4 Speed swap in wood grain wagon!

Discussion in 'Station Wagon Projects' started by cutlassmike, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    Well, I never thought when I was a kid that I would be at the point in my life where I would be looking at a 1988 full sized, 4 door, wood grain clad, white, 8 passenger wagon and saying "Dam that's sweet". But here I am.

    My name is Mike, but I go by CutlassMike. I'm a hobby builder out of Winnipeg MB Canada. I have had and still have a number of cars with a recurring theme; 1968 Camaro with a Richmond ROD 6 speed, 1928 Henry Roadster with a M20, 1984 Cutlass with a M20 {my name sake}, 1959 Bel-Air 2 door hard top with a T56 {Canadian model}, 1964 Merc Parklane with a factory Super T10. Yep, I like manuals. All frame off resto-mod builds.

    I have 1 wife, 3 daughters and 3 dogs... It seemed time for a wagon. LOL Found this white 1988 Caprice Classic Estate on my local buy-and-sell. Went to look at it expecting condition equal to that of a derby car. Found it to be in EXCELLENT original shape. Original paint, wood grain, interior and trim all in fantastic condition Albeit the headliner was sagging. Some one in the cars past had swapped the original 307 Olds for a 403 Olds so that it would be more conducive to towing his fishing boat. Put on a class 2, 1.5" and he used it. Knda smart as the 307 and 403 are identical from the outside.
    Now the 403 is a OK motor but this one was choked with emissions and low compression as well as being quite a leaker. Wagon still has it's CCC wiring. I had a good compression 350 truck motor out of a 1982 Chevy C10. I was told it was rebuilt about 10km before I bought the truck {we have all heard that story}. Low and behold, after I pulled the pan, valve covers and heads for a look see; I would have to conquer that it was indeed recently rebuilt. Bearings were golden, pistons were beautiful, machinist had stamped all the connecting rods buy cylinder number, no cylinder ring, and the cross hatching was still VERY much there and fresh. Not a performance motor for sure but a solid remand engine with 4 bolt mains.
    That same C10 also came with that weird GM/Dodge love child transmission the A833/NV440, MY6. It's a 4 speed with the 4th gear being .73:1 overdrive. That trans was the reason I bought the truck, the motor was a bonus. Aluminum case, 100% complete from the shifter to the inspection cover. I gasketed the trans externally as the inside was clean and lovely with no damage , rust, and nice crisp gears.

    With this thread I would like to document what is involved with swapping a four speed into this 1988 Caprice wagon. This info could be applied to pretty much ANY 1977-1992 Chevy and BOP full sized B body.
     
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  2. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    Here is an EXCELLENT write up I found on line. This is NOT my write up but I found it VERY helpful and as this project went along I found it to be very accurite.


    1977 to 1990 Full Size Chevrolet Manual Transmission conversion instructions with materials list:

    Foreword: GM must have had intentions of a manual transmission option for these cars in the beginning stages of development, as all the appropriate knockouts are there, just waiting to be used.

    PLEASE READ THESE INSTRUCTIONS FULLY BEFORE ANY WORK IS DONE. IF YOU ARE NOT MECHANICALLY INCLINED AND USED TO PERFORMING “MODIFICATIONS”, EITHER GET A MORE EXPERIENCED PERSON TO DO IT OR GET THEM TO HELP YOU. I STRONGLY SUGGEST YOU READ THROUGH THE PROCEDURE THOROUGHLY AND UNDERSTAND IT COMPLETELY, BEFORE YOU BEGIN WORK.

    Parts needed for the conversion of the ‘77-’90 B-body full size Chevy is as follows:

    The changeover can be performed using all factory stock, non-modified parts with the exception of the stock Impala brake pedal which will have to be heated, bent and the tread pad cut down to smaller size.

