Michael Galimi
April 19, 2010
Photos By: Justin Cesler

In 1980 Ford introduced its first automatic overdrive transmission, dubbed the AOD (automatic overdrive). The design wasn't entirely new, as it was based on its popular FMX passenger-car transmission. (If you're scratching your head upon reading FMX, don't feel bad-it's a small and insignificant transmission in the hot rod world.) Ford put the AOD in seemingly every passenger car and light truck, and it found its way into the Mustang from 1984 through 1993.

The AOD might have kicked off the overdrive era in Ford's passenger car history, but it was hardly considered a performance transmission-unlike today's highly praised and tough 5R55S five-speed auto. Ford built the AOD to withstand the lower output of the cars at the time of production.

Back in the day, enthusiasts relying on the AOD transmission were faced with two options. First was to switch to a fortified C4, but as you know, it lacks overdrive, making it undesirable for the street crowd. The other option was to install a manual transmission.

Market demand for a tougher overdrive transmission grew in the mid-'90s. Aftermarket companies responded with modified versions, and one of the first companies on the list was Performance Automatic (PA). PA still offers two versions today-its Super Streeter and a Competition model. Both are a vast improvement over the stock slush-box, and this month we explore the internal upgrades of the Super Streeter.

For the past six months or so, we've poked and prodded at a '93 Special Service Package 5.0L Mustang belonging to MM&FF staffer Marc Christ. The SSP coupe entered the MM&FF family with GT-40P heads, an E303 cam, and a Cobra intake, as well as exhaust upgrades and other small items. Today it features Edelbrock E-Street heads, Edelbrock roller rocker arms, BBK 255-lph fuel pump and adjustable fuel pressure regulator, and the same Cobra intake and exhaust upgrades. Those mods initially thrust the daily driver to a best of 13.12 at 106 mph at Bradenton Motorsport Park.

The addition of a PA torque converter dropped the coupe into the 12s with a best of 12.80 at 103 mph. The non-lockup torque converter was looser than stock (1,800 rpm versus 2,600 rpm), which accounted for the 0.3 drop in e.t.'s and also the 3-mph loss. As a side note, all quarter-mile runs were made with a short-belt and Mickey Thompson 275/40-17 ET Street Radials.

The daily driven status means this car has seen some serious roadway usage-the odometer is slightly north of 180,000 miles! The engine had been running like a champ, but the extra power smoked the original near-200,000-mile AOD transmission. Christ and the guys at MM&FF command central-now located in Tampa, Florida-yanked the transmission and shipped it to Gaithersburg, Maryland, home of Performance Automatic. The AOD received PA's Super Streeter treatment, which is designed to live comfortably up to 450 hp. If the power goes above that, PA will upgrade the AOD to its Competition model.

The team at PA tore down the transmission and after a thorough inspection, Gerald Nusser began the task of bringing the AOD back to life. After discarding the burnt parts, the next step was to clean all of the components to be reused in an industrial hot-tank. After everything was cleaned, the transformation into a Super Streeter AOD began.

The rebuild comes with Alto heavy-duty clutches, an A/B servo, a PA Street/Strip valvebody, an Alto Red Eagle overdrive band, a new/upgraded drum and diode, and a new chrome pan with drain plug. The completed transmission was then put through its paces on a test stand. Every transmission that leaves PA is run on the transmission dyno to ensure it shifts properly, and doesn't leak or have any other problems. Because of the dyno testing, PA offers 12-month warranties on all of its street/strip transmissions.

The SSP coupe is now armed with firmer shifts and a stronger transmission for continued service on the dragstrip and on the street.

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