Jim’s Blog: 4-speed or Not?

What's missing here? A chrome knob and white ball, that's what.

I got my Caprice sitting right on a set of QA1 coilovers in the front, added a set of big-as-possible 275-series rubber in the back, and have a great-sounding BBC with a 236/245 duration roller cam with .625/.639 inches of lift cackling through a set of three-inch Flowmasters. But there’s one thing missing, and that one thing is a chrome Hurst stick and a white ball.

The car is a factory big-block car with a Turbo 400 automatic I built up with a shift kit and a Hughes converter. It’s great on the strip and works just fine on the street, too. But for as strong and consistent as it is, there’s just no denying that a 4-speed is way more fun than an automatic. And fun is what a car like this is supposed to be about, right?

So now that I’ve finished a few other projects on the car, I’m debating taking the plunge to three pedals. I know I’ve talked about 5- and 6-speed conversions in the past, but there’s something so right about a Muncie M22 behind a big-block Chevy. Plus, the conversion is relatively simple, as the crossmember mounts for a Muncie are already welded to the chassis. After sourcing a few parts, a Muncie should be a bolt-in deal.

Here’s what I’d love to do: A company called Auto Gear makes modern Muncie-style transmissions rated for more power than an original M22. You can get a completely new setup from them — complete with the gear whine — that’s ready to go, even for a heavy car with lots of torque on sticky drag tires. I’d need to hunt down a blowproof bell housing, a clutch and flywheel, a Z-bar and clutch fork, and a set of original pedals to hang under the dash. Of course, I’d need the transmission, as well as a new slightly longer driveline, as the Muncie is just a little shorter than the TH400. I’d also have to hunt down a 4-speed console (which is not so simple), and of course, get that Hurst and ball. Other than some wiring, that’s about it. Total cost? Realistically, with all new parts, including that Auto Gear M23, it would be somewhere around $5k. Maybe less.

Is it worth it? Financially, no. It’s money I’d never see again, as Caprice prices aren’t on the move. But you’ve got to pay to play, and this would be a lot of fun to do. In a world that’s getting geared more toward driverless cars, my knee-jerk reaction is to want more automotive interaction. There’s just nothing cooler than a 4-speed, even if it’ll take a Ronnie Sox or Dick Landy-type to teach me how to shift it as fast as my old TH400 does.

Will it happen? Maybe, if I can convince my wife that it’s a good plan. 4-speed glory awaits!

Should I do it? Am I crazy? Sound off in the comments below.