The mothership of all Corvettes in Bowling Green is the best at what they do. But as gearheads, we just can't leave anything alone. Fortunately, neither can our fellow gearheads at the Mr. Gasket brand of Hurst Performance. That's why they came up with an improvement over the stock OEM shifter. It's the Hurst Billet/Plus Short Throw Shifter (PN 391 5085) for '97-'04 Corvettes with the T-56 six-speed manual transmission, and it's a big improvement. But don't take our word for it, check out the photos of the OEM shifter sitting next to the Hurst piece. Go ahead, we'll wait.
Do you see what we mean? See how the OEM piece has a simple stamping for a base, and the Hurst piece has a billet-aluminum base that looks like it came off an M1A1 Abrams battle tank? And what about that shaft that extends down into the tranny that actually does all the shifting? See the differences in the size of the Hurst and OEM versions? The last comparison is the shifter handle. Look past the OEM shift boot or cover that surrounds the main stick and check the diameter. Now compare it to the Hurst. Doesn't the Hurst version make you want to bang some gears? The news that such a better version is available is great, but the fact that the installation of said shifter is all but a no-brainer is even sweeter.
When we decided to do a story on installing a Hurst shifter, we knew we needed a subject vehicle with some strong street credentials. Up pops Steve Ali, owner of Xtreme Performance in North Ridgeville, Ohio, and his '00 C5. Ali's C5 is LS-1 427-powered and, as he says with a knowing smile, has had a "little work" done to it. This stealthy C5 also happens to be a great calling card for Xtreme Performance, where you can get almost any modifications performed for any performance car. In fact, by the time you read this, he will probably be ready to open his new 10,000 square-foot facility near Cleveland, Ohio. When you look over his plenty-healthy C5, even the rear license-plate frame can scare you. It says, "I Like Imports-They Taste Just like Chicken," and you know it's no bull. Needless to say, Ali was up for some Yank and Crank.
The idea here is to give you a detailed overview of how to put one of these babies in your C5. We strongly recommend you not only use the highly detailed directions that come with their shifters, but also follow Hurst's suggestion to use the factory service manual for additional procedure details. Installing the Hurst Billet/Plus Shifter requires moderate mechanical ability so if you're not sure, get help. Reading the directions beforehand can give you a better idea of what you'll be doing and eliminate "do-overs."
The first step is to secure the car on a level surface. The parking-brake handle will most likely be moved during this install so chock the wheels for cheap insurance. There's a slight difference between hardtops and converts. Check out the directions for your installation. Make sure the tranny is in neutral and start by inserting a small flat-blade screwdriver into the recess located at the rear of the electronic traction-control switch and carefully pry up and out, allowing access to the console retaining nuts. Disconnect the electrical connector from the switch. Then disconnect the electrical connector from the accessory power outlet.
Now remove the plastic covers at the rear of the console to allow access to the retaining nuts. Using a 10mm wrench or socket, remove the hex nuts that fasten the front and rear of the console to the floor tunnel. Lift the rear of the console to clear the studs and pull rearward to release the console from under the instrument panel accessory trim plate.
Position the shifter into fourth gear. Using a small flat-blade screwdriver at the front edge of the shift pattern indicator, carefully pry out the indicator from the shifter knob. Using a pair of Vise-Grips, clamp tightly, and pull the metal "T" retainer up and out of the knob. The "T" retainer is usually very difficult to remove. Use care to avoid damaging other components. Tip: While pulling upward, rock your Vise-Grips from side to side or tap the side of the Vise-Grips with a hammer. Unscrew the knob from the shift lever.