 years ago when I make all types of antique vehicles more reliable and fun to drive., It doesn't matter if you are entering the Great Race or taking a tour with the local car club. Having a reliable car is just as important in either case. I work for the Great Race entrants, I work for the movie studios, and I even worked for the Queen of England...and I will work for you.


First Offered In 1940...Still Available 77 Years Later..And Still Made In The USA!

Posted on 1/23/17 with No comments

You are no doubt wondering what this antique hand soap dispenser has to do with an antique auto parts store...? Read on and you will wonder no more.

I have always been a detail guy and knew that the inside of my store would someday look just like those antique auto parts stores that were in business during the 1940's and 1950's. I have been in hundreds of older auto parts stores, car dealerships and repair garages in the past 40 plus years, so I knew the "look" I wanted.

I also knew it is the little things that matter, and one of the things I always saw in an older auto repair garage and car dealerships was some sort of hand cleaner dispenser. Most were made of sturdy cast aluminum and had clearly been mounted in the same location for years. Those hand cleaner dispensers had art deco styling which gave them character... and I knew if they were still on the wall after 20 plus years, they were built tuff.

I have tried to buy a few of those older style hand soap dispensers from garages and dealerships over the years with not much success. Most were still being used. I wanted one because it made little sense to me to have a store full of antique automotive advertising and related memorbilia... and then have a modern plastic hand cleaner dispenser. It was just one of the details that was important to me. I wanted to keep everything in the same era.

Eventually... I picked up an original 1940's "Whisk" Brand hand cleaner dispenser in an antique store, put it away for safe keeping, then forgot I had it. It has been in storage for more than twenty years. Recently, while cleaning out a corner of the warehouse there it was, hidden in a cardboard box. The one good thing about the modern Internet is that it makes it easier to look up the history of things, something that was more difficult to do twenty years ago.

So I looked up my Whisk brand hand cleaner dispenser on the Internet and found out much to my surprise, that the Whisk company is still in business in 2017, and is still headquartered in Wentzville Mo. So I immediately sent them pictures of my dispenser via email. A day later I got an email back with a phone number to call customer service at my earliest convenience.

Seems the pictures of my early Whisk hand soap dispenser caused quite a stir at the company. One employee had worked for the company for 35 years  knew a little of the history. Between that and old company records we determined that my hand soap dispenser was designed in 1940 and was patented in 1949, the delay in the patenting was caused by the war. Because mine was cast aluminum with the "pat pending" on the lid, dates it to pre 1949.

Now we are getting somewhere. So my next question was..."do you have any of the leftover refills for my dispenser or anyway I can fill it and use it...?"

More good news....They STILL make a refill for my dispenser (the originals were a metal can, today they are cardboard)...AND...they still make that same 1940's design dispenser, (like mine) with a few very minor changes, and it is still made in Missouri along with the hand cleaner!

So I had to ask the 2017 cost of both, and then what a distributorship cost to sell their products, specifically that 1940's design hand soap dispenser and the refills...? A deal was struck... and that is how I got into the hand cleaner and dispenser business. So... if you want to hang up a real 1940's art deco design hand cleaner dispenser in you garage or shop instead of the cheap looking modern plastic dispenser give me a call.

I now have the original 1940's Whisk hand cleaner dispenser for sale (as shown in the picture) $54.00 along with the 32 oz refill for $15.00. Adjusted for inflation that makes them slightly less than they cost in 1949 dollars. A best guess estimate from company records is that my original dispenser would have sold for $6.50 in 1949 dollars which is equal to $65.21 in 2016 dollars.

Oh..and the best part is the hand cleaner is the same formula from the early days (it works well) and is waterless so all you need to dry your hands is a shop towel. No water required.

Sometimes...the surprises in life are good!

Here is a side by side comparison of the 1949 Dispenser compared to the 2017 dispenser. Not much has changes in 77 years, which is a good thing!

Here is a comparison of my 1948 Dispenser beside the 2017 edition.

If you go to the "Parts" section of the website you can buy this setup today !

Here is an early Whisk brochure advertising the early PD-2 Dispenser. 

Wouldn't it be cool to find one of these...?

From a humble beginning...

Customer list has a few well known names...


Borg Warner R-10 and R-11 Overdrives Part Two

Posted on 1/11/17 with No comments

In part one of this series I covered the top ten things you need to know if you have a B-W overdrive transmission in your antique vehicle. If you missed part one it is still available you can look for it in the Garage Tech index. Meanwhile with the basics covered this article is a little more in depth and covers some of the operation, troubleshooting and maintenance of the B-W overdrive transmission. So pay attention here and you are guaranteed to learn something.

