Stick To It

How to Install TREMEC’S TKX Five-Speed in a Second-Gen Camaro

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography by ACP Staff

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For some people, driving a car is simply a way to get from point A to point B. Then there are those who drive for the joy of the process and the feeling of being involved with the machinery. Certainly, there is no better way to do that than with a Camaro equipped with three pedals and a TREMEC five-speed manual transmission conversion from Bowler Performance Transmissions.

Bowler Performance Transmissions opened as a small, family owned shop in 1963. As a kid Mark Bowler began learning about building transmissions and eventually the business passed from father to son. Today, under Mark’s leadership and thanks to his interest in high-performance vehicles, Bowler Performance Transmissions offers a complete line of custom automatic transmissions and is a TREMEC Elite Dealer that also offers repair and modification services.

002 1971 camaro Bowler can supply everything necessary for a TKX swap
Bowler can supply everything necessary for a TKX swap right down to the hardware that holds it all together.

The newest offering in TREMEC’s lineup is the TKX. This compact five-speed transmission fits in the transmission tunnel of most vehicles without modifications to the floor. Tipping the scales at just under 100 pounds, the three-piece aluminum construction provides maximum structural stiffness and gaskets at all flanges to prevent leaks. Thanks to the wide gears made from high-strength steel (ASTM 4615) the TKX will handle 600 lb-ft of torque and is capable of engine speeds of 8,000 rpm with shifts at 7,500 rpm.

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Read More: BUILDING THE BIGGEST & BADDEST: Assembly of Chevrolet Performance’s 1,004hp ZZ632

Adding to the robustness of the TKX is a 1 1/8 inch, 26-spline input shaft and a 31-spline output shaft. TKX transmissions use a short-throw shifter that operates an internal three-rail shift system and multi-cone synchronizers with rings made of sintered bronze and carbon for smooth gear changes.

003 1971 camaro TREMECs TKX
TREMEC’s TKX is their newest and most compact five-speed transmission. It will fit in our Camaro without any transmission tunnel modifications other than a hole for the shifter.

For the maximum in application flexibility, TREMEC offers the TKX in multiple gear ratio configurations, all with overdrive in Fifth gear:
TCET17805—Gear Ratios 2.87, 1.89, 1.28, 1.00, 0.68
TCET18083—Gear Ratios 3.27, 1.98, 1.34, 1.00, 0.72
TCET17722—Gear Ratios 2.87, 1.89, 1.28, 1.00, 0.81

TKX transmissions are offered in GM and Ford case patterns, bellhousing bolt patterns, and input configurations—GM uses a 6.71-inch input shaft with a 0.590-diameter pilot bearing tip and a 1.375-inch throwout bearing tube. Ford uses a 7.21-inch input shaft with a 0.670-inch pilot tip and a 1.430-inch throwout bearing tube. Transmissions in both configurations have GM and Ford transmission mount patterns. In addition, these transmissions may be equipped with a traditional clutch linkage with throwout bearing or a hydraulic bearing has a 300,000-mile service life and roughly a 20 percent lighter clutch feel than the mechanical type.

004 1971 camaro equipped with Classic Performance Products CPP subframe connectors
Jason Scudellari took the first step in making the transmission transformation by removing the driveshaft; it will require modification or replacement. Note, this car has been equipped with Classic Performance Products (CPP) subframe connectors.
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To simplify installation, TKX transmissions come with a mechanical speedometer drive on the left side and a built-in electronic speedometer sensor on the right. Also included is a reverse light switch and cruise control safety switch—Bowler can supply all the required wiring harnesses/pig tails required.

One of the common problems when retrofitting an early car with a contemporary transmission is the location of the shift lever. From the factory the TKX shifter can be positioned toward the front of the transmission or flipped around and moved to the rear. In addition, Bowler offers a variety of bolt-on shift levers in various lengths and shapes.

005 1971 camaro Removing the transmissions wiring harness
Removing the transmission’s wiring harness proved to be one of the most time- consuming steps in the process. Compared to the TKX, the 4L80E automatic is massive.

Also available is Bowler’s unique Nightstick side-shift assembly for ’53-82 Corvettes and early GM A-body cars. The Nightstick side shift places the shifter lever directly into the factory four-speed tunnel and console opening for a “factory look” installation.

Check it out: Uncovering the Mysteries of Single- and Double-Adjustable Shocks and Why You Need Them

Along with TREMEC transmissions, Bowler offers a number of installation kits for a variety of Chevrolet products with small-block, big-block, or LS powerplants. Kit components, such as bellhousings, clutch assemblies, crossmembers, pedals, and hydraulic clutch conversions, are available individually. The kit shown here is for ’70-81 Camaros with LS/LT engines and includes everything necessary for the installation of a TKX.

006 1971 camaro next thing to go is the flexplate
With the transmission removed, the next thing to go is the flexplate. Note there is nothing in the recess of the crankshaft.

If you want to put some excitement in your driving experience, do what we did and check out Bowler Performance Transmissions’ complete line of TREMEC transmissions and installation components. There’s nothing like shifting for yourself.

007 1971 camaro pilot bearing is required to support the input shaft
For a manual transmission, a pilot bearing is required to support the input shaft. Here, Scudellari installs the sealed roller bearing used with an aluminum bellhousing.
008 1971 camaro installed pilot bearing can be seen
Here, the installed pilot bearing can be seen. For the optional QuickTime steel bellhousing a different pilot bearing is required.
009 1971 camaro steel flywheel was secured with ARP 12 point fasteners
The steel flywheel was secured with ARP 12-point fasteners. These are installed with thread locker rather than lock washers then torqued to the supplied specification.
010 1971 camaro RAM clutch disc
An alignment tool holds the RAM clutch disc in the proper position so the transmission’s input shaft will slide through the splines and into the pilot bearing.
011 1971 camaro RAM single disc assembly with a diaphragm pressure plate
Bowler offers single- and twin-disc clutch packages for six- and eight-bolt LS crank flanges. We opted for a RAM single-disc assembly with a diaphragm pressure plate.
012 1971 camaro Lakewood aluminum bellhousing
Scudellari installed the included Lakewood aluminum bellhousing (which is not a scatter shield). It can accommodate a standard throwout bearing arm or a hydraulic release bearing. A QuickTime steel bellhousing is also available.
013 1971 camaro Tilton hydraulic throwout bearing
We opted for the Tilton hydraulic throwout bearing. Scudellari removed the TREMEC bearing retainer and installed the Tilton retainer, which includes an anti-rotation guide pin for the bearing. Thread locker was used to secure the fasteners.
014 1971 camaro hydraulic throwout bearing has two braided lines
The hydraulic throwout bearing has two braided lines; one connects to the clutch master cylinder and the other is for bleeding air from the system.
015 1971 camaro adjusting the clearance between the throwout bearing and the pressure plate fingers
A critical step is adjusting the clearance between the throwout bearing and the pressure plate fingers (0.125-inch). The distance from the clutch fingers to the transmission mounting surface is measured …
016 1971 camaro distance from the bearing to the transmission is measured
… then the distance from the bearing to the transmission is measured. The clearance is then adjusted with the threaded collar the bearing fits on.
017 1971 camaro cut a hole in the Camaros floor to accommodate the shift lever
It would be necessary to cut a hole in the Camaro’s floor to accommodate the shift lever. Scudellari followed the rule of measuring twice and cutting once.
018 1971 camaro Lokar shift boot will be used on the top side
With the hole cut, the previously installed insulation was trimmed away. A Lokar shift boot will be used on the top side.
019 1971 camaro 31 spline slip joint is required for the TKX
A 31-spline slip joint is required for the TKX—Bowler offers them for use with 1330 or the beefier 1350 series U-joints.
020 1971 camaro TKX has bolt patterns for GM and Ford transmission mounts
The TKX has bolt patterns for GM and Ford transmission mounts. Bowler offers OE-style rubber mounts and Energy Suspension Poly mounts—we opted for the latter.
021 1971 camaro Bowlers transmission mount for 70 74 Camaros
Bowler’s transmission mount for ’70-74 Camaros is for stock subframes and LS engines in the factory small-block position. A crossmember is also available for aftermarket subframes.
022 1971 camaro Bowlers clutch and brake pedal assembly for 70 71 Camaros
We installed Bowler’s clutch and brake pedal assembly for ’70-71 Camaros that position the pedals perfectly—’72-81 requires a different pedal assembly.
023 1971 camaro Bowler offers this bracket to mount the hydraulic throwout bearings
Bowler offers this bracket to mount the hydraulic throwout bearing’s 7/8-inch bore master cylinder (a template is included for the necessary holes). A pedal stop is necessary to limit travel and prevent damage to the throwout bearing and/or transmission.
024 1971 camaro hydraulic throwout bearing system uses DOT 3 brake fluid
The hydraulic throwout bearing system uses DOT 3 brake fluid. The system is bled with the same procedure used to bleed brakes.
025 1971 camaro Inland Empire Driveline Service in Ontario
The hydraulic throwout bearing system uses DOT 3 brake fluid. The system is bled with the same procedure used to bleed brakes.
026 1971 camaro Bowler offers an array of TKX shift levers
Bowler offers an array of TKX shift levers, including the NightStick. It offers the ability to adjust the side-to-side and front-to-back offset of the shift lever.
027 1971 camaro Bowlers crossmember tucks up tight to the floor
The finished installation. Bowler’s crossmember tucks up tight to the floor, providing plenty of room for dual exhaust.

Sources:
Bowler Performance Transmissions
(618) 943-4856
bowlertransmissions.com
Classic Performance Products
(866) 517-0430
classicperform.com
Inland Empire Driveline
(800) 800-0109
iedls.com
Lokar
(877) 469-7440
lokar.com

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