67-69 Camaro Short Throw Shifter conversion

Typical broken Console Shift Plate
Typical broken
Console Shift
Plate
Is this your console shift plate? Don't feel bad Bunkie, I know exactly how you feel. I too have suffered from cracked and broken console shifter plates from one too many hard shifts! But there IS something you can do about it. Reduce the throw of your Hurst shifter and your problems will melt away!

A huge improvement over the original 1967 and 1968 Muncie shifter, which mounted to the transmission cross member and exhibited horrible binding issues when power shifting, the Hurst shifter was THE aftermarket choice of just about everyone who owned a first generation Camaro or other muscle cars of the era. One of the first modifications original owners did was to toss that Muncie shifter in the trash and install a Hurst! The Hurst shifter mounted directly to the transmission, thereby giving much smoother shifts through all ranges, without the fear of that stock Muncie shifter bind. As a matter of fact, Chevrolet recognized the limitations of the Muncie shifter almost immediately, and for 1969, the Camaro finally got the Hurst shifter as standard equipment for four speed cars! However, the Hurst shifter also had its share of problems, with the main one being the throw distance. The typical throw of a Hurst shifter is around seven or eight inches. Some are even more, depending on your "stick", and although this is fine for non-console cars, this is just way too much for a console equipped Camaro and you will eventually crack or even break the shift plate. There are a few ways of getting around this and I'll discuss these below.

1/4" by 1" Bar Stock
1/4" by 1"
Bar Stock
As you can see from the pictures below, the distance from the transmission selector shaft mount (the oblong hole) to the shifter rod mount (the 1/2" hole) on the stock Hurst shifter arms is around 1-3/4" (center to center) for the 1st & 2nd, and the 3rd & 4th arms. The reverse arm distance is around 1". The length of these arms and the distance between the two holes determines the amount of throw the shifter has. The greater the distance, the greater the throw. The shorter the distance, the shorter the throw. By making new arms with a shorter distance between the two points, you can lessen the throw by a couple of inches! As you can see from the pictures, just drilling new rod holes isn't possible because of the bend in the arms. Not only that, these are case-hardened steel and almost impossible to drill with standard bits. Machine tools and carbide tooling would be required. Not something every back yard mechanic has access to. No, the real answer here is to make your own arms with simple hand tools and a few inches of 1/4" thick by 1" wide flat bar stock that you can purchase at just about any hardware or home improvement store. Although this material is softer than the original aftermarket Hurst shifter arms, with proper care your new home-made arms should give you many years of use. They won't last forever or course, especially if you really pound on them, but I believe the advantages outweigh the drawbacks.

Hurst
1st & 2nd
shifter arm
Hurst
3rd & 4th
shifter arm
Hurst
Reverse
shifter arm
Hurst
1st & 2nd
shifter arm Hurst
3rd & 4th
shifter arm Hurst
Reverse
shifter arm

Basic hand tools required
Basic hand
tools required
You'll need a sharpie marker, an awl (or scribe) if you have one, a ruler, a hack saw, a variable speed drill (a drill press is better, but not required), a few drill bits (1/8", 1/4", 5/16" & 1/2"), a center punch, a hammer, a 9/16" wrench and a few small files, but that's about it! You'll also need a hydraulic jack and a pair of GOOD, STURDY jack stands. Don't skimp here. Safety is PARAMOUNT. Don't kill yourself by rushing or taking short cuts. The procedure is actually fairly simple, but you'll also have to know how to use some basic hand tools. Now, if you don't feel comfortable performing this modification, and you feel you may injure yourself or others, DO NOT continue!! It's not worth your life shortening your shifter's throw!!

And of course, before we can start I have to put in a disclaimer. The procedure below is for general information only and may not be exact for your particular application. Additional steps may be required and you may run into unforeseen problems. Don't blame the author if this isn't as easy as you thought it would be!! As with any hot rod modification, the author takes no responsibility for any problems, mistakes, broken components, extra expenses, injuries, death or any other unforeseen occurrences that may arise. It's understood that the end user takes full responsibility for his or her own actions.

