Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
January 27, 2010
Photos By: Pete Epple, Marc Christ

Most Mustang owners know there is a certain allure to banging gears with a manual transmission. Still, people like to race cars with automatic transmissions-and for good reason. There are no missed shifts, less chance of breakage, and in general, the vehicles are more consistent than ones with clutches. If you're starting out with your old, tired AOD transmission, however, you've probably found that gear changes are slow, and getting your Mustang off the line in a fast manner is futile. Performance Automatic in Gaithersburg, Maryland, however, can turn your AOD into a timeslip-eating machine.

Performance Automatic has been a staple in the racing industry as well as supporting street enthusiasts, and the staff knows what it takes to make the automatic transmission in your Mustang work to the best of its ability.

Lately, we've been modifying a '93 Special Service Package 5.0L Mustang here in MM&FF, and we've done well improving horsepower, dropping seconds from our quarter-mile elapsed time, and improving the fun factor tenfold. The SSP already had 3.73 rear gears when we started the project, so we were able to get the car moving out of the hole quicker than stock. But to put the engine in its peak torque powerband for harder launches and quicker acceleration, we needed a higher-stall-speed torque converter, so we called Performance Automatic for help.

A week later, we had one of PA's Pro Launch 10-inch converters sitting on our shop floor and our SSP raised on a lift, poised to receive it's new performance part. PA's Pro Launch 10-inch converters are specifically designed for modified engine applications with more compression, supercharging, and/or nitrous oxide injection. Stall speeds are increased 1,000-2,000 rpm over stock, and PA specifies the use of an aftermarket cooling device for the transmission fluid when this line of converters is used.

PA's Pro Launch line of torque converters are balanced and furnace-brazed, and utilize needle bearings and anti-ballooning plates for a long, reliable life. Stall speeds usually range from 3,000-4,200 rpm depending on the application. Our particular unit is a non-lockup torque converter, which means that our cruise rpm will be raised by 300-400. The tradeoff is that we'll end up with a much stronger converter in exchange for the reduction in fuel mileage. When it comes to drag racing, however, we've seen great results with aftermarket torque converters, and Performance Automatic's unit didn't disappoint.

Installing a torque converter isn't the easiest job, but it can be done in your driveway. We took advantage of our in-house shop and two-post lift, as it is easier on the back, and easier for us to get pictures for you. Basic hand tools can be used, but air tools make the job easier and faster.

Post installation, the higher stall speed was easily noticeable, and we hustled the SSP to the local quarter-mile track in Bradenton, Florida, to see if our e.t.'s had improved. Prior to the PA torque converter installation, our '93 notchback ran a best e.t. of 13.12 seconds at 106.76 mph, and we backed that up with a 13.20 at 106.42. This was achieved by powerbraking the engine to about 1,800 rpm and then flat-footing the throttle.

With the higher stall-speed, we were able to bring the engine rpm up to 2,600 rpm before matting the gas. Our 60-ft times dropped from a previous best of 2.01 seconds to 1.75 seconds, and the quicker short-time netted a new best e.t. of 12.80 seconds! We backed that up with a hot lap of 12.91-both runs came at a slower 103 mph. No doubt, the slower speed was due to the extra slip, but we gladly traded the reduced mph for the dropped e.t., which is what everyone is after.

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