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Shifting problems: '51 Champion

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  • Transmission: Shifting problems: '51 Champion

    "Something" is going on deep in the steering column of my '51 Champion. Mechanic is finishing up a six-month overhaul on this beauty, with an all-new wiring harness and replacement hydraulic lifts for the convertible top, new tires, etc. But she has trouble getting into reverse and dropping from first into second gear. We thought it was the rubber bushings on the transmission, and those were replaced to no effect. Obviously, this is a manual 3-speed car.

    Anyone had similar issues or recommend a course of action? I'm a bit stumped and don't want to live life in my Stude in first gear with no reverse (sounds like a Tucker '48!)

  • #2
    Replace the motor mounts if they're bad, and readjust the shift linkages.


    • #3
      Originally posted by 1951Champion View Post
      "Something" is going on deep in the steering column of my '51 Champion.....
      Not intending to be condescending, but if you have your car's manuals, take a little time to study the parts/construction, and the mystery of "deep in the steering column" will fade away. It is really not all that complicated, and similar to every standard manual shift mechanism of the era. The "key" to it working is all about two "neutral" positions. On column shifter, and the transmission linkage, the neutral positions must match up before anything can work.

      As Matt has said, check your motor mounts. If they are worn, loose, or out of position, they can affect the neutral match up between the column mechanism and the transmission linkage. Once the motor mounts are correct, you could find the problem solved. Next, if the problem is still there, you can adjust the neutral positions between the transmission and shifter mechanism. The shop manual has instructions. There is a special tool for adjusting, but I think there is a way to improvise a tool for that.

      The bottom line is that "neutral" is the starting point for shifting. Even in today's high tech world, welding and painting robots require a "start/neutral" point for targeting their programed sequence. It is the same principle for vintage transmissions.
      John Clary
      Greer, SC

      SDC member since 1975


      • #4
        As I recall there are detailed instructions in the serivce manual about adjusting the shift levers. There is reference to a special tool that is inserted to make the adjustment, however I seem to recall that a 1/8" drill bit can be used in place of the special tool. Perhaps others can chime in as to the specifics.
        Dan Peterson
        Montpelier, VT
        1960 Lark V-8 Convertible
        1960 Lark V-8 Convertible (parts car)


        • #5
          Thanks, all, for the suggestions. Condescending is OK. My mechanic isn't offended (nor am I.) I appreciate the deep reservoir of knowledge from those on this Forum. We believe the motor mounts were OK. Car was towed this morning to an auto trim shop to have a new convertible top installed. Early next week it's back to the shop to decode what's wrong inside the steering column. (Linkage had already been tightened, etc.)


          • #6
            Adjusting the shift rods properly makes a huge difference. When I got my 52 Commander it did not shift well. I knew the engine had been out and the transmission wasn't stock so I adjusted it. The manual calls for a special tool to hold the shifter arms in neutral while the rods are adjusted, but hardly anyone has the tool. Following someone's suggestion, I used an hex wrench that just fit in the opening the tool goes in. The wrench worked perfectly. After adjusting the rods so that they just dropped into the shifter arms that were set at neutral, the car shifts great.
            "In the heart of Arkansas."
            Searcy, Arkansas
            1952 Commander 2 door. Really fine 259.
            1952 2R pickup


            • #7
              steering column = shifter rods.......