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scott12180

High Speed Gears for Packard

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I'd like to find a set of Phil Bray's high speed ring and pinion gears which would fit a Packard standard eight, 1932.  Specifically a 1932 902.

That or any used, older ring and pinion gear set that would fit the '32 but have a lower ratio (higher speed) than 4.69. I'd be interested in the gears, the differential or an entire rear axle.

Thanks --
Scott
Troy, NY
1932 902 5-p Coupe
dwyer12180@gmail.com

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RE : 'high speed'  ( meaning lower numerical) final drive ratio issues

 

Hi Scott - you have the right idea!   You cant buy a modern dump truck with an axle ratio as low as was common in the 1930's.  And for good reason - those who know what the REAL roads were like in those days, appreciate why the design-engineers geared them like that  (please - folks...don't tell me about those section of U.S. Highway 66 still in existence - the oldest of them was laid out in the late 1930's - a whole different ball-game from what early 30's cars were designed for !).

 

My recommendation is you forget about the Bray / Phil Hill  3.54's.   On LEVEL ground, even your 320 cu in. eight ( the smallest, least powerful Packard of that era)  can handle a much higher ( again, numerically lower) final drive ratio.   The lower you can get that engine to rotate, the easier it is on it...an d YOU !)

 

There is at least one "add-on" over drive on the market today - the ones I have read about all offer about a 70% advantage, so simple mathematics tells us that your final drive ratio would be around 3.2.    Ideal for your car - making it comfortable and easy-going at modern highway speeds in the 60-70 mph range.  IF your brakes are properly set up, and IF you went to the trouble of making sure your "stock" shocks are in working order,  your car will be quite safe and manageable at that or even higher speeds.

 

Cost-wise, I would expect a modern overdrive transmission unit would probably run in the two grand range,   and of course you'd need to have your drive shaft (is yours a two piece) modified to take modern universal joints where the drive-shaft would connect to the overdrive unit.

 

By using a overdrive, rather than monkeying around with your differential  ( "setting up" a change in ratios is complex...and not always successful in terms of gear incompatibility)  will preserve your "stock"   brutally low gear ratio - nice for parades,  good response on less-than-level ground.  

 

 

 

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Packard had 3:31 ratio available in 1930. I don't know if that ratio was available after that or not. However, finding a rear-end laying around with that ratio is just not going to happen. The Bray gears cost around $2,000 (or they did at one time). If I'm not mistaken, someone has bought Bray's business. I don't know if the buyer succeeded in establishing himself or not, as I've heard nothing coming out of Michigan in a long time. I think if your plan is to drive above 50mph for long periods of time on a regular basis, you might want to check into putting in an overdrive instead.

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I have also looked at what to do with my 1938 super 8 and my 1939 twelve and since both cars are in the 4,500 to 4,800 pound class I believe that Brays 4.07 to 1 would be perfect.  Now I know that he is not making them, but I propose that there are enough people willing to buy a set !  I propose that we put together a list of interested parties and then we can approach one of the few gear manufacturers that is capable of doing hypoid ring and pinion. I personally think it would be easier to find a truck shop to set up new gears than to find someone to get the overdrive right.  I know I will take some grief over this, but having a friend with a overdrive in a Packard that has a vibration I have to say, takes away from the Packard experience

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13 hours ago, West Peterson said:

Packard had 3:31 ratio available in 1930. I don't know if that ratio was available after that or not. However, finding a rear-end laying around with that ratio is just not going to happen. ... I think if your plan is to drive above 50mph for long periods of time on a regular basis, you might want to check into putting in an overdrive instead.

 

Yes - Wes is correct - Packard did offer a high-speed rear end - at least SOME Packard engineers figured out that the rapidly improving roads would get people going faster. 

 

A high-speed rear end would help those old long, skinny, heavy connecting rods survive.    The public wasn't ready for  having to shift gears as often as would be required with that "hi" a ratio.

 

In those days, people didn't like to have to manually shift gears.  A good selling point was the ability to start in high gear from a dead stop.   Heck...I could mount the motor off my ATV in a Greyhound bus and get it to start in hi gear from a dead stop..if I geared the durn thing low enough..!

 

As a side note, I have a 3.23 "pumpkin" in my late 30's Packard Twelve.    Would have preferred a over-drive, but at the time I did that,  no product that would survive the much greater power of the Packard V-12 was available.    Yes,  I have to shift gears in traffic much more than I did with the 4:41,   but with syncho-mesh,  1932 & later Packards  much more pleasant than the 1930  "growler"  trans. 

 

No way of knowing what kind of tranny Scott has till he tells us..

