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A "DA Plug" What It Does And Why You Need One...

Posted on 4/24/18 with No comments

The often misunderstood Fifth Avenue "DA Plug" has been around since 1987.  It came about out of necessity, and while the job it has to do is simple, it is very important. Let's have a look....

When you install an alternator on an antique vehicle that originally had a generator charging system, good things happen. You will have a charging output at idle and low rpms, something the generator charging system could not provide.

That gives you brighter headlights and easier starting because the battery is now fully charged and remains that way.  The alternator now provides the current to power the headlights instead of the battery as it did with the generator charging system.

Having the alternator provide all of the electrical current makes is possible for the battery to only be used for starting, with the current quickly replaced in the battery from the alternator after starting.  The less times the battery is deeply discharged and then recharged, the longer it will last. That is why the batteries in modern vehicles last so much longer.

The one downside of installing an alternator on an antique vehicle is that your antique vehicle will no longer shut off using the original ignition key. That is because the alternator produces an electrical current at idle so even though you turn off the ignition key to turn off the vehicle just as you always have... there is still current present at the ignition coil so, the engine keeps running!

That is because current from the alternator is traveling backwards thru the ignition switch and keeping the coil "hot" and as long as the coil is "hot" (electrical current is present) the engine will keep running.

This same thing happened to the engineers in Detroit when they switched to alternators from generators. Their solution was a little more complicated. They developed the "accessory post" type of ignition switch with an extra "accessory" terminal that was isolated from the rest of the terminals on the ignition switch.

The alternator was wired to that post and that allowed current to flow from the ignition switch to the alternator but not backwards from the alternator thru the ignition switch. So when the new design switch was turned off the current stopped at the accessory post and the ignition coil no longer received battery current. Without battery current...the engine died. Problem solved!

Many of the "experts" will tell you to just go get, and install an "accessory" type ignition switch and life will be good. That is true, many applications an "accessory type ignition switch will not fit in the same place as the original ignition switch, and in some cases you just don't want to loose the look and fit of the original switch.

Example of a typical aftermarket "accessory" type ignition switch.

That was the situation I was in. I decided their had to be an easier way to fix this problem. After many months of experimenting the DA Plug was born. The DA Plug simply snaps into the top of a standard GM style internal regulated alternator (the standard alternator on all types of 1973 thru 1985 GM vehicles). That style of alternator remains popular even today because of its easy mounting, the fact that it is internally regulated, and its bullet-proof reliablity.

I build the DA Plugs using heavy duty ISO 9001 rated electrical diodes to be sure your antique vehicle will shut off using the original ignition switch with no modifications.  A diode is simply a one way electrical valve and only lets current flow in one direction. The DA Plug also "turns on" you alternator so it begins to charge as soon as you vehicle is started.

That is important because the idle speed of your antique vehicle is slower than the 1200 rpms idle speed of cars when the alternators were introduced in the late 1960's. So to make the alternator start charging sooner that it was designed to start charging the DA plug send a little battery current to the alternator when the ignition key is turned on which tells the alternator to "go to work!"

While I was at it I made the DA Plugs compatible with 6-volt, 12-volt, and 24-volt,  electrical systems, because I also convert a few antique military vehicles from generator to alternator that still have the 24-volt electrical systems.

Thirty plus years later... the DA Plugs are still as popular as ever. I still make them here in the Good Old USA, and the price has only changed once in 30 years, from $15.00 to $18.00.

The yellow exciter wire comes plenty long enough to reach from the alternator back to the ignition switch or ignition coil, so there is no wire splicing. The other short red wire connects to the battery stud on the alternator and tells the regulator inside of the ignition what to do. It is as simple as that. Instructions are included in the package.

To get a genuine DA Plug look for the red and yellow wiring like shown in the picture above. I sell DA Plugs on the Fifth Avenue website and thru vendors like Speedway Motors.  Typically they are NOT available at the local auto parts store. I have tried but they do not see the need for a DA Plug. Many counter men "get it" and send customers to me which is fine as long as the problem gets solved.

If you go to the local auto parts store and ask for an alternator wiring harness...this is what you typically get. It will NOT do you much good if you are installing an alternator on an antique vehicle. You will have no way to turn off the engine with the ignition switch...

A Note About 1-Wire Alternators -
A one wire alternator is designed to start charging about 1200 or greater engine rpms. One wire alternators were originally designed for racing applications where there was not much electrical load and the engine ran at higher engine rpms.

A one wire alternator stores up magnetism in the rotor from the last time it operated. When the rotor speed reaches high enough rpms the magnetism is released and the alternator begins to charge. If the rpms drop below the alternator's cut-in speed, the alternator will quit charging until the rpms are increased. If the vehicle sets for a month or longer the alternator can loose the magnetism in the rotor.

That is why a one wire alternator typically does not work well in an antique vehicle application. Most antique vehicles do not have a high enough idle speed to make the alternator start to charge.

The internal voltage regulators in a one-wire alternator are different than a conventional alternator so you CAN NOT just add a DA plug to fix your one-wire alternator charging problem at idle. You will need to change out the one wire internal regulator for a conventional two wire regulator and then use a DA Plug to live happily ever after.

How do you know if you have a one-wire alternator? You will see a black rubber plug where the DA Plug would normally go. That is your clue that you have a one-wire alternator.

Rubber plug identifying a one-wire alternator.

