Author Topic: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever  (Read 853 times)

Offline 39LaSalleDriver

  • Posts: 474
  • Name: J. Isaacson
1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« on: December 02, 2021, 09:01:23 PM »
Not that it's anything new, but I feel like a complete idiot now. Yesterday I discovered that my clutch lever (the "U" shaped fork which the clutch mechanism rotates on) has the typical worn out bushing/bearing problem others have discussed on this forum. My only excuse is that my clutch has never been problematic and I just hadn't gotten around to cleaning up/restoring that area, so I never paid much attention to it.

Today I took that assembly apart and cleaned it all up in preparation for refurbishing it. However, I have two questions. The first and most important one is, should the arms on the lever be at perfect 90 degree angles, or should they taper in as mine does (see attached photo)? Being that it is a cast piece I can't imagine that it has been bent in any way, but I can tell from some other haphazard repairs in there that somebody has been messing with it in the past and who knows what they got up to. Seems strange to me that it would be bent at those angles though.  I figured I would ask other more knowledgeable folks before I mess something up. The illustration from the MPL isn't particularly helpful on this point. 

Secondly, are the parts from this section of the clutch assembly to be painted semi-gloss black or left natural?
Jon Isaacson
(formerly USNTar)

1939 LaSalle 5019

Offline Tom Boehm

  • Posts: 702
  • Name: Tom Boehm CLC #6750
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2021, 08:01:46 AM »
As to your color question. I painted mine black like the rest of the chassis. The color of that part is not mentioned in the authenticity manual. I doubt that anyone living knows if it was something else from the factory.

If you PM me your address I will send you a piece of Delrin to make a new bushing for the part in the upper right corner of the picture.

Offline 39LaSalleDriver

  • Posts: 474
  • Name: J. Isaacson
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2021, 11:05:41 AM »
Thanks for your kind offer Tom, but I immediately ordered some Delrin rod when I got the lever off the car yesterday morning. I am curious though, did you have any difficulty getting the Delrin to stretch around the head on that stud? Perhaps have to heat it? In reading through older posts here, I see somebody even cut that stud off and threaded a new one he fabricated on there. I would prefer not to go that far, but will if I have to.

Still debating on whether to paint or not. Mine showed no evidence of it, and being that it is situated near the master cylinder which is also left in the raw, it makes me wonder...I'm somewhat leaning towards leaving it raw though I'd prefer it painted.

I am still more concerned about the angles on my lever/yoke. It just doesn't feel right in my mind for it to look like this      /_\     rather than this     |_|    . But then I've not seen one from another car. I note from the MPL that it is a one year only part (of course) for 50-19s, and 50-61s so it might well be a different configuration from other years.

My offhand observation is that I don't see any evidence that it has been modified at any point (i.e. hammer marks, flat spots where it might have been put in a vice or press, no discoloration from heating). It also doesn't make good sense to try and bend a cast iron or steel piece...lots can and most probably would go wrong. So unless somebody can tell me different, I'm going with the belief that mine is correct as is.
Jon Isaacson
(formerly USNTar)

1939 LaSalle 5019

Offline Tom Boehm

  • Posts: 702
  • Name: Tom Boehm CLC #6750
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2021, 09:28:08 PM »
Hello Tar, The delrin is rigid plastic. The piece of delrin I got was a round rod shape. I shaped it to the size it needs to be. First I drilled a hole down the center slightly larger than the post that bolts to the frame. Use a drill press if you have one to get the hole straight down the center. Next I selected a bolt that fits snugly in the hole and secured it with a nut. I put the bolt in the drill press and used wood lathe tools to carve down the outer diameter of the delrin to the size of the hole in the end of the Ushaped casting. This can be done with a hand held drill also. My method was crude but it worked. The delrin is rigid and does not deform when you step on the clutch pedal. It takes a lot of the play out of the clutch linkage. It also is durable and doesn't wear quickly.

I did not say anything about the U shaped casting because I was not certain of the answer. You said something in your latest post that made things more clear. I have a 1940 Lasalle 50 series and that part on my car is not identical to yours. It is a heavier casting. I was confused because I thought everything on the chassis was identical 39 to 40. BUT you said the book says it was a one year only part.
SO my theory is that the part in 1939 was weak and they improved it in 1940. My guess is that your part is bent. I don't know if it is useable the way it is. I also don't know about your chances of bending the cast iron back into shape.

