TH200-4R Rebuild - No Nonsense 900

The last TH200-4R rebuild you'll ever need

Step By Step

When the time comes to rebuild a GM transmission for a high-performance application, a handful of builders are mentioned over and over for quality, reliability, performance, and customer service: up north, you hear Finish Line Performance. Down south, it's Century Automotive.

Out west, Performance Transmission Services is the word. And on the East Coast, if you're looking for a stock rebuild or a trans that lives into the mid-9s, you head to Dynotech Performance. My TH200-4R's time had come, but Dynotech would make it better than new.

Tech Jim Madison begins the removal procedure by disconnecting the TV cable attachment at the throttle body.

Once under the T, he disconnects the rear U-joints from the driveshaft. Jim pulls the shaft from the transmission and slides it rearward, out of the way of the trans.

The 200-series transmission, which came into being in the late 1970s, evolved from the limp-wristed 200 and 200C 3-speeds into a 4-speed auto with overdrive that sat behind the most powerful American car made in the 1980s. The 200-4R wasn't bolted to some low-torque wussy motor like the 5.0 Ford--it sat behind the LC2 3.8-liter V-6, powering the bad-boy Turbo Buicks and the Turbo Trans Am. These little mills put out 300 foot-pounds of torque to the wheels stock. And how many stock TRs or TTAs have you seen lately?

Nope, chances are that most of these transmissions have spent the last 15 years or so dealing with 20 pounds of boost and 400-500 ft.-lbs. at the wheels--day after day, shift after clutch-frying shift. If you're driving around with a stock TH200-4R with 100,000-plus miles on it, chances are it needs some TLC. This is a damn strong tranny for factory standards, but when the ETs start to dip into the low 12s, many of the low-rent GM internals just can't cut it. The unhardened pump stator support can fail, the direct (third-gear) and low reverse clutches start to flake apart, and insufficient fluid pressure causes excessive wear on the second gear band and the third gear direct clutches.

But the 200-4R has tons of positive qualities: a light assembled weight, low power loss through the trans, optimally spaced gears, and a .67 overdrive for fuel economy and low highway revs, to name a few. Simply put, it's a great transmission that's just aching for a good rebuild--and that's where Dynotech Performance comes in.

If you are looking for a list of proprietor Eric Schertz's impressive credentials when it comes to building GM trannies, give him a ring. We think the only thing you need to know is this: 9.57 at 141. That's how fast Schertz has gone with one of his 200-4Rs, a number that until recently was the property of the heavy and inefficient 400 3-speed. Eric's Stage 2 Turbo Buick puts down 701 horses and 759 ft.-lbs. to the wheels--that's over 900 at the flywheel, all with a Hi-Pro transmission!

So with that in mind, I couldn't wait to head down to Manville, New Jersey to get the '87 T on Dynotech's lift. When I bought this car 11 years ago, the 200-4R was untouched, and I left it that way. Which means that the original BRF trans and the D5 torque converter have 157,000 very hard miles on them. The duration between the 1-2 and 2-3 shifts has gone from a relatively acceptable shift to a bad, long, slipping shift--not great for the quarter-mile mambo.

A highway run above 55 miles per hour results in a severe vibration that we're pretty sure wasn't there from the factory. And shifting into Reverse results in a CLUNK--not cool. Nothing wilts a car guy's virility like a soft-shifting tranny, but Dynotech has got a rebuild that will rock the Hydra-matic's world--the $1495 Hi-Pro. The shop even offers a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty against clutch burnout or pump failure with this rebuild. Yep, this is having your cake and eating it too--probably the last performance trans you'll ever have. So check out part one of this story, as Dynotech's crew removes and disassembles my ailing 200-4R.

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