My New Years resolution is to start driving my old cars. For those of you who know me, know that I make this resolution every year and I get busy with producing the magazine and just dont get around to driving the cars, and, of course, I am finalizing three restorations, so there just isnt time. But this year is off to a different start. I have put my daily drivers away, making me dependent on driving my old cars. I am driving a different old car around 4-5 times a week. Now I keep all cars on a battery tender, brakes up, fresh gas, etc., so when I got into my 48 Packard 356 Custom 8, I turned the key, pushed the button (accelerator start had been bypassed by previous owner). The car started right up and I let it warm up to prep it for driving it the next day.
Packards accelerator start was used in the 1940s and into the 50s and was very similar to Buicks of the same period. Its simple. The ignition switch is wired to a switch on the carburetor, and a wire from an opposite pole to the carb switch goes to the top right pole of the starter solenoid. These carburetor starter switches work well, but are not available at a local parts store, so you have to order them from a Packard supplier, or get them online or at swap meets. They usually run $100-$175. So being a little bit of a problem to find, many people who shouldnt be working on old cars just disconnected the carb switch and added a 2-pole push button to make the connection between the ignition switch and starter. The push button installed by my cars previous owner worked okay, so I kept it and waited until I could go back to carb start.
The next day when I prepared to take a drive in it, I put on the hot battery cable (negativeits positive ground), and the engine started cranking with the key off! I checked the connections and they were frayed and could be shorting out, so I pulled them apart and tried to start the car same thingthe car cranked with the key on or off.
This had happened before with my 46 Packard Custom Super 8, and it happened all at once,making battery disconnects a good idea. With my 46, the Bendix kicked in, it started the engine and the Bendix hung up in the flywheel, and with the starter turning at 400 RPMs with the engine, burned the starter up and almost the car, if I hadnt had a battery disconnect. So, knowing this, I was reluctant to keep trying to start the 48. I laid out my plan: Re-wire all wires at the starter solenoid, hook up the OEM carburetor switch, delete the dash button and put on a new starter.
Doing some basic tests, I checked continuity in my wire from the ignition switch to the carburetor switch. It was good, so I had power. So from there, I ran that hot wire to the outside pole of the carb switch, then added another wire from the inside pole of the carb switch to the top right pole of the starter solenoid, cleaned up the starter wiring and put on a new negative (hot) battery cable. The one on the car was a #2 cable and I like to use ought (0) cables on these 6 volt systems because the cables carry a lot of amps. With new wires, I thought I would try my old starter again. I removed the coil wire to be sure the car would not start, then hooked up the negative battery cable. Same problemthe engine cranked with the key off. Next, Woody pulled the starter and what I suspected was correctthe Bendix was locked in the out position. The spring gets weak in the Bendix and they will kick in and not back out. I had a 48 starter on the shelf that had been totally rebuilt, rebuilt solenoid, Bendix, armature. Woody put it in the car, then I hooked up the battery cable and nothing happened. So far, so good. Then I got in, turned the key on and mashed down on the accelerator and the car started! Just as it should.
I ran through this process three times with the same positive results. Now I am going to clean up the new wires, covering them with shrink wrap and wrapping cloth tape round them to form a harness and check all terminals to make sure they are clean using non-flammable electrical cleaner. Personally, I think letting the car sit probably helped stick up the Bendix. When we take the old starter apart, we will know.
Here is where having a library of old car reference books really is helpful. I had an OEM wiring diagram and followed it. Now I am ready to take the 48 for a drive with everything back the way God intended. Heres to the New Year and keep em driving!
Thanks to our friends Woody Johnson, Ron Carpenter and Robert Wiley for their contributions to this project.
Wiring Diagrams: We have an advertiser, Classic Car Wiring, 888-606-5319, www.classiccarwiring.com, who sells specific diagrams for your car.