So now you know what a DA Plug is and what it does. It is a simple fix for a common problem and is part of what you need for a reliable charging system.


The Flathead Ford Fix Is In...

Posted on 3/29/18 with No comments
I work on a lot of Flathead Ford powered vehicles, and...much like a vehicle entered in the Great Race... you need to address three primary issues to make your Flathead a reliable driver, one that will take you anywhere you want to go. Those issues include the electrical, the cooling and the fuel. If you get those three things working properly life will be good. Let's take a look at each system separately and I will explain what you need to address and why. So pay attention here...

A 1950 Ford is a good example of a car that can be made into a reliable driver

First is the electrical. You know from reading my other Garage Tech articles that the difference between an alternator and a the alternator has the ability to recharge the battery at idle and low rpms, something a generator cannot do. That helps with the dead batteries and dim headlights and the hard starting.  You also know by now, the importance of the correct size battery cables (use at least one gauge) for both the positive and negative posts on the battery, AND be sure and move the ground so it connects to a starter mounting bolt or as close to the starter as you can get. Your goal is to create a direct path between the battery and the starter so all of the current needed from the battery gets delivered directly to the starter. In simple will increase your cranking power 30 percent. That should get your attention. You also want to be sure you have a clean metal to metal connection at the starter ground and include a toothed star washer under the bolt head.

A wide selection of alternator pulleys are available to cover most any application

If you are using an alternator (I manufacture both 6-volt and 12-volt alternators) you want to use a one piece pulley on your alternator. The pressed tin spot welded two piece pulleys common to most generators (and some alternators) will break and separate when belt wears thru spot welds in the groove of the pulley. When the pressed tin pulley separates from the alternator, it usually ends up in the radiator. That two dollar pulley can end up costing you a fortune. I have lifetime guarantee on all my pulleys and you know if the Great Racers have not yet destroyed one it is not from a lack of trying. If my alternator pulleys will hold up to that environment, they will survive most anything.

Special alternator pulley for use with mechanical fan mounted to the alternator pulley say... "I have a 1936  Ford with the mechanical fan mounted to the generator pulley, bet you don't have a fix for that? Well guess what...I do! I have an aluminum one piece pulley that will accept your mechanical engine fan that will bolt onto either the 89 or 90 series alternators. It is made of solid aluminum so it will not destroy the from bearing in the alternator. Using a heavy steel pulley large enough for the mechanical engine fan would wear out the front bearing in the alternator, which is why they had a double row bearing in the early Ford generators.

Fifth Avenue 6-volt alternator mounted on a 1950 Ford Flathead engine

I also have alternator mounting brackets that will work for the Flathead Ford, Lincoln and Mercury engines. It mounts the alternator up in the same position as the old generator was, and the belt adjust procedure is the same as before.

Alternator mounting bracket allows for the same belt adjustment procedure as before

I also have a host of different alternator pulley combinations to accept either the early Ford "B" width fan belts or the later 3/8" fan belts. I also have dual groove pulleys that have the "B" width in the inside and a 3/8 on the outside so you can power modern accessories like an A/C compressor from the alternator pulley. I also have dual groove 3/8 pulleys and dual groove "B" width pulleys, you get the idea.

Fifth Avenue has a wide pulley selection to cover most any application

Stainless coolant overflow tank is available from Fifth Avenue

Next up is cooling. First off you need some kind of coolant overflow tank. Then a 2 - 3 pound pressure cap is enough to transfer the coolant back and forth. It will also raise the boiling point of the coolant slightly, which is a good thing.

Your goal is to keep the outside air out of the cooling system. When your radiator overflows it pushes coolant out on the ground, when it cools it will draw outside air into the cooling system. then...the next time the engine gets up to operating temperature the outside air mixes with the water in the cooling system and a steam pocket is formed. If that steam pocket expands enough it can slow or even stop the circulation of coolant thru the engine block. You know what happens then, cracked block, usually between the two middle cylinders, a common Flathead Ford experience.

Remember there was not permanent year around anti-freeze when these cars were new, Most anti-freeze in the early days was alcohol based and would evaporate out in the summer months. That is why it was common practice to drain the antifreeze out in the summer months, and replace it with water. Flathead engines will run warmer with a 50/50  mixture of modern antifreeze in the summer months, than they will if straight distilled water is used. Don't forget to add a pint of water pump lubricant in with the water,  (which was water soluble oil (brake fluid ) in the old days.

Electric Radiator Cooling Fan - electric radiator cooling fan is a good investment and I have them for both 6-volt and 12-volt applications. When you shop for one, look for a ball bearing motor, they will use less electricity and last about three times longer.

Also look for ten blades that are straight like helicopter blades (remember you are in the air moving business) which is why you are going to add an electric fan in the first place.  I know they sell curved blades which are quieter but they are also less efficient.  Just remember the helicopter analogy.... Helicopters depend more on air moving than you do... so if a curved blade was more efficient ...than helicopter blades would be curved. They aren't... and yours shouldn't be either. Also watch the pitch of the blades, the more aggressive the pitch the more air the fan will move...but the bigger motor it will require. Your goal is to help the radiator transfer the heat out of the coolant. That happens when air passes thru the radiator. Anything you can do to help that along will be to your benefit.

You want a ball bearing motor for a long service life!

