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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I started to strip down my 54 Bel Air a couple of weeks ago and am trying to decide on some modifications. It has a 6 cylinder engine with standard transmission. I am thinking about upgrading suspension, power brakes, power steering.

But I am also thinking about changing out tranny for an automatic and changing differential so car is better on the highway.

Any suggestions on what to look for for tranny and diff? Also, if I install Heidts front suspension (with rack and pinion steering) anyone have any ideas that I would need to add for steering? Original gearbox is part of column tube....

Thank you.

Here is where I am starting from:





 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If I was swapping the transmission and rear end I would go to a 4 speed overdrive with 3:73 gears.

What would be a good donor car for this (or what trans would you recommend)? Would it be easy to regear the rear end or better to swap it out? (haven't fone anything on rear ends before).
 

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That car has a torque tube diff, so if you want to swap the trans, you need a new rear end. 2nd gen Camaro rear will fit up and it will hold up.. If you just wanted a better driver and a stock 3spd, then you could just get the rear out of a '51-'54 Powerglide car as PG cars had 3.73's and stick cars had 4.11's
A 700R4 Auto is a good auto, but the 235 if in stock form is going to 'feel' overdrive a bit. I would keep 4.11 gearing if you went with the OD trans.

My car ( '51 Fleetline, 235/ Powerglide ) will go down the road about 60 MPH with more to spare ( 60 is as far as I'v taken it ), but it cruises best at 50-55 MPH
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
That car has a torque tube diff, so if you want to swap the trans, you need a new rear end. 2nd gen Camaro rear will fit up and it will hold up.. If you just wanted a better driver and a stock 3spd, then you could just get the rear out of a '51-'54 Powerglide car as PG cars had 3.73's and stick cars had 4.11's
A 700R4 Auto is a good auto, but the 235 if in stock form is going to 'feel' overdrive a bit. I would keep 4.11 gearing if you went with the OD trans.

My car ( '51 Fleetline, 235/ Powerglide ) will go down the road about 60 MPH with more to spare ( 60 is as far as I'v taken it ), but it cruises best at 50-55 MPH
Thanks for the info!

Could the 235 be upgraded to handle the 700R4? i understand that the early corvettes had the 235 in them. I would really like it to handle 70 mph pretty easily if it can be done (without costing a fortune). I'll look for a Camaro rear end!
 

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Yes. with the OD, it probably could do 70 MPH on the highway. Stock form it probably won't hold the speed very well on anything other than flat ground. dual carb Intake and headders will strengthen it up quite a bit tho.
 

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Thanks for the info!

Could the 235 be upgraded to handle the 700R4? i understand that the early corvettes had the 235 in them. I would really like it to handle 70 mph pretty easily if it can be done (without costing a fortune). I'll look for a Camaro rear end!
A 235 inline 6 engine will require an adapter setup to install the 700r4 trans onto the 235 engine. LAst time I checked that adapter setup was in the area of 550.00 to 600 dollars
 

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Why not a 3spd stick with a Warner overdrive? Perfectly suitable for what you're trying to do; you could also use a T5, although Im not sure WHICH T5 the inliner crew prefers. I'm sure someone here can provide the info. The T5 swap is probably more involved than the 3spd. If you're keeping the motor stock, and want to keep the 'feel' of the car, I believe the 3spd stick would be unique and work well for your application. I'd also put a 3.55 to 3.73 set of gears in the car.

Edit: Its seems strange to say something that was commonly used in the 50s and 60s as being 'unique' :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks for the info guys. I'll have to google the Warner OD.

And 500 to 600 for an adapter....not sure I am ready to put that much into adapter. Rather spend on suspension of interior than adapter...

Any thought on what would need to be done to replace steering gearbox if I go with rack and pinion from either Heidts or CE?

On measuring the rear end, is that from wheel flange on axle to teh other side? (Haven't done any rear end work or swapping before).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks. Spring Perch. Could not remember what they were called! ...lol... I think I have seen them on Summit's site and a few other places. Hopefully I can leave the original in place and new ones will fit up to prevent cutting on axle tube if possible.

All this makes me want to go back out to garage and work some tonight. Could not do anything today as I ahd to yake FIL to VA hospital for appointment. He likes to sit out in garage and watch me work!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Looked everywhere between Eastland and Temple for 18n ga sheet metal....only to find none anywhere. Going to Austin Monday and understand there is a place in Pflugerville (just north of Austin). No time to work on 54 this weekend as I am rebuilding the OD in Dodge Ram.....I FUBAR'D it last weekend.

I found 16 ga metal but I think it would be problematic in shaping. The sheet metal on body measures 18ga. If I cannot find 18ga, would 16 ga work?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Had to put project on hold. Still could not find 18 ga sheet metal but learned of a place to get it. But I am in the process of relocating...so it may be end of December before I can et everything moved and set up and get back to work. I did find some scrap sheet metal that I had out in a storage building that is 0.007" thinner that the body on the Bel Air. I suspect that would work fine.

Been driving to new job and staying there during the week and coming home on weekends. No much time for anything lately. Can't wait to get moved!
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I thought I would post up some pics of the 54 Bel Air that I have been working on.
It is currently on a rotisserie. I have cut our front floor and fitted new floor pans. Most of exterior is stripped and bondo removed from several places. Still have more rust to cut our and replace sheet metal.
[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][URL="http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/IMG-20120903-00823.jpg%5b/IMG"][FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#0000ff]http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/IMG-20120903-00823.jpg[/IMG[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][COLOR=#000000][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000] [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000][IMG][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][URL="http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/20120923_150919_zps86b4e3a2.jpg%5b/IMG"][FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#0000ff]http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/20120923_150919_zps86b4e3a2.jpg[/IMG[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][COLOR=#000000][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000] [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000][IMG][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][URL="http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/IMG-20120913-00870.jpg%5b/IMG"][FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#0000ff]http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/IMG-20120913-00870.jpg[/IMG[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][COLOR=#000000][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000] [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[COLOR=#000000][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri] [IMG][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][URL="http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/IMG-20120904-00831a.jpg%5b/IMG"][FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#0000ff]http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/IMG-20120904-00831a.jpg[/IMG[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][COLOR=#000000][SIZE=3][FONT=Calibri]][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000] [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000][IMG][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][URL="http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/20121002_182155.jpg%5b/IMG"][FONT=Calibri][SIZE=3][COLOR=#0000ff]http://i1214.photobucket.com/albums/cc482/gdstock/1954%20Bel%20Air/20121002_182155.jpg[/IMG[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][/URL][SIZE=3][COLOR=#000000][FONT=Calibri]][/FONT][/COLOR][/SIZE]
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