One idea is to replace it with one that is not bent. Maybe other 1939 owners can say if that is a common problem.
Another idea is to replace it with one from a 1940. I don't know if they are interchangeable. I can measure mine if you want.


Offline NH LaSalle

  • Posts: 21
  • Name: B. Lapham
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2021, 04:06:36 PM »
Hi Jon

I have two `39 La Salles.

Regarding the physical configuration of the clutch yoke, I checked both of my cars.  The part number on both is the same as the one in your photograph.  By eyeball, the two arms are parallel to each other and do not bend towards each other as you described yours does.  To confirm, I measured the inside distance between two points on the arms on both cars.  That turned out to be uniformly about 3-1/2" at the top and the bottom.  I'm not sure why yours bend towards each other at the top.

Regarding the color, by the way that the yoke is secured in the car, I don't believe that it was on the chassis when the latter was painted at the factory.  I'm in agreement with the comments that Jon made in one of his responses: to paraphrase, who knows for sure, so you can do whatever you'd like.

In my case, I've had one of my La Salles for 57 years and the second for 22 years.  During the restoration of my first car, the yoke was black so I repainted it a semi-flat chassis black.  The yoke on my second car had no black paint on it but rather had a patina of surface rust on it.  I presumed that it was not originally painted black so, after cleaning it up, I painted it with a bare steel paint that provides a 'natural' look but prevents the rust.  Why these were originally treated differently (i.e. one apparently painted, one not) I don't know.

Hope this info helps.

Offline 39LaSalleDriver

  • Posts: 474
  • Name: J. Isaacson
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2021, 11:01:26 AM »

Hi Jon

I have two `39 La Salles.

Regarding the physical configuration of the clutch yoke, I checked both of my cars.  The part number on both is the same as the one in your photograph.  By eyeball, the two arms are parallel to each other and do not bend towards each other as you described yours does.  To confirm, I measured the inside distance between two points on the arms on both cars.  That turned out to be uniformly about 3-1/2" at the top and the bottom.  I'm not sure why yours bend towards each other at the top.

Regarding the color, by the way that the yoke is secured in the car, I don't believe that it was on the chassis when the latter was painted at the factory.  I'm in agreement with the comments that Jon made in one of his responses: to paraphrase, who knows for sure, so you can do whatever you'd like.

In my case, I've had one of my La Salles for 57 years and the second for 22 years.  During the restoration of my first car, the yoke was black so I repainted it a semi-flat chassis black.  The yoke on my second car had no black paint on it but rather had a patina of surface rust on it.  I presumed that it was not originally painted black so, after cleaning it up, I painted it with a bare steel paint that provides a 'natural' look but prevents the rust.  Why these were originally treated differently (i.e. one apparently painted, one not) I don't know.

Hope this info helps.

Hard to argue with the man who has had two  ;D. Thank you so much, this is PRECISELY the information I was looking for. You've been more help than you can imagine.

Now, why is mine that way and what to do about it? Tom may well be correct that it was a poor design and changed for 1940. Note that on the 39 lever, the pivot point is at the ends of the arms, whereas the ones from the MPL shows the pivot point moved down to the bottom of the "U" section. A significant design change which would eliminate the usage of any other year model from what I can tell. I don't know that we'll ever know the answer, but I do think the single bolt setup for the stud to mount to the frame was a poor idea too, allowing that stud to potentially shift out of alignment. (BTW, thanks Tom for offering to measure yours, but I don't think that will be necessary now.) As I mentioned, someone has been messing around in there at some point as witnessed by the mangled linkage rod to the transmission (see attached photo). For right now...it works so I'm not going to mess with that, but I can see replacing it should I luck across another one somewhere. Whether the lever was bent deliberately or it just happened over time after the bearing failed and caused it to get contorted in there I don't know.

I have been reevaluating the composition of the lever as well. In digging around a bit, now I'm not convinced it is made of cast iron. It seems it's a good possibility it is made of drop forged steel which apparently can give the appearance of being cast and also has flashing marks around the edge. A technique used frequently in the mass production of heavier parts. That being the case it should be somewhat malleable. I learned a long time ago from a small town mechanic that what can be bent, can be bent back if done carefully. My thinking now is to insert a 1/2" grade 8 bolt or threaded rod with nuts and washers in through the pivot hole for the stud bearing and use that to cantilever the ends back apart. Sort of a reverse "C" clamp if you will. I certainly don't want to go wailing on it with a hammer to try and fix it. 

Finally, the stud setup is going to have to be modified. Notice on mine that there is a button head type of arrangement to keep that bearing in place on the stud. I'd be curious to know how it was done at the factory, whether swaged or something else, but it is clear that it was never intended to be replaced. Yet more evidence that somebody, at some point took out the bronze, steel, and rubber remains of that bearing. Perhaps that was when the lever was bent? Anyway, my solution to this is since the Delrin isn't pliable enough to stretch over that button head, I'm going to have to remove that portion of the stud, and then tap the end out for say a 10-24 bolt. (To answer Tom's question, yes I bought and restored a vintage 1950s floor model Craftsman drill press last winter for just such projects  ;) ) I can then slip the Delrin bearing on the stud, mount it to the lever, and use the bolt and washer with some Loctite to keep the assembly together as originally intended. Won't look quite factory original, but I think it will be an innocuous enough compromise. Side note, I know Brad Ipsen has recommended a replacement bearing from McMaster-Carr which is of the original composition (steel, bronze, rubber) to replace missing originals in the past. He indicates that the pivot hole has to be enlarged to 1" to make this bearing fit. I am sad to report that while that solution may work on other year model levers, they will not fit on the 1939 model as the whole area around the pivot point is only 1" in diameter to begin with.

That's all I have for now. Today I am going to put my plans into action and will report back my results.

Jon Isaacson
(formerly USNTar)

1939 LaSalle 5019

Offline Brad Ipsen CLC #737

  • Posts: 1272
  • CLC Number: 737
  • Name: Brad Ipsen
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2021, 02:58:16 PM »
Using the McMaster replacement bushing has failed in use.  Don't quite understand why but am now trying a Delrin ball.
Brad Ipsen
1940 Cadillac 60S
1938 Cadillac 9039
1940 Cadillac 6267
1940 LaSalle 5227
1949 Cadillac 6237X
1940 Cadillac 60S Limo

Offline 39LaSalleDriver

  • Posts: 474
  • Name: J. Isaacson
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2021, 08:03:19 PM »

Thanks for the update Brad. That method was my first instinct when contemplating restoration. Then when I got the lever off, I saw there was no way it would work for me.

I am happy to report success with this project so far. I was able to use a 1/2" carriage bolt with nuts and washers to press the lever arms back to their rightful position (more or less). My estimation that it is made of drop forged steel seems correct. Took about three minutes to do.

Also modified the stud by grinding off the swelled end, then tapped it for an 8-32 bolt (stud is only 3/8" dia.). Fitted it small bolt and fender washer. Drilled out my 5/8" Delrin rod to make the new bushing. Was a tight fit for the stud, but I reamed it slightly to allow it to rotate nicely. 

While apart, I also took the opportunity to fabricate a new linkage rod out of 3/4" x 3/16" flat stock. Mine was somewhat hogged out where the clevis pins connect. I've also ordered all new clevis pins and disk springs to make sure it's done correctly. Every one of my pins showed substantial wear, and all but one of my disk springs were missing.

All in all it was a profitable day. Looking forward to mounting the whole assembly back into the car later this week, crossing my fingers that it goes back together and works as it should.
Jon Isaacson
(formerly USNTar)

1939 LaSalle 5019

Offline 39LaSalleDriver

  • Posts: 474
  • Name: J. Isaacson
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2021, 06:04:31 PM »

Happy to report that I was able to get the clutch assembly back together today. As it turns out all of my angst about whether the lever was bent or not was a waste. I honestly don't think it would have been able to go back into the car correctly being bent the way it was, so the truth would have become readily apparent.

Thanks again to all who helped with this small project of mine.
Jon Isaacson
(formerly USNTar)

1939 LaSalle 5019

Offline Jay Friedman

  • Posts: 2536
Re: 1939 LaSalle - Clutch Lever
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2021, 09:54:44 PM »
The holes in the lever on my '49s for the clevis pins are .375" in diameter.  I found commercially available clevis pins labelled as 3/8" or .375" in diameter are really about .371" in diameter and won't press fit into the lever.  I had to make clevis pins about .377" in diameter on a lathe so that they press fit into the lever and would stay in place. 
1949 Cadillac 6107 Club Coupe
1932 Ford V8 Phaeton (restored, not a rod).  Sold
Decatur, Georgia
CLC # 3210, since 1984
"If it won't work, get a bigger hammer."

 

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