T56 Magnum Experience

In the process of building several cars over the last 30 years, most recently the 48 Hour Camaro, I have had the opportunity to use many different engine and transmission combinations. MOST have turned out very well. I’ve had great success with the 700R4, especially with a manual valve body and a Gear Vendors overdrive unit in our 66 Chevelle on the autocross and road course. I’ve used a 4L60 and a 4L80 automatic in a couple of cars with similar success. Velocity had a ZF 6 speed which I loved!

When we started planning the 48 Hour Camaro the criteria was simplicity and ease of installation, along with durability and performance. This led us to try a plain old Muncie M21 4 speed with a Gearvendors overdrive unit. I must say I really enjoyed that combination on the street and on the track. The ability to toggle between direct and overdrive by pushing a button on the shifter knob was almost an unfair advantage on the autocross and road course, and the 22% overdrive made highway use a breeze. The shifting precision was certainly above adequate and it went into the car with no modifications whatsoever.

Unfortunately, the Muncie just wasn’t up to the use [abuse?] that I gave it on the road course. I kept shucking the teeth off third gear. After the third unit I went to a Tex Racing T101a that I had laying around for another project. This was a great racing transmission… clutchless shifting up and down, light, efficient… but with the straight cut gears it made more noise in the car than any mechanical device I’ve ever seen. People would watch the car run and wonder what the hell was wrong with it! It’s other sin was that there was no adapter available for the Gearvendors overdrive unit, so highway driving was a high RPM chore. I ended up chipping a tooth on second gear at the Texas Goodguys event so I had yet another decision to make.

Why didn’t I simply go with a T56 Magnum in the first place, you ask? Well, there were several reasons. During the planning stages of the car I couldn’t seem to find a decent supplier for such a unit [I hadn’t met the guys from American Powertrain yet]. Also, I had a fairly poor experience with the TKO series Tremec units previously and wanted to explore other alternatives.

After I hurt the Tex unit in Texas I had to make something happen fairly quickly because I was scheduled to race at the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational right after SEMA. Over the summer I had come to know the guys at American Powertrain who have developed a VERY complete system for installing both the TKO and the T56 Magnum into these musclecars. We actually used their bellhousing/clutch/master cylinder/throwout bearing in the 48 Hour Camaro build to install the Muncie. Good people…great products.

Matt Graves, Grey Fredrick, and Robert Hall had been teasing me all summer about my transmission problems with the Camaro and said anytime I wanted to “come in from the rain” they could set me up with a nice T56 Magnum. While I was still in Texas, I texted Matt and said: “ Tex broke. Bring me a T56.” So they did.
Matt and Grey swore and be damned that the T56 would go in that Camaro without cutting the floorpan. If it weren’t for the fact that I was using half height body bushings, and that we had moved the engine back by about an inch…they would have been exactly right. Even with all of my previous customizations we just cut the top of the trans tunnel out and made a new one. It just wasn’t that big a deal. The T56 is not really much smaller than the TKO, but the top is shaped differently so it’s actually a much better fit in any given trans tunnel. The video that we made [linked] gives you an overview of some of the features and benefits of that transmission…I won’t repeat them here. I do, however, want to offer an evaluation of this transmission from a hotrodders perspective.

I had MANY reliable people tell me about the virtues of the T56…Brian Finch, Mark Steilow, Steven Rupp…these are guys who flog their cars regularly and have no agenda for or against this transmission.

Grey Fredrick from American Powertrain had to teach me how to shift. [you’ll see this in the video] At 50 years old with well over 30 years of hotrodding experience behind me, I found it a little hard to believe that I didn’t know everything there was to know about shifting a dumb old transmission. Here’s the lesson: An open mind will make your car faster.

The T56 is to be shifted with 2 fingers, not your whole fist. If you try to rape this thing it will seem sticky and notchy. It shifted fast…VERY fast, at any RPM I tried it at…IF you treat it like a partner instead of a servant. It’s not tricky at all, it’s more of a mindset. I love the ratio spread…it’s never hard to keep the engine in an appropriate RPM range. I love the tall 6th gear as well. On the way to Pahrump from Vegas for the Optima event we were running…well, never mind how fast we were running. The engine was at about 3100 RPM in 6th gear with a 26” tall tire and a 3.50 gear. You figure it out. The point is that ANY reasonable [or unreasonable] highway speed is much less stressful with the T56 Magnum 6 speed.

