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Thread: Manual vs Automatic

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    Manual vs Automatic

    I have searched this topic and not been able to find much information. What are the common problems with the manual trannys and auto trannys? What are the opinions floating around out there about each? I typically favor manuals but I have a few SC's I'm looking at in the next week or so and I am trying to figure out which is the best route to go. I had a 94 Thunderbird SC with auto a few years back. I loved the car in general, but was not impressed with the tranny as far as shifting. I know that can tweaked a shift kit if need be though. Primarily I'm looking at durability, cost of maintenance, maintenance intervals and common problems.

    It seems alot of the mauals I have talked to people about have had new clutches or are needing clutches, is this generally a sign of abuse or is it just a natural course of events on the SC (over powered/under clutched).

  2. #2
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    Nov 2009
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    The synchronizers are what usually give the most problems with the M5R2 transmissions. They can also feel notchy when trying to speed shift. Wish they were a little smoother but would rather have my 5 speed than an auto any day.

  3. #3
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    I would say 5 speed all the way. I swapped my 91 from a AOD to a M5R2 and it made it so much more fun to drive.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by r1dd1ck913 View Post
    I would say 5 speed all the way. I swapped my 91 from a AOD to a M5R2 and it made it so much more fun to drive.
    But autos are faster at the track if that's your thing...........
    SCCOA Member #2406
    '94 SC AUTO - 2.3 Whipple
    http://www.sccoa.com/forums/garage_v..._vehicle&id=19

  5. #5
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    Jul 2002
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    You really can't replace the consistency of an auto at the track. I think the aod is a hell of a transmission if built properly. Honestly I had no issues with my aod's, aode's or our 4r70w that many club members complain about. :-) I prefer the 4r70w over the aod as a personal preference due to it's natural ability to handle more power but both transmissions are very tough when time is spent addressing the weak points. I also know there are folks on here that have had great success with the manual transmission. Again it really depends on for what you are looking. I love the torque multiplying capability of a torque converter down low and the consistency of the auto but love the control a driver has with a manual. Either way you could end up spending money repairing either both the manual or auto. Which do you prefer?

  6. #6
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    Yes you all have good points. If the car is a track car then yes an auto is the way to go. But for me my car is a DD for now. So I like to keep the fun factor of the car.

  7. #7
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    It depends on what you are doing with the car. Is this a daily driver or a pleasure vehicle. If pleasure - do you have plans of routinely racing the car on a drag strip or road course? Some of us are never happy, keep adding power, keep going to the track, keep improving on 1/4 mile times and in these cases - the manual can be a real Pain in the AZZ because the notchy shifting really shows up when you are at high rpm and need to grab gears as efficiently as possible to squeeze every tenth out of the car.

    For just driving around, it's not this serious. So my opinion is, if you don't have any intentions of getting caught up in semi-routine drag racing - go with the manual. If you have some 1/4 mile goals already set in mind, the auto would probably save you a lot of aggrivation.

    P.S. There is no "common" problem with the M5R2 other than the shifters get sloppy. Clutches just wear out over time. Even if the car is driven by a grandma, it can get glazed up and start to slip. The gearboxes are strong and parts are plentiful to keep them going. Get a B&M ripper shifter though. The AOD's are time tested and do fine too. You'll spend more money getting an AOD to perform though.
    Last edited by Micahdogg; 05-02-2012 at 11:07 AM.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2006
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    The only issue I had with my AOD was OD band, trashed the last one in ~6k miles. At stock levels a AOD is just fine though.

    With you have a 94 and a 4R70W you are starting with a better tranny but being a 94 you have a few minor issue (being a first year).

    If your modding you will need to build any auto.

  9. #9
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    Mar 2009
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    i swapped my supercoupe powered mustang from a stick to an auto and it is more fun on the track, but less fun on the street. i gained 6mpg with the auto because of driving style

  10. #10
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    Jul 2010
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    Thanks for all the input guys. I will be using the car as a DD. I know that the manuals had a higher rearend ration and are inherently more efficient if driven modestly than most the auto trannys. I doubt I will ever go to the strip, but I do look to modestly bump the HP sometime in the future (exhaust, intercooler and maybe pulleys). From the sounds of things I will continue to try to find the right 5spd car. I have found some nice auto tranny cars out there, but nothin like a clutch pedal in my opinion

  11. #11
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    May 2006
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    Chicago, IL
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    Couldn't agree with you more. All my cars are 5-speed except the Benz and I love to change it over.

