Dr Jamie Meyer
March 1, 2002

Horse Sense:
The AODE transmission has come stock in Ford Mustangs since 1994, and it is now called the 4R70 or 4R70W. The "W" stands for wide, as in wide gear pattern. These transmissions have the desirable low-gear set, which works best with the 4.6 modular engine, and they can be easily identified by the "W" stamped on the tailhousing.

When we last left off with our white '89 LX notchback ("Weekend Thrash," May '02, p. 208), we had begun the process of turning back the clock on an 80,000-plus-mile 5.0 Mustang. Our goal was to restore those aspects of the car most damaged by time and use. We did this by performing a tune-up and fuel-system rebuild, installing a full Bassani Xhaust stainless steel exhaust system, decreasing the parasitic drag on the engine to free up horsepower to the wheels, and upgrading the intake tract for easy breathing. Not covered in that story was the addition of an Unlimited Performance rear suspension (upper and lower rear control arms) and 3.73 gears, which really got things going.

What became obvious during our early ownership of the little coupe was that the AOD transmission, which was never intended for spirited driving in the first place, was in need of serious attention. After some blasts on the street and one day of dragstrip use, the transmission started slipping badly-to the point the car was no longer a pleasure to drive. We needed help. So we called our friends at Performance Automatic and Precision Industries-two aftermarket houses that know all about automatic-equipped performance cars-to get the inside scoop on what we'd need to fix our AOD blues.

Our first thought was to do a casual rebuild of the AOD, throw in a shift-improvement kit, maybe a wide gear pattern, and use a higher-stall converter to get the notch back in action. But Harvey Baker of Performance Automatic soon convinced us this was the old way of thinking. What he outlined for us was a jump to the next level in street automatic-transmission technology-the newly released Performance Automatic AODE transmission. The strengths of this transmission start from Ford Motor Company. The AODE is truly a state-of-the-art automatic transmission, with its pressure controlled internally, not coming from a TV cable as in the AOD. It's also much stronger from the start, able to hold 200 more horses in factory trim. And it has better internal components, including all gear material and hardware. Bottom line-it's an upgraded AOD ready for the next level.

In regard to the AODE, Harvey has become fond of saying, "We'd like to thank Ford for a job well done, but we'll take it from here!" Tom Cyr, owner and innovator at Performance Automatic, has developed a fully manual valvebody and transmission brake for the AODE. This brings the AODE into the performance market by mating a brute-strength transmission with the performance-car features of an Overdrive gear with electronic features (more on that later).

The unit we got for our car also included PA's large aluminum pan (12 quarts); Red Eagle race clutches; a Kevlar overdrive band; heavy-duty gaskets throughout; and a hardened, 31/44 shaft assembly. In testing, this bad boy has been taking more than 750 hp with nine-second elapsed-time potential. The best part is that even though this is an all-out race transmission inside, it also has the convenience of an electronically activated overdrive for full-on street use. As tested, our PA AODE transmission retails for $3,695.