A less expensive option is the T-45RS transmission offered as a rebuilt unit through Keisler. This is a five-speed originally offered in late-model Mustangs that replaced the aging T-5. The only thing I don't particularly like is the transmission's 3.35:1 First gear ratio that is very deep. With a 3.08:1 rear gear, this is OK, but then its 0.67:1 Overdrive really drops the cruise rpm to where it might lug a little small-block. I'm exercising extreme restraint in not going into all the details on these boxes since I think this new generation of overdrive manual boxes offers outstanding opportunities for car crafters. To complete your drivetrain conversion, look for a '72 to '75 Nova 8.5-inch 10-bolt rearend to swap into your Firebird. This is much stronger than the 10-bolt that's in your car now. It's almost as strong as a 12-bolt. Bolt in a good limited slip like the TrueTrac from Eaton (PN 913A481) and have fun.
Hurst Driveline Conversions
Keisler Automotive Engineering
Can you spot the '59 Plymouth in the Atomic Punk? Car Craft's roots come out of customs, so it's fun to touch on that occasionally. The Atomic Punk is Aaron Grote's adventure, complete with a 392ci Hemi and the Roth-esque bubbletop.
Fuel For Thought
Randy Daviduik, Winnipeg, Canada:
I currently own a fully restored, numbers-matching '69 SS 396 L34 Camaro and have decided to replace the original motor with a new 540 stroker short-block. My goal is to disguise the 540 and reuse as many external parts from the original 396 as possible. Since this is a nice, stock-appearing car without a 'cage, 98 percent of my driving is on the street as a Sunday cruiser or tire fryer. We do drag race it for fun once or twice a year. I have a question regarding upgrading the current stock fuel system.
Do I need to replace the stock 3/8-inch fuel line and stock tank pickup for aftermarket 1/2-inch lines and fittings and an expensive 1/2-inch pickup that drops into the stock fuel tank? What mechanical pump would suffice? Do I really need a fuel regulator? Does anyone make a stock-appearing, big-block, higher-flow, mechanical fuel pump without a regulator?
I currently run a 750-cfm Holley HP double-pumper. Can I just increase the jets and shooters and use this carb on the 540 until next year when I can afford an 850- or 950-cfm carb?
This isn't a drag car. I just want to have some fun with a 540, and this motor will give me more power than I can ever use on the track or off. I currently run Firestone wide ovals on the street (they smoke really nice) and 275/60R15 M/T drag radials at the dragstrip.
Optimizing the 540's power capability isn't a real concern. Reliability, fun, and cost are more important.
Jeff Smith: I think you can feed up to 600 hp with a 3/8-inch steel fuel line as long as that original line is not kinked, has minimal sharp bends, is not restricted by stock brass fittings that are not nearly 3/8-inch on the inside, and is not corroded. If you feel confident that reusing a 40-year-old fuel line originally intended to feed a 300hp engine is sufficient to justify risking your expensive 540ci big-block, then sure, reuse the line. But let's dig a little deeper into this exercise. You mention that to maintain the 396 illusion (which is very cool, by the way), you'd like to use a stock-appearing mechanical fuel pump. Carter makes a PN M4889 pump that is rated at 120 gallons per hour, which sounds like more than enough (this calcs out to 780 pounds of fuel per hour), but this is the free-flow rating and not very useful, since a carbureted system normally operates at between 4 and 6 psi. The thing to remember is that as pressure increases, flow decreases. However, even if we cut the free-flow capacity in half to compensate for 5 psi, it should be sufficient for your needs. If I had to guess, I'd go with 550 hp on your 540.