 

As for rear ends  - Packard must have had at least one left-over hi speed rear axle set; I suspect that is what they used in the '32  Twelve to do their famous "beat the golf-ball" test.    I personally have seen  1932 Packards  both "growlers"  (four speed)  and standard 3 speeds....some of the "growlers" were synchro. 

 

Bottom line-  when some of those hi geared Packards hit the customers in 1930,  the reaction was predictable....."send it back and fix it....too sluggish in hi gear at lower speeds".

 

So as Wes points out,  little chance of finding one.... most if not all of those hi-geared Packards were re-geared with the then standard and much lower (numerically higher)  rear axle ratios.  As a side-note,  that 3:31 was only available as on option on the "big" eight -  (known later as the "Super Eight"),  as it had considerably more power than what Scott has. 

 

Which gets us back to Wes's and my recommendation.   Go for an after-market over-drive.   Avoid the risk of rear end troubles by trying to cobble in and  "set up"   a hi gear ring & pinion.

 

 

Edited by SaddleRider
asparagus sauce (see edit history)

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10 hours ago, ramair said:

I have also looked at what to do with my 1938 super 8 and my 1939 twelve and since both cars are in the 4,500 to 4,800 pound class I believe that Brays 4.07 to 1 would be perfect.  Now I know that he is not making them, but I propose that there are enough people willing to buy a set !  I propose that we put together a list of interested parties and then we can approach one of the few gear manufacturers that is capable of doing hypoid ring and pinion. I personally think it would be easier to find a truck shop to set up new gears than to find someone to get the overdrive right.  I know I will take some grief over this, but having a friend with a overdrive in a Packard that has a vibration I have to say, takes away from the Packard experience

 

Let me correct you as to your two  1938 "Senior" Packards.  

 

Yes - they may LOOK alike, because they have the same exterior sheet metal.

 

Underneath the sheet-metal, they are entirely different cars - with the exception of the transmission, NO parts are interchangeable.    Wheels...brakes...frame   front & rear suspension....all different...all reflect the simple fact of the laws of physics.....the much heavier ( by almost a thousand pounds)  Packard V-12 had much heavier-duty components.

 

That being said....I suggest the same solution for both vehicles - repeating what Wes & I recommend for Scott.   After-market over-drive.   Why go to all the effort to install a 4 or even 3.5 ratio,  when that is still WAY WAY too low-geared for even modest driving today?   Plus the technical aspects of getting the differential properly "set up" .

 

Yes - drive-line vibration is annoying - but any competent shop dealing with drive-shaft issues should be able to deal with that.

 

I trust you are aware your 1938 Packard " Super " eight is no such thing...it is a standard eight..with a motor .considerably smaller and less powerful than the "Super Eight" which was discontinued at the end of 1936 production.  So what....with an over-drive...you will do fine on level roads....big deal...so you have to lock it out of overdrive  when coming to a grade the Packard V-12 will not notice.     I don't know from personal experience,  but I am told the after-market overdrives avail. today shift nicely.

 

Listen to Wes & I - forget about monkeying around with that complex hypoid rear axle.   With a PROPERLY INSTALLED overdrive you will get the best of both vehicles....assuming your brakes and shock absorbers are properly set up,  both will be safe and excellent drivers at modern speeds....( ask the man who owns one....!)

Edited by SaddleRider
I like asparagus (see edit history)
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I agree with West-

 

My 1930 733 Touring was delivered in Paris for use travelling back and forth to Monaco, crossing the Alps in the process. This explains why the 7-passenger car came equiped with a 5.08:1 rear end ratio. While this ratio and the super-low "granny" gear are perfect for parades, we actually drive her cross-country and tour extensively.

 

Rather than swap out for a numerically lower ratio, I got with Lloyd Young who installed a Borg-Warner Overdrive allowing the engine to run at 70% of the revs otherwise required to maintain reasonable speeds. I have no desire to push any faster than reasonable for the car's comfortable cruising and stopping ability, but enjoy reducing engine revs and helping the rods, bearings and other components to survive until my grandson's grandson gets to enjoy driving it.

 

If we are cruising at 60 mph, the engine thinks it is doing 42 mph, and I'm happier than if I feel that I'm abusing it.

All the while, if I need the original gearing for a serious hill climb, I have the ability to gear down, or even to drive it as a 5-speed/6-speed, although this is really not necessary.

 

We are very happy with the idea of using the Overdrive and a newly-constructed and shortened driveshaft, and can always return the Packard to her original condition.

 

Just my 2 cents.

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3 hours ago, Marty Roth said:

I agree with West-...............

