There is no argument. We spend a lot on our project cars, and anyone who asks about it is going to get an earful of justification. It doesn’t matter whether they’re asking about horsepower, wheels, brakes, or paint. We want our cars and trucks to run and look the way we want. When it comes to transmission upgrades, there are two ways to do it. You can either spend the summer searching for the ancillary parts along with a decent donor gearbox, or get a PerfectFit kit from Silver Sport Transmissions (SST).
When researching the cost to upgrade a 1979 Camaro Z/28 from it’s anemic Saginaw four-speed to something better, a Muncie transmission was a possibility. The car has already been the recipient of a new mill by way of a Blueprint 355ci small-block. It was purchased from JEG’S, the new power output is already starting to make the old Saginaw show it’s age — and weaknesses.
The car owner looked into the cost of finding a Muncie and rebuilding it, then finding all of the right parts and making sure everything would fit. It was going to be time consuming to gather everything, and with a rebuilt unit going for close to three large, it was already starting to add up.
Since neither the Saginaw or Muncie transmission is an overdrive unit, we headed down to DynoTrans in Temecula, California, to weigh our options. That’s when the idea struck to look into a five-speed transmission, like the TREMEC TKO-500, and we made a call to the team at SST.
The PerfectFit Kit
From the get-go, the idea of adding a salvage-yard TREMEC poses a few issues that would also be very time consuming to resolve. The TKO is a excellent transmission, and more than capable of handling the 385 horses coming from the crankshaft. If you’re able to scrounge through a salvage yard and put together a bellhousing, clutch, and transmission crossmember in your spare time, the SST TREMEC starts to make a lot of sense.
But, what if we told you that you don’t have to scrounge any yards, measure any clutch plates, or fabricate a crossmember? Would it make the swap even more appealing? The PerfectFit kit is the solution that comes with everything to convert to an overdrive transmission without ever having to scour the want ads or wrecking yards to search for parts. The PerfectFit kit even includes the driveshaft which, of course, is ordered after the transmission installation so a few measurements can be retrieved and provided to Dynotech Engineering.
However, the PerfectFit kit doesn’t stop there. If you’ve ever installed a salvaged transmission before, you probably noticed the shifter doesn’t typically line up to the same spot as the old one. In those situations, you will need to raise the transmission into the tunnel, mark a location to cut or expand a hole, and continue raising and lowering the transmission until you get it right. SST takes care of that task for you, too, because they do all of the research and test fitting to assemble the kit.
We asked Jeff Kauffman, VP of sales and marketing, to give us a rundown on what makes the PerfectFit kit so unique. “PerfectFit is a process that involves a combination of transmission case machining to eliminate trouble spots. In many cases, the case machining will reduce or eliminate the need for tunnel mods,” he tells us. There are some applications, however, that still require a little persuasion or modification, and for that Jeff tells us, “We provide a transmission-tunnel cutting template and pre-engineered sheetmetal that is ready to install.”
A Shifter That Fits Car And Driver
Another part of the PerfectFit process is the customized shifter. This is where Silver Sport truly takes care of the dirty work. SST creates a shifter mechanism to replace the TREMEC shifter on nearly every PerfectFit kit. Jeff stated, “Our STX shifter is a dual-purpose part. It reduces the shifter-handle travel by as much as 30-percent, depending on the build. The other purpose is to locate the shifter in the proper location.”
This is an extra step SST takes to allow the vehicle owner to maintain a factory look, as well as avoid cutting up a center console. There may be some applications that require very little modification to the shifter, Jeff told us “Depending on the application, shifter location can be as simple as bolting-on our STX shifter with the proper stub lever. Others will require the transmission to go through the machining/build process.”
“Some applications are more challenging than others,” he continued. “SST has the unique advantage of employing two engineers — one of which was on the original T56 design team — so there aren’t many obstacles we cannot overcome.” This means Silver Sport not only has the engineering staff to modify a TREMEC transmission with a new, shorter-throw STX shifter, but they also have the facilities to do so in-house.
“We also have a full machine shop and fabrication capability at our location,” Jeff eluded. “While some are more difficult than others, we have the knowledge and capability to design a product that will look and function properly in the end.” Once installed, the SST-modified TREMEC will have the look and feel of the factory transmission from a driver’s position. But we all know that underneath is a much more sophisticated process than simply stabbing a transmission in place.
What Does It Take To Create The PerfectFit?
Silver Sport continues to add new PerfectFit kits to its arsenal, but what about kits that haven’t been created yet? “This all depends on the application,” Jeff told us. “Some can take six to eight weeks if new production parts are required. I’ve seen one take more than a year.”
But the good news is, many popular TKO and Magnum six-speed conversions are already available as complete PerfectFit kits. For new kits, it can be time consuming. The object here is to install a transmission into a vehicle that likely came off the production line long before these transmissions were available to the automotive aftermarket.
Jeff continued, “Once a kit is designed and validated on a test vehicle, it is released. Multiple installs are not required, since most every car will require the same shifter location, and crossmembers are designed to bolt into the stock location.” But not every situation is cut and dry.
There are times when a vehicle has gone through some changes in its 35-plus years. “There are cases of custom builds or cars that have been altered in one way or another,” Jeff said. “We accommodate those requirements on an individual basis. Needs such as these are discovered during our consultative sales process, where we dive into the build and determine if the order will require any variations.”
When creating a new kit, the first step is locating a stock vehicle — or nearly stock — to make sure to capture the correct data, ensuring proper fitment. This data can range from driveline angles to shifter locations, and Silver Sport takes it into the high-tech realm, too. “We take a floor scan so we can 3D model fitment before the actual installation starts,” iterated Jeff. If the car has been cut up or isn’t currently drivable, then the search continues for another R&D vehicle.
Everything Included In One Price
As we mentioned earlier, the PerfectFit kit includes everything needed to convert from either an OE automatic or manual transmission to a Tremec five- or six-speed transmission. The transmission is the bulk of the conversion, but other necessary components include the bellhousing, clutch assembly, driveshaft, crossmember, and associated hardware.
“We have clutch options to cover power up to 1,000 lb-ft of torque, but if someone is loyal to another brand, they can certainly use whatever they prefer,” Jeff told us. Automatic to TREMEC conversions also include the pedal assembly and the clutch master and slave cylinders, where required. Other conversions will utilize the mechanical linkage. Silver Sport can accommodate both.
While the driveshaft is also included, it can delay the fun for a few days depending on your location. Silver Sport works with Dynotech Engineering to provide the driveshaft. Simply take a few measurements post-installation of the transmission, and Silver Sport will relay those dimensions, and a driveshaft will be shipped to you. For this installation on the Camaro, we opted to use a local shop, Oceanside Driveline, to accommodate an anxious owner who wanted to put the hammer down as soon as possible.
Of course, complete instructions are included with every PerfectFit kit. Should you run into any difficulty with the installation, the team at Silver Sport Transmissions is ready to take your call, Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. Silver Sport Transmissions can do it all and hook you up with a PerfectFit kit for your car, putting you into the dependability of a TREMEC transmission. But we did find one thing they can’t do: remove that grin from the vehicle owner’s face.