Lawrence Helfand

Gear Vendors Overdrive Install photos on 41 Century

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Here's a couple of pics of a Gear Vendors Overdrive I just had installed on my 41 Century. It is smooth and quiet and is like having a fourth gear. You use the clutch like any gear shift actuating the unit with a push pull switch. Mines mounted on the column. Its not inexpensive but what a joy to use even around town at 50 mph and up.  No issues at all with clearance. As you can see the emergency brake line pass's beneath.

20190502_112106.jpg

overdrive.jpg

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How much RPM (%)  reduction do you get with the Gear Vendor ?  

  Does  it operate via a centrifugal  governor of some kind ( as does the Borg Warner unit) ?

 

Jack Worstell

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59 minutes ago, Jack Worstell said:

How much RPM (%)  reduction do you get with the Gear Vendor ?  

  Does  it operate via a centrifugal  governor of some kind ( as does the Borg Warner unit) ?

 

Jack Worstell

Hi Jack, You get a 22 percent reduction. Not like the BW unit at all. Does not free wheel or self destruct in reverse if you forget. Has an internal hydraulic pump and is actuated with a solenoid. Does need rpm to build hydraulic pressure so not recommended to use from a standstill but it will do it . Built to handle drag racer hp so extremely robust. They have a website with more info.

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Larry

 

BW units "kick in"    at about   28MPH.       Do Gear Vendor units have  a  "kick in"  MPH  ??

 

Jack

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14 hours ago, Jack Worstell said:

Larry

 

BW units "kick in"    at about   28MPH.       Do Gear Vendor units have  a  "kick in"  MPH  ??

 

Jack

Hi Jack, The GV has no kick in and can be engaged only with the switch. It will operate in any gear at any speed but it is best not to leave in engaged from a dead stop. It will work but is hard on the unit. It is like a fourth gear that you shift and clutch exactly as if it was on the tree except its a push pull switch. Let off the gas a little for upshifts or increase for downshifts as you would for the first 3 gears. 

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5 hours ago, Jack Worstell said:

So when shifting in and out of fourth gear { OD }     you have to  use the clutch  ??

 

Jack Worstell

Hi Jack, yes you do use the clutch if you want to avoid a ka klunk from the OD. Just like having a 4th gear 

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Very nice design and operation but a bit expensive for me.     I’m prejudice as I have the Borg Warner unit (30% reduction) on my ‘38’  Buick that  Lloyd Young adapted.   Significantly less costly.   Operation is a bit different but the results are the same.      My cars are driving cars  (just got a ‘35-58’ Buick) and just got the OD installed in the torque tube.    I can now keep up with normal - ? - traffic.   I ca now cruise 60 to 65 mph  without being a speed bump.    No matter which,  it’s the only way to use our really nice pre-war cars on the road.   I’ve been on trips over 1800 miles with my OD fitted ‘38’ Buick.   

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 I've never seen one installed, so thanks for posting the pictures. Looks like a nice unit, glad you're happy with it. Similar I'd think to the rear  gear change I made in my '41, Roadmaster and its' beautiful to drive at 60-65, but of course I don't have quite the lugging power I used to have, which your still will.

 Keith

 

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It appears to be a very nice fitting.

 

Is it attached to the front of the differential, sort of as a piece of torque tube? So it is supported at the front by the torque tube?

 

Is the torque tube stronger than the standard to take this extra load? Also, what about the front mount of the torque tube - the "torque ball"? The original was not designed for this sort of load.

 

If my reading is correct, this fitting appears to have increased the unsprung weight at the rear axle, which will be detrimental to ride on less smooth roads.