Rather than swap out for a numerically lower ratio, I got .........overdrive allowing the engine to run at 70% of the revs otherwise required to maintain reasonable speeds.... enjoy reducing engine revs and helping the rods, bearings and other components to survive until my grandson's grandson gets to enjoy driving it.

..............If we are cruising at 60 mph, the engine thinks it is doing 42 mph, and I'm happier than if I feel that I'm abusing it...,....

Just my 2 cents.

 

I disagree - your post is worth a LOT more to this guy...IF he will listen to you...!

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Like Marty, I have a Lloyd Young installed Borg-Warner overdrive in my 1929 Cadillac. It completely transforms the car. Feels totally stock around town, of course, but it cruises at 55-60 MPH without feeling like it is going to pound the babbit bearings to mush. However, I have had a lot of problems with my overdrive that are not related to anything but the overdrive unit itself, and if I were doing it again today, I would use a Gear Vendors unit instead. They are bulletproof reliable, easier to install, and don't require the use of free-wheeling, which can be dangerous is a heavy old car with ancient brakes. You are fortunate that you have an open driveshaft and lots of room under the car, so installing the Gear Vendors unit should be relatively straightforward (my '29 Cadillac and '41 Buicks all use torque tubes which complicate the installation exponentially). In your case, you will need to make a pair of new driveshafts (don't cut the original, save it!), hang the overdrive in the middle of the chassis between the transmission and rear end using some custom brackets, and wire it up. A little fabrication, yes, but also 100% reversible if you decide you don't like it or want to show the car someday. Don't bother with trying to connect it directly to the transmission or replace the tailshaft--that's for the late-model installs. Just hang the unit by itself and it'll work just fine.

 

The important thing is that it will preserve the around-town manners your car currently has. Having driven a number of cars with "high-speed" rear gears replacing the originals, I've found that they feel more than a little sluggish and there's a lot more clutch slipping involved to get them rolling from a stop--even the big horsepower cars. That effortless feeling is gone and it won't creep along in high gear in traffic (my favorite thing at a show is to put the Cadillac into 3rd gear and let it idle at a walking pace among the spectators--it's dead silent). In addition, the upgraded gears still don't reduce cruising RPM as much as an overdrive.

 

You'll spend about the same amount of money for each upgrade. The overdrive is probably more expensive to buy than the gears, but the installation is probably quite a bit cheaper. And as Wes and Marty have said, the final result will be a car that's good at everything you want it to do. If you're clever about hiding the switches, nobody will even know it's there unless they really crawl under the car and look around, and even then most folks won't realize what they're looking at. To me, it's a no-brainer.

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Ed Linn of Troy Mich.  took over Phil's gear business. I ordered a set of 3.6 from him with the promise of 6 to 8 weeks. After waiting 7 months and 3/4 of the touring season over I finally got a phone call from ED that he had my gears. This was after numerous non returned phone calls and installing another spare set of 4.75 I had. I bought them but I would look into Gear Vender if I was to do it again. By the way he calls himself ORF Manufacturing but in reality he is not the manufacturer as he is the middle man.

Edited by Joe in Canada (see edit history)

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On 11/1/2017 at 10:39 PM, SaddleRider said:

 

I disagree - your post is worth a LOT more to this guy...IF he will listen to you...!

 

You know, I'm just asking the question if the gears are available.  I don't appreciate the insult.  If you can't answer the question, please don't tell the world about your opinion of me.

 

There is a reason why I am  considering high speed gears.  I have tried an overdrive in the car and it didn't work out well.  For this particular car given the weight and the engine size and the rear axle gearing, in overdrive made the engine lug too much in my hilly country, and out of overdrive made the car too slow.  Out of overdrive was 4.69.  In overdrive was 3.47.  What seems ideal for my car with my engine with how much it weighs and where I drive it,  is something intermediate like the 4.07 gears that Phil Bray used to make. 

 

I appreciate all of your opinions on how overdrives are the way to go, and if you do a search you will see that I was a big proponent of overdrives based on a 1926 Packard I used to own.  But the current car just doesn't work well with that set-up.  So I am trying other options.  If I lived in Kansas or Ohio or somewhere flat, I'd go with a different option.  Where I live in western New England that option doesn't seem to work for this car with this body style with this engine with this gearing and where I want to drive it.

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Hi Scott,

 

Just a quick note that you may want to contact Barry Lowe in Liberty NC.  He responds on the Packardinfo  site and his contact information should be in the Packard and Classic Car membership books.

