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I've got a '65 289 that was orignially a 3 spd and someone put a 4-spd toploader in it. The input shaft of the transmission growls when the car is in N and you let out the clutch. I dropped the tranny and the input shaft also feels rough when you spin it.

My question: can you replace the input shaft bearing w/o tearing the whole transmission apart? Has anyone done this? There is a part that fits over the input shaft and has 4 bolts hoding it to the tranny case. If I take that off, can I slide the whole input shaft assembly out without dropping needle bearings or similar inside the case?
 

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Yes!

Remove the front bearing retainer (4 bolts), tailhousing, you will have to drop the cluster gear to the bottom of the case with a dummy cluster shaft, then the input and the bearing can be slipped out. Be careful, rollers in the rear of the input!

Fashon a dummy cluster shaft from a 7/8"diameter wooden dowel, 8 3/4" long. Push out the cluster shaft with the wooden dowel from front to back.

A dummy cluster shaft is needed so the needle bearings will stay in the cluster gear.
 
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