Competition Automatic Gearboxes

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Dormouse
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Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

Anyone with experience of American Muscle Cars knows that uprated autoboxes are common on these cars. In this country we seem to turn our noses up at automatics but a properly set up Hi Stall convertor/quick shift valve block Yank box is a revelation. I remember many, many years ago Mercedes set Stirling Moss the task of doing high speed forward to reverse changes time and time again, in front of the motoring press, to show their boxes could take the punishment.
At one point, I was going to build a 1360 A Series 4 speed AP auto competition unit for my Mini. Effectively, the gearbox became a "dry sump" and changes to the valving made changes "instantaneous". No clutch, therefore left foot braking took on an entirely different meaning. Not quite as simple as that but early prototype boxes were NOT self destructing and were relatively easy to strip and rebuild. Gear ratios were a limitation but, if this had taken off, new epicyclic sets could be made to suit.
I would like to hear from anyone about their experiences with autoboxes in motorsport - good or bad. Lets get a healthy discussion going. Over to you.
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Michel
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Michel »

I have no personal experience of autos in motorsport, but I recall CVT was banned from F1 in 1993, when Williams had built and tested a CVT F1 car..



All teams carried on using the semi-auto gearboxes with flappy paddle changes, but by the late 90s, they were using them as full autos with programmed up and downshifts for different circuits, so the FIA banned automatic shifting in 2004.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

I once used a HondaMatic for an autotest. It was ok but I couldn't get wheelspin when I wanted it. Tiptronic boxes are not "slush" boxes just as CVT transmissions contain no meshing gears. Automatic gearboxes come in a lot of flavours. I had a design for a 1,2,R manual autotest box for my Mini which involved "straight" quick shifts.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

Hydraulically controlled autoboxes often succumbed quickly when any kind of debris found their way into the valve boxes and some manufacturers had less than rigourous quality control in the factories. Steering gear and synchromesh all fall under the same issues but autoboxes somehow attract more derision.
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Michel
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Michel »

Dormouse wrote:
02 Jul 2021, 08:37
I once used a HondaMatic for an autotest. It was ok but I couldn't get wheelspin when I wanted it. Tiptronic boxes are not "slush" boxes just as CVT transmissions contain no meshing gears. Automatic gearboxes come in a lot of flavours. I had a design for a 1,2,R manual autotest box for my Mini which involved "straight" quick shifts.
I think you’re confusing Tiptronic gearboxes, which in my experience are slushboxes with a torque converter and a manual way of selecting gears, and DSG/EGS gearboxes which are essentially an automatically operated manual box. CVTs, as you say, have no gears. My dad’s Honda Jazz had one. I wasn’t impressed. Nice to drive, but not economical at all!
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

https://www.mechanicalworkshop.co.uk/ti ... smissions/
The Tiptronic was a game changer. I think this article is reasonably fair
The manual override in our Hybrid4 will not change up unless you select a gear but it will change down whether you like it or not. Apparently humans can't be trusted all the time. Notice that even the Tiptronic does this.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

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Michel
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Michel »

“ Tiptronic ones have an option to switch out of its automatic mode so it will work like a manual car when you choose”.

So, it’s a slushbox that has switches to make it *act* like a manual. It’s not a manual box. With respect, I know what’s in my car.. and I did qualify as a mechanic back in the late 80s.
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white exec
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by white exec »

Well, you did ask...

1959 black Mini

Lots of Good Things happened while I was at college (near Manchester), 1967-71, and the Mini project was just one of them.

I learned to drive (and pass the test) in west London on my Dad’s 1935 Rover Ten, and when he acquired a ’47 Sixteen, it was the Ten that I took to Padgate two years later. Not many students had cars then, and certainly not Rovers.

The Rover did well, and despite having earlier broken a couple of rear half-shafts (I had collected the very last one from Rover’s Pengam, south Wales, parts factory in 1966) and a rear leaf spring (a new pair reforged new by hand in a railway arch in Manchester’s Piccadilly), it was reliable transport. The 20-22mpg didn’t matter, as petrol was then around 4 gallons (18 litres) for £1.

After four years of ownership of the Ten, I was offered a 1956 Series 1 Hillman Minx, two-tone grey/yellow, with red decidedly-vinyl interior. At £35 I took it on, and it was fun, ‘modern’, but handled appallingly, and nothing to get very excited about.

And then, one summer vacation, while working in a Cheshire garden centre, two things happened, which would change everything. The father of a girl working there too was a Prison Service officer, and had an ancient SWB Land Rover that “just kept stopping” every few hundred yards along the road. Copious quantities of sediment were found in its bulkhead glass fuel filter, and so that was sorted. Grateful, said gent commented that he’d “another Rover in the garage”, but hadn’t driven it for some time, because of some ominous mechanical noises.

