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Mr Bee

Elusive 39 transmission shifter linkage

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If you have a 1939 with a column shift three speed, chances are you have, do or will have problems with the one year run of the column-to-transmission shifter cable.

 

The Mopar original part number is 699088 and officially termed the Steering Gear Remote Control Gearshift Control Cable Assembly. 

 

If you can shift either between 1st and reverse, OR between 2nd and 3rd without issues, then it's not the solid linkage rod between your steering column and your tranny.

 

But, if you can't get to 2nd or 3rd, OR you're stuck in 2nd or 3rd and can't get back down to 1st or reverse, then your problem is most likely the shifter cable part 699088 as identified above.

 

There are lots of posts online of folks changing their transmission to a floor shift since part 699088 is no longer available.  Others have managed to revive their shifter cable.

 

There are a few issues that may arise with your shifter cable.  It may be bent beyond repair.   It may be gummed up inside therefore the inner push-pull cable doesn't move freely.  Or, the metal button at an end of the cable is worn making the total length of the inner cable too short.

 

If yours is gummed up inside, I've had marginal success by:  soaking it in a penetrating oil.  In fact I soaked mine in the oil inside a heated ultrasonic cleaning machine (available online for about 100 bucks).  I then made a jig to hold both ends facing each other two inches apart which allowed me to push and pull a piece of wood back and forth between the two ends forcing one end in, then the other, over and over a hundred times or more.  That freed it up enough for me to put my drill on one of the ends and slowly rotate the inner cable for over ten minutes.  I also sprayed it with brake cleaner during this stage to try to loosen up any grease inside.

 

This method gave me the freedom to move easily back into 1st and reverse, but, to bring it back to 2nd and third requires a healthy fresh spring which is installed inside the top lid of the transmission.  Mine is original and that, in conjunction with a moderately tough-to-move shifter cable, the inner cable very slowly comes back out at the steering column.  In other words, I could likely drive in 1st then shift to neutral in the 2nd and 3rd range, and wait maybe 15 seconds then slide it into 2nd.  Not practical.

 

So, that leaves me with a few possibilities.  Either swap the transmission to anything else.  Or swap the transmission lid to a top mounted floor shifter.  Or, keep working at freeing up my cable.  Or, find someone out there who has a good cable but wanted an automatic or floor shifting transmission (anyone have one?).  Or finally, find a custom cable shop that will build a new one.

 

Has anyone out there had a custom new cable manufactured that worked well?  If so, can you please post who made it for you?

20200312_114004.jpg

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This same cable was used on the 39 Desoto Dodge and Chrylser cars. I looked this part number up in my 39 Desoto parts Book.  I have one but it took me a long time to get the spare.  There isa seller on ebay that has several 39 desoto in a junk yard Frenchlake. Do a search He might have one on the cars that he has for sale.

 

Rich Hartung

Desoto1939@aol.com

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Thanks for your response.  I tried searching for a seller called Frenchlake with no results related to Desoto or any auto parts.  Would you have any more details about the Ebay seller you refer to?

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I think that is French Lake Auto Parts , a junkyard , probably in Minnesota . One of our members , Young Ed , has been there .  He might give you more information .  www.frenchlake auto parts.com

Edited by Jerry Roberts

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try Michael Warsaw  Mopar pro   I recently sold him a cable.  516 233 7788

Edited by dpollo
additional information

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On 3/12/2020 at 3:45 PM, Jerry Roberts said:

I think that is French Lake Auto Parts , a junkyard , probably in Minnesota . One of our members , Young Ed , has been there .  He might give you more information .  www.frenchlake auto parts.com

Yup usually go about once a summer. Even if I don't need anything! Last fall they had crushed a bunch of the really picked over stuff so I'm not sure if they have 39s left. Fyi I believe 1940 cars used a shift cable too. 

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The shifter for 1940 was different from 39.  The 40 shifter appears to be available online.

I agree, it would be fun to rummage around at French Lake, or any vintage car salvage lots.

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10 minutes ago, Mr Bee said:

The shifter for 1940 was different from 39.  The 40 shifter appears to be available online.

I agree, it would be fun to rummage around at French Lake, or any vintage car salvage lots.

Wow I was under the impression that at least part of 1940 model year had the same cable shift as 39s. If you search back a couple years there is a thread full of junkyard pics from french lake and a couple others. I couldn't stop but I drove by windy hills yard yesterday. I'm pretty sure the guy behind me was annoyed how slow I was going!

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39 was a one-off year for many parts, making it a bit more of a challenge to restore.  Apart from this cable, I've refreshed my entire vehicle's mechanical components with a bit of digging at times.

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The 39 P-8 deluxe column shift had the cable and one shifter arm on the tranny. The cheaper 39 model, P7, had a floor shift. The shifter cable was only for one model one year. Also, the fuel guage was experimental for the 39. It had two sets of contact points instead of the normal, one. Also, the sending unit had two wires  plus a ground. Both exclusive for 39 only.

Edited by Dennis Detweiler
wrong info

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No experience with them but this place makes custom cables. Might be worth checking them out.

