Ford had a fundamental challenge to its direction and future in the late 1950s—how to shed a stodgy image and dated technology. This effort began with a new generation of skirted-block FE-series V-8 engines in 1958. In 1960, Ford introduced its lightweight-iron Falcon and Comet sixes. The 90-degree Fairlane small-block V-8s followed in 1962. Prior to 1960, Ford cars and trucks were burdened with outdated, BorgWarner designed cast-iron MX and FX automatic transmissions known as Ford-O-Matics, Merc- O-Matics, and Cruise- O-Matics. The MX was a large-case automatic and the FX was small. Although these transmissions were rugged and dependable, they were heavy, complex, and not easily adapted to performance applications. This is when Ford engineers developed lightweight a l u m i n u m – c a s e automatic transmissions for an exciting lineup of automobiles that arrived in the 1960s.
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When Ford Falcon and Mercury Comet were introduced for 1960, they were available with a new lightweight Ford-O-Matic 2-speed transmission. It was designed and manufactured by BorgWarner for new-generation gray-wall-iron straight-6 and small V-8s. What made the little Ford-O-Matic different than its predecessors was its aluminum case and steel hard parts inside and out. In early applications, the Ford-O-Matic transferred heat to the atmosphere via the torque converter and cooling vents in the bell-housing, instead of using fluid as coolant and a transmission cooler in the radiator. Later versions had a transmission fluid cooler in the radiator.
The Ford-O-Matic and Merc-O-Matic were available behind the 144-, 170-, and 200-ci straight-6 engines, along with the 221- and 260-ci V-8s, which came later in 1962. The Ford-O Matic/Merc-O-Matic had a case-fill dipstick tube. Bell-housing and main case were cast as one to reduce weight and reduce the likelihood of leakage. At first glance, the 2-speed automatic looks like a cast aluminum FX or MX case.
Ford took what it learned from the 2-speed BorgWarner automatic and applied it to the C4 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic that arrived for the 1964 model year. The C4 was produced at Ford’s Sharonville, Ohio, transmission plant for its entire production life through 1981 and was the first automatic transmission Ford designed and built. The C4 employed a new state-of-the-art Simpson compound planetary gear set, which became an industry standard in the years to follow. The C4 got its name from the model year that it entered production: “C” for the 1960s decade and “4” for for the year, 1964. This naming practice didn’t last long—witness transmissions to follow like the C3 in the 1970s and C5 in the 1980s.
From 1964 to 1966 the C4 was called the Dual-Range Cruise-OMatic— known among enthusiasts as the Green Dot transmission. The C4 Dual-Range is equipped with a valve body that allows a driver to start out in second gear on snow and ice with a 2-3 upshift, which is the small dot (off detent next to neutral) on the indicator. The larger green dot at the detent next to “L” enables you to start out in first gear and go through a normal 1-2-3 upshift program.
Ford called its C4 the Cruise- O-Matic while Mercury called its C4 the Merc-O-Matic. It is important to note “Cruise-O-Matic” was a broad marketing name that applied to Ford automatic transmissions of the mid- 1960s era. Beginning in 1967, Cruise- O-Matic was dropped and the name “Select-Shift” was used for all Ford automatics.
For one model year only—1964— the C4 had a five-bolt bell-housing for V-8s only. In August 1964, the C4 and the V-8s it was mated to were fitted with a larger six-bolt bell-housing to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness.
For 1967, Ford did away with the Green Dot Dual-Range C4. Instead, it used a redesigned valve body offering a P-R-N-D-2-1 shift pattern known as Select-Shift. This valve body was used from 1967 to 1969. A redesigned C4 valve body and transmission case came along in 1970, which was used for the C4’s production life through 1981. In Drive, the C4 shifts the same as the Dual-Range at the large green dot with a normal 1-2-3 upshift program and the same gear ratios throughout. If you want to start out in low gear on snow and ice or to creep along in slow traffic, all you have to do is place the shifter in “2” (second gear) for controlled starts and no upshift.
As the C4 evolved, other design changes were introduced. There were C4 transmissions with pan-fill dipstick tubes (blended case and bell-housing with 164-tooth flex-plates). Most C4s were case-fill (notched case and bell-housing with 157-, or 148-tooth flex-plates). Pan-fill C4 transmissions with 164-tooth flex-plates and blended bell-housings were designed for full-size car and truck applications and are not recommended for compacts and intermediates because they just don’t fit.
The 148-tooth bell and flex-plate were designed specifically for Mustang II and Pinto/Bobcat/Capri with small transmission tunnels and are very hard to locate these days. There was also a version of the C4 produced with the 385-series (429/460) big-block bell-housing bolt pattern factory installed behind the 351M and 400M raised-deck Cleveland small-blocks in the 1970s. The 351/400M C4 is extremely rare because so few were produced.
The pan-fill C4 really is more about strength for heavy duty applications like full-size cars and trucks than anything else because the bell-housing bolts to the case outside the pump housing. Case-fill C4 transmissions are light-duty; the bell-housing bolts to the front pump instead of the main case.
The 1964–1969 C4 input shaft and clutch hub size was .788 inch with a 24-spline on both ends. In 1970, Ford gave the C4 a larger input shaft and clutch hub measuring .839 inch with 26 splines on both ends for improved durability. From 1971 to 1982, the C4 had a split-spline count. It had a .839-inch input shaft with a 26/24-spline configuration, meaning a 26-spline at the torque converter and a 24-spline at the clutch hub.
