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MG TD TF 1500 - 5 speed conversion and rear axle ratios - again

First, before anyone makes the appropriate suggestion that I read through the archives on this matter, I have spent the past couple of days doing just that.

The dismantling of my '54 TF is now down to the frame and I will be making those decisions of what to change and what to keep original as I begin the restoration process.

From the archives on 5 speed tranny conversions, it appears that there are at least two major trains of thought: one, is that the 5-speed conversion with the TF's 4.875 rear axle ratio works very well; the other point of view is that changing the differential to a 4.3, or 4.1, or even a 3.9 ratio, and keeping the original tranny, would accomplish pretty much the same thing, i.e., reduce engine revs at highway speeds. Do I have this correct, or am I missing something...important.

I plan to drive the TF on trips that would take me on Interstate highways, as well as trip through B.C. Canada, for example (I live in Washington state). Suggestions on which set of conversions or combination of conversions would most likely meet my needs would be greatly appreciated.

One more thing. I called the number listed for Steve Neil of Skyhook Engineering and that number is no longer in service and no other forwarding number was given. My guess is that since there seems to be no more Datsun 210 transmissions available, he is tired of receiving calls about them.

TIA -- John
JL Brickell

Which number did you try ????
Steve Wincze

John, the Datsun 5 speed has almost the same ratios as the original MG 4 speed transmission. The shift patterns are identical except 5th is up to the right and out of the way. But, you gain synchromesh in ALL gears. The 5th Datsun gear is only good for travelling on highways like an overdrive. The synchromesh on 1st and reverse and a true sealed bearing clutch release are what it is all about in my opinion.
Jim Merz

Steve -- The number I used was: 207-729-4489.

By the way there is a new listing for a Datsun 210 transmission for $500. Good buy?

John
JL Brickell

$500 is a good price. I paid that for mine. Just make sure you get the right model. Steve Neal is still doing business. Phone is (207) 721-0166.

I just got mine back from his conversion process a few months ago as did Jim Merz. I have both the 4.3 rear end ( I have a TD) and the 5-speed. Jim is right on about the gearing and the use of 5th gear. I cruise the highways at 60 mph at 2800 RPM in 5th. I also love the syncros in first and reverse too :-)

Cheers

Larry
L Karpman

John,
Try 207-721-0166, I believe it works,,,,, I also belive that if you manage to get a Datsun trannie, Steve will rework it for you,,, best to check with him for the trannie model number first,,,
.
.
IMHO, 5th gear is much more usefull than just on highways as Jim states above,, It all depends on the rear gear ratio,,, we are into 5th quite frequently on secondary roads also, especially in you want some nice, quite cruseing,,,,,


SPW
Steve Wincze

Using the number that Larry and Steve listed, I did reach the Neil residence and he is to call me back. I will post whatever information he provides for the good of the group.

John
JL Brickell

Jim Merz and Others -- There are four numbers on Datson trannies that are suitable for conversion. But be careful at least one of the shift patterns is different. Reverse is full to the left and forward, 1st is to the left and down, second is up in the middle, third is down, forth is up and to the right, and fifth is down and to the right. My friend Gil has one of these and loves it (not necessarily the shift pattern) but the way the car drives with the 5th gear. Claims it is a whole different car. And he has driven the car since 1955. The odometer has gone around at least once and maybe twice.

John B.
Check with Steve Neal for the numbers and placement on the tranny to be sure you get one that Steve can convert.

Cheers,

Bob
R. K. Jeffers

I have just talked with Steve Neil and he verified that the numbers on the Datsun 210 transmission that is, now was, for sale on ebay is the correct transmission to use. I have made the purchase and the transmission will be shipped directly to him.

He is currently working on two conversions. I know that it is useful to know what these things are costing so I will share that info as well. $500 for the transmission on ebay; for Steve, $1,900 for the rebuild, $175 for shipping, and a refundable $250, for deposit on the jig that will be needed, and then returned to Steve.

