Coming back from the brink is no easy task. Back in 2014, Keisler Engineering Inc. (KEI)– the once proud sponsor of the Chop, Cut, Rebuild Hemi Charger Project and pioneer in the art of adapting modern Tremec 5-speed transmissions into older cars – filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in January of that year, with a staggering 586 creditors claiming debts owed. The then President/CEO wrote, “I halted operations of Keisler Engineering Inc. by filing it into Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. The motivation to place KEI into Ch7 was a very recent decision, spurred by a run of order cancellations and refunds by concerned customers.”
The cause of its bankruptcy and eventual closure was cited as being – in large part – due to order cancellations as a result of a “pouring on the negativity and rumors” by competing companies; yet internally, Keisler Engineering Inc. was hemorrhaging money. Nevertheless, the quality of the product sold by KEI remained stellar in both its execution and specific application to a wide variety of applications, from traditional muscle cars from GM, Ford and Mopar, to classic trucks and sports cars, and the engineering team assembled at Keisler Engineering Inc. were some of the best minds in the industry; unfortunately, not much could be done to keep the dam from breaking.
Above: Silver Sport Transmissions resides in the 19,000 square foot facility formerly the location of Keisler Engineering Inc. (KEI).
Above left: Every Tremec TKO and Magnum transmission is CNC machined to precision guidelines to fit each of its literally hundreds of applications. Above middle: SST “beefs up” its shifting linkage with hardened shafts and superior hardware to withstand extreme torque loads. Above right: Silver Sport Transmissions President Jack Silver saved the years of engineering and innovation poured into the development of KEI “PerfectFit” systems, now available through SST.
Many in the industry saw this unfold, as did Jack Silver who quickly went to work acquiring all of the assets within Keisler Engineering Inc. “The equity in the Keisler Engineering name was so valuable that otherwise completely restored cars sold through Barrett-Jackson [and Mecum auctions] actually fetched higher asking prices [with the modern transmission swap],” Silver explained to Mopar Connection when we visited their 19,000 square foot Rockford, Tennessee facility. “Within two months of Keisler closing, we reopened as Silver Sport Transmissions and the phones started ringing immediately.”
Between its engineering, sales and technical staff, Silver Sport Transmissions wields more than 75 years of combined experience in modifying Tremec 5- and 6-speed transmissions into their “PerfectFit” retrofit kits for classic cars, trucks and street rods. “[The PerfectFit kit] dates back to the early 2000s,” Jeff Kauffman, SST Vice President of Sales and Marketing recalled. “And it started with Mopar – our Mopar kits are the most complete kits available.” Be it a 1964 through 1976 A-Body, a 1962 through 1974 B-Body, or a 1970 through 1974 E-Body, SST has had 5-speed kits that have been on the market over a decade.
Above: After machining the case, every Tremec is cleaned and rebuilt to exacting specifications to fit the customer’s specific application.
Above left and center: New hardware, internals and clutch components are provided in every kit to match both the particular vehicle application as well as the rated horsepower and torque. Above right: Dick McCord shows how a custom-designed testing table pressure checks every transmission prior to being boxed and shipped.
Unlike others on the market, SST’s “PerfectFit” transmission kit comes with everything imaginable to make the conversion seamless. In transitioning from a 3- or 4-speed manual, the “PerfectFit” kit comes with the Tremec TKO 5-Speed overdrive gearbox that has been specifically modified to fit your application. SST uses a 5-axis CNC machine to mill the Tremec case to best fit the customer’s tunnel without compromising the transmission’s strength. Likewise, SST re-engineers, designs, and manufacturers a new, compact billet aluminum shifter mechanism not only for smoother shifting but to align flawlessly with the vehicle’s factory shifter positioning. “We can provide over 40 unique shifter positions on TKO 5-speed and new positions are being developed for the 6-speed,” Kauffman added.
Prior to packaging, every transmission is thoroughly tested for leaks and overall performance on a uniquely designed test table and is outfitted with an optional carbon fiber-lined synchronizer blocker ring upgrade for higher rpm shift capability. With the 5-speed comes a CAD-designed, lightweight crossmember, a dynamically balanced DOM steel custom driveshaft and slip yoke (with premium solid u-joints), a choice of a mechanical or electronic speedometer connection with a calibrated speedometer cable, a reverse light connector, a heavy duty needle roller-type pilot bearing, isolator mount, all of the expected installation hardware, a tunnel template and sheet metal (ready to install) and detailed installation instructions all standard.
Above: Dick McCord brings with him decades of experience having come from Borg Warner prior to joining KEI nearly a decade earlier to help develop the original “PerfectFit” kits.
