Synthetic Oil and Overdrive Transmissions

Hi Doug,

I have a question for you. 

I have been trying to find out if it is okay to use synthetic oil in the early Borg Warner T series 3 sp with od transmissions. I work on Hudsons, which use the R10 OD unit, then later the BW T86 and Studebakers which used the BW with OD transmissions.

Years ago I was told you could not use synthetic oil in them as it was “too slick” for the OD to work correctly. Now I understand that the oil needs to be compatible with brass parts that are in the transmissions and the Redline brand that I use is compatible
with “yellow metal” in transmissions and rear ends.

What is your thoughts on using synthetic oil in these units?

Thanks so much for your time!

Wellborn, FL

Hello Kerry,

I don't have experience with the Redline Brand, but I do have experience with the Royal Purple. I know that you should not use the Royal Purple with yellow metal. It will turn your oil to a metallic yellow. In my case, it was dissolving the syncro rings. 

In my "stand alone" Borg Warner OD unit. I do use the Royal Purple for the reason, I believe it will withstand greater temperature than conventional gear oil will. The OD unit generates a tremendous amount of heat because of the large numbers of moving parts in a small space.

In standard application, whereas it is attached to the back of the transmission, it can dissipate the heat more efficiently. 

If your Redline Brand is compatible with yellow metal, I would say it is probably going to be a good thing to run, if you are pushing your transmission with more power than it was originally designed for, however if you are using it in standard application, conventional oil is probably adequate.

If you have a leak, it is generally more of a leak with synthetic. 

Hope this helps,

Vintage Art Deco DeVilbiss Air Compressor

This vintage Art Deco DeVilbiss Air Compressor, I believe, was made somewhere around 1936.

It is a portable, but it isn't something you'd want to carry around much. Although the outer housing is made of aluminum, and it only measures 18 inches long, 14 inches tall, and 9 inches deep, it is quite heavy. In fact setting it on the bathroom scale, it weighed in at 80 pounds. It actually has a 1/2 horsepower electric motor in the bottom center that has a shaft out both ends to drive each of the two compressor motors.

This was my prize purchase at the swap meet in Bremerton WA this last weekend.

Ask Doug Nite Owl Tail Light Lens

February 13, 2014


I have a 1935 Dodge Coupe with a Nite Owl tail lens for one side only. I would like to find another one for the other side.
I see you have used these lenses on a project. Would you happen to know where I could find another one?
These lenses have the two screw mount holes directly across from each other, the same as 1933 - 36 Ford Cars have.

Best Regards

Tony Waters


The Nite Owls are really cool aren't they?

A friend has collected a couple of them, but as you probably know, they are extremely hard to find, and I am pretty sure he would not even consider parting with them.

You know the saying, looking for a needle in a hay stack?

Thanks for the inquiry though, and good luck with the hunt.


Borg Warner Overdrive Installation in Torque Tube

Installing the Borg Warner R 10 Overdrive in the torque tube.

Cut out flanges to fit both ends of the overdrive from 3/4" plate,and cut the center holes to accept your torque tube.
You'll need to gather a coupler for the input and output shafts. Some machine work will likely be required to fit them to your shafts. The rear one will be welded to the drive line and a seal will need to be fit at that point so your overdrive lube will not run to the rear end. The output shaft will slide into the fixed coupler on the rear driveline. This will allow easy installation of the complete unit. Weld the front coupler to the front portion of the drive line. This end will be pinned to the input shaft on the overdrive unit so it doesn't travel forward.
You will need to install a fairly large vent out the top of the overdrive unit, similar to the rear end vent but more like a 1/4" to 3/8" vent. The overdrive will generate substantial heat and therefore the use of synthetic gear lube is recommended.
The custom, extended speedometer cable will need to be a sealed casing as the oil will travel up the cable. Cap the speedo output on your transmission.
You will need an overdrive relay unit. I used a Ford or Merc. relay.  The relay is triggered by a governor on the overdrive unit, that grounds the trigger circuit at 25 mph and sends power to the solenoid by 10 gauge wire, which will allow it to go into overdrive mode if your cable control is at the "in" position.
I used a Packard cable as I figured it was a little longer so as to compensate for the overdrive being back in the middle of the torque tube. I formed the mounting bracket for the cable so that it slides down onto my shifter and acts as a tapered, compression fit.
I use a toggle switch to break the governor circuit, to the relay, so I can split gears. Cable in, switch on, 1st- clutch- 2nd- throttle off clutch in- 2nd over throttle and switch off, throttle off for 3rd-throttle- switch on, throttle off for 3rd overdrive, now you're cookin'.
 I use clutch for the second over but not for 3rd over. It's a little to snappy or violent for second over in my opinion without the clutch. This will get you down the road in a "wow" fashion. At least that is what everyone says that rides in my truck.
Get very accustomed to the shifting before you try to speed shift.
You must not pull the cable out of gear when you are in overdrive mode and you must not engage cable when the solenoid is engaged.
It is best to not move your cable when in motion, until you have very good understanding of how the system works. I take it out of cable overdrive after I have switched it off and come out of solenoid overdrive and snugged the gears forward.
If you are not completely confident with your understanding of the shifting sequence, it is just safe to not move the cable when in motion. The only reason to pull the cable out when in motion is to take it out of "free wheel". Normally it was not designed to do that and had a built in safety device.
I have put 35,000 miles on mine at this point and it is still working great. There were trials and errors but if you follow my directions here, you should have a fail safe installation.
Doug's Classic Coachworks                                                                                       

1957 Nash Metropolitan Restoration

This 1957 Nash Metropolitan restoration started out a pretty nice car. It did have minor rust issues as is expected of a car that is over 50 years old. Walt Johnsen brought the car to me for the sheet metal reconstruction and surfacing, and I got it in initial primer surfacer as well. Walt took it from there, with the assistance of "Hutch" and in his normal fashion, completed undoubtedly one of the nicest Metros, period. (Not to use the term "period" as it has been used by our current "fearless leader").

The fit on these Metropolitans was not the best. The gaps varied quite a bit from the factory. As long as things closed without interference, it seamed "good enough". I made a choice to refine the gaps to give it a more crisp appearance.

As a result of my reconstruction, fit of the sheet metal components, and Walt's surfacing and finishing, as well as his attention to detail in the re assembly of this 1957 Nash Metropolitan, it was the recipient of "Best in Class Award" for 1949-1959 Domestic automobile at 2013 Forest Grove Concours d' Elegance.


On the 1939 Chevrolet, you said you put highway gears in, did you use the original housing? If yes, how did you do it?

Thanks, Victor

Hello Victor,

We actually used the 1940 rear end and adapted the 39 drive line to that because we had a set of NOS gears for the 40. I recall a little machine work to make it happen with the drive line.

It may be possible to use an aftermarket, early replacement universal joint rear half with the original front half in order to couple the 40 driveline. I know that works for the trucks. Some of the better quality joints won't work because they were the needle bearing style, instead of the early style, solid bearing type. Finding gears is the hard part. I don't know if there are any new gear manufacturers. Sometimes those are noisy and inferior quality. I installed a Borg Warner Overdrive in my truck. It works very well. That requires a lot more machine work and engineering. I have another case and extra gear set for the OD.

There are some options for you to think about if any of that interests you. I think I have one of the universal joints that I spoke of earlier too.

Thanks for asking, Doug

1937 Chevrolet Log Truck

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