    NOTE: BE ADVISED SOME CHEVROLET MOTORS DO NOT HAVE PROVISIONS FOR MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS. THESE NECESSARY PROVISIONS INCLUDE, BLOCK MOUNTING POINTS FOR THE CLUTCH PIVOT BALL STUD AND THE CRANKSHAFT MUST BE COUNTER BORED TO ACCEPT THE CLUTCH INPUT SHAFT BUSHING. WITHOUT THESE IN PLACE, YOU CANNOT PROCEED WITH THE INSTALLATION. I HAVE READ SOME 305’S DIDN’T HAVE ONE OR BOTH OF THESE NEEDED ITEMS. CHECK THESE AREAS BEFORE GOING ANY FURTHER. THESE AREAS CAN BE IDENTIFIED USING COMMON CHILTON MANUALS, IF THERE IS ANY QUESTION AS TO THEIR LOCATIONS.

    Parts List: All of the items can be sourced from any manual transmission 70-81 Camaro and Firebird (1) & 75-79 Nova and GM clones (1).

    Footnote;

    (1). The pedals only can be used from the Firebird and GM clones, unless they are factory equipped with the small block Chevy engine, then all pieces can be used. There are differences in the bell housings, z-bars, mounting plates and linkage components.


    1. Complete clutch linkage set from the second generation Camaro (or suitable other source…read above footnote). This includes; Z-Bar, Frame mounting plate, upper and lower push rod assemblies, including threaded lower adjustment rod and lock nut. You will also need the screw in block pivot ball/stud and the Camaro clutch pedal. The stock Camaro brake pedal can be discarded, as it is not going to be needed.

    2. A stock V-8 Chevrolet Bell housing. To my knowledge, only the Monza bell is different. Also the newer style Camaro bells can’t be used due to the angled mounting for the transmission. Stick to the old second generation Camaro style.

    3. Manual transmission of your choice. This could be any factory style 3, 4 or 5 speed transmissions. Saginaw transmissions can be used in milder horsepower applications and offer a wider variety of internal ratios. With sensible driving these transmissions work fine. A better choice would be a Borg Warner T-10, especially the one with 2.88 first gear ratio. These were found in late 70’s and early 80’s Camaros.

    4. Shifter of your choice. I used a early 80’s “wedgie” style Camaro 4 speed shifter. This worked beautifully with the stock bench seat, although I had to keep the seat the whole way back to allow room enough for shifts to second and fourth. I reversed the shifter arm in the socket to achieve this needed reversed “dogleg bend” to clear the seat. If an aftermarket Hurst shifter is used, several different styles of shifter levers are available to provide just about any odd-bend you may have. Remember to cut the hole in the floor just big enough to clear the mechanism. This leads to a neater, more factory appearing installation and avoids the necessity of the unsightly “Mega Boot”. The factory style pressed metal hump from the donor 2nd gen. Camaro could be used to provide a more finished look. If you are running a Borg-Warner T-10, then you should be able to use the matching Camaro shifter, dust seal, boot and ring right onto the “hump” plate. The use of factory parts further creates a “factory installed” look.

    5. Transmission output yoke to suit transmission to be installed. Keep in mind Muncie and Borg Warner transmissions use the large Turbo 400 style yoke, and therefore, must be used. The use of the larger output yoke may require shortening of the driveshaft. Measure accordingly. Make sure you have adequate “slip” distance! If you are replacing a turbo 350 or other small output shaft diameter trans with a Saginaw, your existing driveshaft will most likely work without shortening.

    6. New transmission mount to suit transmission. You may need to do some research here to find the right mount with the single stud to match the stock crossmember. Saginaw swaps can simply use the same type of trans mount as a turbo 350. The stock cross member bolted right into the same existing holes in the frame. Since the TH 350 uses a single stud, you may be able to bolt this mount to the Muncie or BW. This is only an assumption; you will have to verify this on your own. Perhaps the stock rear x-member has enough room to drill 2 more slots in it to use the double bolt mount. Again, check and plan accordingly. Install the crossmember.

    7. Speedometer bolts right onto manual trans. I encountered no conflicts here. The speedo gear may or may not produce the correct reading, due to a different speedo gear. If it is obvious the speedo is way off, follow a friend out the road and compare readings… add or subtract accordingly. You should get the correct gear to keep things accurate. You wouldn’t want someone else unfamiliar with it driving the car and getting a ticket.

    8. Fabricate a locator rod from threaded rod bought from the local Home Depot or hardware store. I believe you need to get 3/8” coarse thread rod. Measure off 12” and grind down the one end to reduce the diameter. Grind off enough material to allow the end of the locator rod to slip into the frame mounting plate slot.