Driving a B-W overdrive vehicle starts off with the cable pushed in and the vehicle pulling away in first gear as normal. As the vehicle accelerates the driver shifts into second gear.

At approximately 28 mph (BTW - nobody knows why 28 mph and not 25 or 30 mph) a click will be heard from under the hood (which is the activation of the relay on the firewall by the governor) the driver then backs off on the gas briefly, and the transmission automatically shifts into overdrive. The shift is smooth and feels exactly like a shift from an automatic transmission.

The driver must release the accelerator completely so the overdrive transmission does not have to engage under engine load. In an automatic transmission a shift will occur (eventually) even if the throttle is held open. For mechanical design reasons in a B-W overdrive set up, the driver MUST let off the throttle completely to allow the shift to happen.

With the vehicle in second gear overdrive, the overall ratio is not quite as high as third, but higher than second. This is a perfect ratio for in town use. Between stoplights you don’t need to shift into third. However, if you continue accelerating and shift into third (from 2nd overdrive) and you will then be in third gear overdrive, the perfect ratio for the highway.

A common question is… “Can I use overdrive first gear?” The answer is maybe, but you would have to exceed and maintain 28 mph or higher for the overdrive to engage and stay engaged. 28 mph is pretty fast for first gear so 1st gear overdrive is rarely achieved. This means that while a B-W overdrive transmission has sometimes been called a six-speed, it technically provides only five usable forward ratios.

While you are in overdrive if you back off the gas you will feel engine braking in both second and third gear. Because the transmission is still in overdrive, the engine braking is not as strong as if the transmission were in 2nd or 3rd direct drive but the transmission does not coast. If the transmission does coast, the overdrive transmission is not operating properly.

Third gear overdrive is great for gliding along at highway speeds but it can lack power for passing or hill climbing. To get the transmission out of overdrive, push the gas pedal to the floor. The engine will rev up and the pedal will engage the kick down switch, the ignition will be grounded out for about two engine revolutions, (so the overdrive transmission does not have to shift under engine load) and the overdrive will disengage and the transmission will be back into direct drive. This shift feels exactly like the kick down of an automatic transmission. Complete your pass or top the hill in direct drive...then let off the gas completely for a moment, and the transmission will shift back into overdrive.

If you begin slowing down and shift from third overdrive to second overdrive, then slow down further as if approaching a stop light, as soon as the speed falls below 28 mph the power to the overdrive will be cut and the transmission will shift back into direct drive.

This automatic loss of overdrive is a designed in safety feature because you must start out from a complete stop only in direct drive. To try to start out from a standing start in overdrive, you will crush all of the needle bearings inside of the sun gear. That would cost you dearly!

Some owners have rewired their overdrive to by-pass the governor by adding a manual switch to turn the system on & off. If you do this remember…it is very easy to forget and attempt to take off from a stop in first gear overdrive. I have had customers remember for two or three years only to forget… and hear the crunching sound followed by a loud pop! They of course know immediately what that sound is… but by then it’s too late!

Meanwhile… as you slow down below 28 mph, you are automatically put back into second gear direct drive. However, because the sun gear is no longer being held (transmission no longer in overdrive) the transmission will freewheel. This event can be very surprising to someone who is not familiar with the operation of an overdrive transmission as suddenly there is NO engine braking! Since this occurs only below 28 mph there should not be much need for engine braking and using the normal brake pedal to stop the vehicle should work just fine.

But this is also where another novel aspect driving with a B-W overdrive transmission becomes apparent. All B-W overdrive transmissions (in all years of manufacture) used a non-synchronized first gear. They never built a B-W overdrive transmission with a synchronized first gear.

By the 1960s full syncro transmissions were fully available, so why didn’t they make a fully synchronized overdrive transmission? Turns out a B-W overdrive transmission doesn’t need to be synchronized! Drive in second gear overdrive, slow down below 28 mph, and the trans falls out of overdrive and into freewheel mode. Step on the clutch and pull the shift lever into first and you will find it slips into first gear as easily as if it were synchronized, even if you are rolling.

This ‘synchro effect’ happens because the free- wheeling clutch prevents power from being transmitted from the driveshaft into the transmission. Push in the clutch, and there are no forces on the gears. When you pull the shift lever into first gear it slips in easily. The most clashing you get when shifting into first gear at a rolling speed, is a slight “ratcheting” of the gear teeth that you would expect if you were shifting from neutral into the low granny gear of a truck 4 speed or the reverse gear in any transmission.

