High Speed Rear End Gears poll

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    Hi Guys,

    1. How many of you have bought a set of Phil Bray’s 3.65 to 1 high speed gearsets? (1934-38 8-cyl). Please tell me if you have installed them and if they are working well, or if they are still waiting to be installed. Also please tell me if they were installed professionally, or by you. (I’ll keep your answers confidential if you like.) If convenient, what is the set #? (engraved on gear tooth edge).

    2. Same question for Phil Bray’s 3.85 to 1 sets (earlier 8’s; and 12’s).

    3. Same question for Phil Hill’s 3.54 to 1 sets (early 8’s; and 12’s, adaptable to later 8’s).

    Please reply as soon as possible. Any comments are appreciated.

    Thanks very much.

    Bob Jacobsen


    Hi Bob,

    I had a set of Phil Bray’s 3.85’s in my 1930 Model C sedan, which is now owned by PAS member Andy West of NJ. They were installed by Arlo Boe, and I was very happy with them. I had them on the car when it took the Becker award at the Springfield meet.

    Tony Doughty



    I have a set of Phil Hill 3.54 gears in my ’29. Arlo Boe set them up for me in 1999 and we’ve driven the car to Annual Meets at Boerne, Buffalo, Kalamazoo, Springfield and Lexington with no problems. The gears are silent and work great. I probably have at least 15,000 miles on them.

    I also have a set of Phil Bray 3.85 gears that were from the first run (as far as I know). I have not yet installed them in any car. If I interpret the marks correctly I have set #11.



    In December 2007, myself and another PAS member bought gearsets for our 1931 and 1932 eights from the man currently listed in the PAS parts and service directory. I will let the owner of the 1932 to identify himself and comment about his negative outcome if he chooses. My gearset had a date code of 0108 (no serial number).

    Starting last winter, I attempted to install the gears myself and was unable to get an acceptable wear pattern. My local machinist/mechanic friend with 30+ years of experience was also unable to get an acceptable pattern. We got the best pattern we could and installed the assembly back in the car. It was quiet under load, but not under a non-load condition. The housing was removed and the seller was contacted. He recommended a professional mechanic/PAS member in Michigan that has installed 100+ gearsets for classic cars. I then took my assembly to the Michigan professional for him to setup the gears. His first attempt yielded the identical unacceptable wear pattern/result that I had. The gears were then returned to the seller for re-lapping. When the re-lapped gears were returned, the professional was still not able to properly setup the gears. It was then suggested by the seller that something must be wrong with my housing. I immediately dismissed this possibility, and made arrangements to get a refund for the purchase price of the gears (last month).

    I am out approximately $1,000 of out-of-pocket expenses and have spent in excess of 50+ hours of my labor to end up with my original gears back in my car. My Pierce has also been down for the season with the exception of the past two weeks.

    While the PAS message board is GREAT, it is a somewhat limited forum for the entire membership. I certainly do not want any other Pierce owner to run into a problem with new gears from this seller or to possibly end up with the gears that I returned. PAS board members have been contacted about my situation. It is my hope that the society will take appropriate action to warn members about possible problems.


    I bought a 3.857 Phil Bray gearset (the number 0108 – which I believe is the set number – is one of the numbers inscribed on the pinion) in December of 2007 for my 1932 Model 54 Club Sedan with a factory 4.417 gearset. The only reason for the purchase was to cruise at modern highway speeds as the original gearset was functioning perfectly well. John Dillman and I bought at the same time, so we believe that we purchased “duplicate” gearsets. I had a professional father and son team (combined 64 years mechanics experience with 300 gearsets installed, many for racing, and father a master machinist and damn smart mechanic) unsuccessfully attempt to install the 3.857 gearset. The labor cost to me, including re-installation of my original gearset, was $2520. Not a fun experience. I’ve since sent the new set back to Phil Bray who has received them and said that he will reimburse me for the set itself ($1950) plus shipping, but none of the labor cost. Hopefully his check is in the mail.

    I’d be happy to provide any additional information that would help lead to a resolution of the problem some PAS members are having with some of Phil Bray’s gearsets.


    Sorry, I can’t read my own notes; my gearset number is 8010.



    I too, have had a set of Phil Bray’s high speed ring and pinion installed on my ’32 Pierce V12 limo. Though I purchased this set several years ago (I believe it was one of his first run sets) they have been installed and are functioning just fine.

    As I am not a mechanic, My friend and fellow PAS member Ed Linn (the mechanic John Dillman referred to in MI) installed these gears.

