With the last parts of the interior reinstalled today, I could finally test a couple of other jobs I did as “while I’m here” things when the interior was apart. One of those jobs was to rebuild the rather floppy shifter.
I rebuilt this a while back, as I was doing other work in the interior. There is no better time to do it than when the center console is already out, otherwise its bit of a pain to get to.
The shifter on the TVR, like the Classic Mini, isn’t a sprung gate, so it doesn’t self return to the center of the neutral gate, instead, it just chills out where you left it (either on the left between 1st and 2nd or on the right between 3rd and 4th). I kinda just got used to this feel and adapted to its vagueness thinking it was normal. It had a large amount of lateral play when in gear (to the point you could think it was in neutral).
I had missed gears a couple of times when driving due to this vagueness, but hey, its a 40 year old car with 40+ year old technology, how good is it meant to be?
Well, its meant to be a lot better than that. The interwebs indicate it should be fairly direct and tight.
Removal is as easy as unscrewing the large cap that covers everything. It sounds easy in theory, but it took a bloody long time and lots of swearing to get it undone. I tried everything I could throw at it until I got mad and used a long flat blade as a chisel and a BFH to smack it off. It seems this is the only real way to crack it off as there isn’t enough room around it to actually get much else on the cap. The only access to it is through the small, jagged hole in the fibreglass tub, which will happily shred your wrists if you arent careful. I have the scars to prove it.
Once the cap is undone the whole shifter will just pull up and out. Just as a note, don’t bother trying to undo the three bolts on the turret and remove the shifter that way, it’s not possible due to the shift rod.
The Problem and the Bodge
With the shifter out it was immediately obvious something wasn’t quite right.
Yup, I’m completely missing that large inverted mushroom bush. This bush is what locates the shifter and stops it from being moved around in the turret. The ball on the bottom of the shifter locates in a plastic bush in the selector rod (which you should check whilst the shifter is out as its also prone to failure; mine was OK). Having the base located, but not the middle of the shifter leads to a lot of excess movement.
Under the large cap there is a smaller dome which is forced upwards by a couple of washers and a spring pushing against that mushroom bush. This creates the nice solid shift feel, and stops any upwards movement whilst allowing the shifter to move as it should (without the spring and dome the whole shifter could be lifted upwards and disengaged from the selector rod).
Now, this is where I discovered the bodge. I suspect at some point someone has had this shifter out, noticed the mushroom bush was in pieces and removed the remains of the bush. This resulted in the cross pin taking all the forces and load. This bent the pin, as well as wearing into the sides of the cap, as it normally wouldn’t be able to move far enough sideways to touch the cap.
The rubber visible above the dome is another bodge. Its a section of rubber hose (heater hose?) that has been fitted in order to compress the spring and take out some of the play.
The mushroom bush can now be fitted and the pin replaced. I straightened the pin in the vice first and then tried to fit the bush. This is where I struck my biggest issue. I managed to get it all together (with much effort) but it was super tight, the spring was heavily compressed, and it was damn near impossible to refit the cap and screw it down as the dome was pushing it away from the turret with more force than I could push down. Far too much time was spent trying to do this; shredding my wrists on the fibreglass and wearing the skin raw until I rage quit and left it.
I did some research and noticed something. My spring was sitting on top of the stem of the mushroom, instead of over it like the example a couple of photos above. This means the spring was being compressed about twice as much as it needed to be. I tried to alter it and see if the spring would fit over the stem, but not a chance, the stem was too thick. In the end I cut the stem down to half its length and tried to fit it
This actually worked, I could screw the cup down and it all went together, but by golly was the shifter tight and stiff to work. It almost felt good to use, every movement was deliberate, but two things concerned me. One, the wear on the cap and dome would be excessive due to the friction of the two being forced together hard. Two, there was zero play in the shifter, which meant when you slotted it into gear it didn’t move by its self at all. If you’re familiar with manual shifting you will know that when you shift into a gear the shifter kinda moves its self slightly and finds its happy place (which is usually not hard up against the end of the gate, but slightly towards the neutral gate). This wasn’t happening, and I didn’t want to risk the excessive wear on the shifter forks or synchros.
Refitting was a breeze, and the shifter had what I would consider the right amount of free play in it. It now popped nicely into gear, had zero lateral movement when in gear, no vertical movement, but was easy to move and shift. I had also added a coating of grease to the pivot points and to the top of the dome just to keep everything sliding nicely.
It took a while to get the rest of the interior finished so I haven’t been able to drive the car until today, and the results were immediately obvious.
The shifter is now very direct and it’s hard to miss the gates. You can shift it quite quickly now too as it inspires confidence.
The shifter just by the nature of its design is a bit strange. Because of the offset, when shifted into 1st and 3rd it dips down, whilst 2nd and 4th the shifter actually raises slightly, and the throw into 4th especially is quite long. All part of the TVR charm I guess.
A worthy repair, and something other 280i owners should check if they have an excess play in their shifter.