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Text and Photography by C. Asaravala

It is no coincidence that AOD spelled backwards is DOA. The Ford transmission is plagued with slow shifts, poor downshift response, and an overall lack of performance. The fact is that if you want to racing with an automatic transmission, you are better off with a C4 or even a C6. However the AOD, being a four speed overdrive, is the only choice for those wanting to maintain highway cruisability without having to lift their left foot. So what can be done to make the AOD more enjoyable? Well, you can go out an spend $1500 to $3000 on a race prepped, manually shifted and virtually bulletproof AOD. But who has that kind of money? The other option is to install a high performance shift-kit. Shift kits have been around for a while, and several companies make them. However the quality of the kits vary tremendously, almost in proportion to how much work that is involved to install the kit. The super cheap ones may have you replace a spring or two, eliminate a check ball here and there, and install a new separator plate. This will result in hard tire chirping shifts, but will do nothing for extending the shift points, or reducing downshift time. Furthermore, the cheap kits wont make the transmission more durable, and actually are likely to increase wear. Contrary to some beliefs, a hard shifting automatic is not always desirable. Unless the clutches and bands are upgraded as well, a hard 'banging' shift is going to accelerate wear of the internal components. That is why it is important to get a shift kit that offers an upgrade in performance, as well as increasing durability.


TransGo AOD-HP.
They also make kits for the C4, C6, AOD-E and FMX. Also available are fully manual shifting for full competition.
The AOD kit runs about $130.
We did our research on 'do it yourself' AOD shift kits, and found that TransGo offered the most comprehensive kit to meet out needs. We wanted a kit that would provide firm, but not annoyingly harsh, shifts. We also wanted to extend the shift points in 'D' by 1000 rpm. The stock AOD, at part throttle, will shift from 1 to 2 at a ridiculously low 2200-2400 rpm. The 2 to 3 and 3 to OD come just as quick. We'd like to extend this out to into the powerband a bit, so the engine isn't bogging a hundred yards off of a stoplight. We also wanted the ability to hold gears to any rpm at wide open throttle, as well as downshift, quickly, at any rpm. The TransGo Performance Shift Kit (PSK-AOD) offers all of that and more. Gil Younger of TransGo pioneered the whole idea of "shift kits" over 35 years ago, and thus they've put a lot of engineering and research into these kits. Their tag line is "firmness, control, durability", and we definitely got all of that with the AOD kit.

We installed the kit in our 1988 Mustang, using their video and detailed instructions, and the results exceeded our expectations. The shifts are firm, and the shift points have been raised all across the board. At wide open throttle, in "D", the transmission upshifts at 4900rpm. Shifting manually, the engine seems to rev quicker, and the transmission responds immediately to the gear switch, with an affirmative bark of the tires. Manual downshifting has improved big time. Instead of the endless delay between moving the shifter and waiting for the rpms to climb, now the tach responds instantaneously.

The install takes the better part of a day, so plan ahead, and more importantly, be patient and meticulous! Valve bodies are mysterious chunks of
aluminum, full of very tiny parts. Don't lose anything or leave something out, otherwise your transmission is toast! Take your time, go over the instructions and video beforehand, then tackle the job with confidence.
 
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