    INSTALLATION:

    NOTE: You may want to remove the front seat to make things a lot easier to get at. This also keeps things from getting dirty and greased up. Care exercised here will make the end result look like it was meant to be there.

    1. Begin by removing stock brake pedal and cross pin. Modify the stock brake pedal by careful heating and bending to spec. Use care when removing pedal as to avoid damaging brake light switch and brake master cylinder push rod. You will also notice the insulated floor padding has a round perforated corresponding “knock out” section. Carefully push it out and clear away the insulation behind. Remove plug in firewall located to the immediate right of the master fuse block. If I remember correctly, it is a knockout plug. If your car has cruise control, there will be soft vacuum lines running thru here that will need to be relocated. Next hang the modified Camaro pedal with the modified stock brake pedal. It’s a good idea to lube the pivot point/bushings at this time! Make sure you re-attach the brake push rod and make sure you re-install the brake light plunger switch. (You do not want to get a ticket, or rear-ended, on your maiden voyage with your new manual transmission!) Feed the upper push rod thru the opening. You may need to fine-tune the lateral location of the rod thru the opening with a few large diameter washers. Install a clutch return spring and hook it to the bracing under the dash. You may want to put some sort of flap or rubber piece around the hole to keep out bugs and water. I never got around to doing this, but I never seen any water leaking in… if the donor Camaro “accordion boot” is in good shape, I can’t see why it wouldn’t work. You may also want to put some sort of bumper or rubber hose section up where the clutch pedal may hit the bracing. On stick optioned cars there is a bumper to prevent noise.

    2. Raise the front of the car and support on jackstands high enough to safely remove and install the transmissions. Remove the driver’s side wheel. The rear corner of the inner wheelhouse will have to be trimmed. I used tin snips, but it looked pretty rough. The inner fenders are much tougher than they look. Perhaps an air nibbler or maybe some sort of dremel or small cut-off wheel could be used. The ultimate thing to do, is mark accordingly and remove the wheelhouse and cut on the bench. Refer to the drawing for proper cutting. Thread the 12” locator rod into the clutch ball-mounting hole into the side of the block. This projects a line across to the exact location the end of the Z-bar. Place the slot of the factory Camaro frame mount plate over the end of the rod and transfer the locations of the three holes to the big cars frame. You could use transfer punches or spray paint to help mark the proper hole locations. The plate will need to bent/rotated slightly, counter-clockwise, looking down from the top. This can be achieved by removing the plate, heating and bending the appropriate amount in the bench vice. Reinstall the plate and check for fit.
    With the plate mounted securely, remove the locator rod and install the factory style pivot ball stud in the block. You will be using the rear hole, right above the oil filter boss, as the front is used for Chevy II applications only. Move on the next step.

    3. Remove the factory exhaust system and put aside. I had no problems in my instance. I used the stock iron manifolds and single exhaust “Y” pipe. Everything bolts back together fine, including the converter, etc. I would have to speculate about the fitment of tubular headers. I have used Camaro/Nova headers on full sized boxy Chevy before, and they bolt right up, but then I was using a TH350 automatic…

    4. Remove the factory automatic transmission, don’t forget to remove the kickdown cable and dip stick tube, as well as unhooking the speedo cable. Remove the factory flex plate and install an input shaft bushing in the end of the crank. At this point measure back from the back mounting surface of the motor to determine where the hole in the floor board needs to be to accommodate the shifter mechanism. My car required 24” to work, your car may be different. You may want to bolt the bell to the trans and put the shifter on temporarily to get an exact measurement. Measure twice and cut once. I cut a smaller hole in the floor and ended up fine-tuning it with tin snips later. This produced beautiful results, which looked entirely factory.

    5. Depending on your choice of flywheel/clutch size, you may have to change the starter. There are 2 different flex plate/flywheel diameters so have your man at the parts store cross reference your existing starter to one from the car your manual is coming from. He may need to know the ring gear diameter or number of teeth. These are the best ways to ID what you have. Buy the appropriate items beforehand to make the transition an easy, one weekend affair.

