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1955 Ford Part 70: Will the 3rd Time be a Charm?

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

Will the 3rd Time be a Charm?


If you have ever been involved in a project this detailed then you know that there is always one or two sub-assemblies or items that continue to hamper the efforts to gain full completion. For this 1955 Ford that one, repeated hindrance seems to be the transmission. Looking at the title photo tells you all that you need to know as we begin this post - "He pulled the transmission again!"

Yep - this is now the 3rd time I have had the transmission out of the car since the installation of the engine and three speed together way back in post number 8. You can read that entry and photos by navigating to How I wish I could have finished the transmission correctly back then. It has certainly been frustrating to pull the 3 speed overdrive again - not because the transmission work itself is all that difficult necessarily, but having to raise the car, drain the case of oil, pull the driveshaft, remove the wiring harnesses, shifter, and hardware, etc. the whole process can be pretty exasperating. That should be all the more motivation to get everything 100% right, but this hasn't been for a lack of trying!

The problem was that 2nd gear would not hold. In early summer the gearing and overdrive were working very well, but after a few weeks I had to hold the shifter up into 2nd to keep it in that gear while cruising. Now there are probably some readers of the blog who would tell me to install a modern automatic and be done with it, or maybe get a manual T-5 and install that behind the Y block. Nope, not me - I tend to delve into these things with much zeal and zest, looking for the hard way. Maybe it was the nostalgia side of things to take an original 3 speed and install a period Hurst floor shifter. Maybe it was my desire to take on the challenge of completely disassembling, cleaning, inspecting, and restoring a 3 speed with overdrive transmission just to see if I could get it done. I really do not know. If you have been following the blog any length of time then you also know that I rarely farm any work out to a business. While the successes are quite rewarding, the failures can be catastrophic or at the very least, quite frustrating. It's all a learning process I guess.

The first checks I made were the obvious ones that would include not removing the transmission from the vehicle for inspection. Correct transmission lubricant? check. Correct lubricant level (in both front and rear case)? check. Correct alignment of the shifter and arms? check. Full movement of shifter forks? check. Yep, all of that sort of thing was how they all ought to be, nothing out of sorts in any of it.

Time to pull the transmission. sigh.....

So, to pull the transmission I drained the case, removed the driveshaft, OD wiring harness, the shifter and arms, the OD cable and bracket, the clutch rod and spring, the transmission cross member, and lastly the four bolts that hold the transmission to the bell housing. After each procedure was double-checked it was time to slide the transmission back from the bell housing and place it on the bench.

This video records my thoughts and some of the footage from the bench...

The first thing to note would be those gaskets.

The last time I had this transmission out to fix a leak I thought I would do one better than FoMoCo and make my own gaskets from stock material. I used the the thickest I could find, thinking that would take up any variances between mating surfaces. They sealed well, but as you can see from the video they gave way too much end play to the main shaft. Too much end play and the brass synchronizer rings will not stay in friction with the syncrhonizer/gearing itself. Speaking of synchronizers...

A month before pulling the transmission, I had decided to purchase an NOS synchronizer assembly. You can see in the photo immediately above that there is a difference, although slight, in the old synchronizer and the one I purchased. Of course the one on the left is just a hub. The one on the right was for a 55 Ford, but I ended up finding out it was for a T86 top cover transmission. You can see the keepers are smaller. The prevailing issue was that the hub would not fit the main shaft of the transmission I have. So... I decided to only replace the brass synchronizer rings. You can see the difference in the photos below.

The obvious difference would be color, but if you look at both photos of the brass rings sitting on the snout assembly you can tell that the newer ring rests higher than the old ring. In essence this means that the syncrhonizer ring will have less room to "back off" the cone of the front gear. Things should be tighter overall.

The picture above is a simple reminder that the counter shaft needs to be dislodged before you can remove the main case. There is a pin (middle of photo) that needs to be driven out of the case from the passenger side to the driver side. The driver side hole is located under the side cover on the main case. After that you can take a 3/4" wooden dummy shaft to drive through from the front of the main case to the rear.

The way that Ford and Borg Warner made the R10 and R11 overdrive cases was that the shaft for the cluster gear could be driven out without separating the cases. The photo above is actually a re-installation photo but you get the idea.

One note about diving into these transmission cases - make sure you locate all of the loose rollers that fall out of any assembly. I had to use a magnet to retrieve all of the rollers that fell out of the snout.

Of course when you repack you need to make sure all of the rollers are accounted for in the ID of the hub you are assembling. I use bearing grease to keep everything in place as well.

Ford made these overdrive transmissions so that the main case and/or the OD case could be serviced separately, and that is exactly what I did here.

If you are working on these R10 or R11 units, I highly suggest to keep the one bolt installed that connects the rear case to the middle case that holds the solenoid. Then, remove the two upper bolts and the two lower nuts to separate the main case.

Once the main case was disconnected it was time to install a new brass synchronizer ring and to re-install the synchronizer assembly. Like the new ring on the snout, this ring here also showed tighter clearances since it was new.

After that it was time to clean all of the mating surfaces as good as possible and prepare for new gaskets. I did purchase brand new OEM gaskets that were much thinner than the ones I had installed during round 2. However, I did decide to use a better sealer, and one made specifically for any sub-assembly using gear oil.

I realize this product is technically a gasket maker, but a very thin coat of it was applied to the gasket surfaces before installation. It sticks to anything and everything!

Once the main case was sealed and secured, I re-installed the snout cover as well. Next up was to raise the cluster gear into position so that the countershaft could slide in and knock out the dummy shaft I had sitting in the cluster gear to keep the needle bearings and washers in place.

You can see the wooden dummy shaft recessed in the main case in the photo below. It needs to come out from the front of the case as the countershaft drives in from the rear of the case as shown above.

The following video may be of help to show procedure and detail concerning how to get things back together.

In addition to using the sealant in the hole for the keeper pin, I also used sealer on the shaft itself where it mated to the case both in the front and rear holes.

While I was at it, you can also tell that I used some sealer on the shaft for the reverse idler gear and its alignment with the main case. While these shafts are machined to fit the holes in the case, they are not a press fit and there is a tendency for the areas to be wet with oil I noticed. The sealer should help that situation.

The side cover went back on without any issue, and of course another thin layer of sealant was used on the surfaces. I did ensure that the forks were oriented correctly and that the keeper pin for the countershaft was below the surface of the main case.

I double checked all bolts and nuts to make sure they were torqued down considerably - not finding any specifications in the manuals for values, I did my best guesswork here. Once the drain plug was re-installed we were ready to place the transmission back into the car!

The last time I did this procedure I had to use the assistance of my son to help me raise the transmission in position while attaching the bell housing to the trans while the assemblies were under the car, sitting in the cross member. I remembered that afternoon with agony. You may recall that I ended up making guide pins that screwed into the rear of the block that would assist with the whole procedure. Back from the photo vault are 4 pictures that show what I did. Two 3 inch bolts were engineered by simply cutting off their hex heads and cutting a slot for a large screwdriver. Then, the pins were used on the uppermost part of the Y block to align the bell housing/transmission to the engine.

All of that worked ok except for the problem of not being able to place the bell housing/transmission assembly together as a unit to lift into position behind the block. In essence, I had to put both into position separately, slide the bell housing back off the pins to mate to the transmission, and then slide the whole unit forward to bolt to the block. A real mess.

This go around, I did not have my son with me, and I was determined not to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get the transmission back in the car. (Oh, for a full car lift that would make this process easier!!!) I kept the bell housing bolted to the block, installed the two pins in the top most locations where the transmission case bolts to the bellhousing, lifted the transmission into position, and wouldn't you know it?!

Take a look at the video...

What a relief.

After that was finished it was time to go in reverse order of getting everything back together. The overdrive lockout cable was first since things are so tight in there with a shifter and all. I use the gear oil that is actually mineral oil for tractors. (modern fluids actually attack the brass rings - something about chemistry and metallurgy) There are two fill holes, one for the main case and one out back for the overdrive case. I always fill the main case first then the rear overdrive case.

Now that we are all back together it is time for a test run - but not in this stuff!

Our county put salt on the roads like we are dealing with a limitless budget for snow removal. Once the weather breaks we will let you know the results of the transmission work.

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