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Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#1
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Tom Putnam
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Should a person thinking about buying a 48-50 Packard (his first classic) embrace cars with the Ultramatic Transmission or run from cars with the Ultramatic Transmission? I would appreciate feedback especially in the area of transmission houses ability to repair the Ultramatic. Thanks in advance.

Posted on: 2018/12/9 21:14
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#2
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bkazmer
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The Ultramatic was only available on the 23rd series, not the 22nd. There are a small number of shops familiar with it - club members can direct you to them.

Posted on: 2018/12/9 21:48
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#3
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PackardDon
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I can't speak for the 23rd series Ultramatic but all those I've had in 1953 and 1954 Packards and Clippers have been trouble-free and good on petrol. Just an FYI, though, as far as I know, no 22nd or 23rd series Packard is a Classic. Certainly they are vintage and antiques but Classic is a very specific designation that often gets thrown onto any old car whether it is or not. Some people think that it's okay to call it a classic (lower case) but that's just splitting hairs.

Posted on: 2018/12/9 22:10
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#4
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HH56
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The 50 Ultramatic is almost identical to the 51 with the exception of throttle linkage. In 52 there was a major change to the direct drive clutch inside the torque converter but the remainder of the transmission stayed essentially the same until late 54. Ultramatics were designed and built by Packard alone so work differently from other mfgs automatic transmissions. As was noted above, because of that difference most mechanics today will not be familiar with their construction and operation so will not take on a repair. If you do find a shop willing to work on them most would not know where the typical areas that need attention might be and could be a waste of money or worst case, do more damage than good. There are a few direct drive parts specific to the 50 and 51 so those items are slightly harder to come by than most of the other parts. If the car is a very early 50 and still has the original sand casting for the valve body then parts for the valve body and portions of the hydraulics are very hard to find. If repairs are needed it might need the trans out of a parts car so it can be converted to the later design.

Properly driven the 50-54s are very reliable units but as it was a transmission built in the very first days of automatic transmissions the performance and operation cannot be compared to anything you might be used to. They are absolutely not a racing transmission and if you treat them poorly they will respond accordingly. Essentially the Ultra is a single speed transmission with a torque converter to provide a change to the power curve. If you select H the transmission starts and stays in high range and depends on the torque converter to provide some multiplication of engine torque to simulate the lower gearing an actual set of gears would provide for starting the car in motion. Acceleration from a dead stop is best described as smooth and leisurely. As the car approaches around 20 mph, depending on throttle position the direct drive clutch will lock out the torque converter and essentially you will have a stick shift transmission running in third gear. That operation in a properly functioning transmission with a good clutch plate will be a silent and smooth action with the major perception being a lowering of noise rather than an actual shift. If the clutch has hardened then the change will be more noticeable. The transmission will stay this way until the car slows to about 11 when the direct drive will drop out and you are back in converter drive. At speeds between about 20-45 you can kickdown for faster acceleration but over about 50 there is no kickdown and it stays in direct drive. Low gear range works the same way except the maximum speeds are all lower.

To provide better acceleration, many drivers would start out in L and then manually shift to H as speed increased. The original Ultramatic transmission was not designed for this operation so there is no synchronization between gears. Depending on conditions, that could result in no gear selected for a short period allowing the engine to race away or both gears could be selected at the same time and fight against each other. Either could cause excessive wear or depending on how fast or hard the engine was turning damage the trans. If you elect to buy the car and do the manual select operation be sure to let off on the accelerator while the transmission does the shift to minimize chances of any stress or possible damage. Done carefully and not under power you can get away with the manual operation. In late 53 and retrofittable to most earlier models, Packard made a change in the valve body that modified gear timing to address this issue but it was not totally successful so caution is still urged.

The late 54 introduction of the Gear Start Ultramatic which became the 55-6 Twin Ultramatic was the first Packard transmission which was designed for actually shifting between L and H. You could select either the original no shift operation if you wanted to stay smooth and leisurely or a different range would provide the new automatic shift and faster but rougher acceleration.

Posted on: 2018/12/10 10:34
Howard
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#5
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58L8134
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Hi Puttenham

Welcome to the Forum. The good, solid advice Howard and Don have given should be kept in mind when investigating prospects. They know of what they speak.

To assist your search, I'd recommend you check the Various CL Pickings thread frequently as both good original and finely restored 22nd and 23rd Series cars show up and are posted for those considering a purchase. Best advice is to be patient in your search, investigate many then buy the best one you can find and afford for the money.

Before you dive in, please take the time to acquire and read a copy of Packard 1948-1950 by Robert J Neal if you haven't already. Its the in depth definitive source on these model years. Knowledge is power and this book will give you that.

Good luck in your pursuit, keep us apprised and don't hesitate to ask advice on specific cars.

Steve

Posted on: 2018/12/10 20:17
.....epigram time.....
Proud 1953 Clipper Deluxe owner.
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#6
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Tom Putnam
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Steve,

Thanks to you, Howard, Don and others on this site. So far I am having lots of fun on this journey. Many thanks.

Attach file:



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Posted on: 2018/12/10 21:47
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#7
Not too shy to talk
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Tom Putnam
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I also meant to say that I am blessed with the knack of recognizing good advice which keeps me coming back.

Posted on: 2018/12/10 21:52
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#8
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Ernie Vitucci
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Good Morning all...I have a question regarding the Ultramatic transmissions...How much of a pain would it be to put a 1954 Ultramatic into a 23rd series Packard that had an original Ultramatic? Just as a side note our 23 series Deluxe has the three speed with the Overdirve and that is a great combination in my humble opinion...Ernie in Arizona

Posted on: 2018/12/11 12:46
Caretaker of the 1949-288 Deluxe Touring Sedan
'Miss Prudence' and the 1931 Model A Ford Tudor 'Miss Princess'
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#9
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HH56
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The flex plate and bellhousing are the same for all the regular Ultramatics 50 thru 54 so bolting up a later trans to the engine should not be a problem. There is a difference in throttle linkage and its operation so the later linkage would need to be carried over to the earlier engine. Geometry of the throttle linkage is a critical factor in Ultramatic operation so that would require some careful work to set up because of the different carb and accelerator linkage and you would need to make sure it operates properly and adjustment is correct after the change.

The other changed items are less critical so there is more leeway. Operator select linkage is different so there would need to be some fabrication or maybe even an exchange of parts to attach the different years. Possibly some work would be needed on the rear mount and drive shaft connection. The oil cooler lines and connections are different so some kind of adaptors and maybe hose extensions or a reroute would be needed.

If you are thinking of the 54 Gear Start, almost all those parts are different and specific to 54. If that is the trans in question, everything needed for the regular Ultra change would apply and 54 GS parts would need to be moved and/or fabricated for the earlier car making install a bit more difficult. The extra shift quadrant position would require changes to the steering column so parts there would need to change for the GS but not for the regular Ultra. With the issues the GS had because of being the first of its kind and limited testing before introduction I would not make the change unless I knew it had all the later corrections or mods incorporated. Even then I think I would combine and modify parts as Kev is doing -- replacing his 54 GS by adapting a 56 TU in place of the GS.

Posted on: 2018/12/11 14:35
Howard
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Re: Potential Packard 48-50 owner and the Ultramatic Transmission
#10
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PackardDon
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Not sure but isn't there a pilot bushing that would need to be removed from the end of the crank? Also, Ultramatics, I believe, have a different ratio to the rear end.

Posted on: 2018/12/11 16:10
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