    6. Install the flywheel and clutch assembly. It’s a good idea to pre-install the shifter and shifter rods while the transmission is out, I did mine on the workbench. Adjust the rods using the gauge rod, as per the manufacturers instructions. Install the transmission and shifter, less handle, for ease of installation. Carefully raise the trans in place with a floor jack. As it pivots up into place check for interference between the shifter linkage rods and the transmission tunnel. I had to get out the big mallet (BFH) and “adjust” the tunnel about 1/8th of an inch for the needed clearance. Also check for interference with your hole for the shifter. Trim and modify as necessary. Make sure you have at least ¼” clearance between moving parts to avoid rattles.

    7. Install the z-bar by sliding the end onto the block stud and lowering the bar stud into the slot on the frame plate. A critical area here to look at is to make sure the z-bar does not rub on the metal brake lines that run down the top of the frame rail in this area. Since this bar is basically ball pivoted at both ends, one could raise the frame end of the z-bar if you had to clear any possible interference. I kept about ¼ inch distance between my parts and had a friend watch during full travel movement to assure there was no rubbing throughout the entire range of motion.

    8. Connect the linkage rod from the bell crank to the shifter fork. Adjust as you would any other factory clutch. Refer to shop manual if you are unfamiliar with this operation. Look at a (2nd Gen.) Camaro or Nova (boxy 75-80 style) book to get the directions/detail views. Don’t forget to add a clutch return spring from the fork towards the front of the car. The illustration in the book will show you exactly how it needs to be. Check for proper engagement and release of clutch.

    9. Install the crossmember at this time, keeping in mind the mount as mentioned above.

    10. Re-install the driveshaft. If you kept the Saginaw style trans., it should bolt up fine. Check to make sure you have enough slip in the yoke. The generally accepted slip distance is about ¾ inch. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this, get a friend to show you how. With the driveshaft o.k. And correctly installed, you can proceed with the next step.

    11. Re-install the exhaust system and make sure there are no leaks. Replace any bad sections if necessary.

    12. Test drive in a safe area to assure proper operation. Recheck all your fasteners. You are done.

    Once you are satisfied all is well, take it for a test run. The car should behave like a completely different animal now. Depending upon your choice of transmission and rear end gearing, the car should be very responsive. You will also quickly begin to notice car guys doing double takes at the sound of a clutch coming from such an unlikely source.

    Above all enjoy your work!!

    Some last words:

    The above mentioned process worked for me. My car was an ’85 model and I am assuming the last few years also had the appropriate provisions already in place to complete the job. You should check your car beforehand to assure everything is good to go. I cannot and will not be held responsible for any accident, injury or damages resulting from installing the manual transmission. It all fit together fine using the parts I had… any deviation from this may result in some problems, which you will have to figure out on your own. You will have to figure out the reverse lights on your own too, as different transmissions have different ways of turning on the reverse lights.. BW in Camaros have some sort of big linkage set-up that actually rotates the rear of the steering column sleeve to get the lights to work. Other transmissions have an actual plunger switch screwed into the case that work when the reverse lever is used from the shifter above. This will have to be resolved on a case-by-case basis. I simply put my reverse lights on a separate switch and left it at that.

    I’m sure others will come up with different combos or slightly different methods of achieving the same ends. Above all be patient, and through in the installation. I can’t stress enough to work under the car safely and to have an experienced helper with you, if you feel uncomfortable with any part of this operation. I have performed many non-stock swaps and feel comfortable with the heating and bending operation.

    It is also my suspicion that the clutch installation should work on 4 door sedans, 2 door sedans and wagons, as they all seem to have used the same firewall.
     
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  3. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    wagon.jpg
    Wagon as found. Note the 6.6L call out on the front fender.

    empty engine bay..jpg Wagon with the 6.6 removed. Alot of unnecessary wiring with the CCC system. I will be going old school and cleaning that up a bit.

    wagon SBC.jpg SBC going in. I found that the serpentine system from a 1992 Caprice fits any old small block perfect 55-95. It has an added benefit of placing the AC compressor on the correct side for my 307/403 equipped wagon. Olds Ac is passenger SBC with V belts puts them on drivers.

