Back in the day, automatic transmissions had a less than savory rep. On the main, they weren't known as the most positive way to transfer torque. Inefficient horsepower thieves are what they were. You wanted to avoid all that, you stayed natural, you banged gears with a stick shift and a clutch. Guys who drove automatics (even the Torqueflite mob) couldn't really hold their heads up in polite car society of the time. Automatics were punk and, by association, so were the people who drove them. Deft stick-shift manipulation was an art that required practice, but certainly there were stick-shift artists everywhere. Guys who didn't get it raced an automatic. Ridicule was heaped upon them.

Years later, you realize that it was all a bunch of crap. Years later, you realize that the automatic is now a seven- or eight-speed gear processor, for cripe's sake, way more efficient and powerful than some damn clutch-governed stick shift. In the old days, the objection from the purists was that the automatic simply assumed too much of the driving skill and soon enough debilitated the hand-eye-foot coordination and rendered physical finesse unnecessary. Now the idea is to remove the human element. Take the chance to muff the deal out of the picture entirely.

That's why we have hot rodders. That's why there are guys like Russell Saunders, a young 31 who's learning with his first "serious" reacher. According to popular domain, Russell's '68 RS/SS would probably qualify as a street/strip car or at least one that performed better at the dragstrip than on the interstate. If Russell has taken some measures to the extreme, so what? That's his prerogative.

Rather than hover over a common Muncie four-speed or reap the aftermarket like most everyone else would, Russell got downright esoteric on us. As a resident of Virginia, he depended on locals to provide. Since torque is always the issue, Russell prepared accordingly. The Strange Engineering S60 Dana axle, fitted with a Detroit Locker differential and 35-spline axleshafts, pretty much bulletproofs the Camaro's back end. (All production Mopar Hemi and RB-motor cars equipped with a clutch also got a Dana 60 93/4-inch axle as part of the deal.)

The worshipped icon was the Chrysler A833 Hemi four-speed, as rugged and storied as something that might have hung off Thor's war belt. There were drawbacks. Its iron case was heavy. The aluminum-case version was lighter, but your arm would ache just as badly the next day from pulling on its big sliders and pesky synchronizer rings. Dutch Irrgang worked for Jenkins Competition then. As a matter of fact, most Chevy Pro Stockers of the minute used the A833, so Dutch removed every other tooth from the synchros in Bill's cars, thus creating the fabled "slick shift." (We know, you heard it differently.)

In the have-it-now 21st century, you can bank on diversity. We have store-bought goods falling all over the joint. Passon Performance is a niche purveyor, and its aluminum-case A833 is high-rated stuff. Russell: "The main goal was to have a fully streetable transmission (2.65, 1.93, 1.39, 1:1) with synchronizers that would hold up to a 6,500-rpm launch on cheater slicks but still be driver-friendly around town. Kinda old school, but..." Did the whole thing up like an NHRA Super Stocker, circa 1970, didn't you? Thanks for being a real bad-dad here, Russell, and hacking out a theoretically different path, pal. Your car is nothing less than the root and the inspiration of what people drive now.