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  • Converting from manual to automatic transmission

    I am restoring a 1960 convertible to a driver for my daughter's first car. The car now has the original 3 speed with overdrive transmission. My daughter would be most comfortable with an automatic transmission. I have two available in other project cars - '58 / 352 combination and a '60 / 430 engine combination. The original engine is locked up - so I am going to use the 390 from a '76 F250 that is running well with an automatic transmission - I think a C6.

    1. Can anyone point me to someone who has converted from manual to automatic before? I know it will likely be a hassle with the column change and such (or perhaps a floor shifter for the automatic?,) so I would like to learn from someone's experience.

    2. Also, would I be able to fit both the engine and transmission from the truck - and if so what would I need to be concerned with as to ratios and rear end?

    By the way, I intend to keep the manual transmission for use in the automatic donor vehicle or for later installation in the convertible. I am not concerned with keeping these original. I just want to bring them back to life, pretty them up and drive them.

  • #2
    I did that with our '59 Galaxie. I found a guy parting out his automatic car in Mass. We came to 'the money' agreement over the phone, I sent him a check and he sent two pallets of parts to Detroit:
    His identical engine, his 3-speed COM, the Brake Pedal Support, Steering Column w/gear box & Transmision Linkage, Throttle-to-trans Linkage, PRNDL Dash Plate and his Driveshaft. He even threw in a Town & Country Radio (that Gary Tayman converted to AM-FM-Aux Stereo).

    I did a major overhaul on all the parts he sent. Then came assembly. While the steering box and column were out, I changed to rack-and-pinion steering (one of the best moves I've done). I removed the brake pedal support (and M/C). Before installing the new Brake Pedal Support, I added a mechanical Brake Switch and Relay (another great move). Then I replaced the steering column with the new. It bolted straight in.

    While the engine was out, I removed the clutch parts from the frame and engine, and set them off to the side. You can use or sell these parts as a 'kit'. We have had folks dying for the 'z' bracket from a squarebird, with none to be had from anywhere. Not many SBs came as stick shift, and you will have ALL the correct parts.

    I had to remove the tailshaft cross-bracket from the frame on my manual setup. I did not need to buy one for the automatic setup as it bolted into what was on the car. I had to slightly re-route the speedometer cable, but used the original. You may need a new speedometer gear in your C6 to match your rear end and tires.

    I didn't use the original M/C. I installed a new Firewall Bracket, 8" two-stage Booster and dual Master Cylinder for Power Disk Brakes. Then, I ran all new brake lines using CUNIFER (rustproof) brake line.

    Since my radiator has no provision for trans cooling, I mounted a coil of 1/2" copper in front of my radiator. Michigan is flat and I'm not hauling trailers, so this is satisfactory.

    While you have everything apart under the dash, consider installing an Electric Windshield Wiper Motor. That vacuum garbage that came on our cars wasn't worth spit when it was new. I retrofit a New Port Engineering electric motor, and couldn't be happier. The wipers are so strong now, I can't hold them back and they work just like modern wipers with; Hi, Lo, and Interval settings. Oh, and when I push my original dash knob in, I get Squirts!

    You will be happy with your 390/C6 combination. It's a vast improvement in the right direction. Dimension-wise, all FEs are the same, and very difficult to tell them apart, from the outside. BTW, do you know the difference between the 352 and 390? (The answer is more in-depth than 38 cubic inches.) - Dave
    My latest project:
    CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

    "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
    --Lee Iacocca

    Comment


    • #3
      For one difference, the 390 uses a thrust plate for the camshaft rather than the button/spring to the timing chain cover. It can also therefore use a real roller timing chain, which would be a big improvement over the original 352 design. The original 352 also didn't have a oil gallery tray, that the 390 will have. The newer intake manifolds are also tapped for a temperature gauge behind the distributor, rather than using the waterpump tube tee. All improvements. Did it also have an alternator?
      sigpic

      CLICK HERE for Jim's web site

      Comment


      • #4
        Personally, I'd encourage you to get your daughter a different first car for two reasons.

        1 - As a new driver, she is likely to have at least a minor accident at some point. Many new drivers do, my daughter did. Not only would it be a shame to see a '60 Convertible bent, even more so it'd be a shame to see her hurt. These cars were not designed with safety in mind. There are no crumple zones to absorb the impact energy and the convertibles have even less rigidity. Handling is sloppy and the factory brakes are poor. No factory seat belts, only provisions to mount them after the fact. I doubt any testing of the effectiveness of those belts was ever done. It's a very cool car, but not a very safe one.

        2 - A stick shift '60 Convertible is a fairly rare piece, in my mind I'd hate to see it altered.

        Of course, it's your car and you can do what you like, I just felt I should share my thoughts. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't proceed to alter this car for your daughter. A V6 Mustang convertible from perhaps 5-10 years ago could likely be had for similar money and would be more reliable, faster, handle better and be much safer and still be pretty cool.

