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'39 Ford Transmission Prices?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by rockfish, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. rockfish
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 445


    I'm in the market for a '39 Ford tranny and want to get an idea of the going prices. What about used, but supposedly not abused versus rebuilt? Thanks.
    Joined: Nov 22, 2005
    Posts: 7,591

    from SIDNEY, NY

    Around here, complete gearboxes that turn freely and show no rust damage or have obvious problems when opened up go for $200-$300.
  3. I sold a truck version, with a open driveshaft output, for $150 recently.

  4. Flat Ernie
    Joined: Jun 5, 2002
    Posts: 8,410

    Flat Ernie
    Tech Editor

    Keep an open mind when shopping - they're not rare - the trucks used the top-shifting version just like the '39 into the early '50s.

    The gears from the side-shifting versions will fit.

    IMHO, you want the 16/28 gearset if you can find it.

    Prices vary wildly by region - shop around.

  5. e-gay = 10K
    Hershey = 3 to 4 hunert
    w/zepher gears = priceless, when you just gotta have it.
  6. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Prices vary wildly all over, even within big, well known swapmeets.
    Needs for a "Generic '39", by which I mean one that did not necessarily leave Detroit in a new '39:
    A gearset from a '40-48 Ford, SOME '39 Fords (a large number of these got the '36-38 gearset), or '38-48 Zephyr. At least four sets of ratios--the 28 tooth is most generally useful. Some later stuff can be used, but there are complications to know.
    A floorshift 3-speed case, anything from '32-52 (pickup trucks only got the floorshift after '39). An 81A casting top with the 91A 3" across second-third fork. Find the right top assembly--the fork has become almost unfindable as a separate item.
    A rear mount/bearing retainer to fit whatever the chassis is, all from this basic box interchange.
    There are still PLENTY out there, and prices seem to range from $15-400.
    Most buyers seem not to know much, and so won't buy any that aren't well hyped by sellers--so those who don't know how to ID the good parts or tell good gears from scrap iron have to sell LOW to any bottom feeder who does know his stuff.
    Recent kills by me: Complete 26 tooth Lincoln sideshift box for $75. It was labeled as a spare that came with someone's '40 Ford...and it appears the original owner rebuilt this trans back when N0S was cheap. The gears show no sign of use! I happen to be able to spot a Lincoln serial number on a case...hehhehheh.
    Complete small synchro real 1939 from scrap pile at junkyard--main cost was a genuinely death defying climb halfway up a 50 foot mound of loose scrap.
    91A fork--$3. It would have been $5, but I complained because it was greasy. Know your rights as a consumer.
    A complete 28 tooth '41 Merc trans from Englishtown. I saw it early, ignored it, and then saw it at a different booth. Obviously, a knowledgable rodder had spotted it and price would now be stratospheric, so I didn't even ask. My wife then strolled over and bought it for $15. Good thing she's usually on my side.
    Further: Earlier trans are perfectly useable if in good condition, with '36-39 type being best. The earlier synchros are perfectly adequate, and there is no strength issue between them.

    Common '39-48 gearsets are known as 25, 26, 28, and 29 tooth sets highest to lowest--tooth count is on frontmost gear on cluster. This is impossible to count in a topshift box, so count the front gear up top--teeth on input gear+teeth on cluster add up to 44 on all these.
    303racer, Nailhead A-V8 and FlatJan like this.
  7. If I can learn 10% of what Bruce knows before I die I'll die an early Ford genius.

    I am constantly amazed. Thanks for your contributions.

  8. rockfish
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 445


    Thanks for all the info guys. I've got a lot to learn about this flathead stuff. Harrison, I agree with you 100% about Bruce. We're lucky to have a guy like him around.
  9. Evilfordcoupe™
    Joined: May 22, 2001
    Posts: 1,817


    You'll learn to stay far far away from flathead stuff if your smart.
  10. Carshowlvr
    Joined: Nov 28, 2005
    Posts: 212

    from Florida

    I have a real nice tranny, its from an early 50's Mercury flat head. I was told it will bolt up to a 40-50's flat head. The guy I got it from took it appart and it was very clean inside, gears all look great with little to no wear. I paid $150.00 plus shipping for it. I can take some photos of it if your interested. I really dont know much about these old trans. I decided to not put a flat head in it so I am going to get rid of it.
  11. are amazing....thanks as always for the deep insight!!!
  12. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Spotting tech: Whatinhellizzit???

