Stick Swap – ADDING A TREMEC GEARBOX TO AN OLDER RIDE

You may have noticed we like featuring unique cars in the pages of FSC, so when our publisher Aaron Hahn told us about his neighbor, Robert Lee’s clean ’57 Ford Custom 300 Tudor, we were intrigued, as that’s not a car we typically see at the dragstrip. After looking at the pics of his clean nineteen fifties creation and learning he was putting a modern powertrain together including a blown small-block, a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, and TREMEC’s TKO 600, we wanted to share this build with the readers of FSC. It’s not too often you see these cars built with both classiness and performance in mind and according to Lee, this one will has plenty of both.

The 1957 Ford Custom 300 is just one version of a platform with many options. In ’57 a plethora of trim lines were offered, starting with the base “Custom,” “Custom 300,” “Fairlane,” and the top-of-the-line “Fairlane 500.” While everyone was after the ’57 Chevy, there were a select few, like Los Alamitos, California’s Lee, who wanted the Ford version.“I had one when my wife and I were dating,” Lee said. “I bought this one in 1998. I found it in an Auto Trader ad and it was located in San Bernardino.” When Lee bought the car it had a fresh turquoise/white paint job, a very mild Ford 302 and a worn out Borg-Warner T-10 four speed. “The car had no floorboards and the kick panels and tunnel were badly rusted too,” Lee said. For the next decade, Lee and his neighbor Rick Crawford made it their mis- sion to restore the 300 to its factory condition, but instead of doing a plain resto job, Lee had plans to make it perform as well.

For a clutch, Lee chose to use Centerforce Dual Friction set up.


Robert Lee found his ’57 in 1998 and since then his has totally revamped his hot rod, including a custom blue and silver scheme from Santini, instead of the bland teal and white.


“When the 302 small block in the car expired in 2001, it came off the road and Lee had a Hot Rod Magazine inspired 351W built to replace it.” “The engine was built by Advanced Engine Machining in Huntington Beach, CA and has performed very reliably and well for a little over 13,000 miles,” Lee said. With the non-boosted Edelbrock RPM engine package, the engine delivered 345 hp to the rear wheels, according Lee, but his desire for power did not stop there. “After installing the Paxton-Vortech 1200 supercharger, the output was upped to nearly 475 hp and the car remained very streetable. I haven’t had the car on the strip since adding the blower package. This particular blow-through supercharger package was developed for the 1967 Shelby’s and the only modification I’ve had done to it is to move the air intake to the blower away from the headers to the outside.” Ryan Auto Designs out of Fountain Valley, California fabricated a complete air intake package for this ride, which directs air to the blower from the driver’s side of the grill.

Lee first noticed that the TKO's input shaft was much longer than the input shaft on the T-10 they were replacing. Lee was able to locate a shorter input shaft, and because he wanted to occasionally run the car on the strip, decided to upgrade the input splines to the 28 tooth version.

A Hurst Competition Plus 4-speed shifter handle was used for the TKO, however Lee will probably cut the lever just above the mounting holes and reverse its orie tation offset it toward the driver side.

Rick set up a magnetic base dial indicator in order to align the bell housing with the crankshaft.

Lee and Crawford had to determine where the proper shift lever mounting would be on the TKO 600, after carefully measuring, they found that the rear location was good, as it would clear the bench seat and prevent Lee from banging his knuckles on the dash.

Rick determined Lee would need a custom cross member. Leaving the transmission supported by the trans jack, Rick then measured the stock transmission rear cross member and cut it into three pieces. The two outer pieces of the stock transmission mount would bolt into the stock location on the frame, then a new center section was fabricated and welded together to both support the rear of the transmission and attach the emergency brake mechanism properly.


With nearly 500 hp under the hood from the boosted Ford crate motor, the Lees aren’t letting it go to waste. “The car has only three passes on a quarter mile strip, two of them on the BFGoodrich street tires and no traction bars. The tires just went up in smoke. I’ve had one pass with the traction bars and M/T Street Radials, same mph, but too much traction (bogged at the line) and before I could adjust the tire pressure, sudden high Santa Ana winds ended the race,” Lee said. “I’m looking forward to getting the car back onto a quarter-mile strip, as with the blower installed, the car really comes alive when the boost kicks in,” he said.

Here’s a good shot showingthe dual exhaust fitting perfectly around the transmission cross member.

Lee knew he would need a clutch strong enough to hold the combination of 475+ supercharged horse power, but also the heft of the '57 Ford would be a factor as well. A Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch was chose for it's superb holding power, as well as its streetability. QUICK SPECS: • Pressure plate that features a patented centrifugal weight system • Made with a specialized machining processes to provide a performance clutch that offers exceptional street characteristics, while offering outstanding holding-capacity and durability. • Full facing on the pressure plate side for drivability and longevity, while a carbon composite puck style (segmented) facing is used on the flywheel side • Can be used in street, and even mild competition applications.

In this article we cover what it takes to put a TREMEC trans under an older body style car, all in hopes that Lee’s cool Ford throw down some quick times at the new NMCA WEST’s drag racing series, and of course Lee plans on cruising around the various SoCal car cruises and car shows too with his blown, gearbox-equipped Tudor.

Here's a peek at the engine in Lee's '57 Ford Custom 300 Tudor. It's a Paxton-supercharged 351 Windsor that puts out close to 500 horsepower. One of the only curve ball's Lee faced with his TREMEC swap is the engine mount position. It is believed that the original FE engine sits lower in the chassis with stock motor mounts than does the small-block Ford engine, hence they had to modify the stock k-member to keep everything under the hood.

TREMEC Transmission
800.401.9866
tremec.com

Paxton Superchargers
888.9.PAXTON
paxtonauto.com

Edelbrock
310.781.2222
edelbrock.com

Mickey Thompson
330.928.9092
mickeythompsontires.com

Centerforce
928.771.8422
centerforce.com

 

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