It shouldn't be this way though. Running through the streets is always a good time; however, drivers should also be able to experience the open road where cruising at 70 mph and above (if you dare) is the norm. The slow lane is no place for muscle cars to hunker down. In the past, the only way to keep the highway rpm low was to install a lethargic set of rearend gears. While this made high-speed cruising tolerable it made for a fall-on-your-face personality on the street. Once those tires lose bite, forget about it.
In order for rodders to get their muscle cars to scoot on the freeway, some upgraded from a Turbo 350 or 400 (three-speed) to a more modern electronic overdrive transmissions such as the 700-R4 or by installing a higher rearend gear ratio. The 700-R4 allowed for an extra overdrive gear for freeway speeds, but the factory gear spread still kept engine speeds relatively high. Let's face it, we build our cars to be driven everywhere. Blasting freeway on-ramp entrances should continue all the way into the fast lane. Our car's driveablitly should in no way be limited by our transmission, the very component of the vehicle which harnesses the engine's torque allowing us to move about.
The only way to get more operating range from the engine is via a closer gear spread. Aside from adding a new tranny or fussing with the innards of it, piggy-backing a Gear Vendors under/over-drive unit to your already existing transmission can get the job done. Its key is the ability to split each gear with its own overdriven gear, essentially turning your three- or four-speed into a six- or eight-speed automatic. It won't matter if it's mated to a manual or automatic either and it doesn't care if you are a drag racer, autocrosser, or weekend hauler. Plus the unit can handle up to 2,000 hp. We took advantage of RideTech's '66 Chevelle that's backed by a 700-R4 to install a complete Gear Vendors unit. We put the 'Velle on the lift for a better view and got the skinny on how it's installed and what makes this component so special.
What We Did
Installed a Gear Vendors unit into a '66 Chevelle
Blast in the fast-lane with better driveability
$2,600 for 700-R4 (Call for pricing on other applications)
Driving Impression Everything was just as I had imagined. The pushbutton gear split was effortless and the short rpm drop made the car sound like a high-end exotic. The Chevelle used to run at about 3,000 rpm at 80 mph. Now it runs smooth and quiet at 2,300 rpm; talk about saving some fuel. On the autocross track, I can shift the car from First to First-Overdrive which keeps the engine right in the middle of its powerband without sacrificing starting line power or overrevving the engine. The shift is quite firm but can be modulated by throttle position to soften it. I can tell you that the car (and driver too) is much more comfortable and controllable than trying to wring the motor out in First or bogging into Second. I can't wait to get the car on a big track where I can use all four (now eight) gears. It is not too often a performance upgrade can be achieved with no compromise. -Bret Voelkel, RideTech