 

Out of his own personal frustrations with what is mentioned in the posts, Barry  (who is an machinist and businessman)  is preparing to manufacture high speed rear ends for Classic Cars. He also is making other Classic Car parts, which he is already selling.   He has  purchased the specific manufacturing machining equipment to make the high speed rear ends and already has six orders.  Barry owns several Classic Packards, so he is in the hobby and has empathy with our rear end driving limitations.

 

Robert D Adams

Holly Springs, NC

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Just as a helpful tip, I've found that 2nd gear + overdrive is a wonderful gear for buzzing around at moderate speeds and my '29 Cadillac, which is just as heavy as your Packard but far less powerful, scampers up hills in 2nd OD with ease. Contrary to popular belief, we do have hills here in Ohio and with a little experimentation I was able to find a combination that works really well for just about any situation. And what I said about high-speed gears being hard on clutches and killing around-town ease is worth considering. I had a '32 Buick 90 series with high-speed gears and it cruised at 65 MPH pretty well but I felt like I was abusing the clutch to get it rolling and I found myself downshifting to 2nd a lot more often than in my Cadillac. I would predict a notably shorter clutch life with high-speed gears. Just something to factor into your calculations and thoughts.

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On ‎11‎/‎4‎/‎2017 at 8:19 PM, scott12180 said:

 

You know, I'm just asking the question if the gears are available.  I don't appreciate the insult.  ......There is a reason why I am  considering high speed gears.  I have tried an overdrive in the car and it didn't work out well.  For this particular car given the weight and the engine size and the rear axle gearing, in overdrive made the engine lug too much in my hilly country, and out of overdrive made the car too slow.  Out of overdrive was 4.69.  In overdrive was 3.47.  What seems ideal for my car with my engine with how much it weighs and where I drive it,  is something intermediate like the 4.07 gears that Phil Bray used to make. 

 

Sorry you think we are insulting you by trying to get you competent info. 

 

Given your belief that your particular car isn't capable of giving satisfactory performance with an over-drive,  you are most certainly headed for another unsatisfactory driving experience if you go to the expense and trouble of  a much higher final drive ratio by modifying your rear axle..

 

True, the Packard " Standard Eight"  ( let me use that as a "generic" term to cover all the 320 cu. in Packard eights )  is hardly in the same league from a power standpint,  as the much more powerful "Super" eights (the 384. cu. in. version,   and of course both pale in comparison to the brutal torque and power available from a Packard V-12.     Or to put it another way...the Packard Motor Car Company did not get its reputation in those years by cheating its customers.  You got what you paid for.  In your case, the original buyer got a car that was superb, equal to anything IN ITS PRICE CLASS.

 

But so what....IF PROPERLY MAINTAINED a "standard eight" "stock" geared as low as yours.... works very well with an overdrive.

 

From your description,   you need competent tech. to bring the performance of that "standard eight" motor up to spec.    Do that,  and as others have pointed out,  you will have a truly enjoyable driving experience, especially when you get a modern overdrive installed.

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I bought my 1924 Cadillac touring with the lowest stump pulling gears of 3 ratios available in the '20s. I was young and hardy back then (almost 30 years ago) , and prepared the car for multi thousand mile cross country trips. Of course O.D. was extremely attractive. At the time , IIRC , there was a choice between something in the high 20s % O.D. ratio , and another which I think was 17%. Obviously , Scott , your unsatisfactory experience was with the former. If I am correct , you should install the 17% solution. This will get you what you want , and more. I never did get to make the long distance trips , and I am very glad I never spent the money for O.D. nor installed a higher speed gear set I bought. This gear set was the intermediate ratio , and it is now providing 10 or 12% longer legs in a Canadian '24 Cad touring. The owner , Mike , tours substantial distances , and finds it beneficial. In my case , my long distance 1927 Cadillac is also a stump puller. The gears are very apropriate , and I would never change ratios. A 17% O.D. would be very nice to have for the high speeds I sometimes maintain. I am talking about 40 - 45 mph , which actually is dangerously fast for this relic. On flat level roads with little to no headwind , the reduction in engine revs would be welcome. I hope someone can confirm the availability of a high 'teens O.D. ratio for you and others. Perhaps at some point you can keep heading West , and get that Packard on the roads through the wide open spaces. Quite a feeling driving and listening to an ancient car on a remote road with not another car in sight.   - Carl

 

 

 

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On 11/5/2017 at 9:56 AM, Matt Harwood said:

Just as a helpful tip, I've found that 2nd gear + overdrive is a wonderful gear for buzzing around at moderate speeds and my '29 Cadillac, which is just as heavy as your Packard but far less powerful, scampers up hills in 2nd OD with ease. Contrary to popular belief, we do have hills here in Ohio and with a little experimentation I was able to find a combination that works really well for just about any situation. And what I said about high-speed gears being hard on clutches and killing around-town ease is worth considering. I had a '32 Buick 90 series with high-speed gears and it cruised at 65 MPH pretty well but I felt like I was abusing the clutch to get it rolling and I found myself downshifting to 2nd a lot more often than in my Cadillac. I would predict a notably shorter clutch life with high-speed gears. Just something to factor into your calculations and thoughts.

