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Old 01-28-2014, 12:48 PM   #1
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Gear Vendors Overdrive

We just acquired a 1991 350 LE.

It has 23K miles. When I found the blender canister and food processor attachments new in an unopened box we were hooked.

It was sitting stored in Texas at a private park we visited.

After a 400 mile drive home, I am interested in an overdrive. In the days this motorhome was built, 55 mph was the norm and the 4.56 rear end gearing was acceptable.

At today's speeds, I just wonder how long the 454 would last at 3400 rpm.

Does anyone have any experience with the Gear Vendors product?

I see a lot of comments on other forums that the advertised increase in MPG may be a bit overstated, but that is not really my primary objective.

I am mainly interested in getting the 454 engine a little breathing room at a high enough road speed to not be the guy in the motorhome clogging up traffic.

Thanks.


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Old 01-28-2014, 12:51 PM   #2
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What gives, Jeff? Was the trailer not funky enough for Burning Man and you needed to get more seriously retro?
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Old 01-28-2014, 01:31 PM   #3
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HA. We are having trouble deciding which to take.

I do believe my playa tuxedo would be particularly svelte attire exiting the 350 LE. With stainless martini stemware, of course.

The purchase was not really my idea. I blame Cindy. She says it spoke to her.

But, on the other hand, it seems that everyone has more than one Airstream anymore.


The American Aluminum Dream, right?


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Old 01-28-2014, 03:25 PM   #4
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It's been a few years but I went through enough gear vendors units on my 99 Dodge to put me on a first name basis with the president of the company. The best one lasted a couple hundred miles, the worst a couple thousand.
While it was nice when it worked it was far from trouble free.
At 458,000 on the truck I decided I was tired of the hassle and was happy to sell the rebuildable carcass to a hot rodder that gear vendors reffered me to.

It wasn't a problem with my driving as I have over 1/2 a million miles on the stock NV4500 manual transmission and never wore out a clutch before a pilot bearing or something else would require service
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Old 01-28-2014, 04:09 PM   #5
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Are larger diameter tires an option on motorhomes?
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Old 01-28-2014, 04:42 PM   #6
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I do know that Gear Vendors doesn't have the durability of the US Gear unit in my 310 TD, however US Gear cashed it in and doesn't produce any under/ over drives anymore, let alone parts for them.

Just by chance, what is your present transmission? 4sp or 5 sp?
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Old 01-28-2014, 05:03 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Isuzusweet View Post
I do know that Gear Vendors doesn't have the durability of the US Gear unit in my 310 TD, however US Gear cashed it in and doesn't produce any under/ over drives anymore, let alone parts for them.

Just by chance, what is your present transmission? 4sp or 5 sp?


That is the biggest problem, it is a three speed.

I have looked over the web searches fairly extensively, and these are first I have seen about durability issues. I hate to hear that.

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Old 01-28-2014, 05:16 PM   #8
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It's been a few years but I went through enough gear vendors units on my 99 Dodge to put me on a first name basis with the president of the company. The best one lasted a couple hundred miles, the worst a couple thousand.
I need to correct my previous statement.

It should have read the best lasted a couple hundred thousand miles
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Old 01-28-2014, 05:30 PM   #9
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A couple HUNDRED thousand miles is a very different scenario.


That seems quite reasonable. At least as long as I would expect the transmission it is bolted to might last.

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Old 01-28-2014, 05:39 PM   #10
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I have read about Rick's problem with the Gear Vendors but I have had no problems in about 40,000 miles and I bought it used. It's a pretty simple unit that started out as Laycock and has been used for years by Volvo, Jaguar, MG, Triumph and numerous others. On my Isuzu diesel it cuts the rpm down to a comfortable level. It didn't do much for the mpg but it really helped with the top speed. The old 4.56 gears would top out at about 67 mph and with the Gear Vendors 75 plus is no problem. I don't drive that fast but 62 to 65 is very comfortable.

