Updated: Sep 10
3 Speed Manual Transmission with the Borg Warner R10 Overdrive
Many years ago as freeway and interstate travel was in its early stages, automobile manufacturers began to look for ways to not only increase sustained highway speeds but to also lower the rpm of the engine as vehicles cruised along to their next destination. These days, most cars and trucks have automatics that are computer controlled and highly efficient in both the mpg and rpm categories because of the efficient use of an overdrive gear. Cars and trucks of the 50s had automatic transmissions available, but many of them only had 3 gears and an overdrive gear as we know it was only available on a manual transmission. I can remember as a teenager taking my 55 Fairlane out on interstate 95 in northern Virginia and cruising with traffic at 70 mph. The engine certainly had plenty of power to do so, but the Fordomatic transmission always pushed the rpm's up above the 3000 range at those speeds. The rear gear was a 3.55 so that may have had a little to do with it, but most Fords in 55 and 56 came with that third member if an automatic was the option. Obviously, the Fordomatic only had 3 gears. Most of the time you only used the intermediate and high gear. It never went into Lo unless you manually selected it with the column shifter or if you floored the gas pedal on take off.
In 1955, Ford, along with many other manufacturers, offered an overdrive transmission for their 3 speed manual vehicles. Borg Warner was the main company producing these special tail shafts and overdrive assemblies; and while each housing was certainly specific to the brand of the vehicle, much of the internals and certainly the principles of operation were the same among all makes. This transmission option had been offered by several companies for a couple of decades. Pictured below is a photo of one of these wonderful transmissions "deconstructed" and ready to be re-assembled.
Now mind you, I do have a few other posts that chronicle the repeated attempts I made to get this correct - not only for the transmission itself but also for the fitment and operation in the 55 Ford. You can find all of these posts by using the search bar at the top of the page.
My 55 came originally with the Fordomatic 3 speed, and for all practical purposes before I disassembled much of the car back in 2015 it was operating quite well. "Why go through all the trouble?" you might ask. There are several reasons so let me list them below:
Once the car was back together I knew that we would be driving quite frequently over the highways with sustained speeds of 65 mph or more. An overdrive transmission would certainly help to keep the engine rpm manageable.
The Fordomatic weighs quite a bit when compared to a manual transmission, and the torque required to move the gears robs the engine of horsepower that could be going to the rear wheels.
With the Fordomatic, take-off was always sluggish. Some veteran Ford owners called these transmissions "slushomatics" way back when.
There is just something nostalgic about shifting gears in a car from the 50s. It just seems to match.
The transmission was literally given to me for the cost of shipping.
I like a challenge - some of the lure was to find out if this would be something I could work through and see to fruition.
Recently before I put the car in "dry dock" to install fog lights, attempt to wire up my fuel sender/gauge, pull the wheels and check the brakes, paint some of the undercarriage, etc, I took the 55 out for a spin. During that cruise I explained the principles of operation as briefly as I know how. The video cuts off a little early because I did get into a few other things such as the ignition and the carburetor, but you get the idea.
On the website here I do have a very nice CD that contains a boatload of digital files - the largest of which are the two parts manuals for 1949-59 Fords. However, most do not know that quite a bit concerning these overdrives are included as well. I include rebuild manuals, troubleshooting manuals, and much more. We even have the 1955, 56, and 57 Ford owners manuals scanned to digital files!
Quite a bit comes on a CD that you can read through your computer with Adobe Acrobat. Most of the files are PDF, but there are MS Word documents and jpeg pictures too.
Recently I went to a format whereby customers can purchase all of the files via digital download. The price is only $14 and that is much cheaper than buying these manuals by hard copy or even by purchasing the CD and having it shipped to you. All major credit cards are accepted; use this link: https://the-hot-rod-reverend-s-classic-car-emporium.dpdcart.com/ It will take you straight to the screen that I have pictured below. Simply add the item to the online shopping cart and follow the instructions. Several classic car owners have already made the purchase and are using the information they get from the files. This is a very handy means of printing out only the pages you need, taking them to the shop, using them as you needed, thereby keeping your original manuals clean on the shelf!
Hopefully within the next couple of weeks we can have more on the installation of the fog lights, chasing down a few wiring chores that I never completed, information on brake adjustments, and some other helpful information concerning this 1955 Ford Fairlane. Let's not forget to pray for our country at this time. Watching the news is always a chore - I almost feel as though I am going to battle with depression after watching all that is going on in our world. Our only hope is the Lord Jesus Christ. As a preacher of the gospel, I hope you will take the time to visit the page on my website entitled "Remember" and that you will read the passages from the Bible. I am sure they will be a tremendous help to you!
Keeping the FaYth,
The Hot Rod Reverend
aka Daniel Jessup