When building Project Pile House I’ve pretty much discarded all of the original mechanics and I’ve been building from the ground up. I’ve already installed a SBC (small block Chevy V8) engine and a TH350 automatic transmission in the truck. Next I needed to install a universal shifter that would work with the changes I’ve made and look “right”. I wanted something no-frills and as “retro” as an aftermarket shifter could look. I opted for the 15″ B&M Street Rod Shifter kit from JEGS. Most of the aftermarket shifter kits are simple to mount, but I figured I’d show you the process for anyone thinking about doing this themselves in the future.
I haven’t made the removable portion of my tunnel on Pile House yet, so I had plenty of room to work with, but you’ll need to gain access to the top of your transmission first.
From there you need to remove the top bolts from the tail shaft of the transmission. I found using a Ratcheting Wrench helped make quick work of removing the bolts. These top bolt holes will serve as two of the mounting points for the base plate of the shifter. The B&M kit (and most other brands) come with bolts to mount the plate in those top holes, but the factory bolts will work as well. You’ll also be utilizing a (normally) unused bolt hole in the top center of the transmission. I have a new transmission in Pile House, so I was able to just install the bolt, but you may want to clean the hole out with some Chassis Kleen and a “thread chaser” or tap.
Once you have the baseplate installed you can install the adjustable top mounting plate that the shifter attaches to. The top plate has a number of different mounting holes that allow you to mount the plate as far back (or forward) as you need and allows you to do the same with the shifter on the top plate. This gives almost limitless mounting options no matter the size of your cabin and seating configuration. The top plate uses hex head bolts and set screws to mount it and set the height/angle that the plate sits at. The shifter also mounts with button head hex head bolts. I opted to mount the plate and shifter fairly far forward so that the shifter wouldn’t hit the seat when going into gear.
With the shifter installed you can now hook it up so that it not only looks cool, but also actually works the transmission. The B&M shifter came with two simple brackets, some spherical heim joints, bolts, and some threaded rod. The smaller bracket with a square hole on one end mounts over the selector shaft located at the center bottom of the drivers side of the transmission. The larger bracket attaches to the drivers side of the shifter.
To make the shifter linkage you want to make sure the transmission and shifter are in the “park” position. You then measure the distance between the empty bolt holes on the two brackets and subtract the length of the heim joints from that number. That’s the length that you cut your threaded rod to. You then thread the heim joints on the threaded rod and attach each end to the brackets on the selector shaft and the shifter with the supplied nuts and bolts. Lastly adjust any slop out of the rod and tighten the jam nuts down on the heim joints. From here you should be able to check to make sure you have Park, Neutral, Reverse, Drive, First, Second, etc.
After confirming the shifter is mounted and functioning correctly; I was able to fine tune the position of the shifter to exactly how I wanted with the fine adjustment set screws at the base of the shifter. This put the shifter closer to the dash at park and plenty of room between the seat and the shifter in drive even with the seat moved all the way forward. All in all the project took about an hour of work and I think it looks right at home in the truck. I plan to eventually find or make a custom shift knob, but for know the standard B&M round shifter will work just fine. The shifter also comes with a microswitch to wire to your ignition as a neutral safety switch, I’ll be doing that here shortly when I begin wiring the truck.