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Can You Put A New Transmission On A Classic Car?

November 10, 2022  -  Transmission & Drivetrain

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Classic cars are wonderful things to experience a slice of historic motoring, free of the modern distractions and technology that modern cars come with. There are many who keep a classic car for weekend drives as their digital detox machine, as well as those who dare daily drive one, or several.

However, like most automotive parts, the transmission on a classic car will wear down, and require replacement or rebuilding. This isn’t surprising, as it’s the component right after your engine, and handles management of the engine’s power and torque into usable motion

A classic car transmission rebuild is one avenue, and we’ve got plenty of kit to help you with this in our classic car transmissions section. Should you desire a transmission upgrade, our broader transmissions category will have you covered.

Benefits Of Updating Your Classic Car’s Transmission

Why should you update your classic car’s transmission? There are several reasons, but the most important one is, your old transmission was likely built several decades ago, and has seen moderate to heavy use over the lifetime of your car. We’re not exaggerating, but a hundred gear changes on a manual transmission for a 20-mile trip through urban and mixed roads is not uncommon. Multiply that by the age of your car and your average mileage, and it’s likely that your classic has seen hundreds of thousands of gear shifts throughout its life. Even if it’s an automatic transmission, it’s likely seen a similar number of shifts, but it could be less, if it’s a three-speed or four-speed box.

Updating, upgrading, or rebuilding your classic car’s transmission may offer the following benefits:

  • Regaining peak efficiency, minimizing energy losses through the transmission. This will translate into improved gas mileage.
  • Smoother shifts, whether it’s a manual or automatic transmission, make your driving experience more comfortable.
  • Some updates might actually allow your transmission to handle more power and torque, which is ideal if you’re seeking to give your classic a boost in the engine department.
  • Maybe your classic was offered with a better transmission in later years, and the upgrade to this is a direct fit. That way, you will realize the benefits of the better transmission but retain your beloved classic.
  • Your vehicle will last longer, as you’ve effectively refurbished a critical part of its core functionality. We’ve heard of classics that have been dumped by the wayside by owners, only to be bought for a song and put right for next to nothing by a savvy enthusiast.

Cost Of A New Transmission

This avenue is typically adopted by classic car owners who want their car to be in and out of the workshop quickly, and don’t mind spending the extra dough as a result. However, this doesn’t come cheap. The transmission replacement cost for a new unit can run you a few thousand dollars, and finding a new transmission may be next to impossible if your classic car is over fifty years old, when brand new spares have long dried up.

That’s why rebuilding your transmission can be a better and cost-effective option. Granted, it is much more time intensive than simply dropping the old transmission and slotting in a new one, but you’re more likely to find brand new components than an entire new transmission. Rebuilding your transmission also allows you to inspect the innards for damage and identify any components that do not need replacement. 

The cost of rebuilding your transmission might be less than a couple of thousand dollars. However, one major cost that you will incur will be the time cost, as rebuilding a transmission may take a week or more at a moderately busy workshop, and of course you can’t drive your car during that time.

There’s one more major advantage to rebuilding rather than a brand new avenue, and that’s originality. Many classic car owners take pride in owning a car with a numbers-matching engine and transmission right from the factory, and they haven’t changed anything. If you’re one of those people, remember that installing a new transmission effectively voids your classic car’s numbers-matching status, so rebuilding the transmission is your sole option if you want to retain originality.

Figuring Out What Type Of Transmission Your Car Needs

How do you figure out what type of transmission your classic car needs? It’s got to be automatic or manual, right? Well yes, but there’s a little more to it than that.

  • First, check your owner’s manual for the exact specifications of your classic car’s transmission. The VIN plate on some classic cars may also give you the model of transmission installed in your classic car, or at the very least, the transaxle model.
  • You might also be able to find out the model and type of transmission on your classic car by simply looking at the existing transmission while it’s installed. You might be able to identify it from markings visible when opening the hood, or may need to raise your car on a shop lift and have a look underneath with a light.
  • If you’re a member of a classic car club or group of similar makes and models, chances are that there are members who can help you out.

Everything For Classics And Contemporaries From JEGS

We at JEGS have got everything you can imagine, plus more, for classics and contemporary cars. With an inventory well in the thousands or products, and from hundreds of recognized brands, quality parts are always in stock. Since founder Jeg Coughlin started the company in 1960, we’ve never compromised on our values of providing a great range of products at competitive prices, backed by superior after sales service and support. Check out what we’ve got online or in-store, and we’ll be glad to serve you. 

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