Installing A Paddle Shifter Into A Third-Gen Camaro - Gears At Your Fingertips

Installing Retrotek Speed's Smart Shift-with Paddles-in a Third-gen

John Nelson Jul 26, 2007 0 Comment(s)

It's a gearhead given: the faster you can rip through the gears, the faster you get from point A to point B. We submit that this is true for any transmission, whether manual or automatic. Even those who prefer to run a slush box still row the gears themselves, holding each cog out at as long as possible, when maximum acceleration is desired. In either case, however, there's one major drawback: you have to take a hand off the wheel to shift gears, which is a less-than-optimal posture during high-speed maneuvers. The fastest, hardest-turning guys of all-F1 racers-seized on the idea of steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. You get quick shifts, and both hands stay on the wheel. Holding true to the trickle-down theory, Retrotek Speed has made this technology available to the musclecar market with its Smart Shift with Paddle Shift system.

Sucs_0707_01_z Third_generation_camaro_paddle_shift_install Completed 1/20

In our book, what makes Retrotek Speed's setup unique is that it brings paddle shift technology to older, non-electronic GM transmissions. That's not to say it won't work with newer, electronic trannys like the 4L60E; all that's needed is an aftermarket transmission controller, such as a Computech, to go along with the Paddle Shift unit, and fourth-gen guys are in business. By melding the electronic and the mechanical, however, Retrotek Speed enables the rest of us-guys with Turbo 350s and 400s, 200-4Rs, and 700-R4s-to partake in the paddle-shift experience. Here's how it works: the vehicle must be placed in gear using the Smart Shift keypad. Once underway, the Paddle Shift unit itself uses a wireless transmitter to indicate gear changes. The signal is picked up by a receiver that's attached to the Smart Shift box; the box, which is the brains of this outfit, works the transmission-mounted actuator, which moves the shift lever to actually accomplish the gear change.

Depending on your level of wiring phobia, installation of the Smart Shift with Paddle Shift setup on a 700-R4-equipped third-gen Camaro is straightforward, so we'll cover that in the photos to follow and skip right to the driving impressions. The paddles themselves fall readily to hand at 3 and 9 o'clock; grip is good, and the action is positive. A firm flick of the fingers-right for upshifts, left for downshifts-is all that's needed to change gears whenever desired. The driving experience is intriguing-you've got your right foot planted, and you're clicking through the gears on command (holding each to 5,000 rpm, as opposed to 4,500-rpm auto shift), almost without raising a finger. Downshifting isn't like what you'd find on a manual trans, and takes a bit getting used to, but, with experience, these shifts also happen smoothly. All in all, it's easy to get wrapped up in the driving experience when working this shifter.

In a nutshell, Retrotek Speed's Smart Shift with Paddle Shift setup multiplies the fun factor for Camaro pilots who run an automatic transmission, and is bound to turn more than a few heads when parked (if you're into that sort of thing). Follow along as we show you the highlights of this third-gen shifter transformation.

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