Here is an example of an electric radiator cooling fan installed on a 1950 Ford. The electrical system is still 6-volt. The fan reduced the operating temperature of this car 25-30 degrees which meant the owner could now drive in the annual local parade and enjoy cruise night without social embarrassment. It is more fun to be a participant in cruise night than it is to have to sit along the sidelines after two laps because your car overheated... in front of everyone.

And then their is this if your Flathead is non stock or you are entered in the Great Race or you want a cooling system you never have to worry about.  This is what I use in the cooling system of Great Race cars and especially in antique vehicles built in the teens and twenties that have a non-pressurized cooling system and no water pump to circulate the coolant, that instead depend on thermal-siphon cooling. The Model T Ford is a good example. This coolant also works great in a Flathead Block.

Evans Waterless coolant boils at 370 degrees and freezes at minus 80 degrees

Evans Coolant boils at 370 degrees and freezes at minus 80 with no pressure in the cooling system. It is a waterless lifetime coolant. It is expensive initially...but it pays for itself many times over in the long run. You never have to worry about overheating again!

Fifth Avenue Gear Driven Electric Fuel Pump

Lastly is fuel. An electric fuel pump is almost a must these days and you need a Fifth Avenue gear driven electric fuel pump that will survive the modern gasoline. (to read more about electric fuel pumps (see electric fuel pumps in the garage tech section). You also need to add a pint of diesel fuel to ten gallons of gasoline, when you fill up.

That will do two will raise the boiling point of the gasoline so it does not vaporize so quick, and it will lubricate the gaskets in the carburetor so they will not shrink. The alcohol in modern fuel causes the gaskets in the carburetor to shrink leaving you with a leaking carburetor. If you try and over tighten the screws in the top of the carburetor to stop the leaks, one of two things will happen, you will warp the top of the carburetor or...strip out the screws or damage the carburetor housing itself...none of which is good.

The alcohol in modern gasoline also swells up the diaphragms (causing them to tear) in the old Stewart Warner electric fuel pumps that we all used for years. The modern gasoline also destroys the modern rotary vein style electric pumps (the modern gasoline provides no lubrication so the veins just grind themselves up much like you sawed graham crackers in kindergarten.

The inner workings of a Fifth Avenue electric fuel pump

The Fifth Avenue pumps have two stainless steel gears inside and are unaffected by the modern alcohol gasoline and modern fuel additives. They are available for both 6-volt and 12-volt applications. So if you address these three basics... you will be on you way to having a reliable car that will take you anywhere you want to go.

All the parts mentioned in this Garage Tech article are available in the "PARTS" section of the Fifth Avenue website. Now you know how they work.

I Remember Those...

Posted on 3/21/18 with No comments
The 1940's and 1950"s were clearly the golden age of owning an automobile. This was before computers and cell phones so most all of the advertising was visual and "hands on." In order to stand out from the crowd the manufacturer had to use bright colors and graphics to catch the eye of the consumer.

Radios in the early automobiles did not always have the best reception especially in the rural areas, where radio stations were few and far between. This device was supposed to help solve your poor radio reception problem...if the wind did not wiggle it loose and it blew off going down the highway which happened more than once.

This was also the era when cars did not have a ton of accessory options from the factory, so that left the field wide open and literally hundreds of small companies survived and prospered making all kinds of unique automotive related accessories. Ideas for car accessories were limited only by imagination and the public who decided which products became popular for their function or their "cool" factor.

This is a "Passing Mirror" which attached to the drip rail of the driver's door and allowed you to see around the car in front of you to determine when it was safe to pass without having to weave over the center line.

When I started buying out dealerships and auto parts stores in the  early 1970's I only wanted the parts related to the 1948 thru 1955 Chevrolet cars and trucks. There were lots of car accessories available from those same vehicles that were by then obsolete. I would find whole displays of obsolete accessories in the basements of old dealerships and auto parts stores. The displays and the NOS accessory parts were twenty plus years old by then and had no value to the store or the public.

Many people smoked in the old days so there were dozens of accessories for smoking in your car or truck. This is one of the more unique smoking accessories. It held a pack of Lucky Strike or Camels (remember no filters) and when you flipped down the little tray in front... a single cigarette rolled out and the element on the left lit the cigarette for you... so it was ready to smoke. It was advertised as a safer way to smoke in your car or truck. This smoking accessory attached to the steering column of the car or truck and plugged into the cigarette lighter.

I got hooked on those aftermarket accessories and started buying them up. You can imagine what my collection looks like today after 25 plus years of collecting.

I first used old JC Whitney catalogs to help identify some of the more unique accessories,  then I started to collect the old auto accessory and wholesale auto supply catalogs to further help identify the pieces in my collection. Now I have a good sized collection of the old accessory catalogs. Many of the accessories were also sold as private label accessories thru such stores as Firestone, Gambles, and Western Auto.

Now some 25 years later I have a unique collection of automotive accessories from the golden age of automobile. I will share a few pictures with you here. These serve as a reminder of how simple and carefree things were in the old days. As more and more accessories became standard on new cars the sales of aftermarket accessories gradually declined and many companies went out of business or began manufacturing something completely different.

Some things they sold back in the day were a little questionable such as this Ring and Valve job while you drive which was pretty expensive, even for the late 1950's. Inside the package was a series of lead pellets that you were supposed to drop into your gas tank and somehow they would dissolve and fill the tiny holes in the cylinder walls and the valve seats to restore compression and engine horsepower. I have quite a few examples of these types of products in my collection, this is one of the more questionable ones.

