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The Ultimate 3 Speed Floor Shifter for your AD Pickup

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  • The Ultimate 3 Speed Floor Shifter for your AD Pickup

    Note: As with all of the content on this website, you can simply click on any picture to get its largest size. In this way, we can maintain the clearest definition to make it easier for you to see the detail. If the picture is so big you can't see all of it on your screen, all you have to do is hold down CONTROL and move the mouse wheel up and down to resize!

    Note before we get started...

    The idea is for a group of interested restorers to create something I call 'Solution Criteria'. In other words, what do we want this project to look like EXACTLY. In this case we used the following for Solution Criteria:

    3 speed floor shifters are notoriously a bad idea due to how the transmissions linkages are on the left side. Because of the location of the shift levers, most hackers just hack a hole way back near the seat pedestal and on the left side, then make a shift lever that 'works'. So here is #1 solution criteria:

    a) The shifter must come through the floor in the exact same spot as the STOCK 4 speed transmission did when the truck was new.

    We don't want to source out universal shifter levers for our transmission, we want to use the stock 3 speed levers in the stock configuration. Why is this so important? Because if you decide you don't like your floor shifter mechanism, you shouldn't be penalized for it. You should be able to re-attach your column shifter in a matter of seconds without worry. So here is #2 solution criteria:

    b) The stock transmissions shift levers must remain in the stock orientation without any modifications.

    We do not want to use a system where off-board pivots are used to accomplish this. We want the shifter to be mounted directly on the transmission and we want to feel the vibrations of the drivetrain just like you can with a stock 4 speed. So here is #3 solution criteria:

    c) The solution must not have any chassis or off-board mounting parts.

    4) After all of the above, we absolutely do not want any slop introduced by the solution that would make the shifter feel sloppier than a stock 4 speed. Truth be told, this isn't too hard because the stock 4 speed had LOTS of slop in it, but this solution is much tighter and more responsive. So here is #4 solution criteria:

    d) The solution must be as tight and responsive as the stock 4 speed shifter.

    So as you can see, this effort is different from anything you have ever seen before. The criteria is first and foremost. We do not 'settle' for anything less than what we originally set out to do. It's either everything we want, or it's not at all. This philosophy will be front and center at We are not in this to make money, just solve problems in a very productive way. Of course if someone wants one of these shifters and can't make it themselves due to shop or experience limitations, depending on availability of experienced shop experts, we can arrange to put together the resources to make one for you at no more than standard shop rates. This isn't about profits, it's about giving back to a very worthwhile community. Whatever you do, if you got this far, let us know what you think!

    Back in the day, when you went to purchase your new 1947-55 Chevy Pick-up you had two options; a 4-speed transmission with the shifter on the floor, or a 3-speed transmission with the shifter on the steering column. The three speed column shift option had its advantages. It allowed for more comfort for the middle occupant. Also, it was a popular mechanical solution and sold very well.

    But if you are like me, and reminisce about the old truck with the stomp starter and the shifter on the floor... driving down the road with one hand on the wheel, the other on the shifter.. feeling the drive-train, its vibrations, etc. all directly, then you prefer the floor shift. Not to mention, some of us gear-jammers couldn't keep them adjusted!

    But alas, we have a 3 speed or 3 speed with the Borg R10 Overdrive and we still want the shifter on the floor. NO, we do not wish to put the shifter in some unorthodox location to the left and near the seat pedestal. NO we do not wish to hack up the floor and put in some universal shift kit. WE want our shifter to come through the floor in EXACTLY the same location the 4 speed of the same vintage did. WE want to use the stock transmission levers in their stock positions. WE want to purchase a 4 speed transmission cover from our vendors and expect it to work perfectly. We also do not want any off-board pivots or anything to dampen the true vibrations of the drive train. Many of you reading this are laughing because for 60 years, nobody has been able to make this happen. After-all, there is less than 1 inch of space from the top of a 3 speed transmission to the bottom of the cab floor. I hate it when people say.. 'you can't do that', don't you?