    As noted, Ed has installed over a hundred of these sets and has the experience needed to do the job right. If there is a problem, he’ll find it. If not, he can install them successfully. I did not experience any problems with the installation.

    I know Phil Bray personally and the last thing he wants are any ill feelings being circulated about the ring and pinions sold by him.

    Right now he currently has several members sets (including my original set) that he is checking for problems. If the need arises, I have given him permission to remove the high speed rear end out of my car to help look for clues to solve the problem and to help eliminate any problems for the future.

    While I cannot take away the headache and expenses some people have suffered during this process, I have been in several lengthy discussions with Phil and Ed and they are both trying to resolve the problem.

    I hope the problems can be mended and you guys have your cars out on the road soon.

    My two cents.



    Also I have bought a Phil Hill 3.54 gear and pinion some years ago for my 1930 model B. I tried to install the gear myseelf but could not get it in. I heard that I had to make a modification to get them installed (differential housing?). Could anybody please tell me what to do?

    Oivind in Norway.


    I bought a set of 3.85 gears from Phil Bray about 5 years ago and had them installed in our 1933 1247 by Scott Statsny in 2008. Scott was unable to set up the gears without a noticeable off throttle whine. Both Scott and I discussed the problem with Phil during the installation process and he insisted that it was the fault of the installer or a faulty or warped housing. Scott used his vast experience to do the best he could to minimize the whine. Our 1933 is a relatively low mileage largely unrestored car.

    Having poor hearing myself and never a passenger in the rear seat, I have lived with the whine noise and enjoyed the ratio change for about 1,000 miles so far.

    At Phil’s request in mid-September I sent him my original 4.56 gear set for him to compare to his existing patterns. He indicated that he wants to correct whatever problems there are for future production. That doesn’t help those of us who have invested time and labor expense with the questionable previous products, but hopefully will provide a better result on future production.


    Yesterday I received a letter from Phil Bray saying that he found that the specs under which my 3.86 high speed gearset was made were “incorrect to the originals.” He apologized for the problem with the gearset and sent a check to help pay for my installation labor cost. I had already received a check for the cost of the gearset itself. He said that my gears have been re-lapped, and now “they look and sound good.”

    While I would certainly not wish to go through my unsuccessful gearset installation and un-installation process again, the problem with the sets has apparently been resolved and my financial hit has been dramatically reduced.




    I have had both sets in my 30 Victoria coupe. I started out with a 3.54 set when I first put the car together in 2000. It was a pain in the butt to grind out the case for the ring gear and the assembly procedure is completely different. I drove the car to Buffalo and back with only a broken axle for problems. I can’t blame that on the gear ratio, just weak steel. It probably didn’t help that at the time my clutch had a bit of a chatter. Since then all that stuff has been fixed.

    I helped Arnold Romberg build up a set of 3.85 gears and installed them in my car in 2006. I had a few problems getting them adjusted but I thought that I came up with a good alignment. I drove them at one meet and had no problems with them. I only put 500 miles total on the gears.

    It may be worth the time to go back and recheck that alignment.

    I decided that I liked the 3.54.ratio better so I changed back. With my 4 speed tranny the first gear becomes very usable. Third gear becomes a nice around town gear.

    I never kept track of the gear numbers.


    Hello, Just a post for information. I have two sets of 3.85’s I purchased back in May of 2003 on my shelf. I have not yet installed them. They are marked 5/03 as date of production. Then A6I , .009 , B/2 , 5.937 , MD , then set #5 or set #6. From my understanding these “early”” run sets for the early 8 and 12’s had no problems. Has anyone installed a set from this batch? ED



    The gears that are installed on my Pierce may also have been a set from his first run. Though I do not have the serial numbers available, the gears are running just fine. You should not have any problems with those gears. If you have any questions I would call fellow PAS member Ed Linn, he should be able to help you with any concerns you may have. As noted, Ed has installed over a hundred of these sets and could arrange to install them for you as well.




    That’s about when I got mine. See the second post on this thread. Although I don’t have the numbers, I’m quite sure they were among the first to be installed. Phil called Arlo Boe several times while Arlo was installing them, just to make sure all was going smoothly.


    To answer Ed’s question, YES there have been “issues” with the 2003 production.

    The 3.85 gears in my 1247 were from the 2003 batch run which Phil says had “no issues”. But as several members can attest, they are noisy. Ed drove the car in August. Scott Stastny was unable to set them up quietly. His opinion is that they were not lapped correctly. Ron Blissit had the same issue with his set from this production run.