Above left: After testing, every “PerfectFit” kit is reboxed with all of necessary hardware, cross member, yoke and driveshaft, shifter, as well as the sheetmetal and template necessary to convert an original automatic or factory manual into a modern Tremec overdrive transmission. Above right: This cut-away display model not only shows the modifications made to the original Tremec case, but what improvements are made internally.
Fitting precisely within the factory center console, Silver Sport Transmissions has gone through great efforts to hide the ingenuity behind its conversions from the untrained eye. “We’ve got a variety of shifters, balls, knobs and plates to make your upgrade stealthy,” Silver smiled, holding up a 6-speed shift pattern plate for third-generation Corvette. “It looks and fits identically as the factory plate. If you don’t look closely, you’ll never notice it.” Putting it back on the shelf, Silver noted, “It’s our goal to increase the owner’s enjoyment of his car while preserving [its integrity]. It’s what sets us apart.”
Every “PerfectFit” kit comes with a free lifetime access to SST’s tech support team, as well as a 24 month installation window. Combined with a 12 month product warranty (and a 24 month activation delay, because not all of us have our project cars ready to hit the road), Silver Sport Transmissions is pushing the boundaries of what customers are coming to expect from aftermarket suppliers. And true to Silver’s maxim, Silver Sport Transmission is always looking towards the future with new product on the drawing table. “Our 6-speed kits are now available for A-Bodies, with a new 6-speed kit for B-Bodies in development currently, and an E-Body 6-speed kit coming in the near future,” Kauffman continued.
Above: Because not all muscle cars are created equal, Silver Sport Transmissions removes every Tremec shifter to be replaced with their own “PerfectFit” spring-loaded shifter. This not only provides a superior and smoothing shift, but also guarantees the shifter to be in the factory location.
Above left: SST also offers the very impressive A41 4-speed overdrive automatic conversion kit. The bellhousings shown are specific to Mopar applications, as the 4-speed overdrive is a repurposed GM 4L60E. Above right: SST maintains a healthy overstock of parts and components to ensure the shortest order fulfillment time possible.
Above left: SST’s design and engineering team is constantly striving to provide new applications for the automotive aftermarket. Above right: Using the best tools available, SST uses an articulated FARO arm to gather multiple points of digital reference to best create their designs using CAD software.
Behind Silver Sport Transmissions’ engineering division is Dick McCord. The company’s Vice President of Engineering and Operations swings a resume of experience as hefty as John Henry’s sledgehammer. McCord was first spirited away from GM’s Powertrain Division after years with Borg Warner, in Muncie, Indiana to first help KEI develop the first “PerfectFit” kits. (If those names and places don’t ring a bell, you might want to do some homework.) His commitment to perfection is supplemented by a state-of-the-art design studio replete with a data-gathering 7-axis FARO arm and 3D printer, producing plastic prototypes of needful hardware and shifter components.
We first met the sexagenarian spryly crawling in, around and below a gorgeous ’70 Coronet R/T convertible perched on SST’s lift, firing off measurements to his teammate. “We’re creating a template for the new transmission tunnel,” McCord explained. “Other company’s 6-speed kits require completely cutting out the [torsion bar] cross member. We know Mopar guys aren’t going to want to do that. But since there’s only so much you can mill off of the [Tremec] Magnum, we need to find a way to modify the cross member while increasing its strength.”
Above: This ’70 Dodge Coronet R/T is being converted from a 3-speed automatic to a 6-speed Tremec Magnum. Supplied by the owner to be used as a guinea pig of sorts, a final template will be made from this B-Body for future Mopar applications.
Top: A paper template is created from which a sheetmetal transmission hub will be made to allow the larger 6-speed to fit within the narrow Chrysler tunnel. Bottom left: The eagle-eyed Mopar enthusiast will recognize this as not a traditional 440ci RB block, but a Gen III Hemi. Bottom right: McCord displays the prototype upper and lower two-part brace made to replace the factory crossmember.
McCord turned and presented a prototype two-part cross member that not only supported the Magnum’s nose cone, but replaced the stamped factory cross member’s upper arch. Although its installation would require considerable fabrication, the two-part cross member would not only support the new gearbox and retain the use of the factory torsion bar suspension, but actually increase torsional strength in the unibody design. “You wanna know how we manage to stay ahead of the competition? It’s because they don’t have a Dick.” Silver guffawed, patting McCord on the back.
In the year and a half since Silver Sport Transmission’s launch, the company has expertly turned the ship around. Dedicated to providing customers a quick and painless experience, Silver and the SST team have committed to providing the best “performing, fitting and durable products” available, and to process orders faster than expected. “Our typical turnaround on an order is two days. We pride ourselves on keeping our shelves stocked so that we can ship our orders promptly. This keeps our lead-times at a minimum.” Fulfilling this promise has rapidly exploded Silver Sport Transmissions‘ business. As Silver states, “the PerfectFit has been installed into more classics than any other kit on the market,” and its easy to understand why.