In addition to the raw performance of the T56 Magnum, I have to comment on the service and installation kit from American Powertrain. While it is possible that I experienced wonderful service because of our personal and professional relationship, I have heard similar accolades from many other American Powertrain customers. It is a simple matter of you call..they deliver. In the end, that’s all any of us want, right?

The installation kit was as complete as any product I’ve seen. The bellhousing, hydraulic throwout bearing, clutch, pilot bearing, driveshaft yoke, crossmember…it was all there and very elegantly made. The crossmember was really unusual…it’s a nicely formed piece of 6061-T6 aluminum that looks kind of like a wing. Unfortunately we could not use it in our installation because of the dropped body mounts and the engine setback. Bummer.
The other item that I wanted to point out again [you’ll see this in the video] was the unique shifter system. It is adjustable not only for position on the trans, but the position of the shifter handle on the plate as well. In addition, the tension of the shifter is externally adjustable…you can actually adjust with a screwdriver the spring tension that centers the shifter between gears. I like this a LOT!

I still miss my Gearvendors overdrive, but this T56 Magnum 6 speed from American Powertrain is getting me over my grief nicely.

48 Hour Camaro in Popular Hot Rodding

If you pick up the November Issue of Popular Hot Rodding you may notice something interesting in butternut yellow on the cover page, something that was built in only 48 hours. If you haven’t guessed already the 48 Hour Camaro, built by Ridetech and company, is on the latest PHR cover along with a well written 5-page catalog. The article captures the very essence of the project that took place just this May and is a great introduction to the project.

The article is available download below or you can pick up a November issue of Popular Hot Rodding. For further details about the 48 Hour Camaro and the project: [ Click Here ]

The Build team just after completing the 48 Hour Camaro:

48 Hour Camaro in Musclecar Power

Back in May when we built the 48 Hour Camaro, present at the build was Travis Novak of Musclecar Power magazine. Travis stayed with us for the entire project, taking pictures and documenting the project. Well just recently his work came to fruition, he has just had his 48 Hour Camaro article published in the October 2011 Musclecar Power Magazine issue. The article is separated into into two sections: “the build” and “the finished result” You can read the article online by clicking here, or by picking up the issue at your local magazine rack.

48 Hour Camaro – Summer Update

Its been a busy summer already for RideTech… the 48 Hour Camaro build…the release of the new Triple Adjustable coilover…the debut of the new Tru Turn steering system that was developed on the 48 Hour Camaro…lots to keep up with!

Here is how it breaks down:


Single and Triple Adjustable coilovers

Although the single adjustable coilovers were released last year, the triples were just released in May of 2011 and have already started to make a serious impact on track days all over the country. Here are the results from the recent Goodguys autocross in Columbus, Ohio:

