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Engine and transmission choices

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Engine and transmission choices

stape66 stape66
New User | Posts: 9 | Joined: 09/09
Posted: 03/21/10
06:31 AM

I know opinions are like the proverbial... well lets say noses, every one has one, but I looking for some opinions about engine and transmission choices. I know most ls engines go with the 4L60E, but I'm curious about the 350 or 5.7L motors.

I have a 52 chevy truck I want to put the in, and want to hear what you think the best choice for a drivable hot rod. I would like to be in the area of 400 Hp and 400+ in the torque.

I'm just starting to gather information and would like to know more about my choices. turbo350,400,700r4 or five or six speed manual. I'm a little overwhelmed at this point and would like to know what will work and what to stay away from.

Any links to websites with the info would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance for all the input.  

roomor roomor
New User | Posts: 2 | Joined: 03/10
Posted: 03/26/10
08:56 PM

Stape... I see that nobody has chimed in yet, so thought I'd give you some of my opinions.  Between myself, my brother and some friends, I've seen quite a few small block combinations from all out race to very mild street, including my own and my friend's early 70's C10 pickups.  What are you planning to use your truck for?  Around town, longer trips, freeway driving, or do you want some good 0-60 times?

Problem I have personally had with manual trans is that once you start approaching 350-400HP the durability of the tranny and clutch/pressure plate can begin to really be an issue (depending on how you use it). It isn't so much an issue if you're keeping it around town and the tires are the week link, but I spent several years pulling out and replacing Muncie 4-speeds and clutches in a '67 Camaro with a 385HP 383 stroker and a 4.10 rearend.  Keep in mind the car only weighed about 3200 lbs.  I hate to even say how many $$ and hours were sunk into parts and labor on tranmissions, clutches, pressure plates, etc.  Granted, I put sticky tires and/or slicks on during the weekend once in awhile, so you begin to find every week link in the system. It was a constant headache.

If you go manual, the ONLY reasonable thing to do is drop the several thousand $$ for a good quality 5-speed and clutch set-up off the bat.  Once I discovered a good automatic on a drag car that we built (after ignoring years of my own dad's advice) I would have a hard time going back to a manual transmission in a high HP motor combo.  I would consider your goal of 400tq/400hp pretty healthy for the street.

TH350's are inexpensive and plentiful to have built, even with some performance parts, so the universal choice.  TH400 is heavier and geared differently in the low gears, so advantage there depending on your rearend.  If you aren't putting slicks on and racing the truck, my opinion is the TH350 is plenty robust.

The NICEST combo I have seen is my brother's current combination of a 700R4 with more of a 'highway' rear gear in his car (3.08 rear).  It is a heavy car ('71 GTO) and, while it is coupled with a big block, you would get the same advantage with a powerful small block.  The 700R4 is a larger investment initially (in terms of automatics -- but I will always argue that manuals are very expensive), but the 700R4 has an awesome super low gear, so you get the hard launch without needing extreme (3.73 or 4.10) gears in the rear end.  He is in the process of searching out a posi rear with slightly more gear now (3.23?). Matter of fact a 3.23 or 3.55 would probably be perfect.  I forgot the specifics, but with the low 1st gear in the 700R4, it is equivalent during launch to a much deeper rear gear with a TH350.  You have overdrive to boot, so out on the highway you can get away turning around 2000 rpm, and gas mileage and wear/tear is less.  You still have screaming stop and go power around town, and you can have it built right and have the option of manual shifing with some nice aftermarket floor shifters.

In terms of the motor (if it were my project) and you want that kind of torque and horsepower, I would definitely build a 400-based small block (i.e. 406 instead of a 355).  Lots of kits available for 400 build ups these days, blocks are a bit tougher to come by, but you can find them.  You will comfortably get the torque and HP without spinning the crap out of the motor.  I think I even prefer the 406 over a very nice 383 stroker that I built a few years ago.  I like the rpm, but it is tough on parts and seems like you're always adjusting things when the motor must spin to 6500 rpm.  If you get some reasonable heads, a dual plane intake and reasonable amount of cam, you won't have to spin it over 5500 rpm or so and they make unbelievable power.

My two cents.


stape66 stape66
New User | Posts: 9 | Joined: 09/09
Posted: 03/27/10
06:47 AM

Thanks roomor:

That's exactly the kind of information I was looking for! The 700R4 sound like the right choice, I'll start looking at the rear end gearing as well.

I have heard there are problems with the 400 blocks, cooling etc. and the 409 builds are way out of my price range. but I'll do a little more research on the 400/406 and see what I can come up with.

Thanks again for your input!


roomor roomor
New User | Posts: 2 | Joined: 03/10
Posted: 03/28/10
07:33 AM

Stape... I think the small block 400 cooling issues that were always mentioned in the past were really overblown. Just like any other build, if the machine work is done properly (i.e. honing with a torque plate, squaring decks to the crank centerline) and assembly is done properly (checking bearing clearances and end play, etc) there should be absolutely no problem with cooling - no more than with any other motor. When it comes to new builds, the cooling shortcomings we have usually run into had to do with using older parts off our project (less than stellar radiators or worn out fan clutches - hampering cooling during break-in and then we end up replacing later).  If all the basic pcs are in place and work well (fresh radiator, heater core, hoses, water pump, fan clutch) - not a problem.

The 406 build ups are so popular now that you can find shortblocks available through the major online distributors, and assembled heads already drilled for steam holes that can be bolted right on.  Anyhow, I was told recently about a very nice (powerful) build-up with reasonable (not too wild) parts, so if I can get a link to that I'll forward it on to you.  

stape66 stape66
New User | Posts: 9 | Joined: 09/09
Posted: 04/01/10
12:53 PM

Thanks Roomor I would appreciate that!


cruzvillanueva.56 cruzvillanueva.56
New User | Posts: 4 | Joined: 12/08
Posted: 04/03/10
11:23 PM

I just started collecting the nessesary parts in order to convert my C10 69 step side from manual transmission into 700R4 automatic, parts I already have are:
700R4 trans,flywheel,converter,starter,bracket for gas and tv cable.I think I´m missing crossmember,oil lanes as well as floor shifter. I´d like to know if can I install a crossmember of any chevy truck 82-87.