A Sloppy Gear Change?

Vintage Speed Gear Change KitHaving recently changed from driving a 1952 Citroen Traction Avant with a dashboard mounted 3 speed gear change with a nice direct short throw, I found the gear change on the Beetle was very sloppy (a bit like stirring porridge) and when selecting 1st or 3rd gear it was a real stretch which meant having to move in the seat to actually reach. It's a common issue in a classic Beetle and there are options available to help.

Some parts specialists sell a new gear change lever from 'Vintage Classic' which looks like a 1950's gear change lever with a small 'crank' in it, an ivory knob on top and a built in 'short shift' which reduces the 'throw' by 40% but it does come at a cost nearing £200.00!

After looking online there had to be other more cost effective options and it is possible to buy a 'Gear Lever Extender' but that does not resolve the problem of the forward reach for 1st gear especially as it means ones hand actually catches the underside of the dashboard right where the ignition switch is, so any keys hanging down also hit your hand and does not make for a comfortable driving experience!

EMPI Gear Change KitHowever you can get an 'EMPI Quick Shift' kit for under £10.00 which simply sits under the existing gear lever and reduces the throw ( online fitting guide ) which is basically the same as the 'Vintage Speed' set up and that is one way to go using your existing gear lever, however on my car it was a later 12mm straight lever which didn't really match the period look I wanted.

Gear Stick CompareIn the image on the right there is a comparison to an early gear lever and the later straight one and overall there is not a lot of difference in length.

You can see the small crank in the older lever which brings it slightly further back and closer to the driver so I decided to wait and search online and finally found an early one for £25.00 to replace the one that came in the car.

After a close inspection of the replacement 'old style' gear lever another difference became apparent. The 'detent' pin on the older gear lever was much larger than on the newer one. The one on the later gear stick is basically the size of a ball bearing and not really a pin.

Gear Change Detent After cleaning the 'old' gear lever up I painted it black and removed the paint someone had covered the actual knob with to take it back to it's original gray and polished it.

When fitting it to the car the 'Detent Pin' has to point forward to the bulkhead and it took quite a bit of pressure to get it to locate down in the gear change rod, even with the 'Quick Shift' block underneath and it's a bit of a struggle to hold it down with one hand whilst trying to fit the retaining bolts in the plate to the tunnel housing.

After reading online, I tightend the gear lever retaining bolts down with 2nd gear selected, rather than in neutral, as 2nd had always been the hardest gear to select.

A quick test drive however showed that the £35.00 it actually cost for the 'old' lever and new quick shift kit made a major improvement. The change was far more positive with a lot less 'throw'. Even selecting reverse was much improved.

It just goes to show There is no need to suffer a 'sloppy' gear change on a Classic Beetle! or spend hundreds of £'s remedying it.I found that there is a nice cost effective solution!

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