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Author Topic: question Re: ownwers / drivers of Spicer 4sp buses (past & present)  (Read 3684 times)
coolbus
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« on: September 04, 2006, 05:48:41 PM »

 Smiley Wink Cheesy Grin Angry Sad Shocked Cool Huh Roll Eyes Tongue Embarrassed Lips Sealed Undecided Kiss Cry Smiley Wink Cheesy Grin Angry Sad Shocked Cool Huh Roll Eyes Tongue Embarrassed Lips Sealed Undecided Cry Undecided Lips Sealed Embarrassed Tongue Roll Eyes Cool Huh Sad Angry Cool Shocked Sad Angry Grin Cheesy Wink Smiley

 I am curious as to finding out about others' experiences with 4sp trannys.†

I know there is already a 'debate' as to which is better, I am interested in hearing first hand experience from 4 speed users (past and present)

I have not purchased a bus yet, but one ot the dilemas I am having is regarding the transmission. Most of the early GM busses that I have seen are 4sp. I used to consider a 4sp out of the question, but after alot of reading (here and elsewhere) I thought I would like to hear others 'first time' experiences with a std tranny!

I will say that as far as my physical ability, a clutch would be no problem (strong left leg)!

How are you guys† (the ones that, like me, have had NO experience with a Spicer, double-clutching, etc) out there doing? Have you been able to 'master' the technic to your satisfaction? Your wifes satisfaction? How long does it take to get the hang of it? Any regrets for going with a std tranny?

Pro's and Con's ...Please!

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

Mark

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TomC
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« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2006, 08:27:39 PM »

Shifting is relatively fast.   If you think of it as shifting from one gear into neutral, then quickly from neutral to the next gear, it isn't that bad.  Keep the linkage adjusted and lubed up, the helper spring on the clutch adjusted right, and you'll have many miles of fun driving.  If your wife has drivin a manual before and has a bit of mechanical capabilities, it should work for her also.
Personally, I drove 1.3 million miles of 13 speed transmission in my truck for 21 years and don't have any love loss for shifting anymore.  I love the Allison transmissions (driven them all and can say the only one that is a negative is the AT545 since it doesn't have a lockup converter clutch).  If you want the most relaxing, pleasureable experience, then the automatic is the only way to go-even with its' less fuel mileage.  But-by driving an automatic easily, you can get very close to the manuals fuel mileage, and the ease of driving takes up the rest of the slack.  You'll enjoy either, since it'll be your bus!!  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2006, 08:32:41 PM »

I have drove my 04 stick since 1999 and love it.† Easy to get in the grove with some practice.
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2006, 08:35:02 PM »

I have owned both 4-speed and auto tranny conversions. Our last bus was a 4106 with the 4-speed. Our new bus is a 4108 with an auto (V-730). Learning to shift the Spicer takes a fair bit of practice, but understanding what's going on with the input and output side of the tranny helps visualize the shifts. It took me about 1000 miles of driving it to get adept at it... but under my direction, when I was selling the '06 I was able to teach a couple of potential busnuts much of what I learned in less than an hour behind the wheel. A lot of it is a matter of feel.

I did enjoy the challenge of learning to drive a stick coach, and driving one was more "fun" than driving a slushbox. You sorta feel more like part of the coach, I guess (corny as that sounds), instead of just hanging on and steering.

There were reasons why the 4-speed didn't fit into our lifestyle, though:

- Momma wouldn't drive it

- Certain campsites and destinations were difficult, if not impossible for the stick coach

- Backing up a grade from a standing start was neigh impossible

- Driving through traffic, through town, and around "steep stoplights" were a pain

Examples: Heading out of a beach in San Diego, we couldn't stop at the top of a grade at a stoplight (or we'd have to back down). Once when going skiing here in CO, we almost got stuck on a 10% grade. Backing into my driveway at my new house would be impossible for a stick coach to get up without damaging/ burning up the clutch.

