One of the most popular of the new breed of automatic transmissions is General Motors' 4L80E, and that's what we chose to get the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour '59 Chevy into gear. The Hughes Transmission crew has years of experience with this transmission and they feel it is the perfect choice for those who want the strongest overdrive automatic available, and that was reason enough for our decision.

According to Hughes the 4L80E is the ideal automatic transmission for street rods. It has a gear spread that allows hard, off-the-line acceleration with an overdrive top cog for reduced engine rpm for long distance cruising (ratios are First, 2.48:1; Second, 1.48:1; Third, 1.00:1; and Fourth, 0.75:1). In addition, these transmissions can be made to withstand huge amounts of horsepower with modifications Hughes has perfected. Add to that a torque converter that allows higher-than-stock stall speed for maximum torque multiplication along with a lockup function, which virtually eliminates all heat buildup in the converter at cruising speeds for improved efficiency, and you've got the best in terms of performance and practicality.

Like all contemporary automatic overdrive transmissions the 4L80E requires an electronic control unit to operate. Hughes offers controllers that are pre-programmed and require no software, laptop, or PC for installation, tuning, or proper function and a pre-terminated wiring harness for simple plug-and-play operation is included. When required, a throttle position sensor (TPS) kit and mounting bracket that will work with virtually any carburetor is available; with EFI systems the Hughes harness is simply spliced into the existing TPS.


Hughes Performance has a 4L80E transmission available for practically any engine combination and power level. Their Street/Strip series is a great choice for combinations producing up to 850 flywheel horsepower, the Heavy Duty Street/Strip version is capable of withstanding 1,000-plus flywheel horsepower, and for those running even bigger numbers there is the Extreme Duty Street/Strip series that is rated for use with 1,500-plus flywheel horsepower. Keep in mind, the object of selecting a transmission is not to impress your friends but get the right transmission for the application. A crate motor won't require an Extreme Duty transmission, but if the engine in question is making 603 lb-ft of torque and 621 hp, like our Ron Shaver–built 430-inch LS, some improved parts are a wise choice. The best way to get the correct transmission for your application is to do what we did with the AMSOIL/STREET RODDER '59 Chevy—give Hughes a call and let them make a recommendation.

1. This is the completed Hughes Extreme Duty 4L80E transmission assembly for our Impala. From left to right: Tony Kane (Hughes' general manager), Dean Livermore (owner of Hot Rods By Dean, builder of the 2014 AMSOIL/STREET RODDER Road Tour '59 Chevy), and Danny Gutierrez (Hughes' transmission technician).

2. Each Hughes transmission is completely dyno tested to verify line pressure, shift function, and cooler flow before it goes out the door.

3. Hughes has an array of heavy-duty, high-performance parts for the 4L80E. Here is a comparison of stock GM components at the top—34-element intermediate sprag, intermediate outer sprag race, and direct drum. Lower components are Hughes Extreme Duty parts: 36-element intermediate sprag, Extreme Duty heat-treated, extra-wide intermediate outer sprag race (allows use of up to five intermediate frictions and steels instead of three), and Hughes-modified GM direct drum.

4. Clutch packs must be able to transfer power without slipping. Hughes' intermediate clutch pack (those responsible for Second gear) is beefed up with a billet steel pressure plate, five High Energy intermediate frictions, five intermediate steels, and a heavy-duty snap ring.

5. The direct clutch packs (responsible for direct drive or Third gear) are also improved with six red Alto direct frictions and six direct steels.

6. On the left is a forged steel forward clutch hub with Torrington roller thrust bearing for reduced friction and resistance to wear, on the right is the OEM GM forward clutch hub with thrust washer.

7. Improved bands are part of the Hughes' package, that's a Kevlar intermediate band on the left; right is high static rear band.