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Gemmer Steering on KA/KB Lincolns


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Hi all ---

I read that when the K Lincolns came out in 1931 they used Gemmer worm and roller steering.

As far as I am concerned, "Gemmer" is a profane word because it implies a poorly designed steering mechanism that quickly wore out and can't be adjusted. Franklin and Pierce Arrow used Gemmer with similar results and today can have many inches of free play in the steering wheel. Both Franklin and Pierce cars now have someone offering much needed rebuilding kits.

Did Lincoln of this same 1931, 32, etc period use the same Gemmer steering that wears out quickly? Do most Lincolns of this period have absurdly sloppy steering like most Franklins and Pierce Arrows?

Thanks for the insights

--Scott

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Hi, the Pierce Arrow used a Gemmer 215 series box. So did Stutz, L29 Cord, Du Pont, and others. In the last few months a restoration shop has designed and improved the 215 series, with all new parts and bearings as well as removing the sector shaft bushing and installing a bearing. New modern seals are installed as well. They are using ATF for lubrication with no leaks. The box and worm must be extensively modified but when done it works as good as a Ross. The shops name is Classic Auto Restoration in Indian Orchard Ma. The owner is John Cislak. Phone number is 413-543-9017

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P.S. Franklin used a much smaller and "less expensive" Gemmer box. Most companies made several size and quality boxes. The Gemmer 215 failure rate seems to be from lack of lubrication. IMPORTANT NOTE: Early Gemmer 215 series used pot metal race supports on the sector shaft roller wheel bearing, if they fail while driving total loss of steering can result. No further comment needed, if you have a 215 it should be removed and checked out fore this condition.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Gemmer was a very high quality box in its day. Lincoln, Pierce Arrow, Stutz Cord, duPont, etc.. did not use a cheap box. Franklin's box was not of any lesser quality but was smaller than the Pierce & Stutz boxes.

There are several problems with an old Gemmer box:

Thrust bearings on the worm were tapered roller bearings with the inner race integral with the worm. It was one-piece. When the bearing surface degrades- usually from spalling, the fix is to machine off the old inner race to fit a modern Timken.

Next the roller that is on the end of the sector shaft has thrust bearings held in cages. More than jsut teh 215 box had die cast cages. The cages can fail. The cages have no load, but the die-cast crumbles. If this happens the rollers usually stay in place until the box is disassembled. If the rollers are able to fall out of place, extreme end-play will result - like a 1/2 turn. It happened to me and the car was driveable, but not safe by any means. It does not happen at speed on the highway, it happens when you are trying to move the car in a tight spot and wrenching the wheels left and right full lock while still. The fix is to machine new cages for the rollers out of brass or similar. I once used Torrington thrust roller bearings as an off-the-shelf fix, but they were way too light for the loads and failed in heavy & hard use.

The toughest fix is for a worn worm and/or roller. After lots and lots of miles, the worm will wear in the straight-ahead position, creating free play in the wheel. An attempt to adjust this out results in binding on either side of center. Something that owners of a fair to good box will have to live with.

The fix here is to install a NEW worm & roller. Trouble is, these were made on a machine that ground the hourglass shape in such a way that seems to be impossible to produce on any modern equipment - lots have tried. Lo and behold - the Gemmer equipment is running in Argentina and it is possible to produce brand new worms and rollers made on the very machine that originally created them. They are currently available for Franklins - nobody has stepped up to undertake a project for other makes.

Grinding the sector shaft and refitting bushings and new seals and you have a new box.

With a good worm & roller, good bearings, properly adjsuted (follow instructions carefully - it takes a keen sense of touch) the Gemmer box is quite lovely. But a box with a worn worm will never feel 'as new' tight.

Tom Rasmussen

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  • 2 weeks later...

How can I identify which Gemmer steering box I have. My car is a 1929 Stearns Knight Model H-8-90. It is a big car -over 6,000 lbs. I have had the steering box apart and saw no visible wear. It has thrust ball bearings above and below the worm and the shaft turns in babbit beyond the thrust bearings - above and below the worm. I put 0 rings near the outer end of the steering shaft below the worm and on the pitman arm shaft. The boxes I have seen all leaked fluid. One box I took apart had grease settled in the bottom of the case, and no lubrication where it was needed. I believe these are supposed to contain heavy oil. There are alemite fittings on my cases which may have led to the grease. Alemite fittings were also used for heavy oil. I'll have to take one apart again and look a the bearing on the end of the sector shaft to see what the cage is made of. I don't remember any problem with it - I do recognize pot metal when I see it and try to replace it every time. That era had a lousy mix for the pot metal.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

Worm is in working order. The first was incorrect, nuber two was ok. If a run of 5 were made I am sure they would be perfect. Worm cost for a run of 5 would be 2500.00 each. Plus rebuild of the box at another 1800.00 for a total of 4300.00 for a box that is better than new with modern bearings and seals, bushing removed and bearings installed. Not cheap, but better than a car that won't drive. Interestingly, the worm we made was for a right hand drive. The entore box is reversed. Nothing but the roller wheel interchanged. Ed

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  • 1 month later...

I don't know a lot about Gemmer steering boxes. Can anyone tell me how to identify the numbers? The Gemmer in my car has these numbers: 478 is stamped into the top front, 22169 is cast into the main body of the steering box, 22158 is stamped into the worm assembly casting (above the worm)

Thanks, Peter

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The box is in my 29 Stearns 8 cyl. It appears to be in good shape. I had a couple of bushings replaced and a couple o-rings installed to prevent or at least slow down oil leakage. The worm portion appears to be in fine shape as do the bearings. The guys on here were talking about replacement parts for certain models pf boxes. I suspect that Lincoln literature maybe lists what model Gemmer that Lincoln used. My Stearns info doesn't list a model number just that it is an hourglass type worm and wheel (Marles type) made by Gemmer. Cast iron case, hardened steel worm and wheel, ball thrust bearings and allows 3-3/4 turns of the wheel lock to lock.

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If you could post a photo it would help. What state are you located in? I met a father and son team in Mass a few years ago with a similar car. You should be a member of CCCA it's got great articles and info on any big car, and lots of people to contact for help. Ed

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