And so I became the proud owner of a 1960 Rover 3-litre Mk I, 2995cc and straight-six, in City Grey, with grey leather interior. All it needed was a new set of big-end shells, and some oil in its very large single S.U.

Now, the only other Rover P5 on the college campus belonged to one of the senior lecturers there – a rather nice (and not very old) P5B V8, in Burgundy. Comments were regularly made when the two were parked together in the same car park (reserved for academic staff, but what-the-hell…). How come students can afford that sort of transport??

The second Good Thing was the discovery of the Mini…

I found it, quite by accident, less than a mile away, sitting in a front garden in Lymm. It had wheels, but was lifted up on four small oil drums. It was dull red (a sort of crimson), looked to be all there, except for the engine/power unit, which had been removed. £15 later, she was mine, and towed back to our farmyard flat in nearby Heatley.

Then the fun began.

It was a standard Morris Mini, from 1959. The body shell was marked around number 600 iirc, and as regular production started with #101, this made it one of the first 500 or so to be built. I later discovered that these early ones were sought-after for rallying, mainly because they were some 60 lb. lighter than subsequent models. An additional bonus was that they were pressed from a steel that didn’t actually rust – and this one never did. It had, in fact, been used for some rallying (which probably explained the missing engine), but amazingly was dent-free.

The crimson/plum paintwork was not good, though. It had gone matt and powdery in just 11 years. The roof could leave your hand red, if you brushed against it.

So (and with a handy barn available at the flat) the car was stripped down, rolled on to its side, and underside and subframes black bitumened. Continuing the black theme, the remainder of the body was sprayed cellulose black too – no great finish, as all I had was one of those rather nasty Burgess electric spray guns. Black was not a colour then available for Mini!

The rest was down to fitting and trimming. A complete Austin 1100 (1098cc) engine (again for £15) from the local garage/breakers, which I got re-bored, ground, shelled and headed – all standard ‘1100’ stuff. A twin-carb A-series manifold turned up one day, and so a second carb was added, as was an almost-obligatory Pico big-bore exhaust.

Inside, some more fun: a pair of black leather P6 Rover front seats (which actually fitted, with their runners modified to be tip-up), and carpet . . . lots and lots of it. The inside was now predominantly black (the seats, and a good bit of OE exposed metalwork), and so a splash of colour was added by carpeting the roof, floor, inside of the doors, and inside of the rear pockets, in a foam-backed electric blue number. It looked terrific, improved the acoustic no end, and completely solved the problem of the original tatty head-liner and bits of Quality Cardboard trim. Four P5 over-door interior lights added a bit of class, wiring hidden easily inside the shallow interior gutter.

A challenging final teaching practice beckoned, and things had to get seriously academic towards the final year and exams, and the Mini took a back seat, so to speak. The P5 saw us through, and after graduation the two of us headed south again, to take up posts in West Sussex and central London. The Mini was drivable, but not yet road legal, and so we paid to have it trailered to Sussex.

Late 1971, and Mini got itself ‘finished’. Engineer inspected for insurance purposes (as it was a tad non-standard, even if relatively non-sporty) and MoT’d. It retained its original registration number, 105 WMM – and provided some great daily transport, not least while having to cope with a lengthy spell of petrol rationing, where generous coupons issued for the P5 came in quite handy. Some extra bits got done – notably one of the popular moulded full-width aftermarket dashboards, which retained the original central round speedo, but provided space for tacho’, oil and water gauges, and an ammeter (it still had a dynamo). The dismal Lucas sealed-beam headlights were replaced with new 7” Hella H4 halogen fittings, and a servo was added for the brakes – still drums all round, and still good.

And so to Tobermory…

A couple of weeks in the Western Highlands (while still at college) had made us fall in love with that part of the world, and in summer of ’72 we headed off with Mini and Tent to explore further. Fort William led to Ardnamurchan, and Ardnamurchan led to Mull.

While pottering around Tobermory, we went to the local garage to fill up with petrol. There was a shout: “Give you £100 for that registration plate!”, and one of the mechanics came over. WMM obviously looked good to this Willam Maclean. He confirmed his wish to do a deal, and re-assured us that he had an ample stock of green log-books, and could provide a new one. “Drop by at 5 o’clock, when I knock off.”

Now, being (a) 600+ miles from home, and (b) unsure of these things, we popped into the local cop shop to check this procedure out. Decidedly dodgy, we were informed. “Who’s making you the offer?” “At the garage,” we said. “Oh, that’ll be William. He services all our police cars.” Hmm.

