Shifting Gears: Project 899’s ATI Fuel Comp T400 Transmission

The lofty horsepower goals of the Project 899 Camaro require a strong transmission. If you look beyond the 899 horsepower goal. you’ll also see a heavy car that’s wearing a set of radials, and is using a Whipple supercharger for a power adder. Those factors led us to use a Fuel Comp T400 transmission from ATI Performance Products so we could reliably apply all the LME-built L8T’s horsepower to the ground.

ATI’s Fuel Comp T400 transmission is a beast. The unit is rated to handle up to 1,500 horsepower and works for cars that weigh up to 3,600 pounds when combined with an ATI SuperCase. Inside the transmission, you’ll find a Vasco input and main shaft, a 4344 steel output shaft, new billet-steel forward drum, a billet aluminum “severe duty” 36-element sprag direct drum, along with a full set of race clutches and steels. The front pump has been blueprinted to increase fluid flow, the stator tube has been heat-treated and pinned, and the transmission has been outfitted with roller bearings.

The ATI Fuel Comp T400 transmission is a battle-ready unit right out of the box.

Our transmission was built with ATI’s Wicked Quick billet aluminum, reverse manual, clean neutral valve body, deep aluminum cast transmission pan, and heavy-duty center support that’s been machined to increase transbrake speed and support the direct drum. The transmission also uses a 2.10:1 six-pinion gearset. All of this is housed inside an ATI SuperCase, and we’ll cover why that’s important later in the article.

ATI owner JC Beattie Jr. explains why this transmission was recommended for our application.

“Between the weight of the car being around 3,500 pounds, the radial tire, the 3.60 gear ratio, and the power the car will make, the Fuel Comp is the transmission to use. We know from experience that the Whipple blower is going to make almost full boost when you leave the starting line at whatever RPM you leave at. We knew it would need the Vasco shafts and better parts to prevent any carnage. The radial tire also plays a big factor in this since that tire dead hooks at the hit, and there is no spin to soften the blow of the power.”

Now, if Project 899 was a lightweight bracket car with a big tire, it wouldn’t need this beefy of a transmission. The Camaro is heavy and doesn’t have a lot of gear in it, which has an impact on the mechanical advantage the car possesses.

“You can have a mechanical advantage, such as lots of rear gear in a race car, a fair amount of horsepower, and you don’t have to use as robust parts inside the transmission. A good example is a new-generation Camaro that weighs 4,000 pounds and makes 1,500 horsepower. If that car has a 3.50 rear gear, because it can’t turn a lot of RPM on a radial tire, it will need almost as much transmission as Chris Rini’s Pro Nitrous Pro Mod. He’s got gear and power, but there’s not a lot of weight. The Project 899 Camaro has a good amount of power, but it has a lot of weight, so it needs a strong transmission,” Beattie explains.

Project 899 is far from a lightweight bracket car, so a strong transmission was high on our list of requirements.

The advantage of using such a strong transmission is that Project 899 won’t have any issues on the street. All of the high-quality parts inside the T400 won’t even flinch when the car is driven to get coffee, or it makes a trip to a local car show. The transmission stays below 230 degrees on a long street drive, and since we have a massive Derale transmission cooler, that shouldn’t be an issue.

We mentioned earlier that this transmission uses one of ATI’s SuperCases. The SuperCase was developed by ATI more than 10 years ago to address the performance and safety issues of OEM TH400 cases when they’re used in high-horsepower applications. ATI used a blank-slate approach when it created the SuperCase. Starting with a 356-T6 aluminum case that is cast in Ohio, ATI takes the blank casting and does all the machine work in-house on state-of-the-art four-axis CNC machines.

ATI's SuperCase is a must-have item if you plan on throwing a lot of horsepower at a transmission. Not only does this case allow the transmission to perform better, it also increases the level of safety as evidenced by its SFI rating.

Beattie talks about why the SuperCase is such an important part of a transmission like the Fuel Comp T400 we used.

“The SuperCase allows the line pressure to be increased, so all shifting and transbrake application and release can get that added pressure they like. It allows that to happen without catastrophic issues occurring. On the safety side, the SFI 4.1 is something that 90 percent of what we build don’t need, since most of our transmissions have aluminum drums. That SFI rating is for containing a steel high-gear drum failure, which most of our transmissions don’t use.”

ATI’s flexplate helps tie everything together in the driveline.

Project 899 was also outfitted with an SFI-approved flexplate from ATI. The flexplate is manufactured using CNC equipment right here in the USA. ATI uses SFI-accepted steel to make each flexplate to attain SFI 29.1 certification. The flexplates are double MIG/TIG welded for additional strength and are precision balanced to one gram before they’re boxed up and shipped out.

Torque converter selection for Project 899 was tricky since there wasn’t any data available for the engine, power adder, and transmission combination. The solution was to use a bolt-together torque converter. This will allow us to swap out stators if needed to tighten or loosen the torque converter based on how the car performs.

“A tighter and looser stator were sent, so there would be a few hundred RPM window of adjustment available if it was needed. The looser stator would be great as the tuning is figured out for the engine package. As the chassis and horsepower start to come around, you can move to the tighter stator to increase the launch RPM and know the car is going to hook. That’s where the bolt-together converter shines, it lets you make adjustments on your own, rather than sending it back to us to be cut open and adjusted. It allows you to optimize the entire package with minimal downtime,” Beattie says.

ATI sent us one of its trick bolt-together torque converters for Project 899. This torque converter can be taken apart and have the stator changed without sending it back to ATI. This gives us plenty of adjustment options based on how the car performs.

One final trick we added to our transmission was a clean neutral. This is a great option for those who want to save wear and tear on their engine after each run at the track.

“This is a billet valve body that we manufacture from bar stock. It’s nice to have the clean neutral to keep the transmission lubricated and happy. The clean neutral is a whole new position that requires a special shifter. It moves the manual valve to the last position and opens up all fluid channels so every gear dumps all the fluid to allow the engine to come back to idle. People worry about stretching the rods when you’re letting the engine pull the car down after a run, so you get away from that and the clean neutral allows it,” Beattie explains.

The right transmission is a critical part of any high-horsepower build. Now you can see why we elected to bolt one of ATI’s Fuel Comp T400 transmissions behind the LME-built L8T that’s under the Camaro’s hood.

As part of our 30 days of Project 899, we will be bringing you in-depth tech content on the engine build, transmission, rearend, suspension, and coverage of the entire build going together. There will also be video content showing the entire nine days of the build including commentary and explanations from our team, bloopers and outtakes, and hurdles we encountered that had to be overcome to meet the deadline. If you haven’t already, follow LSX Magazine on Facebook and Instagram, and subscribe to the Power + Performance YouTube Channel to catch all of the Project 899 content we have coming.

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Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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