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Discussion Starter #1
*** PLEASE - NO FLAMES. I'm a new Alfa Spider owner with a legitimate concern ***

I bought an '89 Spider Graduate a few weeks ago which will ultimately become my weekend toy for exploring the hill country (near Austin). No rust (and I checked EVERYWHERE per all the posts on this board), 80K miles, good engine compression and no leaks. BUT the transmission didn't sound good.
Yes, it has oil in it.
Yes, the rear end has oil in it.
Yes, all u-joints were replaced.
No, I didn't look at the clutch...but it felt fine, even in a 5th gear full-throttle roll-on.

Then....I read about all the problems people have with their Alfa transmissions.
I may conclude that the transmission is a weak link in the Alfa system.

Now, I have built many cars and motorcycles over the last 35 years, many from basket cases....Lotus Europa, Porsche 914 2.0 & 911SC, '58 Cadillac Coupe deVille, Datsun Z cars, and more. If there is a weak link, it gets replaced with something better. One extreme example...My '89 Southwind RV. It had a 454 Chevy with a Turbo 400 trans on a P30 chassis. Even with a heavily built trans I had to rebuild it every 2 years. Then Chevy introduced the turbo-diesel with the Allison transmission. I found a wrecked (rear-ended) truck with this combo and installed it in the Southwind. Now it is the most reliable vehicle I own and has over 400,000 miles on the new engine/trans combo.

So with this in mind, and without worrying about "devaluing" the Spider, wouldn't it make sense to install a transmission that is more robust than the Alfa original?

I looked at the threads and couldn't find anything except the V-8 swap that may get a Tremec.

So, if somebody has already done a swap with a robust, reliable manual transmission, I would greatly appreciate any advice.

And IF the stock transmission can be made into what I want that would be great too.

BTW, I'm in the Austin, TX area (Jarrell). If there is an Alfa mechanic who is actually good with this stuff I may want to give a rebuild a chance (take the trans in and leave the rest of the car on blocks until it's done)....Unless it's 2 grand or more. For that I can drop in one of several high quality American transmissions that will last the life of the car and even if I have to reconstruct the transmission tunnel and/or firewall.

In closing...Please no flames. Constructive criticism is welcome (even if slightly negative if you need to kick me in the rear).

Thanks everyone,

David
 

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I think you're thinking under a misconception. Alfa trannys aren't weak, per se. They are plenty robust enough, however, they have heavy gears that are known to wear synchros prematurely, especially 2nd gear.

Sub'ing in a different transmission would be a very costly and complicated engineering task . . . from the engine mating to the input shaft to modifying the driveshaft. Not to mention modifying the shifter position and maybe the floor pan.

What many owner have done to increase the performance and longevity of their transmissions is to have several of the gears "lightened" by machining and drilling holes. Done correctly, it does not adversely affect the required strength of the gear, but does cut down on the mass inertia of the gear and permit better shifting and increased sychro life. There are several threads on the BB on this specific subject already. Also, look at the sticky thread "Supplier List" for a list of shops that do gear lightening/overhauls.

Certainly not inexpensive, but a probably a pittence compared to sub'ing in a different make transmission.

Check out this thread: http://www.alfabb.com/bb/forums/showthread.php?t=10472&highlight=gear+lightening
 

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dacfff,

I'm with you. If you don't like it change it. Here is an article where they mention swapping the trans to a Muncie. Also you may want to contact Advance Adaptors. At times they will take an interest in interesting projects, especially if they feel that there is a market for a new product. They've worked with me on a couple but that was decades ago.

http://www.autocomponenti.com/projects/two_new_records.htm

http://www.advanceadapters.com/

All that being said the Alfa trans is a well built smooth operating trans that is easy, though costly, to rebuild. For a weekend toy the original trans will last a long time.
 

