Sharp Shiftin’ Wagon

Sharp Shiftin’ Wagon

A few months ago, Joyo and I coasted into Austin on our return trip from Ohio with a tranny making funny noises. It still shifted fine, but the sound resonating from under ’60 Chevrolet wagon sure did sound fatal. The high dollar 700R4 from Art Carr was pulled and taken to a local tranny shop. The diagnosis? Burned up converter, pump, and planetary. In other words, the tranny was trash… or so we were told…

A call to Art Carr got me nowhere and I decided to take my business elsewhere. I remembered hearing about a tranny shop on the H.A.M.B. that puts together custom 700R4 packages with brand new parts. A quick search turned up Gearstar Transmissions and JimA was able to supply a phone number. I called them up, gave them all the motor and gear specs of the wagon, bit the bullet, and gave them my credit card number.

Ten days later, the tranny arrived and Bleed slapped it in for me along with a new tranny cooler. After perfectly adjusting the TV cable (Bleed rules), we hopped in it and went for a ride. Again the tranny shifted as it should, but a loud metal on metal sound persisted. We instantly thought about the carrier bearing and a trip to the lift confirmed our suspicions.

I drove the wagon home, researched Inland Empire’s carrier bearing and driveshaft products, and then threw more money at the problem. A week or so later, the X-frame driveshaft kit (carrier bearing and two-piece driveshaft) arrived from Inland Empire. I got the kit installed and went for a ride. Finally, we got it beat… no more sound…

During this whole process, I began to doubt the diagnosis that the original tranny shop in Austin gave us. The old tranny was shifting fine and obviously, the offensive sound wasn’t tranny related. Had I just thrown away a $4000 Art Carr tranny? Not wanting to get my blood pressure too high, I decided to write it off and just ignore the possibility.

And I have to admit, the difference between the old Art Carr unit and the new Gearstar unit is like night and day. The Gearstar tranny shifts smoother and more consistently while the custom stalled lock-up converter works so much more efficiently, that I’ve actually seen my gas mileage increase from 14mpg on the highway to over 20mpg!

Somehow this post about the trials and tribulations of old car ownership has turned into a product review post… And I guess if I’m doing product reviews, I need to summarize and conclude – huh? Well, here goes:

Inland Empire – Their carrier bearing is a must and even at over $100, it is well worth the dough. That said, I probably could have saved a good chunk of money if I would have just had a local driveshaft company build the two-piece telescopic unit.

Gearstar Transmissions – Again, EXPENSIVE. But ya know what? I would spend that money again… I couldn’t be happier with how my new 700R4 is performing and there is some comfort in knowing that it’s built with all new parts and by folks that really know what they are doing.

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