Likewise, six-point turns, little negotiations in a campsite or parking space, bumper-to-bumper traffic... all like night and day in an auto coach. To me, it's worth the fewer MPH and MPGs the auto costs me, because it means we can use the bus more often and not be limited the way we were with the 4-speed.

In short, I wouldn't be nervous about learning to drive the stick. But I'd seriously consider your lifestyle and driving habits to see if a stick coach would be a good fit.

Hope this helps,
Brian
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Brian Brown
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 08:58:27 PM »

Mark,

I have enjoyed completely the style of driving that comes with a manual tranny.
I feel I have more control of the powerband when I'm driving in hilly terrain.
the day I bought the bus I had never been in the driver seat of a bus. I drove from Green Bay WI to Hope Ark.
the only scary part was Chicago/rush hour.
if you decide to get a standard you will be pleased with the closer feel of the way the bus is driving. You will know exactly when it is losing power.
I don't know if other bus owners will agree with me, but that's the best part about it.

Devin
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2006, 09:04:08 PM »

As posted earlier, first and reverse are not low enough for any serious hills.

Also, as said earlier, clutch adjustment is very important and something I spent a lot of time doing. I had to replace most of the rod forks, pins and bellcrank arms.

Other than the it is ok.If I had a larger engine I would prefer an AT but the 6-71 loses too much power with AT. An AT is wonderful for backing into tight spots.

I I don't use the clutch except on start up. I don't grind any more gears this way than when I use the clutch.

I find that timing is all important and most of my problems were caused by trying to shift too fast. Once I learned to leave it in neutral a short time before going to the next gear I seldom have any problems.
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« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2006, 07:58:55 AM »

Smiley† Just my comment to add, I bought a 1989 Prevost with a six speed spicer, six forward one reverse and an 8V92 and I love it. I have more control of engine when on the roads around town and the highway. Up shift when I want and down shift when needed. I drove the bus to Connecticut from Reno Nevada and had plenty of time to learn along the way how to and not shift. At times can be a pain in traffic but I can get 8 to 9 mpg on the highway. Got 8.5 mpg driving back from Reno pushing 70 to 75 on I 80. In Penn on I 80 was passing rigs going up some real steep hills. Sure an automatic is easier, especially easier for my wife. If the four speed isn't to your liking replace it with a 5 or 6 spicer or maybe a 8 or 10 speed roadranger trans. Good luck on your purchase and enjoy.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2006, 08:04:48 AM by scanzel » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2006, 08:19:39 AM »

I have a 4104 and prefer the stick EXCEPT:

  • Very difficult to maneuver at very low speeds or on soft surfaces like in a campground.
  • Very hard to drive it up on blocks. Trying to get enough power to climb the block and then get it stopped without over running the block is almost impossible.† If I didn't still have the old ICC brake, I don't think I could do it.
[/list]

Another transmission with a very low 1st and reverse would make a world of difference.

Len
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« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2006, 10:00:40 AM »

If the four speed isn't to your liking replace it with a 5 or 6 spicer or maybe a 8 or 10 speed roadranger trans.
I think his original question concerned GMCs, so this is just an FYI about GMCs.

Unfortunately, GMC's v-drive engines have a very limited number of transmissions (stick or slush) that will work with them. The 671 without serious modification will only take a 4-speed. An 8v71 can take a 4-speed Spicer, or an Allison VS2-8 or V-730 (or a couple of one or two-speed transit Allisons I won't mention). That's it. Anything else requires major ($$$) mods.

T-drives are a whole 'nuther story. But the only common GMC with a t-drive is the Scenic.

Personally, I'd prefer a RR 10-speed over most slushboxes, since it eliminates most of the issues I had with a stick-shift coach... but these are only available for t-drives.

HTH,
Brian
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Brian Brown
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« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2006, 02:37:47 PM »

By no means an expert, but here goes.  I am told that there is a difference in a wet clutch and dry.  The dry being easier to shift.  Older GMs (4104s, 03s old look suburbans) are easier to shift than newer coaches (4903s 05s) and fishbowl suburbans.  Maybe someone can explain to me the difference between wet and dry clutches and if I had to guess i would have said wet clutches were easier.

Charles Seaton
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« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2006, 03:03:55 PM »

Coolbus, with all due respect to the GM guys, you haven't yet heard from an MCI owner with a Spicer...and I'm one of them.
Agreed, a lot to be desired with the Ist and Reverse being a bit too high at times...but we need to remember that these old girls were built for Highway work and we're taking them out of that realm.

MCI has an air booster cylinder on the clutch, and I understand that an auxiliary spring can be added to some of the GM's to be a helper.  I am going to "Hot Rod" my cylinder to the point where virtually an infant could depress the clutch.  I'm a little old guy with spindly legs and will take all the help I can get.

I love the 4 speed...it reminds me of my sports car days....and I get the best milage possible with the 8V71 and the 4 speed Spicer. By the way, when I changed the transmission oil I went to #50 Racing, without benefit of the Mfr. counsel and I find it shifts much easier with less knashing of gears..and no I don't have to double clutch.

Near you somewhere, I checked your profile and you don't tell us where home is, might be a BusNut with an automatic or a 4 speed.  Check the Frapper map and see....by meeting one of us you might get more insight into owning and driving a bus.  We're
a congenial lot and always welcome visitors to our projects.

Good Luck on your quest.

NCbob
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« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2006, 03:11:31 PM »

Wet clutches have more drag due to the discs running in oil. This definitely adds to difficulty getting them into gear at a standstill. Once you are rolling, it shouldn't matter as much.

With either clutch, the timing for double clutching changes with oil temperature. The gears slow down faster when the oil is cold.

For what it's worth.

Tom Caffrey
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« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2006, 12:34:17 PM »

Thanks Tom.

Now I get why when the transmision is cold, I either have to stop the engine and put it into first or if on the road, shift it into first jsut before coming to a full stop.

Still love fishbowls, though.

Charles Seaton
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RJ
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« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2006, 04:26:27 PM »

/
Charles -  Try this trick with the wet clutch - From neutral at a stop, after you put in the clutch, slip the gearshift over into 3rd or 4th, then, after it drops into gear, move it over into first.  I used to do this often when driving 4905s - beats shutting off the engine, or amusing the passengers by trying to grind it into 1st.


Coolbus -  Brian Brown covered virtually ALL the pros & cons to the stick vs auto argument.  Others have chimed in with additional comments that are very valid.

NCBob's point should be re-emphasized: These beasts were NOT designed for wiggling in and out of campsites! 

Since you haven't bought a coach yet, you and the missus need to sit down and seriously discuss what you actually want to do with the bus.  Once you figure that out, then the choice of a shell becomes much easier.

(Translation of the last paragraph:  If Momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!)


Finally, to answer your original question:  It took me about five - ten minutes to figure out how to double-clutch a coach properly, but it took me about 1,000 miles of practice to learn how to do it WELL.  Make sense?

This might also be helpful:

http://www.busnut.com/artrjl2.html


HTH. . .



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RJ Long
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« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2006, 06:53:11 PM »

I think it has already been posted but I'll repeat it; Do NOT ever slip the clutch on a diesel.

If you're in a tight spot quickly let it out and push it back in, just don't slip it.
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« Reply #15 on: September 07, 2006, 04:39:06 AM »

Mark,

I had never driven a double clutched vehicle or a Bus before I bought my 4905.

I have driven lots of heavy vehicles that had manual trannys.

That said, there was a learning curve involved in this "shifting thing".

My drive home was more of a "grind than find em" ride.

I guess the hardest thing to get used to was that I basically had to wind it out to the governor, then shift.

