Bellhousing/clutch/starter help, possibly parts needed!

in HUDSON Posts: 23
I mistakenly posted this in the test forum somehow, so I'm reposting it here.
Hi Folks, I'm looking to draw on the collective knowledge base here. I have a 308 Hornet engine, with a 51-52 style crankshaft. This has the "motor plate", flywheel, clutch pressure plate, and stepdown bellhousing. The starter lines up, and it all works. Here's the rub. I'm trying to mate a late 30's 3 speed transmission (with the shifter coming out of the top) casting indicates it is a 1939 transmission. The bellhousing mounts to the transmission with six internal bolts from the bellhousing side. The bellhousing lines up with the bolt holes in the block, and those on the passenger's side of the car, but the two holes for the starter, and the starter location/ motor plate profile on this side are different. In addition, the bellhousing appears to actually touch the outer surface of the 10" pressure plate. My first thought is that I need to source a 9" flywheel/clutch disk/ pressure plate, and a motor plate that corresponds to the 1939 bellhousing. I imagine the location of the starter bolts puts the starter in the correct position for a smaller flywheel, and the smaller diameter of the pressure plate would provide clearance with the 39 bellhousing. So the two questions are:

 #1 Have I correctly identified the problem, or is there something I'm missing here. (I eagerly invite any advice or warnings about trying to make this work.) 

#2 If I am correct, does anyone have the appropriate motor plate and flywheel they would be willing to sell? I have a re-manufactured 9" pressure plate, and will buy a resurfaced clutch disk from Wildrick if this is the correct solution. (I have reached out to a couple folks privately, and may have some of these parts locked down, but I appreciate any help or advice.) Thanks in advance for any suggestions, or insights.
 I am in Bridgewater MA 02324 My cell # is 781-351-9086 email is

I have attached pictures that show the existing stepdown stuff, which has the upper starter bolt further from the centerline of the motor than the lower, and the 39 bellhousing which has the top hole closer to the centerline than the bottom.

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  • Nerve_CenterNerve_Center Member
    Posts: 71
    Uncle Harry are you crazy? You do know the '39 box is not a syncro box? A '39 gearbox is column shift and not stick but someone could have put an earlier top plate supporting a stick into it. The next question would be if it would handle the power of the 308.
  • Posts: 23
    Yes, I am crazy.  The casting on the side of the box seems to indicate it's a 39 box. It does have a top shifter cover with gear lever on it.  
    This is going in an open wheel early 50's "lakes" style dragster, to be raced in vintage drag races on the beach in New Jersey in June.  
    I realize that the transmission or the clutch (if I have to use a 9") are not ideal, and probably wouldn't handle the power long term, but I'm hoping that they can survive a couple days of abuse. Additionally, because the racing happens on sand, the traction of the tires on the beach become the "weak link" and should preserve parts which would be at risk if we tried to do this on pavement.  I'm used to shifting non syncro early Ford gearboxes during the same event in years' past, so I'm not too concerned about being able to shift it, assuming I can get it to actually mate up.

  • Geoff C., N.Z.Geoff C., N.Z. Senior Contributor
    Posts: 3,286
    The differences are in the engine plate , bell housing. and cylinder block casting. You will burst a 9"clutch wide apart using it in the circumstances you describe.  
    If you're stuck in a hole, stop digging.
  • Nerve_CenterNerve_Center Member
    Posts: 71

    Sounds like an interesting project. Post some pictures when you get it together.

    I'm pretty sure 9" was the only option there but others will likely correct me if I'm wrong. I don't think there will be a correct mounting plate available as the two items were never intended to be mated together. I think you will need to modify either the earlier or later style plate to suit or make one up.

    Hopefully someone near you can show you the alternatives which might fit best.

  • Jon BJon B Administrator
    edited April 12 Posts: 6,431
    Wait a minute.  Don't do something rash!

    Can't one fit a late '52 (or is it late '53) Borg Warner 3-speed to the 308?  The "two lever" transmission, that is.  Because this was also used in Studebaker (and Jeep?) trucks, a floor shifter (from the truck) would bolt right on.  Then you'd have a newer, more improved, synchomesh transmission.

    Jeffery Gould married a floor shifter to the 2-lever almost 40 years ago.  (The car in which it is still being used, is a certain 1935 Hudson Eight convertible known to New England Hudsonites!)  Jeff says:  "Both Jeep and Studebaker shifters will work. I believe they are the same on the T-90 trans from the late 40's through the mid 60's. The length and shape of the lever changes so you find the one that best fits your needs. You just need to match the shifter bolt pattern up with the cover off the Hudson transmission. The correct way is to remove the gears to get the side shifters out, weld up the side holes, replace the gears then set the shifter in place. I can not guarantee this as it has been a long time, but as I remember, you can also, without removing the gears, pull the side shifters out as far as you can then cut them off. Then slide them back into place and the cut off shafts will clear the inside of the case. you can then slide them out. Then put bolts with sealant through the holes and place the top shifter on."

    I hope that someone more knowledgeable can jump in here, and offer more technical information on this subject. 

    Meanwhile, I am using the more primitive 1930's transmission in my prehistoric Hudson, and I'm happy as a clam with it.

  • Posts: 23
    I'm already figuring I can fab up a mounting plate if I have to, using both the existing step down plate, and the early bellhousing together to lay everything out.  Since several of the bolt holes line up, it should be pretty easy to use transfer punches to locate the last two.

    Hudsons have this glorious history of racing, and WINNING, on the beach, going back to the 'smiling' Ralph Mulford  speed record on Daytona Beach set on April 10th, 1916 in a factory Super Six special, right on up to the great Hornet wins on the beach at Daytona in the 1950's.  When my friends and I started doing vintage drag racing on the beach in New Jersey, as a way to celebrate the early motoring history of going fast on smooth sand, I knew I wanted to do so with Hudson power at some point.  

    This is just the first step on a much more ambitious road...

    If you're interested in what we're doing, Do a search for "TROG" or The Race of Gentlemen on Google or Youtube.  It's an invitational only event, doing pre-war car & motorcycle drag racing on the beach in Wildwood NJ.

    I've attached a picture of my Ford 4 cylinder pre-war speedster, along with an example of the early 50's style dragster we are putting this Hornet engine in.
    The third picture is Tony Capanna driving Jim Herrell's Hudson Eight powered modified on the dry lakes in July of 1940. 
    There was a rich history of using powerful Hudson engines in stripped-down little chassis from various manufacturers in the name of speed.

    My clubmates and I hope to uphold that tradition this June on the beach, and have some great video of a Hornet motor roaring in anger on the beach again....

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    617 x 409 - 34K
  • Posts: 23
    I'm not doing anything rash or hastily here. At this point I'm gathering parts, and information. I do need to wind up with a floor shift solution, although I have tons of latitude about where that shifter comes up through the floor, as the floor and seat will be built to accommodate it.  I appreciate any input.  I know that "kingshifter" made shift levers back in the 50's to convert two lever column shifted transmissions to  a floor shifter arrangement. I'm looking at something like that as a possibility too.

  • Posts: 23
    John B, I see what Jeff was getting at there.  Hmm  I might be able to make that work. Thanks for the lead!

  • Uncle JoshUncle Josh Senior Contributor
    Posts: 2,456
    Hey Crazyman, the double lever is the way to go if you want a stick.  I don't have any of those, but Ken Ufheil might still have the one our of my old 51 parts car.
  • Posts: 23
    So, I did some research online, and found the details on the T86E-1A,  I have one of these with the Overdrive, and the bolt pattern will work with the Willys/Jeep T-90 Floor shifter top, So I have ordered one of those.  But I still need to source a bellhousing that will work with this 4 bolt transmission.  Any Help greatly appreciated.

    Picture of the transmission front attached below.
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    2448 x 2448 - 2M
  • Ric West INRic West IN Senior Contributor
    Posts: 351
    Where are you located?  I have one in West Michigan.
  • dougsondougson Senior Contributor
    Posts: 673
    Another MA "Hudson"! Are you going to use a Clifford header?
    Doug Smith - "Toby Knoll Garage"

    1951 Muntz Jet
    1953 Woodill Wildfire/Dodge
    1954 Hudson Hornet coupe/Grand National Tribute car
    1955 Studebaker Speedster/Cadillac - "Studillac"
    1956 Corvette SR Replica

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