Before you begin, you're going to have to jack up the front of the car so you have access to the shifter and transmission. DO NOT use a bumper jack. These things were junk when they were new! Always use a hydraulic jack rated at a capacity for your application. And again, make sure to use GOOD, STURDY Jack stands, and once the car is up in the air, verify it won't fall on top of you! I like to shake the front end after it's up, and I also leave the jack attached to the car as an extra safety factor. Remember, it's no fun working under a car after it's fallen on top of you!! It makes it very difficult to get any work done while you're screaming in agony! (Not only that, but it annoys the neighbors!) And always use safety glasses when working under a car, or drilling, grinding or filing metal. You're going to be looking up a lot while under the car and there's a good chance things are going to fall into your face! You're also going to be working with metal shavings and you only get one pair of eyes during your lifetime. Make sure to protect them! Remember, SAFETY FIRST! Now, let's get to work!

Start by disconnecting the battery. Although you won't be accessing any electrical components, it's always a good idea to disconnect the battery when you work on a car. Make sure the emergency brake is on (and/or you've placed chocks behind the rear tires if your emergency brake doesn't work), and place the car in neutral. Now jack up the car and place the jack stands at the widest points for stabilization. I use the front sub frame horns on the Camaro. Shake the car and check for movement, and if everything is okay, climb under the car.

Hurst Shifter Alignment hole
Hurst shifter
alignment hole
All Hurst shifters have an alignment hole in the body to align the three levers for neutral. Place a 1/4" bolt, drill bit or Allen wrench into the hole to keep the levers from moving. Now, using the 9/16" wrench, remove the nut (1967 and 1968) or bolt (1969) holding the 3rd and 4th arm to the transmission. (This is the one toward the very front of the car.) Once the arm is loose, use the awl or a small flat head screw driver and remove the spring clip holding the rod to the arm. DON'T loose the clip!! They have a habit of popping off and flying across the room! Now remove the arm and the bushing from the rod. NOTE: If you have nylon bushings, it would be a good idea to go to your local auto parts store and purchase a set of steel bushings with new clips. These are much better than the nylon bushings and will last a lifetime. The set will cost around $10.00 and are well worth the expense.

Now that you have the arm out, take it over to your work bench (you DO have a work bench, right???), and measure and cut a piece of the 1/4" by 1" flat bar to 2-1/4" in length. Using the original arm you just removed as a template, hold it against the flat bar and using the awl (or scribe), trace the oblong hole onto the bar stock. Now center punch two locations onto the bar stock about 1/8" from each side of the mark. You will then drill two small 1/8" pilot holes into the flat bar, one at each punch. Once that's been done, change to the 1/4" drill bit and enlarge the two holes. Finally, use the 5/16" drill bit to finish enlarging the holes. DON'T try to start off with the large 5/16" drill bit. You'll be there all day! Always start with a small 1/8" pilot hole and work your way up to the final size. When you have finished, you should have two 5/16" holes, with a small amount of metal between them. Using the small round file, remove that small amount of metal between the two holes. Then, using the flat file, finish up the hole so it's one oblong hole, exactly like the original arm. You can compare the hole you've made by placing it under the original arm. You should see nothing but daylight! NOTE: 1968 (and previous) transmissions used nuts to attach the arms to the selector shafts. 1969 (and later) transmissions used bolts. If you have a 1969 or later transmission, you will need to enlarge the oblong hole in the center so the bolt will pass through the arm (see comparison below).

Measure Cut Scribe Center Punch
Measure Cut Scribe Center Punch

Drill
Pilot hole
Enlarge Finish
Drill
Pilot hole Enlarge Finish

Round File Flat File Compare 68 -vs- 69 arms
Round File Flat File Compare 68 -vs- 69 arms

Now take your ruler and measure 1-3/4" in from the end of the bar with the oblong hole. Center punch the center of the bar stock and drill a 1/8" pilot hole. Remove the 1/8" bit and insert the 1/4" bit and drill out the hole. Replace the 1/4" bit with the 5/16" bit and enlarge the hole once again. Finally, replace the 5/16" bit with the 1/2" bit and finish enlarging the hole. Again, don't try to start off with the 1/2" bit or it will take you forever to drill the hole! Using your round file, clean up the holes and make sure there are no burrs. I use a grinder, but the round file will work just as well. Finally, you can optionally use a set of 1/4" steel punches and mark the new arm with "3" and "4" so you don't get the arms confused because now you need to perform the exact same steps above to do the 1st & 2nd shifter arm!! (Go ahead. I'll wait...)

Measure &
Center Punch
Drill Pilot Hole Enlarge Enlarge again
Measure &
Center Punch Drill Pilot Hole Enlarge Enlarge again

Finish Grind or file Stamp
Finish Grind or file Stamp

Once you've completed the 1st and 2nd shifter arm, compare the original arms to the modified arms. Note that you've now moved the two holes about 1/2" closer together, making the final shifter throw around 2" less than before! Also note that although the Reverse arm is already a fairly short throw, I still like to go ahead and modify this one by about 1/4" anyway. It gives you a little shorter throw in Reverse. You don't need to modify the reverse unless you really feel like it, or the shifter hits the plate when going into reverse. It's your choice. (NOTE: If you do decide to make a new arm for reverse, and you're using the original Muncie back-up light switch, you'll need to drill a small 1/8" hole next to the 1/2" rod hole for the back-up light switch activation rod.)

1st & 2nd
Comparison
3rd & 4th
Comparison
Reverse
Comparison
1st & 2nd
Comparison 3rd & 4th
Comparison Reverse
Comparison

Finally, you need to install the new arms back to the transmission and reattach the rods. I find it easier to do reverse first, then 1st & 2nd, then finally 3rd & 4th. Make sure you grease up the bushings and also note that because of the modified holes, you're going to have to adjust the rods by several turns each. You may want to disconnect the rods from the shifter body to do this, but it's not a necessity. With some finagling, you can adjust them while they're still connected to the shifter body. After everything has been reinstalled, remove the screw (or drill bit or Allen wrench) you slid into the alignment hole, and while sill under the car, manually engage all four gears (and reverse if you modified this one), making sure you don't get any binding and everything is nice and smooth. Now that the throw is shorter, you'll also need to readjust the shifter "stops" on the shifter body itself (see the picture above). You may also have to adjust the reverse switch if your back-up lights no longer come on when shifting into reverse. Check them by reconnecting the battery and placing the car in reverse. If the back-up lights don't come on, you may have to adjust the switch itself, or bend the activation rod. Once everything's been adjusted correctly, get out from under the car and clean yourself up! You're almost finished. After you've washed your hands, get into the car and shift into all four gears. (Also test reverse if you modified this arm.) Note how short the throw is now! Finally, you can remove the jack stands and lower the car back to the ground. Finished? Well, not quite yet Bunkie!!!

One final operation you can do, is to modify the shifter "stick" itself. Of course, you won't want to do this to your original 1969 factory Hurst stick, but for any aftermarket stick, this will give you an even shorter throw. Most aftermarket sticks are 12" to 15" in length, and most of this is a waste. You really only need a few inches sticking out from the Console. Remove the four screws holding the shift plate to the console and remove the boot retainer and boot. Using the 9/16" wrench, remove the stick from the shifter body and take the stick to your workbench. Place the end with the two holes into the vice. Measure a few inches from the top hole and cut. You want a stick that's around 9" or 10" in total length when finished, but use your own judgment on this. It's always better to cut small amounts and have to continue on, than cut too much off and have to buy a new stick!! Once you've cut the stick to where you want, take the old base with the holes in it and place it against the bottom of the stick. Scribe the holes onto your stick, center punch and drill. (Again, start with a pilot hole and work your way up.) Reinstall the stick and you now have an even shorter throw! NOTE: You may have to bend the stick a bit left or right, or forward or back to make the exact location feel comfortable for you, but in all, by doing the above modifications, this should reduce the final throw by 3" to 4". As a matter of fact, from the pictures below, you can see that the final throw on my Camaro is only 2-3/8"!! Now you no longer have to worry about cracked or broken shifter plates!!! In addition, you can even modify an original Muncie stick to make the car appear stock as I did (see below). You can buy a Muncie handle off of ebay (I got one for less than $28.00), and cut it to length. Mark, center punch and drill the two holes to mount it into the Hurst shifter body and you're up and running, no muss, no fuss. Screw the boot and retainer back to the floor board and re-attach the shift plate. NOW you're done Bunkie!! Take your handy work for a test drive and bask in the glory of a job well done.

Original
Hurst
Stick
Modified
Hurst
Stick
Modified
Muncie
Stick
Installed
Original
Hurst
Stick Modified
Hurst
Stick Modified
"Muncie"
Stick Installed

First Gear Second Gear First to Second
gear throw
First Gear Second Gear First to Second
gear throw

Of course, the above instructions are intended as a guide only. Your experiences may be different. As with any automotive modification, nothing is an exact science and you may find better ways of accomplishing the same thing.