The only thing I don't really care for is the unit has angle cut gears and they recommend taking it out of overdrive while going down grades as it pushes on the wrong side of the gear. It is not a problem on a long down grade because you don't need to ride the brakes. It's the little up an down roads when you have to decide if it's worth it to be going in and out of over drive or not. The really nice thing is the extra gears are great uphill with the not so powerful Isuzu.
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:07 PM   #11
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They strongly recommend you do not use gearing to decelerate. It also uses some kind of in oil type clutches. When I first got it they recommended using ATF. As troubles mounted they then went to the synthetic oil that Dodge and Chev were using in their manual transmissions at about $15. per qt and a 10,000 mile change interval.
I will say it never left me stranded but in one failure mode there was no reverse which makes one pretty careful on a 1000 mile trip home.
I also had problems with the solenoid dropping out which resulted in a hard downshift and several solenoid failures.
In fairness I should say that all this happened between probably 1997 and 2008 and the problems may well be worked out now.
It was my understanding that the Gear Vendors was based on an earlier design by Doug Nash.
I actually used it on 2 different trucks. On a 84 chev, diesel with 4.10 gears and no overdrive it was wonderful when it was working correctly.

On the 99 Dodge diesel which had overdrive already it was not as much difference. The RPM dropped but there was not a significant improvement in fuel economy.
The average user of course, would not be putting on the miles I was at that time and may well have a trouble free experience
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:33 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RickDavis View Post
They strongly recommend you do not use gearing to decelerate. It also uses some kind of in oil type clutches. When I first got it they recommended using ATF. As troubles mounted they then went to the synthetic oil that Dodge and Chev were using in their manual transmissions at about $15. per qt and a 10,000 mile change interval.
I will say it never left me stranded but in one failure mode there was no reverse which makes one pretty careful on a 1000 mile trip home.
I also had problems with the solenoid dropping out which resulted in a hard downshift and several solenoid failures.
In fairness I should say that all this happened between probably 1997 and 2008 and the problems may well be worked out now.
It was my understanding that the Gear Vendors was based on an earlier design by Doug Nash.
I actually used it on 2 different trucks. On a 84 chev, diesel with 4.10 gears and no overdrive it was wonderful when it was working correctly.

On the 99 Dodge diesel which had overdrive already it was not as much difference. The RPM dropped but there was not a significant improvement in fuel economy.
The average user of course, would not be putting on the miles I was at that time and may well have a trouble free experience
Just for reference this is from the Gear Vendors site.

True OEM Quality
OEM means that new vehicles have come factory equipped with GEAR VENDORS as original equipment. When GEAR VENDORS first started producing the DeNormanville planetary overdrive in 1979 there were no American vehicles with overdrive. Only the import cars with manual transmissions had an overdrive gear. Through the years we have worked with Ford, GM, and Chrysler and our products have come factory on everything from one of Americas fastest production cars (GM's TwinTurbo Callaway Corvette) to Americas largest RV manufacturer (Fleetwood Motorhomes). In 1981 we won our first Best Engineered award from SEMA (the largest automotive aftermarket organization). GEAR VENDORS is without question the most awarded and recognized aftermarket transmission product

Laycock de Normanville was the name on the tag on the units before Gear Vendor bought them.
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Old 01-28-2014, 06:41 PM   #13
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memory problem on my part. It may have been the U.S. Gear unit that was derived from the Doug Nash product
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Old 01-28-2014, 08:32 PM   #14
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memory problem on my part. It may have been the U.S. Gear unit that was derived from the Doug Nash product
We have all been there Rick. I have visited that place many more times than I like to admit.
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Old 01-28-2014, 08:41 PM   #15
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Congrats on the MoHo JD!
Cool ride.
My ol 70 Chevy C20 has a GVOD that was installed in around 1979 or so, I think. It recently decided to give up hope and quit on me last summer. It has over 100,000 miles on it, mostly with a pickup camper towing a boat by the previous owner. Luckily when they fail, they revert to direct drive. It definitely helped with the MPG on my C20 with 4.10 gears. I could get 15MPG on the highway pretty easily when it was working.
I'm still undecided on wether to rebuild it or install a 700-R4.
Good Luck and can't wait to see the MoHo!
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Old 01-29-2014, 03:19 AM   #16
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Congrats on the MoHo JD!
Cool ride.
My ol 70 Chevy C20 has a GVOD that was installed in around 1979 or so, I think. It recently decided to give up hope and quit on me last summer. It has over 100,000 miles on it, mostly with a pickup camper towing a boat by the previous owner. Luckily when they fail, they revert to direct drive. It definitely helped with the MPG on my C20 with 4.10 gears. I could get 15MPG on the highway pretty easily when it was working.
I'm still undecided on wether to rebuild it or install a 700-R4.
Good Luck and can't wait to see the MoHo!
Hi Lance,
Although the 700-R4 is a great transmission, it isn't up to the task of towing while in overdrive. From what I understand, the Gear Vendors unit can be used while towing, giving you an effective overdrive. I have a new Gear Vendors that I plan to install in my ex-Air Force 87 Diesel Suburban with a Banks Turbo & turbo 400 transmission, 4:10 gears (hopefully adding 3:73 gears at some point). My goal is to achieve similar mileage numbers to modern diesel pick- ups while towing & without the trailer.
Any idea what it costs to rebuild the Gear Vendors?.............perhaps cheaper than a new transmission?
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Old 01-29-2014, 05:20 AM   #17
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It's just money, right?

