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Old 03-26-2007, 12:15 PM
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3 speed maual with auto overdrive

Can anyone tell me about the 3 speed maual with automatic overdrive that GM used in the late 50s and 60's ? What is it and how durable?

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Old 03-26-2007, 03:10 PM
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I do believe there are setups like that with either the 700R4/4L60E or the 4L80E where you can manually upshift or downshift into any gear but when you place it into 4th gear/Overdrive it acts like an automatic. Is that basically what you are talking about?
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Old 03-26-2007, 08:32 PM
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An old timer I talked to said he ran a built 283 with a three speed with overdrive and 4.11 gears in his 56 chev years ago and it was an excellent combination. The engine and transmission was out of a 62 Impala wagon, the overdrive was actuated by a pull lever under the dash I think? Should be as durable as most manual three speeds I would think.
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Old 03-26-2007, 09:17 PM
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I owned a 68 Impala with a 307 backed by a factory 3 speed manual with overdrive. The basic transmission was just a standard 3 speed, Saginaw IIRC. Attached to the back was a planetary gear box which provided the overdrive. The lever under the dash was the lock-out to prevent the OD from engaging. The overdrive had was engaged by an electrically controlled solenoid. There was a speed sensor which tripped a relay which provided power to the solenoid. Slightly lifting of the accelerator would allow the pawl to drop in and lock the planetary set into OD. There was also "passing gear". There was a switch on the throttle linkage which cut the ignition and disconnected the solenoid. You had to have a drop in power application in order for the pawl to drop out. Once dropped, there was another switch which reconnected the ignition. Pretty ingenious use of electro-mechanical equipment. I vaguely remember a Car Craft or HotRod article where they took one off a 3 speed and put it on a Saginaw 4 speed. They were pretty robust, but the Saginaw was no Muncie. It will probably live behind a mild to medium 350. I wouldn't thrash it too much. Assuming you can find one and have your heart set on a manual tranny, it would be a good choice. But the modern 4 speed autos are probably a better choice, IMHO.
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Old 03-26-2007, 09:35 PM
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If I remember correctly from Chevy-by-the-Numbers, the overdrive was produced for the lower hp cars like the 283. That would lead one to believe it was not particularly strong.
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Old 03-27-2007, 05:15 AM
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thanks !

I knew some one out there knew more about that tranny than I do. I have one I got from my GrandPa ,he said it worked great in his station wagon. I just thought it was nostalgic. My Brother has a 29 Model A with a 57 283 manual three speed and he found a trans like this also and wanted to know how to wire it up ,sound like it may take some experimenting,unless you kow of a wireing scamatic somewhere? It should work great for him as he has a 49 merc rear with 4:27 gears.
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Old 03-27-2007, 05:31 AM
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The overdrive had a safety issue. It was free wheeling when you let off the gas.
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Old 03-27-2007, 06:19 AM
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-Description of BW T-85- Including Wiring For Single Range/Dual Range Useage

Top Illustration is the BW T-86



Lower Illustration is the BW T-85

Last edited by Crosley; 04-24-2012 at 06:44 PM. Reason: Profanity. Please see: general board guidelines.
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Old 03-27-2007, 06:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaredyocum
sound like it may take some experimenting,unless you kow of a wireing scamatic somewhere? It should work great for him as he has a 49 merc rear with 4:27 gears.
Make sure you get the relay (usually located near the battery), the "passing gear" switch, and the lock-out lever, switch, or what have you. They are usually about 30%, so a 4.27:1 would drop down to about a 3:1. Definitely easier on the engine and the gas tank when cruising. Buy an old 50's to 60's Chevy shop manual. It should have a wiring diagram. The link by KULTULZ has a great diagram as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Meyer
The overdrive had a safety issue. It was free wheeling when you let off the gas.
They had an one way clutch in them in order to work correctly, so they would free wheel. However, the lock-out disabled that feature so you could have engine braking if you wanted it. You just had to remember before those long grades that you had 4 wheel drum brakes!
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Old 03-27-2007, 02:21 PM
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Search the site for "Borg Warner Overdrive" or "Borg Warner OD". I wrote some pretty extensive posts about a year ago. It definitely needs to be wired correctly, and the proper kick-down switch is a must! There's a contact in the solenoid on the side of the OD (looks like a heater fan motor) that grounds the ignition out when the OD unit is dropping out of gear. THIS IS A MUST for longevity! If you have EFI you can rig a relay to cut the power to the ignition module instead. The solenoid contacts complete a ground. I did that and ran one behind a 4.0L Jeep six for a while. The OD held up fine, the little T-96 three speed in front of it didn't! The OD units were run behind 352 and 390 Ford FE V-8s -- they are strong enough. The way it shifts into Od you can easily gently shift. If you're racing you want to lock the OD unit out.

The OD unit DOES freewheel when rear wheel speed is greater than engine speed -- no engine braking going down a hill. It's not dangerous unless you can't follow instructions or don't read them. All owners manuals of cars with the old OD units clearly state that when towing or travelling in hilly terrain where engine braking is needed you should lock the OD out. Can't have everything! If OD is locked out you can un-lock it on the move. It can be locked on the move, but must not be in OD when you try to lock it.