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yea they do not break and are strong. But even with the light gears and the right oil. They are still very slow shifting boxes. I had a Muncie in a 53 Willies Jeep that I could shift all 4 gears faster then one shift in a Alfa. And I think I can shift all 5 gears in my *** truck in the time it takes to shift the alfa box one gear. it is just the way it is. if you do a swap I would think a 6 speed would be nice. mabee with the older rear that has low gears.
Now if the Alfa box could have the synchros swaped to a cone type. And then somthing like the corvett where they use a triple CF cone that would make it a very nice box. as the dogs come off I think it would be possable to do somthing like this. but no one has as far as I know.
 

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The other thing that often gets overlooked when discussing the weak points of the Alfa transmission is that in good condition and with the proper gear oils they are an absolute *joy* to use. They are precise and have a very nice mechanical feel to them. You can, with proper technique, shift them quickly without being overly harsh on the mechanicals.

I am not saying they can be shifted as quickly as more modern Japanese or German gearboxes, or feel anywhere near as precise, but compared to the car's contemporaries the Alfa gearbox was by far the best thing going and works very well even today.

Joe
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have tried the back-cutting and drilling of gears, mostly on road race motorcycles. The best luck I had for motorcycles (also with full synchro gearboxes) is to undercut the dog teeth slightly so the synchro engages quickly and securely. This allows for full-throttle up-shifting without the clutch and, occassionally, downshifting without the clutch too (very carefully...don't want to swap ends).

So, do I want to drill/back-cut/undercut gears on a street car? I don't know yet. Its not like I have a tow vehicle follow me everywhere should something go wrong.

I am hoping, however, that the Alfa transmission can be built in such a way that it will last a few hundred thousand miles without another rebuild. BUT, I don't want to have to baby it. Heck, even my Ducati transmission could take some abuse. I think (and hope that) my expectations are reasonable even for an Italian sports car.

One other thing....I have a co-worker who owns a '60's Ferrari (something SWB) that used to blow rear end gears every 1000 miles or so. I suggested that he buy some new gears, then have an AMERICAN gear manufacturer reverse engineer them and make a set their way. He was worried the the Ferarri purists would shun him, but he was spending a fortune to keep his car on the road. He decided to try it, but not tell them. Well, that was 1991...He has never had to replace the rear end gears again. There should not be a reason to expect less than the best quality when it's your money on the line. Let the other guys (and gals) blow their money/time/effort on inferior junk (to be "pure"). I prefer THE BEST, MOST RELIABLE, AND FUN TO OWN vehicle(s) I can afford, even if they're not truly "pure".

OK...Off my soapbox now.

Oh yeah....The other reason I'm so anal about all this....I'm a mechanical engineer who designs things that absolutely cannot fail for any reason. That's right....6-sigma is too loose and will cause too many people to die. My company has to go far beyond 6-sigma (that's 3.4 defects per million opportunities, or 99.99966% yield for you non-math types) or we will be out of business.
Could I design a better transmission that fits the same envelope and mounting? Maybe. Do I want to? There aren't enough Alfas around to make it a good business decision. It would cost a lot (really a lot) unless I could manufacture a million or more of them and not get sued by whoever holds the rights to Alfa. Then the testing, DOT approval, CARB approval, and possibly European approvals would have to be obtained. As of today, it wouldn't be worth it. But ask me in a year, who knows ;)

Thanks - I continue to await your replies...
 

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I have never busted one they just get a bit hard to shift(or slower to shift). my Milano Verde is over 230k
and it has a bit of a notchy 2nd and first is getting hard to go in some times.
my 72 spider never got bad but I did do the light gears etc. just to help the life of the syncros.
but I did not have any problems with the box I just wanted it to shift a bit faster. but the boxes will last as long as any box they just shift a bit slower.
it is not like the boxes snap and you need a tow. on a spider the low oil pan is the thing that will call for a tow. I have cracked mine 2 times. and needed the tow each time. and that is the only time I had it towed. And I have had to have the Verde toed once when the temp sender connector fell off for the L-jet ECU late at night(my fault for not replacing the cracked connector is had been cracked for years).

so about 3 tows in 25-30 years.
and I drive my alfa to work every day I am not the type to only drive them on the odd weekend.

what is the "transmission didn't sound good" what type of sound is it making. at only 80K I would not expect any problems with the trany. if it is bad the P.O. must have did somthing bad to it. the other thing that IS a normal weak point is the rubber donut they just need to be changed every now and then. and I would say change yours so you know it was done.
very very bad if it fails.
 