    Oh, notice the plastic tank on the floor behind the engine. More people need to use these for EFI, LS, LT swaps. It's baffled, has a sump, vented, in tank pump, 0-90 ohm GM sender, non rustable, and it fits SO well. Straps can easily be used with some modification.
    Out of a 92 caprice, it fell into place on my 59 bel air and it looks like it will do the same for most B body cars. I'm sure the bubble wagon would transplant into most wagons well.

    clutch engine bay.jpg clutch mock up.jpg This is the stock GM 72-81 F body Z bar and frame mounting plate sitting roughly where it will have to live. Instructions in my last post were accurate in the fact that you will have to trim the wheel well to clear Z bar, you will have to drill 3 new holes for the mounting plate _there are NO hols marks or dimples in this frame}, and it look as though the plate will need to be heated with oxy-acetylene and bent with a large crescent wrench to be parallel to the block AFTER it has been bolted to the frame.
     
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  4. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    wagon clutch.jpg This is a box of 1981 camaro Clutch parts. I was even able to score the trans tunnel sheet metal piece and trim ring.

    A833.jpg Here is the GM A833. Looks very similar to a muncie albeit pregnant. LOL It is a truck trans NOT a sports car trans. Do no fool yourself into thinking you will be doing 30' burn outs with slicks on. This is a "loafing down the HW" or "gettin the groceries" type of trans. I'm sure you can chirp the tire around a corner but no 4000 RPM clutch dumps.
    I had the fly wheel machined, bought a new 11" diaphragm clutch with a new through out bearing and pilot bushing.

    A833 in wagon.jpg Stabbed into place. Trans it's self fits wonderfully. Plenty of room around the bell and trans housing. Looks like I'll need a big ol hole for the shifter but it looks as though the linkage will clear the floor no problem. Reverse light and speedo gear drive all hooked up 0 problems.

    crossmember.jpg cross.jpg I had to slide the cross member forward like 5"! The 200R4 is almost 28" from the bells edge to the rubber mounting pad and this A833 is only 22" from the same measurement locations.
    You can see the 2 holes in the bottom of the frame for stock placement and how the cross-member has been slid toward the front of the car. Some modification will clearly need to be done. Moved THAT far forward the passengers side "hoop" or "hump" that allows the exhaust to pass is touching the floor. That precludes the notion of simple re-drilling some new mounting holes.
    This will also be an opportune time to modify it for true duel exhaust.
    I have a plan to make this happen. Cross-member IS holding the trans albeit not secured. Pinion angle seems correct or at least in the ball park. The drive shaft fits very well, so no mods there.
     
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  5. OrthmannJ

    OrthmannJ Always looking for old ford crew cabs

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    Dang Mike! That is quite the list! Sounds like you are going to have quite the neat wagon when you are finished. I assume your kids are on the younger side and that's why you decided to go with the wagon. I'm looking forward to seeing the progress you make on this one.

    PS
    I'd love to see some of your other rigs as well:thumbs2:
     
  6. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    Yep, 3 girls, 8, 5 and 1.

    Camaro!.jpg cutlass over frame OLD.jpg cutlass chassis on hoist.jpg cutlass side rear.jpg 59 on rotisserie.jpg

    1968 Camaro. LS1 and Richmond 6 speed. Built that in 2003 back when people were impressed with the LS swap. LOL That swap was HARD back then!

    1984 Olds Cutlass. 350, M2o four speed {Iraqi Taxi linkage}, air ride, suicide doors, 8.5" GN rear axle. I built this car in a 25X25 hole in the wall. Look at that jankie set up for lifting the body!! LOL I was 21 or 22.

    1959 BelAir 2 door Hard top one of 1031 made {not an impala} Canadian only model. No BelAir HTs were ever made or sold in USA. 1996 LT1 with T56. I built the rotisserie BTW.
     
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  7. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    You can see my dad's old 1935 ford in the back ground of 2 of these pictures. It will be getting another A833 manual trans I have kicking around {cutlass on hoist and camaro}. This trans is a iron case.
    I didn't mention that one cause it's a 700R4 car. Yuck
     
  8. OrthmannJ

    OrthmannJ Always looking for old ford crew cabs

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    Awesome! The wagon will make an excellent family hauler!
     
