Restore 68 Cutlass

Just picked up a 1968 Cutlass S to restore (mid life crisis…). Have plans for the interior, paint, rims and tires but really stuck with decisions on engine and trans. It is numbers matching 350 2bbl with 2 sperd Jetaway Trans. Happy with the Rocket but would like to upgrade to 550 CFM 4bbl (worked great in my cousins 74 Nova 350). Issue is the trans! Driving home last night I slipped out of drive and would not go back in. Had to creep home in low. I know the band can be adjusted from what I have read but having hard time finding anything that shows specifically how. If the trans proves to be a bigger issue than just band adjustment should I have it rebuilt or convert to 4spd manual?

Any classic car clubs near you? You might join and ask around for a good tranny shop.

What kind of repairs have you done in the past?

Why are those the only two options? Converting to manual is no small task and not for the novice. I would store the original trans and put in something with more gears and overdrive. Not too hard to adapt that v spending money and still being limited or undertaking a huge effort. If you sell later you still have original trans to go with it.

I have helped rebuild my cousins 350 (Nova) and rebuild the manual trans in my sons POS honda. I do my own maintenance on all the vehicles - A wife and 3 kids worth (brakes, oil, filters, plugs etc…). Mechanically inclined so figure if I could see something on how to adjust the bands I could decide if it is in my wheelhouse or over my head.

I don’t want to seem negative here but… This is NOT a car to be worrying about “numbers matching” anything. If it was a 442, Hurst Olds or similar it matters. For a plain Jane 442 350 2 bbl, don’t worry about it, no one will care. Just make it a nice reliable driver and enjoy.

If you start modifying the car, make it reliable and driveable. Get rid of the points ignition for reliability. Consider adding one of the 4 BBL throttle body fuel injection systems for driveability and swap the front drum brakes for power disk brakes used on this car in the 70’s. It all just bolts in and reproduction parts are available. If you want a manual transmission, at least install a 5 speed with overdrive. I am pretty sure all the pedal assemblies and linkage are available as reproductions.

If the 2 speed Jetaway trans has an issue, just rebuild the thing if you aren’t converting to a 5 speed. They are simple and almost bulletproof.


Those jetaways can be easily rebuilt. If you’re losing high gear but you’re ok in first, it’s not the band, but the direct clutch. Leave the carb alone unless you’re changing the cam and the intake manifold.

I vote for just putting this thing in really nice condition and forget manual trans conversion . It is not going to be a daily driver is it ? Not going to the local drag strip so just rebuild the trans and carburetor that came with and enjoy. I would upgrade suspension and brakes .

Edit: Just to kill time I looked at some classic car sites for 1968 Cutlass . Of course the prices all over the board but there are some really nice ones at reasonable prices . So Mark , you might want to consider just how much you want to put in this vehicle because the chance of getting your money back is a little low.

If that’s a 2bbl with a Jetaway it’s a low compression engine (if I remember correctly). In that case there’s not much to be gained by switching just intake manifold and carb. The 4bbls (even the later low compression ones) had different camshafts and heads.

As has been said, get the tranny repaired or rebuilt. IMO the two speed auto tranny is a great fit for that engine/carb combo.

Think that is the route I am taking for now - rebuild tranny…looks fairly uncomplicated and the kit is only about $250. Going to add so.e of the reliability and driveability upgrades mentioned early also. Goal is to have a nice, reliable cruiser that looks good…and, if the day comes that the engine takes a dump, maybe it gets a 455 with a manual…