Switching to overdrive with automatic performance


In the past, people associated broadcast stores with TV commercials featuring an iconic “double beep”. This might be good for the crowd looking for the early bird special at supper time, but for those eating giant bacon-wrapped dogs and barbecued ribs on the trail, there is a another type of transmission store that whets their appetites much better.

We followed the roadmap and ended up in Frederick, MD, to visit a store that knows a thing or two about performance transmissions for hot rods, musclecars, and race cars. Performance Automatic (PA) has been in their game for over 36 years, with a notable reputation for its C4 transmission built in the 1990s in conjunction with racers NMRA and Fun Ford Weekend.

Parts and more parts: Every transmission is demolished for construction, with stronger components replacing many of the original parts.

Some of PA’s revolutionary products include hardened shafts, transbrake valve bodies, servos, and Pro-Fit bell housings. As the Mustang market grew, PA followed suit, offering AOD and AODE / 4R70W drivetrain versions to help racers compete.

Today, you can find the team hard at work building over 300 performance C4 transmissions each year. Add in Ford’s new generation of electronic automatic transmissions and GM’s 4L60E, 4L70E and 4L80E, and you can see the numbers are staggering. PA’s Matt Jewell tells us that their GM offerings represent more than half of their total sales.

Ty gets the transmission on the bench, then the teardown begins. We think he could do it with his eyes closed; he knows what he’s doing.

Automatic transmissions in racing applications

You might think that a performance car needs a manual transmission to be a real muscle car or a race car, and you’ve probably seen the memes on social media to reinforce that. But the automatic transmission has real advantages over the manual transmission, thanks to performance constructions that can handle up to 1,000 horsepower and beyond.

Adding a transbrake to an automatic transmission allows the driver to create revs, instead of dumping a clutch at high revs and hoping for traction, the trans brake is released and the car can roll into the power range. . When a manual transmission is on the line, those extra tenths can add up quickly when the clutches or tires start to slip.

No matter where we turned, more parts and components were ready for construction. PA builds hundreds every year.

Another advantage is that today’s modern transmissions are electronically controlled, meaning that the shift points, firmness and aggressiveness of gear changes can all be controlled by a computer instead of proceeding. a complete rebuild when your preferences change. Plus, many of today’s high-performance automatic transmissions can shift faster than any human, which means a quick transition from one gear to another when accelerating down the track.

The automatic transmissions built by Performance Automatic aren’t just for the track; these constructions are of great benefit to rodder and muscle car enthusiasts. The typical transmission for classic cars and trucks was a proven 3-speed automatic or a 4-speed manual. Overdrive wasn’t something that many cars had, but swapping into a modern electronic overdrive transmission helps put those old beasts back on the road with better fuel economy and better handling.

New construction awaiting final inspection and packaging.

In the early years of hot rodding, we didn’t care much about fuel consumption because we could fill a car with $ 20 and still have change for a burger. Today, a full tank can cost as much as $ 65 to $ 80 depending on the size of the tank. With a range of just under 150 miles for a tank of gas, a weekend can get expensive.

Add overdrive and you can sometimes go up to 50 extra miles on a juice tank, making it a little less painful at the pump. This is what has a huge impact on the classic automobile world. Matt said, “Even though your typical Big 3 3- and 4-speed non-electronic transmissions are still great sellers, Ford’s AODE / 4R70W and 6R80 transmissions, and GM 4L60E, 4L70E, 4L80E applications are escalating. . “

How can you even keep track of all those parts and tools? They are coping, we wouldn’t know where to start.

“A change has happened with our business which is driven by many large mail order houses, as well as event sponsorship with Goodguys and the National Street Rod Association,” Matt told us. “More GM transmissions and electronic overdrive transmission packages are now in demand.”

With this increase in demands, PA began to develop its Street Smart packages for Ford, GM and Chrysler. “These packages come with transmissions, converters, gauges and transmission media,” he told us. For electronic overdrive transmissions, PA also includes the transmission controller; these aftermarket PCS, MSD and US Shift controllers allow the user to select and change key transmission functions without returning to the store.