I'm not quite old enough to have bought cars with the B-W OD, but I've owned a couple Ramblers with them and helped a lot of Rambler owners get theirs fixed. It's not to hard -- most of the time the problem is simply burned or dirty contacts in the solenoid, governor, or relay. Some late 60s systems don't even use a relay. There's a manul on www.tocmp.com, but it shows the more complicated wiring used in the 50s. Look at the Rambler wiring diagrams on the same site from 58-69 for a better idea of how the things were wired.
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Old 03-30-2007, 07:13 AM
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Since questions come up about wiring the old Borg-Warner OD units, I uploaded a wiring diagram to my photo album, and also attached one below. This is the most common wiring method, very simple and easy to understand. The wiring is shown ready to engage OD as soon as the contacts in the governor close and energize the relay. A toggle switch can be wired in the power line to the relay or between the governor and relay, but DO NOT use that to disengage the OD, not unless you plan on using the clutch to disengage. It will drop out when the power is cut, but it's hard on the planetary gears and they will fail after 20-50 cycles.

Note that you don't need a special relay -- a standard 30A automotive relay works fine (such as for driving/fog lights). This diagram shows a single terminal governor. Two terminal governors work the same way, just ground one of the terminals.

If you install a manual kick-down switch that can be pressed and immediately released (like on the dash, or in the floor) a momentary contact switch can be used if you can find a double pole type (one normally closed or NC set, one NO set of contacts). Just press all the way then release as soon as you fell it "kick" out of OD -- the engine will be dead for as long as the switch is held (coil grounded out, or power dropped top a relay if you wire a relay to the ignition module or coil power wire). If you want to use an "automatic" switch on the linkage you must use the original OD switch, or any switch that will "ratchet" or "pop" back to the open position as soon as it bottoms out/males contact with the normally open set of contacts. Otherwise you kill the engine when you have your foot on the floor.

A common problem with these units is burned contacts. The relay can be replaced, or pry the case open and clean the terminals. The solenoid has two sets -- one shown open and one shown closed. When the two screws on the back or the solenoid are removed the contacts are exposed and can be cleaned. The same with the governor -- remove the top and clean the contacts. The contact points are identical to old ignition points -- just file or sand to clean and make sure they are square to each other.

The solenoid is easily tested for operation. Set it on the negative battery post (or ground the body) and touch a hot wire to one of the two terminals. Only one will operate the solenoid, the other is the coil ground wire. The heavy blue wire in the diagram operates the solenoid. Even though it operates and all contacts are clean OD may still not engage. I've had solenoids operate but not have enough strength to push the engagin pawl in. Have a friend put some pressure on the solenoid plunger when you put power to it. If it's easy to hold in it's to weak. Some auto electric shops (alternator/starter rebuilders -- if you can still find one) can rebuild the solenoids or be able to send them in for rebuilding.
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Old 03-30-2007, 04:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by farna
If you install a manual kick-down switch that can be pressed and immediately released (like on the dash, or in the floor) a momentary contact switch can be used if you can find a double pole type (one normally closed or NC set, one NO set of contacts). Just press all the way then release as soon as you fell it "kick" out of OD -- the engine will be dead for as long as the switch is held (coil grounded out, or power dropped top a relay if you wire a relay to the ignition module or coil power wire). If you want to use an "automatic" switch on the linkage you must use the original OD switch, or any switch that will "ratchet" or "pop" back to the open position as soon as it bottoms out/males contact with the normally open set of contacts. Otherwise you kill the engine when you have your foot on the floor.
If you wire the NO side of the kick-down switch as show so that it grounds through the solenoid, it should lose its ground when it drops out of OD and allow the ignition to function normally (blue-orange wire).
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Old 03-30-2007, 07:37 PM
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It was most likely a Borg-Warner R-10, or R-11 overdrive unit. These were very common on cars from the late 40s to mid 50s, and was still available on some cars as an option in the 60s. It was most used on 6 cylinder and low hp 8 cylinders. What it did was to give you a step down of about 30%. If 3rd gears was 1 to 1, then in od mode it would be .70 to 1. As many cars of the era mostly had 4:11 or lower (4:30, 4:88 etc) it allowed the car to travel at higher speeds without a high rpm. They work very good. I have two old cars with the o.d. and it is a dream to drive them. If you are in second or third gear o.d. and you need quick acceleration there is a kick-down switch that is activated when you kick the pedel to the floor in shifts out of od into the regular gear. Once you let off on the gas it kicks back into od. This is probably why some think of it as a manual automatic overdrive. Parts are around but getting harder to find. It would not be a good set-up for anything that has high torque or high hp. It simply isn't strong enough to handle it without breaking.

You don't need bubba types of set-ups to kick it in and out of o.d. The units as they originally came in the cars had everything necessary to do all the functions. It was when they stopped working that people made up jury-rigged systems to get around some of the relays, solonoids, etc.
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Old 04-06-2007, 08:14 AM
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redsdad is correct -- the OD kick-down switch is the key though. As soon as the NO contacts are closed the switch automatically "ratchets" or "snaps" back open, so the grounding is only momentary. Without the special switch you have to be careful. Everything EXCEPT that switch is easily replaced or repaired. I've opened up an original switch and cleaned the contacts, bringing it back to life. Be very careful if you do this! There are springs and catches in there that must go back the way they came out, and they are under pressure. If something pops out make sure you can find it and know where it goes back!!

It's a good idea to wire in some extra relays so that the relays power everything and the switches/contacts just trigger the relays. That will prevent burnt/worn contacts.
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