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Stan, you'll get through this the way we always do - dealing with one thing and one day at a time.

We're just over a long family illness that ended up lasting six years. It was the waiting for the next shoe to drop that was the worst part. But we muddle through. It's what we do.

You're probably not driving or even thinking about the car too much now, but sometimes just having something like that waiting in the wings can help. It's a symbol of normal, happier times, and that you'll get those days back again, eventually.


Sacto Mitch posted:


Ed, I think we've found two ways to say the same thing.

Standard top gear overall gearing is 3.66 (.89 x 4.12 r&p)

I was paying extra for lower gearing of 3.45 (.89 x 3.88 r&p)

What I got for my money was even higher than stock gearing of 3.79 (.92 x 4.12 r&p)

I gave the example of how that gearing felt by saying it was the same as running a standard .89 top gear with a 4.27 r&p (.89 x 4.27 = 3.80).

One of the problems with any gearing discussion is that things get way too complicated and confusing very early on.



What .Mitch received with the car was a 4.12 ring/pinion with a .093 4th gear. That combo is like having a 4.37 R/P.  His second trans was built with a 3.88 R/P and a .089 fourth. That is a typical freeway flyer. His five uses the fourth gear as fifth.  Keep in mind that RPM at 70 mph depends not only what gear combo you but how tall your tires are!

Jack queried: " If you have a 5 speed transmission fill in the blank;

At 70 mph my tach shows______________RPMs."

Tony explained this, but I'll take a stab, too:

Jim's Suby transaxle (which is geared to keep the engine between 1,200 and 2,200 RPMs) gets him down to a little lower RPM than most of the VW transaxles would, but that's what his engine likes.

VW engines like 3,000 rpm for air cooling purposes, so when cruising, your sweet spot is 3,000 - 3,500 rpm.  A close-ratio five speed means that the overall drive ratio (the ratio of your ring and pinion - Say, 3:88 or 4:12) stays the same for both the 4 speed and 5 speed UNLESS the 5'th gear is used as an overdrive.  You mess with the ratio spacing of gears 2-3-4 and move the old 4'th gear ratio to the new 5'th gear

What we've been seeing in the transaxle discussion is a muddling of both, but a standard 4-speed gearbox will have a 4'th gear range of .89 - .92  (3:88 R&P).  A close-ratio 5-speed gearbox will have closer spacing between 2, 3 and 4 but STILL give you that same .89 - .92 (and same 3:88 R&P) as your top, or 5'th gear.

The bottom line is, unless your 5'th gear is an overdrive gear, it will show the same RPM's at 70mph as a 4-speed, all other things being equal - probably around 3,250.  

Hope this helps.


very nice Gordon. 

The five speed gear stack choices depend on your ring/pinion and first gear ratio. The speedsters do not need a super low first gear. A 3.80 or 3.78 work fine. From there you build your gear stack. Both mainshaft first gear combos have a 2.06 second gear. Now the decisions come into play.  Do you want a close ratio gear stack or wide ratio? Most say close but the wide is what they really need. A close ratio stack is great for stoplight to stoplight or the drag strip. Example would be the third gear being a 1.70 and fourth a 1.31 then your fifth a .089 or .093.  The other combo which suits most is what I call the wide ratio stack. 1.58 or 1.48 third and 1.26 or 1.14 fourth. The fifth is usually .089. These combos are usually with a 3.88 ring/pinion.  I have ran these combos with either a 4.12 or 3.88 and they work fine. With a 4.12 r/p I used a .082 fifth which gives me a finial drive as if I had a 3.88 with the .089.  Confused even more now!  One can also use a 3.44 R/p with a .093 to match the 3.88 with the .089 or use a .089 and depending on height of tire they be cruising at 70+ under 3,000 rpm's. So if your either building a trans, trying to increase air flow to either cool a air cooled engine or ducting air for a water cooled engine there are the basics and we try to improve the results to suit ones application but there is no need to reinvent the wheel. 



Hey Danny,

You may be referring to me regarding tire/wheel size and final drive ratios.  Thx, I'm aware of that, but Jack deserved a response and I'm a long way from my car, so I gave all the info I had from memory.  I only know tire diameter in general terms, i.e., about 25".

On another note, I hope your BIIIIIIIIIIIG trip takes place.  You'll love it.  We all deserve a trip like that at some point in our lives. 

Thanks Jim, IMray & Marty.  I have always wondered what was thr result going down the road of RPMs at 70 .  I know the tire diameter is one factor and it looke like all three our diameters are different.  Disregarding the three car's tire sizes I get an average of 3,033 rpms at 70.  Mine with the 15" tires  I'm using is 3,200 rpms . 

This is a much closer result than I had been thinking.  My combo was set up for fast highway  driving rather than regard for spacing between gears which is more important for around town driving, although the spacing between my gears is not anything I ever think about.  With 105 RWHP (130 @the flywheel) I can drive around town in 4th at 30-40 mph without ever needing to drop down to 3rd gear.  (With my old 1915 I had to pretty much use 3rd gear all the time in town on level roads).

Bottom line understanding my very rough calculations, with my 4 speed tranny vs. the average 5 speed, at 70 mph I am turning 167 rpms, or 5.5% more than the 5 speeds reported here. If I was using 17" tires it would be even closer but I don't know how to calculate that.

I always wondered what I might be missing staying with a 4 speed vs a 5 speed but I guess the answer is not much.  I am happy to finally get a handle on this issue.

I wonder how much more a 5 speed costs over a 4 speed. 

Lots of very damned smart people on here and I mean philosophically as well as mechanically !

The cost factor to build a 5 speed is $$ but in the big picture no different than any other major improvement. starting from nothing, need two cores, decide on what ring and pinion you want. if a 3.88, then look for a late model core. Then there is buying the kit from berg. 2,300.00 by the time you ship your mainshaft and pinion shaft to them, trans mount and shifter.  then there is the third and fourth gears, that's another $700.00 or so. Then one decides on a quafie or LSD unit or just go with a stock diff if going swing axle. if IRS you can get by with a super diff. cost goes from stock diff=0, to IRS super diff=$200.00 or a swing axle LSD or Quafie at 2,300-1695.00. I will not offer a swing axle super diff for any speedster owner. Then there's the axles? swing aftermarket or stock axles?  case gusset or side-covers are optional, painting or polishing trans is extra,  we get about 800-1,100 to assembly one. The last expense is installing it in the car.  VW pan or custom chassis? costs vary on that. Not cheap but nothing is cheap these days. Once you drive it you will never question the cost.

Jack, its all in the drivabilty like Anthony stated.  Think of it like this.  Assuming 5th is just an overdrive gear   you end up with four gears to space for  spirited driving   So, your fourth gear(in a VW four speed) doesn't  have to share space trying to be a gear you motor with and a gear your having to cruise with.  You have 25% more space.  At least  that's how I understand it.   So basically, rpm cruising doesn't tell the whole story . 

Last edited by Marty Grzynkowicz


For me, lowering highway cruising revs had nothing to do with the decision to get a five-speed.

The main problem is that the 'standard' VW top gear (.89) is technically already an 'overdrive' ratio ('overdrive' is usually taken to mean any ratio less than 1.00). If you go to a 3.88 'freeway flyer' r&p (from the standard 4.12), your .89 top gear becomes an even higher 'overdrive' gear.

As Marty suggests, that leaves only three gears to use when you're not 'flying on the freeway'. Add to that the fact that VW gears were originally designed for a 40 hp engine and had to make it up some pretty steep alps, and you ended up with first and second gears that are extra low compared to most modern cars.

Between the very low low gears and the overdrive fourth are some pretty wide open spaces between gears. And our AC engines tend to sound like they're screaming when they get close to 4000 rpm, so an extra gear to fill in the gaps gives you a car that's a lot more driveable around town and going up hills.

Again, you don't absolutely need five speeds, but the extra cog makes the car quieter to drive around town and lets you climb hills with less stress on the engine.

A subject for another post is that five well-spaced gears make the car accelerate a whole lot quicker, too. Although, as a mature, responsible adult, that had absolutely nothing to do with my decision.


You know-- part of the confusion (every time this comes up) is the sheer number of individual gears, ring and pinion gears, wheels sizes, and tire sizes available. It's not like this with most vehicles. If you want the Subaru 5-speed, you are going to live with the Subaru gear ratios. The 901 and 915 Porsche transaxles have a few choices available-- but there are 10 or more gear available for every single gear with a VW transaxle, as well as about that many ring and pinion gears. That's a LOT of different combinations when you start to play with them. And some of us have played with with them no small amount.

@Jack Crosby, A Berg 5-speed (like a VW 4-speed) can be set up any way you'd like.  If what you think a 5-speed should be is an extra-long highway gear, then you can set it up like that. If what you think it should be is an extra step along the way, then you can set it up like that. That's what the dozens of discussions regarding ratios, and the calculators, and all manner of "boring" stuff are generally about. There really isn't one answer to your question ("when I am in 5th gear going 70 mph, I'm turning _________ RPM"), any more than there is one answer to the question, "my type 1 engine makes_____ horsepower). The answer to your question could be anything from 2000 RPM to 5000 RPM, just like the answer to mine could vary from about 35 hp to about 350 hp.

That's the magic of the platform-- it can be pretty much anything you want it to be.

Last edited by Stan Galat

So, Jack......What'cha think?

The bottom line is........close ratio 5-speeds make your car "more fun" on roads like the Tail of the Dragon because you can select a gear to keep your engine in it's "sweet spot" of power and cooling easier in a 5-speed.

4-Speeds can sort-of do the same thing, but it will feel less "fun" and you'll be shifting more to keep it in the "sweet spot" and most-of-the-time would wish for a gear in-between what you currently have.

Either gearbox will feel approximately the same when in top gear (either 4'th or 5'th, depending on the gearbox chosen) because they're both the same in top gear, anyway.

Geez........Dealing with an errant, stainless steel nut is easier than this.........THIS gives me a headache!

JACK!  Has the temp dropped below 80º in "Dogpatch" yet?

Last edited by Gordon Nichols

74 degree high here today, Gordon.  Still sensational driving weather.

Hope you're well.

How many bike miles are you up to so far this year?

And Mitch--I am not limited to three gears around town at all because there is more than ample power  to use 4th almost everywhere around town, as I noted above.  The exact opposite of being forced to use 3rd around town with a 1,600 cc engine.  And sometimes even 2nd.

I do appreciate all the discussion about 5 speeds as I wondered what the difference was.  I'm satisfied with my combo and that's what we all are striving for, I believe.  Being unsatisfied can cost a fortune as we all know---right?

Last edited by Jack Crosby
Jack Crosby posted:

74 degree high here today, Gordon.  Still sensational driving weather.

Hope you're well.

How many bike miles are you up to so far this year?

And Mitch--I am not limited to three gears around town at all because there is more than ample power  to use 4th almost everywhere around town, as I noted above.  The exact opposite of being forced to use 3rd around town with a 1,600 cc engine.  And sometimes even 2nd.

I do appreciate all the discussion about 5 speeds as I wondered what the difference was.  I'm satisfied with my combo and that's what we all are striving for, I believe.  Being unsatisfied can cost a fortune as we all know---right?

it's all about the driver and the combination of the engine, trans and Driving Style. I have another friend/customer that is perfectly happy with his engine & trans combo. It suits his driving style. He takes it on short trips around town and back roads, out to dinner on those warm spring and fall evenings. So the five speed is not a must have, but one of those things once you have it you wonder why did it take you so long to get it. Have a Wonderful Day! 


Jack, I blame it all on the devil and Terry Nuckels.

Like you, I was perfectly happy driving my four-speed through the wine country on crisp fall afternoons, with visions of Primitivo and Sauvignon Blanc dancing in my head and nary a discouraging word on my lips.

Then, I fell to temptation. I drove Terry's car.

The sky was never quite as blue again. My glass of Primitivo no longer had as nice a nose. Or as complex and lingering a finish.

I lusted for something I did not possess.

Jack, drive the hell out of your car and never look back. But if Terry Nuckels ever offers you a few minutes behind the wheel, tell him, "Thanks, but no thanks."


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