Ford TopLoader Transmission

In 1964 Ford wanted to replace the Borg Warner T-10 transmissions being used in Ford cars. The Ford engineers were given the task of making a transmission that could stand up to about anything asked of it. The toploader is named that because, unlike other transmissions, all the parts are placed through the top of the transmission instead of through a side cover. This design makes the transmission stronger than the side cover units. The shifter rails are mounted in bosses that are cast into the side of the case rather than into a cover. The only function of the cover on the top is to protect the insides and keep the lubrication in the case.

The toploader is a fully synchronized except for reverse gear. All the gears are in constant mesh due to synchronizer sleeves being used instead of sliding gears. The synchronizers enable quicker shifts, greatly reducing gear clash. It also permits downshifting into any forward gear while the car is moving. The forward gears are helical-type. The reverse gear and the exterior of the first and second synchronizers sleeves are spur-type gears.

In first, the first and second gear synchronizer sleeve is moved rearward by the shift fork. The sleeve engages the first-speed gear blocking ring, which acts as a cone clutch applied to the free wheeling first gear. This action speeds up or slows down the first-speed gear to match the speed of the output shaft. Further movement of the sleeve locks the first and second-speed gear to match the speed of the output shaft. Further movement of the sleeve locks the first and second speed synchronizer hub to the first speed gear by means of internal splines. On engagement of the clutch, power flows through the input shaft and gear to the meshed countergear and hence to the first speed gear. This gear transmits the power through the locked synchronizer hub to the transmission output shaft. All the other forward speed gears are in idler motion, as they are all driven by the counter (cluster) gear, but they do not transmit power because they are not locked to the output shaft. All the forward speed shifts are made in the same manner as the first speed shift, due to the constant mesh feature.

Ford used the toploader in almost all production cars from 1964 to 1973. The transmission even ended up in some foreign cars.

A 1 1/16" input shaft was used in motors from the 200 CID to the 390 CID. The larger motors such as the 427, 428 and 429 used a larger 1 3/8" input shaft. The big block motors offered only close ratio gears in the toploader. The smaller engines offered both close ratio and wide ratio gears.

The gear box of the toploader came in three case lengths. The 1964 & 65 Fairlanes, the TVR, Griffiths and Sunbeam Tigers used a 25 1/2" case. The 427 & 428 Cobras, all Mustangs, Falcons, Mavericks, Cougars, 1966 & 67 Fairlanes and Comets used a 24" case. All full size Fords and the 428, 429 Cyclone and Torinos had a 27" case. The 1964 toploader had a small 4 hole maincase with small OD bearing retainers. All the 1965-73 cases were wide 8 hole with larger OD bearing retainer.

The spline output shafts were also different. The 1964 and early 1965 25 spline output shafts proved to be defective and were quickly replaced. A 28 spline output shaft was used in cars from the 200 CID to the 390 CID. The big blocks had a 31 spline shaft. The toploader was used in 133 different models of Fords.

The toploader is one great transmission. Almost bullet proof, the toploader proved to be the transmission of choice for enthusiasts. Unfortunately Ford no longer supports this transmission. Finding parts to rebuild a toploader is an unfortunate experience. The bulk of this article comes from Dan Williams' Toploader Transmissions in Franklin, North Carolina. Dan is a BIG Ford fan. He is also a collector and trader of 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs. Dan told me that the only thing he doesn't make for a toploader is the case, and he is working on that. In 2001 I rebuilt the toploader in my 1968 Shelby Cobra GT 350. I ran across Dan at his web site, I was able to get new gears and synchronizers and a rebuild kit a lot cheaper than I would have expected since the transmission is not supported by Ford any longer. Dan can be reached at 828-524-4848. His hours run from noon to midnight, although I have talked to him much later than that. Dan even offers assistance by phone if you get stuck and supplies a full set of instructions on how to rebuild the transmission yourself. I also got a new Hurst shifter from him. 

The master rebuild kit Dan offers includes: input & output bearings; 4 bronze blocker rings; 3 "0" rings; countershaft; 4 "C" springs; case plug; all gaskets; input & output seals; tail bushing; input, cluster & reverse needle bearings; small pats kit; 4 thrust washers; Stewart Warner air vent (and instructions on how to install it); all dogs; EOS assembly lube; brush; Cast Blast spray paint; magnetic drain plug and complete rebuilding instructions. You can also buy brand new gears close or wide ratio manufactured by Dan.


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