An Alternate FMX Upgrade

contributed by Bob Martin

Harry Hutten’s FMX Up-Grade: In the March-April 2000 issue of Y-Block Magazine, I glossed over Harry’s FMX up-grade from his ’60 Merc-O-Matic, and promised a detailed article after it was race proven.  Harry had picked up a few FMX transmissions, as well as a few Y-Block married Cruise-O-Matics, for the up-grade, and while he urged me to hold off detailing the conversion until it was race proven, he had me stop up and showed me the basics for a few comparison digital pictures.  He ordered high-performance clutches, and sent the torque converter from a small-case ’62 Ford “Cruise” #97H out for rebuilding (to stock stall speed).  Both the Cruise and FMX cases are 9 7/8” long, but the FMX has extra rib stiffeners to beef up the weak areas of the “Cruise” (Picture #1).  He pointed out that the medium case “Cruise” is 10 1/4” long, and takes a different front band.  The FMX doesn’t have a rear pump, which means more horsepower out the (larger diameter) tail shaft.  He’s trying something “different” on a shift kit, and the only difficulty he found was with the front seal for the pump.  I’m following up with a list of part numbers, approximate dollars, and hours for the up-grade.  He had to come up with a modified rear mount for the tail housing, and a slightly longer driveshaft that is 7# heavier (rotating mass) than his original.  On the “plus” side, the one “Cruise” he found had a light, sharp looking aluminum bellhousing (Picture #9).

Well, as usual, I get wound up in the racing season, and covered Harry’s efforts in the NSCA/NMCA competition.  He wrung the FMX out in his 4200# behemoth (some 250-plus all-out passes at race events and testing), and had a ball with the controlled shifts. Then, after the dust finally settled on the racing season, I finally finished the article (following).

Gerry Dubois re-opened the FMX discussions (on the Y-Block chat forums) while he was preparing to do the up-grade in his ’56 Customline Victoria.  Then, Tom Metz joined in, wanting to know the issue of Street Rodder that had the FMX article (September 1999 / Part 7 / Transmission Options of the “Y-Notta Y-Block” series by Doc Frohmader) because he had a ’62 Merc-O-Matic in his ’57 Ford and was considering the up-grade as well.  I called Harry, he uncovered all his tranny “leftovers”, and I went up to his shop near Oxford for a refresher course in FMX-101.  From my work with Orr Racing in Cincinnati on their Donovan Hemis and Powerglides, I know just enough about automatic transmissions to be dangerous – literally.  I threw a bunch of questions at Harry during his lessons, and after a few silent stares back at me, he cautioned me not to try and go into too much detail – and let him review what I write before I submit it.  Harry stressed the importance of having a service manual – whether or not you do the rebuilding yourself.  “It makes it much easier to understand” he said.  I almost expected him to hand me the manual at that point. As for terminology, Harry said that the “Cruise-O-Matic” moniker replaced the “Merc-O-Matic” from ’58 on. Physically, be aware that the FMX’s came with more than one-length tail housings, and to take this into consideration for the rear mount, as well as the driveshaft length.  And consider the fact that any transmission you find might have come out of a wrecked car, and the housings need to be looked at closely for cracks.

Harry used the Street Rodder article when he did his FMX up-grade last February and had a multitude of trannys on hand (Ford-O’s, Merc-O’s, Cruise-O’s & FMX’s) by the time he was ready for it. But most importantly, without much preparation time (before racing season started), he chose a slightly different direction for the up-grade.  Instead of using the FMX converter and pump, where the converter pilot has to be altered to fit the Y-Block crank (increased from 1.375 to 1.575 diameter), Harry used a converter that came off a Y-Block powered automatic car, and a ‘Cruise or Ford-O pump so no modifications were necessary.  Note that both the converter and pump were from ’58 and later trannys.  While he describes the application as suitable for street and strip, he reflected that his hasn’t seen anything but hard strip use, with plenty of serious burnouts, hard foot-brake launches, and up to 5600-rpm shifts.  His 4200# combination leaves better than street 5.0 Mustangs, and his 15.0 numbers (14.97 best) calculate that he’s putting 250 HP to the ground.

You don’t want to mix Cruise and FMX converters and pumps.  Harry emphasized this point – he and the Street Rodder article specifically state that you have to use the converter / pump in matched pairs because of the mating input sleeve on the converter for the pump drive.  He actually prepared two converters.  He had one rebuilt locally, and sent another to Jim Paquet / JPT Transmissions in Michigan for rebuilding – both for stock stall speeds at approx. $100 each (plus shipping / area / availability etc.).  He got the local one quickest and still has Jim’s for backup. Keep in mind, that Jim services the racing contingent, and don’t expect a quick turnaround from March thru September, unless you arrange serious commitments and transportation (and $$$).

 When Harry did the up-grade, you could see difference in the cases.  While both were 9 7/8” long (’72 Ford FMX / “D2AA” & ’62 ‘Cruise “#97H”), the FMX had extra rib stiffeners (Picture #1) to beef up the weak areas of the ‘Cruise. I helped Harry transfer the upper holes from the Y-Block bellhousing to the FMX case (Picture #5) like the Street Rodder article illustrated (something even I couldn’t screw up).  The top mounting “ears” and holes on the FMX case (Picture #4) are higher that those on the Cruise, but there’s plenty of meat below them to transfer the holes from the Y-Block bellhousing - after bolting the (matched) lower holes.  We used a (low tech) yellow marker for transferring the holes to the case ears (Picture #6).  The internal parts were a different story – I just stood back and took notes.  Harry purchased the master overhaul kit for the FMX for about $100, which comes complete with gaskets, seals, clutches, etc – but no bands.  The Street Rodder article describes the clutch disks, their need to be .077 thick, and the clearances needed for optimum performance (.050 for reverse/high pack, and .025in the forward pack).  While Harry used the stock clutches from the overhaul kit to save time, he also sent for performance clutches and bands.

