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Best standard trans option behind a 394 Olds?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by borderboy1971, Apr 16, 2011.

  1. borderboy1971
    Joined: Oct 20, 2008
    Posts: 571

    from Canada

    First off I'll say this is a great site, I've been lurking for quite some time. Kinda shy, and usually don't have anything to add. I'm planning a early 60's type build and will be running a ultra high compression 394 Olds. I want 3 pedals in it and also want to put a trans in it that will hold up to the occasional throttle stomping. What woud you recommend as a decent option for a trans. wilcap adapted early Ford trans? (not sure how strong early Ford trans are?), or an adapter to a muncie type trans. Keep in mind I'd really like to try to stay no newer in mid 60's style - exception only if it visually looks to be 60's or older but can be newer internally. Question number 2 is- is there a difference between the 371 and U.H.C. 394 in the sense of what intake manifolds will fit. I've seen some adds say the 371 manifolds won't fit the 394?
  2. borderboy1971
    Joined: Oct 20, 2008
    Posts: 571

    from Canada

    Any opinions on what to use for a standard trans?
  3. CRH
    Joined: Apr 30, 2006
    Posts: 554

    from Utah

    Bump this thread. Help this guy out... Olds 394's are beautiful motors. I also have considered using one in my '30 coupe.
  4. borderboy1971
    Joined: Oct 20, 2008
    Posts: 571

    from Canada

    Thought I'd add this will be in a 32 Ford tudor sedan. Also would consider a Ford toploader style (and if I'm correct the OD version from the 80's looks like a toploader?)
    Willie McCoy likes this.
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  5. Dave Downs
    Joined: Oct 25, 2005
    Posts: 845

    Dave Downs
    from S.E. Penna

    I really can't help much, but maybe I can give you some ideas and hope some more knowledgable guys speak up.

    Back in the 'old days' the transmission of choice would have been a Caddilac/LaSalle 3 speed but finding one of those these days is damn near impossible.

    The older Ford transmissions (torque-tube type) are not real strong, but last last for a while in a light car.

    Flywheels, clutches and bellhousings are also hard to find, but from what I've seen here they are available, but will be expensive. I think there are adapters for later 4-speeds.

    I ran a 'Hydro' behind my 394 Olds, but that was in '63 when Olds stuff was plentiful, besides you want a stick shift.

    As for the 394/371 intakes, there are issues on interchangability that I think can be overcome by spacers and/or milling the intake surfaces.

    Come on, there are some Olds guys here - help this guy out.

    PS - Borderboy - use the 'search' function here, it works good!
  6. Paul
    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 14,375


    my personal preference would be for one of the Muncie 4 speed transmissions

    late 371 intake manifolds, '59, '60 will fit the 394,
    but not the early manifolds, '57, '58

    GOATROPER02 here on the HAMB can set you up with whatever you decide on
    nochop likes this.
  7. Paul
    Joined: Aug 29, 2002
    Posts: 14,375


    here is a picture of one of Tony's (GOATROPER02's) adapters on one of my spare motors,
    nice quality casting

    Joined: Mar 22, 2006
    Posts: 2,057

    from OHIO


    I've also got tripower and 2x4 manifolds for your 394,and
    I also build custom manifolds

    Also I have any part you'll need stock or speed engine wise ,as well as all the auto and stick parts.

    Thanks for the mention Paul

  9. I've had the Olds/LaSalle combo mocked up in my '36 for many years, but decided to go with a mid-60's toploader w/ Jeep shifter and pickup tail-housing. This unit is much shorter than the LaSalle, just as strong, has full synchro, old-timey top shifter, and is reasonably priced, at least for the 3 speed version.

    Do a search and you will find a few good threads covering this conversion in the recent past.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2011
  10. johnny bondo
    Joined: Aug 20, 2005
    Posts: 1,547

    johnny bondo
    from illinois

  11. langy
    Joined: Apr 27, 2006
    Posts: 5,735

    Member Emeritus

    You won't go far wrong with Tony (goatroaper) he was a big help with my 394 build
  12. borderboy1971
    Joined: Oct 20, 2008
    Posts: 571

    from Canada

    Thanks for the help guys. I'm still in the planning stages of this yet, but will surely be getting ahold of goatroaper. In regards to the t5, it is nice having that overdrive and it is a very nice shifting trans (got 1 in my model a roadster pickup behind a 6 pack 350) but for this project I want to try to keep it all as old appearing as possible. (hence the overdrive toploader idea - as they are very close visually to a regular toploader). The car already has a narrowed Olds diff in it, so I'm still just trying to think of what the most likely choice would be for a standard trans. At this point thanks for the help, and will be considering it all.
  13. parklane
    Joined: Oct 17, 2009
    Posts: 188


    If you want to save some $$$ get a standard Olds trans for that engine. There's a guy in my town that has a factory 62 Olds 88 ragtop with a factory 3 speed. They are out there but scarce.
  14. You have to make sure you don't get stuck with the 80's Granada overdrive,they suck and aren't worth anything!
  15. aerorocket
    Joined: Oct 25, 2007
    Posts: 488

    from N.E. P.A.

