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The Ultimate Tanning Machine

Rockin' With the 700-R4

Andrew Schear Mar 16, 2005

Okay, so we left our Ultimate Tanning Machine sitting in the shop for a few weeks post engine installation. We couldn't decide what to do for a transmission! Would it be a T-56, or maybe an M22? No, no, no, we're going the wrong direction. We made up our minds that the Ultimate Tanning Machine was for cruising, not hot laps at Willow Springs Raceway. There was only one thought in our minds...TH700-R4. Last month we got our trick ZZ 383 powerplant installed, broken-in and completely dialed. Awaiting arrival of the rearend, we took the '64 to Bowtie Overdrives in Hesperia, California, for its street-prepped, stage-two 700-R4, four-speed automatic overdrive.

We've decided to make things a bit easier for you and provide a quick understanding about the internals of BTO's 700-R4. All 700-Rs begin as a used GM cores, '88-93 in vintage, with 30-spline input shafts. After a complete hot tank, the cores are inspected for damage and are prepped for assembly. The heart of the 700-R, according to BTO, is the internal hydraulic pump. It is ultimately responsible for the life or death of the transmission. As such, these pumps are re-machined at BTO's in-house CNC-machine shop. With a tolerance of .0005 inch, the pump is a heck of a lot tighter than it was the day it was first manufactured.

Over and above the OE components, BTO makes use of heavy-duty clutches, one-piece seals, stronger bands, and of course, brand-new vanes. The 700-R is blueprinted to insure precise pressure regulation, an element that controls shift timing and firmness.

Right now you're probably thinking what does all this mean and do I really need to absorb all this. The simple answer is no, as buyers of these types of products all we want to know is: can I afford it, is it strong and how difficult is it to install? At a tick over $1,000 (minus converter), we're pretty sure that the price is right and after watching the Tanning Machine's 700-R fall into place we also agree that installation is relatively painless. However, no tranny conversion is truly bolt-in. In our case, we had to take out the trick new U.S. Radiator and have it reconfigured for transmission cooling. We were originally under the impression that we would be using an external cooler. To add one more element of simplicity to the game, BTO manufactures high-strength rear crossmembers to adapt their transmissions into early musclecars. Pretty cool, huh? We thought so.

After the actual installation of the transmission, BTO installed their trick TV cable system, which is quite easy to adjust. In fact, all that is needed is a small Allen wrench and about 15 seconds with the hood up. With our 700-R4 installed and ready to rock, we're suffering from a severe case of rearend envy...Dana 60-style that is! Stay tuned for Part III when Strange's S60 rearend makes it's way into the Ultimate Tanning Machine!



Our BTO 700-R4 bas built to their Stage II specifications and rated to 450 hp and 450 ft-lb of torque.


Our GMPP ZZ383 came equipped with a steel flexplate, torqued, and tranny ready.


Before installation, the 2,600-rpm lock-up torque converter was filled with ATF and slipped onto the 700-R.


The aluminum 700-R was mated to the block and checked for fitment.


Red Loctite is applied to the first few threads to assure that everything will stay put.


The Grade-8 bolts firmly attach the transmission to the block.


The torque converter can then be bolted to the flexplate. While some may simply tighten the flexplate bolts by feel, a torque wrench will definitely serve you well.


BTO's application-specific crossmember required no cutting, drilling, or welding! They just bolted it in. Ordinarily we love any excuse to break out the Sawzall, but not today.


Up top, BTO installed their handy-dandy TV cable brackets after removing the Holley HP750 carburetor.


The HP750 was re-installed and the TV cable was plumbed.


The TV cable was attached to the carburetor. Pay close attention to the progressive, adjustable linkage. It's one of the coolest elements of the BTO system.


Our U.S. Radiator was equipped with transmission cooling lines and reinstalled. An external cooler can be used, but BTO won't cover the transmission with their full warranty.


The lines are routed next to the engine's oil pan, straight to the 700-R. Easily installed in one weekend, BTO's 700-R4 is just what the Ultimate Tanning Machine ordered.


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