Vehicle Classes: SM = Street Machine | V = Vendor | SR = Streetrod | TRK = Truck

Street Machine Class

  First Name Last Name Vehicle Suspension Lap Time
SM Mike Maier 66 Ford Mustang   32.304
SM Mike Maier 66 Ford Mustang   32.304
SM Mary Pozzi 72 Chevy Camaro RideTech singles 32.595
SM Mark Rife 63 Chevy Corvette RideTech triples 32.75
SM Mark Stielow 69 Chevy Camaro   33.081
SM Brian Finch 71 Chevy Camaro   33.571
SM Chris Jacobs 66 Chevy Chevelle   33.886
SM Billy Utley 72 Chevy Nova   34.054
SM Tim Slager 67 Chevy Camaro   34.473
SM Roger Burman 70 Chevy Camaro   34.481
SM Mark Turner 66 Chevy Corvette RideTech ShockWave 34.531
SM Bob Bertelsen 72 Pontiac   34.702
SM Brad Granger 67 Chevy Camaro   34.87
SM Ken Edawards 66 Ford Mustang   35.067
SM John Kundrat 64 Chevy Corvett   35.215
SM Tom Cronkright 70 Pontiac Trans Am   35.265
SM Alex Covington 67 Chevy 2   35.3
SM Michael Merritt 67 Ford Mustang   35.74
SM Jim McDaniel 55 Chevy Bel Air   35.784
SM Karen Lisinger 67 Chevy Camaro   35.904
SM Gerry Kema 62 Chevy 2 RideTech singles 36.054
SM Al Noe 67 Chevy Camaro   36.072
SM Kali Arrington 72 Dodge Challanger   36.413
SM Kurt Anderson 59 Chevy Corvette   36.533
SM Dan Ballard 72 Chevy Nova RideTech bolt-in 4 link 36.981
SM Matt Lazich 64 Ford Mustang   37.137
SM Alex Stoner 70 Ford Mustang   37.173
SM AJ Sharp 68 Chevy Camaro   37.311
SM Albert Melchior 72 Pontiac Trans Am RideTech triples 37.331
SM Erich Bollman 69 Ford Mustang   37.363
SM Tim McGilton 69 Chevy Camaro   37.398
SM Mike Cornelus 69 Chevy Camaro   37.825
SM Ryan Sullivan 66 Chevy Chevelle   37.881
SM Bill Donges 65 Ford Cobra   37.952
SM Murray Pfaff 59 Chrysler Imperial RideTech singles 38.043
SM Mark Pecikonis 68 Chevy Camaro   38.076
SM Jason Stritesky 65 Chevy Chevelle   38.094
SM David Mastrota 67 Pontiac   38.152
SM Debbie Farrington 64 Chevelle Wagon   38.377
SM Scott Barker 66 Ford Mustang   38.502
SM Roger Minyard 67 Chevy Nova   38.672
SM Randy Leibrock 66 Chevy Corvette   38.753
SM Steve South 70 Buick   38.802
SM Carlo Rizzo 70 Chevy Chevelle   39.12
SM Bill Bouziden 63 Chevy Corvette   39.216
SM Michael Myer 63 Studabaker Avanti   39.242
SM Tom Rigg 61 Chevy Corvette   39.458
SM Mike King 72 Chevy Camaro   39.466
SM Hans Drop 70 Chevy Camaro   39.487
SM Royce Glader 66 Ford Mustang   39.53
SM George Poteet 62 Ford Falcon   39.553
SM James Jackson 68 Chevy Camaro   39.908
SM Todd Foust 65 Ford Mustang   39.97
SM Joe Brown 67 Ford Mustang   40.214
SM Bruce Paul 68 Chevy Camaro   41.001
SM Don Figliozzi 61 Buick RideTech air suspension 41.264
SM William Shores 71 Ford Mustang   41.589
SM Dan Chaplin 67 Chevy Camaro   41.749
SM Mark Giangreco 57 Ford Thunderbird   42.203
SM Harold Carter 67 Chevy Camero   45.549
SM David Hart 69 Plymouth   46.304
SM Doyle Thomas 63 Rambler   46.393
SM Joel Bernbaum 57 Chevy Bel Air   52.426


Vendor Class

  First Name Last Name Vehicle Suspension Lap Time
V Spectre Performance   70 Chevy Camaro   32.622
V Optima Batteries   67 Chevy Camaro RideTech triples 32.844
V Ryan Matherws 63 Chevy Nova   32.955
V Kyle Tucker 70 Chevy Camaro   33.225
V Stacy Tucker 69 Chevy Camaro   33.718
V Britt Marlof 67 Chevy Camaro RideTech triples 33.808
V Bret Voelkel 69 Ford Mustang RideTech ShockWaves 34.128
V Ironworks   67 Chevy Camaro RideTech triples 34.147
V Mike Hawley 65 Pontiac Tempest   34.434
V Greg Schneider 66 Chevy Chevelle RideTech ShockWaves 34.721
V Vaughn West 71 Chevy Camaro RideTech singles 34.749
V Michael Manning 69 Chevy Camaro   34.859
V Jeff Schwartz 67 Chevy Nova RideTech singles 34.863
V Gateway Classic   68 Ford Mustang   34.892
V Gateway Classic   66 Ford Mustang   35.657
V Jim Ring 66 Ford Mustang   36.151
V Mark Bowler 70 Ford Torino RideTech singles 36.428


Street Rod Class

  First Name Last Name Vehicle Suspension Lap Time
SR Jason Smith 49 Cadillac   34.072
SR James Jones 37 Ford   39.017
SR Wade Faustmann 34 Ford   40.273
FUN Evan Dalley 68 Chevy Camaro   33.266


Truck Class

  First Name Last Name Vehicle Suspension Lap Time
TRK Rockin Rob McGregor 55 Ford RideTech triples 33.705
TRK Mike Hickman 68 Chevy   33.766
TRK Spencer Caudle 53 Chevy   34.908
TRK Kevin Bapst 68 Chevy RideTech air suspension 35.133
TRK Dave Gould 55 Chevy   37.45
TRK Mike Vanert 65 Chevy El Camino   38.907
TRK Nick Weber 46 Chevy PU   39.824


One Lap Camaro

One of the first customers to try out the new triples was James Shipka and Mary Pozzi, who drove the \ Optima Batteries 67 Camaro in the One Lap of America race in May, where they won their class. Since May, Mary has finished her own car [with RideTech single adjustable coilovers] and brought it to the midwest to compete in a few of the larger track day events. Both Mary Pozzi and James Shipka competed with 33 other cars in the Heidt’s Performance Car Challenge last weekend at AutoBahn Country Club in Chicago. Here are those results:

Name Car# Suspension QA1 Road rally Heidts Road course Nitto Autocross Wilwood Wilstop Grand Total Overall Rank
Mark Steilow 44   5 25 22 25 77 1
Mary Pozzi 37 RideTech singles 5 20 25 22 72 2
James Shipka 36 RideTech triples 5 22 20 20 67 3
Mark Greenisen 51 RideTech singles 5 18 11 16 50 4
Matthew Altamore 48 RideTech singles 5 14 16 8 43 5
Chris Jacobs 21   5 11 14 13 43 6
Randy Johnson 29 RideTech TigerCage 5 10 13 14 42 7
Karl Dunn   22   5 15 15 2 37 8
Jeff Schwartz 46   5 16 10 0 31 9
Greg Schneider 31 RideTech ShockWaves 0 4 12 15 31 10
Bill Herder 24   5 0 7 18 30 11
Vaughn West 27 RideTech singles 5 8 9 6 28 12
Kurt Ukasik 43 RideTech singles 5 2 6 12 25 13
William Sonichsen 28   0 0 18 5 23 14
Jeff VanBuren 41   5 12 2 4 23 15
Bret Voelkel 30 RideTech triples 0 13 0 10 23 16
Daniel Long 42   5 0 5 9 19 17
James Nilsen 23   5 6 8 0 19 18
Ed Hazelwood 68   5 5 0 7 17 19
Scott Parkhurst 32   5 0 0 11 16 20
Todd Longfellow 26   5 7 0 0 12 21
Paul Mulligan  35   5 1 3 1 10 22
Albert Melchior 53 RideTech triples 0 9 0 0 9 23
Jim Stehlin 39   5 0 4 0 9 24
Mark Golovin  34   5 3 0 0 8 25
Joseph Cascio 49   5 0 1 0 6 26
Brian Davis 47   5 0 0 0 5 27
Mark Gizzie 38   5 0 0 0 5 28
Scott Maki 40   5 0 0 0 5 29
Kevin Miller 50 RideTech triples 5 0 0 0 5 30
Greg Davidson 45   0 0 0 0 0 31
Kenny Brown  69   0 0 0 0 0 32
Matthew Duque 54   0 0 0 0 0 33


The TruTurn

In addition to the radical success that the new RideTech coilovers has generated, we have debuted the new Tru Turn steering system for the 67-69 Camaro and 68-74 Nova front suspensions. This simple product is a landmark for hotrodders who wants to use a large 275mm wide tire on the front of their OEM front subframe. The Tru Turn system also resolves all the unsavory geometry that was inherent in those oem suspensions.

tru turn

What is it?

The Tru Turn system is an upgraded steering system that includes the following:

  • 1. Spindles – taller overall to improve the camber gain and a raised spindle pin to lower your car by 2″
  • 2. Steering Arms – designed to correct bumpsteer AND allow clearance for up to a 10″ wide wheel with a 5.75″ backspacing.
  • 3. Draglink bracket – bolts onto your oem draglink to relocate the inner tierod end to minimize bumpsteer
  • 4. Tie Rod Assemblies – integrates with your new steering arms and centerlink to provide a tru “no fab” bolt on steering system.

What will this system do?

The early Camaro/Nova front-ends have very poor suspension geometry…the tires lean outward around turns, the bumpsteer is bad, and there is little room to run a wide wheel because of the oem steering arm interference with the inside of the wheel. The Tru Turn system resolves ALL these issues…the tires now lean INTO the turn, the bumpsteer is UNDER .050″ through 5″ of suspension travel, and you now have clearance to run up to a 10″ wide wheel with a 275mm tire!