    First, cases:

    You already know to home in on the big, round bellhousing.
    Odd ones: Model B, '32-4, big funny bell, same case and gear selection as V8.
    6-cylinder '41-48: There's a model for these, same innards as V8, funny bell. I know very little and can't describe.
    V8-60: Most floorshift 60's got a tranny with a TINY box and its own miniature gear set. NO. If case is smaller than your head, pass.
    Big V8-60: Commercial 60's got the big V8 box, but with bell containing a cup for the 60 starter. Adaptable, but leave it for the 60 people.
    Regular floorshift V8 3 speed cases: 1st type is '32-34, with quite a few variations and part numbers of interest only to restorers. The quick ID point is the first inch of bellhousing after the engine bolt flange; this slopes/tapers in a funnel shape back to the trans box. This bell won't clear clutches bigger than 9". I have been told clearancing is easy and minor, but be aware. Later boxes go STRAIGHT back for about an inch before the funnel starts, allowing the 10 and 11 inch clutches to clear. Most light rods should have a 9" anyhow. Also, the earlier the box, the tighter the case around the cluster gear. Assembly of cluster can require minor changes in technique and order of gear installation. No big.
    1935-6 box, may carry "48" PN prefix: Has above described increase in bell capacity.
    (EDIT...I have found pre-1935 cases identified by serial number as later than 1934. Ford could do this freely because few passenger cars got the bigger clutches.

    1937-52 box, used on cars for 1937-9, pickups till the end. Usually has its "78" PN prefix cast in at lower rear under an inch of crud. Many variations in casting details and ribs. Usually rated as strongest. My feeling is that any case failure is caused by extreme violence in the gears, like gears climbing or breaking teeth...
    ID'ing exact origin of case:
    copy this page...
    Fords 1932-48 will have a serial number telling you the year that case left Detroit, whether it was behind a 221 or 239, etc. A V8 case with an H near beginning of number is Lincoln! But note some of those sixes have H's in there...
    Sideshift cases, 1940-up, will always have the late synchro gears. Cases themselves are all the same, the variations do not affect interchange. There is a RARE 1940 60 versio, same deal as big 60 box above. Lincolns with the Zephyr gears also alll used this basic case, with different rear on overdrive units.
    Also, you already know that a 70 year old box may have innards that have been swapped. The serial number is just the start of the detective work.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
  13. BuickinaBucket
    Joined: Jun 8, 2004
    Posts: 204

    from Newark, DE

    Bruce, thank you for sharing this info. Very helpful! So few people that have knowledge are willing to pass it on.
  14. Southfork
    Joined: Dec 15, 2001
    Posts: 1,464


    Yeah, well here's one that I just picked up for $90 that may illustrate the point:

    The serial number on the bell is 99C - 837593

    The shifter is the '39 car shifter and the tranny appears to have the open driveline output shaft. I figure it's a pickup case, possibly Mercury, with a '39 car top/shifter. 'Haven't counted the gear teeth yet. This probably illustrates Bruce's point that you can have what appears to be a '39 in your rod and it may have few, if any, parts that actually left the factory in '39.
  15. Bigcheese327
    Joined: Sep 16, 2001
    Posts: 6,687


    Another good example would be an S-10 T-5 with a swan-neck shifter. :D

    Okay, sorry, just fooling around. I wanted to add this to my favorites so I could keep track of it.
  16. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    I believe that's 1946 pickup...should have the flat tab clutch shaft. I don't know much about number variants on commercials...note that all USA postwar #'s continue the prewar Mercury seies, as all got the big bore block and the Ford 221 disappeared--except in furrin production. Before the war, lots of trucks were built with the 99 engine and serial numbers, and a few Ford cars were special ordered and likewise got numbers in the Merc 99 series.
    Canadian serial numbers are COMPLTEY different, and are not in US number serie as they nade there own engines.
    Cases with NO serial number may be either bxes using a parts counter case not from an original vehicle OR a '48-52 pickup, which carried its number elsewhere. (Edit--or the guy on the assembly line who did numbers had to go to the bathroom just as that engine assembly went by)
    Nailhead A-V8 likes this.
  17. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Outer parts on trans:
    This is stuff you will likely be mixing, matching, and hunting for. It's pretty unlikely whatever trans you trip over at Hershey will be entirely right to drop into your ride.

