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Upgrading the Driveline of a 1968 Camaro to Handle Over 800 hp

Making Horsepower Work For You: Driveline upgrade with a PerformaBuilt Level 3 Invincible 4L60E trans and QA1 REV Series carbon-fiber performance driveshaft

Chuck Vranas Apr 11, 2018
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So you’ve finally installed that hopped-up mill of your dreams between the ’rails of your Chevy muscle car and it’s time to think about getting as much of that horsepower to the ground as possible. Regardless if you’re running a naturally aspirated small-block or big-block, supercharger, or single or twin turbos, one surefire way to put a stop to the fun is to expect the original transmission and driveshaft to handle the increase in thrust. Sure, you can give it a try, but more often than not you’re going to leave a trail of broken parts once they give up the ghost under the strain of the increased horsepower and torque.

For Peter Newell at Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, the fusion of a Pro Street car with cutting-edge Pro Touring elements proposed a unique application melding mile-wide rear rubber and twin-turbo performance while also wanting to be able to cruise hard on the highway at getaway speeds. For Newell, it’s all about the long haul, and if you can’t do it while haulin’ like you stole it, why do it at all?

To take on the combination of his newly built 750hp twin-turbo small-block, we went to PerformaBuilt to check into the transmission options available. Their Level 3 Invincible 4L60E is the ultimate combination of exceptional performance components and a re-engineering of the basic transmission to function at the highest possible level. They tell us, “By changing the overall functionality of the unit we have achieved a balance that enables the transmission to exceed its OEM capabilities far beyond what GM ever envisioned. It’s designed for extremely comfortable daily driver performance and raucous performance when called upon.” There’s no neck snapping or tire chirping when cruising down the street, just quick, efficient shifts that get more aggressive as you do.

To get the message across, they concluded by telling us, “You can raise the devil on Friday night at the track and sedately repent on Sunday morning,” which sounds like it’s all business in each neighborhood. Seriously, the unit is packed with upgrades allowing it to handle up to 800 rwhp (rear wheel horsepower).

Re-engineered to overcome many of the factory shortcomings, each unit gains added strength and durability. Some of the many upgrades include a BorgWarner 29-element dual-cage sprag assembly, Sonnax Smart Shell to eliminate the stripping of splines and breakage, a set of Raybestos carbon composite performance clutches with new Raybestos steels, and two Sonnax Super Hold billet servos for Second and Fourth gears for maximum hold. An FTI Performance Street Racer Billet Lock-Up Series 9 1/2-inch torque converter sealed the deal. Built for plenty of both street and strip performance, it features triple clutches and can be built specifically for your application.

To dial everything in, an MSD Atomic TCM (transmission control module) with handheld monitor paired with their GM Harness allows the car owner the capability of monitoring 11 different parameters while also being able to set up two separate calibration modes, supporting street and race options.

Creating the final link, pushing all the newfound horsepower rearward you need a driveshaft crafted to provide the ultimate in strength and technology to get the job done. Gone are the days of reusing an original steel driveshaft since weight savings and, most importantly, safety are now of utmost concern. The team at QA1 tells us, “From the very beginning, we have set out to engineer and manufacture the best driveshafts on the market.” They further advise, “From using high-tech equipment and quality materials to working with 3M to develop our exclusive Matrix Resin, to testing with nationally known drivers, every single step has been thoroughly researched to provide the most cutting-edge product in driveshaft technology.” On the safety side, many of us have seen the damage done to the cockpit of a race car when a steel or aluminum driveshaft fails. In the unlikely event of a failure, a carbon-fiber driveshaft shreds itself like a broom, resulting in no damage to the driver or other parts of the car.

With regard to increased strength and durability, it’s obvious that a carbon-fiber driveshaft will save weight. QA1 upped the game by starting with a focus on increased torque capacity and longevity. We spoke with Dave Kass, Customer Service Manager for QA1, who told us, “Winding our driveshafts in-house allows us to control the torsional stiffness through select wind angles and wall thicknesses. The torsional stiffness is critical in the overall performance of the driveshaft. In some applications we’ve found a stiffer torsional stiffness performs better, whereas a softer torsional stiffness works better in other applications. We optimize this by application and intended driving style to maximize the performance out of your vehicle.” The REV Series driveshafts are certified to the SFI 43.1 standard, meeting stringent specifications for safety and performance. The shafts are also high-speed balanced to ensure they are vibration free.

Let’s follow along as this first-gen Camaro gets a new lease on life. CHP

002 Performabuilt Level Three Transmission 2/24

1. To handle the challenge of managing a 750hp twin-turbo SBC, Peter Newell of Competition Specialties in Walpole, Massachusetts, selected a PerformaBuilt Level 3 Invincible 4L60E, one of their strongest units designed for extreme performance. It’s packed with modifications capable of handling up to 800 rwhp, compared to the factory rating of around 300.