Auto parts stores had some unique collectibles from the manufacturers. This was a desk lamp from Fram Filters given to the store owner for his desk. With the lamp shade on... these lamps did not put out much light so most of them you find are missing the lamp shade, it got tossed in the trash.

This was a Fram Filter ash tray that was designed to set on the parts counter( remember a lot of people smoked in those days). These had a pretty rough life as they got knocked on the floor quite often and then were picked up with greasy hands. That little flip tab in the middle was the first to go by a well meaning customer who just happen to have a pair of pliers in his pocket. It made flipping the ashes into the can easier.

In case you are too young to remember here is what the typical Fram oil filter looked like back in the day. You can easily see the resemblance between the actual filters and the Fram advertising pieces.

Hard to imagine today but prior to the mid 1950's automotive engines did not come with oil filters from the manufacturers. They quickly became a popular add on accessory for obvious reasons. Here is one for a 216 Chevrolet engine that bolted to the intake manifold. The oil filter shown above on the right was used in this filter.

This was by far the most popular Fram Counter advertising example. All that you had to do was pick up this Fram advertising display and tip it 45 degrees and the lighter in the center would glow cherry red. It was big enough to light both cigars and cigarettes. You often find these with all of the writing worn off the sides but the lighter still working. I talked to a retired Fram rep who said these lighters were the most difficult to keep in stock. These were also known to burn little fingers if the mechanics helper wasn't watched closely.

It is amazing all of the things that we grew up with and never paid much attention too. Today's plastic advertising is not near as visual and not made to last. When you find something from the old days... (and if you are like me) it jogs a memory of our youth and the auto parts stores and car dealerships we grew up with. While those places are long gone... a piece of advertising like those shown here can be a welcome reminder of how things used to be. Now...if we could only explain that to our grandkids!


It Happens To Me Too...

Posted on 2/28/18 with 1 comment
I spend a lot of time preparing cars for the Great Race. And what I learn from those "hands-on" experiences can be applied to most any antique vehicle. So when you call and talk to me on the telephone and ask an electrical, cooling, or fuel related question, and then wonder how I can give you an answer immediately without hesitation, it is because I have fixed problems just like yours, dozens of times before. So the next question that eventually comes up is "how come nothing bad ever happens to your antique vehicles...?" Well guess does happen to me too!

Here is my latest victim to the modern gasoline. By the way... this is how your orders get delivered to the post office most days. I am located a quarter mile from the local post office so I deliver orders to the post office using this 1966 Cushman Lobster.

Lobsters were built by the Cushman Company of Lincoln Nebraska, the same company that built all of the scooters that are so well known and fondly remembered, especially if you were lucky enough to have one to use on your paper route.

Cushman built Lobsters only one year in 1966, and only built about 500 total. They quickly became the Edsel of the Cushman Company. They steer from the front using a boat cable steering setup compliments of OMC (the boat company) who was part owner of the Cushman Company at the time.

Lobsters used the variable speed transmission from the Cushman Golf carts, mated to a two speed forward gear and one reverse gear. That means the Lobster travels 18 mph in reverse... the same speed as it does forward. What could possibly go wrong with that setup...?

The Cushman foundry had pretty much disappeared by this time so the Lobsters were built using 8 HP Kohler engines, the same engines that were used in the Wheel Horse garden tractors of the era.

This is a picture of the Lobster when I bought it. This is the good side. The RH front corner had been damaged and the whole right side had been creased like it had been scraped next to a wall or building. The engine was tired, brakes were coaster brakes, bald tires, you get the idea.  

(Former employees told me they used to haul 600 pound dies back and forth from the plant to the tool and die shop using this Lobster, which explains a lot.) Payload rating was 500 pounds including operator.

Meanwhile... back to our lesson. The lobster ran when I got it in 2009, but barely. It had been sold new to Boeing Aircraft in Wichita Ks, which explained the yellow color, as Lobsters were typically painted safety orange new from the factory.

With the Lobsters being difficult to sell, Cushman would paint them any color you wanted if you would buy one, and especially if you would buy more than one! Anything at the Boeing factory that traveled next to the flight line... that didn't fly, was supposed to be painted yellow, so yellow they were.

Boeing reportedly bought a dozen or more Lobsters, at a bargain basement price, and most were damaged beyond repair over time and hard use, and were scraped. They all had a very hard life much like this one did.

After I learned to drive the Lobster, I understood the damage to the box. Driving a Lobster can best be described as like driving a sheet of plywood. It has a wide (20 feet diameter) turning radius and not much accuracy with the boat cable steering... and no suspension except the air in the tires.

When I restored the Lobster in 2013, I overhauled the engine, fixed the brakes, removed all of the dents, repainted the body in Boeing safety yellow, cleaned out the fuel tank and replaced all of the fuel lines with OEM Kohler factory fuel line hose, and modern filters. It looked and ran like a new one, until the end of 2017 when it became hard to start and seemed to not have as much power as it used to.

I replaced both fuel filters and cleaned out the carburetor (which looked pretty clean inside) and all seemed good for another month. Then back to the same old symptoms. By now it was January and to cold to ride to the post office so it was time for an upgrade.

I put it onto the lift in the shop and pulled the fuel line off and looked inside. Sure enough it was starting to fail from the inside. I could see little black specks inside the fuel line that looked like coarse ground pepper. So I did what I tell all of you to do... and I replaced all of the fuel line with the modern Barrier fuel line.

After some research on the internet, I learned that the older Wheel Horse tractors from the 1960's were having the same fuel delivery issues I was having, (these Kohler engines came with a mechanical fuel pump) so they had some special low output (as in 1.5 psi output) 12-volt electric fuel pumps made for their tractors. Being the same engine I figured their electric pump would work for the Lobster... and it did.

As you know I am a believer in fuel filters... and this application is no exception, so there is now one clear see-thru filter between the fuel tank and the electric pump, and another metal housing 30-micron fuel filter after the electric fuel pump and before the carburetor.

This combination fixed the fuel issues and the Lobster starts and  runs better than new. So I just wanted you to know, that what happens to you, also happens to me.


Before the Shelby Cobra There Was the Allard Car Company.

Posted on 1/4/18 with No comments

If you have read thru the testimonials page on the website you will begin to get an insight into the vast array of vehicles that Fifth Avenue customers own and drive. One that recently appeared was David Stein's "Allard" motor car. I have received quite a few emails asking "what the heck is an Allard...? " is a little insight into the Allard Car Company.

Sydney Allard started the Allard Motor Company Ltd in the UK, a few months after the end of WWII. He was a gentleman racer with strong engineering instincts and he created vehicles that would take a slew of 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions in major races, including podiums at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a win (with Sydney himself behind the wheel) at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1952 (interestingly the 2nd place finisher that year was a young Stirling Moss).

The Allard K3 that Dave owns,  was the follow-on model to the original K1 and K2. It is essentially a British chassis and body that was sent to the USA where it was fitted with the owner’s engine preference. Most were fitted with Cadillac 331 engines. A very limited number were fitted with a higher performance Chrysler Hemi V8.

The lightweight alloy body coupled with a semi-independent swing axle on the front and de Dion-type rear axle suspension gave the car exceptional handling, the Hemi V8 with dual 4-barrel carburetors and mated to a 4-speed manual transmission gave the Allard K3 overall performance that could comfortably match anything of the era.

1953 Cadillac 331 Engine Powers The Allard

The K3 was built between 1952 and 1956; each was painstakingly made by hand which resulted in some variance between models from different years. Allard’s facilities were never quite on par with other British car makers, resulting in a low production volume of only 62 units.

Carroll Shelby of Cobra fame owned and raced an Allard for a short time in his early years and was impressed by the strong performance and good handling of the Allard. The Allard must have indeed made an impression on Carroll which eventually lead to his introduction of the Cobra in the 1960's.

While the Allard was clearly first with the concept of big American engine in a sports car type body, due to the limited production it never became as famous nor as popular as the Cobra would become in later years.

While not so common today the GM Hydramatic transmission came standard behind 331 Cadillac engines during the 1950's. The Hydramatic was the first automatic shifting transmission developed by GM in the 1930's and became a popular option for all GM makes beginning in 1940. That explains why it was a logical choice for the Allard during the 1950's.

The GM Hydramatic was also the first automatic transmission to be modified for drag racing. The Hydramatic proved to be so reliable that by the early 1950s, 25 other companies including Hudson, Nash, Willys, Lincoln and even English luxury brands like Bentley and Rolls Royce were buying the Hydramatic transmissons from GM to use in their own models. They were also used commmercially in Divco delivery trucks.

The GM Hydramatic Transmission in the Allard Chassis

The Hydramatic eventually made its way into military tanks, including the M5 Stuart and M24 Chaffee tanks. The Stuart was powered by a pair of Cadillac V8s, each of which had a Hydramatic bolted to it. Another interesting factoid is that the Hydramatic transmissions were four speed transmissions. They did not have an overdrive, as fourth gear was 1:1. Hydramatics also did not use a torque converter that multiplied engine torque, instead a basic fluid coupling was used.

Dave's car remained in California through its first three owners and has spent the last five years in Indiana as part of a private collection until David recently purchased it.

Because Allard's are somewhat unknown I wanted to feature David's car not only because of it's rarity and the fact that it is in excellent condition...I also wanted to show you the unique feature David's car has...overdrive!

 The R-11 Overdrive Transmission and Solenoid.

Dave car was fitted with an R-11 overdrive onto the back of the Hydramatic transmission.  That of course took some special machine work on the output shaft of the Hydramatic transmission to adapt the R-11 overdrive.

Dave contacted Fifth Avenue after he recently purchased the car to learn how an R-11 overdrive worked in a normal application and to see if I could help him figure out how it was designed to operate in his Allard.

There Is A Short Black Lever Just To The Inside Of The Chrome Lever That Manually Engages The Overdrive

None of the conventional overdrive controls are present. There is no dash cable present, the overdrive is engaged via a short lever on the floor to the left of the driver's seat. Together Dave and I will figure out how his works.

Meanwhile I thought you might enjoy learning a little bit about the Allard car company and see yet another example of a Borg Warner overdrive installed in a unique application.


Lost Knowledge, Old Catalogs, And Thinking Outside The Box...

Posted on 12/20/17 with No comments

This is my 60th entry into the Garage Tech portion of the website. Many of you reading these entries, have sent me an email to say "thanks" for explaining how things work, and thanks for helping me solve my fuel, electrical, cooling etc, problem. To all of you I say..."you are more than welcome", and there will be more to come.

I have also received a few emails asking "why are you giving all of this information and tech advice away for free...?" Simple. If you know how something works or is supposed to work, then fixing it or operating it is much easier.

When you call me to order parts, you will know exactly what parts you need and why. That makes my life easier as well. makes owning an antique vehicle much more fun, and that antique vehicle is more likely to get preserved and passed on to the next generation to enjoy.

By now most of you have experienced what it is like to visit a modern auto parts store. Everything is on computer and they look up parts by application. Many of the people behind the counter are much younger than we are, and have little or no mechanical experience, especially with antique vehicles, or auto parts installation in general. As a result they do not have the ability to "think outside the box" and look at a part and know exactly what it does, how it functions, making the part number and application secondary.

Here is an example of what I mean... I needed a mechanical brake light switch for my Fairmont railroad motorcar after it was finished. There were not any brake lights or taillights on a Fairmont railroad  motorcar originally from the factory, because only one car was operated at a time, and mostly during daylight hours. But I needed a brake light switch that would activate a brake light when I moved the manual brake lever forward. That way, when I ride with a group of motorcar owners they know when I apply the brakes, and can follow me after dark and not run over me.

I knew from working on various antique vehicles growing up that a brake light switch from a 1951 Chevrolet pickup could be made to work. That same brake light switch was used on dozens of different applications besides automotive, including my 1958 Cushman Truckster. It was also sold back in the day as a "universal brake light switch." I knew how it worked, and I knew how it mounted, and was sure I could make it work on my motorcar.

Going to the local auto parts to get one proved more difficult than I could have imagined. I went in and asked for a brake light switch for a 1951 Chevrolet pickup...(knowing they look things up by application) "it has been discontinued" was the reply after a 20 minute computer search. So I asked for a "universal" mechanical brake light switch.  "For what application...? " came the reply..."doesn't matter it's universal fit..." I reply. Look in your illustrated parts catalog under brake light switches it will be in there..." Then came the deer in the headlights look.

One advantage of living in a small town is that you can go back behind the counter and look up things for yourself. I did and there it was on page 167 of the catalog. Together we went back to the parts shelf and they had two in stock. I grabbed them both to save myself some aggravation in the future.

Those of us that are older, can remember going into an auto parts store and asking the guy behind the counter for a universal brake light switch and the counterman would immediately go get one off the shelf without looking it up. Same when I used to go get tune-up parts for my old Chevrolet pickup. I could just go the counter and say points, plugs, condenser, cap, and rotor for 1951 Chevrolet pickup and it was on the counter in five minutes or less. The counterman knew without looking up in the book, exactly what I needed.

Part of that came from the fact that most every counterman "back in the day," was also a mechanic on the side and had personally tuned up a Chevrolet and knew first hand the job I was going to do.

That vast knowledge of parts and procedure has disappeared for the most part. That older generation of parts countermen have long since retired and have been replaced with a counterman (or woman) that is good with a computer but often times does not know a water pump from a spark plug, has never actually installed either, and does not know what function they provide, and could not point out either part under the hood of an automobile.

 So...if you are lucky enough to find and auto parts store with a counterman who has the knowledge of your antique vehicle, be nice to him and capture all of the knowledge you can get from him, while he is still around.

Most auto parts stores today also do not have any paper catalogs, everything is on the computer, but you may find a long established auto parts store that has a bunch of old catalogs stored in the basement or upstairs that they are willing to get rid of... "because they are obsolete..." Load them up and take them home. Study them during the long winter nights and you might be surprised at what you learn.

We as antique vehicle owners have to be more self sufficient today than ever before. We are at least three generations away from when our antique vehicles were a daily driver.  With the increased lack of general "hands-on" knowledge, it becomes more of a challenge to get what we need at a modern auto parts store.

The modern full line stores like NAPA and Carquest carry a large selection of mechanical parts for antique vehicles, you just have to share your knowledge and help them find the parts they did not know they had in stock, or could order.

That is why I include things like a bulb crossover number chart in the 6/12 Conversion Guide. If you were to take your 1154 tail light bulb into the local auto parts store and ask for an equivalent in 12-volts...most of the time, nobody in the store would have a clue how to figure out, that you need an 1157 bulb.

Many of the old bulb catalogs gave specifications such as candle power rating, type of base, (bayonet straight pin or offset) and single filament or dual filament for each bulb. With the paper catalogs and the counterman knowledge both gone, it is much easier if you go into the local auto parts store knowing the part numbers you need, and walk out smiling.

That is where collecting all of those old paper parts catalogs from the auto parts stores, comes in handy. You can learn a lot from them, and the older ones were much more detailed than the modern day computer catalogs, and worked much like an interchange catalog. As you study them you will begin to recognize the same part number used on a host of applications.

That is exactly what a counterman did in the old days. That is how he eventually knew what fit what, without looking it up. He had studied those catalogs long enough, that he knew all of the applications that used the same part number.

So all of this is some food for thought. Think about gathering up some old auto parts catalogs and start a notebook that you can write down part numbers as you discover them. The part numbers do change over time but the part seldom does. Many times an auto parts store can go back a couple of number changes to find the part is still available.

If you keep current on your part numbers and write them down as you buy them, then going to the auto parts store will be much less painful, and you might be able to teach the younger generation a thing or two in the process. Better yet drive your antique vehicle down to the local auto parts store and show them what you are working on. That will surely blow their mind!


Borg Warner R-10 and R-11 Overdrive Tech Tips...The Odds and Ends

Posted on 11/28/17 with No comments

OK...if you have been paying attention to the tech stories in the Garage Tech section of the website you know I have written two tech articles about the Borg-Warner R-10 and R-11 overdrive.

You should know by now they these two transmissions are basically the same except for the number of cluster gears inside of the sun gear, with the R-11 having four while the R-10 has three. Both transmissions have proven to be plenty durable in normal use. The R-10 is the most common with the R-11 transmission used in the heavier cars like Packard, and in the higher horsepower applications in various brands in later years. The electrical is the same for both in that a solenoid, relay, kickdown switch, of the same voltage will work on either transmission.

It is not uncommon to find the Borg-Warner overdrive transmissions installed in all sorts of non factory applications. These transmissions were cheap and plentiful in the 1950's and 1960's and and easy to adapt in all types of drive lines.  Complete transmissions could be purchased from a salvage yard for twenty dollars...back in the day. That is what they were selling for in the 1960's when I was growing up.

When you upgrade a 6-volt vehicle to 12-volts you will also need to upgrade the solenoid and relay to 12-volts. The kickdown switch and the governor will both work fine on 12-volts.

Because of the demand for solenoids, both for production and the aftermarket, there were three different companies that manufactured solenoids, Delco,  Autolite, and Borg -Warner. Borg-Warner had sold over two million of the overdrive transmissions by 1954. All of the solenoids will interchange with each other physically, you just need to match up the voltage of the solenoid to the voltage of the vehicle's electrical system, and check the shaft length.

What this means is... when you go to the next swap meet... pay attention to the overdrive solenoids for sale. Often times a Ford solenoid will be $125.00, and two rows over you will see a Studebaker Solenoid for sale for $75.00. Now you know those are both the same solenoids.

Solenoid Shaft Lengths...
The most common shaft length by far is the 1" long shaft as measured with a ruler placed on top of the solenoid shaft and slid up next to the flange of the solenoid.  Convertibles and Station Wagons sometimes had longer shafts if there was an extra cross member in the frame. Typically these were shaft lengths of 1.5 or 1.75 in length.

Another common application that had a longer solenoid shaft was the 1946-48 Lincoln. Those applications typically had a shaft length of 1.5 inches. Lastly the solenoids used in 1968 thru 1972 Chevrolet pickup applications had a shaft length of 2.0 inches.

There were about 1500 Chevrolet pickups sold with overdrive option... so they are somewhat rare. Chances of finding a replacement long shaft solenoid for this application are almost slim to none. In some cases you can rebuild your current solenoid.

So the point is...DO NOT ASSUME all of the solenoid shaft lengths are the same or that yours is the most common one inch solenoid shaft. You need to physically measure your solenoid shaft so you know for certain what the lengths is.

If you have one of the longer shaft 6-volt solenoids... from a 48 Lincoln for example, you need to keep in mind that there is no 12 volt equivalent of that solenoid, and you cannot exchange shafts inside of the solenoid without a lot of effort because the early shafts were held using an "e clip" while the later solenoid shafts were held in place using a roll pin. Apparently there was a problem with the "e clips" falling out as internal parts began to wear, so that was the reason for the change.

The Flat Spot On The End Of the Solenoid...
The position of the flat spot on the end of the solenoid shaft is there to allow the pawl to slide by so you can then turn the solenoid to lock the pawl into the end groove on the Solenoid shaft. Does it matter where the clock position of the flat spot is...?

NO IT DOES NOT...if you install the solenoid correctly. The best way is to apply battery power to the number four terminal on the Solenoid and ground the case. That will make the solenoid shaft extend out. Now rotate the Solenoid until the flat spot is at the 12 o'clock position. Slide the solenoid shaft into the transmission and rotate the solenoid so your bolt holes line up. 

Next remove the battery power from the solenoid. If the pawl is in the groove at the end of the solenoid shaft, when you remove the battery power... the solenoid will be drawn in towards the transmission housing. That will confirm for certain that you do indeed have the pawl in the groove.

This is by far a much better way to install the Solenoid. If you just stick it into the transmission without extending the shaft you will not know for certain that the pawl is in the groove. Often times the pawl gets pushed back and forced up inside the transmission which is not a good thing. Once you energize the Solenoid it will be two late if the Pawl is not in the groove, the damage will be done.

Checking the Governor
When the transmission gets “stuck in overdrive” you already know what to do first, if you have read my overdrive 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 no 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 B-W overdrive transmissions beginning in the early 1950s. Your B-W overdrive transmission will work just fine without one.

Borg-Warner Company History
To tell the story of Borg-Warner Automotive, you have to trace the formation of several manufacturing companies in the United States and abroad. The first of these was Morse Equalizing Spring Company of New York, founded in 1880, which patented the rocker joint. In 1901 Warner Gear of Muncie, Indiana, was formed, and the next year, Marvel-Schebler Carburetor Company began operations in Flint, Michigan.

A fourth company, Long Manufacturing, came on line in Chicago to manufacture automobile radiators, while a fifth company, Borg & Beck, was organized in 1904. All of these companies figured in the development of Borg-Warner Automotive.

By 1906 Morse manufactured a line of automobile chains that were soon licensed for sale in England and Germany. Then came the production of automotive timing chains, followed quickly by Warner Gear's development of the industry's first manual transmission.