 

With the 70% Overdrive in my 1930 Packard 733 Touring, the 5.08:1 ratio effectively becomes a 3.556:1 ratio.

As Matt has noted, using Overdrive in second gear makes it a pleasure on even substantial hills, although the steepest encountered hills when touring may still require normal second gear.

In any event, we could drive this heavy and relatively low-powered car as a 5-speed without feeling that we are abusing the mechanicals.

 

Just my $ .02

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Lloyd Young installed the Borg-Warner 70% Overdrive which is bolted directly to the differential of our 1930 Packard.

So that I could keep the original driveshaft and return the car to original if later desired, we had a new shorter driveshaft made with new U-Joints as well.

I cannot imagine wanting to revert to original since the Packard is such a great driver, and has already achieved all the honors and awards I could ever desire.

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My '29 Cadillac also uses a Borg-Warner from Lloyd Young, but my car has a torque tube, so it was a little more complicated to install. It is mounted in the center of the torque tube to clear the radius rods for the rear axle. As I said, if I were doing it today, I'd go with Gear Vendors; I currently have a 1969 Buick GS400 in my shop with a 4-speed and Gear Vendors and the easy and durability of the unit is fantastic. Hit the button and it shifts into overdrive--hit it again, and it drops out. Instantly. No free-wheeling, no grinding, no hoping that the solenoid will fire when it's hot. It just works.

 

Either unit would mount the same way and they're both about the same size, with the Gear Vendors being a little bigger because it has a reservoir for the oil (the Borg-Warner only holds around four PINTS of oil, so it's very sensitive to being under-filled and getting hot). If I had a car with an open driveshaft, it would depend on where the suspension parts were located to determine where to place the overdrive. My preference would be to mount it close to the transmission in its own simple subframe, perhaps attaching it with a short jackshaft, and then using a custom driveshaft to power the rear axle. On our long wheelbase Full Classics, there's plenty of room, but it can get problematic on shorter cars. I would want to avoid adding unsprung weight to the rear axle, although given the conditions under which we use our cars, it's probably academic. There will be an obviously right way and a wrong way to mount it, but it probably depends on your car.

 

As I said above, the Gear Vendors will probably be more expensive, but not by a lot and in the end, it will work better and last longer and probably give you fewer headaches. I love Lloyd and think he's a great guy, but my Borg-Warner unit has been extremely problematic from the start. Lloyd has rebuilt it free of charge twice, so I certainly can't blame him for the problems, I think it's just a bum unit. With hindsight, I wish I had done Gear Vendors from the start. I can't swap out now because each of Lloyd's units is unique, so I'm stuck with what I have unless I can find another Cadillac torque tube. I was having problems with the overdrive engaging when it was hot because the solenoid would fail, so I converted it to full mechanical operation last winter. But to be honest, I'm still afraid to use it. It tested it to see if it works, but never used it again. I've had my heart broken too many times to even try. If I want to drive fast or far now, I take the '41 Limited instead (which will likely get a Gear Vendors unit in the future to allow it to cruise at 70 MPH). The Cadillac only gets driven around town now. That makes me sad; the only thing that ever frustrated me about that car is the overdrive, and that's not the car's fault.

 

Here it is mounted in the Buick GS (note that it uses an adapter that takes the place of the original Muncie M21's original tailshaft, which isn't how yours would be mounted):

 

077.jpg.96bccad8fdfa5630701b879d8bff770a.jpg076.jpg.3f61060b091934568fe5458a42b73e42.jpg

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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It is indeed unfortunate the my friend Matt had so much trouble with his Borg-Warner.

Lloyd built Borg-Warner ODs into the torque tubes of two of my other cars, a mid-1930s Buick and our Brass-Era Oakland.

 

Both of them worked flawlessly for as long as we had them - quite a long while - and are actually quite simple to operate. At the time, it seemed that the Gear Vendors unit would require a sub-frame for installation, but even without a lot of labor, the Gear Vendors unit was approximately twice, or even three times the cost. I'm not saying that one is better than the other, but had absolutely no trouble with Lloyd's completely overhauled product, nor with the three installations he performed for me.

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