The freewheeling feature also makes clutchless shifting possible. Start in first, pull away and then WITHOUT depressing the clutch pedal, back off the gas and shift into second as easily as if you had pushed the clutch!

If you shift into third gear before 28 mph (and engaging the overdrive) again there is no need to depress the clutch pedal to make the shift.

If you have allowed the transmission to engage the overdrive in second (backing off the gas) then depressing the clutch is necessary to shift from 2nd to 3rd. These operational features are what made the B-W overdrive transmission very desirable in the days before fully automatic transmissions. No clashing shifts into first; No clutch necessary to shift into second; Automatic shift into second OD around town.

Parking and Pushing

Pulling out the overdrive cable on the dash operates a lever on the side of the transmission that mechanically locks the sun gear to the planetary gears. The cable should only be pulled out while the vehicle is stopped.

When the overdrive cable is pushed in then the transmission freewheels. This happens as long as the vehicle is below 28 MPH (or the system has no electrical power) the overdrive will not engage.

This means that to push start an overdrive equipped vehicle, the cable needs to be pulled out (to lock the transmission out of overdrive) so the transmission will send power to the engine when the clutch is released.

Parking is the other situation that pulling out the OD cable is necessary. If you park pointing downhill and put the shifter into first, second or third without pulling out the cable, the vehicle will freewheel and roll away. To overcome this you can either pull the overdrive cable out or place the shifter into reverse.


In order for the B-W overdrive transmission to back up, the freewheeling clutch MUST be locked out.

There is a shaft/rod built into the overdrive transmission that automatically accomplishes this whenever the transmission is put into reverse. So to park safely (set the brake) and then either pull out the OD cable OR place the shifter into reverse. This locks up the driveline and prevents all rolling.

How The Overdrive Transmission Affects Rear-end Ratios…

All B-W overdrive transmissions function at a 0.7 overdrive ratio. Since all standard transmissions use a 1:1 ratio in high gear, to find out your final drive ratio in overdrive, simply multiply the rear end ratio by 0.7. For example…a 4.11 gear set becomes 2.87. A 3.70 gear set becomes 2.59. A 4.56 gear set becomes a 3.19 ratio.

An overdrive transmission can also compensate for small diameter wheels & tires. Smaller wheels & tires spin an engine faster. 16” wheels turn the driveline slower than 15”, which spin the driveline slower than 14” (as the wheels/tires get bigger they carry more weight and lower the engine speed but they also reduce the available power.

All things are a compromise) All these factors need to be considered when outfitting a vehicle with a B-W overdrive transmission. If you use a rear axle ratio that is too high (numerically low) and/or couple it with wheels/tires that are too big in diameter a vehicle can actually slow down or use more fuel when it is operating in overdrive


The Borg-Warner overdrive transmission (R-10 and R-11) combines both mechanical and electrical components. The mechanical components are very well built and proven reliable and as long as the transmission and the overdrive unit are kept filled with gear oil (see maintenance below) with most of the problems being electrical, which are very easy to trouble shoot.

Take an overdrive vehicle out for a test drive with the overdrive cable pushed in, if the overdrive transmission freewheels above 28 mph (and you don’t feel the automatic shift) the trans is OK but there is an electrical problem.

The overdrive transmission electrical system is protected by just one fuse clipped to the relay on the firewall. This fuse gets power whenever the key is turned on (four post relay). Begin your diagnosis by checking for power at both sides of this fuse. 

Because the relay is under the hood, the fuse and it’s mounting clips easily become corroded due to the environment that they live in. Remove the fuse, and clean all the contacts thoroughly and check for voltage. If there is no battery voltage present, trace the wire back to the key switch to find the break in the wire.

If you have good power on both sides of the fuse at the overdrive relay, the next check is made under the vehicle. At the back of the transmission is the governor. This is a cylinder shaped device that is driven by the speedometer gear with ONE wire coming out of it. Inside the governor are weights that spin with the driveshaft. When they reach the magic speed of 28 mph, the wire going into the governor is grounded which engages the overdrive.

For some reason the governor wire coming off the governor was always made using the old cotton cloth insulated wire from the 1930s. This wire always seems to have a frayed spot along the insulated coating. It is also a good idea to remove the lid on top of the governor and check the points inside to make sure they are not stuck together or coated with oil caused by transmission oil leaking into the governor from the transmission (bad seal)

With the ignition key turned on, jump the governor wire to ground. You should then hear a click from the relay on the firewall. That means the signal from the governor is reaching the relay on the firewall.

