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By Chirag Asaravala. Assembly performed by Bruce Couture, Modern Driveline.

For small block Ford enthusiasts the T5 manual transmission may be the greatest thing since sliced bread. With five fully synchronized forward gears, overdrive, an internal shift-rail mechanism and the ability to handle over 300 lb-ft of torque, the T5 is easily the number one choice of anyone considering an auto to manual transmission conversion. The compact dimensions and feather-like weight (75 lbs.) also makes it well suited for competition oriented Mustangs to restomoded Falcons and Comets looking for a modernized drivetrain.

Subsequent to the T5 the only worthwhile manual gear box to put behind a modified, yet street driven, small block Ford was the tremendously popular Ford four speed "Top-Loader". Other manual transmissions were certainly available to put behind a 302 engine, such as the Borg Warner T10, the English sourced Dagenham four-speed (factory option in most 60's Mustangs and Falcons). However none of these transmissions offered overdrive, perhaps the single biggest reason that enthusiasts seek out a T5 transmission swaps. The four-speed SROD's boxes had overdrive, but not suitable behind any significant power levels.

T5 Evolution

Borg Warner/Tremec World Class T5

Ford began using the Borg-Warner designed T5 in small passenger cars in the early 80's. However these early non-World class (NWC) models weren't suited to handle the power of modified V8 engines, and it wasn't until the availability of the World-Class (WC) T5 gearboxes designed for the new fuel injected 5.0L Mustangs that the popularity of the transmission took off. Compared to NWC T5's the WC's benefit from needle bearings under the gears and tapered roller countershaft bearings for reduced friction. This change also allows the later to run considerable less viscous ATF fluid rather than heavy gear oil. The blocking rings are upgraded from brass to fiber lined steel for smoother gear synchronization. The early WC T5 versions were rated to handle 265 lb-ft of torque, while subsequent changes to gear material and size in 1990 bumped the torque rating to 300 lb-ft. The 1993 Cobra T5 was rated to handle 310 lb-ft, while Ford Racing's aftermarket "T5-Z" could handle 335 lb-ft as a result of a smaller first gear (2.95:1 compared to 3.35:1) and stronger steel.

Making the T5 Stronger
While it may seem a 300 lb-ft rating is easily surpassed with today's cylinder heads and camshafts, in reality most T5's can easily endure well over that figure when used in street driven applications. In fact our experience has been that shifting style, and not torque rating alone, is the biggest factor is the life of a T5. We've seen power shifted T5's snap behind stock 5.0L engines, while on the other T5 hold up mile after mile behind stroked Windsor's. In fact, our own Project '67 has been running a stock 1990 T5 for nearly five years. We've made over several hundred 11 and 12 second passes launching at 5000 rpm on slicks. Admittedly we are biding our time with this T5, and with the recent addition of a supercharger, we're not pressing our luck any longer.

It used to be that once you got in to the 500 horsepower range you were well beyond the capabilities of any T5, and it was time to think Tremec TKO (incidentally, TTC, the company which owns the Tremec brand, bought the T5 design and tooling from Borg Warner in 1997.) However no longer is this the only option. G-Force Transmissions, the maker of some pretty stout competition gear boxes, also manufacturers high strength gears, shafts and other internals for the T5 transmissions. When properly assembled the G-Force T5 can handle 500 lb-ft of torque. While there are still strength limitations of the stock T5 case (G-Force does offer their own T5 case) the stronger internals are the key to keeping a T5 together behind a stout small block. G-Force offers their T5 gear sets in synchronized and dog-ring versions. Dog-ring refers to the modification of blocking rings for synchro-less engagement. This make shifting easy at high rpms but at the expense of tougher gear engagement at lower rpms. We selected the fully synchronized kit for good streetability.

While the G-Force components are built to be bullet proof, that is only half of the recipe for an indestructible T5. The other half is in the proper rebuilding of the T5. In fact, most of the nations major T5 rebuild shops offer their own "G-Force T5" versions, which include their own personal, and often closely guarded, secrets for success. We spent the day with Bruce Couture of Modern Driveline (see side bar) to document the steps involved in how he builds the Modern Driveline G-Force T5.

T5 Disassembly

While disassembly can be achieved with basic tools you'll also need external snap ring pliers, retaining ring pliers, T40 Torx bit, a drift punch and cold chisel. For reassembly however you'll need access to a press, bushing driver, calipers and a dial indicator. The most important tool is the T5 manual (PDF 4MB).

If you have aren't sure whether or not you have a World Class T5, the quickest external check is to look at the counter-shaft bearing cup, just below the bearing retainer. It it is of the roller bearing type, with Timken engravings (left) you have a WC T5.

The disassembly process begins with removing the shifter. Using a drift punch drive the roll pin through the offset lever. The pin will bottom out but not be retrievable at this point.

Remove the eight 15mm tailhousing bolts.

While holding the offset lever back as shown, tap the case with a hammer to break the tailshaft housing free of the case. Do not attempt to pry between the mating surfaces.

The tailshaft housing can now be removed buy sliding it straight back until it is off the shifter shaft and main shaft.

At this point the speedometer drive gear can be removed from the main shaft. Depress the retaining clip and slide the gear off, then remove the clip from the shaft.

T5 Speedometer drive gears come in three tooth counts; 6 (black), 7 (yellow) and 8 (green). By changing to the lower count gear (6 or 7) you can compensate for steep axle ratios and have accurate speedometer readings. With a 6 tooth gear, for instance, you can use an 18, 20, and 21 tooth driven gear (on the end of the speedo cable) for accurate reading with 3.73, 4.10, or 4.30 gears respectively. With the yellow drive gear you can use 21 tooth speedo gear for 3.73's and 23 for 4.10.


(T5 Disassembly Continued)
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In This Article:
We follow along with Bruce Couture's Modern Driveline as they rebuild our T5 transmission with a G-Force gearset upgrade. The revived World Class T5 will be capable of handling 600 horsepower and 500 lb-ft of torque as a result of the upgrades.

Also See:
T5 Swap for Early Fords
Late Model AOD to T5 Conversion
B&M Short Throw Shifter Installation
Install a Blowproof Bellhousing


Our stock T5 will get rebuilt with the G-Force synchronized replacement gearset. The kit includes new cluster shaft (top), 26-spline input shaft, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd mainshaft gears. We'll also install a G-Force output shaft (not pictured.)

The G-Force gearsets are made from 9310 High Nickel Steel, and are 1/8" thicker than the stock gears (left).

Another highly recommended T5 upgrade is the G-Force heavy-duty rear bearing retainer (right). The stock unit (left) tends to flex under high loads which can result in excess countershaft play.


Company Profile: Modern Driveline

The popularity of the T5 transmission swap in early Ford vehicles can be attributed to the ingenuity of individual's like Bruce Couture, proprietor of Modern Driveline. Bruce saw early on the need for properly designed conversion kits to enable retrofitting early Ford's with the late model transmission.

Rather than a selection of Band-Aid solutions, such as cobbling together an older style mechanical clutch fork with a modern five or six speed transmission, Modern Driveline offers complete kits including cable clutch conversions, properly fitting crossmembers, and even T5's with a front shifter mount for tight tunneled vehicles (below).


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