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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. 


Glass Cylinder Heads For A Flathead Ford ...

Posted on 11/26/17 with No comments


I have always wanted to build a coffee table out of an engine block. I have seen hundreds of them over the past 30 years, and knew I wanted something different and unique.

I rounded up a well used Flathead Ford block that had spent it's golden years outside in the elements in a salvage yard. It was not cracked but the cylinder walls had some serious pitting and the valve seats were totally gone. It was the perfect candidate.

After the tear down, cleaning, sandblasting and putting the engine block up on wheels, I delivered the block to the local grain auger manufacturing company who has a state of the art powder coating line. They will coat most anything you want any color as long as it is red.

Being an alumni of that fine institution during my high school years years, helped make the arrangements to get the block powder coated. The idea was not to spend a million dollars on this project but still end up with something unique.  Having a Flathead Ford block show up on the powder coat paint line normally reserved for grain augers and related hardware caused quite a stir with the employees.

With the block back it was time to figure out the cover for the intake.  I rounded up a piece of 3/8" tempered aluminum and delivered it to the local machine shop who drilled the holes to match the intake gasket. Next up, I polished the aluminum to a mirror finish and fitted it to the Flathead block using stainless button head cap screws. So far so good!

One of my dealers had this pair of Flathead headers that were customer returns. They worked perfect for this project with only a slight modification.

Because this is a build it as I go project, I have gotten a lot of "supervision and input" from the locals. It is also amazing how a project like this draws out a lot of hidden talent.  One of my best friends from High School,  Daryl Klataske was back visiting his mother when he stopped down and saw the project. After I explained what I was doing and why... he got kind of a twisted look on his face then began to smile...

"What if you put LED lights in the cylinders and made them fire in the correct firing order..." Wow that would be cool I say... but how in the heck could you do that...? I was secretly hoping I was asking the right guy for the answer.

I was.  Daryl is an electrical engineer and also builds model railroad circuits and has more than a little experience with LED circuits and controls. "I think we could even make it so than if you had a small accelerator pedal we could make the light speed up and slow down with the movement of the gas pedal and we could hide all of the circuitry under the intake cover..." That was an offer I couldn't refuse. I honestly had not thought of using LED lighting.

So now I need to find a way to show the LED lighting off. That is when I came up with the idea of glass cylinder heads. My original plan was to make plexiglass cylinder heads, but then with the LED lighting inside of the cylinders, I realized glass would be much more impressive. Now comes the "How am I gonna build glass cylinder heads...?"

Enter one Gary Jones, president of Manko Glass in Manhattan Kansas. I have known Gary for many years, even back when his glass manufacturing company was less than 6 employees. Needless to say the company is much bigger now with plants also located in Denver Colorado and Des Moines Iowa.

There is not much Manko cannot make in glass, including sky scraper windows, custom glass shower and storm doors and custom table tops. The question was... could they make glass Flathead Ford cylinder heads? I was hoping to find out!

I took a head gasket down to Gary and explained what I wanted. There was a pause and hesitation. I said  "you no doubt get bored making storm windows and shower doors all day along with a few custom glass table need a challenge, here is one...."

" Leave this with me and I will work on it and call you in a few weeks..." True to his word, Gary did just that, and said "Your project will be a challenge because you are wanting 24 holes drilled in a piece of glass with some of those holes less than a half inch from the edge of the glass...we will try it and see what happens."

I said I wanted to be there to witness the event and to see how this was going to happen.. He explained that he has a very large (and expensive) CNC machine for glass that can accept a glass sheet  96 inches wide x 144 inches in length.  I had no idea there was such a thing.  "When we get it scheduled, I will call you."  I also wanted to see how they were going to hold the glass in position while they machined it and drilled the holes. That would be worth the price of admission.

I arrived on G day (glass day) with a dozen donuts and watched them machine out the heads. I was totally blown away. I had no idea you could do that to glass with such precision.

This is how they hold the glass in place while it is being machined. Think tongue on metal hand railing in dead of winter... only 100 times stronger!

If you have ever wondered how they drill holes in glass, now you know...

Here is the finished product ready for polishing. Who could ask for anything more.

Rob and Nathan  made the process look easy which it was clearly not. Rob on the left wrote the program and did the actual machine work. Nathan on the right did the polishing to the mirror finish. Just as working with metal... the glass has some rough edges after it has been machined. The polishing of glass is much more difficult,  and the end result can make or break the project...literally. The glass cylinder heads came out perfect!  10/18/17.

Update - 11/5/17
During final fitting of the glass cylinder heads it was discovered that there were two extra holes in the glass cylinder heads that didn't need to be there. So after some discussion it was decided to make a second set which actually required the making of three sets (It is very difficult to machine glass and drill 24 holes in each piece and get each of those holes exactly centered, which they eventually did) to get things just right. Rob and Nathan are clearly perfectionists...and "good enough" is not in their vocabulary.

Machining glass is always a challenge and drilling 24 holes in a single piece of glass is asking a lot and really tempting fate! But happy to say the third set fit like a glove. During the making of the third set I also got to watch more of the polishing process which I will share with you here.

Just like when polishing metal they start out with 100 grit to polish all of the edges. That first polish is the tricky polishing, because that is where their are the most rough edges and the easiest to snag the polishing belt. it is also the most critical, if you do not lay down a good foundation,  the next two polishes will be a lot more work, and will not come out well.

Next up they go over all of the same surfaces with 250 grit. Finally they finish up with 400 grit. There is a knack to polishing glass and not snagging the polishing belt on the rough edges or burning the glass by polishing in one place to long and getting the glass hot. Here Nathan shows how it is done.

The Master At Work.

The 250 Grit Comes Next...

And Finally The 400 Grit For A Mirror Finish.

They Apply This To The Polishing Belt To Help Prevent Snags...

This is the finished product. It is kind of a strange view and plays tricks with your mind. Common sense says you should not see that head gasket exposed but it is there. The glass has just a slight green tint to it so in your mind you know something is there, but something in the overall view is not quite right. I got my unique and different.

Here is a close up view. now we are ready for the lighting. Daryl has been working on that and he sent me a link to what he thinks we should use. The more that I get into this project the more I realize this build could not have happened five years ago. The technology to mill and drill holes in glass with the accuracy needed for the cylinder heads has not been around all of that long. Also the LED lighting we need for the cylinders has also not been around that long. So the old adage is true...timing is everything.

Finding the hardware for the glass cylinder heads also proved to be a challenge. I needed 50 rubber washers no bigger than 3/4" in diameter (so as not to end up covering part of the cylinder opening)  with 3/8 diameter holes in the center to go over the stock studs in the engine block...and then 48 more washers to go under the stainless acorn nuts that also had a rubber washer on the back side to protect the glass. 

The plain rubber washers came from an electronic computer supply house. They are used as insulators to mount circuit boards. Another outside the box event.

The washers on top, (which had to be the same diameter as those on the bottom. came from a company that supplies hardware to assemble grain bins which need a water tight seal on the roof.  I bet neither company had any idea where their washers would end up.

I also got really good at installing helicoils... as there were eleven stripped threaded holes in this block,  seven of the head stud holes, and four of the exhaust threads were stripped. The block has clearly had a hard life and somebody had gotten a little carried away when tightening bolts. 

The Lighting
Now it is time to work on the lighting in the cylinders. The plan is to put LED lighting in the cylinders and have them light in the same order as the firing order of a Flathead Ford engine. You can blame that idea on the first CARS movie. Their are pistons supporting the canopy at Flo's Cafe which is lit with neon using the firing order of a Flathead Ford V8. Having done numerous projects for the movie studios I watch for the little details like that. 

The red rings around the pistons and spark plugs on the roof flash on and off in the firing order of a Flathead Ford V8.

Here is the type of LED lighting we plan to use. It comes with an adhesive back that we can stick directly to the walls of the cylinders. Because the walls of the cylinders have been powder coated and are smooth the LED's should stick really well. Daryl is working on a controller and the related software that we will hide underneath the intake cover. The closer this project is to being done the more exciting it is...stay tuned for more updates.

This is the LED lighting we plan to use. It is a special high output LED lighting and comes in multiple colors. We will experiment and may use a mixture of the red and yellow to simulate the firing inside of the cylinder. This is an example of the YELLOW color.

Here is an example of the High output LEDs in RED. They are definitely bright and should do the trick. I cant wait to see this at night.

Update - 2/11/18
Things are progressing along. Daryl is working on the software and related circuit boards. We tend to think alike in that when somebody says..."hey, you can't do that..." it becomes a challenge for us to prove them wrong. We also get to have a lot of fun in the process.

So the next step in this project is to build the circuit boards and write the computer software program that will control the LED lights in the cylinders and also the intake and exhaust valves.

So for the purpose of the circuit board, the lights on the board will be red and be in the same position on the circuit board as they are on the engine block. So on the circuit board we need the lights to flash exactly as they will in the cylinders.

We also want to be able to control the rate of flash so when we add an accelerator pedal, the speed of the flash in the cylinders will match the accelerator pedal.

Also... we are going to use smaller LED lights in the intake and exhaust holes that will light just before and just after when the cylinder fires

So there will also be lights on the circuit board to represent each of the intake and exhaust LED's.

Daryl is clearly on a roll and keeps coming up with more ideas and enhancements which then allows me to offer more ideals from the mechanical side. This project is becoming waaay to much fun!

From Daryl I learned... it is easier to build a small scale circuit board to test your software and formulas, then build the full size board after you get the bugs worked out of the test circuit board.

We are at the test stage of a circuit board now, so here is the sample Daryl sent to me. The green light will be ignition key on. The Red lights represent the cylinders and the order in which they fire. They will be in the same circuit as the large LED lights located in the cylinders. The upper left is number one.

The green and yellow lights (lower right) represent the LED lights that will be in the intake and exhaust. They too will be in the same circuit as the actual LED lights in the intake and exhaust.

While this is not the final product is gives you some idea how things will operate and it gives Daryl a way to check out his software writing, and circuit board building skills.

Look closely under the circuit boards and you can see part of the massive formula's Daryl had to work out to get to this point.  Clearly this takes a little more that a few dinner napkins from McDonald's. Little doubt, Daryl is the right man for the job!



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.