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Hot Rods Ford 3 speed and 401 Nailhead

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by deuceflathead, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    OK Here we go. Anyone who has really experienced destruction of a early Ford 3 Speed top loader by the torque of a 401 nailhead please respond, not those who have just heard of this. I want to know the real truth not just stories. I am putting this tranny behind a 401 and lots of folks are telling me i am gooing to blow it up pulling out of my driveway. If this is true why are there so many adapters available.. Please respond
     
  2. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,578

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    It will last if you baby it. It will blow if you don't. Back when they were only a few years old, you could blow a Ford trans in drag racing by dropping the clutch with a mildly souped up flathead of 125 HP or so, or even a stock 100HP engine.

    Start off easy and develop some momentum before you give it the works and it will last a long time. Drop the clutch and squeal the tires, no.
     
  3. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Rusty Thanks. Im feeling better already
     
  4. Angry Frenchman
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,755

    Angry Frenchman
    Member

    don't down shift it from speed either. it will lock up the synchronizer. narrow tires will help too. I love these trans and they are fun went you understand them.
     

  5. atch
    Joined: Sep 3, 2002
    Posts: 4,798

    atch
    Member

    i can't respond with "for certain" information, but i have a 354 with a ford (actually mercury) 3-sp behind it using an aftermarket bellhousing. the motor is stuck, but the tranny seems to be ok. i bought the bellhousing at a swapmeet and the seller threw in the engine and tranny. i don't really have a use for it right now, but i just couldn't pass it up for the money.

    the point of my response is that apparently this trans outlived the engine.

    for my 401 i have an original buick GS bellhousing. if it lived behind a 401 or 425 in a 2 ton car it'll surely work in a 2,000# T roadster.
     
  6. tjm73
    Joined: Feb 17, 2006
    Posts: 3,397

    tjm73
    Member

    Can you hook up a top loader 3 speed? Pontiac GTO's had "Dearborn" 3 speeds that were just top loaders that could survive behind the Pontiac engines since the Muncies could not. They would have had a BOP bell housing and they will take a Jeep top mount shifter. Would give a tough easy to find 3 speed transmission.
     
  7. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Thanks everybody for the imput. Just a note, Im running the three speed because I run a closed driveshaft. I feel much better about being able to get out of my driveway. It sounds like as long as I dont drop the hammer I may be able to build this car and drive it from Maryland to Austin this spring for the Roundup. By the way, I just want to mention that my son and I are both building 34 Ford five window coupes. He is going to run a 331 Cadillac and me the nailhead. Both with early ford three speeds. Wish us luck. Thanks for the help.
     
  8. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 9,578

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    If the trans and rear end are in good shape you can drive from coast to coast with no problem if you take it easy. By that I mean, once you are rolling and the clutch is fully home. In low and second, idle away from a stop then give it the gas once you get rolling.You can give it full throttle in high gear .

    If you want to go in for drag racing, revving up and dropping the clutch etc you pretty much have to replace the whole drive line. If you put in a better clutch the trans will blow. If you put in a better trans the rear axle will blow. Wherever the weak link is, there you will have trouble unless you go heavy duty right down the line.
     
  9. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Rusty
    Thanks man I appreciate your time
     
  10. mastermannsr
    Joined: May 16, 2009
    Posts: 13

    mastermannsr
    Member

    I'm building a 401 powered 29 ford coupe at the present time I have 2 Saginaw that way when I puke the first one having fun I can put on the second one. Oh if I could find a 6 ring super t10 I'd scrap the Saginaw at a reasonable price. Good luck and don't hot rod your hot rod or get a spare
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
  11. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Mr. mastermannsr,
    Good luck putting that car together. I hope you did not have as much trouble squeezing that nailhead in as I did. Part of my problem was that I am determined to run a hood and an F1 steering box. Thanks for the response
     
  12. Angry Frenchman
    Joined: Feb 12, 2006
    Posts: 1,755

    Angry Frenchman
    Member

    sounds like a real cool build! can you guys share some pics??



     
  13. 35 Woodie
    Joined: Jan 20, 2006
    Posts: 194

    35 Woodie
    Member

    You won't be able to fully enjoy the power of your nailhead. I chose a Tremec 5-speed and was lucky to find a Skylark GS 4-speed bellhousing to mate to my 401. A little recess in the firewall for the distributor and the nailhead fits nice. I'm using a Vega steering box, the '34 column cleared the starter just fine.
     

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  14. PackardV8
    Joined: Jun 7, 2007
    Posts: 892

    PackardV8
    Member

    All good advice so far. Drive it carefully and the old Ford box will get you there. The Ford 3-speed will take all the horsepower and torque once in high gear and headed down the road. Just a few clutch pops on concrete or a few 1-2 speed whoops and it will be shrapnel in a box.

    However, do you know you've got a good one? PITA to put everything on a closed driveline together, take it out on the road and hear a whine or have it pop out of second gear.

    jack vines
     
  15. Atwater Mike
    Joined: May 31, 2002
    Posts: 10,635

    Atwater Mike
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    I have used the trusty '39 box behind mild-to-wild flatheads, 364 Buicks, 331 Cads, and even 'Y' blocks. Worst application was in my '46 Coupe with the 6-71 blown 331 Chrysler.
    Rusty O'Toole is dead right on the 'ease of clutch' and gentle throttling. They will last if respected.

