Like most of you guys out there, flogging our cars at track events is only part of the equation. Hitting the open road and laying your foot down on lengthy cruises is just as gratifying— especially in homebuilt sleds. With cruising a priority, the secondhand TH350 we used in our ’72 Nova project car was a great companion, though not without its own shortcomings. The stock converter made launching the car out of the question and with only three forward gears and no overdrive, it lacked the ability to sustain modern freeway speeds without laboring. This caused road trips to be spent mostly in the slow lane at a moderate pace and also meant frequent trips to the gas station.
We needed a transmission that could do it all, and support any future engine upgrades we had in mind without worrying about reliability. Plus, the Nova had to be able to handle long cruises while producing moderate fuel economy and able to boogie down the quarter-mile.
Since the engine was removed for its own separate upgrades, it served as the perfect opportunity to scrap the tired TH350 and lame converter for an all-new transmission. Through Gearstar, we sourced a 200-4R overdrive transmission outfitted with their Level III internals and a 10-inch 2,800- to 3,600-stall converter—good for up to 500 hp and 475 lb-ft. It all came shipped complete to our door in a crate and included the Lokar installation kit, ATF transmission fluid, heavy-duty shroud, and deep transmission pan. The 200-4R offered up more response from a dig with its steeper gearing, and the overdrive (0.67:1 ratio) would accept highway cruising with significantly lower rpm. Best of all, the swap required little modification since the overall case length is nearly identical to the TH350 we pulled out, which meant we could reuse our factory driveshaft.
To get it all in, we did have to swap out the factory transmission crossmember. Lucky for us, G-Force Performance makes a complete bolt-in crossmember kit to get the job done. While removing the old drivetrain can be a small feat, it’s nothing a seasoned wrench-turner shouldn’t be able to handle. In the following pages, we’ll show you what it takes to make your transmission upgrade as easy as possible.
G-Force Performance Crossmember
When compared to the factory crossmember, the difference is obvious between the G-Force piece and the stamped unit; it saved time and any unneeded fabrication. Each crossmember is built with performance in mind and designed with large exhaust clearance humps for aftermarket systems. A durable black powdercoated finish means it’ll last the lifetime of the vehicle and all crossmembers come with new 7/16-inch hardware and correct transmission mount.
Gearstar 200-4r level III
Upgrading to the 200-4R will keep the rpm low and potentially bump fuel mileage on long hauls. Moreover, the Level III is bulletproof and rated to hold 500 hp and up to 475 lb-ft of torque, making it the perfect candidate to handle our engine upgrades.
• 10-inch stall converter with custom-built lockup and billet cover
• Master overhaul kit with Raybestos Stage 1 racing friction and hardened Kolene steels
• Wide carbon-fiber intermediate band with reinforced wide anchor
• Stage 2 TransGo recalibration shift kit
• New valvebody separator plate
• OE-style filter
• Heavy-duty billet servo
• New Torrington bearings
• Bushing kit
• Thrust washer kit
• High-capacity 10-vane pump assembly with new rotor and slide
• New vanes and hardened rings 0.500 boost valve
• Updated pressure regulator valve
• Hardened stator shaft
• Hardened 300M input shaft
• Forward drum with 300M hardened shaft
• High-performance extra-capacity direct drum assembly
• Hardened sun shell
• New speedometer drive gear and driven gear
The Road Test
Our first experience with the new Gearstar 200-4R transmission was at this year’s Run To The Coast event in El Toro, California. We easily racked up well over 160 miles in one day without so much as a hiccup. We cruised effortlessly at 75 mph at 2,300 rpm, and the transmission was smooth, providing us with instant downshifting whenever we got throttle happy. As soon as the converter locked up it was like another gear. While we don’t have exact mileage numbers, we can tell you cruising over 1,000-rpm less than before in the fast lane has saved us numerous trips to the gas station. We’re only kicking ourselves for not doing this sooner. If you’re still slushing around in a three-speed with no overdrive, get on track and upgrade. You won’t regret it!
The Parts Bin
|Gearstar||Complete 200-4R Level III lockup/nonelectronic||NA||3,195|
|Polyurethane transmission mount||Call||28|
|G-Force||’68-74 transmission crossmember for 200-4R||RCF1-400||219|