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History of the Packard Auto Transmission

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Can anyone point me to a link that has info on the history of Pakcard's auto tranmissions - which years and models offered them, how did it improve over time, etc etc...

One quick question - Did the 22nd or 23rd series offer auto ever?(would it be ultramatic or not till the 51+ models?) Mine was 3 on the tree with no OD, I know some have OD, but have yet to see one with auto.

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Fonz,

Ultramatic Drive was offered on the 23rd series cars for Packard's Golden Anniversary in 1949. In late 1954, the Gear Start or first version of the Twin Ultramatic was introduced. The Packard Ultradynamics website of Peter Fitch has a summary of refinements and problems with the Twin Ultramatic. Those problems have led some Packard collectors to replace the TU unit with Mopar or GM transmissions. I have just rebuilt a '54 Gear Start. It's expensive and time consuming and I won't know until I get it installed if the job was successful!

jnp

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Fonz: Here is some more history of the Packard ultramatic. Packard was the only independent car maker to design and build thier own automatic transmision. Studebaker also had an automatic transmision but it was a Borg Warner trans. The ultramtic was designed with the help of the Detroit Gear Comapny the transmission cost $7 million to develop. GM brought a lawsuit against Packard claiming the they had used the famous Buick slush box trany for thier design. Packard won the lawsuit filed by GM. In reading my TSB's there where many refinements made between 1949 and 1952. <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

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And the 55-56 Ultra was the product of a young engineer named John Delorean - yep, the same one.

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Wow, very interesting factoids <img src="http://www.aaca.org/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

Let me follow-up on the suggestion of switching out to a GM or Mopar tranny. If the day comes where mine goes bad, I will wish to do such a switch out.

Could someone enlighten me as to which GM or Mopar transmissions will work with my V8 (55 Clipper Deluxe).

I will go a step further and ask if there is an GM/Ford/Mopar engine/tranmission combination that would fit in the 55 Clipper without too much grief. I realize the boss will be different, but is there anything that could mount in there, has anyone done this?

Please include cost estimates so I have some ballpark idea of materials cost.

PS: I am a Packard style purist, but I am practical insofar as it aids the cars driveability and enjoyment without impacting its original style.

I had to be held down by my wife and my mechanic so as not to spend a fortune redoing my 49 in all mohair and instead went with a very original looking, but modern DuPont material. BUT as far as mechanical goes - if its easier to drive and service I'll spend and do it.

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Fonz, I had my TU rebuilt by someone who knew Packard transmissions. It was done in 92 and one problem occurred because the rear pump had a bad housing. When that was replaced the car has driven like a new one. Once it is warmed up you cannot feel it shift. The TU trans got a bad name because a lot of GM or Ford mechanics couldn't fix them - they didn't understand the trans and didn't try. Why should they? When you have someone with specific knowledge rebuild the trans it works well. I don't tow a cabin cruiser or a house trailer with it, but I don't see a lot of 56 Fords or Caddys doing that either. I've had it up to 105 mph and it runs smooth.

Sort of reminds me of the Ford mechanic who rebuilt Russ Shaner's V8 (before Russ bought it). He knew that all the odd-numbered pistons went on the passenger side and the evens went on the drivers, all Ford ohv V8s did. Except Packards odd pistons go on the drivers side. Subsequently when the cylinder walls weren't getting enough oil the pistons expanded and one ripped off the top of the piston in Warren Ohio and Russ had to trailer the car home to Rochester, NY. Yep, them Ford mechanics know their stuff.

YFAM, Randy Berger

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Fonz,

The Packard Ultramatic as you know came out in 1949 as an Option, with the 23rd Series Golden Aniversary Custom Eights. In 1950 they extended it as an Option to the better part of the rest of the 23rd Series cars. It cost $7,000,000.00 to develop. During its 8 year life, Packard never really recouped its initial cost of development. Its a completely Hydraulic Unit that depends on bleed rates through bushings, valving and the govenors to control pressures to the various parts of the Transmission to provide proper operation and shifting.

There were some changes in it along the way of note. One was in Converter Ranges which resulted in a slightly better acceleration rate and slightly different spring rates in the direct shift system to faciltate better shifting. In 1952, Packard switched to a 9 inch Direct Drive Clutch from the 11 1/4" clutch of a slightly different type to give a better shift into Direct Drive. However, the Ultramatic's major critic's in the Automotive Press and amoung owners was it was still Sluggish. Due to sagging 1954 sales they introduced Gear Start, a cobbled up version, that gave you an Automatic shift from Low to High and then to Direct. The result was it made the Cars better performers with the 359 Eights and Performance was selling. However, it was frought with Problems as even Packard mechanics didn't have the training on it they should have had and again it was hastily developed. The truth is by 1954 Packard was litterally caught with its pants down even though 53 was a good sales year as the Major Competition, namely Buick, was killing them with their V-8's.

