When the car you buy to restore has most of its parts in boxes in the back seat and trunk, you know you are in for a challenge! That's the way we bought our '41 Packard LeBaron Sport Brougham. This has been an ongoing project during which we have rebuilt the engine, front end and all brakes, leaving the chassis from the transmission back to complete the undercarriage.
After the engine was rebuilt, we test-drove it to check out the drive train, and found no clutch slippage or rear end noise, but the throw out bearing was chattering. We put the '41 on the lift and took inventory of what needed to be done. The good news was that nearly all parts were there and it did have its original transmission with the correct R-9 overdrive unit. This was a unit called Aero-Drive which Packard began putting into some of its cars in the late '30s as optional equipment. It was controlled by the foot accelerator. A lockout control was located to the right of the steering column below the instrument panel. To bring the Aero-Drive into operation, the car is started and the gears shifted normally. When the car has reached the Aero-Drive engaging speed (approximately 22 mph), a green light on the speedometer face will come on. At this point, the Aero-Drive can be engaged by momentarily lifting the foot from the accelerator pedal and then returning it to resume driving. The shift into Aero-Drive will be indicated by the green light going off, and the car will remain in Aero-Drive as long as the car speed is at least 17 mph and the lockout cable is pushed IN. To lock out, the cable is pulled OUT. The cable should only be moved in or out when the car is in motion!
To remove the transmission, we disconnected the ground strap and speedometer cable, removed the drive shaft, disconnected our two shifter control rods, hand brake lever cable, overdrive cable and rubber support at the rear of the overdrive unit. Then we supported the rear of the engine with a chain to allow us to unbolt the cross member from the frame. We also removed the transmission mounts and yoke from the rear of the overdrive, then removed the bolts from the bell housing. With the transmission sitting on a transmission jack, we carefully pulled it away from the engine. With the transmission out, we discovered the throw out bearing was hanging on the fingers with the spring loose. We checked our manuals and parts book, but there was no information on how it was supposed to hook up. In the parts book, we found the spring listed with a clevis pin, giving us a clue as to how it fastened, but we still didn't know where. There was a picture showing the spring going to the right, appearing to fasten to the bell housing. We inserted a clevis pin and pulled the spring over to the right an attached it. It looked right! We e-mailed our Packard buddy Ron Carpenter who specializes in these 40- 41 models, and he confirmed our decision. It really takes a team to build a car, and we really appreciate our friends' help on these projects!
With the transmission out, we took that opportunity to clean the frame and paint the underside of the car. The floor boards were in amazingly good condition. We sprayed them de-greaser in our pressure washer, then with a wire brush in our die grinder, we were able to remove 60+ years of rust and scale. When we had the frame and floor boards down to bare metal, we were pleased to see that there was just minor surface rust and no rust-out. All bare metal surfaces were treated with Ditzler metal prep, wiped off, Acryli-cleaned, and shot with primer. The floor boards were painted with GM's Semi-gloss Reconditioning paint. The frame and all linkages, etc. were painted with Gloss Black chassis paint. We also removed the exhaust system, painted it with Eastwood's exhaust paint and put on new clamps. With everything now clean on the underside, we were ready to put the transmission back in, newly-cleaned and painted engine color green.
We had made a visual inspection of the clutch assembly and found everything looked good and we were ready to put it all back together. The transmission pushed up, the spline pushed into place, and the transmission snugged up to the bell housing. Reversing the procedure previously covered, we were careful to use the right bolts. When removing them, we always put them into a plastic bag and label them, so they're handy to put back in.
The transmission was back in now, and we hooked up the shifting linkage which had never worked right. First and reverse would work, but the linkage locked up between 2nd and 3rd. We had another R-9 transmission to compare the shifting arms, and ours was right, so the problem was most likely in the column shift adjustment. Packard describes the adjustment as follows: The turnbuckles in the steering column to idler arm lever rods are the only adjustment. Remove cotter pins and remove rods from lever at steering column. Locate steering column lever in neutral by temporarily inserting a 3/16" pin through hole in levers. Adjust length of rods by means of a turnbuckle until ends of rods freely enter holes in ends of levers. Tighten lock nuts on turnbuckles, re-install rods with new cotter pins and remove 3/16" adjusting pin. We also replaced our spring washers on the transmission linkage. These are used to tighten up the linkage. We adjusted our clutch to 1 1/2 to 1 3/4" free travel, added 140-weight gear oil to transmission and overdrive, and test-shifted. Low and high range shifted smoothly! Next month we will set end play in the rear end and finish up the undercarriage. See you then... Keep 'em driving!