C4 valve body variations are important to note because they’re significant to your transmission building project. At this time, I’m aware of at least four different types of C4 valve bodies and I suspect there are more out there. For 1964–1966, there’s the Dual-Range/ Green Dot valve body. At a glance, the Dual-Range valve body looks identical to 1967–1969. Internally, it has different valving and shift programming.
There’s also the 1967–1969 valve body, which offers a conventional P-R-N-D-2-1 shift pattern.
For 1971–1981, the C4 valve body changed significantly and does not interchange with 1964–1969 bodies due to changes in the case. Case and valve-body bolt patterns changed for 1970–1981, which is why a 1964–1969 valve body does not fit a 1970–1981 case.
In 1982 Ford introduced the C5 Select-Shift transmission, which was nothing more than a C4 with a locking torque converter to improve fuel economy. The C5 was in production between 1982 and 1986 at the Livonia, Michigan, transmission and axle plant and is not recommended as a performance transmission as received from the factory. However, C5 cases and many internal components are similar or identical to the C4, and are quite suitable for performance applications thanks to their improvements, as discussed in Chapter 4.
Like the C4, C5s were produced as both case-fill and pan-fill with either 157- or 164-tooth flexplates. None were 148-tooth flexplate. What makes the C5’s main case desirable is improved oil circuits and some improvements to case strength.
Prior to 1966, Ford FE and MEL big-blocks were fitted with cast-iron MX and FX 3-speed automatic transmissions. For 1966, Ford introduced its own heavy-duty C6 3-speed automatic transmission for high torque applications behind large displacement big-block V-8s. Although the C6 has a completely different case and internal components than the C4, it is virtually the same internally to the C4—on a larger scale for heavy-duty use.
The C6 was produced with four basic bell-housing bolt patterns over its long production life and is a very rugged transmission designed for high-power applications. The round six-bolt pattern is for FE-series big-blocks such as the 332, 352, 361, 360, 390, 406, 427, and 428 engines. There is another distinctive six-bolt bell-housing pattern for the 429/460- ci 385-series big-blocks and the 351M and 400M Cleveland-based, raised deck V-8s. This six-bolt pattern arrived in 1968 with the 429/460 big-block V-8s.
There’s also the small-block C6 originally intended for 351W and 351C engines, which fits any six-bolt 289/302/351W/351C small-block bell-housing bolt pattern.
Finally, there was a C6 for Diesel engines beginning in the 1980s, before the E4OD (4R100) was introduced in 1989, punctuating this transmission’s reputation for durability. Despite the E4OD’s presence, Ford continued to build the C6 until 1996 for industrial applications.
By the 1970s, Ford had a respectable lineup of modern lightweight automatic transmissions. An ironic footnote to this story is the weighty cast-iron FMX transmission, which remained in production until 1981 behind 351W small-block engines. It was an easy off-the-shelf solution for Ford, which needed the FMX to keep up with production demands when there weren’t enough C4 and C6 transmissions to go around.
How to Read Ford Part and Casting Numbers
Ford part and casting numbers can be confusing. Once you come to understand this system, reading these numbers becomes second nature. There are actually two numbering systems. Here’s how the Ford 1964–1996 part/casting numbering system looks:
C5AP – 7006 – A
(PREFIX – BASIC PART NO. – SUFFIX)
The prefix tells you when the part was originally released for production, what car line it was released for, and what engineering group it came from.
The prefix breaks down like this:
First Position (Decade)
C = 1960–1969
D = 1970–1979
E = 1980–1989
F = 1990–1999
Second Position (Year of Decade)
4 = 1964
5 = 1965
6 = 1966
7 = 1967
8 = 1968
9 = 1969
0 = 1970
Then, the sequencing starts all over again at 1971 with “1,” again in 1981 with “1,” and again in 1991 at “1.”
Third Position (Car Line)
A = Ford
D = Falcon
G = Comet, Montego, Cyclone
J = Marine and Industrial
K = Edsel
M = Mercury
O = Fairlane, Torino
S = Thunderbird
T = Ford Truck
V = Lincoln
W = Cougar
Z = Mustang
Basic Part Number The basic part or casting number is the same whether it is an engineering number or a service number. For example, “7006” is the basic number for all automatic transmission main cases. What you’re concerned with mostly here is the prefix, which tells you year and basic application.
The suffix indicates the change level. “A” means original status of released part. “B” indicates at least one engineering change. The entire alphabet is used except the letters “I” and “L,” which could be mistaken for the numeral 1. When Ford goes through the entire alphabet, it starts over again at AA, AB, AC, AD, and so on.
It is important to understand that part, casting, engineering, and service numbers rarely match each other. The casting number is derived from the actual casting or part, and typically does not match the part, engineering, or service numbers. Unless the casting has been revised, the basic casting number does not change. It means the number you see in the casting does not match the part number in the Ford Master Parts Catalog. And if the catalog you are using is dated, as most are, expect even more changes in your Ford dealer’s microfiche or computer when it comes to suffixes. When demand for a part falls below a predetermined level, Ford discontinues or N/Rs the part. N/R means “Not Replaced.”
Date coding works like this:
4 = 1964
D = April
17 = Day
If the date code is cast into the piece, it indicates the date the piece was cast at the foundry. If the date code is stamped or inked, it indicates date of manufacture.
Written by George Reid and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc