67-69 Camaro Short Throw Shifter conversion
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.
Typical broken Console Shift Plate
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.
1/4" by 1"
1st & 2nd
3rd & 4th
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.
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).
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...)
||68 -vs- 69 arms
|Drill Pilot Hole
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.)
||Grind or file
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
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.
|1st & 2nd
|3rd & 4th
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.
||First to Second