Ford Toploader transmission

Last updated
Toploader Transmission
Toploader 4speed Transmission.jpg
Type3 or 4-speed manual
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Also calledFord Design 4-Speed
Top Loader
Predecessor Borg-Warner T-10
Dagenham 4-speed

A Toploader transmission is a manually shifted three and four speed gearbox introduced in 1963 by the Ford Motor Company to replace the BorgWarner T-10. It was used in most Fords and Mercurys from 1964 until 1973 as well as some foreign models. Officially designated the 3.03 three speed or Ford design four speed. The 3.03 is the centerline distance between counter shaft and mainshaft. The Toploader got its name from the fact that the access plate to the inner workings was located on the top of the main case as opposed to the side, a convention used on most gearboxes such as the Ford Dagenham or GM's Saginaw or Muncie. Distinguishing the three speed from the four is as simple as counting the fasteners on the top plate. The four speed has ten; the three, nine. Both the three and four speed top loader gearboxes were designed to function in constant mesh, due to synchronizer sleeves being used instead of sliding gears, and be fully synchronized, with the exception of reverse. Forward gears are helical-type while reverse gear including the exterior of the first and second synchronizers sleeve are spur-type gears. This transmission is also known as the Tremec T-170, HEH, or RUG depending on the year(s) of production. [1] At some point in the early 1970s production was moved to Mexico and the name was changed to Tremec.



Renowned for high-performance strength and durability, the Toploader (particularly the four-speed) was equipped in such sought after "A-list" cars as the Mustang, Talladega, AC Cobra, AC Frua and Sunbeam Tiger as well as the Ford Fairlane, Falcon, Galaxie, Ranchero, Torino, Bronco and the Mercury Comet, Caliente, Cyclone, (Mercury Cougar 1967 1973) and Marauder. Overall, the Toploader was used in 133 different models and was used extensively in racing as well. The 3 speed 3.03 was also the heavy duty transmission in 1960s Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac cars, with FOMOCO cast into the right side of the case; such was common in those days, as Lincoln used GM's Hydra-Matic transmission for years in the early 1950s. It is the Jeep T150 with a cast top cover and a floor ("cane") shifter.


Top and side view, with Hurst shifter. Ford Design 3-speed OD Transmission w. Hurst Shifter.jpg
Top and side view, with Hurst shifter.

The Toploader comprises two components: the main case, which encloses the gears, input and counter shaft, and the tailhousing, which encloses the speedometer gear and output shaft. The main case measures 12" in length, while the tailhousing measures 14", 14 12" or 17", depending on the application.

Shifter bosses are cast into the tailhousing along various points depending on the location of the shifter, as required for each model. Generally Falcons and Comets have shifters mounted forward along the housing, Mustangs rearward, and Fairlanes and full size Fords somewhere in between. Toploaders were also designed for two specific applications: small blocks like the Ford Windsor engine, and big blocks like the Ford FE engine and Ford 385 engine series. Some big blocks required a larger "input shaft" to withstand the torque.

Toploader 4 speed

ApplicationEngine used (cid)Toploader LengthInput shaft ODSplines, inputSplines, output
Cougar289, 302, 35126"1 116"1028
Falcon, Comet170, 200, 260, 28926"1 116"1028
Fairlane 1964-65170, 200, 260, 28925 12"1 116"1028
Fairlane 1967-68200, 289, 39026"1 116"1028
Maverick200, 250, 30226"1 116"1028
Mustang 1964-73200, 28926"1 116"1028
Ranchero 1967-68200, 289, 39026"1 116"1028
Tiger, TVR260, 28927 12"1 116"1028
Fords, Mercurys200, 289, 39029"1 116"1028
Ranchero 1969 up302,351C, 428, 42929"1 38"1031
Fords, Mercurys428, 429, Boss29"1 38"1031
Mustang 1968 up427, 428, Boss26"1 38"1031

Note: 1964 and early 1965 Toploaders came with 25 spline output shafts which subsequently proved to be defective and were quickly replaced.

Gear Ratios

Toploader 3 speed - Close [2]


Toploader 3 speed - Wide


Toploader 4 speed - Close

Tooth Count32282523
Counter Gear Tooth Count15182125

Toploader 4 speed - Wide

Tooth Count32312523
Counter Gear Tooth Count15212430

Note: Gear ratio is determined by tooth count on second gear. Close ratio has 28 teeth, wide has 31.

Related Research Articles

Double-clutching is a method of shifting gears used primarily for vehicles with an unsynchronized manual transmission, such as commercial trucks and specialty vehicles. While double clutching is not necessary in a vehicle that has a synchronized manual transmission, the technique can be advantageous for smoothly upshifting in order to accelerate, and when done correctly it prevents wear on the "synchros" which normally equalize transmission input and output speeds to allow downshifting.

Ford FE engine Motor vehicle engine

The Ford FE engine is a Ford V8 engine used in vehicles sold in the North American market between 1958 and 1976. The FE was introduced to replace the short-lived Ford Y-block engine, which American cars and trucks were outgrowing. It was designed with room to be significantly expanded, and manufactured both as a top-oiler and side-oiler, and in displacements between 332 cu in (5.4 L) and 428 cu in (7.0 L).

