Come on ladies, let’s keep it real, shall we? Ask any woman what qualities she values in a man, and aside from the expected mushy-mushy stuff, the word psychic never makes the list. Interestingly, many of them expect their better halves to guess what they’re thinking, because as we all know, that’s a heck of a lot more fun than just telling someone how you feel. It’s certainly a peculiar way of conducting business, but dudes aren’t that much better in their communication skills. For instance, hot rodders have traditionally labeled automatic transmissions as unfit for autocross and road racing duty. They cite mushy torque converters, unsolicited upshifts, and a lack of engine braking as common gripes. Well, genius, did you ever stop to think how on earth an automatic transmission is supposed to guess what you want unless you tell it what to do? Mark Bowler of Bowler Performance Transmissions is on a mission to dispel these ugly myths, and he built an entire car just to prove the point. In doing so, he ended up with a two-ton terror of a ’70 Torino that packs a 572hp small-block, and routinely sticks it to manually shifted g-Machines on the autocross.
Long before the Torino project took off, the Bowler family business was founded in 1963 by Mark’s dad. Along with his mom and sister, the quartet worked hard to establish an excellent reputation within the local Illinois community. Although the shop focused primarily on stock transmission rebuilds and general repair, Mark always had a passion for hot rods. By the time he was 18 years old, he started working with performance shops, and became known as the go-to guy for fixing other people’s botched transmission work. After his dad retired in 2001, Mark decided to dedicate all of the company’s resources to the hot rod and muscle car market. “We moved into a bigger shop and bought a dyno, but most importantly, we listened closely to what our customers were telling us. High-end builders want to focus their energy on all the small details that go into a car, and the last thing they want to worry about is a transmission,” Mark says. “We noticed that some people were grinding off the casting numbers on brand-new transmissions we built for them, so we realized that for some people aesthetics is just as important as performance. In response, we started offering smoothed and powdercoated cases. We also recognize that it might take several years for a DIYer to build a car in their garage, so we began offering a one-year warranty starting from the first day of use, not the date of purchase.”
Anyone who catches a glimpse...
Anyone who catches a glimpse of the RideTech rollbar and the five-point harnesses knows that the Torino means business. Cutters Custom Interior gets credit for the upholstery work and custom seats. Mark puts the Kenwood stereo and Vintage Air A/C system to good use on those long drives to track events.
Bowler’s good work led to a working relationship with Roush Performance, and in an effort to improve his product line, Mark recognized the need to expand the company’s portfolio of Ford transmissions. “So many people are quick to throw a GM transmission behind a Ford motor, so we wanted to show people that you don’t have to do that. People also have the misconception that an automatic can’t survive or perform well in an autocross,” Mark says. “In order to validate the durability of Ford overdrives and automatics in general, we figured that the best way to do so was with an in-house R&D vehicle. Obviously, it had to be a Ford, but we wanted something different than a Mustang. We decided on a ’70 Torino GT because they have a unique look, and you don’t see too many of them out there.”