        If you want to proceed, you will find (as you have seen) plenty of knowledge to do what you want.
        DGS (aka salguod)
        1960 Convertible - Raven Black, Red leather
        www.salguod.net

        Comment


        • #5
          Not to mention the fact that a heavy rear wheel drive car like a squarebird is pretty much undriveable and dangerous in snow and bad weather. As mentioned there are plenty of cool cars that are much safer. As someone who went that stage with my daughter I would go safety first.

          John
          John Pizzi - Squarebirds Administrator

          Thunderbird Registry #36223
          jopizz@verizon.net 856-779-9695

          http://www.squarebirds.org/picture_gallery/TechnicalResourceLibrary/trl.htm

          Comment


          • #6
            x2

            Please forgive me for jumping on the bandwagon. I didn't think about it while reading the thread but now that it has been brought up I do agree. Hagerty made me exclude both my sons when I insured my car. They didn't have spotless records but that is actually beside the point.

            Rick
            1960 HT
            Thunderbird Registry #35780

            Comment


            • #7
              thanks for conversion input

              What a great and detailed list of what to look out for in the conversion Dave, thanks so much. I may be picking your brain some more.

              It is a 390, thanks, I've measured the stroke. The original motor has a generator, but the replacement motor has an alternator, a c6 and A/c, so I'm hoping to pull it all across.

              I really do appreciate the concern for the car, and for my daughter, but this is her car. She paid for 1/2 the purchase and hauling, and will be paying for 1/2 the restoration (after the first $4,000 which I promised to both kids, my son's is a 1960 sedan tbird.)

              She is sooo excited to drive it to school for 2 years and then wants to do a more serious restoration and keep it forever. Being more dad than collector I can't say no. And honestly, after seeing the mangled Jeep CJ she and her friends walked away from after someone running a light spun them around, and blew them a few feet in the air to slam back to the pavement.....I'm happy to risk a bent Tbird for the knowledge that many modern cars will probably collapse like an accordion bellows before reaching my daughter.

              As to insurance, you make a good point that hadn't occurred to me. But I've not quoted insurance from Haggerty or on my normal policy yet, because well, it will be whatever it will be. Hopefully there is a price and coverage point that will allow her to drive it.

              Comment


              • #8
                Mike, the bottom line is, you paid for the car so it's yours to do whatever you want with it.

                There are reasons for switching to an automatic. And if you hate it, you can always switch back to a stick.

                When our '59 Galaxie came up for sale the wife and I ran over to look at it. Robin immediately fell in love with the car and told me to buy it. We went for a test drive first, so we knew what we were getting.

                About a week after we bought it I asked her, "Well honey, how do you like your car?"

                She said, "I love it but.... it's a stick."

                HUH?

                She said, "I'd love it even more if it were an automatic."

                I wasted no time amassing the parts and changing it over. Since she believes I can do anything with a car, she had no reservations about asking for the automatic. (Notice how I got 'reservations' in there?) Robin is part Ojibwa Indian, and the love of my life. If she wanted a Corvette drive train in that car, I'd do it for her.

                CLICK HERE to see Robin's '59 Galaxie.

                Since then, I installed rack and pinion steering, power disk brakes, electric w/s wipers, had the radio converted to AM/FM/AUX stereo, retrofit a Ford electric fan w/modern Ford alternator, overhauled the 292 Y-block engine and 3-speed COM. I put a new carpet in and got the embroidered 'Galaxie' floor mats in Indian Torquoise. We love cruising in it with friends and family. Although the Y-block is just under 300 cubes, it still sounds fabulous and it delivers plenty of power.

                Sorry for rambling on. Good luck with your Thunderbird. BTW, does this Squarebird have a power brake booster under the hood? - Dave
                My latest project:
                CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                --Lee Iacocca

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by cbnsingram View Post
                  ... after seeing the mangled Jeep CJ she and her friends walked away from after someone running a light spun them around, and blew them a few feet in the air to slam back to the pavement.....I'm happy to risk a bent Tbird for the knowledge that many modern cars will probably collapse like an accordion bellows before reaching my daughter. ...
                  As SimplyConnected said, it's your car, so with it what you like. But, comparing a modern car (I'm not sure if a CJ counts, they stopped making them some 25 years ago) to a Squarebird in a collision is impossible. Anything made in the last 25 years was designed to fold up, but not in the passenger compartment. It's a controlled collapse, designed to direct the energy of the collision away from the passenger compartment.

                  The Squarebird wasn't designed to fold at all, when hit it will fold at the weakest point based on the energy and direction of the crash. One of the weakest points in a convertible is right under the front seats because the vertical cross section of the structure is the narrowest.

                  Again, it's your car and your family, I just want you to understand the risks. I'd much rather get hit in my daughter's little 2400 lb 1998 Escort than my 4000 lb 1960 Thunderbird.
                  DGS (aka salguod)
                  1960 Convertible - Raven Black, Red leather
                  www.salguod.net

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Very nice!

                    Hahaha. Dave Your Galaxie is the blue my daughter wants her convertible to be, with a white convertible top!

                    We have a very long way to go to get anywhere close to what you have done with yours. I'll wait until I've made some progress before showing what we're starting with. I've already heard from enough local ney sayers about this particular car's posibilities. You can't say no to your beautiful wife, and I can't say no to my dear daughter. She assumes I can learn and do anything. I hope she's right!

                    --Mike

                    Originally posted by simplyconnected View Post
                    Mike, the bottom line is, you paid for the car so it's yours to do whatever you want with it.

                    There are reasons for switching to an automatic. And if you hate it, you can always switch back to a stick.

                    When our '59 Galaxie came up for sale the wife and I ran over to look at it. Robin immediately fell in love with the car and told me to buy it. We went for a test drive first, so we knew what we were getting.

                    About a week after we bought it I asked her, "Well honey, how do you like your car?"

                    She said, "I love it but.... it's a stick."

                    HUH?

                    She said, "I'd love it even more if it were an automatic."

                    I wasted no time amassing the parts and changing it over. Since she believes I can do anything with a car, she had no reservations about asking for the automatic. (Notice how I got 'reservations' in there?) Robin is part Ojibwa Indian, and the love of my life. If she wanted a Corvette drive train in that car, I'd do it for her.

                    CLICK HERE to see Robin's '59 Galaxie.

                    Since then, I installed rack and pinion steering, power disk brakes, electric w/s wipers, had the radio converted to AM/FM/AUX stereo, retrofit a Ford electric fan w/modern Ford alternator, overhauled the 292 Y-block engine and 3-speed COM. I put a new carpet in and got the embroidered 'Galaxie' floor mats in Indian Torquoise. We love cruising in it with friends and family. Although the Y-block is just under 300 cubes, it still sounds fabulous and it delivers plenty of power.

                    Sorry for rambling on. Good luck with your Thunderbird. BTW, does this Squarebird have a power brake booster under the hood? - Dave

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Galaxie

                      Love Robins' Galaxie Dave. On a curious note, when did they start putting the Gun Sights on the non T. Birds & why?

                      Thank You,

                      Chris....From OZ.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        1959 was the very first year for Galaxie. Ford put Thunderbird gunsights on because the car had a so-called Thunderbird engine and if you notice, it also has a Thunderbird design flat roof. Here is a typical 1959 Fairlane:

                        Compare the back of the roof compared to the Galaxie:

                        The Galaxie backlite is nearly flat and has no wrap-around (just like a Squarebird).

                        In 1858, Ford ran a campaign about the upcoming 1959 Full size Ford (Galaxie was top of the line trim) marrying a Thunderbird.

                        Click Here

                        The badging on this car is terribly confusing but period correct. The trunk says, Fairlane 500. It is NOT a Fairlane or a 500. Ford didn't want to spend money to change the trunk lock (the middle zero rotates to reveal a key slot). The name, Galaxie appears on the quarter panels and there is a small 'Galaxie' rectangle on the glove box. But the glove box also says, 'Fairlane'.

                        Robin's car is an Indian Torquoise/Colonial White, body style 54A. Indian Torquois was only available on a Galaxie and only in two-tone. The Ford books call it a "Galaxie Town Sedan". Town Sedan means it is a Fordor. 'Town Sedan' never appears anywhere on the car. So for years, folks wrongly called this car a Fairlane 500 Galaxie or a Galaxie Fairlane 500. In 1959 Ford didn't have a Galaxie 500 or an XL. The retractable top and convertible Galaxie's are even MORE confusing in their badging.

                        You can see why the dealerships insisted on knowing the body style numbers to order correct parts.
                        Last edited by simplyconnected; March 19th, 2013, 12:49 PM.
                        My latest project:
                        CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                        "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                        --Lee Iacocca

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          air bags??

                          just to be clear, there are NO safe cars.
                          anyhow, I think there is someone making airbags for old cars, I may be nuts(ask my wife of 46 years) but I think I saw them somewhre.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well, some cars are clearly safer than others. And you can define 'safe' in many ways. Safe in a crash or safe in that you can more easily avoid a crash (superior handling, braking, etc.). I'd say a stock Squarebird is not tops in either.

                            I seriously doubt add on air bags exist. They are part of a system of sensors and the PCM that decide when to deploy that would be design in conjunction with the safety structure of the specific vehicle making it very hard if not impossible to retrofit. Not to mention the liability if it is not properly installed and it failed to go off when needed or went off when not needed.
                            DGS (aka salguod)
                            1960 Convertible - Raven Black, Red leather
                            www.salguod.net

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by dgs View Post
                              ...They are part of a system of sensors and the PCM that decide when to deploy that would be design in conjunction with the safety structure of the specific vehicle making it very hard if not impossible to retrofit...
                              Actually Doug, the air bags have their own battery on the back side of the dash, just in case. They purposely do not use the PCM, but they have crash sensors (pendulum switches) that set off the bag(s).

                              Modern transmissions are shifted by the PCM. In a crash situation, the PCM is too slow. It's so slow, for many years Ford would not put an automatic trans in a modern factory Cobra. The alternative was to retrofit an old AOD or C6; automatics that are non-electrical.

                              I agree about classic cars being unsafe BUT, I'd still rather be in our Galaxie if it tangled with a Smart Car. - Dave
                              My latest project:
                              CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

                              "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
                              --Lee Iacocca

                              Comment

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