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Overdrive is definitely the way to go unless you own one of the 1933-35 Pierce-Arrows that have the driveshaft inertia power brake units. Lloyd can install an O/D on almost anything else. Pierce-Arrows that are tuned properly have plenty of power and torque. In fact Pierce-Arrow themselves thought so much of the Borg-Warner centrifugal controlled overdrive units that they made it standard equipment in all 1936-38 models. Once again Pierce was an industry leader in engineering! Later in the decade Packard and others made it an option. The later B-W units went to electronic controls and they form the basis of Lloyd’s units.
On a Series 80, I’d expect another 10+ MPH at the same revs or you could drive the same speed with less noise, less engine wear and far better cooling.
My 1933 1247 will cruise comfortably at 50 or a little more with a 4.58 axle. But our 1936 1601 with 15 less HP, the same weight and the same axle will cruise comfortably at 65 to 70…and very easily at that. The effect on cooling is very noticeable along with the reduction in revs.
Shifting in and out of O/D with electronic controls is much easier than shifting gears. You just need to remember to lock out the overdrive when descending mountains to preserve a lot of engine braking. Long up grades can sometimes benefit from the ‘split shift’ advantage that Marty referred to.
Using the overdrive engage-disengage can reduce the need to shift frequently when driving around town as well. My first overdrive equipped car was a 1949 Ford V-8 back in my school days. I fell in love with this setup and it has become a preferred feature in my current collection. That ’49 could go from 5 MPH to 45 in 2nd and 2nd OD while my right arm that was hugging my honey (Diana) didn’t have to move!
The decision to buy our first Pierce, the ’36, was in part because of the overdrive. I’ve swapped transmissions in multiple cars over the years to get this advantage, even in British sports cars. Five of our nine antiques now are overdrive equipped. If Lloyd could figure our how to install one in our 1247 without losing that power braking system I’d have the car in his shop immediately. Instead I have a set of Phil Bray’s gears to install eventually. Given the V-12 power, I’d do both the gears and the O/D if I could, but I’d prefer O/D.
I’d recommend having Lloyd do the installation for you. He can do most in a couple of days. I think another member has scheduled another Series 80 in the next few weeks. He is a club member, has lots of experience, and is a heck of a nice guy to boot. If you have or obtain a spare driveshaft, the car could be returned to original easily. But unless it becomes a high point trailer queen that never gets driven, you’ll never want to change back.