Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

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George57
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Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#1

Post by George57 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:29 pm

Here are some pics of the 4-speed transmission case and the footshift ratchet top I bought, they do not match so all comments are welcome :

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The case is polished and the numbers 121 35, H 6 and a large 1 are near each other; I thought this was a case made in August 1956, judging by the H 6 number and the info from Bruce Palmer's good book.

The ratchet top has the numbers 34809-52 and a large 2 on opposite sides as you can see in the last photo; Bruce Palmer mentions a type 1 without neutral switch and a type 2 with neutral switch, judging by the large 2 I thought this is the case with neutral switch but I do not see where that switch should go in the case. The shifter drum has the number 34016-52 stamped in.

A friend of mine has a 1956 bike with a transmission marked 33 and E2 at the bottom, and discussion about tranny numbers seem to end in the solid opinion that all 1952-1957 Panheads have oem transmissions marked 33 so no markings for a month letter and a year digit like my H 6 tranny.

Putting the ratchet top on the case it fits but has one leftover mounting hole, the second hole from the left side as seen in the two photos of the ratchet top on the case; you can see the ratchet top covers about half that unused hole. All holes in the case and ratchet top line up like they were made for it, just that one extra hole amazes me. It is threaded like all other holes around the edges of the upper case side.

At this moment I am thinking one of them is wrong for my 1955 Panhead basket case project , the case is the wrong one or the ratchet top is the wrong one. Or maybe both are wrong, I don't know and the info from Bruce maybe is just a bit to hard to read for me (I'm dutch you know). Or his statements about the letter and digit combo are incorrect for the 1952-1957 years and he did not mention the 33 at all, at least I didn't see it.

Please give your comments on the case and the ratchet top, I sure will appreciate your help to solve this mystery (well, it might not be a mystery to you but I just started this project and my wisdom is limited to the last 4 months of reading and looking at pics). Thanks for looking !



Robert Luland
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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#2

Post by Robert Luland » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:46 pm

First off the neutral switch would screw into front of the ratchet top if it was 60 and up. That hole you see that you’re calling a mounting hole is for the set screw that holds the shifter fork shaft. For the most part the gasket covers it. I believe that the case is a 1946 were the breather hole was welded up prior to them polishing the case. I only say this because the entire boss has apparently been ground off. Bob L

Infact if you look at picture six you can clearly see the welded up vent hole.

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#3

Post by 1950Panhead » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:41 pm

I'm with Bob, August 46 case, 52-59 lid.
You can drill and tap case for vent screw.
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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#4

Post by 4pans1man » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:53 pm

1959 was the first year for a dash neutral light?

Tony

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#5

Post by George57 » Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:45 am

Okay, thanks a lot for that good info; seems I have the wrong case then. It puzzles me why someone closed the vent hole as there must be a vent hole in a tranny case anyway, but I can't tell anything about the past of this case so that will remain a mystery then. Drilling and tapping for a new vent hole would be no problem, however I like to look for a more to the point 1955 case first before deciding on that. How about the number 33, is it correct that all 1952-1957 transmissions have the number 33 so I should look for a tranny with that specific number ? Thanks again,

George

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#6

Post by Speeding Big Twin » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:11 pm

George, as indicated already, date code H6 suggests the trans case was cast in August 1946. And apart from a 46 and 56 case having different types of date codes to each other, notice the 46 casting doesn’t have much material on the underneath near the outside of the two mounting studs on the left side. That was changed sometime in the 1949 calendar year and those two areas received extra material.

The change to the lower left side of the casting is something I’ve never read in Palmer’s book. Palmer’s main mention of BT trans cases is on pages 282-284 but some info re their ID was not included in the book and he makes no comment there about the 3 3 date code. In fact he makes no comment there about any date codes for those cases yet at least three different formats were used for their codes for 1938–64. The letter-number format appeared as early as April 38 and was used through at least November 49 casting (probably also Dec 49). Numbers-only date codes appeared as early as January 1950 castings and there were at least two different formats: sometimes the year was indicated by only one number; and sometimes it was indicated by two.

You mentioned discussion about tranny numbers seem to end in the solid opinion that all 1952-1957 Panheads have OEM transmissions marked 33. But I don’t think you’ll see date code 3 3 on a 1952 trans case. Normally that code would suggest casting in March 1953 but it has also been found on bikes a few years later than that which are unaltered from original. We don’t know why that 3 3 code was used for such a long time. I don't know exactly when the 3 3 code ended but the nearest example I have after it is 2 58 (February 1958 casting).

