Taking on a Monster Clutch Install

Taking on a Monster Clutch Install: How We Finally Got Power to the Ground
Written By Professional Blogger Elizabeth Puckett, November 2013

Three years ago, I made the choice retire my street car from very frequent track days and there was no need for a built automatic with high stall torque converter -- so my 1998 Firebird Formula got a full “street” overhaul that included a swap from the stock 4L60e to a heavily reinforced T56.

When the manual conversion was first completed, I thought the LS7 clutch was the way to go. I admittedly didn’t know a ton about manual transmission components as I was an automatic transmission guru. While the LS7 clutch definitely seems to have some fans, it was not rated for my application, and that was something I totally overlooked.

As an LS1 forum contact of mine pointed out (albeit way too after the fact to save me any trouble)  -- “LS7 clutches are great for slightly modified LS1 Camaros and Firebirds, anything over 450 hp is going to fry the clutch.” -- guess who has well over 450 horsepower? The same person who had a slipping clutch from around 3,000 miles of very babied driving.

The thought of taking on the daunting task had me very reluctant to rush out and buy the first clutch brand I could get into my hands the quickest. See, my husband and I (well, mainly my husband, I usually just take pictures and break things) do all of our own work.

When you invest not only your money into the part, but the time as well, you tend to be very paranoid about something as involved as a clutch kit.

Online searches did nothing to ease my mind either. The bigger the brand, the bigger the complaints. The first three brands that came to mind when doing research yielded feedback like:

“Poor quality, burnt up within a year!” and “I’m on my third clutch disc in a month, this brand is defective!!!”.

It put a lump in my throat, I don’t have the time or money to invest into substandard clutches -- and no one does, I feel horrible for people experiencing premature clutch failure, I’ve been there with other parts before.

So after obsessively searching for weeks, I looked into the Monster brand...and the reviews were incredible. Out of the hundreds of comments I sorted through, the most negative thing I could find is that people felt like the stage 2 was overkill for most cars, I don’t think that applies here...

After reviewing the design and composition of the clutch kit, I was very confident that the Monster Stage 2 was the smartest choice for my application. My order consisted of the level 2 package plus the optional slave cylinder and bolts.

I ran across Tick Performance because they were the most mentioned vendor on LS1Tech (the only forum I rely on for things like this) and they came highly recommended for their customer service.

Without getting into excruciating detail, here’s some pictures and explanation of the project. The installation was pretty standard with a few minor exceptions.

My Parts/Tools Included:

  • Monster Level 2 Clutch Kit with Optional Bolts and Slave Cylinder
  • Transmission Jack
  • Pilot Bearing Puller
  • Various Socket Wrenches & Torque Wrench

Installation Time: Around 5 Hours

The most stressful part of any under the car project for me is getting the car safely into place. I stress this as my car was once knocked over by a group of people from our car club when it was in the air -- so I always make it a point to secure my car before anyone goes near it.

Right away, I wanted to point out that the most notable difference about this installation is that it’s a shimless unit, unlike most other aftermarket clutch kits -- but I do encourage you to measure to confirm for yourself.

As with all other car projects, start with taking down everything in your way to get to your part -- the console, shift boot, shifter on the inside....

....the exhaust, driveshaft, transmission crossmember, tunnel brace, and the transmission itself all need to be unbolted and out of the way.

Now, the old setup needs to come off, and obviously mine was pretty rough.

When it’s time to put the new parts on, make sure they are thoroughly clean and use red loctite on the bolts that go to the flywheel/crank, as well as the pressure plate bolts.

Now, everything goes back together the same way it came off. Fill the transmission up with fluid, bleed the clutch, and adjust your master cylinder (if yours is adjustable).

Reinstall your transmission and crossmember and torque to spec. Then, install the driveshaft and torque arm, and torque bolts to spec -- now you can finally get out from under your car.

My major discovery about this kit and the installation is that it installs just like a stock unit. I really did go into this project expecting to discover some overly complicated step somewhere along the line, and didn’t.

Driving the car after the installation, my feelings are the same as the installation. The clutch drives just like stock, although I was expected something a little more difficult to handle and over the top. Even though it shifts and feels like stock, it’s actually handling the power of my extremely modified car.

I’m very much looking forward to the next dyno session to see the actual difference on paper!

My conclusion throughout this whole project and driving the car now after the break-in period is that I made the best choice for my setup. The quality and construction of the kit is impressive, to say the least. It’s easy to install and gives my 500 horsepower car a stock feel (well, as far as shifting goes at least), and I’m planning to purchase a second Monster kit for our 1974 Firebird Formula LS1/T56 swap car.

Author Elizabeth Puckett is an auto enthusiast above all else. Raised by a top fuel drag racer, Elizabeth has worked to set up several car clubs, spent the last two decades on a race track, and is somewhat of a Chevy Gen III engine guru. Her passion has turned into more than a hobby as she works with automotive sites like AutoFoundry.com and GMPartsOnline.net as a professional blogger.

Elizabeth's pictures are below: