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Drive Train (Part 1)

Ok, I teased recently that I would detail the fresh 383 cid powerplant that will motivate the Vega in this edition of the blog.  In short, I lied. But it’s coming! In truth, I’m waiting until some parts are back from powdercoat and the motor is back in the car so I can include some jaw-dropping photos!  So details on the engine itself will come in part 2 of the “Drive Train” post in a couple weeks. For today, let’s focus on everything from the mid-plate back…

Transmission:

Vega version 10.0 will feature the same BTE Top Sportsman Powerglide Transmission that was in it 4 years ago.  It’s the same Top Sportsman trans you can purchase on ThisIsBracketRacing or direct through BTE.  It features a 1.80 straight cut gear set, BTE SFI approved aftermarket case, Top Sportsman Transbrake Valve Body, ringless Vasco input shaft, BTE High Volume pump, and more.  The only change from the “typical” Top Sportsman trans that I made was to run a 6-clutch high-gear pack over the more typical 8-10. My reasoning: I don’t have “Top Sportsman” power!  When I ran a 10-clutch setup in the past, I could feel the drag in high gear, and it just kept my little motor from operating as efficiently as it should. And, I don’t have enough power to need the additional clutches for longevity: so 6 has always been the answer for this combination.

Converter:

For converter, I’m going to start this iteration with the same converter we had in the Vega years ago.  The difference? Well, we always had low budget 350 engines in it. Now we have a low budget 383 (a little more stroke).  We also added 400-ish pounds to the car. I assume the 8” BTE that I’ve run forever will be a touch on the loose side (complete transparency: it’s the loosest 8” BTE makes), but I’m of the opinion that (typically) looser is more forgiving and consistent.  How loose? Well, this went to about 6000 behind the 350. So my guess is that the new 383 will push it to 6200-6300 (ish). We may (who am I kidding… we will almost certainly) wear out the bellhousing bolts to get it where I ultimately want it. But you’ve got to start somewhere!  

Regardless of what specific converter ends up in the car, rest assured it will be a BTE 8” Converter.  BTE has helped me get power to the ground on every application I’ve owned for the last 20+ years.

Cooling: 

I plan to run the little Vega hard – it’s not a show car (translation: I’m going to wipe it off ALL the time because it’s beautiful, and I’m maniacally proud of it… but I’m going to run it into the ground!).  One of my favorite things in racing is rolling into I-57 Dragstrip and purchasing a tech card for every class they offer: Super Pro (box), Pro (no Box) and Footbrake (no transbrake).  There was a night years ago when I rolled in the gate at about 4:00 and rolled back out around 10:30. In between, I made 24 laps between the 3 classes!  That type of abuse is not for the faint of heart. It’s also not for the primitive transmission cooling system. Nope, Vega 10.0 has nearly 50 feet of transmission cooling line!  A typical transmission cooler (I use the B&M 70266) is mounted just in front of the radiator (so the fan pulls air through it).  In addition, we run a secondary fin cooler above the rear end (this specific unit was a BTE prototype from years ago; I don’t believe it’s currently available).  For the brief time between rounds, I can circulate fluid with a remote trans fluid pump from Jones Pumps.  With the added coolers and line, I add about 3 ½ quarts of trans fluid capacity.  That alone helps (it’s just more fluid to get hot). The additional cooler helps dissipate heat, and the ability to circulate fluid (specifically through the converter) between rounds goes a long way.  As for the fluid itself; I run either Lucas Oil semi-synthetic or BTE Race Fluid (in truth, they’re one in the same: Lucas makes the BTE private label stuff).

Shifting:

I love the Biondo ELITE Outlaw shifter; it’s all I’ve run in our last several dragsters and corvette roadsters.  They’re well designed, easy to operate, and look sharp. So I went that route with the Vega as well… But there was a catch (On this project, I’ve come to learn, there’s always a catch!).  The ELITE Outlaw is designed for a dragster: so it’s a rear exit cable designed to mount at the transmission end from the front (through the mid-plate). Doing so on a door car application would require one of two things: either flipping the shift linkage arm on the transmission upside, or wrapping a shift cable around the motor to come in from the front.  Given space tunnel space considerations, flipping the linkage arm on the Vega wasn’t an option. Given the idea that I’m striving for the nicest Vega in the world, the wrap around option wasn’t either! Thankfully, this clever linkage assembly from Aerospace Components saved the day.

If you know me, you know that I’m not particularly a fan of air or C02 operated devices (my opinion is that it’s another headache, something else than can fail, and ultimately a pain in the butt).  So I try to avoid air & C02 whenever possible. On my .90 entries, that’s not really possible (the APD Max Speed and the tuning benefits that it offers over any other carburetor make C02 worth the hassle), but on this car… Yea, EVERYTHING is electric.  No air bottle, no compressor, no worries! For the shift solenoid, I went with the same Dixie shift solenoid that I’ve used in every car I’ve owned for 20+ years.  It’s simple, bullet proof, and most important for a driver like me: dummy proof!

Rear End:

The old Oldsmobile/Pontiac rear end served the Vega well for decades.  It also got replaced annually (or at times, twice annually) for the last decade.  On one memorable occasion, I left the pinion gear on the racetrack at Music City Raceway… With the driveshaft attached!  So one of the original points of the Vega Resurrection was to upgrade to a Ford 9”.  For that project, we turned to our friends at Moser Engineering.

The professionals at Moser designed a new Fab 9 housing to match the old Olds/Pontiac setup and it bolted right in!  The third member is from Moser as well.  It’s the same stuff we run in our dragster and Corvette: an aluminum case, full 40-spline spool, big pinion, and (in the case of the Vega) 4.56 Pro Gear.

Moser Pro Xtreme axles round out the rear end package, and a set of Moser’s Stainless Steel rotor rear brakes will make sure I can get my prize possession stopped safely.

Did I mention how much I’m looking forward to getting this beast on the race track?  March 2020: the countdown is officially on!

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