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Column Shift on Pre-War 120's


scott12180

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Hi all ---- Can someone give me an asessment of Packard's column shift arrangement on pre-War 120 Models?

Do they work well or are they problematic?

At about what mileage do they wear out and begin to cause trouble?

What symptoms do you see when they begin to wear out?

How easily can they be repaired to once again work as new?

I've heard that Cadillac's column shift is very good but Packard's was not. True?

I'll admit that I prefer floor shift but I found a 1941 that I like a lot. However if this column shifter is going to be a constant headache, I'll keep looking for an earlier car.

Thanks ---- Scott

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A well-adjusted and rebuilt system is a typical 3 on the tree. But I do think the Packard one's susceptiblilty to sticking in gear when worn is known. If it happens, you diddle the shift forks and you're back in business. But the first time it happened startled me!

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The Packard column shift introduced with the 1939 models and called "Select Shift" was more troublesome that others. The design had two sets of shifting rods; one set from the steering column levers to a set of idler arms; and another set of rods from the idler arms to the transmission. This design was continued through the 1954 models. Bushing wear is the biggest problem. Originally rubber bushing were used to mitigate vibration from coming through the shift linkage. I believe solid metal bushings were used to replace worn rubber ones. A well adjusted and lubricated Select Shift system with good bushings should function with smooth and precise shifts. They do require more care and attention than most others. I would not let a malfunctioning Select Shift system keep me from buying an otherwise desired Packard. Good luck.

(o{I}o)

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There are a few articles detailing various reasons and fixes in service letters/counselors available at the packardinfo.com site. No index for those years but a mention in Nov 1, 1940, Mar 21, 1941 and again in May, 1946 as a start if you want to take the time to look at them. Maybe more besides those. No major issues other than wear and lack of lube seems to be the theme mentioned by several on the forums when the subject came up.

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I have a '41 110 and yes, the column shift gets stuck from time to time. But I haven't taken the time to get it fixed right; I generally just deal with it, which generally means pulling over to the side of the road, popping the hood, and unsticking it when it gets stuck. Not very elegant, but I haven't had time to deal with it more directly. I agree with John Lawrence, though: I wouldn't let this get in the way of buying one of these cars, as they are really great cars.

'49, where is that hole exactly? I haven't tried that.

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If you at the column shifter tube about 3/4 the way toward the steering gear box from the firewall there should be a small hole. Sqirt some light oil not WD40-it will make it worse- into the hole and work the shift handle back and forth. On my 49 I was beside myself thinking the car was done. Someone told me about this and it worked! It does not resolve itself immediately-I squirted the stuff and waited until the next day and gradually it got better and better until it was better than it ever was. Strange I could not find anything in t he Packard lit regarding this.

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There are two mirror image castings at the lower end of the steering column and the shift linkage attaches to them. These castings were originally pot metal on the early years of the Handi Shift, and they wore quickly on the inside where the tab (which both selected the casting and moved them) went in the slot on the casting. Wear in this place is usually what results in the car getting stuck in one gear and you have to get out and manually put it back to neutral. Packard did replace the pot metal ones with steel, but these also wear, albeit more slowly, but will end up with the same problem. Packard also supplied a kit to replace and tighten the pivot points for the linkage with shims and spring washers. You might also look at the linkage and check it for wear, and replace it or weld it up and work it back to original. If all the pieces are back to original specs, and things are adjusted correctly, the column shift just clicks from gear to gear easily, quickly and reliably, with fairly small throws. Once you have it fixed, you probably won't wear it out.

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Putting some oil in the small hole worked on my car, a few years ago I got in it and the shifter was stuck--I was afraid I was going to have to tear things apart and then I saw that little hole. I put some oil in there and after a few days it started to work and has been fine since. Several times a year I put 4 or 5 drops of motor oil in there and it does the trick. I'm sure it doesn't solve al the problems but it sure worked for me and it is easy- 22nd series Deluxe Eight

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  • 8 months later...

I have a 39 coupe and hope someone can tell me what the proper linkage adjustmets are for the shifter. Mine does not hang up like my 71 Chevy p'up did. When it hung up you couldn't move the shifter and the truck had to be running and somebody had to hold the clutch in as you climbed under to shake the rails loose. The most memorable time was waiting in line to enter the infield at the Talladega 500 as it began to rain. We heard on the radio the race was called off so everybody in front of me had turned around and was blowing their horns at me. Probably no more than about half of the 240 thousand that attended that day. I got some help, got it loose, drove home,went back the next week and the engine blew up on the way home. I learned then don't adjust the linkage (at all) if you don't know what you are doing because it will get worse. That's why I hope one of you can tell me where to find some type diagram showing the linkage and the propper adjustment. I read the other solutions but I don't see any worn parts (like the pot metal parts mentioned before) or more probably don't know if they are worn or not by looking since my shop manuel or any of the other material shows a picture or gives adjustments. I have purchased every piece of material I've seen for the car except some of the service letters. Chip Crabtree

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This is well documented in a back issue of the Cormorant, I will see if I cannot find which one it is for you. You may very well find what you need on Packard Info as Big Kev has done a nice job of getting technical and other info out there.

Mine has been pretty good with one or two times a season where I have felt it get stuck - then finesse always wins out over force.

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On my 1941 120, I occasionally have a problem with the shifting, but only when I am a little fast going from first to second gear. As has been mentioned it necessitates pulling over to the side of the road and lifting the hood to put the shift arms in neutral. To prevent this, I hesitate in neutral position while shifting.

Jim Showers

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  • 1 month later...

My problem with the 120 shifting was documented on this forum maybe a year or more ago. Mine will get stuck as mentioned above. But the biggest problem with mine is the first position of the gear shift arm is barely down any from neutral. Often I cannot (from inside) determine if it's in neutral or first. And it will not stay in first down a hill but jumps out into neutral. The gearshift leaver barely comes down an inch if that much between neutral and first. Unable to find anyone to fix it, so infrequent drives and routes selected to minimize shifting. I had not heard of the oil hole thing and will be taking a look for that.

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Have recently been involved with both a '39 120 and a '39 Six and their shifting problems. Part of the story can be seen here for the Six - Packard Motor Car Information - Wade's Workshop [Packard Forums - Project Blogs]

And part of the story here for the 120 - Packard Motor Car Information - Wade's Workshop [Packard Forums - Project Blogs]

What it really boils down to is these 70+ year old vehicles are suffering from old age. Things have worn out, bushes worn, etc, linkages sloppy and maybe even OVER-LUBRICATED! Be careful about lubricating the linkages, part of the fix is having enough friction so they don't just fall out of gear!

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post-52046-14313849418_thumb.jpg

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  • 4 months later...

I have had some trouble and found out that the lever was moving on the transmission cross shaft for first and reverse. I remedied this with a set screw. Seems okay now.

John

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