Steve said that he has now done 164 of these conversions. I will keep the group posted on any further developments that may be of interest or use.

Thanks for all of the helpful input -- John
JL Brickell

164 X $1,900 = ?? Not a bad living.

But don't forget, that includes a new bell housing and a gearbox cover. To me, the big feature of the Skyhook conversion, is that the engine stays put; unlike the Sierra Type 9 (HiGear Eng.) that requires the engine to be moved forward by a couple of cms.

I'm told that the Toyota gearbox of the same vintage as the Datsun 210, also fits, but I know only of conversions to midgets using the Toyota box.

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qu
Gordon A. Clark

John, I converted my TD to the 4.3 ring and pinion about 5 or 6 years ago, before the 5 spd trannies became popular. If I had it to do over again, I would not change anything. The 4.3 ratio is ideal. I cruise the highways at 3600 rpms at around 60 mph and I don't think that faster would be very safe in these cars! This is really quiet and smooth, and I have found that the big change is that you can actually use 1st gear for more than a few seconds. The car still has enough guts to maintain speed in hilly terrain, but does need to be shifted a little more aggresively than before. I've heard the argument that these cars were designed before the interstate highway system, but I don't know why they weren't set up this way at the factory! The best part is that it cost me around $200 to do the whole job! Even if one were to buy an exchange rear axle assy from one of the shops out there, It will still cost less than half of the cost of the 5 spd comversion. It also preserves the origionality of the car. The only difference, externally (and you can't see it) is the 1/8" larger diameter of the pinion shaft.
Steven Tobias

Thanks Steven for you input, and my review of the archives had similar comments regarding the 4.3, or 4.1 rear axles. Since, admittedly, I'm still rather new to understanding the ins and outs of the MG TD&TF series, from what Mgs does one find the 4.3. 4.1., 3.9 rear axles? MGAs, Bs, and if so, which axles came with which cars?

John
JL Brickell

Here is my suggestion FWIW. Go with the 5 speed and leave the differential as is. In BC and WA there are plenty of long steep hills and even with the standard differential you are often down to 3rd or even 2nd on occaision.
That was my thinking when I opted for a 5 speed from Hi Gear for my YT. Seems to me that you get the best of all worlds. You can cruise the motorway at 60-65 @ 3600 RPM and you can still make the hills. Terry
Terry O'Brien

You can still purchase a 4.3 complete (used) for $100.
This is what I did, total cost,under $115. (I only needed 1 bearing & a gasket),as I did the labor my self. 4.3 / 4.1 and 3.9 all came from MGA'S & early MGB'S. 4.1 & 3.9 Are hard to find. With the 4.3 4,000 RPM @ 70 MPH, top speed over 95 MPH.
Len Fanelli

For my 2 cents worth, I put in the 4.1 and love it. car is original and you can cruise the freeway with ease. plus, even if you hire someone to do the changeover of the gearing it is one heck of a lot cheaper than the 5 speed. My total cost other than my time for taking it out and putting it back in was about 600 and that is the cost of having someone put in the gearing.
TRM Maine

John, First, I believe that 4.3 is the most common MGA ring and pinion. Mine actually came out of a coupe. A very worthwhile investment would be to purchase Carl Cederstrand's book dealing with TD/TF rearend ratio interchanges. Its available from Moss Motors for around $15.00. This book not only offers several methods for performing the mechanical change, but in it, Carl covers just about every engineering question that would ever come up. This includes power curves, etc. He makes recommendations about which ratio favors what conditions and backs this up with engineering data. This sheds a great deal of light on the benefits of various final drive ratios, regardless of how they are attained. This info, alone, is worth the price. My feeling, after having driven the same car over considerable distances before and after, is that the car, for all practical purposes, had three useable speeds. First was useless, except for pulling stumps out of your lawn, and fourth was like third gear in my old MGB! I find that the little motor in my TD is idealy suited to having 4 true and usable final drive ratios-it has surpisingly good low end torque and is very free revving. Also, Carl's detailing of several alternate methods of setting the backlash and clearances, are very easy for amateur mechanics like myself to understand. I used what he referred to as the "Mastell" method. It is really simple and elegant, using common tools and simply made fixtures. Don't let this process intimidate you, if you are reasonably handy, you will find that it will be the single most dramatic change that YOU can make in the car.
Steven Tobias

