New Products

Random Thoughts


Who Pays...?

Posted on 5/23/17 with No comments

A victim of wind damage at the December 2009 Russo and Steele classic car auction.

Who pays for damage like this when you antique vehicle is consigned to a classic car auction? As you might guess it makes a difference when the damage occurs, before or after the sale and who technically owns the car, the previous owner or the new buyer, and when transfer of ownership officially takes place. Then there are the outside circumstances like the weather, the freak storm that occurred in December of 2009 at the Russo and Steele classic car auction in Scottsdale Arizona. You might be surprised at who pays...

As a review here is what happened. A massive storm that struck the Russo and Steele auction grounds Thursday caused, according to estimates, $1.5 million in damages. That includes a massive tent protecting the classics falling, scratching and denting 600 cars. This is basically the nightmare of any classic car restorer. You spend months or years rebuilding the car, days detailing it, and have it delivered to the auction grounds before the sale. All this work and the tent it's in collapses before you sell it.

The same gale terrorizing the Russo and Steele auction in Scottsdale also threatened the Barrett-Jackson auction across town . Organizers made all the spectators and car owners move into a main tent then surround it with semi trucks, according to The Arizona Republic Newspaper.

As a car appraiser I closely followed the outcome of this tragic event. The outcome was different than many expected and who ended up responsible for the damage to the cars was also interesting. As you might imagine the lawyers and the insurance companies were heavily involved and here is the outcome.

Who Pays When Your Collector Car is Damaged?

“ If the winds were unforeseeable, they would be considered an act of God, and neither the auction nor tent company would be liable for damages…

Who would have thought that the wind could blow so hard? That was the multi-million-dollar question at the Russo and Steele collector car auction held in Scottsdale Arizona in December of 2009.

 What was called the worst storm in 40 years—with estimated 80-mph winds—blew through the area on Thursday evening and destroyed two 800-foot tents at the Russo and Steele auction site. The wind lifted the tents like runaway umbrellas. The tent fabric may have caused scratches and broken mirrors, but the major damage came from the aluminum tent poles crashing into, over, and through many of the hundreds of collector cars underneath.

According to Russo and Steele President Drew Alcazar, the company was well aware that weather forecasts called for major rains, but not the gale-force winds. Crews were on-site to manage the water flow throughout the day. But when the wind picked up and the big tents started to flutter and sway, an evacuation was ordered to get people to safety. Fortunately, everyone exited the tents in time and there were no significant injuries. Aftermath photos of the damaged cars clearly show that people could have been killed.

More wind damage from the December 2009 Russo and Steel Auction in Scottsdale Arizona

Police and firemen quickly closed the site to prevent injury, barring car owners from entering to inspect or remove their cars, or take precautions to protect them from further damage. Rain, wind, and hail continued to pelt the cars that were now exposed to the elements, some with their tops down.

The site remained closed until early Saturday morning. Clean up followed at a Herculean pace, and auction staff did everything they could to protect the cars from further damage, including wrapping hundreds of them in plastic. The auction resumed on Sunday and was extended into Monday. Alcazar said that many consignors first pulled their cars from the auction, but as the auction restarted and progressed at such an encouraging pace, many re-entered their cars.

Many of them sold at pre-auction estimated sales prices, including some that were sold in damaged condition—some with, and some without the caveat that they would be returned to pre-damaged condition as a part of the sale.

McKeel Hagerty, President of Hagerty Collector Car Insurance Co., estimates more than 300 cars were damaged, of which at least 110 were insured by Hagerty. By any measure, this was a catastrophe. Hagerty expects that the claims will “test many contractual requirements in many directions.” We will have to wait and see how all that turns out.

Who’s At Fault?
Insurers of the damaged cars took to heart the opportunity to impress their policyholders with their service capabilities. Some owners want to leave their insurance carriers out of the picture, and expect that the auction company’s carrier will handle the situation, but that isn’t how insurance works. Each owner’s carrier will administer the claim (which generally means settle with the owner of the affected car), and later decide whether to pursue claims against third parties who might be at fault.

The obvious liability targets are Russo and Steele and the tent company, and Alcazar reports that there are multiple investigations under way. If it looks like the auction and/or tent company were at fault, the auto insurers will try to recoup their losses from them and their insurers. That process will likely be handled quietly, at least as long as the coverage is sufficient to cover all the losses.

The wild cards are the car owners who didn’t carry insurance. The Russo and Steele consignment agreement, and it is very clear says that the owner is expected to maintain insurance coverage on his or her car. Alcazar said he is amazed that, in spite of that, some of the sellers actually had no insurance coverage.

Another example of more storm damage...

The only way these owners can recoup their losses would be to establish liability on the part of the auction or tent company, and some may file suit. But filing such a lawsuit is a lot easier than winning it. The owner will be on his own with respect to his attorney fees, and will have only his individual loss at stake.

In contrast, the insurers for Russo and Steele and the tent company will be at risk for all the losses, as others could use any adverse determination as proof. They will have ample motivation to defend as forcefully (and expensively) as necessary.

Establishing Liability

The auction and tent companies are not automatically liable; rather, negligence would have to be proven. The auction company’s obligation is only to take reasonable precautions to protect the cars from reasonably foreseeable harm. Adverse weather is certainly foreseeable, but would that include winds this strong? Pre-event weather forecasts will play a role in answering that question.
The auction company is not expected to be an expert in tent design, and can probably leave that to a reputable tent company to handle. The auction company does have to pick a capable tent company, and Alcazar points out that Russo and Steele used the same tent company as all the other Arizona auction companies.

The tent company would be obligated to select appropriate tents for the site, capable of withstanding foreseeable weather conditions. Once again, the question will be if these winds were reasonably foreseeable.

If the winds were unforeseeable, they would be considered an act of God, and neither the auction or tent company would be liable for the damages. If the winds were foreseeable, then either or both might be found to be negligent.

Pity The Poor Buyer

About 100 cars had crossed the block before the winds came. About half were sold to happy owners, and had been moved back under the tents that later collapsed and suffered damage. What is your situation if you were the (temporarily) happy winning bidder?

Under general legal principles, the car is sold, and title and risk of loss pass to the buyer, when the hammer falls. Most buyers’ agreements make that point quite clear.

Obviously, the buyers didn’t have time to call their insurance agents and buy coverage. Will their insurance carrier cover them anyway?

Consumer auto policies generally provide automatic coverage for new cars that you buy. That’s probably easy enough for a $45,000 Porsche 993, but might be tougher for a $25 million Ferrari 250 GTO.

Hagerty explains that their policies provide automatic coverage for new collector car purchases for 30 days. Jim Fiske, U.S. Marketing Manager at Chubb Personal Insurance, confirms that their policies do the same, as will those of most “true” collector car insurance companies. Both caution that various consumer insurance companies have entered the collector car market with less sophisticated policies that must be individually reviewed.

The critical second question is the amount of your coverage. Hagerty says that your purchase price will almost always establish the value of the car, reserving doubt only for highly unusual or suspicious situations. But if you have an actual cash value policy, your insurance adjuster will be well within his rights to suggest that you paid too much for the car, and they won’t make the same mistake when they compensate you for your loss.

No-Sale Equals Tough Deal

Say your car failed to sell because the bidding didn’t reach your reserve, or you offered it at no reserve but bought it back because the bids were too low (yes, that’s illegal), then it suffered extensive damage. With an actual cash value policy, the insurance company is free to debate the value of the car, and you may be surprised to find that your reserve or buy-back can be a ceiling, but not a floor, to the value of the car when it comes time for the insurance company to write a check. After all, the market spoke about the “correct” value and you chose not to listen. Similarly, since you were willing to sell at your reserve, that can be an admission that the car was not worth more.

Agreed Value Nightmares

Many times the agreed value policies are the way to go, but be careful that they accurately reflect the value of the car. “Auto insurance is one of the least scrutinized transactions people enter into. Most people know more about their cell phone contracts than their insurance contracts.”

Many people simply don’t remember what the amount of their agreed value policy is, as they often set it when they bought the car, sometimes many years ago. That can really come back to bite you. Say you have a Series I E-type Jaguar that you insured for $50,000, under an agreed value policy, when you bought the car. You expected it to sell for $75,000 at the auction reflecting the restoration work you had done to the car. But before the car has a chance to cross the block, it suffered $25,000 in damage. Later, you discover that your agreed value is still the $50,000 amount you originally paid for the car.

Still more damage from the storm.

Under an agreed value policy, there is no negotiation about the value of the car—it is conclusively deemed to be the agreed value amount. You get a check for $50,000, and the insurance company now owns the damaged car. They sell it to someone for $25,000, who then spends $25,000 repairing it and making it back into a $75,000 Jaguar.

In effect, you are sharing the loss with your insurance company; you lose the $25,000 of uninsured market value, and the insurance company loses only $25,000 after reselling the salvage. That loss sharing could have been avoided if you had been careful enough to adjust the agreed value as the car’s value changed.

Diminished Value

Several of the damaged cars appeared to be excellent unrestored, original examples. When they are repaired, they won’t be unrestored any longer, and they may suffer from diminished value, which many insurance policies exclude. In those situations, damages from the diminished value can be recovered only from the auction and/or tent company, and only if legal liability can be established.
That is an avenue you would have to pursue on your own at your own expense, unless your insurance company does not exclude diminished damage. In many cases the cost of an attorney and the related legal fees make it cost prohibitive to try and recover any diminished damage compensation. Establishing legal liability on behalf of the tent company and or auction company is difficult time consuming and seldom successful.

No-Sale No-Coverage

Say your car sold but the buyer refuses to pay for the now-damaged car? Your insurance company could take the position that it owes you nothing because you didn’t own the car when it was damaged—after all, ownership and risk transfer to the new owner the instant the gavel falls. If the sale price is greater than your insurance coverage, you might be in a real tough spot. You can either cancel the sale and “reinstate” your lower insurance coverage, or spend the time and money suing the buyer to pay up.


Obviously, the best answer for every one of these situations is insurance. The seller should have an updated agreed value insurance policy in force at all times. The buyer should be sure to have a policy in place before the auction that will cover any purchase. In both cases, it is best to place your coverage with a specialty carrier that knows collector cars and can provide proper assistance in making sure that you are properly covered.

Copyright 2010 Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts 415 Court Street Clay Center Kansas 67432.

Fifth Avenue Antique Auto Parts does not sell insurance. This information serves no legal purpose it is provided to act as a reference guide and to provide examples of common situations where collector car losses can occur and what to expect. Hopefully this will help you to ask the right questions BEFORE you suffer a loss. Most important of all know what your insurance does and does not cover before you have a claim.

I include a copy of this explanation along with all of my appraisals. As an antique vehicle owner we do not think of the worst happening but it is good to plan ahead just in case and as an antique vehicle appraiser is was good education for me as well. I hope none of you reading this ever have to deal with something like happened in Scottsdale Arizona in 2009 but at least now you will be better prepared and you know who is responsible for what.


A Simple Fix For A Common Problem...

Posted on 5/18/17 with No comments

By now most of us have had first hand experience using modern gasoline in our antique vehicles. We know from experience that the gasoline we buy today is not near the quality the gasoline was when out antique vehicles were new. If you have read my book "The Official Guide To Modern Gasoline And Oil for Modern Vehicles"... you know why that a quality gear driven electric fuel pump with the same working pressure as your mechanical fuel pump is almost a necessity.

This is our 92 series electric fuel pump taken apart so you can see how it is made...

A 30 micron fuel filter is included with every 92 series electric fuel pump

One other thing the modern fuel systems do is circulate the gasoline between the fuel tank and the fuel pump via a return line. This helps keep the gasoline cool, keeps the gasoline from turning to vapor and blocking the flow of fresh gasoline to the carburetor (in our case), and any extra volume of gasoline can be returned to the fuel tank.

Ok...fine you say, "but how am I supposed to make the fuel circulate in my antique vehicle fuel system...?" There are a couple of way to do it but at Fifth Avenue we believe "simple is good!" I have prepared cars for the Great Race for close to thirty years now, and the one thing I always find interesting is how a group of 100 antique vehicle owners can come up with so many complicated solutions to a simple problem. Building a recirculating fuel system is a good example.

                                       You could do it the hard way like this...

This solution, while good in theory makes the job a lot more difficult that it has to be... and there are a few flaws in this design. In this example the by-pass portion of the fuel system that is closest to the underside of the car ...those 90 degree elbows will prove to be a restriction to the fuel flow as will the check valve installed in the fuel line, and we all know from experience, the more joints there are...the more places you can expect to have a leak. It is just Murphy's Law.

Or you could accomplish the same thing using this...

This is the simple solution. This is a special application fuel filter that works with our 92 series electric fuel pump. This special application fuel filter has 5/16"  inlet and outlets, so it will work in the same fuel line you are using now. It has an extra 1/4" outlet so you can run a 1/4" return fuel line back to the fuel tank to circulate the fuel. You want to install it on the output side of the electric fuel pump. It is a simple installation and do not have to add a bunch of plumbing to complete your mission.

