That familiar logo was, is and will always be synonymous with grabbing a cue-ball and rowing through a set of gears in a cavalcade of pony, muscle and modern performance cars around the world and across a wide band of automotive brands build over several decades.
The latest addition to the Cars Illustrated fleet gives us a chance to transport ourselves back to the hey-day of manual shifted drag racing, and imagine ourselves as Grumpy himself, grabbing gears at the Gatornationals inside the all-to-familiar white Camaro…this time it’s a drop-top ’95 Z28 with a T56 6-speed, but it’s still fun to daydream.
So we sat down inside the shop, spread out a box full of parts, a couple of instruction pages and figured we would get as close as we could. One thing that owners love the most is the ability to have full control of the way the car shifts at any given time. In this installation we’ll show some love to the owners of the 4th-Gen F-Bodys, but remember the T56 has been used in everything under the sun from Z28s and Trans Ams to Holden Commodores. The T56 has earned a great reputation for being not only tough enough to handle moderate power, but also reward the owner with better than average fuel economy.
We got our hands on a Hurst Billet/Plus Shifter performance shifter, the CNC-machined bottom plate comes with a chromed Hurst stick with a (in this case) black shift knob. The great thing about this upgrade is that you have the option to use either the Hurst stick with white knob combination, or the factory stock shifter handle.
Dis-assembly of the center console involves taking a few bolts out, leaning the seat back and….wait, just to make a note – if you have a roll cage of any sort this could present a little problem in your F-body – our fitment vehicle has a 6-point installed and prevented us from fully reclining the seat so we did the rest of the install working around the center console, but it was really not a problem. Disconnecting the cigarette lighter and convertible seat switches were the only thing holding us back from rotating the console into a position to allow us to get to the shifter itself. Then, it is just a matter of removing the screws around the bottom rubber cover and there she was in all it’s glory – a stock..err, wait what is that?
As we got to this point of removing the “stock shifter”, we couldn’t help but notice that someone had already installed a B&M unit at some point in the life of black Z28s time on the road….so even though the Camaro did not have the stock shifter still attached to the T56, the B&M was coming out and the process was made a bit more complicated only due to the fact that now we are working with parts and fastener that are both stock GM and B&M, but Hurst as well – what that consists of is a few extra tools, no big deal at all.
Next steps are pretty routine – follow the directions and you will be fine with only a few basic tools in the garage – un-bolt the old shifter, use a shorty pry-bar to pop the shifter loose from the transmission (a step someone took before was to lay a bead of RTV to the housing to create a seal between the two) and then lift out the shifter and set yourself up for the only part of this install that was in anyway difficult – removing the nylon bushing from the shift fork. Part of the reason the B&M shifter did not live up to excepted feel was the fact that whoever slapped that shifter in skipped one of the most important parts of this upgrade – the bushing in the fork needs to be replaced and after fighting ours for 15/20 minutes with a few different picks, screwdrivers and a pair of needdlenose pliers it was out…note: that little sucker fought hard to come out.
Once out, the rest was as simple as going backwards from the start – drop in the new bushing, set a bead of RTV on the transmission , drop in the new Hurst shifter, replace the four bolts, tighten everything down and then replace your rubber boot, plug the cigarette lighter and top switch, rotate the console back into position and replace all the mounting hardware for the console – then with a simple snap of the shifter boot and tightening of the shifter-ball and bammo, your done and ready to go grab some gears.
The installation of the Hurst shifter took less than a half of an hour and the results are easy to feel verses the B&M let alone compared to the stock shifter we have used in other 4th-Gen Camaros. The throw is reduced, giving more better shifts, making this Z28 feel that much more enjoyable to drive. 1-2/3-4 gear changes are vastly better, but what is really improved is the 2-3 shift that is the trickiest of all…you miss that gear, it’s over and your competitor is showing you his/her taillights.
So lets review and skip to the bottom of this little speed parts review…
- It took us less that 45 minutes from start to finish – 15 minutes of that fighting that nylon bushing.
- It’s done with basic tools – no need for anything fancy or needed from the Snap On truck
- The feel and shift quality was significantly better than the stock or the B&M unit that was not installed properly.
- Cost verses gain might not be huge on the time slip, but the Hurst shifter will put the “missed a shift” turd in the drivers pocket – or whatever is the excuse you got gaped at the light.
Want better feel and control of your T56 let alone the vast array of applications Hurst makes for just about any manual (or automatic) you could think of? Check out http://www.hurst-shifters.com/and see for yourself why the name Hurst has been a choice of so many for so long.