Ford Toploader transmission

A Toploader transmission is a manually shifted three and four speed gearbox introduced in 1963 by the Ford Motor Company to replace the BorgWarner T-10. It was used in most Fords and Mercurys from 1964 until 1973 as well as some foreign models. Officially designated the 3.03 three speed or Ford design four speed. The 3.03 is the centerline distance between counter shaft and mainshaft. The Toploader got its name from the fact that the access plate to the inner workings was located on the top of the main case as opposed to the side, a convention used on most gearboxes such as the Ford Dagenham or GM's Saginaw or Muncie. Distinguishing the three speed from the four is as simple as counting the fasteners on the top plate. The four speed has ten; the three, nine. Both the three and four speed top loader gearboxes were designed to function in constant mesh, due to synchronizer sleeves being used instead of sliding gears, and be fully synchronized, with the exception of reverse. Forward gears are helical-type while reverse gear including the exterior of the first and second synchronizers sleeve are spur-type gears. This transmission is also known as the Tremec T-170, HEH, or RUG depending on the year(s) of production.[1] At some point in the early 1970s production was moved to Mexico and the name was changed to Tremec.

Toploader Transmission
Toploader 4speed Transmission.jpg
Type3 or 4-speed manual
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
Also calledFord Design 4-Speed
Top Loader
PredecessorBorg-Warner T-10
Dagenham 4-speed


Renowned for high-performance strength and durability, the Toploader (particularly the four-speed) was equipped in such sought after "A-list" cars as the Mustang, Talladega, AC Cobra, AC Frua and Sunbeam Tiger as well as the Ford Fairlane, Falcon, Galaxie, Ranchero, Torino, Bronco and the Mercury Comet, Caliente, Cyclone, (Mercury Cougar 1967 1973) and Marauder. Overall, the Toploader was used in 133 different models and was used extensively in racing as well. The 3 speed 3.03 was also the heavy duty transmission in 1960s Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac cars, with FOMOCO cast into the right side of the case; such was common in those days, as Lincoln used GM's Hydra-Matic transmission for years in the early 1950s. It is the Jeep T150 with a cast top cover and a floor ("cane") shifter.


Top and side view, with Hurst shifter.

The Toploader comprises two components: the main case, which encloses the gears, input and counter shaft, and the tailhousing, which encloses the speedometer gear and output shaft. The main case measures 12" in length, while the tailhousing measures 14", 14 12" or 17", depending on the application.

Shifter bosses are cast into the tailhousing along various points depending on the location of the shifter, as required for each model. Generally Falcons and Comets have shifters mounted forward along the housing, Mustangs rearward, and Fairlanes and full size Fords somewhere in between. Toploaders were also designed for two specific applications: small blocks like the Ford Windsor engine, and big blocks like the Ford FE engine and Ford 385 engine series. Some big blocks required a larger "input shaft" to withstand the torque.

Toploader 4 speed

Application Engine used (cid) Toploader Length Input shaft OD Splines, input Splines, output
Cougar 289, 302, 351 26" 1 116" 10 28
Falcon, Comet 170, 200, 260, 289 26" 1 116" 10 28
Fairlane 1964-65 170, 200, 260, 289 25 12" 1 116" 10 28
Fairlane 1967-68 200, 289, 390 26" 1 116" 10 28
Maverick 200, 250, 302 26" 1 116" 10 28
Mustang 1964-73 200, 289 26" 1 116" 10 28
Ranchero 1967-68 200, 289, 390 26" 1 116" 10 28
Tiger, TVR 260, 289 27 12" 1 116" 10 28
Fords, Mercurys 200, 289, 390 29" 1 116" 10 28
Ranchero 1969 up 302,351C, 428, 429 29" 1 38" 10 31
Fords, Mercurys 428, 429, Boss 29" 1 38" 10 31
Mustang 1968 up 427, 428, Boss 26" 1 38" 10 31

Note: 1964 and early 1965 Toploaders came with 25 spline output shafts which subsequently proved to be defective and were quickly replaced.

Gear RatiosEdit

Toploader 4 speed - Close

1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Ratio 2.32 1.69 1.29 1.00
Tooth Count 32 28 25 23
Counter Gear Tooth Count 15 18 21 25

Toploader 4 speed - Wide

1st 2nd 3rd 4th
Ratio 2.78 1.93 1.36 1.00
Tooth Count 32 31 25 23
Counter Gear Tooth Count 15 21 24 30

Note: Gear ratio is determined by tooth count on second gear. Close ratio has 28 teeth, wide has 31.


  1. ^ O'Clair, Jim (February 2007). "Ford Toploader Four-speed Transmission". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 2010-01-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External linksEdit