Last week I posted a piece on the ABU/Garcia 5500C and how this new reel offered anglers the ability to buy a factory “high-speed” reel. This week I’m going to discuss what today would be called 1970s Tuner Gear Kits. These high-speed conversion gear kits allowed an angler to change out the old 3.75:1 gears in the ABU 5000 and 6000 reels and improve the ratio to near 5.0:1.
ABU’s release of this reel didn’t stop the production of aftermarket gear kits. In fact, gear kits continued to be sold by the box load through the 80s to retrofit the thousands of early ABU reels and in some cases the Daiwa Millionaire series reels that still had the 3.75:1 gear ratio.
Earlier this year we talked about one of these gear kits produced by none other than Mr. Speed himself, Lew Childre. We’ve also touched upon a couple more gear kits that were shown in catalogs. Today we’ll take a deeper dive into the subject and talk about the companies I know of and the pros and cons of each set.
To start off, let’s recap the Lew Childre Speed Spool Gear Kit. The ad shown at the top of the page is from 1974 and was taken out of a 1974 Bassmaster magazine. The ad says, “Hop up your Ambassadeurs and Millionaires in Minutes!”
The kit fit in any ABU 5000, 5000A, 5000B, 5000C, 6000, 6000C and Daiwa Millionaire and would increase the retrieve ratio from 3.75:1 to 4.8:1. That’s a significant increase in IPT. The kit was touted as having, “precision hobbed gears for liquid-smooth quiet action rather than milled gears from the competition.”
The gears were made from cold-rolled steel and half-hard brass for wear. The teeth were machined larger than normal to decrease wear and they were cheaper than the competition – although they do not give a price.
As with any Lew’s product of the time, I expect the kits were high quality but looking at the picture, I see a flaw. The pinion gear is missing a support ring on the end that meshes with the spool. Over my years working at the tackle shop, I repaired several reels that had been forced into gear as the bait was about to hit the water. This action would put undue stress on the pinion gear resulting in the gear breaking at the slot. This feature wouldn’t become standard on gears for another couple of years.
The next gear kit I found was a company I’d never heard of before, Greg’s Enterprises. The Greg’s 5 to 1 Gear Conversion Kit was faster than the Lew’s kit, but the ad lacked in a description of the gears. The year of this ad is 1975 and for the $6.00 Field-Tester offer, if I had seen it, I would have jumped on it.
Like the Lew’s conversion kit, Greg’s pinion gear is missing the support ring around the slotted end of the gear. They don’t state the materials the main and pinions are made from, but I would wager to guess they were brass for the pinion and aluminum for the main – the standard for the day.
Greg’s also offered a power handle to replace the small double handle or counter-balanced handle on your ABU or Millionaire for the price of $2.25. Not a bad deal at all.
We’ve mentioned Lebercko and their Buzz Gears before, but today we’ll look a little deeper into the kit. Lebercko was one of the first companies to offer a gear kit to increase the ratio of the ABU 5000 and 6000 series reels.
The ad shown is from 1975 and Lebercko is advertising their new gear set with the improved pinion gear – I believe they were the first company to do this. In order to overcome the pressure exerted on the slot of the pinion gear, they placed a brass ring around the circumference of the gear. This solved the problem mentioned in the gear kits above. The ring would become standard on pretty much all reels in the future.
Unfortunately for Lebercko and their Buzz Gears, it was a solution too late. The original gears had a penchant for breaking prior to the improvement and, at least in my part of the country, their reputation had already been riddled with bad press. We couldn’t sell their gear kits, even after the improvement.
The final aftermarket gear kit we’re going to discuss is none other than ABU’s. I guess when you realize others are making tuner parts for your product, you might as well offer OEM parts for your own product.
The ad presented here came from a 1977 Out House mail order catalog. The curious thing about this ad is what they provide as the gear ratio for the kit – 4.7:1. This is not the same as the 5.0:1 ratio they touted in 1973 for their new 5500C reels we presented in High-Speed Reel Evolution a few days ago.
This inconsistency made me wonder if the real ratio for the 5500C in 1973 was 4.7:1 and they just rounded that value up or, if they went down from 5.0:1 to 4.7:1 after 1973. So a digging I went to try to find the answer.
Thankfully I have a good stock of Garcia Fishing Annuals and that’s where I started. I pulled the 1974 through 1978 (thanks Andy Williamson!) and checked the specifications for each year. In the 1974 Annual, they had changed the specification for the gear ratio to 4.7:1. Further research through the 75-78 catalogs confirmed 4.7:1. So, what I feel we have here is a typical case of rounding. I also wonder if someone measured the gears and wrote to Garcia telling them the gears were not 5:1 but 4.7:1.
With that rabbit hole figured out, let’s look further into what ABU/Garcia had to offer in this gear kit.
The kit came with a main gear, pinion gear new drag washer, the click wheel and a drive shaft bearing – all for $9.95. The ad also stated that their kit was, “The only conversion kit that is covered by your valuable Garcia Ambassadeur guarantee!” The kit came in two models, one for the bushing reels and a different one for the bearing reels.
That’s all I have for today regarding high-speed gear kits for the old ABU reels. I know there are more out there, like Cotton Cordell’s kit, but I haven’t run across any ads for the others at this time. When I do, I’ll either add them to this article or write a new one. So, if any of you readers out there know of any gear kit ads that I haven’t covered, please drop me a line in the comments section or send me an email. I’ll gladly take the info and work on it.