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Bang, Shift, Zoom!

An upgraded T56 Magnum that does all the work and gets none of the glory

Eric McClellan - September 27, 2012 10:00 AM

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Here’s our T56 Magnum modified by Rockland Standard Gear, aka: The Tranzilla.

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The Tranzilla comes with a tailshaft right off a Dodge Viper. The Viper extension makes a world of difference in power capabilities and uses the much bigger 31-spline output shaft. When you order one of these, make sure to order a Spicer 3-3-2491X transmission yoke. It’s the correct size and spline as the Viper tailshaft and allows you to use the very popular and strong 1350 U-joint.

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We have to wrench on our stuff just like everyone else, on the ground. We found this helpful scissor transmission jack at Harbor Freight for $65. Trust us, it was the best $65 we ever spent. It made this job almost too easy.

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Chances are that if you’re willing to go this far, you’ll also be using a fully hydraulic clutch assembly as well. The bolts for the slave cylinder are M6x1x16mm in size.

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Our aluminum Ram clutch is just the thing we need: strength and lightness. The Ram 98931HD flywheel is very light and can handle the juice we are going to throw at it. After installing the Quicktime plate, on went the flywheel. We used brand new bolts from ARP with a dab of red Loctite.

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Don’t let a $20 part ruin your entire day. We almost forgot the pilot bearing that can be found any parts store. Just make sure to install it flush with the crankshaft, being careful not to distort the bearing.

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The supplied clutch alignment tool held the clutch in place as we mounted the pressure plate.

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After installing the clutch and pressure plate, the Quicktime bellhousing (p/n 8020) gets bolted up to our LS3. Always use the supplied Grade-8 hardware; it’s wonderful peace of mind.

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Using our snazzy scissor lift, we brought the transmission into place and slowly worked it into place. Never use the bolts to bring the transmission closer to the bellhousing. We pumped the clutch pedal (pre-bled) a few times to get things seated properly. That seemed to be the ticket and the transmission slid into place.

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The slave cylinder and bleeder hang out the driver’s side of the tranny. The upper is the bleeder as it allows air to escape and the input is the lower one. Use an 11mm wrench to crack the bleeder and get out all the air.

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The clutch master cylinder has an input just like this, it snaps into the slave cylinder. To get this sucker out again, we like to use a pair of angled needle nose pliers to push the plunger (the plastic collar) down that allows its release.

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The Tranzilla tailshaft sits a lot lower in the frame than its cousin, the T56. With a TH400 trans mount, the SpeedTech crossmember needed to be lowered. We fabbed up these aluminum blocks with some Grade-8 hardware.

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After the tranny in its final resting place, we double-check our driveline angles to make sure we won’t have any vibrations.

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This car previously had a regular T56 from a Camaro seated in place, but this shifter position was a little more forward. A set of tin snips and we made short work of the tunnel. We’ll go back later and make sure to fabricate a nice panel to cover up our gaping hole.

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You’ll most likely have to shorten your driveshaft, but in our case we had to lengthen it a bit to match up to our nine-inch rear-end. We had this new one built (upper) from Bear’s Performance.

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You’ll have to forgive the title, it’s a bit flashy to get people to pick up the mag and not just skim the pretty pictures.

Everyone expects us to draw the haughty line in the sand and keep tech articles strictly — well, technical. This just might be the case that breaks all exceptions because we literally could not wait to get our new transmission shoved into place and give it the ol’ bangshift, if you catch our drift. It’s really too bad that no one ever sees the transmission; it really does make a massive difference in how your car drives and performs. For that reason, we went right to the top of the heap for ours.

We have been lucky enough to get our hands on quite possibly the strongest and coolest six-speed on the market: the T56 Magnum. Right from the Tremec factory, these killer double overdrive units can handle upwards of 700 lbs-ft of torque and have incredibly positive shifts. These aren’t your typical T56s you find in Corvettes, Vipers, Camaros and some Mustangs. These are beefier and more stout versions of the same thing.

So, you’re probably thinking, “sure guys, but my twin turbo-mega motor makes more than that, gimme some more!” Thankfully, there are places like Rockland Standard Gear out there who offer an even more upgraded version of the Magnum. What they do is they take the Magnum from Tremec, upgrade to carbon rings on gears one through four and slap on a Viper tail shaft. This combo now called a “Tranzilla” along with some RSG magic allows us to run up to 1,000 lbs-ft and 1,200 horsepower, with the correct clutch bits, naturally.

The sobering fact is that these units, the T56 Magnum and the T56 Magnum Tranzilla, while extremely amazing, will set you back just a tad under $3,000 for the Magnum and roughly $4,100 for the T56 Tranzilla. This is all before you shell out for the correct flywheel, clutch and pressure plate! You will most likely have to modify your driveshaft (typically shorten it) and depending on your shifter location, cut a hole in the floor or get a different shifter.

Here’s a little info on our project car so you can keep score. It’s a 1968 Camaro with a Mast LS3 swap that puts out a respectable 600 horsepower and 525 lbs-ft of torque. So do we really need this massive of a transmission right now? Probably not, but in keeping with tradition, we feel that this combination will feel a bit sluggish in short order so a couple power adders might just be the ticket. For now, we have that pesky transmission problem sorted out and we get to keep the clutch pedal, which makes almost any car feel like a race car! We enlisted the help of a good friend, Nate Shaw from One Guys Garage, to help us out. A pizza and a couple old car war stories and we were pretty much done.

One final word before you jump to the photos: you have to use the right oil. Tremec only recommends using the correct oil in their trannies before you go off driving. They told us that they recommend straight Dexron-III right from any parts store. They’ve done a ton of testing and they know for a fact that it works. Anything else and who really knows (and it can void some warranties), so always check with the manufacturer to be doubly safe. Rockland sent us a case of their own synthetic SM150 oil, which they claim works well. Hey, if RSG says we should use it, it can’t be all that bad.

We should also mention that you’ll probably want to set aside a good weekend to get this project done start to finish, keeping in mind the average beer break and factoring for group high-fives. Regardless of how long it takes, it will be well worth it as this may be the very last manual transmission you ever buy.

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