 The band(s) are a separate story.  The FMX comes stock with a “flexible” band with a central rectangular anchor pin opposite the servo side.  Harry’s “small case” (9 7/8” long) ‘Cruise had a “rigid” band with an offset anchor pin, but one of his “medium case” (10 1/4“ long) ‘Cruise trannys (behind a 390) had a “rigid” band with central round anchor pin. Since Harry wanted to use a rigid band like the one shown in the Street Rodder article, he used the ones from the “medium case” cruise.  He traded one locally for a ($50) stock re-lined band, and sent another to Paquet, which came back with the good looking Kevlar linings noted in the article. He raced the stock one.  But keep in mind, John Feistritzer has raced with the flexible band, and John’s 11.83’s in his supercharged 3700# “Hoosier Hurricane” ’57 Ford, calculate that he’s putting down 435 HP at the rear wheels. The flexible bands work!  They have holes in them that match up with the holes in the drum that help let the oil out from the slamming clutches. While the rigid bands have a circumfrential groove between the linings, John saws cross-cut grooves about 2” apart all the way around to help let the oil out of them.  Please take this as a tip from those who race and/or push the limit – not your “normal” rebuild.  Harry did sand down the reverse/high clutch drum and reconditioned it like was mentioned in the Street Rodder article. 

 A new vacuum modulator runs about $10, and the article explains how its adjustment affects the shifts.  One way makes them harder and slower, the other softer and quicker.    Harry was after harder and quicker, so he went shopping for a shift kit.  He found TRANSCO;  2621 Merced Ave; El Monte, CA  91733;  (626) 443-7451, and they gave him the name of a local distributor (Transtar / Cincinnati). He ordered #FMX-3 shift kit (approx. $150), which had two options: 1) Re-programmable (Beefed up for harder-quicker shifts;  2) Full Manual (“stick-shift”).  Harry chose the beefed-up option so it would shift on its own on trips back the return roads and “normal” driving to cruise-ins.  He did advise to follow the instructions carefully, because there was one valve in the kit that could be installed backwards, and that there will be parts leftover.  There was one point about the governor in the article worth mentioning – I saw Harry’s work first hand.  He was in a race with a faster car at SHOOTOUT 2000, and he had a mind melt when the other driver treed him and left first.  In a panic, after shifting into second, he pulled it back into low (like he used to with the Merc-O-Matic), and it stayed in second.  Besides the governor saving the driveline, he even ended up winning the round when the other guy didn’t run his number.

 Harry’s only disagreement with the Street Rodder article involved the terminology defining the “medium-case” with regard to the ‘Cruise pan and dipstick.  Harry’s “medium case” is 10 1/4“ long and its pan obviously won’t fit on a 9 7/8” FMX case (Picture #8).  While the article concern centered about a rusty or rusted off dipstick tube (in the winter salt-belt country), the important fact is to use your pan and dipstick – or an equivalent replacement, so it will be most likely to clear everything it did originally (headers, exhaust, etc.).  Harry plugged the tube hole in the FMX case and used the pan and tube off his 9 7/8” ‘Cruise case.  Even with the longest tail housing FMX that he had, besides modifying the rear mount, he still had lengthen his driveshaft.  Note that Tom Metz found a ‘67-‘68 Cougar driveshaft that bolted right in to his ’57 Ford when he dropped in a ’62 ‘Cruise – and he’ll probably find another when he does the up-grade.  Note also, that both he and Harry were fortunate to have one of those “hard-to-find” aluminum bellhousings (Picture #9) on their ’62 ‘Cruises.  Harry cautioned the type of fluid to use in the up-grade.  He used “FA”. His only other problem concerned his use of a ratchet floor shifter for racing.  He had a tedious time matching up the shifter throws to the tranny detents. He doesn’t think you would have much trouble with the stock rods.  For those that have questions regarding the up-grade, you can call him at his shop, D&H Auto Performance:  (513) 868-3311.  One last bit of food for thought – now that Harry is resurrecting his ’61 Starliner, he’s been gathering information on a C-4 up-grade.  Remember, once you go fast, you won’t go back……

 After telling Harry today, March 27, 2003, that the FMX Tranny Up-Grade was in request on the Internet, he told me another tip that he just recently encountered – when he built up an FMX for Barb’s ’62 Mercury.  The FMX linkage on case didn’t marry up with the stock linkage arms on the ’62 – but he swapped it for the linkage on the Cruise case, and it worked perfectly.

You might want to go to the Street Rodder Website and e-mail them to see if you can get a reprint of the “Y-Notta Y-Block” Article by Doc Frohmader, September 1999, Part 7, Transmission Options.  At the same time, please tell them, that the SpeedSmith  aluminum Y-Block Heads are within about a month of  reality, and that they would add polish supporting data for their recent testing of the Blue Thunder aluminum intake.  They can check our  for the head flow data on our Technical pages.