    My black build project may be set up to change from AOD to M5R2 w/o excessive handwaving...
    3 SC's over a pair of SHO's ...

    Plat O Ribs Full House of SVT!
    SCCoA Member#: 3251

  12. #12
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    I like the automatic transmission. If i was planning to build a high powered SC to race against motorcycles on the highway at speeds above 125, the manual transmission would be my choice. For pretty much everything else, I think the automatic is superior, especially a late model automatic with electronic controls and lockable converter.

    David
    1991 SC AOD 4.2..2.3 Whipple..........10.910 @ 125.61
    2016 SRT Challenger Hellcat.............10.597 @ 135.78

    My Garage

  13. #13
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    Personally I think an automatic transmission is a complete waste in these cars, or any performance car for that matter. People always say "an auto is more consistent", or "an auto is faster in the 1/4mi", and I call BS on both of these statements every time. People compare a professionally built automatic transmission, that was built to go in a drag car, and has a higher stall converter, and upgraded frictions, and a modified valve body and where the shift points are tuned in, with a stock 5-speed car and say "see, its faster and more consistent". Take that same car and put a close ratio Jerico 4-speed in it, and someone who knows how to properly drive a manual trans car, and see which one makes it down the 1/4mi faster or is more consistent now? I've never had a problem being more consistent in a manual trans car than in an automatic, and my opinion is that if you don't know how to drive a manual trans car, then you don't know how to drive at all, and if you don't know how to drive a manual trans car consistently, then you don't know how to drive consistently. Don't blame the transmission if the car is not consistent, blame the driver.

    As far as these cars go in particular, if you were unhappy with the 4R70W in the 94, then you will be sorely disappointed with an AOD (aka a DOA trans). With stock power levels and in stock form, a DOA trans can last a long time, but they don't take kindly to having more power put through them, and they don't take kindly to WOT shifts, and they don't take kindly to the TV cable being slightly out of adjustment, and they don't take kindly to steeper rear end gears, and they don't take kindly to higher stall converters that still have a lockup, and they don't take kindly to higher trans temps that come with a non-lockup converter, and... well you get the idea. So before you are going to put any more power through an AOD, you need to either convert it to a 4R70, or drop $3K on a built trans. The 5-speeds are not without problems, but I'll take an M5R2 over any automatic any day. The M5R2s were originally designed as a truck transmission, so the gears themselves are very strong, and I have only heard of a few people actually doing any damage to them, however the synchros really aren't up to the task of speed shifting at 6K rpms. On the street under normal driving, they will wear out quicker than in a T5, but even on a freshly rebuilt trans, you might find that the gears grind when taching out 1st gear and grabbing 2nd. Also, the stock shifter is garbage, and in my opinion is the sole cause of the "notchy" shifts that everyone complains about with these transmissions. With a B&M ripper shifter, my M5R2s are just as easy to shift as my buddy's T5 or my Tremec 3650, both of which also have aftermarket shifters. That does bring us to the other problem with the M5R2 which is parts availability, or rather unavailability. The B&M shifter was the only performance shifter ever made for this trans, and it has been discontinued, so if you get a 5-speed car you will need to track down a used one, and since they are a necessary mod for any 5 speed car, and are not going to be produced anymore, used ones typically go for more than they did when they were new. Also, if your trans does require a rebuild, synchros are also unavailable, and the only option is to use ones for an F150, which will work but don't have the fiber lining, so the synchros that were not really up to the task before will now be even worse. Also, the gear ratios in the early style M5R2 are not ideal. 1st and 2nd are very steep, which is a lot of fun on the street, but then there is a very disappointing huge jump going to 3rd, then 4th is 1:1, and 5th is .75:1. The 94/95 M5R2s had a shallower 1st and 2nd gear, with 3rd, 4th, and 5th being the same, so all the gears are more evenly spaced, but that also means that with the stock 2.73 rear end gears, you are not getting as much torque multiplication out of the hole as the earlier style trans. Compensating by changing the rear end ratio will work, but then you still have only a .75 5th gear compared to say a T5's .67 or .62, which is better because how often are you taching out 4th gear and looking to grab another gear and keep accelerating? Ultimately, the best option would be a T56 swap, but for a street car I think you'll be quite happy with a good condition M5R2 with a B&M ripper shifter.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadMikeyL View Post
    Personally I think an automatic transmission is a complete waste in these cars, or any performance car for that matter. People always say "an auto is more consistent", or "an auto is faster in the 1/4mi", and I call BS on both of these statements every time. People compare a professionally built automatic transmission, that was built to go in a drag car, and has a higher stall converter, and upgraded frictions, and a modified valve body and where the shift points are tuned in, with a stock 5-speed car and say "see, its faster and more consistent". Take that same car and put a close ratio Jerico 4-speed in it, and someone who knows how to properly drive a manual trans car, and see which one makes it down the 1/4mi faster or is more consistent now? I've never had a problem being more consistent in a manual trans car than in an automatic, and my opinion is that if you don't know how to drive a manual trans car, then you don't know how to drive at all, and if you don't know how to drive a manual trans car consistently, then you don't know how to drive consistently. Don't blame the transmission if the car is not consistent, blame the driver.

