Every hot rodder with a Gen III motor in their machine can imagine the frustration of blowing up a $2,500 4L60-E. Whether it's a '69 Camaro or a Silverado 5.3, the end result is the same, lots of dollars spent for a new transmission.
While casually taking a few photos of Brian Zacuto's late-model blown Silverado roasting the hides we accidentally grenaded his modified 4L60--a little oops on our part. Feeling slightly at fault, we made it our mission to outfit his truck with the ultimate four-speed automatic overdrive. As luck would play a part in our decision, Jim Hughes, of Hughes Performance happened to view our unfortunate transmission explosion. While still contemplating how to get Brian's truck back to Los Angeles, Hughes casually mentioned that he could build us an overdrive that would take all the abuse we could throw at it. Naturally, this sounded like a challenge. Kind of like two third graders eggin' on the second grader to break a car window. We told Hughes he was on.
Three weeks later our "bulletproof" beast was ready for pick up and installation. Seeing as we had a terrible itch to install the 4L80 and do a few burnouts, we made the 500-mile trek to Phoenix, Arizona, to pick up the 4L80 first hand. We also thought it would be wise to have a look at the facilities which might produce such a mean shiftin' gear box.
Despite what the average hobbyist might think the install was only a tad more complicated than removing one transmission and installing another. In addition to the 4L80 from Hughes and the piggyback harness from Speartech, the installer also must find a competent local fabricator to lengthen and gusset the cross member and shorten the driveshaft.
The internals of a Hughes (25-1) 4L80 differ significantly from a stock unit. After the case and hard parts have been inspected, hot tanked and repainted, the transmission is reassembled using Alto Red Eagle clutches, Kevlar bands, and Kolene steel where applicable. In addition to the list of new internals the OE valvebody is reprogrammed and the pump overhauled with a tighter degree of tolerance. Behind the 4L80 sits a (25-30L) 10-inch 3,000-rpm stall converter. The loose converter utilizes a full roller bearing design combined with a forged sprag and race. This new combination of parts will live indefinitely at the 1,000hp limit, according to Hughes. The way we figure, any transmission that can handle the rigors of indefinite magazine testing is top notch for the weekend street warrior. Check it out!