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.
Now put it in neutral and grasping the sides of the leather shift boot at the base, gently press inward toward the shifter to release the boot retaining tabs from the trim plate. Be careful not to break the plastic tabs. Lift the boot up out of the trim plate and over the shifter stick. Open the cigarette-lighter door and remove the ashtray. Use a T15 Torx-head driver to remove the screws adjacent to the cigarette lighter and behind the ashtray. Carefully pry out the vented insert in the dash next to the ignition switch and remove the remaining Torx head screw.
Now shift to second gear. With the parking brake applied, grasp the instrument-panel trim plate near the curve at the base and pull rearward to release the locking tabs. Lift the rear of the trim plate to clear the floor tunnel studs. Disconnect the electrical plug from the cigarette lighter and lift the trim plate up over the shifter to remove.
To remove the factory shifter, remove the four 10mm hex nuts that retain the factory rubber closeout boot. Carefully pry the boot up and off over the shifter. Remove and discard the rubber band if present. Put the shifter into neutral and remove the four 3/8-inch hex-head bolts that retain the factory shifter base to the housing and remove the shifter assembly by lifting up and out. Grasp the alignment pin located on the front of the shifter base and remove while lifting the shifter out. Carefully pry off the plastic cup bushing from the end of the factory shifter and set aside for re-installation.
To install your new Hurst shifter, remove the factory rubber gasket from the shifter housing (no need to keep it). Clean the mounting surface and place the new mounting gasket (supplied) onto the shifter housing. Place the plastic cup bushing that was removed from the factory shifter open end up on a workbench. Ali recommends using good synthetic grease on it, inside the cup and out. Put a small amount of grease on the ball end of the Hurst Billet/Plus stick bottom, and place the ball in the open end of the cup bushing. Gently push down on the stick bottom until the ball snaps into the bushing.
Install the Hurst Billet/Plus shifter onto the shifter housing, making sure the cup bushing on the stick bottom fits properly into the shift-selector socket inside the housing.
It's important the shifter be installed with the notch in the shifter stick threads facing the rear. Use the supplied Loctite on the four supplied socket-head screws to secure the mounting base to the shifter housing using a 3/16-inch hex key wrench. Tighten evenly to 8-10 lb-ft of torque. Make sure the shifter base is sitting flush on the housing before fully tightening the screws. Test the shifter's operation by moving the stick through the entire gear shift pattern, making sure it engages each gear fully and the stick moves freely from side to side in the neutral position.
The T-56 transmission contains built-in gear stops. The adjustable stop screws on the shifter are optional and should be removed if not used. These stops are advantageous during gear changes where significant force is used, such as racing. If the shifter stops are retained, it is very important to adjust the stops exactly as instructed. Consult the instructions for this procedure. If you'd like to adjust the shifter stick side-to-side tension, it can be tailored to your preference and comfort by adjusting or changing the bias springs that come with the shifter. Follow the instructions for this procedure.
The Hurst shifter stick is threaded to accept any knob having 9/16-inch-18 threads. Steve went for the traditional, white Hurst ball. If you really like the stealth look, you can put the original shifter knob and boot back on. Just insert the metal "T" retainer back into the slot and tap down on the key until the shift knob is tight. If the shift knob does not tighten completely, remove the key and flatten its front face slightly using a hammer on a flat surface. Push the shift pattern indicator back into the knob.
Another reason we like Hurst is they have a highly trained technical service department to answer technical questions, provide additional product information, and offer various recommendations.
So how does Ali like the new shifter? He says there is no comparison. And there is even more good news with this shifter-Not only will your new Hurst shifter reduce the throw 40-percent for shorter shifts, but will also precisely balance the distance, effort, comfort, and control of the shift to make you one happy shifter.