For many Corvette enthusiasts, this writer included, modifying a Corvette is a sensitive task. After all, you’re “messing with” designs and concepts from iconic designers and engineers like Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell and Zora Arkus-Duntov so changes should be well thought out and often the best modifications go unnoticed.
Our ongoing 1960 Corvette project is quickly heading toward completion and we have already installed the interior. We outfitted this basket case Corvette with Chevrolet’s “W-motor” in an effort to create the appearance of a factory original big-block car, something that never occurred in 1960. The engine is coupled to a TCI-built 700-R4 transmission. When it came time for a gear selector we opted for the Lokar shifter. We chose this shifter for reliability and the safety factors of reverse lock-out and neutral safety switch. We also liked the high quality and the selection of shifter handles, knobs and boots.
We originally installed the shifter with the standard brushed aluminum shift knob and while it looked fine, in our opinion it lacked Corvette flavor. In an attempt to add a bit more vintage Corvette flavor we painted the knob white and were quite satisfied with the look, until now. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, we have to go back to SEMA 2015.
It was at the big SEMA show in 2015 that the good folks from Lokar scheduled a meeting with Speedway Motors to discuss a collaborative effort on a new product. It seems Speedway’s Jeff Karls had been thinking about a new product that would incorporate the established safety and mechanical features of the Lokar shifter, with the looks of a ’60s GM four-speed shifter. After a lengthy discussion, team Lokar got to work making the Speedway vision a reality. Things like the tactile feel; the look and more importantly making it all work were handled by Lokar. In less than a year the product went from sketches at a meeting to a full functioning shifter. Speedway and Lokar introduced the new product at SEMA 2016 and thanks to the collaboration of two great hot rod companies they came away with the Best New Product Award officially known as the Lokar Muscle Car Shifter Knob Adapter. The adapter is now available exclusively through Speedway Motors.
The shift knob is modeled after the gearshift handles seen in muscle cars and Corvettes of the ’60s. Any gearhead worth his weight has settled into a bucket seat, reached over to the floor shifter and deftly pulled up on the twin finger levers under the shifter ball to move the lever to Reverse. The challenge for team Lokar was to build a shift knob with that T-handle ’60’s look, which could control their full line of automatic transmission shifters. And like most Lokar products, this handle would have to fit past and current shifters. This story is about just that, retrofitting the new knob to our shifter. If you order a new shifter with the Muscle Car Shifter Knob Adapter it comes installed on the shifter, but for many people with a Lokar shifter in the car this is a fun and rewarding change.
Well, it turns out with a little bit of engineering genius, along with a whole lot of period perfect esthetics, they produced a shifter handle that will transport you back in time while safely selecting gears. It will also fool the casual observer into thinking a four-speed resides below the shifter.
We installed the shift knob on our C1 and opted for the appropriate white shifter ball, but you’ll be glad to know shifter balls are available in white, black and chrome, so there is a period-perfect look for your Corvette. Installation took about an hour from start to finish and the Lokar directions walk you through every step. The new shifter ball really blends in with true Corvette flavor, and everything from the T-handle to the diameter of the shift knob is spot-on. To use the new shifter simply slip your fingers under the T and compress the shift knob down to release the Park and Reverse lockout. This is truly the period-perfect way to give your modern automatic the look of a four-speed. As a matter of fact, recently, someone looking at the car said “I’m glad you left it a four-speed,” to which I responded, “Me too,” since technically the 700-R4 is a four-speed transmission.
01. When Lokar recently introduced their new Muscle Car Shift Knob Adapter we thought it would be the perfect upgrade for our interior. (The Speedway Motors Muscle Car Shift Knob Adapter was a collaborative effort between Speedway Motors and Lokar.)
02. We had installed the Lokar shifter to select the gears in our TCI-built 700-R4 and topped it with the standard Lokar shift knob. We painted the knob white and thought it look great until we saw the new Muscle Car Shift Knob.
03. The swap is very straightforward and rewarding. Here are the parts used to mount the new ball to any existing Lokar shifter.
04. Removing the existing knob is as simple as loosening the locknut and then unscrewing the knob from the handle. Do not loosen the set screw in the knob.
05. This rod is what moves the detent that provides Park and Reverse lockout features on the shifter. The locknut is also removed at this time.
06. Next, thread the new Muscle Car Adapter housing (T-handle) onto the shifter until it stops. That will leave a small portion of the inner rod showing, as seen here.
07. The machined hex included with the shift ball is actually a tool to install the internal nut. Slip the inner nut into the tool as seen here.
08. Thread the nut down until the top of the brass nut is flush with the top of the shifter lever.
09. Because of the overhang on the 1960 dashboard we found using a mirror helped us see when the nut was flush with the shifter lever.
10. With the internal locknut in the proper position turn the T-handle counterclockwise until it contacts the inner nut. Adjust the angle of the “T” and tighten the inner nut. Remember, you’re not torqueing down head bolts here, so oh so gently tighten the inner nut.
11. This inner sleeve slides over the rod and two 10-32 dog-point set screws will protrude into the slots on the sleeve. In the “we think of everything department” Lokar even provides the required grease for this sleeve.
12. With the greased sleeve in place install the two dog-point set screws, one on either side of the Muscle Car Adapter housing.
13. The Muscle Car Adapter inner sleeve is now pulled up as far as it will travel. It should move freely. Then the 1/4-20 set screw is installed in the sleeve and run down until it just contacts the inner rod.
14. Inside the shift knob is a recessed brass bushing. The bushing is recessed so the sides of the ball will thread down and cover the two set screws in the Muscle Car Shift Knob Adapter. This hides the screws and prevents them from ever backing out, quite clever.
15. And here is the final installation. The flavor is pure Corvette and the unsuspecting observer will think the car is a four-speed. Note the Lokar LED gear indicator discretely mounted in the original Corvette floor plate. We like the white shift knob as it would be “correct” for the C1.
16. With the chrome knob in place the shifter would be proper for most C2 and C3 Corvettes, although black shift knobs were also available during those productions years.
17. In the end we decided we really like the black shift knob best with our interior appointments and steering wheel. The real fun of building a car is in the details.