Just didn't seem natural to my other shifting experiences and plus I have a five speed Jeep that I dive daily and the shifting is just the

opposite.

After reading R. J. Longs article on shifting and making my brain think different, I was amazed at how well the bus started shifting.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to learn would be to 1st read R.J.'s article and then pick a road were you can go through a lot of

starts and stops.† This is usually best done by yourself if you know what I mean Wink

I am at 90% competency on the shifting, make a clean shift most of the time, miss one now and then....Must be the linkage is out

of adjustment Tongue† Yeah, thats what it is!

Cliff
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« Reply #16 on: September 07, 2006, 06:52:35 PM »

The double clutching is easy and a way of life once ya got it and in our bus we dident need to use the clutch after starting in first . Wind er out let of the pedal while pulling it out of 1st and let the revs drop ( i counted 1-2-3 shift) and wind er out again and repeat. works well unless going up or down a hill which varied the lag time for the shift. First thru third was fine  but the long pull in 4th to top speed was the killer to me. Most GM's with the 4 speed suffer that. Our reverse was also to highly geared.
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« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2006, 07:04:04 AM »

Ok Cool

We bought our Eagle with the 4 speed in it. pulled the engine & trans during refurb, and reused when we put bus back together.

First time Spicer driver, but have driven plenty of manual trans in the past. As has been noted, you only use the clutch to get started or stopped, time your shifts, and throttle.

I always thought I HAD to have an auto also, until I drove it with the stick, No problems (except as noted by others, but manual drivers have had to overcome for years) that patience and practice can't overcome. (maybe $$ and clutches if you are a slow learner, or† trying to learn on some of the noted bad grades.)

The Eagle has an air assist clutch pedal that is a dream to work. I like the looks of the GM's but have not driven one.

Goon luck with your choices, find fellow busnuts as previous posts had suggested and check it out.

Oh yea get more bus to start with, you will be happier, and cheaper off in long run. Unless you are NUTS like the rest of us, and just like the looks of a certain coach, or are a tinkerer.

Bill
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« Reply #18 on: February 23, 2011, 07:26:28 PM »

GM 4104 Spicer GRINDS GEARS BAD i drove it home now it wont move
If the four speed isn't to your liking replace it with a 5 or 6 spicer or maybe a 8 or 10 speed roadranger trans.
I think his original question concerned GMCs, so this is just an FYI about GMCs.

Unfortunately, GMC's v-drive engines have a very limited number of transmissions (stick or slush) that will work with them. The 671 without serious modification will only take a 4-speed. An 8v71 can take a 4-speed Spicer, or an Allison VS2-8 or V-730 (or a couple of one or two-speed transit Allisons I won't mention). That's it. Anything else requires major ($$$) mods.

T-drives are a whole 'nuther story. But the only common GMC with a t-drive is the Scenic.

Personally, I'd prefer a RR 10-speed over most slushboxes, since it eliminates most of the issues I had with a stick-shift coach... but these are only available for t-drives.

HTH,
Brian
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my gm bus grinds gears bad i drove it home now wont move
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« Reply #19 on: February 23, 2011, 07:40:22 PM »

Hello Jason357,

You'll have to be more specific before anyone can give you a decent reply.

"Grinds gears bad" - Did you hear grinding noise when moving, after completed shifts?

Won't move?
When depressing the pedal the clutch won't release, so the trans can't be pulled into gear?
 -or-
Trans can be pulled into gear but engaging the clutch (releasing the pedal) has no effect?

Does the drive-shaft turn while the bus is not moving, indicating a differential or axle failure?

