Bendtsen's Shop Feature ('Ol School Rodz Issue #39: May 2010)
Who doesn't like the idea of running a vintage Olds Rocket V8, a Nailhead Buick, a Ford Y-block, or even a Pontiac straight eight in your custom or hot rod? Heck yeah, man, nothing cooler than a vintage engine in a custom or rod. Cast iron and carburetors forever, right? Well, yes, but about that old two-speed Hydramatic, Buick Dynaflow, Chrysler Fluid Drive or the non-syncro manual tranny. Transmissions like those are the weak link in a vintage drivetrain for a trio of reasons. One, they are getting difficult to find parts for; two, it's hard to find a transmission man with experience on the older trannys; and three, the old transmissions had a 1:1 top gear ratio, so they're not very good in the fuel economy department.
Vintage engines are as easy to rebuild as a newer one (or easier) and parts are readily available to do so from companies like Egge Machine. The old read ends are near bulletproof and have been used for drag racing since the 1950s. It's the transmissions that used to be the problem. I say "used to be" because that is no longer the case. Bendtsen's Speed Gems in Ham Lake, Minnesota, makes high quality, well-engineered adapters to put a modern Chevrolet overdrive automatic or manual transmission, or an overdrive Ford in some cases, behind almost any vintage engine you can think of.
Like most business owners in our field, Bob Bendtsen says he started creating and selling transmission adapters to fill a need he saw when building his own hot rods. He was tired of seeing guys yank a good running vintage engine out of a car, or pass one up for a hot rod and plug in the universal small block Chevy simply because of the vintage transmission's weaknesses. So he started engineering the various adapters at his transmission shop and offering them to guys like you and me.
Their list of engines they can adapt includes Studebaker V8s. Buick Nailheads and straight eights, Olds Rockets, Ford flatheads and Y-blocks. Pontiac V8s and straight eights, and on and on. In Car Kulture Deluxe #16, we ran an article about using a Bendtsen's adapter to put a Ford C6 transmission behind my 1959 Edsel 292 Y-block. Everything worked as designed and two subsequent owners of the that car have used it as a daily driver with no issues. We have an adapter kit in the garage right now to put a 700R4 behind my 1961 Pontiac 389 in the near future too.
If Bendtsen can lay his hands on an engine he can adapt it, matter what it is. Bob's own Model A coupe pictured here will attest to that fact. It's running a Seagraves fire truck V12 adapted bu Bendtsen to a GM 700R4. We rest our case.