Part 4: Automatic Power
You could have 700 horses steaming with muscle at the crank, but if you can't get the power to the ground, then all you have is an angry stable. When we first thought up this crazy idea of stuffing an 8.3L Dodge Viper engine into our '99 Durango, we knew that our transmission options would be limited. Since the six-speed that's standard in the factory coupes weren't designed for the type of wheeling and drivetrain we had in mind, we needed to look in a different direction.
While researching the lineage of the Viper power-plant we found the 48RE to be the only automatic transmission ever placed behind the mighty 8.3L V-10. Showing up in the SRT-10 Ram trucks, this beefy automatic was the obvious transmission for our needs. Though the 48RE behind the V-10 was only available with a two-wheel-drive tailhousing, the overall case and internals are basically the same as the 48RE in our '06 Dodge Ram 4x4 powered by the 5.9L Cummins diesel.
Remembering that the stock unit in our '06 Ram had a couple of weak points once we turned up the power, we looked to the transmission experts at North American Diesel Performance to build us a 48RE that could handle all the grunt of the Viper V-10. NADP builds transmissions to withstand the 1,000-plus horsepower and torque potential that the robust Cummins diesels are known to put out after performance modifications, so the 540 hp and 580 lb-ft of the 8.3L would hardly be a challenge for the company.
Still wrenching away in Wilmington, North Carolina, with the performance perfectionist at National Speed, we continued shoehorning the massive powertrain into our Rockwell-equipped Heavy Metal Mudder. Be sure to check back next month as we follow up our bulletproof transmission with a geardriven transfer case and start work on the V-10 fuel delivery system.
With lots still to do on our Heavy Metal Mudder, next moth we will continue our drivertrain install and get this Mopar monster a new transfer case. Once we find the geardriven torque divider a new home, we'll get started fueling up with a custom fuel cell and delivery system.