Overdrive (mechanics) Operation of an automobile cruising at sustained speed with reduced engine revolutions

Overdrive is the operation of an automobile cruising at sustained speed with reduced engine revolutions per minute (RPM), leading to better fuel consumption, lower noise, and lower wear. Use of the term is confused, as it is applied to several different, but related, meanings.

Transmission (mechanics) Machine which provides controlled application of power

A transmission is a machine in a power transmission system, which provides controlled application of power. Often the term 5-speed transmission refers simply to the gearbox, that uses gears and gear trains to provide speed and torque conversions from a rotating power source to another device.

Manual transmission Type of transmission used in motor vehicle applications

A manual transmission is a multi-speed motor vehicle transmission system, where gear changes require the driver to manually select the gears by operating a gear stick and clutch.

Ford small block engine Motor vehicle engine

The Ford small block is a series of 90° overhead valve small block V8 automobile engines built by the Ford Motor Company from July 1961 to 2002.

In 1906–1907, Ford's first straight-6 engine was introduced in the Model K. Henry Ford did not like the car because the engine could overpower its transmission.


Hydramatic is an automatic transmission developed by both General Motors' Cadillac and Oldsmobile divisions. Introduced in 1939 for the 1940 model year vehicles, the Hydramatic was the first mass-produced fully-automatic transmission developed for passenger automobile use.

The Powerglide is a two-speed automatic transmission designed by General Motors. It was available primarily on Chevrolet from January 1950 through 1973, although some Pontiac models also used this automatic transmission after the fire at the Hydra-Matic factory in 1953. Powerglides were used extensively on Pontiacs produced for the Canadian market with Chevrolet powertrains. They were also used with Nova engines in the DJ-5A Jeeps produced 1968-1970 by Kaiser-Jeep and widely used as delivery vehicles by the United States Post Office. When introduced on upper-level Chevrolet models in 1950, the Powerglide represented the first automatic transmission offered in a low-priced automobile; in contrast, Ford did not offer their automatic transmission until 1951, while Plymouth car buyers had to wait until 1954. The transmission was simple and very durable, which satisfied customers.

The Ford C4 is a three-speed, medium-duty automatic transmission introduced on 1964 model year vehicles and produced through 1981. The C4 was designed to be a lighter and more simple replacement for the original Ford-O-Matic two speed transmission being used in smaller, less powerful cars.

The TREMEC TR-3650 is a 5-speed manual transmission for longitudinal engine automobiles. It includes a 5th gear that functions as an overdrive gear, light-weight aluminum housings, a synchromesh reverse gear, and synchromeshed helical cut forward gears. It is manufactured by Transmission Technologies Corporation and is rated for 360 lbf⋅ft (490 N⋅m) of torque. The loss in power transmission efficiency is rated at approximately 16% in 4th gear for a 2005–2010 Ford Mustang GT.

A close-ratio transmission is a vehicle transmission in which the difference between the gear ratios of the gears is minimized relative to other transmissions used in similar vehicles. The use of "close" describes nearness/proximity rather than open-ness.

The New Venture Gear 4500, commonly called NV4500, is a 5-speed manual transmission manufactured by New Venture Gear and used in General Motors and Chrysler products from 1991–2007.

Vehicles made by American Motors Corporation (AMC) and Jeep incorporated a variety of transmissions and transfer case systems. This article covers transmissions used in the following vehicle models and years:

Tremec TR-6060 transmission

The Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual transmission features six forward speeds and one reverse speed. It is derived from the Tremec T-56 6-speed manual transmission. As usual, the forward helical cut gears are synchronized however, the reverse gear operates through a fully synchronized constant-mesh system. The TR-6060 contains removable wear pads on the shift forks, and uses aluminum alloys for the main case, extension housing, and clutch housing. It is manufactured by TREMEC and is rated for 600 lb⋅ft (810 N⋅m) of torque.

The GM MR6/F40 six-speed manual transaxle was first developed for GM Euorope, for use in Opel and Saab applications. Originally a design developed by GM Powertrain Sweden Södertälje - Europe six-speed manual transaxle built by Opel in Rüsselsheim am Main, Germany(from 2004-today). Its first use in Europe was the new Saab 9-3 2003-2011, while first use in North American application was the Pontiac G6 for the 2006 model year. It is also used in 9-5 2010-2012 models.

Tremec TR-3160 transmission

The TREMEC TR-3160 is a six-speed RWD manual transmission that features six forward speeds and one reverse speed. It is manufactured by TREMEC.

This transmission is part of a joint-venture between Ford Motor Company and General Motors to design and engineer two transmissions, a longitudinal 10-speed transmission and a transverse 9-speed trans-axle. Each company will manufacture its own unique version of the transmissions in their own factories. The 10-speed transmission was designed by Ford, while GM designed the 9-speed transmission which is used in transverse applications.


  1. O'Clair, Jim (February 2007). "Ford Toploader Four-speed Transmission". Hemmings Motor News . Retrieved 2010-01-02.
  2. ""FORD FINAL DRIVE RATIOS"". Gear Vendors. Retrieved 2021-06-15.