---

« Last Edit: February 23, 2011, 07:42:07 PM by TedsBUSted » Logged

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« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2011, 04:25:39 AM »

I'm new to this whole bus world too. My search for a bus involved driving autos and 4 speeds. Loved the autos, but couldn't find one in my price range in the condition I wanted. Ended up located this 4106 we currently have and it came with the Spicer. I've had it for just over two months now. For most of those two months it sat up on blocks while I serviced the brakes and various other components. In the last two weeks, however, I've been able to get it out and run through its paces. I feel extremely comfortable with the upshifts. And that statement by Tom about the oil temp affecting shift timing is so true....took me a while to figure it out. My only problem is with the downshifting.... Angry... I live in a neighborhood with an empty street about a 1/4 mile long that gives me a good practing field, so to speak. It's long enough for me to get up to third gear and then attempt a 3rd to 2nd downshift. Sometimes I get it but most times I don't. I'm just not sure of what I should be doing. Brian mentioned visualization of the input and output shafts to help aid in shifting....Brian, would you care to expand on this or can anyone give me a good explanation of the process of downshifting so I wrap my head around it? I've read RJ's article and understand the uphill shifting pattern, but how about on level ground..... Huh
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« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2011, 05:33:37 AM »

When I stared looking for a bus I had the same question.  I was finally able to drive a 4104 with the 4 spd. Spicer and actually enjoyed the experience.  However, if you ever get stuck in crawling traffic, it might be a pain.  Even though we wound up buying a bus with a automatic, I would not have been scared off if the right bus that came along had a stick.  There are benefits, including simplicity, MUCH cheaper repairs and better fuel mileage.  They were built with those trannys, so if they could drive them back then and others can now, so can you if you believe you can.
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« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2011, 05:39:06 AM »

I have an MCI with a Spicer 4 speed.  I think the clutch and shift linkage setup on the MCI is more driver friendly than the GM, from what I've heard.  My clutch is too heavy for comfort, but in taking the engine out I was able to see that the linkage was adjusted wrong, and I also have  a plan to hot-rod the air assist if the adjustments don't get it light enough.

In my opinion, having inspected the shift hubs and dog engagements inside a Spicer 8844, it is not designed to be shifted without a clutch, but it obviously can be.  The dog splines are too small and fine for easy clutch-less shifting.  shifting with the clutch but without double clutching is better for it, and double clutching just helps things out that much more by making it easier to match the gear speeds inside the box.  Since I own my gearbox and have to pay for it if I break it, I double clutch up and down.

Downshifting is the hardest part to learn, and there is a trick - speed!  With both up and down shifting, how fast you time the shift is the important part.  Downshifting from 4th to 3rd is the most common, the trick is to start the shift at the road speed that you would be on the governor in third, or if you are on an uphill  grade, a few mph faster than top of third, clutch out, neutral, floor the throttle pedal for maximum revs, clutch, slip into gear.  And do it as fast as your feet and hands will move.  third to second, same deal but a little slower.  second to first, quite slow.  I find I really need to put a lot of throttle in it to get the engine up to speed to accept the lower gear.

I took around 2000 miles to learn how to upshift to where I mostly get the next gear with little more than a handshake or a silent engagement, and around 5000 miles to get smooth, repeatable downshifts.  That was over around 8 months of driving sporadically.  If you drove every day like a bus driver would, you'd take about a week to learn what I took close to a year and several long trips.

Brian
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« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2011, 06:53:11 AM »

Wow! This is resurrecting a thread from the past. Eventually you can learn to shift w/o the clutch but it takes lots of miles and practice. I learned on one of my old employer's Dump Truck how to shift so smooth that it became fun to show off my skill. The problem is that every machine is a little different and it takes more time and practice to transfer that ability to other trannys. If you are not driving it everyday, all day, then I would most defiantly double clutch both up and down. Easiest on the transmission, but not so easy on your left knee. If your linkage is way out that might explain the difficultly in shifting and no being able to move it now. I think you need to have someone that is very familiar with how they are supposed to work offer you a hand and take a look at it.
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« Reply #24 on: February 24, 2011, 07:04:46 AM »

Have driven lots of MCIs (5s, 7s)with the 4 speed in the '70s and '80s. It gets to be second nature. We would drive them in and out of tight spots, up and down steep hills, etc. The company had to rebuild clutches though, LOL. In driver training, they taught us to double clutch, always. No clutchless shifting. (This is a subject that has been debated here at length and could be again ad vitam eternam, so I'll stay out of it this time.)

