Test Driving - "Looking for Problems"

        We hope that all of you had a great holiday season. Christmas is our favorite time of year. Our family always gets together with my three brothers, two sisters and their families meeting at my parents' house for an old-fashioned Christmas.

        We always get out the old cars and this year it was the'36 Packard Coupe. We had a clear 50-degree day, so we loaded the kids in the rumble seat, fired up the straight 8, and went for a vintage "sleigh ride". To us, this is what the cars are all about.

        Driving the '36 is different from our other cars. It is the last Packard Senior Series 8 to have mechanical brakes with power booster, straight front axle, gear-driven generator, floor shift and Bijur lubrication system that vacuum-feeds lubricant to suspension parts each time the car is started. These cars were still virtually hand-built, and drive like it-very tight and quiet. The body is framed with wood and the wood and steel eliminate the squeaks inherent in an all-steel body.

        30's cars were made to work on. Almost everything is adjustable (You can repair the water pump with packing). There are grease fittings on everything, and the thermostat is on the radiator and opens the grill louvers at 155 degrees. External parts like starters, generators, etc., were overbuilt so that they could be built and rebuilt instead of throwing them away. Sounds like a good idea to me, but I doubt if we will see this done on new cars.

        We are road-testing now, going from bumper to bumper, checking and re-checking everything. The 320 cu. In. engine sounds good at an idle, and has plenty of power. The factory manual shows an oil pressure range of 2 lbs. At idle to 25-55 lbs. Driving. Our car runs at 30-40 lbs. We wanted to be sure that the engine was clean, so we have changed the oil three times, replaced the oil filter, and cleaned the oil screen (which is accessible by removing the plate on the bottom of the oil pan to pull out the screen). As with other cars of this vintage, there is an oil pressure regulator on the crank case (driver's side). It is basically a housing with a spring that is adjustable to raise or lower oil pressure, that locks down with a double nut. Using the correct oil in these engines is crucial. The previous owner was using an aircraft 20W50 detergent oil. This couldn't be more wrong! The engine has been rebuilt at one time, but I don't know what was done. The safest oil to use is 30-weight non-detergent. Detergent oil will clean out the sludge and cause oil burning, and maybe bearing noise as well.

        We are hearing some minor noise in the lower end just momentarily during acceleration, between 30-35 mph, then it goes away. We will eventually drop the oil pan and check out the bearings. (The Packard books show 1935 as the first year for insert bearings, replacing 1934's babbit bearings). We'll probably wait a few months, though, as the noise is still minor now.

        One of the best things that we did over the last 6 months of refurbishing was to put an AC glass bowl filter at the carburetor. The gas tank had been removed and cleaned out, and the fuel line blown out. Everything went back together and the car sat while being worked on. When we started it, sand had somehow gotten into the gas tank and clogged the gas filter. This filter saved the EE-23 original Stromberg carburetor (just-rebuilt). So, the tank was again removed, cleaned out and, this time, coated inside with a sealer, painted silver on the outside and reinstalled. Now the fuel flows clean. Gas line filters are a must for old vehicles.

        The last thing done before press time was to replace a leaky transmission seal. Not that hard to do if you can find the seal. We have found that sometimes when part numbers are crossed over, the new ones don't fit. We always use a dial caliper and measure outside diameter (OD) inside diameter (ID) and thickness. We then called Northwest Transmission in Ohio, and they had the seals. We punch marked the yoke and drive shaft, and since we could not find torque specifications, we counted the turns as we backed off the nut. We installed the new seal after soaking it in transmission fluid so that it would not go on dry, then counted the turns again for correct torque, while aligning our punched dots to keep the drive shaft in balance. After a test-drive it proved to be balanced and doesn't lead. It's great when things work out! Happy New Year... see you next month!