May 24, 2011

Richmond 5/6-Speed

The Richmond transmissions have been around for a while. Before the TKOs came along, they were essentially your only choice for a five-speed box that would handle some abuse. What’s unique about them is that unlike the Tremec boxes, the Richmond transmissions still use an external shift linkage like the old muscle car transmissions. This can be a pro or con, depending on which way you look at it.

In a Ford model (because that’s the only one that matters, right?), the Richmond 5-speed is offered in a Street version and a Road Race version. Both of those are offered with a Top Loader-depth input shaft or a longer input shaft, to be used with a deeper bellhousing. The input shaft can be either a 1116x10-spline or a 118x26-spline. Rated at 450 lb-ft of torque, the Street transmission has a 3.28:1 First gear and a 1:1 Fifth gear (no Overdrive). The Road Race trans has a variety of gear ratios to choose from.

There is also a 5-speed Super Street transmission from Richmond. It’s rated for 600 lb-ft of torque and is available with the same input shaft dimensions and gear ratios as the older 5-speed.

The 6-speed ROD is pretty similar to the 5-speed Super Street, except that there is an Overdrive available. The ratio of that Overdrive is dependent on which gearset you order the transmission with.


    1. Smaller overall size to fit in the transmission tunnel of most cars
    2. Lots of gear ratios available
    3. Comes with a Long shifter


    1. Pretty expensive for a five-speed or six-speed gearbox. As a matter of fact, they are the most expensive transmissions of our lineup today
    2. External shifter linkages, which may need set up and adjustment
    3. Depending on the rearend ratio, the transmission gear ratios may or may not fit the bill for younot having an Overdrive can be a deal breaker for some, while others with numerically low rearend ratios can benefit from the low First gear

Tremec Magnum T-56

This punk of a transmission is rated for 700 lb-ft of torque. Yep, 700. The Ford version of the transmission comes with a 118x26-spline input shaft and two gear ratio choices: a 2.66:1 First gear, 0.62 Sixth gear; or a 2.97:1 First gear, 0.50 Sixth gear. Like a TKO, the shifter positions are changeable, which will allow you put the shifter up in the transmission tunnel where you need it to be.


    1. Will handle an enormous amount of torque
    2. Lots of different shifter positions and aftermarket shifter options
    3. Has both mechanical/electrical speedometer provisions
    4. Comes with its own factory shifter
    5. Even a version for the S197 platform available
    6. Did we mention it will hold 700 lb-ft of torque?
    7. Six forward gears (if you need them)


    1. Very heavy and long
    2. One of the more expensive transmissions
    3. May need modification/fabrication done to the midplate for use with some clutch kits, like the McLeod/RAM twin discs

Ford Top Loader

The Ford Top Loader (called the Top Loader because you load the guts in through the top) has been around since the ’60s. There’s a reason for that: It’s one tough gearbox. Available in two different input/output shaft sizes, the 1116x10-spline (small input) or the 138x10-spline (big input); two different flavors (wide ratio or close ratio); and a wide selection of physical sizes and shifter locations, the Top Loader could fit in everything from a 289 Shelby Cobra to a big-block Galaxie. While only being a four-speed, old-school gearheads still love the beefy design and strength of the Ford Top Loader. This author has never seen an official torque rating for the Top Loader, but experience would provide a rough estimate of 500 lb-ft for the small input version, while the big input could handle 600 lb-ft.


    1. Will handle a lot of torque
    2. Can be made to fit a lot of different car platforms
    3. You can find good usable cores or rebuildable cores for not a lot of money
    4. Can easily rebuild with a few tools and some patience
    5. Small overall size, will fit in a lot of transmission tunnels including Fox Mustangs


    1. Pretty heavy, all cast-iron case/tail housing
    2. No Overdrive
    3. External linkage shifter that needs set up and adjustment