DIY Short Shifter

by Mike Yach

There are a few exceptions, but this is what I did.

After driving my friends RS, and looking over Dave's Sti shift kit, I realized I needed something done to the long-ass throw of my shift lever. However, I wasn't willing to spend the $200+ USD for the Sti kit, and maybe would've sprung for a $100 kartboy if it would work, but Dave answered that for us a while ago in the Library. So, like always, I had to get my dirty little fingers in there and see what I could do to make a budget short shift. The two things I noticed that make a short-throw shift lever was the repositioning of the fulcrum (where the linkage attaches) and an actual reduction in height of the throw arm. Therefore, your hand will travel a much smaller distance when you shift. It's like using the boot to shift instead of the knob. Anyway, here's how it goes:

What you'll need:

1. a welder. So this is not your DIY for everybody, but even if you took it to someone and paid to get it done, it'd be less than $200.

2. Some way to cut metal. I had access to a metal shop, so I used an angle grinder and a metal chop saw. If all you have is a dremel tool, that will work too, it just might take longer, no matter.

3. Depending on how much you shorten it, you might need a new shift knob. This whole project was inspired by the fact that I got a MOMO Raceairleather aluminum shift knob and leather boot. The MOMO knobs don't need the threads to be secured to the lever, so that's about where I chopped mine off. However, using the stock knob, I was still able to screw it on very solidly, despite the fact that there were no threads left on the lever.

4. The right shift lever. Hmmmmm? What? Well, looking at Dave's shifter in the Library, mine looks nothing like that. My shift lever is more or less a single rod that never changes diameter all of the way down to the nylon ball, has a slight bend back (toward the rear of the car), and has the bracket that connects to the linkage welded onto it. I am keeping in mind that Dave did the 4EAT to 5MT swap, and I don't know where his parts came from. I have a '93 USDM Legacy Turbo.

Here's how to do it:

1. First, get the boot off. Pretty basic interior dismantling. Cake.
2. Unscrew the six screws that hold the metal framing plate and the rubber linkage protector to the chassis, and take off the framing plate.

3. Note the corner of the plate that is connected. This needs to be cut out to allow full height travel of the linkage. (since you will be moving the linkage up the shift lever) I cut mine with tin snips. It doesn't have to be fancy, as everything is covered by the shift boot.

4. With the tranny in the neutral position, unbolt the linkage from the shift lever.

5. Bring the linkage up as far as it will go until it hits the chassis at the far left corner. Bring it down a hair, and mark this position on the shift lever with a marker. I ended up with an approximate 5/8" height difference from stock.

6. Out with the lever. I was referencing the many i-club posts on how to get the nylon ball out of the socket, so, per instructions I just pushed down on it as hard as I could until it popped out. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! The nylon ball is much easier to get out, as I found out upon re-assembly. There is a spring-ring that holds the nylon socket where it needs to be. Just get a small needlenose pliers into each of the holes in the tabs and lift it out. Everything should just pop out relatively easy.

7. On to the grinding/cutting. You just need to "break" the existing welds more or less, so this is where you bust out the angle grinder or dremel, and cut the welds where the lever is attached to the linkage bracket. The bracket needs to be seperated.
8. Now would be a good time to cut any length off that you might not want. As I said before, I took off all of the threaded part of the lever, or about 1-1/4" to 1-1/2". A metal chop saw makes this real quick. Also, it doesn't hurt to grind down any sharp burrs or edges from the fresh cut. Also, if you feel like you need more of a bend in the lever, do it now. I didn't feel the need to.
9. Go ahead and weld the bracket into its new position, as per the mark you made before. Be sure you weld it on the correct side, away from the bend. Also make sure it is not upside down.

10. The finished lever should look exactly the way it came out, save for the seemingly minor (about 5/8") adjustment to the linkage bracket, and whatever you cut off of the top.

11. Re-install. Not too hard if you were there to see it come out. Remember that this requires virtually no force needed because of the ring-spring. Grease it up good, re-assemble the linkage and put that framing plate back on to secure the rubber linkage protector. Put your interior back together, and you're all set!


Holy crap, I can't believe how good this turned out! The feel of the car has transformed almost completely with such a simple mod. The shifts are a hell of a lot shorter, feels stiffer, much more notchy, and best yet, it's free! It does require more effort to shift, but that's the very simple physics of a lever, the closer you are to the fulcrum, the harder it is to move the load. No rocket science here. Bottom line = It feels great, and I HIGHLY recommend it.