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    Thread: How To Drive a Cord 810 Preselector Transmission...I'll Need To Know This When I Go To Heaven...

    1. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      12-09-2012 06:05 PM #1
      This very interesting (for anyone interested in Cords anyway) video will really come in handy when I arrive in Paradise and take my first drive in my own Cord. Of course, I'll have eternity to study the owner's manual, but I'll still be impatient to hit the heavenly highway with mine.

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      12-09-2012 06:15 PM #2
      Cool......

      But what was the point of the pre-selector?

      Was it because the gears were hard to shift manually due to a lack of synchros, so the pre-selector would use spring loaded shifts to pop it in the next gear with the clutch out when the revs matched?
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      12-09-2012 06:21 PM #3
      Cool. I think I first learned about the preselector from one of Jay Leno's videos.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preselector_gearbox

      From the ever-trustworthy source of wikipedia:

      For the driver, there are two advantages:
      Fast shifting, with only a single operation. This requires less skill to learn than techniques like double declutching and it offers faster shifts when racing.
      Ability to handle far more engine power, with a lighter mechanism.
      In engineering terms, some designs of pre-selector gearbox may offer particular advantages. The Wilson gearbox offers these, although they're also shared by some of the other designs, even though the designs are quite different:
      Their friction components are brakes, rather than clutches. These are simpler to engineer, as the wear components can be arranged to not also be rotating parts.
      The friction wear components can be mounted on the outside of the mechanism, rather than buried within it. This makes maintenance and regular adjustment easier.

    4. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      12-09-2012 06:26 PM #4
      Very good question. The Cord transmission was synchromeshed in gears 2-4, with low being non-synchro, which by the late thirties was becoming commonplace. The preselector was one of the myriad "baby steps" in the journey toward fully automated gearshifting, and offered the physical and even ergonomic benefits of not having to row a floor-shift lever (column-shifting not being introduced until 1939), along with an obstruction-free floor (the flat floor in the Cord front-drive being a touted feature). The semi-automated aspect of the Bendix system (this was also featured in Hupp and Hudson automobiles, only in their 3-speed form) appealed to a public that was increasingly attracted to the more and more modernized features of automobiles of the mid to late 1930s...."car of the future" and all that.

      A drawback of the Bendix preselector was that it was somewhat slow in shifting (although in the video it seems to do quite nicely for normal driving), and if not maintained well could hang-up between gears. It was an electro-pneumatic system, with electric switching that activated a pneumatic servo atop the transmission that did the gear-shifting. This photo is an excellent exposition of the Cord's drivetrain. You can see the servo and the switching system clearly atop the gearbox:

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      12-09-2012 06:40 PM #5
      That was so cool to watch, would love to drive one of those. Stunning are those old Cords.

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      12-09-2012 06:43 PM #6
      Stunning!
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      12-09-2012 06:51 PM #7
      The Cord is so out of its time in its modernity. It's much more like a car from 10 or even 20 years later than of its own year of 1936. The seating position and overall manner of driving it bears little relation to its contemporaries, which were still of the prior age, with spindly floorshift levers, steering wheel positioning that was equally ancient, and "antique" controls all over the dashboard.

      Speaking of dashboards...has there ever been one to equal that of the Cord 810? It is magnificent in its beauty AND its functionality. It even has trick features such as the fuel gauge (the "fan" shaped one on the lower left) that, when a button is depressed at the bottom of the gauge, switches to a display of the oil-level in the engine's crankcase. I've never seen it, but the edge-lighting of the panel's gauges is said to look gorgeous, and was at least twenty years ahead of its time, too.

      To think that just a few individuals were involved in this car's design process, and they completed it in a matter of MONTHS and not years, on a budget that was skinny even by Great Depression standards. Amazing, amazing accomplishment.

      PS: Watch closely the driver's handling of the steering of the car on his test drive. This was a car with its entire, heavy powertrain sitting atop the front, driven wheels, and yet it looks as if it has power steering, which it does not. One would expect such a layout to steer like a truck, but it looks light as a feather. Intriguing.
      Last edited by vwlarry; 12-09-2012 at 07:02 PM.
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      12-09-2012 07:01 PM #8
      that was pretty neat

    9. 12-09-2012 07:17 PM #9
      Wow, Amazing car.

      Now I want to drive one, but doubt I ever will.

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      12-09-2012 07:22 PM #10
      was that the first car that you needed to depress the clutch to start it?