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Spinneyhill,       Consider the original design.   It is designed to be driven over some very bumpy roads that existed in those days.   The torque tube drive was strong enough to handle the torque  and weight to move the car.   If it was a week link, it would have been upgraded to handle the power.   Buick slowly increased the diameter of the torque tube from the early 30’s  into the 50’s and later.     The only change I found was when Buick went to the two piece torque tube in the 40’s.   The diameters went up just a bit for both the drive shaft and torque tube.   Look at the size if the flanges that support the over drives - on either design.   The stresses were taken up through the torque tube.   The torque ball was 4-3/4” on the 248 engine and 5” on the 320 engine to handle the increased torque on the bigger engine.   If this were a problem,  it would have mentioned over the years in clubs like the  37-38 club and some of the old timers who would have mentioned it.    Its JMHO  but I think it’s not an issue.   I’ve had mine since 2014 and never had a problem.    Of course, things happen and I’m sure it would come to the front for those like us who have OD’s.

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In addition to taking the axle windup torque (as the torque tube does on a Chevrolet), a Buick torque tube and it's torque ball are what locate the axle fore and aft. It's pretty stout.

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Thank you Gentlemen. I suppose as long as one keeps the torque ball lubricated, etc. it should be OK. It is just a lot of extra weight where there was none originally.

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1 hour ago, Spinneyhill said:

Thank you Gentlemen. I suppose as long as one keeps the torque ball lubricated, etc. it should be OK. It is just a lot of extra weight where there was none originally.

The gear vendors unit is alloy and not that heavy and only adds about 25/30 lbs to the drivetrain. Most of the weight is in the steel flanges and bolts and some weight is removed by shorting the torque tube and inner shafts. The feel is imperceptible during operation or on poor surfaces. I do not see any increased stress on ball joint or any other aspect of the drivetrain by adding an OD. The rigidity of the installation is off the charts  being a unit designed for 1000hp plus drag racers to make them viable as street cars. The joy of driving that big torquey motor in od is worth every penny of the 4500$ investment.. My Century is transformed on 55 mph country roads or cruising at 70/75 mph while turning under 3000 rpm. If I had a special or super gearing with a 248 it would be the first improvement I would make. I have not calculated gas mileage yet but it has definitely improved some .

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Lloyd Young conversion  :     The Borg Warner OD  was designed for the early 30’s up to the early 50’s.   Two versions.   Most were for cars and some for the later light trucks.   Glen Metzler has taken over since Lloyd passed about 18 months ago.    If the cost of Gear Vendors keeps you from enjoying your great Buicks,  consider using Lloyd’s design.   The Borg Warner is a 30 % over drive whereas Gear Venders is a  ? 22% over drive..   Glens conversion runs about $ 2000.00.   There is a vendor who has new OD solenoids if you don’t like original - old units..    (my choice).  The BW  Lloyd’s converted units don’t use the governor.     Lloyd’s design was to simplify the BW unit so you could use it today and keep costs down.   On my Buick Special 38-46s,  I easily cruise 65 - 70 in local traffic.   BTW,  on my long trip I got 16.5 mpg driving on  I-65 thru the hills of No Alabama and Tenn.    I was not trying to get better mileage so I considered this nice.     BTW,  use ethanol free real gas in our cars.   I’ve been able to get real gas all through the SE.   Your ole straight 8 will thank you as that will give you better mileage over the crap gas the gov. pushes on us.   More energy (btu’s) per gallon than ethanol blend.   Another topic for future discussions.   

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BTW,  if you don’t want to crawl under your ole Buick  (half the fun),  Glen will do the conversion at his shop.    He has had customers come from Canada and as far away as Arizona.   (What a long drive ?).  Some of us are getting  “long of tooth” for these nice mod’s.   Some of us just like driving our cars and do regular maintainance.    Some are crazy like me and still like grease under the fingernails.   (Assuming the wife tolerates it).    

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Jim

 

We started out with a Lloyd Young OD installed in our 1937 Special using it as he had set it up.

 

But we ended up adding back the governor per factory and we like this better.  It ends up being a sort of semi-automatic transmission

and easier to drive.   We  also added back the speedometer drive function so our

speedometer is accurate once again.

The hardest part was securing the governor and speedometer drive gears back onto

the output shaft of the BW unit.   We had to remove the unit from  the car and then take it apart

so we could use LockTight to  secure the two drive gears to the OD output shaft.

 

The LockTight was Lloyd;s suggestion.   I was skeptical....but it works 

 

You might wonder why we used LockTight.  The answer is that when Lloyd modified the BW 

unit for our Special he removed the large nut at the end of the output shaft.....this nut......

...among other  things….provided compression such that the two drive gears had to rotate with the

output shaft

 

Jack Worstell

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PS

 

WE could have lived with the unit just as Lloyd had set it up...it

worked fine.    It's just that we like the unit

with the governor function ( and the speedometer function)  added back even better.

 

Jack 

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13 minutes ago, Jack Worstell said:

It's just that we like the unit

with the governor function ( and the speedometer function)  added back even better.

 

Did you fab up a reverse lockout somehow or do you just have to remember?

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I know my case is probably not typical, but I very much wish I had started with the Gear Vendors unit on my '29 Cadillac. My Borg-Warner unit has been endlessly problematic and has never really worked right. I've had to remove and install it twice, which, I assure you, is no easy task in a car with a torque tube, and it still isn't right. It has pretty much eliminated my desire to even drive the car since I never know if it'll work or if it'll break and leave me stranded with no propulsion. I've spent far more money on getting my B-W unit to limp along than a Gear Vendors unit would have cost in the first place. Last year I eliminated the electrical solenoid and converted to mechanical actuation, but to be honest, I have not driven it much and have only used the overdrive enough to test it with the mechanical actuator. I don't know how else to put it: the wonky B-W unit in my Cadillac has ended my interest in driving it. 

 

Unfortunately, it seems that the installations are unique to the units, so I can't simply swap B-W unit out for another. There's a casting defect in my overdrive that causes it to leak pretty severely--maybe a pint every 48-72 hours. That's another reason why I don't drive it much; every time I want to use it, I have to slide under it to put a pint of oil in the overdrive (which only holds about 1.5 pints) and on tour, I have to do it each morning and at the midday tour stop. No fun. But again, I can't swap it out for another unit because it's custom-fitted to my torque tube. Short of finding a new torque tube for a 1929 Cadillac and cutting that one up and installing a Gear Vendors unit, I'm stuck with it. 

 

I am considering the Gear Vendors unit for my '41 Buick Limited based on Lawrence's experience. I would not even consider the Borg-Warner unit ever again. The extra cost of the Gear Vendors unit is 100% worth it in peace of mind and durability. It's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I'd certainly have Glen do the installation, but I'd choose better hardware: Gear Vendors.

 

True, my experience is not common. But then again, perhaps you're next...

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Matt

 

Just curious

………...what part of your BW OD breaks ?

                     and

………...the casting defect that causes the oil leak

                    can you see the defect or can you otherwise pin down the location of the defect ?

 

Jack Worstell

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6 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

I know my case is probably not typical, but I very much wish I had started with the Gear Vendors unit on my '29 Cadillac. My Borg-Warner unit has been endlessly problematic and has never really worked right. I've had to remove and install it twice, which, I assure you, is no easy task in a car with a torque tube, and it still isn't right. It has pretty much eliminated my desire to even drive the car since I never know if it'll work or if it'll break and leave me stranded with no propulsion. I've spent far more money on getting my B-W unit to limp along than a Gear Vendors unit would have cost in the first place. Last year I eliminated the electrical solenoid and converted to mechanical actuation, but to be honest, I have not driven it much and have only used the overdrive enough to test it with the mechanical actuator. I don't know how else to put it: the wonky B-W unit in my Cadillac has ended my interest in driving it. 

 

Unfortunately, it seems that the installations are unique to the units, so I can't simply swap B-W unit out for another. There's a casting defect in my overdrive that causes it to leak pretty severely--maybe a pint every 48-72 hours. That's another reason why I don't drive it much; every time I want to use it, I have to slide under it to put a pint of oil in the overdrive (which only holds about 1.5 pints) and on tour, I have to do it each morning and at the midday tour stop. No fun. But again, I can't swap it out for another unit because it's custom-fitted to my torque tube. Short of finding a new torque tube for a 1929 Cadillac and cutting that one up and installing a Gear Vendors unit, I'm stuck with it. 

 

I am considering the Gear Vendors unit for my '41 Buick Limited based on Lawrence's experience. I would not even consider the Borg-Warner unit ever again. The extra cost of the Gear Vendors unit is 100% worth it in peace of mind and durability. It's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I'd certainly have Glen do the installation, but I'd choose better hardware: Gear Vendors.

 

True, my experience is not common. But then again, perhaps you're next...

 

Sorry Matt,

 

Lloyd Young, bless his memory, installed Borg-Warner ODs in my '12 Oakland, '34 Buick, and '30 Packard. None of then have ever given a moment's trouble, and have all performed magnificently. I would have no hesitation having more B-W units installed, but only if I could be assured of the quality of the rebuild and the installation.

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6 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

I know my case is probably not typical, but I very much wish I had started with the Gear Vendors unit on my '29 Cadillac. My Borg-Warner unit has been endlessly problematic and has never really worked right. I've had to remove and install it twice, which, I assure you, is no easy task in a car with a torque tube, and it still isn't right. It has pretty much eliminated my desire to even drive the car since I never know if it'll work or if it'll break and leave me stranded with no propulsion. I've spent far more money on getting my B-W unit to limp along than a Gear Vendors unit would have cost in the first place. Last year I eliminated the electrical solenoid and converted to mechanical actuation, but to be honest, I have not driven it much and have only used the overdrive enough to test it with the mechanical actuator. I don't know how else to put it: the wonky B-W unit in my Cadillac has ended my interest in driving it. 

 

Unfortunately, it seems that the installations are unique to the units, so I can't simply swap B-W unit out for another. There's a casting defect in my overdrive that causes it to leak pretty severely--maybe a pint every 48-72 hours. That's another reason why I don't drive it much; every time I want to use it, I have to slide under it to put a pint of oil in the overdrive (which only holds about 1.5 pints) and on tour, I have to do it each morning and at the midday tour stop. No fun. But again, I can't swap it out for another unit because it's custom-fitted to my torque tube. Short of finding a new torque tube for a 1929 Cadillac and cutting that one up and installing a Gear Vendors unit, I'm stuck with it. 

 

I am considering the Gear Vendors unit for my '41 Buick Limited based on Lawrence's experience. I would not even consider the Borg-Warner unit ever again. The extra cost of the Gear Vendors unit is 100% worth it in peace of mind and durability. It's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. I'd certainly have Glen do the installation, but I'd choose better hardware: Gear Vendors.

 

True, my experience is not common. But then again, perhaps you're next...

 

Sorry Matt,

 

Lloyd Young, bless his memory, installed Borg-Warner ODs in my '12 Oakland, '34 Buick, and '30 Packard. None of then have ever given a moment's trouble, and have all performed magnificently. I would have no hesitation having more B-W units installed, but only if I could be assured of the quality of the rebuild and the installation.

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Bloo

 

Since we have added back the governor to our set-up  the overdrive will de-activate below about 26mph.  So

we don't have to be concerned about damage in reverse.

 

But at any rate we always try to remember to pull out the control cable before going into reverse.

If we should try to reverse with the control cable pushed in and the solenoid not powered up

there will be no damage but the vehicle will not go anywhere

because of the one-way clutch.

 

Jack Worstell

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Posted (edited)
On 6/29/2019 at 9:24 PM, Jack Worstell said:

Matt

 

Just curious

………...what part of your BW OD breaks ?

                     and

………...the casting defect that causes the oil leak

                    can you see the defect or can you otherwise pin down the location of the defect ?