Power comes from the fuse through the relay, which is then activated whenever it is grounded. Power from the relay to the governor does pass through the kick down switch. If there is no relay click when grounding the governor, check for battery voltage at the battery wire and trace it back to the kick down switch and then back to the relay to find the open circuit.

If you have battery voltage at the governor and you hear a relay click when you ground the governor, then the relay should be sending power down to the solenoid. As soon as the solenoid gets power, it too should click. If the solenoid does not click, check to see that it is receiving full battery voltage from the relay. A faulty relay can sometimes reduce the amount of battery current delivered to the solenoid so check to make sure the solenoid has full battery voltage at the number (4) terminal.

Which Solenoid Terminal Is Which…?

There are two wiring terminals on the overdrive solenoid. The number (4) terminal on the solenoid gets its power from the relay, and activates the solenoid plunger shaft. With the solenoid shaft pointing away from you (just like it is in the car) and the two solenoid terminals on top of the solenoid at the 11:00 and 1:00 positions…the RH terminal is always the number (4) terminal.

You can apply battery voltage directly to the number (4) terminal using a car battery or a 10 amp battery charger) and then by grounding the negative jumper wire (or lead from the charger) to the case of the solenoid, the solenoid should engage. If it does your solenoid is good.

90% of the time all the electrical problems are nothing more than loose and dirty connections. Remove the wire connections at the relay and the kick down switch and ensure that they are clean.

I have had to carefully spray the terminals with electrical contact cleaner and polish the contacts using steel wool or a scuff pad to restore the connection.

On a rare occasion you might have to bend the tabs on the bottom of the relay cover so you can remove the cover and gain access inside the relay to file the contact points, but that is rare. We have new solenoids, relays and kick down switches available if yours are defective.


Maintenance of a Borg-Warner overdrive is pretty easy. The most important thing to remember is that there are two places to add GL-1 gear oil into the transmission. There is the normal plug/hole in the side of the transmission but another plug/hole is in the tail shaft area. Fill both to the bottom of the hole with GL-1 gear oil (which was factory fill) as you would for any standard transmission. 

It will take about a gallon to fill both the 3-speed transmission and the overdrive transmission. You will have about a pint left of your gallon when you are done, depending on how much you dribble on the floor during installation.

Lubing The Dash Cable

In a functional system you will find that you rarely need to to lock out the system. If you are restoring an overdrive equipped vehicle you will most likely find that the overdrive cable has not been used and is stuck.

The cable must be removed completely to free it up. A big nut behind the cable secures it to the bracket under the dash. A 1/2” nut & bolt secures the functional cable end to the lock out lever on the transmission.

The upper bolt on the solenoid (in some applications) secures the bracket that holds the outer cable. (Once unbolted, this sheet metal bracket is spread apart to remove it from the cable) Unbolt everything and pull the cable out through the firewall into the interior.

By twisting the outer cable you should be able to break loose the inner cable enough to remove it. Use sandpaper to clean all the corrosion from the inner cable. Then use a wire wheel/brush to remove all the crud from the outer cable. Next insert the inner cable back into the outer sheave and spray the entire assembly with WD-40 or similar lubricant. The outer cable is composed of wire tightly twisted around the inner cable.

This design allows the lubricant to easily seep inside. Reinstall and work the cable back and forth and it should begin to move easily. If it is too far-gone we have new cables available in the parts section of our website.

Checking the Governor

When the transmission gets “stuck in overdrive” you already know what to do first, if you read the tech tips and related information in the front of this book. Besides the careful rocking motion and solenoid service discussed earlier, there is one other thing you need to check if you are still having trouble… the governor.

First remove the cover of the governor and then hold the governor contact points apart. Next ground the cover of the governor by touching it against the transmission case. If that causes a  “click” to be heard, the “click” indicates a short circuit in the governor cover assembly and the cover assembly wiring connections or the wiring itself  is “shorted out” and needs to be repaired. If there is NO click, the governor is ok and you need to look to the solenoid for your defect.

Removing and Replacing The Governor

To remove the governor from the transmission, first disconnect the wire at the cover (or wire end connector) and loosen the governor housing using an (1-3/8”) open, end wrench to turn the nut at the base of the governor. To replace the governor insert the governor into the transmission housing and engage the teeth of the governor drive gear into the teeth of the speedometer drive gear. Next, tighten the nut located at the base of the governor housing using an (1-3/8”) open, end wrench. Reconnect governor wire and check for proper transmission operation.