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      12-09-2012 07:29 PM #11
      Definitely cool, and very unique
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      12-09-2012 07:34 PM #12
      My dad used to own a 1951 Daimler DB15 and it had a pre-select transmission in it. Was interesting riding in that; drove the same way.

    13. Get Off My Lawn!!! vwlarry's Avatar
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      12-09-2012 07:36 PM #13
      Quote Originally Posted by 71DubBugBug View Post
      was that the first car that you needed to depress the clutch to start it?
      No. The Bendix Startix system was a very popular OEM accessory on several marques, as well as being available as a retro-fit for most cars in that era. With all cars being manually shifted, and often with quite a bit more difficulty than on today's feather-light gearshifts, stalling the engine when taking off from rest was common, especially for female drivers, who were more and more taking up driving automobiles during the thirties. The Startix system made the restarting process quick and automatic, with no groping for starter buttons on the dash or the floorboard.

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      12-09-2012 10:59 PM #14
      I have only been lucky enough to sit in one and pop the hood. I would love to try out the preselector gearbox in motion. The Cord 810/812 was decades ahead of its time in styling, fit/finish, technology, and driving dynamics.

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      12-10-2012 01:33 AM #15
      that's wild!!! learned something new thanks to TCL

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      12-10-2012 08:17 PM #16
      Really incredible system! Thanks Larry for the great information on the Cords inner-workings. Also what is the difference between the 810 & 812?
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      12-10-2012 09:15 PM #17
      Fascinating stuff. Fun to learn.
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      12-10-2012 10:32 PM #18
      Very cool. 1930's technology is very interesting. It reminds me of the 1980's in a way... They really tried to leap-ahead in many ways. Some of it panned out, some of it was let down by what was possible at the time.

      This definitely seems to work. I'm not really up on my old car facts, but a 4-speed gearbox seems like it would be a bit of a novelty for back then! I mean there were 1960s cars with two speeds.

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      12-10-2012 11:36 PM #19
      Well, before Larry's explanation about that gearbox, the Cord's Lycoming V8 was my favorite feature! That is very cool Larry, thanks for sharing.

      And Larry, the only dashes I'd rank with the Cord come from early 356s(elegantly simple) and pre-war Packards.


      1934 Packard V12 dashboard for comparison
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      12-10-2012 11:43 PM #20
      That must have been so amazing in the. 30s. I suppose the closest thing today is the Tesla, as there's nothing else like them, they're both high tech, rare and exotic.

      Is there a better modern equivalent I'm missing?

      Thanks, Larry. It's nice to see it in action.
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    21. Senior Member Air and water do mix's Avatar
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      12-10-2012 11:47 PM #21
      Quote Originally Posted by BattleRabbit View Post
      Well, before Larry's explanation about that gearbox, the Cord's Lycoming V8 was my favorite feature! That is very cool Larry, thanks for sharing.

      And Larry, the only dashes I'd rank with the Cord come from early 356s(elegantly simple) and pre-war Packards.


      1934 Packard V12 dashboard for comparison
      Excellent.

      What's your favorite 356 dash? I'm rather fond of the Speedster dash, but it doesn't give you a place to put anything!

      (I know Larry won't mind a deviation into the 356 realm! )
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      12-10-2012 11:56 PM #22
      Quote Originally Posted by Air and water do mix View Post
      That must have been so amazing in the. 30s. I suppose the closest thing today is the Tesla, as there's nothing else like them, they're both high tech, rare and exotic.

      Is there a better modern equivalent I'm missing?

      Thanks, Larry. It's nice to see it in action.
      The Cord 810 is like the Citroen DS/SM to me, just so exceptional for its time it's hard to grasp. To a modern car user, a Tesla is pretty much business-as-usual to drive, even if the powertrain is very, very advanced. I've driven a 30s Studebaker President*, and the Cord is RADICALLY different from the looks of it. The gap between that President and the Cord is much more vast than the jump from say, an E-class to a Model S.

      I can't think of a good modern comparison. Companies like Tesla go to great lengths to make sure that their new, innovative product is very much like what consumers are used to.

      *interestingly, late 30s Presidents could be equipped with a startix and Studebaker's "miracle shift" transmission from the factory. The example I drove was not so equipped... And I was 17. It was a privilege to putter around a parking lot in a first generation President!
      Last edited by BattleRabbit; 12-11-2012 at 12:03 AM.
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      12-10-2012 11:59 PM #23
      Quote Originally Posted by Air and water do mix View Post
      Excellent.

