Pete Epple Technical Editor
June 28, 2010
Photos By: Vision Haus Photography & Design

It's been almost a year since we started modifying and racing project Shake 'N' Bake, and after well over 100 quarter-mile passes, a half dozen autocross and open-track days, and over 10,000 (not so easy) street miles, our '03 Mach 1 is finally getting a well-deserved transmission upgrade.

For those who've followed this project since the beginning, you may remember we had transmission issues early on. Prior to purchasing our Mach 1, a not-so-reputable performance shop (which is no longer in business) duped the Mach's owner and swapped the stock TR-3650 for a T45 that was collecting dust in the corner of the shop. We discovered the alien transmission only after the shifter came apart at a local autocross event. After inspecting the trans and not finding any damage, we swapped the broken shifter for a UPR Blue Thunder and went on our way.

Last month, we spent a few days at Blow-By Racing in Boca Raton, Florida, installing a 4.6 Aluminator engine from Ford Racing Performance Parts. While the engine bay and trans tunnel was empty, we took advantage of the situation and put the tired T45 out to pasture.

Replacing it is Tremec's all-new T56 Magnum, which came from D&D Performance in Wixom, Michigan. The transmission came as part of D&D's six-speed kit, which includes everything you need to swap your five-speed for a six-speed. When our T56 Magnum arrived, a factory aluminum bellhousing, transmission crossmember and mount, and custom aluminum driveshaft were included to make the installation a breeze. D&D also included a 26-spline clutch disc so we could reuse the pressure plate and flywheel already in the car.

The centerpiece of our transmission trade-up is the T56 Magnum from Tremec. Though it may not sound much different from the T56 we all know from the Terminator Cobras, the truth is they have very few things in common. The Magnum is based on the popular TR-6060 six-speed transmission, which was OE in many factory supercars, like the GT500. Everything from the case to the shifter has been redesigned specifically for this transmission.

"The T56 Magnum is a completely new transmission," explains Nate Tovey, marketing coordinator for Tremec. "The Magnum has a new range of flexibilities the old T56 never had." Tremec combined the technology used in the OEM T56 with the most popular features of the TKO-series five-speed transmission. This makes for a six-speed transmission capable of handling far greater torque without sacrificing the driveability.

"Most T56 applications are in the 450 lb-ft range," adds Tovey. "The changes made to the Magnum raise the rating to 700 lb-ft. We use triple-cone synchronizer for First through Fourth gears, and double-cone synchronizers for Fifth, Sixth, and Reverse. The synchronizers have also been narrowed in the T56 Magnum, which was done for two reasons. A narrower synchronizer gives us wider gear face (6-24 percent wider than the T56), which helps raise the torque rating. It also makes the throws shorter because the sliders have less distance to travel between gears." According to Tovey, the T56 Magnum has the shortest shift throws of any Tremec transmission to date.

As you dig deeper into this new transmission, the similarities to the TKO transmission become more apparent. The T56 Magnum employs dual speedometer pickups (mechanical and electric), a TKO-style moveable shifter for different shifter positions, and the adaptability to use SFI-approved bellhousings instead of the stock cast-aluminum bellhousing.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery