How To Put An Old Truck In 4 Wheel Drive Tremec TKO Transmissions Part 1 – TKO-500 and TKO-600 Features and Background

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Tremec TKO Transmissions Part 1 – TKO-500 and TKO-600 Features and Background

Tremec is an OE transmission supplier that manufactures manual transmissions for Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Aston Martin, TVR, and many medium and heavy duty truck applications. The TKOs are a powerful 5-speed overdrive manual transmission that was originally designed to be retrofitted to Mustang Fox cars to replace the weaker T5, but will also bolt up to the standard Ford four-speed bellhousing passenger cars. When Tremec realized that enthusiasts were adapting it for GM applications, they decided to make it a little easier for people (and take advantage of a great opportunity, too) by producing a GM version of the TKO.

The GM version will bolt directly up to almost any standard Chevrolet/Buick/Olds/Pontiac passenger car four-speed bellhousing. Although only Ford and GM versions of the TKO are available, Mopar enthusiasts can find all the custom parts they need to fit a Ford TKO version to virtually any Mopar V8 engine. The TKO was never OE equipment on any production car, although its grandfather, the Tremec TR-3550 was in a limited production Ford Mustang Cobra in the mid-1990s. The TKO is purely an aftermarket transmission designed for high-performance vehicles.

There are three basic models available, the TKO-500 and two variations of the TKO-600. The TKO-500 wide-ratio is rated for a continuous 500 lb.-ft. of torque, and offers a deep 3.27:1 first ratio and a 0.68:1 overdrive ratio in fifth gear. The TKO-600 in close ratio is rated for a continuous 600 lb.-ft. of torque, and has a 2.87:1 first gear and either a 0.82:1 overdrive or a 0.64:1 overdrive ratio in fifth gear. The nominal torque capacity is said to be quite conservative, as there are a significant number of machines in the field with engines that exceed the torque rating by a large margin, and failures are rare.

The TKO uses an internal three-rail switching mechanism, eliminating any external links and problems that go with it. The short cast aluminum shift can be removed, flipped 180 degrees, and then reinstalled to provide an additional shift position. Optional custom shifters are available in several different configurations to mimic the shift positions of various musclecars. The TKO uses cast iron displacement forks, a one-piece counter shaft, and tapered roller bearings on the input, output, and counter shafts for added strength.

Each TKO transmission provides both mechanical and electronic speedometer readings. The mechanical output is a Ford design, but you can get hybrid speedometer cables for GM or Mopar applications. They also include a reverse light switch and a neutral safety switch that can be plugged into your vehicle’s existing harness. The transmission has an internal reverse lockout feature that prevents you from accidentally going from fifth gear to reverse. You must go to the center of the “Net” gate before it will allow you to switch to reverse.

The Tremec TKO is an excellent choice for the musclecar or street rod owner who likes to rock his own gear and wants to drive his car to distant car shows or other events. I have one in my 1967 Pontiac Firebird and have driven a number of other vehicles with the TKO transmission installed. The overdrive makes a huge difference on the highway, and there aren’t many other transmission choices out there with overdrive that will stand up to the kind of power that the TKO can take. None of the other overdrive transmissions currently available offer as much versatility as the Tremec TKO.

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