Installing a Shifter
Paradise Garage

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© 2003 Brian F. Schreurs
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What do you call it when you believe in God but can't stand His followers?
The stock shifter in the modern Tremec T-56 is a pretty good piece compared to what else is on the market these days. But, as with most things when hot rodders get involved, "pretty good" can always make room for "even better"! Installing a new shifter with a better position and feel is really not all that hard. A couple of hours ought to do it for most people.

We decided to install a Pro 5.0 Power Tower (part no. P3000) on a 1999 Pontiac Firebird Formula that we caught sitting still long enough to modify.

The shifter after all the convenience items have been stripped off.
And now the hole in the tranny where a shifter used to be.
The first step in removing the shifter is to remove the shift knob. It just unscrews. If you plan to install a high-performance shift knob, this is your big opportunity.

To get at everything, you'll need to move the console out of the way. The console is actually made of multiple parts; the first stage is to remove the top part. It is held down by two 7mm bolts toward the front of the console bin. Then carefully lift it off. You may need to loosen or remove the little ticket bin (or convertible top switch if yours is a drop-top) to get it off. There are going to be wires attached to this piece of the console, so don't make any sudden movements that might cause you to break something. Gently lift it over the shifter handle and set it on the passenger seat out of harm's way.

Now, the base of the console just needs to be lifted slightly, not moved entirely. It is held down by four 10mm bolts: two up front by the bulkhead, one on each side of the console; and two in the console bin. Just lift it upwards a bit, enough to get at the remaining shifter bolts with a socket wrench. If the emergency brake handle gets in the way, move the handle to a more vertical position.

The rubber boot insulating the inside world from the outside world needs to come off. It's held down by seven 7mm screws. Once those are removed, this boot (GM calls it the "shift control closeout boot") is stuck to the trans tunnel and will need to be gently pried off. If it won't get around the joint in the shifter handle, remove the handle by taking out the two 13mm bolts on its collar and removing the assembly.

Finally, removing the stock shifter is a simple matter of undoing four 13mm bolts, and then whacking at it from underneath with a big honking flathead screwdriver. It's RTV'd to its base. If you can't get to it from underneath, try to pry at it without damaging it. Honest, there's nothing holding it to the car other than the sealing qualities of RTV.

Comparing the now-liberated stock shifter with the replacement Pro 5.0 piece reveals a few interesting differences:

  • The new one is angled somewhat toward the driver, bringing the lever within easier reach.
  • The new one is made of billet steel whereas the old one is stamped steel.
  • The new one has adjustable stops whereas the the old one is just the luck of the assembly line.
  • The new one is about an inch shorter than stock, shortening the throws of the shifter a little.
Pro 5.0 on the left; GM Mark of Qwality on the right.
Scrape the old gasket gunk off the sealing surface.

The Pro 5.0 instructions want us to cut the center out of the inner boot and wrap it around the base of the shifter. We can't figure out any reason for this at all, but despite appearances it actually does fit. For whatever reason.

At this point we'd like to take a moment to state that Pro 5.0 has some of the worst instructions we've ever seen anywhere. Pathetic diagrams, fuzzy and tiny images, and no explanation for steps marked "very important" that serve no obvious function. You guys need to hire us. Geez.

Put a thin bead of RTV sealant around the sealing edge, while avoiding bolt holes. Plop the shifter on and make sure the knob is mated to the socket. Tighten the shifter using Pro 5.0's four bolts -- they're 13mm.

With the shifter in place, you'll need to adjust the shifter stops. This is pretty straightforward. Put the shifter into first gear and tighten the front stop bolt until it met the shifter handle. Then back the stop bolt off about one full turn, so that the shifter has no
Just proving that the boot does, in fact, fit. Like a glove.
contact with the bolt in first gear. Tighten the nut to hold the stop bolt into place. We didn't use threadlock, but some people recommend it (we never had a problem with the Mustang, though, and so far haven't had a problem on this car -- you just have to be sure to tighten it really well).

Next do the same for the rear stop bolt... Put in second, tighten rear stop bolt, back off, tighten nut.

There should be a small air gap between the stop bolts and shifter handle when you are done. The shifter should be able to reach its full travel position, with the stop bolts just beyond, so if you really jam the shifter someday, the stop bolts will keep it from travelling too far past the normal position and damaging the shift forks.

Put the outer boot into place and put the screws back (this boot covers the stops and the base of the shifter). Reinstall the console. Put the shifter knob on. Stick a fork in yourself; you're done!

Ooooooo... puuuuuurdy...
We like the new shifter. It has a very positive, notchy feel, so if you like that sort of thing you'd like the Pro 5.0. Some people don't enjoy that, however, so it's very subjective. The throws are short and it takes some adjustment on the driver's part, but the adjustment period wasn't very long. The shifter is also angled toward the driver slightly, compared to the stock shifter. We didn't notice much difference because we never had any trouble reaching the stock shifter, but shorter drivers thought it was a nice touch. The only negative (but hasn't really made a difference so far) is that the shifter tends to stick in place, instead of automatically springing back to center, if you pull the shifter to the left of neutral. But during driving when you exert any pressure on the shifter between gears (like from second to third), you can't notice this problem and the shifts happen smoothly.