Manual or Auto Trans

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love my Cougar how she is. Currently equipped with a slightly beefed up 302 and C4 automatic. However I grew up driving manual transmissions and there is no substitute for the feel you get when shifting through the gears. It makes me consider doing a manual transmission swap but I’m not sure how much of a pain in the ass that is or if it would be worth it at the end. Has anyone here gone from automatic to manual? If you did was it worth it to you? Would love to hear everyone’s opinion on that subject

I have to agree I much prefer a manual over an auto but Im not sure I would go as far as doing the swap from auto to manual especially if your C4 is in good shape. Between tracking down all the parts needed and the process of the swap you really want to be dedicated to having a manual transmission to make it worth your time.

For example used Toploaders can be hard to find and are not all that cheap now days. New toploaders can be expensive and if your investing that much your better off with an OD transmission at that point.

If you want to add OD as part as the upgrade you will want a T5 or T56 but that will present its own challenges in the swap. However if going from auto to manual this would be the time to convert since it will change the direction of parts needed for these transmissions over the toploader. This is the route I would go if swapping from auto to manual since you will get the bonus of OD unlike your C4 has now.

I swapped form 3spd to 4spd toploader only because I got a great deal on a used toploader. My car was already a 3spd manual so the swap was only the cost of the transmission and a few hours of time.

Ask yourself how bad do you want to bang gears? :sunglasses:

The cheapest way to do such a swap is to find a Mustang or Cougar of the same year and power plant and swap everything both directions. It’s a big job. Lots of parts to consider.

Yeah the more i look into the details of the swap the more the cost and labor seems unreasonable.

I’ll probably go the OD route on my existing C4.

Thanks for the input!

If I didn’t have an XR7 with a perfect Automatic console, I would probably have gone manual.

Instead, I went with a 4R70W automatic, and put in 3.55 rear gears.

I love rowing through the gears, but this will probably be a lot easier on my drivetrain, wallet, and eat a lot less tires and clutches.

Is that a 3-speed transmission? Does it have overdrive? Did a bolt right up to your 302? I appreciate the input and I actually might go this route instead

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The 4R70W was a 4 speed automatic with overdrive. It is a descendant of the FMX, and actually very similar to the AOD. Most of the parts even interchange.

There are some big differences though too. It is electronically controlled, which means you have to use a controller to shift your car, and a sensor to tell your transmission the throttle position. That’s the only ‘downside’ to it - if you can even term it that.

It has a lower first and second gear than a C4, C6, FMX, or AOD, which is nice for acceleration. Even in stock form, it handles a lot of power, over 350 horsepower with no changes at all. The engineers did away with the stupid concentric shaft torque converter lockup on the AOD, and went to a very simple ‘on off’ setup. Most controllers only lock up the torque converter in 3rd and 4th gears, but you can often program it to allow lockup in any gear you want - the feature is independent of what gear the transmission is in.

The shift quality is excellent, and because it’s controlled by an external box instead of built-in hydraulic circuits, you can change your transmission’s behavior very easily. For example, many of them have the ability to store more than one tune, so you could have a ‘cruise’ mode where it shifts gently and comfortably, but with the flick of a button, go into ‘sport’ mode, where you have firmer shifts and a tendency to hold RPMs longer under acceleration. Even the cheap controllers are tuneable, so you can make it behave exactly how you want it to.

The hardware upgrades to AOD over the years made later versions a little better, but in the final versions of the 4R70W, they really perfected things, allowing tremendous reliability, superior shift quality, and simplicity.

They were used in a lot of vehicles, but if you want one for your car, I suggest you pick one from 1998-2001, as those will come with all the best upgrades, and still retain the mechanical speedometer provision. The Mustang V6 is a great donor for these, and is basically identical to the V8 version in the years I mentioned. If you use a V6 transmission, chances are it will have no significant wear, even on a high mileage engine.

Be careful to make sure you don’t get one that came off a Mod motor - the bellhousing on a 4R70W is part of the case, and if you don’t get one with a Windsor bolt pattern (which is also what the V6 Mustangs used), it will not bolt up to your smallblock.

It is bigger and heavier than a C4, and uses a little more power. It will also require you to change the transmission crossmember, but any AOD or T5 crossmember designed for your Mustang will fit it fine. You will probably have to shorten your driveshaft. As with any overdrive transmission swap, if you have steeper rear gears, you probably want to go to a lightened driveshaft too - the steel driveshafts tend to flex at high RPMs, which will cause vibration and failures in the differential pinion bearing, u-joints, and transmission tailshaft bushings.

If you can find an Explorer or Mountaineer that has not had its driveshaft crushed with a forklift, you could probably get it shortened for your car without spending very much at all.


Grim that is a great post!

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I converted my 68 XR-7 302 4V with C4 to a T5 World Class manual. There’s a whole kit you can buy from Modern Driveline to switch it over. I rebuilt my 8" rear end and put 3.55:1 posi. It is a heck of a lot of fun.


What was the damage all in on that conversion of you don’t mind me asking? Really nice to hear someone that did it and liked the results.

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I’ve converted 4-5 cars to manual. It’s straightforward but can be costly - especially if you seek a 100% factory appearance using Ford parts.

For me, the outcome is always worth the effort.

Small block cars have major advantages. The top loader 4 speeds are FAR cheaper than big block units. Another consideration is power levels. A mild small block will be compatible with a World-Class T5 5-speed, which provides a nice driving experience and VERY low cost.


For sure! Very informative.

Quick question - what is the torque capacity of the 4R70W?

I took the same route as Scott for my '70. Converted from an FMX to a T5-Z. I actually pieced my parts together, but this was about 20 years ago. The hydraulic clutch is still working perfectly, it’s been a very reliable / fun swap.

Moderndriveline sells everything as a kit and is what I would do if I was tackling this today.


I highly recommend doing the swap. A complete kit from modern driveline made it straight forward. Here’s the tread on my swap FMX to T5 swap on '70 conv.


Probably around 700 lb-ft. With a hardened input shaft, more than that.

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That is AWESOME!

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To be fair, if you’re making 700 lb-ft of honk on a 302 (or even 351) I would sure love to see that engine… lol

My 572 is making nearly 750 lb/ft.

Would love to put an auto overdrive behind that some day!

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I’ve done it twice. Rather straightforward once you have the parts. Zbar mount is already predrilled from factory. The toughest aspect for me was drilling the hole thru firewall for clutch rod (bc I did it without removing dash frame)… Too bad timing is what it is…I getting ready to go back to FMX with Vert and would have the whole setup available. One thing that I never encountered was an issue with XR-7 console - supposed to be a 4spd variant but my auto console seems to fit fine.

One thing I did do was replace the original shifter with a Hurst Comp+ due to fact Reverse was right next to 2nd - seemed to catch it more downshifting. With this setup, need to get correct mounting bracket to have correct angle coming up thru floor.

Depending how you plan to drive, gear it accordingly. I matched up 3:91 on coupe and it was way too high. I settled on 3:50 for both. If I did all over again, would probably settle on 3:25 for normal driving. All matched up to stock 351W. A close ratio toploader is way more fun than a wide ratio!

Good luck with decision making!

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should have stated both were '69s…

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