 

Jack Worstell

 

First and most importantly, Lloyd Young was always FANTASTIC to work with. A wonderful man and a first-rate hobbyist. Please don't mistake anything I'm saying about my particular overdrive unit with criticism of Lloyd. He did all he could, but given the limitations of how things are installed, he couldn't do more than he did. In fact, he paid a shop to pull my torque tube for me in one of the situations. Truly a man of integrity and he always stepped up and never gave me anything but "can do." I think that's very important to mention, because I flat-out loved the guy.

 

I believe the primary problem I was having with my overdrive was related to the solenoid. I replaced it several times, including using the new $250 units, and after a while, they'd stop working. I'm sure it was heat-related. Sometimes it would work just fine, but if I was driving for an extended period on a warm day it would just quietly drop out of overdrive without warning and I'd be coasting. It would not re-engage until it had time to cool off.

 

If I manually dropped out of overdrive after a period of using it, like stopping for a red light after cruising on a country road, it would not re-engage until I had taken it out of free-wheeling and drove without the overdrive for 30 minutes or so. If I didn't let it cool off and instead hit the button to activate the solenoid and go back into overdrive, it would simply disconnect the whole driveline and I was stuck in neutral--no forward, no reverse, and there was no way to get it to release until it cooled off completely by parking it at the side of the road for 30-45 minutes with a wet cloth on it. Lloyd replaced the clutch and as I said, I replaced the solenoid several times with several different types, I insulated the area and the exhaust with heat shields, and it would still fail and leave me stranded. Eventually I learned to take it out of overdrive, take it out of free-wheeling, and drive like that for 30 minutes and it would [usually] be OK again. But only being able to activate the overdrive once every 30 minutes (and it would stay in overdrive for only a limited amount of time before disengaging itself) got very tedious. Worse, if I got it wrong, then we were sitting there stranded waiting for it to cool off completely. Not the best way to build confidence in your car on tour.

 

That's why I converted my overdrive to mechanical operation. It still has free-wheeling, but the solenoid pin is now mechanically actuated. It seems to work better, although it still has the problem that if I don't get it exactly right it will hang up in neutral and leave us stranded. I don't know why it does that other than there's a problem internally with the free-wheeling clutch that is heat-related. I don't trust it one bit and like I said, I'm wary of even driving the car because if it hiccups, I'm stuck for an indefinite period of time. It's not the car's fault and I hate not having my Cadillac to enjoy, but I don't want to risk having it shiat itself and ending my day.

 

The oil leak is a separate issue and we have never been able to completely isolate it. Lloyd said it was probably a casting defect, maybe a bubble in the cast iron wall of the overdrive itself, and it allowed oil to seep through. After spending all these hours troubleshooting my unit, he said that it was likely replaced under warranty when whatever car it was in was relatively new, but the unit was never destroyed and eventually ended up in my Cadillac. There's no specific hole in the metal, but I can see roughly where the oil is seeping because there's no paint there. The oil just seems to appear on the side of the housing until it forms a drop large enough to fall off. Then another one forms. It's much worse when it's warm, obviously, but if it sits in the shop, I can usually expect it to be drained down to the level of that defect, which is about 1 pint. I have tried smearing epoxy on the outside, but it obviously won't stick to the oily cast iron and the oil always pushes out from behind. It's a defect that can't be fixed short of cutting it out and stitching/welding in a new piece of cast iron, and even that's not a sure thing. As I said, the overdrive can't be swapped for another one because it's unique to this installation. So I'm stuck with it.

 

None of this is the fault of the installer (Lloyd Young), but there are two separate, persistent problems in one Borg-Warner overdrive unit and any other unit could very well have at least one of them. That is why I think the Gear Vendors unit is a superior choice and why I will not hesitate to spend the extra money on a Gear Vendors unit whenever I have the opportunity.

 

When you're sitting by the side of the road with a car that won't go and an overdrive that won't engage, perhaps you're the sort who can make yourself feel better by thinking, "Well, at least I saved a few bucks by choosing the Borg-Warner unit."

 

I, for one, just can't bring myself to feel that way.

 

 

Edited by Matt Harwood (see edit history)

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