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Technical Borg Warner T85 OD... School Me, Please

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Deyomatic, Jan 3, 2022.

  1. Deyomatic
    Joined: Apr 17, 2002
    Posts: 3,123

    Deyomatic
    Member
    from CT

    Picked up a '30 A Coupe with a Y block and a 3 speed toploader (I guess- haven't gotten around to really identifying it). It's got something in the neighborhood of a 4.50:1 rear end and and I've been thinking about a T5...then you read that they're not really all that stout. Not that my Y block is terribly stout, but it seems like it would be a costly endeavor for everything needed to adapt the T5.

    I got to thinking about the Borg Warner T85 OD transmissions- seems like a tranny made in the 50s that originally came behind Y blocks would be simpler to make work.

    What can you tell me about them as far as what they'll hold up to for power/ torque, how difficult they are to find, where I might even find one for sale that's been gone through (any gurus out there?), and whether or not it can take the occasional beating. I'm really just looking for an extra gear for the highway.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. FrozenMerc
    Joined: Sep 4, 2009
    Posts: 2,817

    FrozenMerc
    Member

    The T85 will take a beating. Ford put them behind nearly every large displacement car motor they made, including 427's in Galaxie's and 430's in Thunderbirds, and most 1960's F-Series Pickups. Be careful when searching as T86's often pop up and they look very similar. The T86 will not take a beating. I tore one up with a 351W in a '51 F-1 during a spirited clutch drop exercise.

    They pop up in the classifieds here on a fairly regular basis, I have sold a couple myself at swap meets, and worst case, check out those online auction sites. There is a full line of rebuild kits still available, and if you want to bypass all that, I am sure you can use the old interwebs to track down a transmission shop that will ship you a freshly rebuilt unit in exchange for a fat stack of cash.
     
    raven likes this.

  3. While I've always been a fan of the various BW ODs (in spite of their limitations), I don't think this will be 'simpler' in your case. The deal-breaker will be shift linkage. Both the T85 and T86 are side shift boxes, and both are fairly long compared to other manual trans. Floor shifters for these were never common and with the OD solenoid in the way you're limited in just where you could mount one. In a narrow car like an A the shifter will end up under your right leg and it might be very tough to keep it off from under the seat. While this trans was used 'back in the day' in the early cars, all the installs I recall seeing used reworked manual shift steering columns, usually out of a '40s-era Ford. There's a fair bit of custom linkage fab work involved if going that route, plus the probable rebuild of the shift linkage.

    So while Frozenmerc is correct that the T85 is the heavy-duty option, it may be worth looking at the medium-duty T86. The T86 differs from the T85 in that while it's a side-shift design, it's a top-loader case so I believe it can be converted to a top-shift with the right shift tower. Finding the tower may be difficult, check with the jeep guys. With a stock or mild Y-block it should live as long as you keep the abuse to a minimum. They don't like to be speed-shifted or clutch dumps...

    You'll also need the kickdown switch, kickdown relay, manual control cable and the associated wiring connecting all this together and to the ignition system. Some will advocate using a simple toggle switch for control, I won't recommend that. One miscue when shifting OD manually can damage the OD solenoid/shift pawl. These really work best when installed as designed. These have two flaws; one is if parking with OD enabled (control cable pushed in) you can't depend on leaving the car in a forward gear to keep it parked, it will coast away. You have to either lock the OD out or shift into reverse (which locks out the OD internally). Two, you have almost no engine braking going downhill in OD, going down long hills can turn into an unintended brake test... LOL.

    A T5 swap may prove to be easier... As far as strength, a 'world class' T5 will be plenty good enough for your Y-block. Educate yourself on what to look for before buying. There's also the Ford toploader 3+1 OD trans (based on the Ford four-speed), the iron-cased versions are plenty tough enough for your use and while it's set up as a side-shift, top-shift towers were used on that trans in Jeeps so it can be converted.
     
    Hnstray, gimpyshotrods and Boneyard51 like this.
  4. miker98038
    Joined: Jan 24, 2011
    Posts: 745

    miker98038
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Well, Steve beat me to it. But I thought a top loader, not a top shifter. My mistake.

    The T86 R10 overdrive came behind thousand of cars, including all Y blocks up to the 292’s The 312’s got T85’s Narrow tires, they’ll do fine if not abused. Might even outlast the rear end.

    Big engine, hard launches, you need the T85 R11 combo. As stated, they’re tough. More money, harder to find.

    Having run T86’s, T85’s and T-5’s behind stout Y blocks, the big deal is the lack of a 1st gear synchro on the early trans. A stout T-5 isn’t cheap, a really good one is a TKO.

    My 320 cid in the bird, with the WC T5 easily turns the 235 tires with the posi unit. But I’m not dropping the clutch at 5000rpm. No problems in years. But not a racer. I’m sure a 351 would kill a T86 pretty quick.

    Pick your usage, pay your money, drive accordingly. Call
    http://www.vanpeltsales.com/VPPSweb/VPPS-homepg.htm

    for parts and information on the old trans. Mac knows it cold.
     

  5. Deyomatic
    Joined: Apr 17, 2002
    Posts: 3,123

    Deyomatic
    Member
    from CT

    Thanks for the information. This is quite a bit to think about. The issue with the Y block and the T5, at least from what I'm finding, is all of the stuff that I'd need to adapt it. Maybe I take my time and start collecting.
     
  6. miker98038
    Joined: Jan 24, 2011
    Posts: 745

    miker98038
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

  7. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 50,933

    squirrel
    Member

    I munched the R10 od planetary in an edsel with a stock 292....the R11 would be a better choice, if you decided to use the BW.

    Or put a milder rear gear in it and drive it around with the transmission it has now. You might find that it works pretty good. Something around 3.25-3.50, depending on tire size. Y blocks don't mind the RPM.
     
  8. I don't think you need all that much 'stuff', assuming the bellhousing you have is a OEM Ford bell. The adaptors are fairly cheap... ADAPTER Ford Y-block/ Ford T5 CCW-Rotation - Modern Driveline , you just need a Ford T5 to match up. New clutch disc, rear mount, and driveshaft yoke/length changes and that should do it. If you have a pre-'49 trans in there now, installing the later OD will need pretty much all the same type parts as a T5 swap, and you may need them anyway as not all later BW OD trans used the same input/output splines.
     
  9. miker98038
    Joined: Jan 24, 2011
    Posts: 745

    miker98038
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Little more info on the T-5 from Mummert’s site.

    http://www.ford-y-block.com/t5in-cars-bird.htm

    Whether you want to move the shifter over I don’t know. One thing I was warned about when I did the T-5 Yblock adapter years ago was to check the clutch disc on the input shaft, as well as the input shaft to the crank. Bottoming the input in the crank raises hell with the thrust bearing. Some disc will not be fully engaged with the input splines. Maybe the more modern units address that. But easy enough to mock up and be sure.
     

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