    In case you are more of a genius type and are asking yourself why two pivots on each side instead of a much easier single pivot point, it's because doing that reverses the shift pattern. Not only do I want all of the features I outlined earlier, but I also want the shift pattern to be standard. Here is what your transmission's levers are doing:

    So, a single pivot would make it shift backwards. Another consideration that is quite important to the success of this project is that the truck's shift levers need to be standard, and in the stock location. If you have changed your shift levers from stock, change them back! Some of the readers of this document will want to shift a Borg R10 Overdrive unit. No difference from the 3 speed except that the Borg R10 was not original to the truck, and the transmissions shift levers may not be in the place they should be. The RIGHT way to resolve that is to get a side plate from an original 47-55 3 speed transmission and replace the shift lever assembly. The other reason for doing that is if you ever want to put a dual MC on your truck, your incorrect lever shafts will interfere. Ask me how I know! Another way of course is to get two universal shift levers and just point them in the right position. Here is the correct placement. It's from the shop manual.

    So now that you have your shift levers correct on the transmission, and your 4 speed transmission cover, you are ready to tackle this pretty involved but very satisfying project. Understand that I did all this with very rudimentary tools as far as metal working tools go. You will want to make friends with your local welding/machine shop because there are things they can do for you to cut down on the approx. 160 hours of time it takes (equiv. to one full week) of labor if you do it all yourself. We aren't whistling dixie here folks.. it's quite a project. But imagine how you will feel once it's done and works exactly as advertised. Nobody, and I mean virtually nobody has this setup on their truck, so the satisfaction that you will feel pulling this off will make it all well worth it!

    Tools List:

    As I said earlier, I don't have an unlimited tool budget. I use what I have. So if you have better, consider yourself fortunate. If anyone has a free Laser system they would like to donate to a good cause, I am your man!
    • DeWalt PortaBand bandsaw with the Swag Offroad Table - If you do any metal cutting on things like this, it really pays to get one. Truth be told, if you don't have one and are too cheap to get one, the Makita and some talent will work, but it won't make things any easier.
    • A good punch to mark your holes, tape measure, marking pens for marking steel (I use Sharpies), a good all around drill bit set, level, straight edge, you know the drill!
    Note: Shifter Fact! Most people do not realize that when you disconnect your shifter from the transmission, it just dies. Just like a robot that gets shut off. No detents, no clarity in its purpose, just slop, slop and more slop. It's the transmission that FULLY provides you with a clear Neutral, and gear system. The shifter does nothing except organize your shifting into a pattern. My first attempt at this design, I had installed special detents to further emphasize Neutral so there was a clean, concise difference. It failed because it's not needed, nor desired.

    Parts List:

    Metal is expensive, but what I do for my projects is to get used, repurposed, or small cutoff pieces from a local welding shop scrap pile. I will list the metal and sizes you need here. You cannot get a single piece for the frame of this project for mechanical reasons, so please follow the list carefully. There will be a reason for everything.
    • Two Pieces of 10 gauge 3 inches by 4 inches for the tower.
    • 4 each Hurst Shifter Buttons. I wasn't happy with the $40 cost for 4 of these, but they are necessary. In case the link dies, they are Hurst Part No. 1193783. I get them at Hurst Shifters Online
    Note: The rest was sourced completely through McMaster-Carr. Some of the above can be sourced there too, but do check with your local welding/machine shop because it will be less expensive.Assembly Instructions:NOTE:NOTE: I am describing the rear piece as something that bolts to the transmission. Of course you see the fallacy of this if you do not have an overdrive. But, it is all still very valid because the sculpting you did will sit on that "spine" that is front to back on the stock 3 speed and be just as level. So, if you have the stock 3 speed, just bolt the rear piece on to the very edge of the top plate as you expect it to, and move on. There is a nice stock 3 speed bracket in this document but we are not there yet.

    So, now we have a tower and a Hurst or Mr Gasket shift mechanism to contend with. It was just easier and more economical to use what is already there. No sense in re-inventing the wheel. I suggest going with Mr Gasket since it's cheaper by about $200. They are similar, but they are NOT the same. Where you pay even more for the Hurst is when you need to bend the shifter mast differently. The Mr Gasket bend is less radical. This is due to the offset levers they use in the mechanism. Here is the difference, or check out the templates in the back.

    Note:This is the Hurst shifter forks dimensions when you are done. In the case of the shifter forks, you will need to further grind off the "bottom" after they are in successfully. Notice you have two holes on both Mr Gasket and Hurst models at the bottom. We won't use the bottom one at all, and we are replacing the top one with the Heim as shown.