    As far as these cars go in particular, if you were unhappy with the 4R70W in the 94, then you will be sorely disappointed with an AOD (aka a DOA trans). With stock power levels and in stock form, a DOA trans can last a long time, but they don't take kindly to having more power put through them, and they don't take kindly to WOT shifts, and they don't take kindly to the TV cable being slightly out of adjustment, and they don't take kindly to steeper rear end gears, and they don't take kindly to higher stall converters that still have a lockup, and they don't take kindly to higher trans temps that come with a non-lockup converter, and... well you get the idea. So before you are going to put any more power through an AOD, you need to either convert it to a 4R70, or drop $3K on a built trans. The 5-speeds are not without problems, but I'll take an M5R2 over any automatic any day. The M5R2s were originally designed as a truck transmission, so the gears themselves are very strong, and I have only heard of a few people actually doing any damage to them, however the synchros really aren't up to the task of speed shifting at 6K rpms. On the street under normal driving, they will wear out quicker than in a T5, but even on a freshly rebuilt trans, you might find that the gears grind when taching out 1st gear and grabbing 2nd. Also, the stock shifter is garbage, and in my opinion is the sole cause of the "notchy" shifts that everyone complains about with these transmissions. With a B&M ripper shifter, my M5R2s are just as easy to shift as my buddy's T5 or my Tremec 3650, both of which also have aftermarket shifters. That does bring us to the other problem with the M5R2 which is parts availability, or rather unavailability. The B&M shifter was the only performance shifter ever made for this trans, and it has been discontinued, so if you get a 5-speed car you will need to track down a used one, and since they are a necessary mod for any 5 speed car, and are not going to be produced anymore, used ones typically go for more than they did when they were new. Also, if your trans does require a rebuild, synchros are also unavailable, and the only option is to use ones for an F150, which will work but don't have the fiber lining, so the synchros that were not really up to the task before will now be even worse. Also, the gear ratios in the early style M5R2 are not ideal. 1st and 2nd are very steep, which is a lot of fun on the street, but then there is a very disappointing huge jump going to 3rd, then 4th is 1:1, and 5th is .75:1. The 94/95 M5R2s had a shallower 1st and 2nd gear, with 3rd, 4th, and 5th being the same, so all the gears are more evenly spaced, but that also means that with the stock 2.73 rear end gears, you are not getting as much torque multiplication out of the hole as the earlier style trans. Compensating by changing the rear end ratio will work, but then you still have only a .75 5th gear compared to say a T5's .67 or .62, which is better because how often are you taching out 4th gear and looking to grab another gear and keep accelerating? Ultimately, the best option would be a T56 swap, but for a street car I think you'll be quite happy with a good condition M5R2 with a B&M ripper shifter.
    Wow! Well now that madmikeyl has spoken anyone running an automatic should start the process of converting to a manual. How much power does your SC have? How quick is it in the quarter mile?

  15. #15
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    No idea how quick it is in the quarter, I haven't run it yet. I bought the car as it is as far as mods, and I am spending more time fixing stuff the previous owner hacked together and trying to make it a comfortable, fun, and reliable daily driver, and I really have no plans to try to make it a quick quarter mile car. I'm no professional or even experienced drag racer, and when I do go to the track in any of my cars, I do it only for fun, but I have no problem being far more consistent with a manual trans than most of the people there with autos, so if you are saying a manual trans can't be consistent, I have to disagree with you just on personal experience. And I'm not saying everyone should convert their auto to a manual, although I do admit I would love to see what cars like Neibert's would do with a T56, I just hate that manual transmissions are dismissed as being slower and inconsistent, and not once have I seen a legitimate comparison of a built auto vs. a built manual or a stock auto vs. a stock manual that supports that theory.

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