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Theoretical question-'54 Carribean transmission
#1
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Bob
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A friend is looking at a '54 Carribean with A/T.
The car has sat for about 7 years..
How long can an automatic transmission sit without developing problems?
I have heard that after a time, the top half of the seal could dry out. Fact or Fiction?

Are the '54s prone to any particular quirks?

Posted on: 2021/9/12 11:11
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Re: Theoretical question-'54 Carribean transmission
#2
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HH56
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The front seals can have issues and I personally had one develop a severe leak not long after going back into service. Can't say how often it happens or exactly what the reason -- maybe a crack from being dried out or maybe a burn from the dry shaft -- but it does happen. It is also possible the valve body can become sticky and sluggish valves cause shifting issues. Often a change of fluid will fix that but if severe it may take a disassembly and thorough cleaning.

As to the transmission quirks, that depends on the unit. The early Caribbean production would have the original Ultramatic and those were well sorted out and very reliable by 54. The later builds could well have the model year 54 only Gear Start unit which was introduced late in production and was the precursor to the 55-6 Twin Ultramatics. By all accounts the Gear Start was sort of rushed into production and not all the bugs were even identified let alone corrected so some remained in the 55 units. The more serious issues did have a fix developed in 55 and the 54 got it but not unless the car was serviced by a dealer. The GS unit also has some parts only used in that partial year trans so any of those might be hard to come by if needed. Your friend might want to identify the unit in the car and then more info on any issues could be forthcoming.

The original Ultra has 5 positions on the shift indicator, the Gear Start has 6 with a dot almost in the middle denoting the 6th position. Gear Start also has an easily reachable dipstick in the engine compt that comes up very near the starter motor.

Posted on: 2021/9/12 12:02
Howard
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Re: Theoretical question-'54 Carribean transmission
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JeromeSolberg
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On a 1953 Cavalier (127" wheelbase), I was able to get the tailshaft housing off with the engine in the car (required some jiggling), so in the case of the rear tailshaft seal, it can replaced without taking out the engine. Don't know what happens for the 122" wheelbase, if that's what a Caribbean has. Mine sat for 7 years once and had no real problems afterwards, the rear seal was slightly leaking before, and it was slightly leaking afterwards. Does it hold fluid just sitting there? That's a good first step I would imagine.

Posted on: 2021/9/12 17:07
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Re: Theoretical question-'54 Carribean transmission
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Owen_Dyneto
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Bob, I'm sure there have been automatic transmissions in storage for less than 7 years that experienced leaks on start up, and also some stored for more than 7 years that didn't. I suspect other factors to consider include the condition of the unit when it was laid up, and the nature of the storage conditions, and not simply the duration of storage.

Posted on: 2021/9/12 20:38
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Re: Theoretical question-'54 Carribean transmission
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PackardDon
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Although my 1954 Patrician's original transmission was very low on fluid when first started up after a nearly-40-year slumber, it does not seem to be leaking now. Perhaps a drip or two but it did that before too.

Posted on: 2021/9/12 20:40
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Re: Theoretical question-'54 Carribean transmission
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Bob
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I appreciate all the input.

Many thanks,

Bob

Posted on: 2021/9/12 20:53
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