Well, we went back to William at 5pm, and he wasn’t surprised we weren’t up for it. (We didn’t mention the conversation with the police.) “Would ye fancy a look around?” he asked. So we did, and found ourselves in a farmyard, containing half-a-dozen caravans, all packed with Mini and 1100/1300 spares. A few complete vehicles, too.

There was, apparently, an annual Isle of Mull TT, when Mini’s and 1100/1300s would race round the island in competition. He was a big player in this.

“So,” he said, “how’s the black one going?” Now, by this time the gearbox was starting to show signs of wear, and I told him I’d toyed with the idea of converting it to automatic, just for the fun of it. “No problem,” he said, “Come this way…”. And so we were shown into a caravan full of gearboxes. “Try this – perfect condition. We tend to pull auto’s out, and replace them with manuals.” And so a complete auto box was mine, for £10 – ‘box, torque converter, cabled gear selector. It all went in the boot of the Mini, and stayed there for the rest of the holiday. I remember getting one of those funny looks from the OH as we drove away.

The autobox transplant

With the use of a workshop and gantry-lift, heaving the power unit out wasn’t a problem, and the ‘new’ box and torque converter was easily fitted on to the engine.

The fun started when the engine was started: no oil pressure! To cut a long story short, I hadn’t at that point realized that the oil feed from the pump takes a slightly different path around the system on an automatic, and I didn’t want to risk dry-running the engine without lubrication. Desperately short of time (a borrowed workshop), I decided to transfer the car to a Leyland main dealer workshop in Crawley, and so got it trailered there. They fixed the problem, by installing a short external pipe to an oil-feed port on the front of the engine (to the left of the distributor, iirc). That restored oil pressure.

Collecting the car (and a payment of the best part of £200), I was pleased to be able to drive away nippily less than an hour before they were due to close. I happened to take a wrong turning in Crawley, and needed to back up. But – no drive in reverse! B*gger! William! Reverse was achieved by putting one foot out of the door, and then back to the garage. No sympathy whatsoever, and obvious that they were fully aware of the issue, but chose not to mention it. “You didn’t bring the car in here for attention to the gearbox, so we’ve just fixed what you detailed, and no more.” Triffic.

Disgusted, I drove the car away and booked it into an automatic specialist in Heathfield, for a full check-out and refurb.
Sorted. Lovely. Nice changes. Nice people.

So was it reliable?

Absolutely. The little car went on to do at least another five years with us, including numerous lengthy jaunts around Scotland and the Islands, and to France a few times. Looking back at it, and knowing how some more recent auto boxes can get upset by slight ATF contamination, I’m amazed that the AP box that AR/Leyland used was so tolerant of being run on what was (most of the time) quite dirty 20W50 engine oil. Gear changes at very light throttle could provide a bit of a jerk, but never at mid- or full throttle, and no tendency to slurr in cold weather. It just worked.

We eventually sold little black car, one very black winter’s night, to a couple of twenty-somethings who wanted “just this sort of thing”. They didn’t even want to road-test it, just do a few yards outside our lock-up garage. Extraordinary.

Black Mini 1098 TC Auto gave way to our first P6, a 1966 2000, bought for much the same £350 we got for the little one. This got converted to auto as well, which was a mistake, as it went on to break no less than three flex-plates (a peculiarly slim item on the 2000), and to blunt the engine’s performance by rather a lot. P6 was good, though, and we went on to own a ’72 2000TC in Cameron/BRG, and finally a ’75 P6B 3500S V8. This last also got a gearbox transplant, this time to an SD1 manual 5-speed, one of only two (at that time) in the UK.

From then on, around 1990, Rover gave way to Citroen, and the rest is, as they say, history.
_____________

Just prior to the 2000TC, we owned a Morris 1300. This was an auto too, power-unit recovered from a VDP 1300 auto.
It was a lovely thing to drive, spacious and comfortably floaty on its long wheel base Hydrolastic. The AP box, again, just worked without issue.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

The Tour of Mull is legendary! Think Isle of Man on four wheels. People used to book their holiday accommodation each year in advance. Closed road rallying at full pelt. Half close your eyes and you could have been in Ireland where they are equally mental/enthusiastic, except for the accent.
The similarities between your story and mine are uncanny. I almost acquired a Rover P5 Coupe for my first car. My dad worked for Villiers and it came up for staff to buy. He was pipped at the post. My brother got an ex company 1100 and I still have nightmares about repairing the rotten rear floor. "Our" Mini came into my workshop as an accident damaged car my customer needed to keep going until she could afford to buy something newer. So, we kept the Mini going and I bought it when she found a replacement.
I built an experimental mini auto using a green manual 850. I fitted a manual 998 engine to an auto 4 sp and shimmed the torque convertor out on the taper so I could fit the bigger auto oil pump to the standard block. Auto engine blocks were machined differently to allow the change in oil flow and accommodate an enlarged oil pump to fed the box and engine. High flow competition oil pumps would probably have solved that issue but I did not have one, so shimming it was. The pipework changes you needed solved my issues too. As a trial, the 998 worked and boded well for a full 1360 transplant but life, as they say, got in the way. That, and lack of money.
Last edited by Dormouse on 02 Jul 2021, 20:03, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