My new bus since last spring has an Allison 740 and I love it. Great for tight spots, around town, and starting up steep hills. And there is just as much control and feel as with a manual.

JC
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« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2011, 07:50:33 AM »

Jason, I'll second the request for more information, on what it is, and is not doing.  Let's add a request, post your location (see the bottom of this post) - for all members, new and "old", a location can get you personal help.  One of us may be nearby.  

If you're grinding when trying to go into first from a dead stop, unfortunately that seems to be somewhat normal.  My 4107 does that, I often end up shutting the engine down, go into first, and restart.  It was normal when the coaches were in service.  I both drove, and instructed on 4903's and 4905's.  

I would start folks out on schoolbuses, so they could learn to shift, then transits, so they could learn to maneuver.  When they were promoted to coaches, they'd have to learn both.  The non-synchromesh transmission does require double-clutching.  Occasionally, I would shift without the clutch, so I knew I could get a bus home in an emergency.  I wouldn't do that with my 4107, though, since it already knows the numbers of my credit cards.  Also, each coach was different.  I had a favorite 4905, seems like I never missed a shift, up or down.  Her sister, bought the same year, was good, but not quite as good.  Two years later, the company bought another two 4905's, the first year of air throttle.  I couldn't shift the darned (not the word I want, but it'll do) things -- so I sure wouldn't use them for instructing.  It also seems like each coach likes a different speed of action, and even that may vary with temperature.  We had a little 35 foot suburban (SDM4501) that had a 4104 transmission in it -- fastest shifting little bus I ever drove.  Others were more leisurely.  You have to learn your specific bus.  

It's a pat your head, rub your stomach thing, particularly downshifting.  Fourth to third - left hand on the wheel (don't forget, you're steering).  Right hand on the stick.  Left foot - clutch in, right hand fourth to neutral, clutch out.  Right foot, goose the throttle, to match shaft speeds.  Left foot, clutch in, right hand neutral to third, clutch out, while your right foot is working to match speed so the passenger don't know you shifted.  Smooth is the word.  

Although I bought the 4107 in part because it had the original 4-speed, and I used to find great satisfaction in smooth shifting, we're now putting a V-730 in.  Reason, we've come to the conclusion that my wife will not be able to learn to drive a stick.  I don't have a fleet, so I can not first teach her simple stick (with synchronizers), bus maneuvering, and then go to the non-synchro 4-speed, in a progression.

Please give us more information, we may be able to help.

Arthur        
« Last Edit: February 24, 2011, 08:12:35 AM by Runcutter » Logged

Arthur Gaudet    Carrollton (Dallas area) Texas 
1968 PD-4107

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« Reply #26 on: February 24, 2011, 08:01:59 AM »

Shifting and double clutching are not the issues with the Spicer 4 speed.  The real problem is the ratios at first gear and reverse.  Think of it as a 5 speed transmission where 1st gear does not work.  You could learn to live that way, but why would you want to.  Reverse is just as bad but less critical.
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« Reply #27 on: February 24, 2011, 08:07:44 AM »

Jason and BWZE -

Call me, my number's in my profile to the left.  Remember I'm in CA, so adjust the time zone accordingly.

I'll see if I can help talk you thru the situation.

FWIW & HTH. . .

 Wink
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RJ Long
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« Reply #28 on: February 24, 2011, 03:59:52 PM »

RJ, thanks so much for the offer, but I GOT IT....went out this afternoon and practiced my downshifting and then practiced some more. I finally got it. I even got a name for it......the Double Clutch Two Step. Of course, this was on somewhat level ground, but I'll tackle the hills later.....
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