    Make two of these exactly the same. The Heim joints are centered on the shifter forks. In other words, looking at it from the side, it should be the same on both sides.

    This is the Mr Gasket shifter forks. Although they look different due to the offset nature of them, the dimensions are the exact same. The advantage of going with Mr Gasket is that the offset causes the shifters mast to favor the space inside your truck a little better. But it's not a huge deal since bending the shifter mast a bit more is an option.

    NOTE: Don't forget about the full size templates!





    NOTE: Now is a good time to think about cleaning and painting the housing assembly before we start installing the mechanicals. A decent etching primer and a decent spray can of your choice will do. Just don't embarrass everyone with a weird color!

    Primary Pivots

    NOTE:Secondary Pivots

    So that was easy right? I had lots of trouble with this part on the proper angles but now that I have it down, there is an easy way to do this.. USE THE TEMPLATE!

    This is the part of the pivot that points downward. It works the same on both sides. Weld this piece along the edge of each pivot following the angle. Weld this piece on top of the other piece. (see Note) If you want, you can weld the Heim joint on first, but I found it easier and cleaner to weld the Heim joint last.

    NOTE: So are you having trouble deciding which is the bottom or the top of the pivot so that you don't weld the downward assembly on the wrong side? Look at the picture on page 1. THAT picture is how I decided which to call left and which to call right. Hope that helps!

    So, now that you have them welded, and the Heim joint welded so that it's exactly centered, equal on both sides, you are ready to move on to the last two Heim joints, on the rod that goes across the assembly.

    Bearing PivotsStock 3 Speed Transmission Mount

    This isn't normally the case, but in THIS case, it's actually easier if you have an Overdrive. Reason being, you are ready for assembly and testing at this point. But if you have a stock 3 speed trans, we need to build an add-on bracket for you. Here is how I did that.




    Installing the Primary Pivots

    NOTE:Installing the Secondary Pivots

    Installing the Rod/Bearing Assembly

    If you followed the previous instruction on this assembly, you may already have installed it. If not mount the rod with the two bearing housings inside the top part of your frame securing them with the #10 screws/nuts. This rod needs to turn with absolutely NO resistance. The E-clips will keep it centered and the pivots are pointing in generally the right place.




    Linkage Creation and Installation

    Now we tackle the harder one, the 1st/Reverse linkage. This one is harder because we have to bend it a bit. At 3 inches down one side of the 5-1/4" rod, put a bend in it. How much? I am not an engineer and I really don't know how to tell you, so try this: stand the rod up on end in front of you so the top is at 12 o'clock. Bend the bottom until the bottom is at just a little less than 5 o'clock. No kidding, just a slight bend. 5 o'clock is really a smidge too far. Try not to mess up the threads in doing this. Easier said than done. I use a series of nuts spun together on each side of where I want my bend, then put it in a vise and whack the nuts with the hammer. Put your locking nuts and linkage ends on this piece so its overall length is about 7 inches.

    Installing and Adjustment

    Now that the hard part is over, let's see how we did. Remove the transmission floor cover. If it's the 3 speed one, you will need to purchase the 4 speed cover or modify your old one. You can purchase cloth shifter boots that would work with the 4 speed cover, or go to a lot of trouble and make a tin solution. I am hoping for someone out there to comment with a good idea.

    After you have the trans cover removed, remove the top two bolts that hold the transmission to the bell housing. Set the unit on top of the transmission and move it forward and install those two bolts back in, mounting the front of the shifter unit. If it's a stock 3 speed, you can install the additional mount as well. Bolt them together, then remove the top torque tube bolts and use those same bolts to mount the rear. If it's the overdrive model, remove the three intermediate bolts and reinstall them mounting the rear of the unit. That's all there is to mounting.

    To test your new shift mechanism but just in case you want to keep your column shifter for now, take the two column shift linkages loose from the transmission levers and tie them back. Install your new linkages. The 2nd/3rd (front trans lever) is really easy. Just put it on to the inside of the two levers. They should be fairly across from each other. The 1st/Rev one will be a little annoying because it's so tight there. Install the linkage with the longer end before the bend at the transmission lever, and the shorter end to the mechanism. The bend points sort of down and directly to the front. It's tight there. If you get totally frustrated and can't get the linkage which goes inside the Heim joint and to the outside of the trans lever, remove the mounting bolts and install the Heim joint side of the linkage, THEN reinstall everything. Whatever works. Once it's there, adjustments happen with it properly installed.

