by Stu Brennan
OH #+%!;!! IT HAPPENED AGAIN!! I’m selling this piece of junk, shifter and all!! I had just pulled my Tiger’s shift lever from first to neutral. The sound and feel were not normal, but they were all too familiar. The shift lever snapped into the neutral position but was not locked in the 3?4 side. The transmission was still in first. The Tiger had its front wheels against a curb. The sun was long gone, and I was without my usual tools or a lightor even one of Tom’s coat hangers. After all, what can happen on a local trip, right? The only option was to push the car backwards with one foot (the other was on the clutch) slightly uphill and drive home in first.
Along the way I decided that I wouldn’t sell the car quite yet, but that worn and floppy shifter’s days were numbered. A peek underneath convinced me that there should be room to remove the shifter without removing the transmission, so I started the search for replacements and removal information.
This is where the fun started. The various experts I consulted had little to share. Several responded with versions of “I think I did it 10 years ago, and it was tricky; but I don’t remember what I did.” A member described various manipulations of the shifter body and its appendages. This made me wonder if he wasn’t really remembering something else he might have done in a Tiger back in his single days.
And finally, one expert stated flatly that you couldn’t remove it without cutting the tunnel which he had done. Armed with this precise information I plunged ahead. I removed the shift lever, the three control rods and the three bolts that hold the body of the shifter to the transmission. But (after an hour of twisting, turning, pushing and prying) the shifter was still in the tunnel. Suddenly, while looking at the body of the shifter, the solution became obvious. Here is the process that I should have followed:
A couple of days before starting this project, take a high pressure hose and blast the area around the shifter. Remove as much of the accumulated crud as possible. Let it dry or it will be dripping on you in step 3.
- Remove the driver’s side rug (passenger side for RHD folks). Remove the tunnel rug. The job is going to get messy soon.
- Remove the shifter access door and the shift lever. You might want to be sure it’s in neutral before removing the lever (to avoid confusion on reassembly).
- From below, disconnect the three control rods at the transmission end only. Pulling the cotter pins seems to be the easiest way to do this. Discard the old cotter pins. They’re cheap.
- Remove the 3 bolts that secure the shifter to the transmission.
- Here’s the secret. You disassemble the shifter while it’s still in the car.
- Take the snap ring off of the shifter’s shaft. Hold the spring down with a screwdriver while removing the ring.
- Remove the two bolts on either side of the shaft and remove the control arm retainer.
- The three arms can now be removed with the rods still attached. You might want to label them to prevent later confusion.
- Now turn the body of the shifter 180 degrees (as viewed from above) so that the shaft is now pointing toward the transmission. Push the shifter forward toward the area where the control rods where. It just falls out onto the floor.
- Installation is just the opposite. Don’t forget to perform the shifter adjustment procedure. Also, a touch of Loctite 242 (the blue stuff) on all of the bolts will keep them from vibrating out. This procedure worked on my MKIA. That was the fall of 1966. There may be car-to-car variations in clearances depending on who was swinging the sledgehammer when your car went through. I discovered an improvement on the cotter pin and spring washers used at either end of the control rods. Visit a Hurst retailer and find a Hurst shifter rebuild kit–the kit with the nylon bushings because it’s cheaper (at about $5). Toss the bushings. The round clips, which install like hitch pins but have a built-in spring, replace both the spring washer and the cotter pin and are much easier to work with.
It was mentioned a couple of issues back that Dan Williams of Franklin, NC had a stock of Hurst shifters for Tigers. The Hurst “Indy” that I played with for a while was smaller and fit through the gap without any disassembly. I never did complete the installation of the Hurst because of other problems and ended up finding a replacement Ford shifter in good condition. Here’s an interesting thought that I never followed through on. Would it be possible to drill the shifter’s internals? All you would have to do is remove the shifter access door, pop your grease gun onto the fitting that you installed in the end of the shaft and give it a squirt. That should make it last longer.
Editors note: When the sloppy shifter acts up as is described here, it is possible to reach under the car and tug on the shift rods until they move into neutral. You can then shift the transmission to get underway. This must be done when the car is on a level road or with the clutch depressed to relieve the load on the gears.