Throw in the towel?


Active Member
Mar 6, 2002
I’ve been hesitant to post my situation here, but at the end of my resources, I must get advice from the experts prior to “throwing in the towel” on my 86GN trans. Which I have no intention of doing, I just needed a title. The service provider in question is named in this forum, so I’ll call him Johnny (not his real name). I don’t want to discredit this outfit, as they have worked with me, but are now giving up on making this trans work correctly.

First I’m going to apologize as this may take a bit to explain, I’ll try to be as brief as I can, but it’s sticky so some details are relevant. Second I must notify the group that I’m anything but a tranny expert. I may use wrong terminology and misunderstand lots of tech stuff. Now that your expectations are low, here goes.

Background: 17k mile 86GN, trans went in 89, “rebuilt” by local “expert” who after about 4 in-and-outs, scrapping my D5 for a rebuild (noticeably lower stall than stock, killed bottom end performance) he said I was too fussy. Eventually he got it shifting to where I could live with it. Early into 2 and late into 3, but no slipping or self destruction evident, and no spool either.
Jump forward about 4 years, add some cash so I’m changing the TC to correct that error, (different self proclaimed local expert, you’d think I’d learned my lesson) installer found internal trans problems (broken cast retaining ring that was supposed to be steel and some burnt clutches is all I remember) so he worked his magic, I paid again. Not much improvement of above problems but at least my spool was back and rockin’ with the Pat’s 2800 stall modified D5.
Now it’s 2001. The late 2-3 shift with my now-weak valve springs are really slowing the car down and I can’t take it any more. I found out about Johnny, with a good TR reputation for these transmissions and can now afford to “finally fix it right”. So I decide to try working with Johnny. First I ship him my valve body, he ships it back says it’s fine and I pay. Install the VB with little improvement. Arrange to take the car to him (several hours away), he keeps it for 3-4 weeks, complete rebuild, I pay again. I get it home and it has obvious problems. I don’t understand how he keeps it for 3-4 weeks, knows these cars and thinks it ok. Give him the benefit of the doubt, call him and arrange to return the car to him. Second time, few seeks, not right. Back again, several weeks, not right. He says that’s all he can so with that trans the way it is. Says I need a new VB. Why didn’t he tell me this when I sent it to him in the first place? I tell him that I have a second trans (spare, for now, plans to put into another car) on the wreck I just bought. He says bring it and I’ll build that for your car, put your original into a test car and figure it out since I’ve had such a hard time correcting your trans and kept your car for so long. He keeps the car again for several weeks and 200 miles. But at least now this second trans is right, working well. Keep in mind he hasn’t charged me for any of the bring-backs yet, so he was working with me and not trying to do anything crooked or anything. I call him on the phone to let him know that the second trans is good so far. He wants to return the original trans to me without looking for the problem in the test car like he promised earlier, with the above flaring condition. I just don’t think he knows what to do to solve the problem. So I’m now faced with getting it into the hands of ANOTHER person to take a look for this problem. Not knowing any of the internal modifications of this trans. And of course, pay again. My wife told me “maybe you’re just too fussy; you’re such a psycho about that car! Let one of your buddies drive it and see what they say.” A pal (whose GN went 10’s) drove it for 2 minutes and said “man, this aint right, take it back!” My wife just shook her head. The car gets up to 1000 miles per year (pleasure driving) normally more like 500 mi, and if I’m lucky, one trip to the track each season.

Description of the problems when this original trans was removed from the car:
From what I can remember of the current state of the problem (trying to block this whole thing from my mind) normal driving it *seemed* fine 1-2 crisp, but the 2-3 is just a *poof* (soft and early). At WOT 2-3 just flairs and rpm’s just float, cooking the clutches until I let off. If I don’t let off, takes perhaps 2-4 seconds (seems like forever) to shift. Maybe, I can’t remember (blocking again) it wouldn’t actually complete the WOT shift on it’s own. Johnny said he had the VB out about 10 times changing springs trying to get it to work. He set and reset the TV cable and had me check it so we’d back cable adjustment up and it’d seem a *bit* better but then it’d push back out when I’d mash the gas. He said something about governor and TV pressures working against each other.

The 1-2 WOT shift was also very mushy, can’t feel the gear change at all, just watch the tach slowly drop. Also slips on 3-2 kickdowns during street driving. I was told to put the trans in 2 and let it shift 1-2 on it’s own for best pressures, then manually shift 2-3. Nothing helped.

There you have it. I can pick the trans up from Johnny presumably in this condition..then what do I do? Do I take the chance to ship it somewhere and get it back without test driving? Maybe a shop can put it into a test car to make sure it’s working, but then again, Johnny seemed to think it was ok. I read Bruce’s tips mentioning direct drum bore ring groove and center support cross-leak potentially causing 2-3 flare. Johnny should be aware of this…does the trans need disassembly to check this stuff? Is it something I can have a local shop do with instructions from experts here? Do I just ship it to one of these other guru’s and hopefully be done with it? Perhaps a fresh pair of eyes could better diagnose? I’m weary, but open to suggestions. Thanks for listening. Sorry it's so long. Hoping someone can help.
Joe, give us a call and I will put you with Bruce and see what he can do for you. Thanks, Mark (916)739-0510