The hot rodding of my '65 Falcon Futura was finished in late 2001. With a high horsepower Crate Engine, Posi-traction rear end, Big Tires and Cragar S/S wheels, and a buffed out original interior.What more could you possibly want in a '60's muscle car? Well, the one thing that WAS missing was the 4 speed transmission. So I set about to acquire all the parts and pieces to do an authentic, all around, original, 4 Speed Toploader installation into my ride.
TOPLOADER HISTORY (from David Kee Toploader web site)The Ford Toploader Transmission was introduced in 1964 to replace the Borg Warner T-10.
This is the super-tough transmission built by Ford Engineers to stand up to just about anything demanded from it.
Internal parts of the Toploader are assembled through the top of the case instead of through a side cover, thus the name "Toploader." This design is actually stronger than a 4-speed box with a side cover. The shifter rails are mounted in bosses that are cast into the box itself, leaving the only function for the top cover to keep the lube inside.
The Toploader 4-speed transmission is of the fully synchronized type with all gears except the reverse sliding gear being in constant mesh. All forward-speed changes are accomplished with synchronizer sleeves instead of sliding gears. The synchronizers will enable quicker shifts, greatly reduce gear clash, and permit down-shifting into any forward-speed gear while the car is moving. All forward-speed gears in the transmission are the helical-type; however, the reverse sliding gear and the exterior of the first and second-speed synchronizer sleeve are spur-type gears.
The Toploader was used in production from 1964 to 1973 in almost every model Ford car and a few foreign cars.
The gear box was built in 3 case lengths. The 1964-65 Fairlane, T.V.R., Griffith, and Sunbeam Tiger case is 25-1/2" long. The AC Cobra with 427 and 428, all Mustangs, Falcons, Mavericks, Cougars, 1966-67 Fairlanes and Comets use 24 " transmissions, while all full size cars and the 428, 429 Cyclone and Torino use the 27" box. The 1964 Toploader used a small 4 hole maincase with the small O.D. bearing retainer. All 1965-73 cases were wide 8 hole cases with the large O.D. bearing retainer.
A daunting task to say the least. It took about a year from my remote location (Kauai).
ACQUIRING THE PARTS
The first place to start was a Brake / Clutch Pedal setup. Without the pedal setup, you'll never have a 4 speed!!
After some research and months of looking on Ebay, one came up for auction and it was completely restored, with paint and springs and pedal pads. This pedal setup HAS to be for a '65 Falcon and not the '65 Mustang setup because of the positioning of the dash and seats in the interior of the Stang. Its longer and lower than the Falcon so the pedals don't bolt in correctly.
Next comes the Pedal Linkage.
This consists of a '64/65 Falcon specific Z-Bar, pedal rod, several adjusting rods, various mounting brackets, and springs.
Going from Automatic to Manual transmission is going to require some major replacements of the Bellhousing and Flywheel.
The flywheel replaces the automatic's flexplate. Lucky for me, I found a complete Ford Small Block setup on Ebay. Complete with blocking plate, throwout arm and bearing, clutch disc and pressure plate, and even the bolts for the flywheel. The SBF flywheels come in 2 varieties, a 157 and 164 tooth versions. Since my automatic had the 157 teeth, thats version I needed..
Finally, last but not least, the Toploader.
There are several online Toploader Remanufacturers. But David Kee's Web Site has the most information and was the most easily contacted. The guy was terrific, he not only knows his product in and out, but he made sure I got all the right stuff for my conversion. He recommended a wide ratio version for "occasional blasts down the strip". He even provided the proper speedo gear for my rear end ratio and tire size, and got me into a high performance McCleod clutch/pressure plate setup. And lets not forget about the obligatory Hurst Competiton Plus Shifter. Shipping was accomplished in specially designed containers. All in all the transaction was flawlessly smooth. Just like the way my Toploader shifts!
A 14" tailshaft housing was used on the 64-65 Falcons and that happened to co-incide with the '65 Mustangs introduction. The tailshaft housings were similar except the Falcon had the forward shifter mounting holes drilled and tapped, whereas the Mustangs were using the more rearward mounting holes. Note the TailShaft mounting holes on the picture above.
A conversion like this takes all the right parts, that's the part I took care of. But I would never attempt this job myself. I did make sure that I had a mechanic who was up to the task.
Manny Lawrence of Manny's Repair had the know how and all the tools to do the job. So the actual physical conversion went to him. All went pretty good during disassembly. Bench seat, carpet, and brake pedal were removed. A hole was traced on the floor where the reproduced fiberglass floor hump was to go. Automatic transmission drained and dropped. As the installation process started, the linkage brackets and pedal setup got installed first.
The only problem that did come up was the Z-Bar support bracket. On the SBF 289 block there is a pivot point in place for one side of the Z-bar axis. The other side mounts to the frame. Well, after 37 years on the street the holes on the frame were filled with junk and had to be reamed out before the threads on the mounting bolts would grab. Needless to say that part of the frame rail is unreachable with out pulling the engine. That was way to much work to clean out 2 little holes. So the decision was made to cut a hole on the inner wheelwell to access that area on the framerail. The picture below shows Manny's flawless welding job after reaming the mounting holes and mounting the Z-Bar bracket.
Then there was some question about the headers. First of all, they had caused a problem initially after the install of the Crate Motor while it was still an Automatic shifted on the column. The column shifter hit tube #8 and couldn't be shifted into drive. See my New Engine Install Page about the 12th picture down the page. The headers were the Hooker ceramic coated 6901's. Which in the catalog were listed for Mustangs, etc that were either Automatic or Standard shift cars. Now it all made sense!!! All Mustangs were floor shifted cars: Not Column Shifted like my Falcon was. So thats why we had that problem before. Hence we shouldn't have a problem now, because we were going to a 4 speed floor shift!!! And true to our deductions, the Z-Bar and linkage fit right through a space provided between the header tubes. Perfect.
In an amazing revalation, the original Automatic driveshaft was a perfect fit. And likewise for the transmission crossmember. We just used the original Automatic crossmember, because it bolted right in. Look for it in the pictures below.
Additional items to consider is a rev limiter, drive shaft safety loop, and a clean steering column collar for a floor shifted car.
The rev limiter is in, and a safety loop was designed and installed. The steering column collar is painted but not installed yet.
Z-Bar Linkage, Throwout Arm and Rod clearing Headers
The Automatic Crossmember fits The Toploader.
Automatic Speedo cable was just long enough.
Another view of the Z-Bar threading the Tubes
Here the Pedals and Floor Hump are in place.
Note the cleanliness of the floor!! No rust, no dirt.
Another angle of Floor Hump, Trim Ring and Boot
Toploader 4 Speed with Hurst Competition Plus Shifter & T Handle
To complete the installation and make sure it
looked original and factory-like, a reproduced shifter boot with trim ring
is also required.
And of course I had to replace the almost new (2 years old) carpet with one shaped for a 4 speed car. The perfect finishing touch.
I had acquired some Bucket Seats from a 1997 Mustang. They were in good shape and approximately the right color. The price was right at $100 for both and the drivers side was a 4 way powered unit. I picked them up on the whim of maybe someday "I'll install buckets". The bench seat was fine with me and works great with the floor shift. Besides all that, it was "all original". But after a few power shifts, the G forces on the 37 year old seat springs took its toll. The broken springs then started to perforate the upholstery. In the meantime I had acquired a nice Grant wood wheel, and a '63 Console. So I did finally install the bucket seats, console, and wood wheel. Complete with a modified Falcon horn button, to complete the original stock look.