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dacfff,

I like the being shunned by the purists. AAAAH it just keeps them on their toes. You should hav heard the bally hoos from the purists when I managed to put a Ford 289 in a beater '62 XKE. What's funny is that I got the trans adaptor from JC Whitney.

Back to your trans project; As I recall Datsun/Nissan makes a very nice 5 speed trans for their Roadsters/Z cars and who knows what else. As I remember the 5 speed trans in my SRL311 was a nice piece however the 5th gear was weak but there is a kit to repair that problem. The size is about the same as the Alfa. What's nice about the Datsun/Nissan 5 speed is that they used them in everything and they are cheap/inexpensive & tough. The Datsun 5 speed just might be the one to get the job done.

Here's some info on the Datsun/Nissan transmission. Some come with a detachable bellhousing. Those might be easier to adapt.

http://newprotest.org/projects/510/gearRatios.pl
 

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I have tried the back-cutting and drilling of gears, mostly on road race motorcycles. The best luck I had for motorcycles (also with full synchro gearboxes) is to undercut the dog teeth slightly so the synchro engages quickly and securely. This allows for full-throttle up-shifting without the clutch and, occassionally, downshifting without the clutch too (very carefully...don't want to swap ends).

So, do I want to drill/back-cut/undercut gears on a street car? I don't know yet. Its not like I have a tow vehicle follow me everywhere should something go wrong.
I'll second the recommendation to lighten the gears. The Alfa gears are pretty robust, you can take a lot of meat out of them and they still won't fail. I've got lightened gears in almost all of my Alfas now.

As for cost, add about $85 per gear to the cost of rebuilding a transmission. It's not so bad, most of the labor in rebuilding is R&R, so if you remove it yourself, you're not looking at a *ton* of money.

As for shifting speed, I can shift mine pretty **** fast, including downshifting into second or first while the car is moving, something I could never do with a stock transmission.

HTH,

bs
 

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my trans. opinion= .02 cents, maybe less

I think if what you really want to do is tinker and you like the challenge of this sort of project, then go ahead-- it would certainly be nice to know what other trans. might work. However, I think you are basically pole-vaulting over piss-ants! Unless you're drag racing, or have a serious mechanical jinx, the Alfa trans. w/ the right lube will shift fine and will likely be the least and possibly last of your problems.
 

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Hi Guys,
I have to respond to this thread !
I've Vintage raced a 2600 for 9 years using the "Red line" as my down shift point !.............I have NEVER experienced a gearbox failure, and that included some 8 and 9000 rpm downshifts!
Yes , Second gear synchro is weak after all that abuse, and , Yes, I did " blow" a drive "Doughnut" at 7500 RPM in top ! (That was interesting!),
But the mechanicals never gave up, and that's what got me 4 Championships!
I had, arguably, the best Alfa mechanic I've known build my motors and gearboxes, and maybe that's the difference.
Yes, The Hewland in my lotus was "Quicker".........Yes, the ZF in the Pantera was stronger....and yes, the T-10 top loader in the McKee is virtually un- burstable, even with 500 HP............BUT , for a '60's era "Production Vehicle"
an Alfa gearbox is still strong, precise and a joy to use.

Adrian
 

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alternates

Craig Taylor has developed a Quaife Rocket gearbox to Alfa Bellhouse. Originally developed for racing and dogring engagement, but I believe available options are synchro's and sequential shift. They will make a drive shaft, annular throw out bearing for it as well. I believe it is nearly bolt in except it will move the shifter back in the tunnel about 8" so you will have some sheetmetal and interior cosmetics.

