Bill Mawbey’s ’63 LeMans convertible has some very minor issues that I’m attending to at Gunner’s great garage. Bill wants me to try to stop a couple of pesky little drips the car was leaving on his garage floor.
All of the spots that Bill’s car is leaving are from pretty minor drips, but the one that was most mystifying was a dribble of automatic transmission fluid at the center of the car. You see, the 1963 Tempest has its transmission at the rear of the car—it has a transaxle out back! Why the heck was it leaking in the middle?
Bill is a member of the Pontiac Oakland Club International (www.poci.org) and also belongs to the club’s “Little Indians” Chapter (www.littleindians.com) for his type of car. Another ’63 Tempest owner who belongs to both groups is Keith Baker, who visited Gunner’s Great Garage last year with Wisconsin POCI members. We asked Keith what he thought about a leak in the center of the car and he pointed us to the Tempest Torque transmission control cable.
Sure enough . . . there was automatic transmission fluid leaking from the control cable fitting at the transmission. Instead of dripping down at the rear of the car, it was traveling up the cable to the center of the car. At that point the flow was interrupted by a rubber boot that seals the hole in the floor of the car. Since it couldn’t travel past the rubber boot, it was dripping down at that point.
When you remove the cable fitting from the transmission, fluid pours out. Since the shop manual doesn’t tell you that, I will. Have a pan ready to catch the fluid. After the fluid stops coming out of the hole, you can pull the end of the cable (it has a spring on it) completely out of the transmission. Then, you will see the thin rubber O-ring that is supposed to seal the hole the fitting goes into.
Bill’s O-ring looked sightly beat up and out of round. I also noticed that a sealer had been used, but didn’t last long. The transmission fluid did a good job of eating or washing the sealer away in some spots. These open spots may have caused the leak. The shop manual does not call for the use of a sealer.
I was hoping that an O-ring I had in stock would replace the one on the fitting, but the ones I had were about the same diameter, but much thicker. Since Keith Baker had told me that he had to do this job three or four times, trying different O-rings to get a good seal, I decided it would be best not to experiment with different O-rings from a local parts outlet. To avoid having to drain the tranny fluid three or four times, the ideal solution would be a source of the right O-ring.
I called Larry Fisher at FATSCO Transmission Parts (www.Fatsco.com) in New Jersey. Larry’s dad—Russ Fisher—was one of the first old-car people I ever wrote a story about. That was way back in 1978. As he always does, Larry knew exactly what I was talking about and said he would send me the correct O-ring for the Tempest Torque automatic transmission. We then talked a little about the hobby and found out we both owned old tow trucks and old Indian motorcycles. Like they say, it sure is a small world.
When the O-ring comes from Larry, we’ll install it over the fitting, put the fitting into the hole and button things up. Then, Bill Mawbey should have one less drip on his floor. And I’m happy, because I know from experience it pays to do things right the first time. Now, on to the leaky fuel pump . .
"Hello! Tom Hanneford, I have a '63 Tempest with a leaky . . .