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Gearstar Performance Transmissions Shop Tour

By December 3, 2010Uncategorized

Every once in a while a company flourishes when it is formed for all the right reasons, under the right circumstance, and by the right people. Gearstar Performance Transmission is one such company and Zack Farah is the man with a vision. Not only does he have the vision, he also has the drive to live company’s success on a daily basis. He once even took a business call on Thanksgiving Day, which resulted in a sale.

Zack did not wake up one day with a transmission epiphany – he was born into it. His family business was an industry leader in transmission remanufacturing, and he literally started on the ground floor with a boom in his hand on the loading docks. The company cranked out 100 transmissions and 300 torque converters each day.

While production was impressive, the high performance side of transmissions and the way they can be tailored to very specific applications really appealed to him. He decided to branch out on his own in 2002 and focus on quality, rather than sheer quantity. He started by hand-picking eleven guys from his work and whittled them down to six. Several of these guys have worked with Zack since the mid to late 80s. Employees Patrick, Mark and Doug have been with Zack for over twenty-five years. All of them have been trained in schools such as the GM Technical College or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and most are ASE Certified. These were the best of the best in their areas, allowing him to form a “transmission dream team.”

Gearstar uses only the best parts from the best companies like AC Delco five-pinion planetaries, Raybestos Stage 1 racing frictions, 300M hardened internal components, CompuShift computers for electronic model transmissions and installation accessories like Lokar fid throttle valve cables. Gearstar also uses the best automatic transmission fluid available. In fact, if there isn’t ATF inside the transmission, that’s a clue that the transmission was not dyno tested! When Gearstar delivers your transmission and converter package, there is 7-8 qts. of ATF already inside the transmission from dyno testing along with 3 qts. in the crate to top it off after installation!

Carbonfiber lock-up clutch, flanged hub, furnace brazed internal components, heavy duty Torrington bearings and a full billet cover are just some of the parts that form a Gearstar converter. All torque converters are electronically welded and computer balanced. Gearstar believes the torque converter is just as important as the transmission. Every converter is custom built specifically to each transmission creating the perfect package for each individual application. In fact, Gearstar does not sell a transmission without a converter and every transmission and converter unit are dyno tested as a package before shipping!

They begin by assessing the needs of the vehicle with a phone conversation between the customer and the builder. Transmission are custom remanufactured one at a time for each application, taking into consideration the car’s weight, horsepower, torque, rear gear ratio, and desired application – such as street cruising or racing.

Gearstar transmissions begin with high quality, late model cores stored with care on racks versus a typical “core pile” to avoid unsightly gashes or marks. They are thoroughly cleaned and assigned to one master builder who will handle it from start to finish. Certain transmissions are assigned to guys with expertise in a particular area such as GMs or Fords to ensure the highest quality. Gearstar also specializes in late model 5 and 6-speed automatic transmissions for cars and trucks such as the Alison 1000, GM 6L80 and 6L90, Mopar 5-45RFE, Dodge Challenger and Charger and Grand Cherokee SR8 NAG-1 transmissions.

“I like to think of a transmission purchase as a one time thing,” says Zack. “Like an engine, you should only have to buy one.” This attitude has helped them have less that 1% warranty returns, instead of the 30% that is the industry standard. They also feature a 36-month or 36,000-mile warranty, the longest in the industry.

In addition to using only the finest parts available, each transmission is paired with the proper converter and rigorously tested on a new, state of the art dyno by the builder. It is run through a testing procedure that simulates 50 to 100 miles of “driving.” During this time, they are able to simulate all driving conditions checking pressure, temperature, shift points, shift quality and shift timing as well as checking for any leaks and gear train noises. The dyno features a special fixture that allows the unit to be rotated 180 degrees for on the spot valve body calibration. Once the transmission passes testing, it is crated for shipping with nearly everything for installation, including cables and fluid, or it can be installed right at their facility.

Their facility is as unique as the company. It’s housed in an old train depot, built in 1900, that Zack has restored. Tech lines are open 7am to 10pm, with builders rotating responsibility for calls on nights and weekends, – times when people are actually working on their cars and need assistance.

"I get paid to build with the best parts, take all the time in the world and know that it’s going into a really cool car. What more could I ask for?" – Patrick , Gearstar’s resident transmission genius

Gearstar Performance Transmission is located in downtown Akron, Ohio.

Gearstar Performance Transmission is located in downtown Akron, Ohio.

Gearstar 700 R4 Level IV transmissions.

Bryan is preparing to instal a heavy duty input shaft into a Gearstar TH350.

This is a 3-4 high capacity clutch assembly being installed into a 4L60 Level IV transmission clutch drum using Raybestos Stage 1 Racing Frictions and Kolene Steels.

Installing the valve body of a Level 4 Chevy TH350. Each Transmission is handled by one master builder from start to finish.

Patrcik is installing a 4L60 – Level IV

Larry is doing the final bolt torque on a 5-45RFE pump assembly.

Gearstar’s dyno puts each transmission through50-100 miles of "driving" to allow assessment and adjustment of shift points and the valve body.

Mark is performing the final calibration on the transmission while it’s on the dyno.

Zack is testing a 4L65E – Level IV on the Dyno putting it through its paces, checking all pressures, shift timing, shift quality and performance.

Doug is disassembling a transmission to be remanufactured.

One of the builders installs an input clutch drum assembly into a 700R4.

Internal hard parts of a Gearstar 4L65E – Level 4 transmission. Gearstar uses only the finest components available. Internal components of a 200-R4 awaiting assembly.

Internal hard parts of a Gearstar 4L65E – Level 4 transmission. Gearstar uses only the finest components available. Internal components of a 200-R4 awaiting assembly.

David is installing a Gearstar NAG-1 trans into a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.

Master builder David building a transmission.

Patrick torquing a vlave body.

All Gearstar Performance transmissions are shipped in a Custom-Made Wood Crate with integrated Pallet and 2×4 Interior Frame to ensure every transmission is received in perfect condition.

A completed Gearstar Performance Transmission is ready and awaiting a dyno session. Notice the deeper trans pan and painted case.