It's been said that a man's commitment to his art can be judged by how he has equipped his workshop to handle the task at hand. In the case of Gear Star Performance Transmission their commitment to the art of custom-building high-performance automatic transmissions is clearly evidenced by the specialized equipment and dedicated personnel housed within the walls of their Akron, Ohio-home base. Knowing that the folks who read Custom Classic Trucks are very particular when it comes to the quality of the components that go into their trucks, we thought it would be interesting to show firsthand just how much effort the crew at Gear Star puts into producing a top-quality product.
When it comes to automotive aesthetics, the odds are good that it doesn't matter to the average person whether or not the case of their automatic transmission is scarred, banged-up, or broken, because they aren't passionate about what they drive. On the flip side of this mentality is the detail-conscious enthusiast who is in search of the cherriest example he can find.
The first step to building a Gear Star transmission is selecting an unblemished core from Gear Star's storage area, where every attempt is made to avoid damage. This means that instead of storing rebuildable transmissions in a "core pile" typically found in shops that mass-produce for the general public to compete at discount prices, Gear Star cores are carefully stowed away individually until they are needed to fill the exact requirements of a specific customer. Once the order for a custom-built Gear Star transmission has been placed, it becomes the responsibility of one transmission builder from start to finish. This philosophy, in conjunction with the fact that Gear Star Performance Transmission is employee-owned, eliminates the possibility of the buck getting passed when it's time for someone to own up to a mistake. In the world of precision handguns, the term that best describes a Gear Star transmission is "accurized." For the seven-man Gear Star crew headed by Zack Farah, custom-blueprinting an automatic transmission to meet the extreme demands from a high-performance engine is a chosen lifestyle. Patrick and Doug have worked with Zack for over 30 years, followed by Mark at 25 years. Tom and Tony joined the Gear Star family 13 years ago, followed by Steve, a relative newbie with eight years of employment to his name.
Refocusing on Gear Star's commitment to their art brings us to the third step of the process: after the transmission has been completely disassembled by one of the builders mentioned, it will be placed into a custom-built, $50,000 aqueous parts washer manufactured by Mart Corporation in Maryland Heights, Missouri. With the deep-cleaning stages out of the way, the transmission builder will relocate to his assigned workstation and lay out all of the parts for a pre-assembly inspection. If there's a high spot where the transmission pan meets the case, the builder will hand-dress it with a file, or if a bolt-hole has bad threads, the buggered threads will be chased clean with a tap.
Every transmission that Gear...
Every transmission that Gear Star builds is run a minimum of 30 minutes on their Axline automatic transmission dynamometer and tested to ensure it meets Gear Star's exacting specifications.
Once the transmission case has been thoroughly prepped, reassembly begins with installing only the best parts available. For instance, if the transmission being built is a General Motors product, the planetary used will be a genuine GM unit sourced from ACDelco for $400 instead of a Chinese copy that sells for $40. By the time a Gear Star blueprinted transmission is completed, it will contain only the best brands. The clutch packs will be from Alto, the world's largest producer of automatic transmission parts (located in Atmore, Alabama), while the torque-converter will be from Yank Racing of Reno, Nevada. On the outside, external parts such as custom remote filler/dipsticks, high-tech kick-down kits, and shifters are sourced from Lokar Performance Products of Knoxville, Tennessee. To handle the increased cooling demands generated by an automatic transmission subjected to extreme use, Gear Star offers two SoCal companies' products: transmission coolers from Hayden (of Corona, California) and cast aluminum transmission pans from PML (of Inglewood, California).
Although it's true that a custom-built Gear Star transmission can cost thousands of dollars, it's interesting to note that a Gear Star Turbo 350 can be bought for only $895 ... which is one heck of a good deal considering that it will be assembled by the same builders who do the high-end transmissions and that the same top-quality brands are included.