    I have blown and repaired more '39 boxes than any 3 guys I know...
    (cluster; 1st/reverse slider; input shaft; 2nd gear set. Only one I had synchro problems with was my '46...the hemi got full-throttled in second, didn't blow anything...but it never came out of 2nd again. The 2nd/high synchro sleeve climbed the teeth of the hub, and the synchro was history. Only time I ever saw that happen. Usually, the synchro sleeve would explode in 3 or more pieces)

    Excessive end play in the main drive is what 'pops them out of 2nd', and end play at the counter shaft (cluster) is what aggravates the lower gears (1st, rev., 2nd)
     
  16. Just tape an egg on the gas pedal and drive without breaking the egg.
    I would venture to say that the trans is the weakest link there , if your OK with that then that's all that matters.
    Personally I think I'd blow it up before I got out of the driveway.

    As far as adapter logic....

    Those nail head adapters were made to fit the earlier smaller less torque nailheads. They were designed long before a 450 lb torque 401 ever was thought about. Just because the 401 has the same bell housing bolt pattern, that doesn't mean they thought the trans would be fine behind a 401.

    This setup makes me think of a 1/4 drive ratchet with a 18" cheater pipe on it. Sure it will work if you go easy.
     
  17. Oh yeah, it will survive the 401. I have the original 3 spd. toploader in my Goat convertible. It's never been touched for a rebuild and with the advertised 450 lbs. of torque out of a Ponty 400, plus a heavy car, and I'm the kind to put that torque to good use:D; it will take the punishment.
     
  18. Torchie
    Joined: Apr 17, 2011
    Posts: 1,070

    Torchie
    Member

    Have heard many of the same stories. No problems as long as you don't hammer on it.
    I am running a 364 Nailhead in front of a stock Ford side shift trans in my 1941 Ford project. Not as beefy as your 401 but still plenty of tourque.
    You can also use that adapter in conjunction with one that mates a 4 speed to a flathead but as stated you could not use a closed drivetrain. You could still use the banjo rear end and adapt it to an open driveline.
    Sounds like a lot of adapting! lol
     
  19. texasred
    Joined: Dec 3, 2008
    Posts: 1,103

    texasred
    Member
    from Houston

    It will hold up until the first rice burner pulls up next to you at a redlight..
     
  20. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Glad to post some pictures of my car and my sons if i Can figure out how
     
  21. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    35 woodie your car is looking good. To the rest of you thanks so much for the response. I am committed to the nailhead now. I modified my motor mounts and transmission mounts today and welded every thing up. I heated the stock pedals and bent them so I would miss the bellhousing. Everything is looks like it will work with the hood. The header just clear the interfenders. I am going to disassemble my nailhead and send it to the Machine shop. Now I will turn my attention to the body. I will keep everyone posted form time to time. Thanks again everyone. I wont forget the egg on the gas pedal either.
     
  22. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Thanks everybody. I am now comitted to the nailnead, I welded in the motor mounts and modified the transmission mount to fit moving the motor back. I heated and bent the stock pedals to miss the bellhousing. It looks like my steering box has been milled so I can recess it through the frame and my headers clear the inter fenders and my hood fits. Today I am going to start tearing my nailhead apart so I can take it to the machine shop for the rebuild. Thanks again. I will remember the egg on the gas pedal
     
  23. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    OK fellas, I have set up my transmission mount back and welded in my motor mounts for a 401 nailhead but I have found a good running 364 Nailhead. My 401 needs a complete rebuild the 364 can be purchased for $600. I think I am going to go the cheap route. Is there anything I should know regarding a 364 that is negitive.
     
  24. DualQuad55
    Joined: Mar 5, 2005
    Posts: 1,377

    DualQuad55
    Member
    from Epsom, NH

    Just that the intakes are 364 only unless you use an injection unit or log type with rubber balance tubes.
    The deck height is closer on the 364 so the intake width is narrower to match.
    Oh yeah, the 364 takes about 1/2oz more weight on the flywheel to balance. Sometimes this can give a strange harmonic vibration if over looked.
     
  25. DualQuad55
    Joined: Mar 5, 2005
    Posts: 1,377

    DualQuad55
    Member
    from Epsom, NH

    The 364-401-425 do not share the same bellhousing as the 264-322.
     
  26. deuceflathead
    Joined: Feb 11, 2009
    Posts: 30

    deuceflathead
    Member
    from sharpsburg

    Thanks Joe. Good advice
     
  27. They make two of those full syncro ford top loader trans. The mustangs and six cylinder trucks had a lighter version it has a tag marked RAN the 360 & 390 pickips & cars and the pontiacs had the heavier trans. Now the old gear cruncher low side shift trans wouldnt take much abuse. The Heavy version top loader will hold up and like was mentioned before you can used a jeep top cover and convert to floor shift, the jeep used the lighter version. OldWolf
     

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