Driving golden era cars in the modern era

Discussion in 'Skills and Smarts' started by StraightEight, Jul 4, 2008.

  1. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,908
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I have a question about manual transmissions in Golden Era cars. I drive a modern 5 speed, but I've noticed that 1950's era manuals are mostly 3 speeds. Does anyone drive one of these? Is there a distinct difference?

    ETA: I'm no expert on transmissions, but I imagine it would be more difficult to change gears on a 3 speed, and there would be a different friction point.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011
  2. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

    Messages:
    10,885
    Location:
    Portage, Wis.
    We have a 52 Ford with a 3 speed on the floor, easy to drive. I used to have a 58 Chevy with a 3 speed on the column. It wasn't too bad to drive, except coming from a stop on a hill. The clutch and shifter have a bit more resistance than a modern 5 speed, but otherwise it's just a matter of getting a feel for it and knowing that when you get to 3rd, that's it lol

    I always loved going. Only time I had a good reason to wear a suit lol
     
  3. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,744
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    My 1961 Ford Falcon has a three-speed on the column. To date, it’s the only three-speed I’ve driven, but I’ve driven a number of four-speed manual transmissions and one or two five-speed manuals.

    Ignoring column shifters, the big difference between a pre-1964 three-speed and most subsequent manual transmissions is the lack of a synchronizer on first gear. That means that unless you know how to double clutch, you can’t downshift into first gear while rolling without grinding.

    Also, first gear on a five-speed tends to have more gear multiplication than first gear on a three-speed, so either the vehicle’s final-drive ratio will be deeper on the three-speed equipped vehicle, or there will be more feathering of the clutch to take off smoothly.

    Because of the fewer gears, there tends to be a larger spread between gears on the three-speed than on the five-speed, which means RPMs tend to drop more between shifts.

    Lastly, modern five-speeds tend to have an overdriven fifth gear for fewer revs at cruising speed. Third gear on a three-speed is usually equivalent to fourth gear on a five-speed.

    I’m about to toss a 1957 Ford overdrive into the mix on my Falcon, which should make driving more interesting yet, although ultimately more convenient. Between freewheeling at speeds under 21 mph (which takes the non-synchro first gear out of the equation), and the automatic overdrive, it promises to be an excellent transmission and well worth the price of the conversion.

    -Dave
     
  4. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,908
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    A column shifter would completely throw me off! I routinely use 4th gear when driving on the freeway, so stopping at 3rd would take getting used to aswell lol Thanks for answering!
     
  5. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

    Messages:
    10,885
    Location:
    Portage, Wis.
    You're very welcome. In the end, I've found it's just like whenever you buy a new car. You gotta get the hang of it and then you're golden!


     
  6. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,908
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    Double-clutch, in theory, I understand - Using it would be a different story. I only learned to drive a modern manual without stalling or bucking the car about 6 months ago... I would probably massacre a classic car.

    As for the larger spread, I guessed there might be. I usually shift from 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and so on around 2500rpm. I'm guessing the rpms would have to be higher for shifting on a pre-1964 3 speed?

    Many thanks to you aswell. Good luck with your Falcon! :)
     
  7. Tony in Tarzana

    Tony in Tarzana My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,276
    Location:
    Baldwin Park California USA
    I was nervous the first time I drove a column shift, but the thing to remember it's an H pattern just like a floor shifter. The hardest thing to get used to while driving a 3-speed is only having one intermediate gear between bottom and top gear. On the other hand, cars with 3-speed manuals tend to have slow-revving torquey engines so they don't need to be shifted as much.
     
  8. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,908
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    This leads me to my next question: Do those cars take longer to accelerate than my 2000 would?
     
  9. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,744
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    It depends on what 2000 we're talking about versus what three-speed equipped car. All things otherwise being the same, more gears is usually better for acceleration, as it keeps the engine in the RPM range where it's producing the most power.

    The column shifter threw me at first as well, but I find I have far less difficulty with it than a five-speed, as the shift throws on modern transmissions are so small and tight I routinely miss third gear and go straight to fifth.

    It's not the point at which you shift that's so different with a three-speed as it is the point where you end up after shifting. Right now if you shift at 2500, your RPMs might drop to 2300 in the next gear up, but with a three-speed they might drop to 2100 between gears. This is where Tony's point about the extra torque of the older motors comes in, they compensate for the RPM drop by having extra power available down low. Modern, small engines are tuned to a smaller RPM range and only work well with the extra gears.

    As for double clutching, don't worry, I can't do it either. I would probably massacre a Model A Ford, but since American companies have been putting synchronizers on 2nd and 3rd gear since the 1930s, and 1st gear isn't used much except for rolling from a dead stop, an older car with a non-synchro first gear isn't very hard to drive at all.

