Builds like Three Pedals #16 remind us why we started this pedal business, for two reasons. First, this cherry ’96 Chevy Caprice wagon proves that even a stock Caprice is so much more fun with a manual transmission. Second, the owner drove this wagon 1,400 miles round trip to have us do the manual swap and that puts a smile on all of our faces here at the shop.
OK enough of the sappy stuff, let’s get down to business! This clean clean dark cherry wagon rolled in with 53,000 miles which means it left home with closer to 52,000 miles on the odometer; which means the owner added about 3% more miles to the car just for the manual swap. But enough of the nerdy stuff, we’re supposed to get down to business.
So, business now gets done by moving a shift lever attached to a Tremec T56 6 speed manual transmission and by pressing on our direct-replacement clutch and brake pedal assembly – our usual recipe of course. The ’94 – ’97 F-Body (Camaro, Firebird, Trans Am) version of the T56 is an easy fit in these cars and our transmission crossmember fits both this version of the T56 as well as the current T56 Magnum. Bench seats like the one in this wagon lose a little bit of forward positioning with the F-Body T56 but otherwise the shifter location works well.
Now part of the reason the ’94 – ’97 F-Body T56 is such a great fit in these cars is because both the F-Body and B-Body like this wagon came with the LT1 engine – just like the ’94 – ’96 Impala SS. So when it comes time to choose flywheel and clutch, we shop for a ’94 – ’97 F-Body. For this wagon we installed a tried and true combination – an OEM GM flywheel and a McLeod Super Street Pro clutch. And our clutch pedal is easy to hook up to the OEM slave cylinder.
Coming out of the transmission is a high speed balanced aluminum driveshaft from Inland Empire Driveline Service and it turns 4.10:1 gears and a Truetrac differential. And we keep the ABS happy with our special reluctor. The Truetrac is a fantastic upgrade in general but especially so with a manual transmission. Whereas the factory positraction differential only applies power to both wheels while the steering wheel is straight, the Truetrac also applies power to both rear wheels when you’re using the steering wheel. This means you can put the power down earlier when coming out of a turn. And here’s a little secret: the Truetrac also contributes to splendid burnout smoke.
We added a tachometer to the A-pillar to keep an eye on the revs. The trim over the A-pillar is only so strong so to spread the weight of the tachometer we fabricated a steel bracket and epoxied it to the inside of the trim. And to make it easy to remove the tachometer, if needed, we made sure the trim could stay on by welding nuts to the bracket we made.
To keep the car’s computer happy we reprogrammed the ECU to stop looking for the auto transmission. We also dialed in the speedo to be just right with the new rear gear ratio.
On the first drive of his new wagon the owner was smiling so he agrees with our assessment. And we hear the 700 mile return leg of the trip was much more fun. That’s how business gets done!