 

http://issdistribution.com/custom-cable/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI8L3R8o6j6AIVFYeGCh2_-gCPEAMYAiAAEgIDK_D_BwE

 

 

Edited by vintage6t

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I did contact a different manufacturer of custom push pull control cables and they said they would use components off my original cable but it would still cost about 350-400 dollars.

 

So I'm going to focus on switching to a floor mounted shifter.

 

A cheap alternative is to buy a new inner cable (a buck a foot), remove all of the existing inner cable, then try to rebuild it with the existing parts.  Worth a try.  Even so, you're still stuck with a less reliable 1939 technology column shifter.

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I was pondering this problem for someone else and if I were stuck,  and wanted the column shift,  this is what I would do.

 

Install a trans from 40 to 56   (maybe even one from a short wheelbase car since it has no tail shaft.)   Use the  steering column jacket  and ALL the parts related to the gearshift from the same car   49 to 54 are  arguably the simplest but all have a frame mounted bell crank.  ( avoid a 40 because it uses a cable and this might put you back where you started)    An advantage to doing this is the R10 overdrive can be used too.  You will have to alter the length of the drive shaft.

 

Otherwise I would get the lid with the floor shifter from a 35 to 39  and with it the shift rails.  This will fit on the top of your 39 trans.

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I've already committed to picking up a complete 38 transmission with floor mounted shifter, so that'll be my first solution.  If that fails, Dennis says he has a shifter and top plate, so I'll just need to find rails.

 

Dpollo, your point about the overdrive is a good one, so your solution surely has its merits.

 

Of interest will be whether or not moparpro does indeed bring Repro cables to the market.  I'm sure there will be some demand for them.

 

IF YOU HAVE A 39 WITH A STUCK CABLE:  I've learned from my mistakes.  Here's how to unstick it.  Remove the cable and soak it in penetrating oil for DAYS, not hours.  Then boil it in hot soapy water for HOURS.  Then spray brake cleaner in one end then the other for MINUTES.  Push in on the larger end.  There is a return spring inside so it should pop right back out again.  If not, push in on the other end and repeat pushing back and forth until it frees up.  THEN, repeat the soaking, boiling and cleaning sequence as outlined above.  You'll now have a bit of time in every day for almost a week...BUT...the very sticky, gooey, sludgy grease that forms inside the cable up to maybe 12" from the transmission end of the cable will now be loose.  If you can move push the cable in on the larger end with your thumb (on the steering column end), you can now connect your drill to it and slowly rotate it.  DO NOT bend the cable...keep it straight or you can break the inner wire like I did.  Spray in brake cleaner slowly as you rotate it.  If its moving well it might be an idea to flush the inside with a fine penetrating oil while spinning the inner cable with the drill.

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It would be great getting a new cable made up.

 

The biggest problem of getting custom cables made is that they will likely want my original cable to use some of the unusual proprietary components.  Thats the feedback I already got from manufacturers.

 

It's always a risk shipping a rare part off with the hopes it arrives okay. 

 

Besides that, there's my shipping costs there, plus the cable manufacture costs, shipping and customs costs...most of that is in US dollars.  I'm in Canada so the total cost to me is easily 700 bucks or more.  It all adds up.  Might be okay if I'm working on a $250,000 muscle car, but this is a budget 39 four door sedan.

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 I am on Vancouver Island  where are you ?

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a long way from here.

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Quick update:  so I bought a 1938 floor shift full transmission with the hopes of using the top plate, rails and shifter and mounting them on my column shift transmission. 

 

Quick answer:  nope.  Doesn't work.  The transmission body is the same, but that might be where the similarities end.  Turns out that the gears are different.  As a result, the 38 rails don't fit on the 39 gears.  Basically the rail's fork for a 39 has a small, tight arc (semi circle).  The 38 has a much wider arc.  So...its a no go.

 

There are a couple plus sides.

 

The first is that I now have a backup transmission, just in case.

 

The second is that I luckily bought a new inner cable from an online aircraft supply house.  This evening I figured out a way to get the ends on the cable without dismantling the cables outer jacket.  Basically, you have to drill out the two ends where the original wire was pressed into.  Drill them out right through.  Then push the new inner wire through the conduit (the cables outer layer). Now thread the transmission end's push button onto the inner wire.  Braze the end onto the wire.  It might help to enlarge the hole in the end so that a bit more brass can melt into the button.

 

Now push that button all the way in flush.  You can now work on the other end (the steering column end).

 

Thread the spring onto the wire and insert the spring inside its sleeve.   Then thread the steel end button onto the wire and push it into the sleeve so that at least 1/2" is still visible.  A bit more would be better.  Now make a jig to hold the button in place since the internal spring will try to push it back out.  Once you have it in the right position, carefully braze the end on.  Again, I found it useful to drill out maybe 1/8" of the end with a larger drill bit to allow more brass to melt into the button.  Just take your time and use your oxy-acetelene torch carefully so that you don't melt the button or the internal wire.

 

I just installed mine and it actually works now.  Whew.

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That's great that you got the original shifter working properly. I still have my original cable and it's functional except the steering column end of the cable is worn down and not enough throw to adjust it to work properly. I may try to drill and thread the end and put a machine screw in the end and smooth the head of the bolt to add some length to it? It depends on how much metal is left to make the threads?

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