    -Dave
     
  10. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,908
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    That makes a lot of sense - I think I understand the differences now. I wish I had a 1957 T-Bird to tool around with. Driving a manual is fun, but driving a pre-'64 sounds even more fun (not to mention stylish!)

    You've been very helpful, gentleman! :)
     
  11. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,744
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    A ‘55-‘57 Thunderbird (I prefer the lines on the ‘55 myself, although the ‘57s had the coolest optional engines) is a very cool car. I suspect they are going to become increasingly good buys, as well, because the kind of folks that are intensely interested in them are all in their mid-seventies now, so prices had kind of stabilized around $35,000 last I checked. Inflation will eventually make that a pretty good buy.

    My preference in the T-birds, since they’re floor shifted, would be for a T-10 four-speed. Full synchro and with a performance history to boot. It took Ford a while to adopt four-speeds, but the T-10 was offered in the ‘57 Corvette, so they’re period correct.

    The overdrive was available in the T-bird and was the performance transmission of choice when they were new.

    -Dave
     
  12. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

    Messages:
    10,885
    Location:
    Portage, Wis.
    My 58 Delray would do 0-60 in 5.2....minutes lol

     
  13. Bourne ID

    Bourne ID One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    271
    Location:
    Electric City, PA
    I can still vividly remember the day I bought the 50 Plymouth, I was so nervous about the 3 speed on the column. It had been years since I'd owned a standard (wife never learned) and I'd never driven a column shift. I took the whole family when I picked it up at the lot, left the XB in their parking lot and told them we'd be back for it later. We all piled in and off we went, it was the smoothest things since babies bottoms!!
    Obviously with just 3 gears there's a broader range of speed in the top two and she never liked the highway much, but without a tach I never really knew what my rpms were. Drove her like that for a year before the motor gave up.
    Here she is before I bought her.[​IMG]

    And here she is now, 350 and a 5 speed on the floor!
    [​IMG]

    Took her home for the first time last night! Stopped for hoagies 10 miles form home and the NEW starter just clicked and my voltage dropped out. Thought at first that I had a lemon of a starter, started checking things out and found that one of the battery cables had worked itself loose. Stupid I know but an easy fix, took her home and showed the family which hasn't seen the car since last September.
    Took them all down the ice cream shop in it....very Norman Rockwell!!
     
  14. LocktownDog

    LocktownDog Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,254
    Location:
    Northern Nevada

    Slow down, Speedy.
     
  15. C-dot

    C-dot Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,908
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    I could just about afford a $35,000 T-Bird - Many modern cars are priced as such. The maintenance would be a different story. Once again, I need to marry rich.

    Didn't know that overdrive was available in them. Makes it more ideal!

    That is one beautiful piece of machinery, definitely worth the work you put in! Can I come for ice cream next time? :)

    One thing stands out to me: No tachometer. I imagine you would have to rely entirely on the car's friction point?

    There aren't too many classic cars in existence around where I live, because they fall prey to rust. This lessens my chances of driving one even more... Waah...
     
  16. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

    Messages:
    10,885
    Location:
    Portage, Wis.
    You get to feel and hear when your vehicle needs to shift. You can hear when the engine is running at the RPM's it needs to be at to shift and can feel it as you're going down the road. It requires more attention, but you get the hang of it.

    Sadly, my car does much better now, I just don't lol Everyone complains I drive like a grandpa. The laugh's on them when I'm getting better mileage with my land barge than they do with their modern fuel-efficient rig.
     
  17. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,744
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    There's a fellow who used to be on one of the Falcon message boards I frequent, whose Number One tip for achieving optimal fuel economy is “drive like an old, old man in a hat”. I have the hat, but probably accelerate too quickly to otherwise achieve stellar MPG numbers. Still, I’m pretty happy with 23.

    -Dave
     
  18. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,744
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    The only problem with that is you'll be hard pressed to finance a $35,000 classic as easily as a $35,000 econobox. I could make payments on a much more expensive car than my $3,500 Falcon, but no bank is going to want to make a car loan on something fifty years old. :rolleyes:

    -Dave
     
  19. AtomicEraTom

    AtomicEraTom

    Messages:
    10,885
    Location:
    Portage, Wis.
    My mom always says I drive like an 'old man in a hat' lol I have the hat, the car, and the driving skills! I'm getting about 22mpg on the highway witha V8, wood paneled land yacht. I have no complaints!

     
  20. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
    2,744
    Location:
    Bennington, VT 05201
    I couldn’t find the thread about building a neverwas Golden Era car, so I guess I’ll stick this here...

    [​IMG]

    This is a pretty impressive fantasy Golden Era build. The only thing that could make it better is if it were equipped with a Ford V8-60.

    It started life as a 1977 MGB roadster!

    -Dave
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.