Overdrive Help/Series 80

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    I am still torn between putting high speed gears in or mounting an overdrive on my 1925 Series 80 Runabout. With the hills I sometimes encounter, I think an overdrive might be the thing. Has anyone installed an overdrive in their Series 80? What I need are specifics such as actually where to get an appropriate overdrive unit, possible cost, type of mechanic I need to install it etc. Despite my love and collecting of old cars I am not a mechanic by any means with only limited tools so I do indeed need some help. Please email to [email protected]. I would like, if at all possible, to install something in time for the national meet. Thanks! Tom


    Tom, you might want to check with Lloyd Young of Ohio, a PAS member listed in our roster. Lloyd has installed a lot of overdrives,including in his own Series 33 Pierce. He can give you a pretty good idea of what’s involved and what the change will do for the car. He also supplies units and does the installations. Good luck.


    Tom, I agree completely with Tony – we both tour extensively. Lloyd Young has installed his Borg-Warner overdrives in two of my cars; a 1934 Buick sedan and a 1912 Oakland Touring. The enhancement was immediate and dramatic! These relatively low-powered and low-geared cars were still able to deal with hills rep their original differential ratios, but when overdrive was engaged, the engine speed was reduced by 30%. When cruising at 60 mph previously in the buick, we had the feeling that the engine was "working", but with overdrive, the car was doing 60mph but the engine was only doing 42mph. When I finally find and purchase the "right" Pierce-Arrow I will most likely ask Lloyd to install an OD because I believe that they make early cars more driveable.

    An additional benefit is that once you become smooth in the operation of engage/disengage feature of overdrive you can drive the car as a 5-speed: 1st gear, 2nd, 2nd OD, 3rd, and 3rd OD; not always needed, but a neat option! E-mail me with any questions.

    Marty Roth


    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.


    With regard to overdrives, I agree with all that’s been said. I have an overdrive on a 1926 Packard Eight Phaeton and the difference is startling. Yet I still have stock gears for my hilly country of western New England.

    However, I’d like to also throw out that there is another option besides Lloyd Young. I’ve never heard anything bad about Lloyd’s overdrives, so this is simply another option.

    I have a Mitchell overdrive on the Packard. These are brand new units made by the Mitchell Manufacturing Co in Colusa, California. They are a gear box with fully synchronized gears actuated by a push-pull lever (or electric solenoid). It can be left engaged all the time and be used from a stop. In effect, it is a gear splitter, splitting every gear including reverse. I believe this is different from the Borg OD, especially the part about starting from rest in OD.

    The Mitchell mounts amidships to the frame, requiring two smaller driveshafts to be made — transmission to OD, OD to differential. The Lloyd Young OD, I understand, is mounted directly to the differential. My only concern with this is the unsprung weight it adds to the rear axle and stress on the pinion, but I’ve no engineering data to substantiate that concern.

    Again, this is just another option. Were I to put one on a Pierce, I might give Lloyd a try so I can compare the two. But I’d want to carefully look over one that’s on a car and test drive a car that has one.

    Good luck. — Scott

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