I knew the three speed was eventually going to have issues again so I started looking at replacing it with a Saginaw 4 speed. They were going from $500-$700 on Ebay. Brian Risso, one of my car buddies said I should look into the 5 speeds Chevy put into their Monza cars. I had been reading the tech articles on http://www.inliners.org/
dealing with older trucks and their low gear ratios. This one article mentioned using the Borg Warner T5 overdrive transmission found in tons of 80s and 90s cars and trucks. The transmissions out of the Chevy S-10 trucks were practically a bolt in.
The first section covered the varieties of cars and trucks GM put the 5 speeds in and their gear ratios. The second section talked about a guy who managed to create a hybrid using a Camaro gear box and an S-10 tailshaft and tailhousing. The reason being that the Camaro gears would better suit his application and the S-10 shifter position would allow him to keep his bench seats. Would this work for me?
I was able to locate an â€™85 4cyl Camaro tranny on craigslist for $50. Since I had planned on keeping a 6 in the car I figured this would be fine. After a few months I found an â€™82 Chevy S-10 with a T5. I brought it home and ran the numbers. Turns out the tranny was an â€™89. The original must have blown up so the guy replaced it.
I took both trannies to Kevin at All Standard. I explained what I wanted to do. He was familiar with the conversion and had done it many times for other people. He pointed out that the â€™89 S-10 tranny would be useless for the swap since it had the electronic speedo connection. I canâ€™t believe I missed that. Fortunately he had a few of the correct tailshafts and the tail housings stashed away and could do the job.
About a week later my new tranny was done and I took it home to save for the swap.
Starting in late November the Nova began having problems shifting. The clutch would get a little harder to push in and wouldnâ€™t shift into first without grinding. This wasnâ€™t constant. It would â€œgo awayâ€ after a few times and the car would operate normally. It started getting worse until one mid December evening when finally I couldnâ€™t shift into first without shutting the engine off. So now something HAD to be done.
I had 12/23 off so I dropped the car off at Earlâ€™s Auto to get a quote on installing the 5 speed. The following Thursday, Carl called. He said Iâ€™d be looking at around $1000 labor. About what I had figured. With parts I estimated it would be about $1500.00. I was glad I had done some research into the costs around the installation so I knew what to expect.
On 1/9 I got a call around 1:00 from Norm saying the car was ready. He said â€œthe car drives like a dreamâ€. I took a cab to Earlâ€™s. There it was in the driveway with a shifter sticking up out of the floor where it had once been bare. I got Carl to put the old 3 speed in my Rubbermaid bin so I could drop it off with Kevin at All Standard Transmissions. I got on the freeway heading home and the difference was huge. The car was incredibly quiet on the road. No more of that high RPM whine.