I know what you are thinking...but this filter needs to go AFTER the electric fuel pump so the electric fuel pump can help push the fuel thru the system. If you put this filter before the electric fuel pump it will be difficult for the electric fuel pump to circulate the fuel. With the alcohol in the gasoline today you can not have too many fuel filters... Simple is Good!

This filter is part number 17415DOF and is available in the Parts section of the website.

ONE MORE Lt. Colombo used to say, this concerns check valves in fuel systems.

Example Of An In line Fuel Check Valve

You might be thinking about adding a fuel system check valve like this one in your fuel line to prevent vapor lock. While that might sound good in theory if you understand how a mechanical fuel pump works and how a carburetor works then you will know that is NOT the answer to your problem.

A mechanical fuel pump works (in simple terms) with two valves, one on the inlet and one on the outlet. The inlet valve opens to draw fuel in using the vacuum created from the diaphragm. Then the inlet valve closes and the outlet valve opens and the fuel is forced out the outlet side of the fuel pump to the carburetor. If one valve is open the other valve is closed.

What this means is...there will always be one valve closed in your mechanical fuel pump, so there is not much chance of fuel draining back to the tank thru the mechanical fuel pump. The same thing happens in the carburetor. The fuel travels into the inlet of the carburetor and the fuel bowl fills with fuel. Once the fuel bowl is full the needle and seat close off the incoming fuel supply thus preventing the fuel from draining back into the fuel line. It works that way (at least in theory) so there is always enough fuel in the carburetor to start your antique vehicle. So there is not much chance for the fuel to leak back towards the fuel tank from the carburetor either.

SO...Where does your fuel go and how come your car takes so long to start after it sits for a week in the garage...?

One of two things is going on. In most cases the fuel in the carburetor is simply evaporating. Modern fuel has a low boiling point to help with emission standards, which is fine for modern cars with high fuel pump pressures. It is not fine for our antique vehicles that have four pounds of fuel pump pressure or less.  So a simple explanation is the fuel simply evaporated out of the carburetor while your car was parked,  most likely out the air horn vent.

The second thing that happens is that the fuel turns to a vapor while in the fuel line. This is common if the fuel line runs next to an exhaust or if there is a lot of heat under the hood from exhaust headers (for example) which will help speed up the evaporation process. That under hood heat will also boil the fuel out of the bowl of the carburetor as well.

When the fuel turns to vapor in the fuel line it will expand and block the flow of fresh gasoline to the mechanical fuel pump. This is common after you have driven you antique vehicle for an hour or so then shut it off.  The heat soak from the exhaust manifolds and it being a 90 plus degree day will help the problem along and make it worse.

The fix of course is an electric fuel pump mounted back close to the tank so it can force the fuel to the front. Most always... the vapor lock will occur between the fuel tank and the mechanical fuel pump. The mechanical fuel pump simply cannot pump the fuel after it has turned into a vapor.

Besides an electric fuel pump and the dual outlet fuel filter shown above you also need to add a pint of diesel fuel to every ten gallons of gasoline. It will do two things. First it will raise the boiling point of the gasoline so it will not vaporize so easily, and the diesel fuel will lubricate the gaskets in the carburetor to keep them from shrinking. (the alcohol in modern gasoline will dry carburetor gaskets out causing them to shrink)

So now that you understand how your fuel system works and what is causing your vapor lock, you understand that adding a check valve into the fuel line going to the carburetor will NOT solve your vapor lock problem...and more important you also know why.


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

Posted on with No comments

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.

Be aware of curved blade electric radiator cooling fans. They are quieter than a straight blade fan but are also less efficient. (that riverboat paddle wheel lesson again). Your reason for adding an electric radiator fan in the first place is to move more air thru the radiator core to make your cooling system more efficient. Don't loose sight of your goal!


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.

When I talk to customers on the telephone about electric radiator cooling fans the analogy I use most often is  helicopter blades. Clearly...a helicopter blade is in the air moving business and if curved blades worked better to move air, helicopter blades would be curved. You add an electric fan to your radiator to move more air thru the radiator to increase the efficiency of the radiator and cooling system. So the helicopter are in the air moving business.

Like most things… you get what you pay for and when it comes to shopping for an electric radiator-cooling fan buying a quality, highly efficient electric radiator cooling fan will save you money in the long run and more important fix you cooling problem for good. And remember...Simple Is Good!

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 changed 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 discussed earlier. Besides the careful rocking motion and solenoid service discussed earlier, you need to check one more thing 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 B-W overdrive transmissions beginning in the early 1950s. Your B-W 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.



About Me

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