    So now that everything is mounted, linkages connected, and everything looks right, move the shift levers in your standard H pattern as shown on earlier. Don't expect it to work right, just see where you are. Reverse and One are always engaged until you get to the center, so, are you getting the proper movement to get completely to reverse, through neutral, and completely to first? If no, make the necessary linkage adjustment. Remove the linkage from the trans lever since the other side is so hard. then change the length as needed. Look carefully at the action to make sure nothing is hitting or binding. Once you have the entire movement of the transmission lever at your command at the shift lever, put it in Neutral. Since you did all of the above, it also means your 2nd/3rd lever is in Neutral already. The big question now is, are the two shifter arms inside the tower perfectly across from each other? Chances are they aren't. So, this is where you remove either R/1 or 2/3's primary pivot clip, drop the button and make the threaded rod longer or shorter. Move the pivot by hand once you have dropped the button to see what I am talking about. This adjustment is to get those two bars to be exactly across from each other to form your H pattern. Since you are sitting to the left, you might want to make it so the H pattern is slightly angled toward you to make it feel more natural. Remember, this system should not bind, hang up, or do anything but shift very smoothly. You should feel when each movement "kerthunk's" into place. If your pivot bolts are tight, just the correct amount of slop is there.

    So, I ask you, are you happy? Drop me an email at I want to hear any negative feedback as well. Maybe there is something constructive we can do to make it even better.

    Meanwhile, here are those full size templates I promised you. Print these templates out as many times as you need to do it right. What I did when I was using paper templates was to cut the template out with scissors, then tape the template to the work and then using a center punch, hit through the paper in the center of the holes. As long as your printer is printing at 100% they will be in the right place. Be as precise as possible and don't get in a hurry! Follow the instructions here carefully. This was a real confidence builder for me, so I know if I can do it, YOU can do it!

    Get the Full Size Templates Here: Full Size Shifter Templates

    NOTE: If your computer's printer is like just about everyone else's, it prints at 97% by default. This is bad for our purposes, so whatever you do, go into your printers settings and make sure you find the field where it says 97% and change it to 100%.

    The Shifter Handle:It would really be nice to get some feedback on this one. I know it works perfectly, but the ONE thing I would have liked to figure out better is the boot that covers the tower part of the mechanism. You can purchase them on Ebay Motors for generic use. This is what I came up with for myself. But it's way to involving to do for anyone else with my metalworking toolset. To explain further, as an Avionics Technician in the US Air Force back in the day, I really liked the Dzus Fastener and decided to make my transmission cover accordingly. So there are 1/4 turn fasteners where the sheet metal screws used to go. Then, I put a dual master cylinder in so made a rectangular opening in the floor to accommodate. Lots happening in a short space with this cover, so that's why it looks so different in the pictures.

    By the way, if you decide to take a crack at making this shifter mechanism yourself, there are LOTS more pictures available to help you along. If you need someone to make one for you, let me know and I will find someone!

    More Pictures available at The Site Archive Page!

    This article was first published at (c)2015 All Rights Reserved
    Last edited by Deve; 02-14-2015, 11:53 AM.
    Deve Krehbiel

  • #2
    Hi Deve, great site!

    I took this from Jim Carter's website a few years ago:

    In mid 1947 AD trucks had the gas tank under the bed and it was the last year for a floor shift three-speed transmission without external linkage.

    In 1948 the gas tank was still under the bed and a redesigned three-speed transmission now used a column shift with linkage attached to case side.

    Dennis McGillis


    • #3
      Yes, and in going to column shift with external linkages made if very hard to do what I wanted to do! But, not impossible. I really like how this solution shifts so far. Thanks!
      Deve Krehbiel


      • #4
        Hi Deve! I have a stock 4 on the floor. Instead of changing the rear end to make it more highway friendly, is there a way to change the top gear in the transmission to overdrive within the stock case? Thanks, Terry


        • #5
          Not that I know of. You would have to swap it out with something like a T5. There have been lots of guys who have done this. I am not one of them, but I hear its a great choice.
          Deve Krehbiel