    Rear mount types: 1932, 1933-4, 1935-6. These all have the rubber insulator bonded into a metal part. The part with the rubber is available repro, the plate and U-joint cup/bearing retainer is not. The rubbers fall into the three groups shown, the inner two parts are interchangeable '32-36.
    1937-48. There are two or three slightly different ones in this period, get hold of a catalog and figure out what you need if you lack the right one. Ford prfix like "78" matching catalog will be cast into the part. These are all simple forgings with two ears that go on the same rubber mounts as flatheads use in front.
    Clutch arm: 1932-39 use a lever, 1940-48 have a little flat tab that hooks on to a cross shaft carrying the lever over to the frame. If using late trans in early chassis, swap cross shaft, use the commercial adaptor adding a lever to the tab, or transplant the crossshaft and '40-48 pedal assembly to the car.
    1932 lever is very long, very rare, expensive (Beyond $100!), and available in repro. I hope the repro is a forging...
    There are several versions 1933-9, varying slightly in bend or length, but likely largely interchangeable in rods. Again, consult the parts book; most arms have prefix forged in if you need a specific one.
    Shifters: There are some variants within, like 1932 with e-brake bracket, but the functional groups are 1932-5 (shift tower casting slants back like a shark fin), 1936-8 (68 casting, vertical tower), and 1938-52 (also straight up, 81 or 81A casting).
    The first has forks and detents suitable only for the matching gearsets. If correct conversion is even possible, it would have to involve very detailed and nit-picky rework of detent rails and forks. Dont even think about using this with the common bend and grind adaptation as travel is all wrong.
    1936-8 may be reworkable for late gears with 91 fork--I don't know. Never closely examined one of these. Check on detents and travel if trying!
    Late 81 top comes with early and late fork. Late fork for big synchro has just a hair less that 3" span in 2-3 fork and has its 91 series PN forged into it near top of actual fork.
    1936-52 use interchangeable shift levers, 1932-35 levers interchange in those years. You cannot mix groups. Measure DOWN from the flat atop the pivot ball: late is 4 7/8" to lower end, early is 4 1/8". Late thus shifts with a shorter and tighter H pattern than early.
    Numerous stick shapes exist in both groups, includung some that are visually quite similar between groups. Choice may be critical for earlier cars--a '32 or model A has such a small cockpit area that the wrong stick will hit the dash.
    Nailhead A-V8 likes this.
  18. 40Standard
    Joined: Jul 30, 2005
    Posts: 5,810

    from Indy

    Great Info! Just another reason why the Hamb is great. Thanks.
  19. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Next week, we open the case...what is that awful smell??
  20. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Before we open the case, one more external: Look at the front bearing retainer, the piece that the throwout bearing slides on. You want the one with a "78" (1937 intro) prefix cast into it. That one takes a real seal. Earlier ones just have a felt ring made out of woven rat fur or something.
  21. I saw a COMPLETE overdrive lookin' tranny with the round Ford bellhousing at Turlock and passed on it because I did not know what it was... price $75...

    Did I screw up?

  22. continentaljohn
    Joined: Jul 24, 2002
    Posts: 4,691


    WOW!! Bruce, could you please put out a book with all your info:D The cartridges for my printer are killing me with all the printing I'm doing:D
    Bruce will you adopt me and teach me thine ways?
  24. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    Next, we open the case. If seller doesn't want you to, laugh and make an insulting offer.
    The vile smell is 70 year old fish oil supplemented 140 weight. Yes, it has gotten onto your hands, no, it won't wash off. You're gonna be sleeping on old newspapers in the garage for about a week.

    What this post IS NOT: It is NOT a detailed guide to the many variations of gears, washers, and ratios. That takes up PAGES of fine print in the '28-48 catalog. There are numerous types of gear set, there are often several variants of seemingly identical gears, sometimes two different shaft configurations, several types and thicknesses of thrust washers, etc. Just the '40-48 variations are enough to drive you mad. For detailed ID and full interchange info, you NEED the '28-48 book. It includes detailed dimensional drawings with tooth counts and endless charts detailing which gears can be used with which other gears and which output shafts. There are additional '49-52 Merc parts that interchange, and of course the Zephyr gears are over in the Lincoln book. This is a guide to IDing the general generation of gears and being able to determine which basic ratio package you have on the late gears. If you are going to use a complete set of gears from a given trans, you won't need much more except perhaps thrust washer ID. If you are building a trans from several or mixing in NOS parts, you may need lots of help from every one of those charts. Try to find a good gearset in one place!

    Look at the upper row of gears: All '32 and up have spiral gears at the front. 1932-35 sets will have straight cut gears near the rear, first and reverse. This is a noisy and primitive feature, but useable if everything is good. Straight cut gears came there also for another year or two on some commercial applications.

    If all gears are spiral cut, trans is 1936 or later. (Note on year breaks--Ford is notorious for running changes and using up old stock, plus of course parts may have been swapped over the decades). The 1936-39 gear set is basically the same as the desireable 1939-up late set except for the more primitive synchro and attendant differences on hubs of gears the synchro engages. This set is entirely OK for general street use, but is not what everyone is looking for. If you can get a good trans for cheap, consider it. Good bargaining position if buyer was calling it a '39. Note that 1939's used both types The late gears carry 1938 Ford numbers, although they apparently were never used on '38 Fords, and were first used in the 1938 Lincoln Zephyr. Which of course didn't have Zephyr gears...