Reverse Lockout Switches

If your reverse lockout switch fails there are not any new ones available so your best bet is to remove the defective switch and connect the two wires together that were connected to either end of the switch. Reverse lockout switches were discontinued on BW overdrive transmissions beginning in the early 1950s. Your BW overdrive transmission will work fine without one.

Don’t forget to read the other Garage Tech entry on overdrives…that covers the top ten things you need to know if you have a B-W overdrive transmission in your antique vehicle. Between this entry and the other one you should have a pretty good idea how an overdrive transmission works and how to troubleshoot it. 

And last but not least don’t forget to order a copy of Randy’s book “The Official Guide to the Borg-Warner R-10 and R-11 Overdrive. The book includes history interchange information, tech tips and a complete illustrated service guide. The book is available in the overdrive section of the parts pages.


Now You Can Follow Along...

Posted on 12/8/16 with No comments

Now you can follow along with both of the Fifth Avenue blogs...The "Garage Tech" blog and the "Mr. Haney Specials" blog without having to keep checking the Fifth Avenue website to see if there is a new posting.

As of today, you can sign up using your email address, and you will get an email anytime there is a new posting on the blog you are following. You need to sign up separately for each blog, the sign-up is free, and you can subscribe to one or both, and you can unsubscribe anytime. You are signing up only to be notified of the blog updates. We will NOT sell your email to one of those junk mail bandits who fill up your inbox with junk mail. If there is no will get NO email. You will also notice there is no advertising in Randy's blogs, is is that way on purpose. Randy started his blogs to help you understand how things work and to make you a better informed customer.

You will find a sign up link on the home page (in the upper right hand corner) of the blog that looks like this. Enter your email, and follow the directions from there. When you are done you will receive an email to confirm that you have signed up as a follower to the Blog. Simple as that!

As for the Mr. Haney Specials...
Randy has been collecting antique auto related collectibles for more than 40 years. "I knew I would have an antique auto parts store someday, and I wanted it to look on the inside, just like those I remembered as a kid, those auto parts store established in the 1940's that seemed to have a personality all of their own, with the squeaky hard wood floors, and the automotive related advertising memorabilia on the walls that us cars guys collect. I wanted that kind of store..."

"In 1993 I bought a building (half a block long) in downtown Clay Center Kansas that was built in the 1930's, originally as a commercial laundry. By the time I bought it in 1993 it was an empty shell used for storage. I moved my business downtown and started in adding things little by little from my collection, and buying more in my travels. Now some 30 years later the store is fully decorated, and so is the finished basement in my house..."

So...what to do with all of the leftovers...? With the store done and his house done, Randy still has almost enough to do another store. Remember he has been collecting for more than 40 years.

Instead of storing all of this memorabilia in a warehouse Randy has decided to sell it and give someone else a chance to decorate their garage or shop. So that is how Mr. Haney Specials came about. Randy will list items he has for sale along with pictures and descriptions. If you see something you like send him an email and make him an offer. He will keep adding more items as time allows so signing up as a follower will let you know when another item or items have been added. Like" Garage Tech" the sign up is free and you can unsubscribe at any time.

You will find a sign up link on the home page of the blog (in the upper right hand corner) that looks like this. Enter your email, and follow the directions from there. When you are done you will receive an email to confirm that you have signed up as a follower to the Blog. Simple as that!


History of Bumper Cars And How They Work...

Posted on 11/29/16 with No comments

"Two brothers Max, and Harold Stoehrer, of Methuem Massachusetts spent two years developing a car they proudly named the Dodgem. Soon after the Dodgem was introduced to the public, the Scientific American Magazine did a test on one of the cars. The review was less than flattering…stating that the cars were "highly unmanageable, with the steering only relative". The two brothers later admitted that with their cars…." until you have learned how, you often try to go someplace, but often may not end up where you intended on going". . . Never the less, the cars became extremely popular, despite their bad reviews.

The success of the Dodgem cars caught the attention of Joseph Lusse and his brother Ray who together owned the Lusse Brothers Machine Shop Company. The Lusse Bros decided to design and build, their own car and fix, the defects in the design of the Dodgem Cars. The bothers would spend the next nine years working on their car during which time they were awarded eleven patents.

The Lusse Bros. introduced their "Auto-Skooter" car to the public in the Spring of 1930 and the cars were an immediate hit, in part because they had truly solved most all of the problems associated with the Dodgem cars. The Lusse Bros Auto-Skooters quickly established themselves within the market and easily outsold the Dodgem cars.

A 1940's Company advertisement for the Lusse Bros Auto-Skooter proclaimed that "Our cars are built to exacting Lusse standards, which means built-in quality and stamina to spare…"

Among the improvements the Lusse Bros. perfected in 1928, was to mount their engine vertically in the front of the car.

Power could then be transmitted through two couplings to a ring-and-pinion final drive that had a small wheel attached with the rim keyed to each end of the output shaft. This design was much like that used by BWM for the Isetta.

The advantage to this design was that the whole assembly could be mounted on bearings and could be aimed in any direction by turning the steering wheel. There were stop locks installed that prevented the steering from going to far in either direction. Soon enough, young drivers would discoverer that the Auto-Shooter could travel just as fast in reverse as it could forward!

From 1935 on the Lusse Bros., Auto-Skooter Company experienced strong growth and prosperity. A minor interruption during World War 11 only made the company more secure. Improvements continued including updated headlights, fiberglass bodies, and air-filled bumpers instead of solid rubber bumpers.

The cars were driven by an electric motor powered by a curve shaped piece of metal with a copper or brass metal lining called a "spoon". The spoon is firmly attached the end of a wooden pole. These spoons provided electricity to the motor in the bumper car when they rubbed on the underneath side of a series of metal grids located in the ceiling.

 These same spoons could be made to arc and spark (which was cool to watch) when the cars were involved in a multiple car pile-up. Learning how to innocently create a multiple car pileup was an art into itself.

Watching the cars in action while waiting your turn to ride, you could easily spot the faster cars, the ones with the best connection between the spoon and the wire grid in the ceiling. The fastest car would give you a slight advantage, which you could then put to good use.

Turning the steering wheel to full right or left would cause the car to go into reverse. With a little practice, you could become very good at creating havoc on the bumper car highway

Now...For The How They Work Part
First up, the bumper cars need electricity to work. That makes it complicated because bumper cars are one of the few rides that is able to travel forward and backward, side to side, and in circles all at the same time, and are not attached to any controls directly ran by the ride operator.

The better the connection between the spoon and the grid the faster the car will go. A clean shiny contact between the spoon and the grid is what made the fastest cars. Sometimes you would get a really, slow car and the operator would have to take some steel wool and polish the topside of the spoon that had accumulated a corrosion film on top of the spoon That could turn a slow car into a fast car.

The remaining electricity is discharged through the metal floor to ground. So, if there is electricity on the floor… why don't you get shocked if you touch the metal floor while the ride is turned on? Because…the voltage present in the floor has "potential" but not enough amperage to do any work or any harm to you.

Electricity can do work, (turn a motor to power the bumper car for example) when the voltage goes from a higher voltage to a lower one. Most of the amperage, which is what does the work is used up by the bumper car motor, so what electricity that is left, has no amperage. You might get a slight tickle but that is all. The odds of getting shocked were reduced even more if you are wearing tennis shoes, which most kids wore in the summer.

Using the garden hose analogy the voltage is like the pressure in a garden hose and is what forces the current thru the wire. The amperage is like the volume of water present and what actually does the work. You can still have voltage present even though the amperage present is minimal having been used up to do the electrical work, as in this example powering the electric motor in the bumper car. you get it now...?

To make the bumper cars slide around more and to prevent the cars from getting to much traction and hitting to hard, powdered graphite was sprinkled on the floor.

So…What Became Of The Two Original Companies…?

The Dodgem Company lasted up into the early 1970's and continued to make both portable and permanent design rides, all the while holding onto their original 110 volt design when the industry had switched to a 90 volt DC standard. Competition from three different Italian companies eventually proved too much for the company and it was closed in the early 1970's.

As for the Lusse Company, Ray Lusse Jr. ran the company after his father's death in the 1960's. In 1989 Ray Jr. got into financial trouble with the IRS but managed to shuffle money and assets around until 1994 when the bank accounts were finally empty. He died that same year. The rights to the Auto--Skooter were then sold to Designs International located in Dallas Texas. The remaining inventory of original parts and pieces, were sold off, by the Lussse''s last landlord to recover back rent.

And there you have it...the history and the "how it works"...of Bumper Cars. If you have ever thought about buying and restoring an old Bumper Car and put it on display in your office or basement here is a little incentive. Start looking!



About Me

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Since 1987, Fifth Avenue owner, Randy Rundle, has been making antique, classic and special interest vehicles more reliable and fun to drive.