I'm not sure what it costs to rebuild a GVOD, but a factory rebuilt GVOD is around $1,000 and a hefty core charge of $800, a new electronic package is needed for $175, add some shipping and the price gets very hefty. Add the fact that my TH350 leaks fluid and will probably need to be rebuilt in the near future, and the 700-R4 looks better and better. I am more concerned with having overdrive when not towing. I have read that it is perfectly acceptable to tow with the GVOD however, when the GVOD worked, it was too much gear for towing my Ambassador in OD. It seems to tow much better with the RPMs at 3,500 where the engine makes max torque. I tow with it off and get around 8.5-9.5 MPG. I get about 10.5 MPG solo so, towing isn't much of a penalty without an OD of some sort.
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Old 01-29-2014, 05:52 AM   #18
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I'm not sure what it costs to rebuild a GVOD, but a factory rebuilt GVOD is around $1,000 and a hefty core charge of $800, a new electronic package is needed for $175, add some shipping and the price gets very hefty. Add the fact that my TH350 leaks fluid and will probably need to be rebuilt in the near future, and the 700-R4 looks better and better. I am more concerned with having overdrive when not towing. I have read that it is perfectly acceptable to tow with the GVOD however, when the GVOD worked, it was too much gear for towing my Ambassador in OD. It seems to tow much better with the RPMs at 3,500 where the engine makes max torque. I tow with it off and get around 8.5-9.5 MPG. I get about 10.5 MPG solo so, towing isn't much of a penalty without an OD of some sort.
You wouldn't have to pay the core charge if you supply the core though right? Your costs may be lower than a new tranny, which may only require gaskets etc. One of my former employees was a certified mechanic who grew up in his fathers transmission shop. He told me that heat was the big enemy of automatic transmissions, so if you have a great remote oil cooler & the fluid has not turned black, you may be in good shape with some minor seals & gaskets.

Several years ago I did the numbers for my Suburban set up & figured that with its current gearing, the engine was running at about 2600 rpm at 65 mph & would reduce to around 1800 if I installed the Gear Vendors & 3.73 gears. That's right in the sweet spot for the 6.2 diesel with the Banks Turbo. I'm really curious now to install it all...............when I "have time" My 59 Ambassador is lighter than yours & it punches a smaller hole in the wind, so I'm hoping that it'll work out well.
If you do decide to go with a "new" 700-R4, you might want to look into some of those specialty transmission shops that advertise in the numerous Street Rod mags. They've likely figured out all of the "tweaks" to make it right.
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Old 01-29-2014, 11:18 PM   #19
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Gear Vendors Overdrive

3400 RPM won't hurt that 454, back in the day I remember BB Chevys turning more than 4000 RPM hour after hour after hour under heavy load lasting over 100 K miles.

Besides, you could buy a new 454 for the cost of the gear venders unit and have change left over.

3500 only seems destructive because we are used to slower motors these days.
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Old 01-29-2014, 11:25 PM   #20
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Gear Vendors Overdrive

Oh, a cheaper way to get overdrive would be to switch to a 700R4 tranny, pretty much a bolt in except for shortening the driveline about 2".

(And using the right TV cable/Assy. Is critical.)

Edit,,,, sorry I should have read further before answering, I see that the 700R4 has been mentioned already.

This transmission when new was buggy and unreliable, it was updated into a fine transmission fully suitable in a tow vehicle or motor home.

If a person were squeamish about one in a stock configuration, (I am not) they can be bought in build suitable up to and beyond 800 HP......

A stock 700 would work fine behind a stock 454 and in front of 456 gears.
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