In 1910 Long Manufacturing moved from Chicago to Detroit. While a sixth company, Mechanics Machine Company of Rockford, Illinois, began producing transmissions in 1911. Over the next several years, Morse built a new facility in England as Warner Gear fashioned a growing reputation for quality.

By the 1920s, Borg & Beck's sturdy yet inexpensive clutch was mass-produced in millions of cars while Mechanics Machine Co. developed a universal joint with continuous lubrication, an innovation that rendered the former model (which had to be greased every 500 miles) obsolete.

At the same time, Warner Gear standardized its manual transmissions and introduced the T64, at nearly half the cost of its predecessors. In the young yet burgeoning auto industry, each of the aforementioned companies was busy developing a specialized product line, unaware that they would be united under the banner of Borg-Warner in a sweeping merger in 1928. 

Borg & Beck, Marvel Carburetor, Mechanics Universal Joint (renamed from Mechanics Machine in 1925), and Warner Gear became the Borg-Warner Corporation. The following year, Morse Chain (an auto timing and industrial chain producer at this time) and Long Manufacturing joined the new company at the same time that the Norge firm (including its Detroit Gear subsidiary) was acquired.

1930-50: Firsts and Innovations
The next decade brought several technological firsts for both Borg-Warner and the industry: Warner Gear pioneered the 'synchronizer,' a device that made a manual transmission's gear teeth mesh together with ease for smooth shifting; Morse Chain brought out its first roller chain; and Borg-Warner's self-contained overdrive transmission was introduced to immediate success as Chrysler and 11 other automakers quickly placed orders.

Borg-Warner Automotive Service Parts Division was also launched in the 1930s, and in 1936, to emphasize Borg-Warner's commitment to and enthusiasm for auto racing, the company commissioned a sterling silver trophy for the Indianapolis 500 (the first was presented to Louis Meyer). 

In the prewar 1940s Borg-Warner created its Spring Division (to supply automatic transmission parts), began working on transfer cases, and soon directed its attention to World War II production needs. Among its contributions were Morse Chain's drives for Navy tugboats and jeeps built with Warner Gear's transmissions. After the war, Warner Gear's technology briefly lent itself to the medical field in 1949, producing iron lungs.

It then returned to auto parts in 1950 with three revolutionary developments--the torque converter, a three-speed automatic transmission (the 'Ford-O-Matic'), and a newfangled clutch that would become one of the company's biggest sellers worldwide. 

Automotive sales for the company reached over $200 million. Among the first automakers to jump at Borg-Warner's newest innovations were Studebaker and Ford. The latter was so enamored of Borg-Warner's transmissions that it signed a five-year exclusive contract with Borg-Warner in 1951 for the production of automatic transmissions.

As the 1950s continued, Borg-Warner expanded its operations in several new directions. Not only did the company venture into South America, creating Borg & Beck do Brasil, but it also built new facilities in Simcoe, Ontario, and Letchworth, England. The English facility was soon producing Warner Gear's overdrive units and the Model D.G. automatic transmission.

In 1956 the T10 four-speed high performance manual transmission was introduced in the Chevrolet Corvette to wide acclaim. As Marvel-Schebler tinkered with a fuel injection system, Borg-Warner built (and patented) the first retractable seat belt restraint system and developed a line of paper-related wet friction components.

To broaden its international operations, Borg-Warner acquired Coote & Jurgenson, an Australian transmission producer for autos and tractors in 1957. Three years later, Brummer Seal Company was merged into Borg-Warner's Spring Division. In 1962 Borg-Warner expanded into Mexico, and into Asia in 1964 and 1965 with two Japanese joint ventures (NSK-Warner and Tsubakimoto-Morse).

As the company's varied units continued to devise new product innovations (the 'Hy-Vo' chain, Flex-Bands, and the aluminum Model 35 automatic transmission), Borg-Warner diversified into chemicals, plastics, industrial products, financial assistance, and eventually even into security and armored car services, its automotive division had remained a constant, usually contributing upwards of 50 percent of Borg-Warner's total revenue.

The Studebaker Hill Holder Option

Another common transmission option you may encounter is what Studebaker advertised as the the "Hill Holder." Because virtually all cars and trucks were standard transmission in the early days, it was sometimes difficult to start out on on an incline without the vehicle rolling backwards. The "Hill Holder" device was designed to prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards as the clutch was being released.

The device that Studebaker called the “Hill Holder” (which eventually became the generic name for the device) was developed not by Studebaker (or by B-W as many assumed) but by the Wagner (no doubt part of the confusion (Wagner vs Warner) Electric Corp. of St. Louis. Wagner copyrighted the “NoRol” name and made it commercially available beginning in January of 1934.

Wagner approached numerous auto companies to try to interest them in considering it for production vehicles. Studebaker was the only one that showed a serious interest in the device. It was tested at the company’s Proving Ground extensively in 1935 and due to the favorable results of these test the company decided to offer it on its new line of 1936 cars and trucks. It became standard equipment on all the 1936 Presidents and a $10 option for the Dictators.

Other manufacturers offered the device as an option up thru the 1960's where it gradually faded from popularity with the introduction of automatic transmissions.

Is This The End...?
As I dig thru my 40 plus year collection of technical literature and notes, I will post more information on the Borg-Warner Overdrive transmissions. You can find all of the information from the three tech articles and more in "The Official Guide To The R-10 and R-11 Overdrives, available in the technical book section of the "Parts" section of the website. 



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.