Steve, I could not have stated it better! I agree the Mastell method is the best, but you need a dial indicator with a small base, to fit the small diameter pinion head.( Thank you Carl! And also Bud @ http://www.ttalk.info/)
Len Fanelli

Yes, thanks to all that have contributed to this thread and to past threads re. this topic. You have definitely answered my questions and help me make a decision that will best fit my needs.

Sincerely appreciated -- John
JL Brickell

Everyone pretty well covered it... the 4.3 i had installed has made all the difference in enjoyable driving. I have about 15,000 miles on mine since the change. I feel it has allowed me to do some of the longer trips (longer then 50 miles) comfortably...wouldn't have attempted the 850 miles to Gatlinburg without it.
I would mention that the stock transmission, after 50,000 miles isn't as smooth as I would like (don't know what a brand new one is like) and the thought of a 'smooth' shifting 5 speed is appealing. Synchro on 1st would also be a treat.
I would also mention that the 4.3 is no trouble for the xpag to handle and i'm sure even the stock engine could handle the 4.1 or the 3.9
gblawson(gordon)

For smoother shifting on a '50's car you needed the Porsche type syncro's, not the "crash" type of gearbox syncro's that were developed for the British veh.'s of the time.
Len Fanelli

I converted my 53 TF to Hi Gear and found it most satisfactory. 4000 revs works out to around 70mph. While the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains of South Wales do not compare with those some of you guys have nearby, I found the TF exhilarating to drive with the faster change and ratios just right.
B Mellem

Transmission update:

As mentioned previously I purchased a Datsun 210 transmission on ebay to have shipped to Steve Neal of Skyhook Engineering. The transmission finally arrived at Steve's place and he reported that it was in good shape, and was the right model.

Recently, I noticed that the seller, Luis, has listed at least one more Datsun 210 tranny, but his price has gone up from the $500 I paid to $700.

Additionally, if you deal with him, be prepared to encounter very difficult communication problems. It took me several frustrating days of e-mails (he can't contacted via phone)just to get the UPS freight tracking number, so I could be assured that there was actually a transmission and it was being shipped. He kept sending me his UPS customer ID #. His ebay ID is: "buscador200luis".

John
JL Brickell

As I had reported on this forum a couple of years ago, I was visiting my daughter who was working in Durango, Mexico.

I took an afternoon to drive around the countryside, I found at 4 derelict Datsun 210s lying in fields that had the 5-speed in them. I also found a couple of automatics, and another with the 4-speed. I took the time to look carefully inside each car to be sure. (I also, happened upon one with a guy sleeping inside!!).

This was a very popular and affordable car for the working class in Mexico but the engine eventaually succumbed to the terrible summer heat, and to the fact, that the average Mexican driver of the day, didn't understand diddly-squat about maintenance, and drove them (literally) into the ground, but it seems the gearboxes survived.

I'll bet there are dozens of these Datsun 210 carcasses lying abandoned in the sandy fields of central Mexico

I'm wondering if Luis isn't getting his gearboxes from Mexico??

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qué.
Gordon A. Clark

I'm quite sure Luis is getting his transmissions from Mexico, as he and his car parts business are in El Paso, TX. I believe that he, and others I'm sur, have discovered that there is a market for these trannies.

John
JL Brickell

Why you all talk about the Datsun Trans and not the Ford Sierra as offered by Moss Motors....?????
Jose Vicente Vargas

Because in the end it's far cheaper to go with the Datsun box, and it requires no repositioning of the engine as does the Moss box.

