Remember when the “new” 700-R4 came on the scene? Well, the 700-R4 was introduced 30 years ago in 1982 and is still a solid choice for an overdrive transmission for carbureted cars. The GM 4L60E evolved from that transmission in 1997, yes, the 4L60E is 15 years old (don’t ask me how that happened so quickly) and while it is hardly new technology, the 4L60E through 4L80 transmissions are by far the best overdrive automatic transmissions on the planet. And after waiting 20 years, maybe it’s time for one in your hot rod.

The 4L60E nomenclature can be broken down like this, four-speeds, longitudinally positioned, 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight (GVW), electronically controlled. While the 6 designates 6,000 pounds GVW, it should be noted the transmission is used in trucks weighing over 8,000 pounds, so this is one very tough tranny.

While the transmission is 20 years old, new technology to simplify and improve the controls of this electronically shifted transmission continues to come on the scene. Much like electronically controlled engines, swapping a 4L60E as well as the 4L70E, 4L80E, and 4L85E and the TCI Automotive 6x Six-Speed Transmission is now easier than ever. TCI Automotive introduced a controller for this family of transmissions. It’s hard to beat the new TCI Automotive EZ-TCU.

No computer experience is required, simply wire the car as per the directions, plug in the included handheld device, and begin reading and answering the simple Setup Wizard questions as they appear on the screen. The EZ-TCU does all the work for you; if you can read this story (or know someone who can) you can install this controller. The initial setup will work for most street rodders, but should you want to dial in a performance mode setting for running the local autocross or dragstrip, which can be done in similar fashion. Simply scroll through the advanced settings and pick shift points by rpm, shift firmness, and shift speed. You can take these settings all the way to the extreme of making your 4L60E a full manual shift transmission, controlled by paddles on a steering wheel or with one of the TCI Automotive bump-up, bump-down shifters. Bear in mind if you go to full-manual shifting there’s no shift point, so not over-revving the engine becomes your responsibility. It’s strongly recommended that some type of rev-limiter be installed on the motor to prevent unwanted damage. Once you have designed your performance mode it can be saved for future use. This enables you to drive to an event in a comfortable, economical mode and then, with the push of a button, convert the transmission to your performance setting. Plus, the hand-held controller doubles as a code reader for the transmission so should there be a problem with the transmission the handheld device can read the codes for you. Pretty cool stuff.

The 4L60E family of transmissions is easy to find in any wrecking yard or you can order a completely rebuilt unit from companies like TCI Automotive. The bellhousing flange will permit this transmission to bolt up to virtually any small-block, big-block, and even the Chevrolet V-6. There is a big difference between a 4L60E from a 2.8-liter and one from the more desired 5.7-liter or an LS1. Be certain you are purchasing a V-8 transmission for your street rod. If you plan on using this transmission with a carbureted engine you must install a throttle position sensor, and frankly the 700-R4 is probably a more cost-effective way of providing an overdrive transmission for the early carbureted motors.

With this new simple controller available there is more reason than ever to convert to a modern transmission. If this simplified controller isn’t enough to have you looking for an overdrive transmission, the $4 per gallon gas should provide additional incentive.