It Finally Happened: My ’66 F-100 Breaks Down With A Busted Transmission

I heard it coming, starting last winter. There was an ever-louder howl from the “bullet proof” B/W T-85 transmission in first and second gear. It had to be one of the bearings. It was perfectly fine in third, so maybe the counter shaft? But I’m not (yet) an expert on these.

I’ve been using the truck as little as possible, and procrastinating about dealing with it. I had to get some gravel and concrete pads for the four mini-splits I’m installing in my rentals. On the way home I turned a corner and downshifted into second, and when I started accelerating, a horrible clanging sound emanated from down there. Game up.

I eased over to the side of this road. Now what? It did it in first gear too. Maybe I can nurse it home in third? I tried that, slipping the clutch gently. It sounded perfectly fine, and I got the truck up to a bit of speed. But I was hauling a pretty good load, and there were going to be a couple of steepish starts from a light to deal with. Uncharacteristically, I decided not to risk it. This was a much better spot to be broken down in than some others on the way home.

So for the first time in 34 years with the truck, I called for a tow. The last time it broke down about 15 years ago, with a broken fiber cam gear, I had Stephanie tow me home with the Forester. But it was empty then, and the TSX doesn’t have a tow hitch, and…I’m older and wiser, maybe a wee bit anyway.

Now it’s sitting in front of the house. I have to rent a trailer tomorrow for the Promaster to get the gravel out and finish the job. And I’m pondering my options, which are not so good.

I went to, which showed a bunch of various T85 rebuild kits. But when I called them, the guy said they had none, and that parts for these were getting hard to come by. I hope a deeper search will turn one up.

Look for a used transmission? There’s currently two on eBay; on for $995 and another for $2100. And just what condition are they in?

For right now, the plan is to try to find the parts and think about what it’s going to take to fix; myself or a pro. In the meantime, I’m keeping an eye out for a good utility trailer.

This is the point when a lot of old cars and trucks get parked in the side yard, and a newer vehicle replaces them. It’s something to consider. But me and my truck are pretty deeply bonded. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet.