As the technology in Pontiac’s engines progressed over the years, so did its transmissions. Back in the glory days, manual boxes featured linkage-actuated clutches and three or four forward gears. The internals were simple and rugged, and the shifting a bit notchy, but they got the job done and provided a grin that can only be derived from manually slamming the shifter into the next gear.

Over the course of the next 30 years, three- and four-speeds gave way to the five-speed and six-speed transmissions with internal rail shifters and built-in reverse lockouts. The T56 six-speed was standard in Fourth-Gen Trans Ams and Formulas and late-model GTOs. It’s not uncommon to hear about a six-speed late-model LS car getting upper 20s in fuel economy or holding lots of rwhp with stock guts from Tremec, while still being a smooth shifter.

“How is this possible?” you ask. Let’s take a look inside a Tremec T56, more specifically an M12 out of an ’05 GTO.

This variant was shared by the other GM powerhouses of the day—the Corvette Z06 and Cadillac CTS-V—and has some upgrades inside straight from the Tremec factory that make it better than previous T56 transmissions. Out of the box, the synchronizer sleeves feature stepped teeth to make engagement feel lighter and more positive. The synchronizers also utilize high-density-carbon blocker rings and reverse synchronizers. Additionally, the M12 uses a one-piece countershaft, which is stronger than a two-piece.

Still, with all these upgrades, our intense downshifting and track duty combined with a few shifts during wheelspin resulted in the loss of Second gear. In our case, it was worn fork pads that prevented us from smoothly selecting Second gear and eventually caused the synchronizer to fail. We called Gray Fredrick from American Powertrain and explained our situation. We were soon provided with the correct package for our Goat.

With our heads and cam GTO used primarily for road-course racing and on the street, there was no need to go crazy with upgrades and break the bank. According to Gray, there are affordable solutions for each power hike you make with your Pontiac.

“Unlike most packages out there, we include a vehicle-weight rating with ours because we can confidently say they can hold the claimed power level at the listed vehicle weight,” he says. “It’s easy to say a transmission can hold 500 hp, but is that 500-horse transmission going to hold the power in a car weighing 4,000 or more pounds? In our experience, it won’t.”

Because of these established power ratings, it was easy for Gray to suggest the Level 2 package, which is rated for a 495 lb-ft constant-torque load.

“This package is going to be the solution for 80-percent or more of enthusiasts out there. While peak loads and shock loads can climb well above this on the dyno, not many engines run these kinds of numbers on a sustained basis.

“The ratings are based on a 3,600-pound curb weight and street-legal radials. It covers the typical upgrades you would want, such as bronze fork pads and shims, but takes it a step further with cryo and REM treatments.” Those last two upgrades Gray mentioned add a new level of strength to the internal components.

You may have already heard the word cryogenic or cryo thrown around the hot rod industry for some time. It can increase strength up to 30 percent without affecting tolerances.