      What's your favorite 356 dash? I'm rather fond of the Speedster dash, but it doesn't give you a place to put anything!

      (I know Larry won't mind a deviation into the 356 realm! )

      These pre-A dashes are my favorite. The one in my car is so plain by comparison...

      Anyways, sorry to derail your thread Larry!
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      12-11-2012 12:13 AM #24
      Looks like a real thrill to drive!
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      12-11-2012 03:12 AM #25
      simple question: When the car starts automatically with the clutch pressed in, how does it know to stop the starter motor when the engine's running?

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      12-11-2012 03:34 AM #26
      Quote Originally Posted by BattleRabbit View Post
      Well, before Larry's explanation about that gearbox, the Cord's Lycoming V8 was my favorite feature!
      Ha! That's what I was hearing. I forgot about that, and was wondering what that sound was that I knew and didn't seem to belong in a car.

      TBH, this is like a forerunner to the DSG, as the whole concept of pre-engagement is what makes a DSG work. AND.... the clutch to start is how mild-hybrids work - depressing the clutch triggers the starter to start the car again.

      I love it when what is old is new!

      I also like the "shift" gate. It's slotted to push you to shift up.
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      12-11-2012 06:46 AM #27
      Hi Larry

      Did Cord officially make vehicles for the RHD markets ? I spotted one at a local motor show and I'm curious if it was a conversion.
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      12-11-2012 06:58 AM #28
      Yup, that V8 is fantastic... Fires right up one bank then the other. Nothing else sounds quite like it!
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      12-11-2012 07:15 AM #29
      Quote Originally Posted by sweatyworker View Post
      Hi Larry

      Did Cord officially make vehicles for the RHD markets ? I spotted one at a local motor show and I'm curious if it was a conversion.
      According to Cord historian Josh Malks a "substantial number" of Cords went to Commonwealth countries...Canada, England, Scotland, India, Australia and South Africa all had active Auburn-Cord dealers. To create a right-hand drive Cord required the replacement of fewer than 100 parts with specialized ones. The centered instrument panel was helpful here. Also, Spain and France had Auburn-Cord distributors, also Tokyo. There were deliveries to South America and Austria, and also to several Middle Eastern countries.

      Malks' book "Cord 810/812 The Timeless Classic" has a reprint of a 1937 Autocar magazine (UK) roadtest of a supercharged 812. They raved about it.
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      12-11-2012 07:20 AM #30
      Quote Originally Posted by stock60 View Post
      simple question: When the car starts automatically with the clutch pressed in, how does it know to stop the starter motor when the engine's running?
      Good question. The circuitry in the Startix system disengages the starter when the engine fires up. It also disables the starter while driving/clutching. It's a very complete system.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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      12-11-2012 07:33 AM #31
      He never lifts his foot off the gas while shifting/clutching. Is this normal?
      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
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      12-11-2012 08:31 AM #32
      Quote Originally Posted by Sledge View Post
      He never lifts his foot off the gas while shifting/clutching. Is this normal?
      Look more closely; he is lifting when he clutches. It's a very small movement though. He's driving it gently.
      Do you enjoy old cars and long-winded stories about them? If your answer is "yes", then you might enjoy my blogpage. Try it here: http://vwlarry.blogspot.com . Leave a comment, too; I love feedback! Thanx for reading.

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      12-11-2012 08:37 AM #33
      Quote Originally Posted by vwlarry View Post
      Look more closely; he is lifting when he clutches. It's a very small movement though. He's driving it gently.
      I thought I saw it while he was demonstrating reverse. He's really babying the car then
      "The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views...which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering."
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      12-11-2012 09:23 AM #34
      These were fascinatingly advanced cars for their day. Overall with its non-contemporary 'low' styling and hidden headlights, it makes me think of the later Buick Y-job. Did Harley Earl have a thing for Cords?

    35. 12-11-2012 10:10 AM #35
      In college I drove a couple vintage (1940's) London double-decker buses that had the original pre-select transmission system. What he doesn't explain in the video, unless I missed it, is that the clutch doesn't work the way we typically think of them today. There is no feel or gradual engagement - it's either engaged or not. It is tricky to learn the proper shift points and timing for releasing the clutch pedal, especially downshifting. My understanding from our mechanics was that there was a series of bands (or small belts), and a poor shift would snap them and put the bus out of commission until one could be sourced and shipped over from England. Done properly though, it could be quick and very smooth

      FWIW those things were way more fun to drive than the ones converted to more modern engine/transmissions

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