  9. Silvertwinkiehobo

    Silvertwinkiehobo "Nothing is foolproof as fools are ingenious."

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    I would have done a Camaro V8 Borg-warner, either a T-5 or T-56, as I'm assuming you'll want a bit of zip.
     
  10. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    I have a t56 in my 1959. It's huge and would have put the shifter into the bench seat as well as requiring a good amount of trans tunnel work to clear the housing/bell. T5s are only good if you can find the Camaro Fbird WC boxes {getting hard to find now-a-days} and even then you should swap in the S10 tail housing or you will again be into the seat. If your buying a T5 and swapping tail housings why wouldn't you just go a step further get a T56?

    A833 gives me OD in a compact unit with very few mods to the car it's self {just a shift arm hole and trimmed inner wheel well}. The best part of the story is I bought a 82 C10, plucked the engine and A833 and sold the rest {it was nice} for $50 more than I had paid for the entire truck.

    Free motor and trans, it's OD, it fits well, it's MANUAL, no driveshaft mods, no trans tunnel mods, my speedo will work, I can run mechanical linkage {my preference} and the shifter should be positioned correctly inside the car {I.E. not digging into the bench}. K.I.S.S. It will be a better/funner/stronger/more efficient {not leaky} combo than the 407/200R4 I pulled out.

    If I want zip, I'll jump into my 1968 Camaro Vert with the LS1 and a Richmond ROD 6 speed. To a lesser extent I could take the Cutlass with the m20 and 355 SBC.

    This 4500lb battle ship is strictly for tooling my 3 kids and wife around both locally and long distance. I built it to it's intended use. All my cars are manual and this people hauler should be no exception.
     
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  11. Silvertwinkiehobo

    Silvertwinkiehobo "Nothing is foolproof as fools are ingenious."

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    Well okay then, color me schooled. I was not aware there was a longer housing on the Camaro T-5 versus the S-10 T-5 (although I do know the non-V8 T-5 is completely unusable for V8 duty). I would've thought the A833 would've been too bulky and require tunnel mods to make it fit. So I'll keep a watch on this thread, to see all you do to accomplish it.
     
  12. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    The 4.3L s10 T5 will fit V8 albeit it's a weaker trans internally. W.C. F-body trans {world class} is a stouter/stronger trans but the shifter is way far back on the tail housing {may not be an issue with buckets}. S10 has the shifter farther forward more in-line to what you and I would want to do with it. Tail shaft are actually the same length, it's just the shift arm location is different.
    Best-of-both-worlds scenario is taking the strong F body trans and switching out the tail shaft with the S10.

    I have a S10 trans in my mezzanine but it's missing a lot of pieces. All I need now is a dead F body and I'm set. LOL

    Cheers!
     
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  13. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    V8 F bodies got the W.C. T5, 6 bangers F bodies got the non-WC like the S10 BTW.
     
  14. Silvertwinkiehobo

    Silvertwinkiehobo "Nothing is foolproof as fools are ingenious."

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    Of course, that makes sense to me. A WC or a Doug Nash is what some '80s/'90s Mustang racers use behind the 302 and 351W. Others go with the T-56.
     
  15. cutlassmike

    cutlassmike nothing is easy, everything is hard.

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    SBC in place.jpg raised ride height.jpg

    Here is the SBC/A833 in the car and sitting on it's suspension. Looks tiny. LOL

    The SBC and A833 are substantially less weight than the 403/2004R. This brought the front end up quite a bit and caused a big tire-to-fender gap. Car IS off the hoist in the bottom picture.
    Cure for this is sedan springs for the front. Wagons of this year came with the heavier, 403/2004R with no other options for engines and thus GM fitted them with a higher spring rate {2100lb wagon as opposed to 1600 sedan}.
    It is a great excuse to go into the front suspension and look at ball joints, steering and brakes as it all has to come out to fit new springs.

    Side note; Cruise control linkage will have to be salvaged from a 305 equipped sedan. 403 mounted the diaphragm directly to the engine via bracket and sedans have them on the driver fender well with long linkage to the carb. 403 bracket will not mount to the SBC. HOPING it will be an easy integration.
     

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