Where It All Started—TREMEC Transmissions
NMCA Muscle Car / Ainsley Jacobs / May 15, 2023
Known around the globe for producing some of the baddest manual transmissions in drag racing, TREMEC is a leading manufacturer of torque transfer solutions that surprisingly got its start thanks to government regulation.
In 1964, the Mexican government mandated that — for vehicles already being produced in Mexico — 60 percent of the components, such as engines and transmissions, had to also be manufactured in Mexico. To comply, Ford Motor Company partnered with American-based Clark Transmissions to form a new manufacturing company. Spearheaded by a group of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, Transmisiones y Equipos Mecánicos (Transmissions and Mechanical Equipment) a.k.a. “TREMEC” was founded.
Owned by the Senderos family and located in Mexico City, the TREMEC company manufactured gearboxes for the automotive industry. “The first transmission TREMEC made was the four-speed Toploader for the Ford F100 pickup truck,” noted Mike Kidd, TREMEC’s Aftermarket Business Unit Manager and a member of the organization since 1989.
From its mass-production manual transmission roots to its current reputation for producing high-end drag racing transmissions, TREMEC evolved to produce so much more between both ends of the spectrum. “TREMEC manufactures torque transfer solutions — basically, anything that transfers torque from the engine to the wheels of a vehicle,” Kidd elaborated on the company’s mission. “TREMEC manufactures geared hub ends and geared fan drives for Humvee, engine timing gears for Volvo, the gears and shafts for a competitor in the medium and heavy-duty market, gears for Case New Holland, and much more.”
However, TREMEC’s most popular transmission in racing, the T-56, quickly became an icon in the performance industry thanks to its ability to reliably withstand the abuse of high-horsepower applications. This six-speed manual gearbox was originally designed and built by BorgWarner for the Dodge Viper in 1992, however, TREMEC purchased BorgWarner’s North American manual transmission business sector in 1996.
“At the time, that encompassed the T-5 five-speed as well as the T-56,” shared Kidd. “The six-speed T-56 came about as a way to help automakers comply with the NHTSA’s Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards thanks to it being a double-overdrive unit.”
TREMEC used the architecture from the T-56 to grow its offerings in the automotive market and the iconic transmission served as a platform to develop new transmissions like the comparable five-speed, the TR-3650. The T-56 was upgraded in 2007 to the TR-6060; debuting in the 2007 Ford Mustang GT500, the TR-6060 featured larger gears, larger shafts, and synchronizers with greater capacity. The TR-6060 inspired the development of the six-speed TR-3160, a smaller version of the TR-6060. In 2009, TREMEC introduced the Magnum as the upgraded six-speed for the aftermarket. TREMEC then expanded its line of transmissions to include many other applications such as the new five-speed TKX, the first transmission specifically developed for the aftermarket.
Although its core remains in Mexico, TREMEC has a longstanding history of conducting much of its business in the United States. After moving through several different locations, a portion of the company’s sales and engineering team — including Kidd — are housed within a manufacturing campus in Wixom, Michigan. A wholly-owned business unit of Grupo KUO, S.A.B. de C.V., TREMEC employs more than 1,400 people throughout its North American and European operations.
Despite being a global powerhouse, the team at TREMEC knows the importance of recognizing the grassroots racers and proudly sponsors many of the NMRA and NMCA’s racing initiatives, including True Street’s TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout, All-Female True Street, and GT500 Shootout. “We believe in keeping the manual transmission alive and for inspiring people to come out and race, and there’s no better class to do that in than True Street,” affirmed Kidd, who enjoys enhancing the opportunities available to TREMEC’s racers.
Whether it’s for a high-performance vehicle or a rugged-duty agricultural application, TREMEC became a well-respected brand name for world-class transmission assemblies and components including its legendary rear-wheel drive transmissions, dual-clutch transmissions, gears, shafts, clutches, shift controllers, and so much more.