Tru Turn complete package includes:
spindles, steering arms, draglink bracket, and tie rod assemblies

Price: $1000

Vehicle Applications Part # Price  
1967-69 Camaro 11169500 $1000 Purchase Online
1968-74 Nova 11169500 $1000 Purchase Online

Tru Turn UPGRADE package ( same as above MINUS the spindles )

Price: $650

Vehicle Applications Part # Price  
1967-69 Camaro 11169525 $650 Purchase Online
1968-74 Nova 11169525 $650 Purchase Online

Of course, all summer we have proceeded to beat the hell out of our beloved 48 Hour Camaro project. To catch you all up, here is the schedule that the Camaro has kept since its birth on May 18th, 2011:

May 16-18 48 Hour Camaro build up Jasper, In
May 19-22 Nashville Goodguys Autocross Nashville, Tn
May 27-29 Run to Music City Nashville, Tn.
June 3-10 Hotrod Power Tour Florida to Michigan
June 17-19 Motorstate Challenge Waterlievet, Mi
July 3 10/10ths track day Putnam Park, In.
July 8-10 Goodguys autocross Columbus, Oh
July 15-17 Heidt’s Performance car Challenge Joliet, Il


Thoughts on the 48 Hour Camaro

I LOVE this Camaro! It is better in nearly every category than Velocity…and THAT was a great car!

Anytime you beat on a car like this you will have wear, tear, and breakage. To pretend otherwise would be an insult to hotrodders who know better. I told everyone from the start that I was going to tell it all…good, bad, or indifferent.

Probably the biggest issue we’ve had with the car is keeping the transmission in it. I LOVE the Muncie / GearVendors combination…it’s almost an unfair advantage on the autocross and road course. On the autocross I can choose between 1st gear and 1st/overdrive to have the best overall gear ratio. On the road course, instead of shifting gears all the time, I can usually toggle between 3rd direct and 3rd overdrive to keep the engine in its optimum powerband. The problem is that the Muncie does not seem to like me as much as I like it. The first 2 failures involved stripping the teeth off of 3rd gear. The third failure just lunched first gear and cracked the case. These units are routinely behind 800hp drag racing vehicles and survive just fine. It seems when you throw 20-30 minutes of high speed running along with full power down shifting, they just weren’t designed to handle that…yet. AutoGear Equipment has stepped up like the true and honest hotrodders that they are and said…”give us some timeto sort this problem out.” In the meantime we are prepping a Tex Racing T101A with the gearvendors unit. The Tex trans is a clutchless 4 speed righ out of a NASCAR…600 hp with all kinds of shifting won’t ruffle its feathers at all. I have one of these in my Mustang and it is one badass unit! Can’t wait!

We also changed the cam in the engine. The Lingenfelter engine made 614hp on the dyno, but since it was a stock displacement, it was relatively low on torque at 480. I wanted something with some more low end power so we changed to the Lingenfelter GT11 cam that they have dynode at 570 hp and 580 torque. Much nicer! Now it drives like my new Z06 instead of my old tunnel ram Chevelle!

Since we were on a compressed build time we didn’t get a chance to install the power steering cooler that I knew we would need before the first big track event in Nashville. Should have known better. Luckily Kyle Tucker had a spare reservoir that we installed and went on our way. The power steering cooler is now installed.

At Putnam Park a couple weeks ago I had a nylock nut get loose and fall off an upper 4 link bar. That was fun. I’d never seen that happen before. Luckily when the bolt got halfway out it bent and wedged itself between the heim end and the bracket. The result was a really sloppy rear suspension and some tire rub on the right handers… but nothing more dramatic.

Then there was the spike through the rear tire thing on the way home from Nashville… and the Gear Vendor unit being murdered by our mis-measured couple clearance…and the fuel tank vents that I still need to install…and the ipod module that died on the Power Tour. You know…everyday stuff that everyone puts up with.

So, what’s next for the 48 Hour Camaro? Well…its off to the Sand Hills Open Road Challenge. I’ve never done one of these Open Road races before, and frankly, I’m not sure I’m ready for it. It has, however, inspired me to install a fire suppression system in the car and order a fire suit. Both have been needed for quite some time, and I’ve procrastinated too long. I’ve convinced my wife that I’ll never need either…and lied to myself about this still being a "regular" street car.

I’ll do another update after the Sandhills race in August….I’m sure I’ll have all kinds of cool stuff to report then!