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T56 Transmission Installation - Over And Over Again

When one overdrive won't do, how about two?

Mike Harrington Jun 27, 2007
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There you are, heading down the highway at a speed that would make Barney Fife reach for that bullet in his shirt pocket, but it's too late, you're over the horizon and into the next county. The needle on the speedo is reading near the buck and a quarter mark, while the tach reads a docile 2100 rpm. Normally the stump pulling gears in the rear end would be howling like a north wind at this speed, but not this time. A six-on-the-floor Tremec T56 transmission keeps all this madness in check.

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Before installing your transmission, attach your shift handle to the shift stub and make sure that the shifter can be moved into all gears properly. It's possible that the shift forks could have been knocked out of alignment during shipping. This is very rare, but important to check. It's easily correctable before the transmission is installed. Place the shifter stub in neutral and remove the shifter from the transmission by removing the four bolts securing the shifter to the tailshaft. Remove the shifter and set it aside. Apply masking tape over the shifter cavity to prevent dirt from entering the transmission during installation.

The Camaro on the cover of this issue was the recipient of this dual overdrive Tremec transmission. You may remember the second-gen F-body from last month's issue, when it had a Procharger installed on its LS2. This month we'll take you through the steps that it will take to put a T56 behind an LS1 into a second-gen Camaro. Even though the T56 was designed to fit behind LS motors, it really can fit almost any Chevrolet. This is where Classic Chevy 5-Speed comes in. Classic Chevy 5-Speed specializes in Tremec 5- and 6-speed overdrive manual transmission conversion kits for, well, classic Chevy muscle cars. Classic Chevy 5-Speed kits include Camaros, Chevelles, Corvettes, Novas, Impalas and '55-57 Chevys.

These Tremec transmission kits are not sold separately. Classic Chevy 5-Speed, which is an authorized Tremec dealer, takes the transmission from Tremec and then adapts it to fit each specific vehicle, including all hardware, tech support, etc. The Classic Chevy 5-Speed Elite T56 kit includes all of the components shown from the hydraulic clutch assembly back to, and including, the driveshaft. Classic Chevy 5-Speed uses a brand new Tremec T56 transmission, McLeod clutch components, custom-made Inland Empire Driveline driveshafts, and other GM parts. The custom-made tubular crossmember and hydraulic clutch master cylinder-mounting bracket are made specifically for each application.

The Elite T56 kit is a good option for automatic to six-speed conversions or for anyone looking to upgrade their existing clutch components.

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Remove the transmission-to-bellhousing bolts and remove the bellhousing from the transmission. Make sure the case has two dowel pins in it.

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The easiest method to determine how much you will need to cut/enlarge your stock shifter hole in the floor is to install the bellhousing to the block without the flywheel and clutch installed and then temporarily install the transmission to the to the bellhousing, making sure the transmission is supported by a transmission jack. When the transmission is temporarily installed as described above, use a scribe and mark the desired shifter hole location from underneath the car. Remove the carpet, seats, and sill plates as required to gain access to the tunnel. From underneath the car, drill small pilot holes on each corner of the shifter outline that you drew in. With the pilot holes as an outline and using the appropriate cutting device, cut out the necessary sheetmetal in the floorboard to accommodate the shifter.

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Install the flywheel with the new hardware. Apply Loctite to the bolt threads and torque the bolts to 65 ft-lb. Install the clutch disc and pressure plate to the flywheel using the supplied clutch alignment tool and torque to specification.

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Note: It is advisable to check that the clutch disc fits the transmission input shaft and slides on the splines easily before installation. Next install the bellhousing to the engine block and fit the bellhousing over the dowel pins and torque to specification. We should also note a detailed set of instructions are included with every transmission from Classic Chevy 5-Speed.

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With the bellhousing and clutch fully installed, the Hydraulic throwout bearing is next.

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All the hardware and bolts are supplied in the kit.

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Install the transmission into the bellhousing. If the transmission does not seat fully into the bellhousing, do not under any circumstances use bolts to pull it in, as severe damage can result. Allowing the transmission to hang in the clutch assembly while not fully seated to the bellhousing will damage the clutch, transmission, or both. If the clutch was not properly aligned when installed, it may be necessary to reinstall the clutch. Do not let go of the transmission unless you have at least one bolt in and finger tight. After the transmission is seated you can torque the bolts to specification in a cross pattern starting with one of the top bolts first.

