It goes without saying that the driveshaft is one of the most vital members of your driveline. It’s responsible for getting all that rotational force your motor worked so hard to create from the transmission to the final drive. Time and time again the old adage rings true: “What good is all that power if you can’t get it to the wheels?”
Naturally, then, it’s of utmost importance to keep the limits of your driveshaft in mind when the time comes to up your ride’s power. What may have sufficed at say, 350 horsepower, will definitely not be okay at 800 horsepower.
Builds take time, and getting the right parts make the build is paramount.
But all too often the driveshaft is overlooked during builds that drastically increase power. Commonly, engines, transmissions, and rear ends tend to get all the love, but the driveshaft is left out. Balance is everything when it comes to building up your machine, and it’s absolutely paramount that the driveshaft doesn’t become a weak link. We reached out to J. E. Reel Driveline to make sure we achieve that balance.
With Project MaxStreet, our ’66 Nova street car, we have to be especially conscious of this. While it’ll simply be a kickass street machine (as opposed to a purpose-built drag or track car), getting power numbers as high as possible is our end goal. And with a motor as powerful (or even half as powerful) as MaxStreet’s, if a driveshaft component fails, it really fails. With steel or even aluminum shafts, catastrophic damage to both the car and the driver is likely to ensue.
Keeping this in mind, we figured it was high-time that MaxStreet was due for a driveshaft. In case you haven’t been following along with our build thread, we’ve already fitted MaxStreet with a number of things to help get it back on its feet — namely, a F2 ProCharger-equipped, 555 cubic-inch BBC. We haven’t been able to fire up this monstrous mill and dyno-run the car yet, but our Nova should be sitting well above the 1,000-horsepower mark.
Obviously, this is a great deal more than the factory 350-cube motor was putting down. This — added to our installation of the TCI 6X six-speed transmission and Moser nine-inch rear end — definitely warrants a high-strength driveshaft.
But how, exactly, does one choose the right driveshaft for such a high-powered machine? We reached out to J. E. Reel Driveline, and got our hands on a new driveshaft, plus some insight from company-owner Jim Reel himself.J. E. Reel Driveline has been in business for more than 50 years, building high-strength aluminum and steel driveshafts, prepping for powdercoats and chrome, developing new driveline parts, and distributing its own line of systems and parts.
The aftermarket transmission and rear end have drastically changed the required length of the driveshaft.
Its service covers a wide range of high-stress, ultra-rigorous applications, such as those in diesel trucks, off-road Trophy trucks, Ultra4-class racers, Jeeps, drag racers, and hot rods.
But for driveshafts in general (regardless of application), the beauty of choosing a quality, aftermarket product is that it’s custom-made for your particular setup. Unless all of your driveline components are OE and you are replacing the factory driveshaft with an identical-length unit, there is no one-size-fits-all system to selecting the correct size.
Due to the endless combinations of transmissions, rear ends and general car layout, the correct driveshaft length will almost always vary — hence the need for custom, vehicle-specific fabrication.
In order to get the proper driveshaft length, J. E. Reel sent us a sheet that shows us how to take the proper measurements. The first step was to select the proper style of driveline to match our Nova.
Of course, J.E. Reel offers this kind of quality, aftermarket driveshafts — so MaxStreet’s driveshaft was custom-made. To get the right size, we took our own measurements on the car, measuring from the transmission (accounting for the slip-yoke that J.E. Reel would provide) all the way back to the 1350-Spicer U-joint flange bolted to the Moser rear end. Sheets and diagrams to guide its customers in getting proper measurements were provided; Reel sent us the one pictured above, which illustrates how to measure from different mounting points. It’s crucial to size your setup properly in order to ensure everything will be a perfect fit.
Using J.E. Reel's guidelines, we were able to get the proper measurements for our driveshaft.
Once we had MaxStreet all measured up, we sent the dimensions to J.E. Reel, who then fabricated our driveshaft to the proper specs. To reign in the 1,100 horses, the shaft is made of 6061 aluminum tube with a three-inch outside diameter and utilizes 1350-style U-joints. There was a bit of a debate as to whether 1350 would suffice or if 1480 would be needed, but after some discussion with Jim Reel, we determined that 1350 would do nicely.
There's little room for error when it comes to driveshaft fitment -- make sure you get those measurements right.
Reel also helped outline some of the driveshaft do’s and don’ts for high-horsepower builds like MaxStreet. He started by stating the blatantly simple, but vitally-important: “Quality parts are a must for big-horsepower cars. Get your parts (like joints and yokes) from a professional driveline shop as general auto-parts stores will not have high-enough quality parts for powerful vehicles.”
While 1480 U-joints are as strong as they come, MaxStreet will be completely fine using 1350.
Reel also touched on some of the materials necessary for high-output cars. He said, “For U-joints, 1310 and 1330 are good up to 500 horsepower — after that, you need to bump it up to 1350. But, depending on the weight, some very high-horsepower cars might need 1480 U-joints.”
For yokes, applications of 600 horsepower and up need to seriously consider chromoly over cast materials. -Jim Reel, J.E. Reel Driveline
“For yokes,” Reel continued, “applications of 600 horsepower and up need to seriously consider chrome-moly over cast materials. Also, as a minimum at these power levels, the driveshaft itself should be DOM (drawn over mandrel) tubing, such as chromoly or 6061 aluminum.”
Reel then addressed the general need to seek out a good shop, saying “Overall, be absolutely certain to use high quality parts and seek out a driveline shop with quality equipment and a balancer to build your driveline. There are some driveline shops that claim it’s not necessary to balance the driveline; they use a system they claim is superior to balancing.”
Without a properly balanced shaft, the 1,100 horsepower MaxStreet will be producing could destroy the driveline (among other things).
He continued, “This is known as a cheaply-made dial indicator. A quality driveline shop will dial-indicate the tube to run true before welding and then, while cooling the weld, they will dial-indicate the tube to keep it true. A quality driveline shop will always finish by balancing the driveline.”
If you’re shopping with J.E. Reel, there’s no need to sweat this; they pull out all the stops to ensure that every driveshaft they make will perform efficiently and reliably. There’s no denying that the driveshaft is crucial to both durability and safety, and J.E. Reel thoroughly recognizes this.
So if you find yourself in need of a driveshaft – whether your ride puts down 250 or 2,500 horsepower – then check out what J.E. Reel can do for you. From mild to wild and everything in between, they can build the driveshaft you need to put your power to the ground.
Thanks to our heavy-duty driveshaft, MaxStreet is one step closer to breaking necks on the street.