Link http://www.taylor-race.com/items.cfm?category=Transmissions&subcategory1=Quaife&subcategory2=Sierra

Andy
 

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The beautiful thing about the Alfa tranny is that the harder you drive, the better it shifts. If you are shifting at 4K, the synchros are slow. But if you shift at 5500 or higher, it's like a knife through butter. As for downshifts, I've never had difficulty as long as I match revs somewhat close. And that includes 2nd and 1st gear.

If I were to contemplate a tranny swap, I'd change the engine too! The engine is much more a limitation on an Alfa than the tranny.

Erik
 

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David, nothing more to add to your question or the answers other than shame on some of the members here who feel the need to flame new-commers with legitimate questions such as these.

A new poster should not have to feel this tentative - imagine how many potential new members avoid the BB like the plague because of that mentality!?

- Welcome BTW - kept my Supra Saltare ski-boat on Travis for years and years (lived in Houston for 10 years before moving to Seattle!) :D Fun times!

You may even see me back in Texas - sooner than not!

Cheers, JvR
 

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everything in this post seemed to be flameless ...However the history of flaming anyone who even suggests using non alfa parts on an alfa has been the norm....... some Alfisti on this board are a little old school and uptight about "destroying" a thoroughbred with non alfa or even worse non original parts......:p
 

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Pffft.

If I thought I could stuff a 6 speed box in there with little or no difficulty or not having to hack things to bits, I'd be a gear rowing fool regardless of what anyone had to say about it. (stock 5 speed would sit over there to go with the car when/if it got sold)
 

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BTW, I'm in the Austin, TX area (Jarrell). If there is an Alfa mechanic who is actually good with this stuff I may want to give a rebuild a chance . . .

================================

Contact Bob Fernald. He's been building Alfa transmissions for decades.

Jim

----------------------
'70, 1750 GTV, European, 2nd series
'62, Lancia Flaminia Zagato 3c, 2nd series
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Re: Contact Bob Fernald. He's been building Alfa transmissions for decades.
****************

Is Bob on this board?

I contacted Vick Autosports in Fort Worth (I'm up that way a lot).
They phone quoted $1000-1300 to rebuild or exchange my current gearbox since I will be removing it. They said I would have it back in about a week.
I have seen that people recommend them for parts, but I haven't seen a recommendation for their service. If anyone knows about them please let me know.

I also located a 260Z gearbox already rebuilt by the shop that used to do my work on Z cars. I can get it for $850 but I'd be putting another $300 into an adapter and then have to figure out the clutch and input shaft requirements. Also, since I don't have a CAD model of any of the transmissions, I don't know how much metal I would have to cut.

I will be replacing the clutch since the tranny is out. I thought about resurfacing the flywheel but I think the car revs out too slow. Perhaps a lighter (new) flywheel would be in order to go with the rebuilt trans.

And yes, I thought about the Z engine in the Alfa engine bay. Maybe if I had a spare car I would attempt doing that. It would sound terrific (very Ferarri-like) and would shift like butter at all engine speeds. Can't get the spare car until the end of summer though.

Thanks to all of you who responded. I appreciate the opinions and I didn't see any flames.

Last item...Does anyone have any 3D CAD models available (or know where to get them) of engines and/or transmissions, especially the Alfa?

If not, I will be modelling the Alfa gearbox/bell housing while it is out of the car. This will be in either Pro/E or Solidworks, but I can convert to IGES for those who may be interested. I would do the engine, too, if I were pulling it or had a spare to measure.

Keep the thoughts coming...I am learning a lot about my Alfa. :)
 

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my recommendation is to just rebuild......(also that means the next owner of the car wont have a nightmare on their hands should something happen) .... you could get a lighter flywheel and have the gears lightened..that would definately help..

on a side note i had my tranny rebuilt last year, new synchros etc, and i can tell you even without gear lightenning, and lightenned flywheel...it shifts perfectly......especially at 5-6000 rpm......at low rpm = slow shift.........the whole system just seems to work so much better at high rpm.....besides it gives you a reason to drive these cars properly.
 
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