Before You Make Smoke, Make Sure Your Shifter Is In The Right Position. We Show You How To Make An Inexpensive Shifter Pedestal Without Sacrificing Safety, Looks, Or Comfort.
Preparing your musclecar for the rigors of highway cruising is hard enough without the added requirements of making it NHRAlegal, fast, and safe for the track. In some instances, doing one can even go against the grain of the other, for instance, when deciding whether or not to equip your car with a rollbar. Our '68 Chevelle, Project Street Sweeper, is a good example. We wanted a real pumpgas street car capable of being driven every day, but also capable of 11-second e.t.'s in the quarter-mile. From the beginning, we knew our raggedy old aftermarket shifter wasn't going to hack it for the street or the track, and we saw it as an opportunity to improve our situation twofold: make things more comfy and cool-looking cruising on the highway, and make it rock-solid reliable at the track.
When we last checked in with...
When we last checked in with the Street Sweeper '68 Chevelle (January 2007), we had just installed a brace of Stewart-Warner gauges.
We found the win-win answer to our problem with TCI's Outlaw shifter. It's got a comfortable pistol grip, great looks for the street, it's affordable at around $250 street price, and it's got the solid construction we were looking for. And don't forget the required NHRA/IHRA safety features like reverse lock-out. The Outlaw shifter is available with or without a brushed and anodized steel cover, and comes with all the hardware (including a five-foot transmission cable) necessary for hook-up to any standard three-speed trans.
We coupled the Outlaw shifter to one of TCI's new Super StreetFighter Turbo 400 transmissions when we installed our Howitzer 496ci big-block a few months ago. Besides having the beefcake needed to easily support our 630 lb-ft of torque, the Super StreetFighter trans has a dual-purpose valvebody that offers complete manual control of gear selection when manually shifted, but reverts to fully automatic in the "D" (Third gear) position. At the track, we'd be able to pull the lever all the way back into "1" to launch, then bang it forward into "2" without looking. For "Third," just squeeze the lever and bang it again. This was the perfect solution for our dual-purpose street car-manual control at the track, set itand forget it on the street. The Outlaw shifter would only make the experience more enjoyable once harnessed to the Super StreetFighter trans.
Our story starts with TCI's...
Our story starts with TCI's Outlaw shifter, which has an inviting billet aluminum pistol grip handle. These shifters are rugged, and since we put ours in months ago, we've beaten the wee out of it with no problem. Our three-speed model (PN 616231) works with all popular GM, Ford, and Chrysler three- and four-speed transmissions.
The last piece of the puzzle was where and how to position the shifter so that it would be easy to reach on the street without interfering with seat adjustment and legroom, yet close enough to grab at the track without bending over or peeling your eyeballs off the track. Since our Chevelle has a bench seat with an original column shift, a console wasn't an option. We liked the easy-cruising feel of the bench seat, and we didn't want to go with bucket seats just yet. The only solution was a custom pedestal for the shifter. We weighed our options and decided to design one out of cardboard and have it cut out in steel on a waterjet machine.
Making the pedestal out of cardboard allowed us to mock up the shifter position and test it beforehand. We could then make any necessary changes before committing anything to steel. We were so pleased with the results that we added some cupholders cut from old 4-inch exhaust pipe, painted the whole thing with some textured metal- lic graphite paint from Dupli-Color, and bolted it to the trans tunnel with four large anchor bolts. On the track, the TCI Outlaw shifter is now in a perfect position for racing. On the street, the handle is in a comfortable position, and the shifter is off the floor for all to admire.
We're getting closer to revealing all the details of our first dragstrip outing in the '68 Chevelle. All we can say for now is that the first time out, we accomplished our goal of putting the naturally aspirated pump-gas beast into the 11s with a best run of 11.70 at 113 mph. (And the TCI shifter worked like a charm!) There's more in it, too, but before we charge ahead, we owe you more details on how we got there. Next month, we'll show you how we tackled a potentially big problem we encountered with oil starvation.
Stuff You'll Need
* Measuring tape
* Masking tape
* Cardboard or chipboard
* Razor blade
* 16-gauge steel sheet
* 4-inch steel tubing (optional)
* MIG welder
* Assortment of hand tools
* Calibrated eyeball
|WHERE THE MONEY WENT |
|Item: ||Source: ||Part No. ||Price: |
|TCI Outlaw shifter, 3-speed forward pattern w/cover ||Summit/TCI ||TCI-616331 ||$249.95 |
|Pre-cut pedestal ||Advanced Waterjet ||n/a ||$60 |
|4-inch exhaust tubing for cup holders ||n/a ||n/a ||free |
|Dupli-Color Textured Metallic, graphite ||Summit/Dupli-Color ||SHW-MX100 ||$8.95 |
|Total: ||$318.90 |
This is what we started with,...
This is what we started with, and it wasn't pretty, safe, or functional. The previous owner only bothered to attach the shifter to the tunnel with two small sheetmetal screws.
Now this is more like it!...
Now this is more like it! Here, we're just playing with the shifter's position, trying to find out where we like it before tearing everything up.
We used the TCI Outlaw shifter...
We used the TCI Outlaw shifter cover as a template for the top of the pedestal. You can use cardboard, which is stronger for the mock-up, or you can use chipboard, which is weaker but more dimensionally accurate, and easier to cut.
After a few failed attempts,...
After a few failed attempts, we arrived at this successful template made of three pieces of cardboard. The sides are identical mirror images and will attach to the trans tunnel.
This is our man, Mike, at...
This is our man, Mike, at Advanced Waterjet & Engraving. He's cutting a real version of our cardboard pedestal template out of 16-gauge mild steel. Before we got to this point, Mike scanned the template and double-checked our dimensions.
Here's what our cardboard...
Here's what our cardboard template looks like when folded up and taped together. You can see that the cardboard held the weight of our Outlaw shifter quite nicely as we experimented with the angles and position of the side panels.
The final thing before taking...
The final thing before taking our cardboard pedestal template to the waterjet shop was to decide how large to make our attaching tabs and where to put them.
Basically, this sign says...
Basically, this sign says it all about the OMAX Jetmachining center: Keep yer freakin' fingers away from the jet, or risk losing them. Not only does the OMAX 55100 operate at pressures as high as 55,000 psi, but it uses garnet dust to punch up its cutting power.
We took off the cutting guard...
We took off the cutting guard to give you this shot of the waterjet in action. Normally, the cutting head is surrounded by a protective sponge, and the entire operation is submerged in water to keep things to a dull roar. Man is this thing loud!
Here's the finished piece....
Here's the finished piece. Notice the halfinch- long stitches-these are the kerfs which will make it super easy to bend in exactly the right place. Now the good news: You don't need to do anything prior to this point if you don't want to.
Just weld the inside corners,...
Just weld the inside corners, weld a short cross-brace to the back, and add cupholders if you want. (We made ours out of some old 4-inch exhaust tube laying around.) We coated the whole thing in Dupli-Color graphite-textured metallic coating.
Back at the shop, we bent...
Back at the shop, we bent this sucker into shape. It was ridiculously easy. The cool thing is that we designed it generically to fit a bunch of trans tunnels.