    X2 - Tony and his dad [Ross] are both stand up individuals whom you won't regret dealing with. Glad to see another Olds powered rig.
  16. One thing to remember in whatever trans you eventually choose is that the crankshaft will have to be drilled to accept a pilot bearing.As I recall Oldsmobile stopped doing this in late 1956 when they went to the Jetaway Hydra-Matic.Any manual trans is going to be pricey and as stated before the Cad-LaSalle and early(49-50)Oldsmobile transmissions are pretty rare.The later Olds(51-up) are strong but the shifters are complicated;they use a single lever and an additional smaller lever to move it in and out.
    If you want a 4-speed a Muncie (M-22)is likely the best bet but pricey.I doubt a T-10 would be up to the job if you like to stand on it.
    I'm not familiar with the later 5 and 6 speed boxes so I can't comment on them.
  17. Reman
    Joined: Jul 8, 2010
    Posts: 300

    from Florida

    Only a bit to add, since I am not experienced with GM stuff. Ford speaking, I would not recommend a T-10. I think your 394 would break it. A toploader would do the job for you and hold up, though I am not sure what you you would use housing wise. Do be aware of the later toploader lookalikes, that are pretty much crap. David Kee's toploader website will tell you the ways to recognize the differences. You can always get an add on overdrive unit, but cumbersome and expensive.....You could also go with an original Ford 3 sp overdrive trans. I believe that is a T-85. It is a nice trans, but probably similar to the T 10 durability wise. Good luck, Ron
  18. Willie McCoy
    Joined: Jul 26, 2014
    Posts: 4

    Willie McCoy

    I know this an older thread, but I'd like to just throw in the 394 had a Detroit balance. The later engines also used a smaller diameter wheel. As far as drilling the block I've never had to, just used a home made pilot adapter and i didn't even have to cut my T5 input.

    Attached Files:

    kidcampbell71, Deuces and F&J like this.
  19. PackardV8
    Joined: Jun 7, 2007
    Posts: 867


    Those who doubt the T10 handling a 394" Olds are forgetting the T10 was used behind Ford 390"/406", big block Mopars and 409" Chevs.

    Unless monster meats and repeated drag strip abuse are in the works, a light '32 sedan can't load a tranny like a big convertible Mopar did.

    When considering how 'period-correct' to build, remember, no one but you will ever see the tranny, but you'll be feeling the shifting of it every time you drive for as long as you drive. FWIW, I use a Borg-Warner T89 variant of the T85 behind the Packard V8 in my '55 Stude pickup and it's OK, but I'd do something else next time.

    1. Yes, it's period-correct, but by any recent standard, the Cad-LaSalle is a clunky piece to drive. Add to that, I haven't seen one for sale locally in the past twenty years.
    2. Yes, as mentioned, the OEM Olds 3-speed is a nightmare to set up a floor shifter. Finding the bellhousing and flywheel would be a leg up on whatever other tranny you went with. I haven't seen one for sale locally in forever.
    3. Yes, Hemmings says the 1962-'63 Oldsmobile used the T85, which would mean there is a bell housing out there for it, but I was there in the day and have never seen one so equipped.
    4. If there's a Christmas miracle, one might find a B&M Hydro-Stick out there. They were indestructible, so that would be worth a search.

    jack vines
    kidcampbell71, Hnstray and F&J like this.
  20. I'm running a healthy 394 with a J-option factory tri-power from a 372. No, they don't fit. I made an adapter and it works excellent.
    As far as tranny goes.... period correct... I get it, but unless somebody is crawling under your car....... I couldn't run 3 pedals (I'm to big) so I'm running a 700R4, I just don't tell anybody.
    Deuces likes this.
  21. Gman0046
    Joined: Jul 24, 2005
    Posts: 5,549


    Can't imagine what this standard transmission setup would cost even if its possible to find every part you'd need. 40-50 years ago it was difficult, right now I'd say it would be damn near impossible. If it were me I'd go with a 700R4.
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
  22. F&J
    Joined: Apr 5, 2007
    Posts: 13,177


    They must be talking the small Cutlass? size car.

    I gave up on LaS transmissions for two reasons, one is I prefer a top load design when working on a trans, second is more important, it is difficult to find certain LaS internal pieces if you are repairing one.

    So..I now use Olds gears & shafts from 51-64, in 1937 Buick "big series" top shift trans cases. I love the way they shift, and they do hold up fine for me.
    dan griffin likes this.
  23. Marty Strode
    Joined: Apr 28, 2011
    Posts: 4,012

    Marty Strode

    Saltracer 219 has a 51 olds 3 speed with a 39 ford shift top adapted to it, behind a 371, in one of his cars.
    dan griffin, F&J and Paul like this.
  24. oldsman41
    Joined: Jun 25, 2010
    Posts: 1,108


    Really depends on you but a rock crusher Muncie might do the trick. Should be able to handle the torque.
  25. flamedabone
    Joined: Aug 3, 2001
    Posts: 4,475


    This conversation has kind of sneaked towards automatics, so here is a pic of my ghetto 394 to Ford C-4 adaptor.




    It doesn't have to be pretty, just machine both mating surfaces flat parallel to the crank flange, dial in the center hole dead nuts, space the torque converter and you are good to go. Just remember, anything Goatroper sells is going to be 100 times nicer than this.

  26. chopndrop
    Joined: Feb 8, 2005
    Posts: 669


    @flamedabone, any thoughts of selling these Olds to C4 adapters? I am starting to look at putting a stick behind a 394, but that setup is very interesting
  27. I had looked at a '62 Olds many moons ago, 394 and a T10, 4.88 rear with ladder bars. The guy said the 4-speed conversion goods came out of a Pontiac. Another car I kick myself for not buying.

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