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With the transmission bolts tight, lift the transmission up high enough to remove the jack under the oil pan. Install the transmission mount to the transmission case and tighten bolts hand tight at this time. Install the crossmember frame brackets to the frame rails and tighten hand tight. Then install the main crossmember tube by adjusting the stainless steel receivers fore and aft until the transmission pad holes are lined up with the crossmember and the crossmember is straight. When satisfied with crossmember position, tighten the frame bracket bolts and stainless steel receiver bolts. Slowly lower the transmission down onto the crossmember and secure the transmission pad to the crossmember. For future removal and installation, the adjustable steel receivers may stay secured and the center section of the crossmember can be dropped out.

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Now it's time to climb back inside the car inside and install the shifter mechanism to the transmission using RTV sealant. Aftermarket shifters are also available for the T56. Classic Chevy 5-Speeed recommends B&M or McLeod if you choose to upgrade to an aftermarket shifter.

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To cover the access hole in the trans tunnel, cut a piece of suitable sheetmetal to size and either weld in or screw into place.

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Because the clutch master cylinder bracket mounts behind the brake master cylinder (to the firewall), you will need to first remove the brake system master cylinder. With the brake master cylinder removed, install the firewall bracket onto the steering column support studs. Insert the clutch master cylinder through the mounting bracket and bolt the master cylinder to the firewall. With some vehicle models, it may be necessary to enlarge the existing clutch pedal pushrod hole in the firewall to accommodate the master cylinder. Make sure the master cylinder clutch pedal pushrod is coming straight out of the master cylinder; mark the location where the pushrod spherical bearing meets the clutch pedal. Remove the clutch pedal from the car. (At this point, it is important to check Classic Chevy's supplemental instructions for proper master cylinder clutch pedal pushrod-to-clutch pedal adjustment.) Using a 5/64-inch drill bit, drill a hole and tap it with a 1/4-inch x 28-thread tap. Alternatively, you can use a bolt and nut instead of tapping and threading this hole. Re-install the clutch pedal and attach the master cylinder pushrod to the clutch pedal. Now you can re-install the brake booster and master cylinder.

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Attach the remote mount reservoir in any convenient location on the firewall, as long as the reservoir is above the level of the clutch master cylinder. Attach the quick-connect fitting of the master cylinder fluid line to the throwout bearing. The next step is to bleed the clutch system (use DOT 3 fluid only). You can attempt to bleed the system in the same manner that you would bleed the brake system by pumping the clutch pedal two or three times, holding the pedal down and then opening the bleed screw. Repeat this process until all of the air is out of the system. After the system is properly bled, refill the reservoir to slightly below full.

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Remove the rubber shipping-stopper (rubber "donut") that's found on the output shaft of the transmission. Use a pair of pliers and some care when pulling it out gently around in a circle to remove it without damaging the rear seal. To install the driveshaft apply a small amount of grease to the splines of the yolk and slide it onto the output shaft, turning it as you go. Attach the rear U-joint straps and the torque bolts to specification. Make sure the driveshaft has sufficient clearance to rotate and follow suspension travel. Ideally, there will be between 3/4- to 1 1/2-inch of slip-yoke shaft showing past the tip of the output shaft. You should have the rear suspension supported when checking this measurement (in other words the rear suspension should not be hanging down).

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Next, install the provided pigtail wiring harnesses into the appropriate receptacles on the transmission. The reverse lock connector (GM #12101857) is often tied into the brake light switch so that you can easily shift the transmission into reverse when the brakes are applied. The VSS connector (GM #88987993) is typically tied into to your engine wiring harness and also operates your electric speedometer gauge. The reverse light connector (GM #12085485) connects into your existing reverse light wiring. The proper method of wiring your T56 depends on which motor you're using, where you purchased the engine, and the type of speedometer you're using. If you're using a stock speedometer, you'll need to purchase a converter box. Before breaking in your T56, it's important to check that you've properly completed your work. Among other checks, make sure that you've tightened all bolts to specifications and completed all electrical connections, filled the transmission with Dexron III transmission fluid, and re-installed the drain plug. Then install the driveshaft at both ends and check for clearance around all moving parts. Now you're ready to start your engine and break in your transmission with the car still on jackstands. With the shifter in neutral, start the engine and allow it to warm up. Listening any for any abnormal noises, test all gears by shifting through each gear using the clutch. Be careful to only shift into reverse at idle. Do this for about 10 minutes. Remove car from jackstands. Testdrive the car at reasonable speeds, eventually increasing rpm and speed. Drive at reasonable levels during the 500-mile break in period. And then drive at unreasonable speeds after it's broken in!



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