You mentioned a large number 1 on the bottom of your case and also that a friend of yours has E2. But are you sure your friend has E2? Because I’m betting that your friend’s case has 2E, not E2. Anyway, sometimes in that same location you’ll find 1E and sometimes just the number 2 by itself but I don’t yet know what those indented letters and/or numbers indicate.

Casting number 121 35 first appeared about 1935 on trans cases for prototype Knuckleheads and it was used as late as February 1963. But as early as October 63 the casting number changed to 34703 64. And not long after that it changed to 34703 65 for 1965 model bikes.

For ratchet lids, the neutral switch first appeared on 1959 models so its absence helps indicate your lid is somewhere from 52 to 58 inclusive.
Eric

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#7

Post by George57 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:35 pm

Wow Eric, that's another piece of great info. Not just to me I guess. I now know I will have to look for a case with extra material on the lower left side and one or two numbers. It still amazes me why a large factory like HD did not use a very clear numbering system like HG 55 for Hydra Glide 1955 or DG 58 for Duo Glide 1958, that would have been clear to customers and mechanics. But I know they had some turbulent years, and did not want to throw away already numbered cases or rework numbers of leftover cases when a new modelyear started. This is the only reason I can think of for using the same numbers in several production years. Many thanks to all repliers !!!

George

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#8

Post by RUBONE » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:27 pm

George57,
The case date codes had little to do with H-D or with whatever their policies were. The codes were applied by the foundry that cast the cases for their own information. Dealers and mechanics were not part of the equation, and especially not restorers 60 years later! We should consider ourselves lucky that they put any marks at all on them!
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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#9

Post by Speeding Big Twin » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:48 am

Cheers, George. I agree two numbers for the year would certainly have made it easier and I don’t know why that wasn’t done with these codes from the beginning. On a Big Twin trans case the earliest I’ve seen it is February 1958 (2 58) and the date code plate was still on the bottom of the case the same as it had been since as early as April 1938 (D8).

For the Small Twin (Flathead 750 V-twin) trans case, things were sometimes a bit different to what happened with the BT case. Two numbers for the year appeared on the ST case as early as April 1951 but the month was still indicated by a letter so the date code was D51. And the date code plate was positioned under the oil filler spout where it had been from as early as August 1941 (H 1). And it could be (I can’t be sure) that the plate was shifted to that spot with the introduction of the three-stud case for 1941 models because photo examples I have of two-stud cases show the plate on the top of the case casting.

It may be that the D51 style of format continued to be used on the ST case for at least the next couple of years and the latest example I have of it is L53. However, it’s unclear at this point whether the letter L indicates December or November for the ST case because I don’t know if the letter I was skipped as it was for 1948–49 Big Twin codes. Anyway, as early as October 1958 the Small Twin format changed to numbers-only: 10 58. But the date code plate had been shifted from underneath the oil filler spout to the inside of the case and I also have other examples of them inside cases cast in 1962, 63 and 65.

And of course there’s always the chance of exceptions that may differ to what I’ve found so far.
Eric

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#10

Post by George57 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:53 pm

Thanks again for all info, I decided to sell this polished Knuckle case and tell the buyer he has to put a vent screw back in. So the search for the right tranny or tranny case starts all over again, but I have learned a lot about it now and that's just great !

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#11

Post by George57 » Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:00 am

Update : I bought a tranny with all gears and 3 3 code. It came out of a barn and was covered in dirt and oil markings, but cleaned up nicely. Not running in a bike for several decades so it needs a complete overhaul, but at least I have the right tranny case without cracks now. Thanks again !

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#12

Post by Mose » Mon May 07, 2012 10:17 pm

Any thoughts on this trans?
TransCaseCastingNumbers.jpg
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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#13

Post by Robert Luland » Mon May 07, 2012 10:36 pm

November 1959

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#14

Post by Hog54 » Tue May 08, 2012 12:40 am

How do you know it isnt 49?

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Re: Mystery 4-speed transmission and ratchet top

#15

Post by RUBONE » Tue May 08, 2012 1:05 am

How do you know it isnt 49?
'49 used a single letter for the month and a number for the year, '59 used numbers for both.
Robbie

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