Our Mini is a 61. Yours possibly had the reverse lip sill panels as well. Very early shells had a heavier guage of steel in certain areas but not everywhere. Later production shells had the "normal" downward lip sill that didn't let water run into the car and had a lot of stiffening added pretty much on the hoof as early production evolved. Early shells were lighter but needed to be seam welded to make them rigid.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

On the braking front, I stuck to drums all round too and raided the Partco catalogue for cylinders with bigger bores to replace the Mini ones. I didn't use a servo and I had longer pedal travel but I ended up with a Mini that was over braked on the rear axle if I set the pressure limiter to suit and I ran Mintex shoes all the time with Minifins. I also made an uprated bolt on anti roll bar for the front and a forward fitted rear anti roll bar as opposed to the normal one which was fitted to the rear end of the subframe and so for sprints and hillclimbs I could have a Mini that ultimately went into a four wheeled drift on the limit. At one point I even experimented with Dunlop Ground Hogs but they were not successful.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Dormouse »

On the dashboard front I used the centre wooden dash from a Mk 11 Jag but fitted the Smiths innards from a Triumph 1300 TC. The side wooden pieces came from another Truimph and I used the circular Triumph multi warning light cluster along with various Smiths guages. The seats were "Triumphish" Bond Equipe - fitted quite well. A single hoop roll over bar and 3 pt harnesses for the front with 4 pt ones in the rear for the kids. It was also our daily runner for a lot of the time.
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by Nickcc102 »

Michel wrote:
02 Jul 2021, 12:53
Dormouse wrote:
02 Jul 2021, 08:37
I once used a HondaMatic for an autotest. It was ok but I couldn't get wheelspin when I wanted it. Tiptronic boxes are not "slush" boxes just as CVT transmissions contain no meshing gears. Automatic gearboxes come in a lot of flavours. I had a design for a 1,2,R manual autotest box for my Mini which involved "straight" quick shifts.
I think you’re confusing Tiptronic gearboxes, which in my experience are slushboxes with a torque converter and a manual way of selecting gears, and DSG/EGS gearboxes which are essentially an automatically operated manual box. CVTs, as you say, have no gears. My dad’s Honda Jazz had one. I wasn’t impressed. Nice to drive, but not economical at all!
Have to agree re CVT boxes. I’ve just traded in my 2013 Nissan Qashqai 1.6 for my 2008, fuel consumption on the Qashqai was app 20 mpg local driving. How Nissan can get away with Road fund licence being £155 beats me as there’s no way a reasonable fuel consumption can be achieved with this CVT box.
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white exec
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Re: Competition Automatic Gearboxes

Post by white exec »

Interesting what you say about shell weight, and the later reinforcing. I never got into that kind of detail about it at the time (until now!), and also never used the car for any kind of competition work. It was just a very non-standard and road-going, daily hobby-car, tweaked to include a few useful extras and creature comforts, all done on a budget. Even without tuning, the 1098 was a decided improvement on the 848cc, although the TCs added a bit of zip. It would hum along at 75++ all day, if asked. It was also my first excursion into radial-ply tyres, in this case some exciting-looking Goodyear G800's.

The car never leaked water (perhaps all that bitumen on underside and lower sill seams), in complete contrast to a 1970 Mini 1000 that I bought and ran for a few months. This standard car, nippy and economic, used to flood its floor at the first signs of being driven on wet roads. I took out all the carpets, and was appalled to find a tidal wave of water moving from front to back and forward again, each time the car accelerated or braked. It passed clean under the under-seat box-section, on its way in each direction! It was eventually tracked down to the front lateral floor seam, which just hadn't been sealed at all. The 1000 met its end, dramatically, in a ball of fire, right outside our house and Hurstpierpoint fire station, one November night. A reserve steel can of petrol had broken free of its straps in the boot, had rolled across, and knocked the cardboard battery cover off, shorting on the exposed terminals. The first I knew, after braking, was the lights going out, and a gush of flame appearing through the rear parcel-shelf speaker aperture. The car was vacated PDQ, as it sat there, working as a flame-thrower into neighbouring hedges. The Fire guys asked if I could bring such things into the Yard next time, to save getting the Engine out! She was a good 'un though, returning 44mpg+ without effort. The rapid insurance payout funded its replacement - the dark green Morris 1300.