Modifying T5 shifters for Hot Rod use

The S-10 T-5 five speed manual tranny is one of the most popular swap for older cars and trucks. The T5 with the is almost a total bolt-in, and offers an overdrive 5th gear.

I have one of these transmissions in my '57 Chevy truck currently and I'm going to be using on in my '31 Ford. Its pretty much a bolt-in swap, I like to use the clutch disc from an '86 Chevy Astro van as it has the correct spline count and size, but is also an 11" clutch for extra holding power.

The factory S-10 shift handle however, leaves much to be desired in the area of aesthetics, so I'd thought I'd do up a little "How-to" article on modifying one for use in older vehicles.

Note: While this article shows how to do this to a T5 shifter, the procedure may be the same as other make transmissions that use a "top loading" shifter similar to the T5.

These are the parts for the shifter. One S-10 shifter assembly, and one shifter stick cut off from a granny geared '57 Chevy truck tranny. That shifter ball is a "lucky" doorknob.... it's lucky because Greg and I took it off a 30's era house in Livermore that the fire department practiced on the next week!

Disassemble the S-10 shifter. There were three metal flanges, I used a screwdriver and pliers to bend the one tab back and the top plate slid off. Keep and eye how the parts come apart so you can put it back together later.

First cut the end of the S-10 stick off, and cut half of the shaft back, as seen in the picture above. The S-10 arm must be mild steel, because I was able to use a sawzall, whereas the '57 Chevy arm is definately forged.

I clamped the two arms together how I wanted them to bolt together, then drilled a couple of small holes through both ends of the shifter arms. These holes will be the pilot holes.

Then I proceeded to drill larger holes. On the '57 shifter arm I drilled with a 17/64 bit and tapped 5/16-18 threads into, the other arm got slightly larger holes so the bolt could fit through.


Looks crude, but it is very tight and functional.

Testing the new shifter revealed a much longer throw than previously with the shorter shifter, and if the shifter was destined for a truck, I wouldn't worried to much, but since I was putting this in my Hot Rod, I wanted nice short shifts.

Everything was disassembled again. I removed the cross pin from the S-10 arm, marked out and drilled a new hole an inch above the original one. Install the cross pin in the new hole.

Next, I needed to build a riser or spacer for the shifter mount. The riser height needs to match the distance of the new hole in the shifter arm, so in this case, I need a 1 1/4" riser.

After looking around the garage and finding nothing I could use, I searched the house and found an old plastic/nylon cutting board the lady planned on trashing. With a thickness of 3/8" I'll need to sandwich three pieces of it and sand a little off for a true 1 1/4" height. Totally hokey, but hey, it works! We'll just say it helps "cut down on heat and drivetrain vibration" coming through the shifter!

I also made four little metal tubes are just to keep from over-torqueing the riser, they might not be necessary, but since I was using plastic to make the riser I figured it would be better to be on the safe side.

You really should machine this out of a piece of thick aluminum plate, but I had neither the plate nor tools to machine it, just a welder and some hand tools.

Here is the whole thing assembled and installed in the car. The shift throws are much shorter, and no more 80's S-10 shifter arm in my Model A!