When T-U was conceived for 55 and the V-8's. Packard knew there were problems as several test cars at Utica with the V-8 blew tranny's under severe use. Bear in mind that there was no money and no time to develop something better, other than 3 different Converter ranges for Sedans, Hardtops and Caribbean, the spring Rates for valving were changed to give an earier Direct Drive Shift about Mid year. They stuck with what they had. Given the general turmoil in the rest of the company with everything that was going on, its no surprise.

The '55 T-U in concept of operation on Paper was a good Unit. It was the first Ultramatic to use an Aluminum Bell Housing and Extension Housing. However, due to the use of a soft sleeve bushing in the Rear Pump which once it wore slightly resulted in the loss of Hydraulic Pressure. Aproblem that once it was discovered was corrected with a hardened sleeve. However, on early units this compounded problems that already were inherrant with the High Range Clutches which were not heavy enough to begin with even though they were supplied by G.M. and were used in Hydramatics. The Direct Drive Clutch should have been larger as well to accept the Tourque of the V-8. This cost Packard dearly in its reputation.

Even though the engineers went back and corrected some of the problems, by the time the 1956 models came out. Packard had the first Automatic Transmission with an all Aluminum Case in any car in 1956. The 1956 Ultramatic also had a hardened sleeve in the rear pump, this was also retrofitted to the 55's in Warrenty repair and service kits, a new thrust washer for the converter to prevent wear on the bushing and seal, Two new Converters for Sedans and Hardtops and the Caribbean, a slightly different valving and other major improvements. It was a far better unit than the 55's even though basically it is the same unit.

This was all for naught, as the Cars already had a bad reputation with the average Joe Shmoe public because of the 1955 Packard and Clipper's T-U's, poor Assembly, bad lifters in the V-8's and problems with the T-L suspension. This was compounded by problems with the Push Button Shifter and Bad Axle Flanges on the 56's. In the publics eye, Packard had had it. They were perceived wrongly of being Clunkers and the fact that Studebaker-Packard was in Financial Ruin only added to it. In truth, Packard was its own worst enemy in the end. They had good ideas, but with no resourses as far as time and money to carry them out right through R & D. The one thing that turns off the Public fast is Bugs from hastily contrived gimmicks. They want to be able to get in the car and go. A lesson that was not lost on the Japanese and the Germans.

Bob

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Many thanks for asking about the history of the Ultramatic, and thanks to all those who responded. Constellation , you did a particularly thorough job, and encouraged me to have the unit rebuilt with the '56 upgrades when the time comes. I'm constantly amazed at the depth of information available on this site.

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bernardi, it's like making stone soup - everyone has at least one ingredient.

Do you live near Irwin, Pa?

YFAM, Randy Berger

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Hello friends. Tim here....yes and still working on the 55' 400. After some research I find myself leaning towards the Ultra torc 727 conversion. The conversion seems to be on the expensive side as far as they go but you can get one of the small block 727 trannys from the junkyard pretty cheap. I have a friend that says that you can get a well trained crustation to rebuild one. So My plan is to get the conversion kit and rebuild a junkyard 727. It is cheaper than a rebuild of the TwinUltra if I do it that way and it is a tough tranny.

Tim

MBL

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Great info! That should be an article in SIA magazine or somewhere, Constellation.

Ok, let me try to digest this all and regurgitate it - if I had, say 1 51 Ultramatic, is there anyway to go to a 727 Twin Ultramatic with the smaller flywheel?

Please spell it out for me... If my hypothetical 51's tranny blew up, what would be the best LONG term solution, or just go to Mopar?

Thanks.

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Sorry, Delorian DID NOT design the '55/'56 Ultramatic. The Ultramatic was primarily designed by two men: Forest R. McFarland and Herb Misch. Delorian may have made some minor contribution, but wasn't around in 1947 and 1948 when the two men mentioned created it. Dwight

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There is no reason to change the Ultramatic to another transmission. There are a few reliable rebuilders, Once rebuilt, they are solid and reliable. Cost can range from $1,000 to $3,000 depending upon what is needed. Typical average price is $2,000. Contact Ross Miller in Parkton, MD at 410-357-4561. He's rebuilt about 20 with great success. Dwight

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For completeness, here's a source for replacing the T-U with 700-R4, an overdrive tranny:

Ultra 2700

Mike Transmissions wants about $2,500, but he includes the 700-R4 core. I don't know of anyone personally who has done this conversion.

I agree with the comment above that a rebuilt T-U with 1956 upgrades should give 1000s of miles of reliable driving. My 55 Pat T-U was rebuilt by Trowbridge Automotive in Portland OR about 1992. It works great to this day with the exception of surge going up long grades as we have discussed before.

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we need to contact some V8 Packard owners that already have this GM 700R4 conversion completed and in operation. If anyone has any such e-mail addresses or phone of owners or even those currently in process of conversion i would like to call or email them for thier opinion.

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