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Thinking about rebuilding my ribcase


Jedi Knight
Country flag
I took my ribcase down to a local trans shop who has a great reputation, and they pulled the inspection cover and said everything inside looks great. Obviously you can't tell about the syncros, but all else is good. So he recommended a seal kit and bearings, clean it up and call it good. He charges $400 labor plus parts, so I was thinking of MAYBE trying it myself. I figure if its just seals and bearings, how hard can it be? So, for those of you out there who have done this, advice? How hard of a job is this? I have the factory manual, should I use that or some other resource?
Thanks in advance for the help!


Jedi Hopeful
I also plan (when I get to that stage of the project) to rebuild my ribcase.

Am I naive (insane) for thinking this is a job I can (albeit slowly) do myself? :smile:


Jedi Knight
Country flag
I did this last year for my very first rebuild. I ended up needing two transmissions to make one. I also had to buy a ton of parts to make it work. The tricky part is being able to get the three balls in the 3-4 sychro all at the same time and fitting two keepers to hold the mainshaft parts on. Also, it can be tricky to get all the shift balls, parts and springs which control the shift levers in the side cover.
My build was not totally successful. I ended up with too much noise in all the indirect gears. Some say it is the cut of the gears, I think it may be the output shaft bearing.
I took the big jump to a Datsun 5-speed from BillM. Plan to put it in this month or so.
I am going to try the rebuild of the ribcase, just for the fun of it and to see if I can find the problem.
Scott in CA


Staff member
Country flag
I have a PDF of the first 2 of a three part series on rebuilding a 1275 transmission from Practical Classics. PM me your email if you want it. Also, BillM? (someone) rebuilt theirs with pictures on the forum here within the last year. It is definitely doable.


Luke Skywalker
bugedd said:
they pulled the inspection cover and said everything inside looks great. Obviously you can't tell about the syncros, but all else is good.
Thanks in advance for the help!

Actually, other than checkiing for broken teeth, checking the synchros is the <span style="font-style: italic">only</span> thing you can check by opening the inspection cover. They should know that, but maybe he didn't want to take the time.

It can certainly be done, depending on your skill level, but the price is actually reasonable for the amount of work, provided they do it right. I've had a number of "professionally rebuilt" transmissions brought back to me after failing within 3 months. What sort of problems are you having with it that makes you what sort rebuild it? It helps to know symptoms/problems before you start.



Senior Member
I suggest you take JPSmits offer, do your homework and re evaluate if you still feel confident undertaking the task.

Just be cautions when rebuild a gearbox so you don't end up giving yourself more work than necessary or end up handing it over to a professional anyway. I have never rebuilt a ribcase but just did my type9 and have experience with a couple of volvo and triumph gearboxes and only ruined one of them. :laugh:

I have faith in you!


It's not that difficult to do. The factory manual is good, but there are a few areas where the illustrations and descriptions don't accurately depict the ribcase. However, expect more than just bearings and seals/gaskets to need replacement. The layshaft usually will need replacement, as well as at least some of the synchros. Other typical wear areas are the selector forks and the detents on the selector rods. I've rebuilt 6 or 8 of them, and each one I've done has required at least one part that wasn't covered by the basic rebuild kits.


Obi Wan
Country flag
So, is there a problem that leads you to thinking that the bearings and such are bad? Does it shift OK? Grind between gears? Is it noisy?

In my opinion, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Even if it isn't perfect, pulling the engine and transmission later is no big deal. So, unless there is a good reason to dig into it, I'd say, leave it alone.


Jedi Hopeful
If you like puzzles, you will have fun tearing a ribcase down and putting it back together. If you lack patience, expect a cerebral hemorrhage before you are done. Part of the fun I have in owning my 59BE is to do as much of the work on it that my skills will allow. I've always thought of working on a manual transmission as being a bit past my skill level, but in the process of collecting parts for my BE project, I ended up with two non functioning ribcase transmissions, a box of NOS gears, and a rebuild kit. After reading up on it, I thought I would attempt to put together a functioning gearbox from all these parts to have as a spare. I was able to get the transmission completely apart and back together again. Was this easy? Not really. One notable task was getting three spring loaded 9/32 steel balls compressed into a fitting at the same time. Luckily I had spares, as most of the ones I started with got launched into outer space. It would have been best to work with someone who really knew their way around a ribcase, but I did not have that luxury. I have several service manuals like Haynes that cover the ribcase, but found that there are errors in the Haynes manual due to the fact that the smoothcase and ribcase are slightly different.

I can shift it through all the gears just fine, but what I don't know is how it will perform if I ever have to install it. All the parts I used looked visibly OK, but not being an expert, I am not sure I know what is OK vs not OK. What would be great if someone who really knew the insides of these gearboxes could provide some more details on what to look for or do above and beyond what you find in the service manuals.
Also something to consider, if you used mismatched gears from different gearboxes, gears over time wear together, so when you use used gears form different gearboxes together, you're are almost always going to have some noise, over time the gears should wear together and it quiet down. This is true with all gearboxes, not just the ribcage. So if you do this type of rebuild, give it some time before you throw in towell if you have some gear noise, it will take a little wear time for everthing to re-mesh, if you will, sometimes all the whine does not go away, but lessens enough to live with.


Luke Skywalker
TexasSprite said:
If you like puzzles, you will have fun tearing a ribcase down and putting it back together. If you lack patience, expect a cerebral hemorrhage before you are done.

LOL... Very well put, TexasSprite... :iagree:


Jedi Knight
Country flag
When I bought my Bugeye a year ago, it came with a hammered smooth case in the car, which I still limp around, and a rib case as a spare. I figure it would be dumb of me to just put it in without going through it first.


Luke Skywalker
Hap Waldrop said:
Also something to consider, if you used mismatched gears ...

That reminds me... there are different gear sets in rib case transmissions. They are <span style="font-style: italic">not</span> interchangeable. If you are putting parts from two different gearboxes together, check part numbers stamped in the gears to make sure you are using the compatible part.



Lots of good advice! I've only done one and it worked out fine though as Hap mentioned it is a little noisey in lower gears. They are probably one of the simplest tranny's around though and if you do it yourself I want to recommend that you do it in a very clean area in case something goes flying! I had to order the thrust washer because of that!
Use gun grease to hold the detents in and bits of wire came in handy as well.



Jedi Hopeful
I agree; lots of great advice. Mine has been sitting around for 20 years, and I have no idea of the condition it was in prior to being pulled from the car; it is still attached to the engine. Based on the data I have, I feel like a rebuild is obligatory.
Basicly the a-series inline gearboxes leaves alot to be desired, if you use them hard, you will use them up. It real hard to find a used one that does not need repairs.

I got a good friend who is starting to get ready to build Spridget racing gearboxes, these gear boxes will be dog engagment and have on track useable 1st gear, nothing you would ever use on street car, we're making our gearsets via CNC, and have a buttload of stock ribcage gearboxes we will using to case the new dog engagement gear sets in. So in the very near future, we will disassembling alot of stock rib cage gearboxes and be offering good stock parts for sale as we will have no use for them.


Jedi Warrior
The ribcage gearboxes are simple to repair, just study the manual for the disassembly and as the manuals will say apply the reverse assembly procedure to put it all together again.

I elected to go with the Datsun 5 speed with a very trick 1380 with lots of modifications, felt the extra HP would be more suitable for the 5 speed instead of the ribcage. The gearbox was in perfect shape when I purchase it; I believed it only had 100k on it. I couldn’t stand not getting into it, so I went ahead and freshen it up too, synchros all the bearing, seals o-rings, gaskets, I was lucky the gears were absolutely perfect.
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