Did you stay up late on Christmas eve trying to get a glimpse of Santa when you were young? Ever go searching for Drop Bears? What about chasing the rainbow trying to find the pot of gold at the end? Ever try to trap a Leprechaun? Seen any Yeti or Loc Ness Monsters lately? If you still do now then you should probably stop reading this because reality is not for you.
I get these phone calls at least once a week, "I've got a twin turbo 1000Hp Gen 3 and I want a hi stall for my 4L60E, the box is built and will handle the power." Sure it will, for how long? 5 seconds? Till it comes on boost? Or maybe it will handle the power while it's sitting on your workshop floor not bolted to the engine because as sure as my arse is pointing to the ground while I write this blog, it's not going to handle 1000Hp!
I have heard of these mythical 1000Hp T700's, 4L60E's, LE 85, 93, 95, 97 and BA 4 speed boxes but to this day I have never seen one that actually handles anywhere near 1000Hp, the fact is that at even half that power (500Hp) you are pushing the friendship. The story always starts the same way, the newly cammed up (LS) or boosted (Ford 6) smokes the gearbox and the phone calls begin. Most shops will advise the customer that the box will not handle more than 400 to 500Hp but then you ring Merlin the magician that can turn lead into gold.
Merlin will start by telling you that he "Cryogeniclly" treats the shafts, and Merlin uses special clutches and special "Billet" servos, and Merlin will do it cheaper and he will warrant his transmissions. Merlin is full of shit, he can't perform miracles but he can cast spells! What Merlin will do is cast the "Empty your pockets and give me all the money" spell. So what happens next? Please read on:
Step1: You go to pick the car up and the price has gone up from the quote over the phone. Merlin will tell you that he has built you a special gearbox with exotic parts from lands far away, that your trans was in worse condition than even he expected because your engine is so much more powerful than all the others. In reality he just told you what you wanted to hear to get the job, now hes going to charge you what he wants to because he's got your car and you need your car back. Now Merlin won't always pull this trick, if he thinks your dumb enough or proud enough he might quote you more than everyone else because he knows you think quality cost more. Reality is that there are no mystical special parts that exist, especially for the Ford trans. Just Smoke and mirrors!
Step 2: If you do really have more than 600Hp and drive it hard, the new cryo billet unbreakable trans will fail. How long it takes will depend on how hard you drive it, what diff ratio you have and how much traction it has. On average most fail on the second pass with slicks, some take longer but it will fail. If you drive it soft, run low gears (3.9 or 4.11) and never put sticky tyres on it or push it with a full car load of passengers, then it might never fail, but neither would a mild or standard trans that would have cost half as much from a reputable trans builder!
Step 3: You have warranty, I mean you were promised that it would never fail and that if it did you had warranty. Second and Fourth gear are the ones that go, it could be the band on either the Ford or the Holden trans or the 3-4 clutch pack on the Holden box. Either way it's usually second or fourth that goes first, usually both. You pick the car up and there is a bill, you ask, "Whats the bill for?" Merlin points to the sign on the wall that says Electrical Components are not covered under Warranty. Merlin softens the blow to your pocket by adding that your car is super fast and that he made some more modifications to make it even stronger. He has just cast another spell on you to loosen a few more dollars out of your pocket and managed to convince you again that he does these all the time and that it is super strong. He's only half lieing to you, he does do this to customers like you ALL THE TIME!!!!
Step 4: Repeat Step2 and Step3 until you either do one of the following:
1. Stop beating up on your car (third most common)
2. Change the box for one that will handle the power
3. Run out of money (most common)
4. Sell the car (second most common)
This is what really happens: Merlin gets richer and your car gets parked up. There are no Easter Bunny's, No Santa Clause, and No 1000Hp Ford and Holden factory 4 speed transmissions. Merlin has friends in the Motor Vehicle Board, so forget consumer protection, he has cast his spell on them; once he realises the heat is on he shuts shop, moves or changes his trading name or buys another shop. He will get richer and he will always be there to take your money. Merlin does not care how much power your car makes or what you want to do with your car, he just wants your money and he will do whatever it takes to get it. Unlike his mythical bullet proof boxes Merlin does exist and in Perth we have many Merlin's!
How do you avoid having a spell cast on you? Easy, use one of the following transmissions in your car:
Powerglide: 2 speed transmission, they are rated at 850Hp with a standard V8 planetary gear set and 1150Hp with straight cut gears. Higher output versions are available but usually require an aftermarket case. Excellent choice for Turbo or Supercharged engines.
Turbo 400: They are also rated at 850Hp with standard planetary gear set but must be fitted with 34 element sprag , 3 speed transmission, works great with naturally aspirated combinations. We recommend FORWARD shift manual valve bodies that retains engine braking in all gears. Reverse shift valve bodies create excessive load on the sprag. You can (and we have) used T400's with turbo and supercharged combos but the low first gear (2.48 compared to 1.76 in a powerglide) can make them difficult to hook the car up on the track but some people like the 3 gears on the street.
4L80E: Once again rated at 850Hp with the Heavy Duty sprag. 4 speed GM trans that was fitted to Big Block Suburbans and trucks, also used by Allison in diesel applications. Very heavy trans, basically a 4 speed T400, it is electronically shifted so it needs a computer to run it. It will work with the 4L60E computer and Hughes makes an adapter harness. Very expensive to build and tricky to tune with the factory GM computer. Not my favorite choice but if you want 4 gears and a lock up converter than this is the trans for you. You can avoid all the complication of running the factory style computer by using a controller from shiftkits.com.au. Jamie has solved a lot of the problems associated with various electronically controlled 4 speed transmissions and we use shiftkits.com regularly when we do conversions so the factory computer doesn't give us any problems. I can vouch for his products, they work!
There are a few others that we have used and made work but I like to keep things simple, as far as street cars go these are the best choices available for engines that make more than 600Hp. Proof is in the results so think about these cars:
Rod Sammut XR6 Turbo 8.7 seconds full weight street car POWERGLIDE.
Eddy Tassone Holden Monaro GTO LS Naturally Aspirated 9.3 seconds full weight street car T400.
As I have said we have used some other tranmissions especially for Japanese cars but for your Aussie V8's and Turbo 6 these are the simplest most practical ones to use. If you are a Ford V8 owner (BA onwards) don't buy a US built trans with a US belhousing. The starter motor is totally different and hits on the steering, you then need to get someone to redesign, modify and do their head in to make a bracket for the starter. Or you can do this is you feel that you need to spend 3 times as much to do the same job, that's up to you!
Merlin also builds T400's and Powerglide boxes, take note Steps 2 and 3. Make sure whoever you go too knows what he's doing, don't be fooled by smoke and mirrors, do your research find out who uses that companies stuff, compare prices and compare specifications, DO YOUR HOME WORK!!!!!!!
Lastly, don't assume that the US companies build better transmissions, some build very good transmissions but some build junk. If you order a box direct from a US company, what are you going to do if it fails or doesn't even work? If you are dealing with an Australian wholesaler at least you can go back to them, but before you hand over the cash make sure they will look after you if there is a problem. A parts shop can't help you if you have a problem, they normally drop the "No warranty on performance products" line. Then you will be back at Steps 2 and 3 again!!!! DO YOUR HOME WORK!!!!!!!