Hurst Shifters is one of those iconic brands that just about everyone has heard of, whether you race or just attend car shows, when the Hurst name gets mentioned, people take notice. Hurst has been providing better shifts since 1958, and has been attached to famous vehicles like the Hurst Olds 442 and a crowd-pleasing favorite – the HEMI Under Glass Plymouth Barracuda wheelstander.
We toured Hurst Shifters recently, and talked to Kenji Takahashi, Vice President of Engineering, about what it takes to put a Hurst short-throw shifter into a musclecar. Just like cutting your coil springs can mess up your suspension’s geometry, cutting off the top of your manual shifter can mess up your shifting and decrease positive shifts. Hurst shared their Hurst Camaro with us, and also told us how they go about designing a short-throw shifter.
Using the latest in technology, each shifter is first designed on the computer using SolidWorks prior to any machine work.
You can’t just cut the top off of a shifter to make a short-throw shifter. You have to raise the fulcrum, and maintain the proper geometry as well. -Kenji Takahashi
During our visit, Takahashi showed us how they go about designing a new shifter for a classic or modern musclecar. For most of these cars, it’s simply a stick that attaches to the transmission – so making a better shifter is paramount or else there’s no reason to make it. Most people don’t opt for a new shifter unless there are improvements, and that’s what Hurst sets out to do with every shifter they manufacture.
Takahashi said, “You can’t just cut the top off of a shifter to make a short-throw shifter. You have to raise the fulcrum, and maintain the proper geometry as well.” The short part of the throw happens above the fulcrum point, where the shifter pivots. Cutting the top off of the shifter makes the upper part of the shifter shorter, but does nothing for the lower part of the shifter – it actually puts more stress on the shift lever.
Once the design is approved, the parts are manufactured and then assembled at the facility and shipped from the warehouse.
By raising the fulcrum point, the shift throw is shorter above the pivot point, and longer below it. That allows you faster shifting by creating that short throw. But making a new shifter doesn’t stop there with Hurst. The shifter needs to also have a better feel to it, and provide a more positive shift.
“Many factory shifters have rubber bushings to quiet things down,” Takahashi said. These rubber bushings are softer, and while they have excellent sound and vibration absorbing properties, they can soften up too much and provide the enthusiast with a sloppy feel to the shifter. In a performance environment, that translates to miss shifts or even hitting the wrong gear when accuracy is crucial.
By using teflon lined spherical balls in their shifters, Hurst provides a solid and more positive shift into each gear. The end result is a much firmer feel to the shifter, as well as shortening the throw and providing the proper geometry. Hurst shifters can reduce the throw up to 20%, and that allows you to change gears a little quicker when racing your vehicle. It doesn’t put more stress on the shifter because the shifter is engineered with the above parameters in mind.
Most factory shifters have a longer throw because many of them weren’t designed from a performance standpoint. Your daily driver doesn’t typically see the amount of shifts that a performance vehicle sees. For those who want to take their car out for more spirited driving than the local bumper-to-bumper grind will allow on Monday through Friday, the shorter throw on a Hurst shifter will help you get into the next gear and help to keep the revs up between shifts.
Whether you’re racing the 1320 or hitting a road course, those positive shifts will keep your car in check – a missed shift on a road course could put you in the dirt; a missed shift at the dragstrip could put you back on the road home.
Be sure to check out the Hurst Shifters web site for more product information and for vehicle specific applications. They’ve been doing it since 1958, and as long as we have a thirst for performance, Hurst is going to there to quench that thirst.
Takahashi was a great sport and let us 'pretend' to steal his car when he wasn't looking. That's the kind of people we found at Hurst, car guys who love what they do.