    Phil said it was either improper setup or a “warped housing” that caused the problem. He said the same to both Scott and I when they were installed in the spring of 2008. Phil used my old original 4.56 gearset and Curtiss’s to determine the errors in the sets for Dillman and Vogt.

    I reminded him of my issues when he returned the original set, but he ‘didn’t recall’ our 2008 conversations and will do nothing beyond checking the gearset if I have it removed and send it to him. Unfortunately I can’t afford the labor cost to do that at this time.

    At this point I have total confidence in Scott’s ability, but not in the consistency of Phil’s gears. The ratio change does offer a great improvement in driveablity.


    As a follow up to this discussion, I have had the set of gears installed in my 32 pierce model 54 that were originally in John Dillman’s car which had the above situation. Phil Bray re-lapped John’s gears and made changes that seem to have solved the problem with noice, etc.

    Today I picked up the car from the mechanic and drove it about 25 miles. The car runs at better high speeds with fewer engine RPM’s, and no appreciable noise.

    I would like to note that I have 5 sets of Phil Bray’s gears installed in my various old cars, including Cadillacs, Packards, Auburn and now my P-A, and I am happy with all of their performance.

    In my opinion, Phil has worked out the issues and gear sets from this point forward should be OK.

    I am happy with my purchase.


    Yesterday, during a phone conversation, John Parks gave me the numbers from the pinion gear from a 3.65 gearset that he bought from Phil Bray 5+ years ago. I – rather than John – am posting these numbers because John does not have an internet connection. The numbers are X, set1, md, 5.703, p/l, .008, A61, 10/02. The gearset has been installed (I believe by Ron Blissit, who is no longer a PAS member), but John has not yet driven the car.

    At this point, I can’t resist being a bit of a Devil’s advocate. As convenient and wonderful as the P-A Message Board is, I’m not sure that it is a very good vehicle with which to take a poll. Less than 20% of the membership has even logged on in the past 30 days, and only a little over one third in the past year! Add to this the fact that we loose about 10% of our membership every year (including Phil Bray himself!), and that this particular poll is concerned with matters that might have happened as long as 5 to 10 years ago, and one does have to wonder about accuracy. Of course, on the other hand, I do believe that it is a lot better than nothing!


    I neglected to mention in my last posting that John Parks also has a 3.85 gearset that he purchased from Phil Bray in May of 2003. This unit was installed by Ron Blissit, and because it is installed, John is unable to read the numbers on it. This unit has not been run. John’s 3.65 gearset that I referred to in my last post was purchased in November of 2003. I mistakenly said that it had been installed. It has not been, and that is why John was able to read the numbers.

    We now have over two months of comments concerning Phil Bray and Phil Hill gearsets. I’m not sure of all the intentions of this poll, but I would think that one intention would be to determine whether the sets that are still “sitting on shelves” are likely to either have problems or to be problem free. If this is the case, it seems to me that it would be most helpful at this point to have input from Phil Bray. I’m trying not to be too much of a “pain,” but that notwithstanding, Bob Jacobsen, since you initiated the poll, are we at that point yet?




    One intent was to use the experience of others to help confirm or contradict my results with 2 gearsets. The other was to establish the probability of “on the shelf” sets having a problem.

    I don’t think we are quite at the point of predicting whether the “on the shelf” sets have a problem, but close to it. I have sent back two sets of Phil Bray’s 3.65 ratio, the first of which wore out in 2000 miles, and the second (which I had on the shelf for another car) would not set up properly (ratcheting noise). I have not had an analysis from Phil yet.

    Many factors can bear on the issue – setup, lubrication, bearings, etc.



    Sorry to dredge this whole thing back up but I’ve got new information on an early set. I have Set #11 of Phil Bray gears and they’ve been sitting in a box waiting for me to have them installed. I finally decided that the ’31 should get them so we’re going that route.

    I’m attaching photos of the patterns. The first one is the load side and the second will be the coast side. This is a pretty good looking pattern and it matches the pattern from the original lapping marks on the gears. The downside is that it can be only be achieved with .040″ backlash. Any attempt to reduce the backlash narrows the pattern significantly. We tried setting the backlash to a normal .006 and we had only the tip of the pinion tooth contacting the ring, (a very dangerous situation). We’re going to run it with the big backlash and 600W rear end oil and I’ll report back.

    It’s also interesting that we got the same pattern on a ’29 diff carrier and the ’31.


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