003 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 3/24

2. The FTI Performance Street Racer Billet Lock-Up Series torque converter was a perfect combination for the Camaro and is built for plenty of both street and strip performance. Measuring 9 1/2 inches, it features triple clutches and is built specifically for your application.

004 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 4/24

3. With the trans on the bench, Newell mounted the new torque converter to the input shaft, making sure the splines lined up, then carefully spun it till it locked into the pump.

005 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 5/24

4. With the unit on the transmission jack it was then set in position, bolted to the block, and secured in place.

006 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 6/24

5. Newell then installed the new Summit Racing transmission crossmember to the subframe using 3/8-inch bolts and lock washers.

007 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 7/24

6. The new FTI torque converter was then bolted to the flexplate and torqued to the manufacturer’s recommended specs.

008 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 8/24

7. You can now see the transmission mounted and secured in place.

009 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 9/24

8. The Lokar shift linkage included with the floor-mounted GM 4L60E shifter kit was adjusted and secured to the transmission.

010 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 10/24

9. An MSD Atomic TCM (transmission control module) with handheld monitor (PN 2760) was paired with their GM Harness (PN 2770), allowing the owner a simple setup and capabilities for advanced settings to dial in the transmission to their liking.

011 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 11/24

10. Here you can see the MSD Atomic TCM harness secured in place.

012 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 12/24

11. QA1’s custom-made REV Series carbon-fiber performance driveshafts are lighter and stronger than aluminum, steel, and other carbon-fiber driveshafts. They are available in lengths up to 65 inches and offer a variety of slip yokes for a number of different transmissions, depending on your application.

013 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 13/24

12. All QA1 REV Series carbon-fiber driveshafts are certified to the SFI 43.1 standard, meeting stringent specifications for safety and performance. To ensure the highest quality they torsion test each driveshaft manufactured to exceed the SFI standards.

014 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 14/24

13. QA1 uses a proprietary 11-step procedure to bond their tube yokes and tube together with a high-strength structural adhesive similar to one used in the construction of commercial jets.

015 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 15/24

14. The new driveshaft combines cutting-edge technology with lightweight and perfect balance, and are made to fit your application perfectly.

016 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 16/24

15. With the slip yoke mounted to the transmission and secured in place, Newell then completed the installation by securing the Spicer Life U-joint to the rearend.

017 Lokar Shifter 17/24

16. The Lokar Floor Mounted Shifter for the GM 4L60E comes complete with all pictured hardware to make the installation a breeze. Pictured here is their Midnight Series, black finish shift lever and classic skull shift knob.

018 Performabuilt Transmission And Qa1 Carbon Fiber Driveshaft Installation 18/24

17. Lokar’s exclusive floor-mounted brackets allow for the shifter to be mounted either above or below the floor of the transmission tunnel. For this application, Newell mounted the unit to the top and bolted it in place.

019 Lokar Shifter Safety Neutral Switch 19/24

18. The Lokar neutral safety switch was then hooked up following the detailed installation instructions included in the kit.

020 Lokar Shifter Boot And Plate 20/24

19. Lokar’s rectangular billet aluminum LED boot indicator and cable-operated sensor kit comes complete and ready to finish off your shifter’s installation.

021 Lokar Shifter 21/24

20. With the wiring hooked up, the boot and LED indicator plate were screwed down to the transmission tunnel.

022 Lokar Shifter 22/24

21. Lokar offers a number of cool shift knobs to let you personalize your ride. Here, their classic skull shift knob gives the Camaro just a hint of evil.

023 Msd Electronic Trans Controller 23/24

22. Mounted inside the car, the MSD Atomic TCM handheld monitor lets you track 11 different parameters (including those seen here) in real time once set up and stored into memory.

024 Msd Electronic Trans Controller 24/24

23. With the MSD Atomic TCM handheld monitor in advanced mode you can set control options allowing two separate calibration modes, one for street or daily driving and the other for racing, off road, or aggressive shifting.

Photos by Chuck Vranas

Sources

Competition Specialties
508-510-7043
www.competition-specialties.com
Summit Racing
Akron, OH
800-230-3030
http://www.summitracing.com
PerformaBuilt Transmissions
Bloomsburg, PA
888-744-6542
www.performabuilt.com
Lokar
Knoxville, TN 37932
877-469-7440
http://www.lokar.com
QA1
Lakeville, MN 55044
800-721-7761
http://www.qa1.net
MSD Performance
El Paso, TX 79936
888-258-3835
www.MSDPerformance.com
FTI Performance
866-726-8358
http://www.ftiperformance.com

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