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Here’s How To Hook Up A Later-Model Transmission To An Early Chevy

Situation Solver: Classic Performance Products’ GM Shift Linkage Kit

Robert Fortune Jun 2, 2016
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So, you’ve installed a later-model automatic transmission in your early Chevy and are wondering to yourself, “What’s the easiest way to hook up the shift linkage?” If it was an auto-shift model to begin, that pile of antiquated Powerglide rods and bushings left over from the swap won’t do you much good—nor would any of the remaining manual trans linkage.

Regardless of whether you’re reconnecting with a stock (automatic) or aftermarket steering column, the solution is fairly simple: a GM shift linkage kit from Classic Performance Products (CPP). (If you’re dealing with a manual-shift column, you’ll need to reconfigure the column accordingly, making sure to establish a functioning detent.) The Heim-jointed stainless setup with aluminum trans gear selector lever was designed to be universal, so with minimal modifications your transmission shift linkage situation is easily solvable.

We recently installed a new tilt steering column and a 700-R4 overdrive in a 1955 Bel Air, so to prove just how easy the situation solver is, we got our act in gear, so to speak, and went ahead and installed CPP’s GM shift linkage kit.

2 1955 Chevy Steering Columns 2/22

01. Whether it’s a factory automatic column (left) or an aftermarket tilt, making the “connection” to a freshly swapped later-model auto transmission shouldn’t be a problem—it should be a breeze …

3 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage 3/22

02. …with CPP’s GM shift linkage kit. Comprised of a Heim-linked stainless connector rod with an aluminum transmission shifter arm, the kit is designed to be tailored to most any situation you can throw at it.

4 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Levers 4/22

03. CPP’s Classic Fit tilt column, to which we’re about to install the linkage kit on, comes standard with a flat shift lever as well as a doglegged version—both offering multi-position mounting options. Also shown is CPP’s “adjustable” shift lever (bottom), which cannot only be clocked in various positions, but its serrated/slotted arm allows for more linkage adjustment as well.

5 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Lever Column 5/22

04. Position the shift lever on the column so as not to over-rotate and/or bind the linkage. Park should land roughly in the 10-11 o’clock position. Secure with just a few screws for the installation process in case you need to re-clock the lever.

6 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Lever Column 6/22
7 1955 Chevy Automatic Transmission Selector Shaft 7/22

05-06. Rotate the transmission selector shaft clockwise till it’s in Park. Remove any existing linkage parts from the shaft; it will either be 10mm metric or 3/8-16 standard thread (both thread type hardware is included in kit).

8 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Slpined Bushing 8/22

07. The splined bushing slides over the shaft first (open-end facing out, slotted hole engaging on flat spots of shaft), then the shifter arm goes in place, secured with the appropriate-thread nut. Start out by clocking the arm in the 8-9 o’clock position.

9 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Arm 9/22
10 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Heim Joint 10/22

08-09. Assemble the upper Heim joint portion and loosely install onto the column shift lever. Note the adjustable hex connector has been marked—this is to reference the depth of the connector rod.

11 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Heim Link 11/22

10. Loosely install the Heim link onto the transmission lever; thread the connector rod completely into the female Heim.

12 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage 12/22

11. In an attempt to keep the connector perpendicular to the end links (an angle connection could be made, but travel would be affected), we’ll need to put a couple of doglegs in the rod.

13 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Measure 13/22

12. The “gap” was measured horizontally between the two rod ends, and then transferred vertically onto the arm for tweaking.

14 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Rod 14/22
15 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Rod 15/22

13-14. With the rod mounted in a vice, a length of pipe is used to form the two bends.

16 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Bent Rod 16/22

15. Bent as such: upper and lower straight sections parallel with an approximately 3-inch kick in the center.

17 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage 17/22

16. Now that we’ve achieved plane adjustment sufficiently, we just need to trim the length accordingly. When doing so, make sure both shift levers are in the Park position.

18 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Column 18/22

17. Run the column shifter through all the gears with the rod mocked in place, ensuring full, unrestricted travel as well as full engagement into Park.

19 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Rod Drill 19/22

18. Trimmed with a cutoff wheel, the upper end of the rod is then marked and dimpled with a drill for the hex connector set screws.

20 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage 20/22

19. Once the rod is bent, trimmed, and drilled, it’s installed into the hex connector and locked down with the Allen set screws; the jam nuts are secured as well.

21 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage Shifter Arm 21/22

20. When you’re satisfied with shifter arm adjustment, lock down the transmission end Heim joint to the gear selector arm as well as the Heim’s jam nut.

22 1955 Chevy Automatic Trans Shift Linkage 22/22

21. Install complete: automatic transmission and tilt column joined successfully.

More on Transmissions
Twelve Common Questions and Misconceptions About Automatic Transmissions


Classic Performance Products
Placentia, CA 92870



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