Cheers

Larry
L Karpman

I understand that the Datsun boxes are hard to find in the US now, so many are forced to the Ford based conversion.

However, changing the rear end to 4.3 or even 4.1 is much cheaper than swapping gear boxes and for some of us keeps the car more "original"
( including the no syncro in first) You can still pull stumps!
Don Harmer

Some of us have done both. Added the Datsun 5-speed and have a 4.3 rear end ratio.

Cheers

Larry
L Karpman

Larry -- if you wouldn't mind, could you e-mail me at the address above, so that I can write back with a quesiton I have for you...

Thanks -- John
JL Brickell

Once in a while you get lucky (me very rarely!!!), but I found the correct Datsun 210 five speed (model# FS5W60A) after only 15 minutes of calls to my local salvage yards and got one removed from a low miles car complete with shift lever, throwout bearing carrier, etc. the very next day for only $250. It seems extremely well engineered and I was surprised at how precise and smooth it shifts; it is also much lighter, the case being all aluminum. I'm eager to get it converted by Skyhook. They just don't seem as rare as I had originally thought-am I completely wrong?
Cheers,
Robert
TD 14649
TD 26273
MGC 7213
Robert Rutschman

José,

You may be able to find a Datsun 210 (note, NOT the 210B) transmission more easily in South America, where there were many Datsun 210 imported between 1977 and 1981. It was a very popular car in the south.

If you do, you my want to know that there is a very good kit made to adapt it specifically to the XPAG (T-Series) engines by Skyhook Engineering in Maine.

The most important thing about the Skyhook kit, is that the engine stays in the same position. The Ford Sierra Type 9 kit, made by Hi-Gear in the UK, and marketd by Moss and others, requires the engine to be moved forward about 2 cms, and that interfers with the standard fan. Its also more expensive.

Like Luis, you could probably make a business out of finding and selling the Datsun 210 transmissions. If you do find more than one, please put my name at the top of your list!

Thank you.

Gord Clark
Rockburn, Qué.
Gordon A. Clark

john, no disrespect to carl cedarstrand, but the atlanta MG chapter does a rear end conversion procedure that is much more streamlined and straight forward. those guys have done dozens and they are so quick they do them as weekend chapter projects. i have the pdf file if you are interested. a few guys on this site have used the procedure (i know because i sent them the file)regards, tp
tom peterson

i guess to be completely clear the atlanta chapter method looks like it is sort of a composite of carl's methods. regards, tp
tom peterson

Tom, with respect to Carl Cederstrand, you might note that the SEMGTR procedure is, in their words:
"This is a modification and simplification of one of Cederstrand's procedures.
One should have Cederstrand;s booklet in hand also to aid in understanding the procedure."

Carl's treatise is the foundation for the simplified procedures. http://www.ttalk.info/RearEndConversion.htm
Bud Krueger

My experience is that I have 2 MG TD's (mine and a friends) with the 5 speed conversion made by High Gear Engineering in the UK and I am 100% satisfied. Expensive but the kit is perfect.
The most important requirement I had was that the shift lever stayed in the exact same position as the original gearbox and with the High Gear Engineering you have this option and once you put the carpet there is no difference.... I have no problem moving the engine 2 cms to the front. In a TD this is not a problem... on a TF you got a problem....Since I installed mine other 5 friends have installed them in TD's, TF's and MGA's and we all are very happy.
When you drive on mountain roads as the ones we have in Colombia having a gearbox that works is a great help.

I was just wondering if the shift lever on the Datsun conversion looks exactly and in the same position as the original gearbox.????

Can anyone send me pictures of the Datsun conversion installed ....

Thanks,

Jose
Jose Vicente Vargas

Same spot as the 4 speed Jose

LED DOWNEY

another

LED DOWNEY

This thread was discussed between 27/01/2009 and 02/03/2009

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