R&D and dynamometric testing has enabled us to offer customized kits for the consumer that are guaranteed to exceed their specifications. –Matt Jewell, Automatic Performance

Matt said, “We choose the best possible unit for each drivetrain design. R&D and torque testing have enabled us to offer consumer-tailored kits that are guaranteed to exceed their specifications. This translates into the ability to drive your car on the track or autocross with a smooth street air and then once on the track make a few adjustments and you have the adjustable shift preferences we talked about earlier. .

“Electronic overdrive transmission installations are becoming more and more popular,” said Matt, “but they pose unique situations as many customers are new to this type of transmission and may need additional technical assistance for issues. issues of wiring, initial setup parameters, etc. with the best products available and with knowledgeable staff in place, our customers can rest assured that even the novice will complete their project and get back on the road with a minimum of fuss.

Accessories and controllers are readily available for each version.

Adaptation to your performance requirements and your transtunnel

You can imagine with the extra gearing and electronics that these overdrive transmissions could take up a little more room in a transmission tunnel than what was designed for the anemic 3 gears they came with. This is where R&D benefits the customer, as PA does all the hard work to make sure the transmissions will fit your car. This includes determining where a little persuasion might be needed to clean the components and to mount the drivetrain to your chassis.

Matt said, “We are always working with the customer to meet their needs in terms of power, cost, physical size and equipment. PA also offers additional components and accessories, such as flex plates, forks, shifters and transmission coolers, to name a few.

Each transmission is tested before it is packaged and shipped.

Regarding power rating, Matt tells us that PA can offer either Stage 1 or Stage 2 transmission packages to meet power requirements. “We have transmissions that range from 450 horsepower to over 1,000 horsepower, depending on the application,” he told us. “Our warranties are considered to be among the best in the industry, ranging from one year to a lifetime.”

Performance Automatic Street Smart packages are sold more than individual transmissions; Matt explained that this is because the end user wants to include as many matched components as possible to make installation easier. Some of these requests can include anything from finishing the drivetrain in a custom powder coating to the specific material used. While most of these transmissions are not visible once installed, many owners like to put mirrors down at auto shows and events showcasing their custom drivetrain.

You will find that Performance Automatic attends many major shows and events each year. While we were there they were packing their bags and heading to Louisville for the Street Rod Nationals.

Automatic performance expands for 2019

We asked what lies ahead for the future, with a specific nod to the Mopar crowd. While PA offers a performance TorqueFlite drivetrain, it is well known that the A518 automatic is a rough fit for most classic cars. But there is good news on the horizon for Mopar enthusiasts.

“New for 2019 will be both small and large block Chrysler 4L70E sets,” said Matt, “which will be complete with adapters, a transmission and converter, as well as a transmission controller. We believe the 4L70E will fit better and perform perfectly for the Chrysler loyalists looking for a 650 horsepower package.

PA is also expanding its lineup to include the Street Smart Pro package, which will cover higher wattage applications for the 4L60E, 4L70E and 4L80E. PA will continue with Ford apps, including EcoBoost, Mod Motor and Coyote apps.

From start to finish, the cores are brought in, demolished, rebuilt and packed for shipping.

It seems that people love to drive their classics more than ever. Making it a lot more fun and bringing technology into this century is all the rage. Performance Automatic integrates performance into the art of shifting by making it possible to enjoy even more of those weekend cruises with better overdrive economy, these transmissions can handle any type of power that today’s enthusiasts do. hui put under the hood.

We learned a lot from our trip east to Performance Automatic, and you can find them on the web at www.PerformanceAutomatic.com. Whether your build is for the street or the track, give the guys a call and let them know where your budget and goals are. They can get you up to speed to get your project back on the sidewalk.

It’s hard work, but someone has to do it. Performance Automatic also manufactures some of its own components.


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