BW Overdrive: Five Gears for the Price of Three!

BW Overdrive: Five Gears for the Price of Three!

Of all the features that my ’49 Lincoln Cosmopolitan possessed, from hydraulic power windows and power seat adjust, glow-in-the-dark gauges, and dual rear seat back ashtrays with individual lighters, there was one simple option I appreciated the most: The Borg-Warner 3 speed w/ Overdrive transmission. That 337 c.i. Lincoln flathead ran smooth as butter and whisper quiet, but with only 152 horsepower to tug 4,800 pounds down the road, it was incredibly convenient to wind up in both 2nd and 3rd gear to find a taller gear waiting to drop the rpm’s. It was a satisfying ‘thunk’ when the solenoid would engage and once you got used to it, the motor never really had to work very hard. The B-W OD unit became very popular with non-GM manufacturers just before and after the War, but as the full Automatic Hydra-Matic transmissions became better and better, the price also began to come down, and writing was on the wall for the trusty R-10 and later R-11 Overdrive. Only Ford trucks and a handful of cars carried the stout R-11 units into the 60s…

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