    The late trans, 1939 and up, differed from the above primarily in the syncro. This synchro is pysically larger than early (measure fork across inside--should be right at 3". Early use 2 7/8" or so). Directly in front and back of the synchro you will see brass blocker rings, which should be easy to spot because of their color. If trans is in neutral, these rings are free floating and you can easily wiggle them around a bit with your finger. Discard said finger after test--it'll smell that way for years... There are three or four versions of that synchro with different internal detents. Currently available ones are mostly '49 Merc types.
    '39-48 gear sets are 28 tooth (good general use set), 29 tooth (commercial, mostly, gives a little more steam for moving a fat vehicle off the line), and 25 and 26 tooth Zephyr. The lower the number, the higher the gears. Zephyrs were meant to be used with real low rear ends and an overdrive.
    That tooth count represents the number of teeth on the front gear of the cluster--which is nearly impossible to count on a floor shift trans, though it is right there in a sideshifter. Count, instead, the upper front gear on the input; 44 minus that count=tooth count on cluster. A 16 tooth input gets a 28 tooth cluster...
    There's also apparently a 27 tooth set for '51-52 pickup...if that is what you see, you will be using that gear set in its entireity. Those have different style gear teeth and a different output shaft, so cannot be mixed with earlier stuff. Grab the shifter and split...
    Another spotter's tip: Most but not all Lincoln gears have two cutaway sections involving the synchro hub area of the input gear. This is a smooth bite out of each side of the hub, like someone ran a holesaw into it way off center. This gives assembly clearance for installation of the big gear over the synchro. To the best of my knowledge, that is a Lincoln only feature, though not all Zephyr gears have this. It should be on MOST 25 toothers and some 26's. Lincoln gears are not the right set for some cars, but underpriced ones should be grabbed because they can be sold to finance a good trans...
    Nailhead A-V8 likes this.
  25. AV8-Rider
    Joined: Jan 31, 2002
    Posts: 909


    I'm stunned for the 786'th time

    Hey guys, lets chip in on a scanner for this mans head.
    .....doesn't exist??? We'll develop one then. Worth the investment.
    It'll be the most usefull, and not to forget, funny, databank ever.

    I bet the fishy smelling finger can be used as bait when hunting fox. REMEMBER, Never ever use your trigger finger when checking out syncros.

    Ric Dean likes this.
  26. NealinCA
    Joined: Dec 12, 2001
    Posts: 2,882


    If it was the one I saw, I think it was a 50 merc, which is open drive. No steal at $75 in my opinion.

    On the other hand, if it was an OD with closed drive, that would be 40-48 Lincoln Zephyr...and then you did screw up. My brother got a LZ OD at Turlock for $125. I have seen them priced at over $1000, but more commonly in the $600-700 range.

  27. Fortyfordguy
    Joined: Sep 16, 2002
    Posts: 643


    Bruce, as usual, has done an excellent job describing the many features of the top loader Ford trannies from that era. I have been rebuilding them for a couple years now, and, had I not the boxes of various parts here, I doubt that I could have completed some of them. In other words, I learned by doing. There were many subtle differences in the gears and other parts used by Ford. Sometimes you can interchange individual parts and sometimes you have to go with gear sets, in order to make things work. I know this sounds goofy as I write, but even Bruce (as he stated) has a hard time putting what he knows about these trannies into words that tell the complete story.

    I have developed a similar batch of information on the "39 Toploader" trannies, with many pictures that support what Bruce has tried to describe. Here is that link:

    I've spent many evenings and weekends with my hands in the stinkin' trans grease, and you bet my wife complains. Rubber gloves help but they often tear when you are wrestling a synchro off the mainshaft........... Mac VP
  28. AV8-Rider
    Joined: Jan 31, 2002
    Posts: 909



    That was a nice web-site. Very informative. I had forgotten about that Flathead page. Been a long time since I where on there.
    Thanks for sharing.

    I'll print everything and check out my gearbox going in my chassie. Have one that are renovated some years ago. Said to be 37 housing with 39 internals.

    I also have a box from 39 Merc that I plan to put 40-48 internals into. Usefull with a reserve box if the other break.

    I got some NOS gears. Will PM you.

    the old gear oil can be put in small plastic containers.
    Call it "Fingersmell! a habitt breaker for young nosepickers.
    Should sell like water in Sahara.

  29. Bruce Lancaster
    Joined: Oct 9, 2001
    Posts: 21,682

    Bruce Lancaster
    Member Emeritus

    AV8, some of the differences other tham several generations of interchangeable synchros in late boxes are 29 vs 28 toothage, two different length clusters that need different thrust washers, and two different output shafts with different 2nd gear stuff. So start with 2nd gear when swapping around...
    Your '39 Merc box (did you know its stick is slightly longer than '39 Ford??) most likely has exactly same 28 tooth innards as the later box, although the Merc book hints that some MIGHT have gotten the early style cogs.
  30. AV8-Rider
    Joined: Jan 31, 2002
    Posts: 909


    Thanks again

    I'll count teeth and see what I got there.


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