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Back in the '50s when I was in high school people used to talk about cars of the past with two speed rear ends. One of my fellow students brought an old Lincoln Zephyr to school that had one. Later I was friends with a fellow who said he'd owned a different make that also sported a two speed rear axle when he was a kid. I have often thought that putting one in a modern car would be fun.

Off and on over the years I have tried to find out more info on this topic on the internet and also to see if they are still available somewhere. Up to now I have been completely unsuccessful.

Does anyone know which cars had them, and does anyone know if they can still be had?

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E.L. Cord owned the Columbia gear company. The two speed axel that was in the Linclon was probably a Columbia. There were Fords that had Columbia rear diffs, they probably were dealer installed. All high end Auburns had them between 1931 & 1936. These were much larger and heavy duty than those that Ford used. There are no parts that are interchangable between the two. Come to think of it E.L. sold rear diffs to Franklin as well, these were the heavy duty varity. They are still available.

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Is there an aftermarket 2 speed gear box that sits in front of the diff? I thought there were some products like this years ago. You would have to shorten the drive shaft, and machine some splines to fit the 2 speed unit on both ends.

I would be interested in getting such a unit to increase the top end in my '28 Gardner. It's gots tons of torque (I think I could pull tree stumps with it!), but is geared a bit too low.

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The Warner Automatic Overdrive unit was used in the post WWII on different models. The Chevrolet, Hudson, Packard, DeSoto, Kiser, Plymouth, Dodge, Lincoln, Studebaker, Ford, Mercury, Willys, Frazier, and Nash all used the model R-10 or R-11. This unit was attached to the back of the manual transmission.

Ebay has multiple hits including a reproduction manual dating back 50 years. Do a search on the internet for "overdrive speed" and you will find several hits including some new ones available. You should be prepared to spend 2,000 to 3,000 including installation.

I have 1953 Willys Aero with overdrive and free wheeling. In 1950 my father purchased a Studebaker with overdrive. I doubt if you can install one on a front wheel drive.

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John Gelfer:

Many of the currently offered (new) overdrive units are derivatives of the Laycock DeNormanville electric overdrive which first appeared (to the best of my knowledge) in Austin Healy 100/6 and Triumph TR3 in the late 50s or early 60s. They were later used (same unit) in Volvos with electrically operated overdrive. Now basically the same unit is being offered for mid sized pickups and RVs, so they must be pretty strong. My experience with them in the brit cars back in the day is that they are pretty bullet proof but are somewhat susceptible to sticky shifting problems if the oil is not kept clean or changed every few years. They have an internal oil pump and electric over hydraulic shifting mechanism. They should be pretty readily available if you can find a volvo junkyard or one that has old british cars, and they should be pretty easy to install in most any car that has a long enough driveshaft to permit cutting and inserting the unit. Try to get the crossmember and the yokes from both sides as this will make the mounting and driveshaft modifications much easier.

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Popular accesory for a Model T, Ruckstell two speed rear end. Ruckstell low was under drive and Ruckstell high was normal factory ratio. Let you run a higher ring - pinion ratio and still have some low eend pulling.

greg

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