Budget Friendly Manual Transmission Option For An LS Swap

We all know that automatics reign supreme at the dragstrip and require minimum effort while navigating the streets. However, there’s something majestic about grabbing gears with a manual transmission in a hotrod. It’s fun, and for years the T56 has been a popular option for people looking for a manual gearbox. But there’s only one problem. Finding a good T56 that doesn’t need a rebuild for a fair price is virtually impossible.

If you do a quick search on Craigslist or Facebook’s Marketplace, you will find a slew of these used transmissions starting at $1,500 and only going up from there. And while the Tremec Magnum transmission is a killer piece, but it’s pretty pricey for someone on a budget. So are there any other options for a solid manual transmission that won’t break the bank?

Maybe…

In the video above, the guys over at Clapd Out install an AR5 transmission in a LS-swapped Fox body. GM utilized the Aisin AR-5 transmission in the Colorado, Caynon, Solstice, and Sky. You can also find this gearbox in the Polaris Slingshot of all things. While none of the automobiles make tons of power, there are stories of the AR5 holding its own behind the LS platform even though it’s only rated at 260 lb-ft of torque. This makes it a viable option for anyone that wants a manual transmission that doesn’t need the double overdrive T56. The only problem is, the AR5 won’t merely bolt up to the LS. To make this transmission work, you will need the help of FABbot.

FABbot offers a billet adapter that will allow you to bolt on a 4l60e bell housing, making this a pretty simple conversion. This kit also includes a spacer for the throwout bearing, bearing, and hardware. The basic kit comes in at $419.95 and is available in other options, too, depending on your needs. The only question now is how much cheaper is the AR5 unit than the T56? We were able to locate some AR5’s for as low as $230 on the web that was tested with a 60-day guarantee.

If you’re worried about the transmission holding power, check out this video from Sloppy Mechanics. They made 900 horsepower and 800 lb-ft of torque with a Turbocharged LS-swapped Colorado. Now, it may not be able to take that power level for very long but still impressive.

The AR5 transmission might not be as good as the T56 because it has five gears instead of six and less of a torque rating. However, if you can pick one up for $200-$300, it’s worth a shot over a $2,000 T56 that could be junk. Plus, it’s nice to have options, especially when they are more cost-effective.

If you’ve run an AR5 in your project, let us know how it’s doing. We would like to know.

About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
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