Short Throw Shifter
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Mopar Performance Short Throw Shifter
As you know, my ride came stock with an NV T850 5-speed manual transmission. Although it's an excellent gearbox, the stock shifter left a bit to be desired. Shift feel is adequate, if a bit muffled, but shift travel is another story. When shifting, it felt as though I was going to touch either the center console or the radio, every time I changed gears.
What to do? Well, the Spring 2002 issue of Racist Now!, er Neon Now!, umm Mopar Now! contained an article about installing a short-throw shifter into a Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth Neon for improved shift performance. Of significance in this article was the fact that the short-throw shifter came from Mopar Performance, not some aftermarket company that would probably do a half-wit job of converting a Honda shifter into a Neon shifter. Figuring that the Neon shifter assembly couldn't be that much different from my ride's shifter assembly, I undertook to install a short-throw shifter assembly myself.
Initially, I ordered the shifter for a 2000+ Neon. My thought process behind this purchase was that a 2000+ Neon and a 2001+ JR platform would share similar components. This line of thought turned out to be a big mistake for three reasons. First, the 2000+ Neon and the 2001+ JR shifter housings are completely different. This means that the 2000+ Neon shifter as a whole will not fit at all into my ride. The individual parts off the shifter could conceivably be taken off the MP shifter housing and put on the stock shifter housing, but this involves a significant amount of work.
Secondly, the 2000+ Neon shifter neutral crossover lever is completely different from the JR lever. The JR neutral crossover lever curves towards the back, while the 2000+ Neon lever juts straight down. The picture at left graphically shows the neutral crossover lever difference. Third, the sticks themselves have different arrangements for mounting the shifter knob. The JR knob rides a groove on the stick shaft, and locks into place using a clevis pin on the shaft. The 2000+ shift knob, on the other hand, is held onto a clevis pin on the stick using a spring.
Even with these differences, I was able to make the 2000+ MP shifter work in my ride. However, I had to do some machining. First, I had to machine a groove in the 2000+ MP shift stick to accept my shift knob, as well as drill a hole in the stick for the knob's clevis pin. Alternatively, I could have bought a 2000+ Neon shift knob and boot, but I didn't want to take the chance that the boot would not fit my center console. Second, I had to grind off the stock mounting studs from my shifter housing, and replace them with longer screws and nuts, since they were too short to accept the MP shift stick/neutral crossover lever assembly. Third, I had to drill a hole in the adjustable end of the neutral crossover cable in order the make the neutral crossover lever work.
Upon doing some further research (that I should have done prior to buying the 2000+ shifter), I found that the 1995-1999 Neon shifter assembly and the JR shifter assembly appeared to be identical for all intents and purposes. This means that it should be possible to put the 1995-1999 Neon short-throw shifter into my ride, with a bare minimum of swearing. However, once I actually got the shifter in hand, I discovered a few small details that make the 1995-1999 Neon shifter and the JR shifter incompatible. They're nothing like the differences described above, but will still make installation somewhat difficult.
The shifter housing itself looks the same between the MP unit and the JR unit, but a closer inspection reveals some show-stopping differences. First, the cable mounts are about 1/4 of an inch farther away from the shift stick on the JR shifter assembly. This means that there could be alignment issues if the MP shifter were used in a JR vehicle. A worst case scenario here would be an inability to shift into certain gears. A second-worst case scenario would be that the tranny would shift, but would eventually destroy the gearbox from mis-aligment and subsequent abnormal wear of the synchronizers inside the gearbox due to the length difference in the shifter housing. The picture at left shows the length difference.
The second, and more obvious difference, is that the mounting holes are different between the MP and the JR shifter housings. Ordinarily, this could be taken care of at any competent machine shop. However, along with the other difference described above, I felt that modifying the MP shifter housing to be pointless. Instead, I chose to continue using my modified shifter housing. After all, I had already replaced the too-short mounting studs on the housing with longer screws and nuts. I also didn't want to risk destroying my gearbox from any possible misalignment of the cables to the stick itself.
All the parts were easily transferrable from the 1995-1999 MP shifter to my shift housing. Upon installation and testing of my shifter assembly, I came upon one further difference between my housing and the MP housing. The MP housing has been machined to allow the neutral crossover lever to move without hitting the housing. This is fairly easy to duplicate using a Dremel tool, however.
Pictured here are the other (obvious and desirable) differences between the MP shifter and my stock shifter. The stick has been cut and re-welded to make the stick angle back and toward the driver, and the shift ball has been moved up. The ball was moved up to move the shift stick pivot point. This served to increase the travel at the shift cable end, while decreasing the travel at the knob end. At the same time, the MP neutral crossover lever was lengthened by a like amount, in order to keep the same shift cable alignment as before. Finally, a spacer was added between the shifter housing and the shift stick/neutral crossover lever assembly in order to make the alignment between the shift cables and the shifter the same as for stock.
If you have a 2001+ JR ride, and want to do this modification (which I highly recommend), you will need to buy part number P5007317 from Mopar Performance. This can be bought either on-line at DodgeParts.com for around $190, or at your friendly neighborhood Chrysler dealership parts counter for about $234324231 (well, actually about $300, but at 50% markup for the same part, at two different places, is a bit excessive). Remember also that you'll need to modify your stock shifter housing by grinding off the existing studs, replacing those studs with longer screws and nuts (I am using 10-24 by 1.5 inch screws), and machining a groove on the left side of your housing. After this is done, simply transfer the MP shift stick/neutral crossover lever assembly to your stock shifter housing, and install the shifter in your ride.
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|This page last updated 20 April 2010.|