New Shift Knob (Automatic)

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Apparently it's an obsession...
Yes, I installed yet another shift knob.

The ideal shifter is really important for look and tactile feel. My favorite shifters are the gated styles (Mercedes through the 90s and Jaguars's "J-Gate"). I also love column shifters. But since all that would be way difficult to install, at least finding the perfect shift knob is an option.

Let's start with my shift knob history. I started out with the stock plastic unit in my base model Thunderbird:

20240426_174859.jpg

Ergonomically, it's pretty much perfect, falls right into your hand, and beautifully reflects the asymmetrical, cockpit-style dash layout.

I began by experimenting with some wrapping and learned the baseball stitch:

20240426_174949.jpg

The faux suede used here became dirty way too quickly, so that didn't last. Next was leather with contrast stitching:

20240426_175046.jpg

My preference for real wood trim is no secret, and I finally found a wood shift knob that fit (with some internal modification).

20240426_175329.jpg

The Lincoln LS carved wood unit was really pretty; however, I decided to remove it for two reasons: Ergonomically I much prefer a thumb button over the front button, and visually the entirely symmetrical shape somewhat clashes with the MN12 dash.

Nonetheless, I think it was a beautiful installation, especially with the custom chrome O/D button and the custom center piece of the 3-piece slider, which has the proper size hole for the exposed metal shifter rod.


So what's next? Well, I somewhat went back to my stock shift knob, but with a custom twist: I wanted to keep the exposed metal rod because I like that look; the stock plastic/rubber shroud is my least favorite part of the stock shifter. I also wanted to match the black stitching of my leather steering wheel (a lucky junkyard find).

Some sawing, stitching, cheap leather from Michaels, and a combination of my old shift knob with the short shroud from LS knob, and this is my new look:

20240426_090542.jpg

I filled in the old O/D button hole with wood. The stitching mostly matches the factory look, though I also stitched all around the thumb button hole.

20240426_090449.jpg20240426_090704.jpg

I'm very pleased with the new look; I think it's a great balance between the stock design and subtle customization.

20240426_090809.jpg
 
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I like it! I appreciate your willingness to try out different things and taking the time to do it yourself. I think it's cool that you figure all this stuff out for yourself rather than buying a bunch of stick on crap from autozone to "fancy" things up.
 
I really need the od button to be a thumb switch. It looks good, tho.

I didn't specifically dislike the stock O/D button placement, though I personally prefer the button on a fixed panel rather than on the shifter.

The wiring is the bigger issue. As I said, I really disliked the stock plastic shroud. The only alternative permitting wiring into the knob would be a custom shift boot.

Given my liking for stitching and leather work, a boot sounds like a good project - I just really don't like them on automatics. They give off such a pseudo stick shift vibe.

So the relocated button works for me, regardless of shift knob.
 
I would definitely be a buyer for a nice leather shift boot! The aftermarket one in my 97 is pretty cheap, and while it works, a good quality leather one with nice stitching would be much nicer!
 
I am 100% behind the OD button you have. The one on my shifter is hit or miss at best. I have had to remove the shifter knob to fixt the copper contact for the button. I really don't want to do that again. Bad design by Ford.
 
I prefer the button on the handle for ergonomic purposes(I used it all the time back when I had an auto) but that looks really good!

I’m just going to say it though, the stock shift gate is the elephant in the room. My least favorite part aesthetically of the stock shifter was always that plasticy piece, I always wanted a boot to cover it but I didn’t want to lose the gear indicator
 
I prefer the button on the handle for ergonomic purposes(I used it all the time back when I had an auto)

I actually use it frequently, and I think my new button location satisfies in terms of ergonomics; it's really a matter of muscle memory.

What I prefer about my new location is that you simply push down. With the button on the shift knob, you have to hold the knob  and push the button.

Also note that my button is raised so you can feel it very clearly; you don't have to look down at it.

I'm splitting hairs though. Ultimately, the O/D button on the knob didn't specially bother me. In fact, I briefly considered feeding the wiring through the inside of the metal rod together with the inner plastic rod to achieve the exposed metal look. But that never went past the idea stage.

I’m just going to say it though, the stock shift gate is the elephant in the room. My least favorite part aesthetically of the stock shifter was always that plasticy piece, I always wanted a boot to cover it but I didn’t want to lose the gear indicator

OMG, I couldn't agree more! I've considered various options.
I thought about painting it silver to achieve that VW/Audi late 90s metal shift gate look.
I also considered covering it in faux suede, but I couldn't match the curvature, and it just looked like too much of the stuff.
I thought about the Taurus SHO cluster with gear indicator plus a large shift boot.
And I was considering a small shift boot. By that I mean a boot which descends down into the opening otherwise occupied by the 3-piece slider. Such boot would leave the gear indicator intact. It could be black leather or medium neutral faux suede. I don't have a sewing machine, but I think it would be fairly easy to produce this boot.

Thing is: I don't really care for boots. I like the mechanical look of an automatic shift gate. Just the plastic-fantastic appearance of this one leaves to be desired.

So what this means is: my work here isn't done yet! Here is a pic of one of my attempts:

20240428_170446.jpg

that looks really good!

Thank you! I think it's my best stitching exercise yet. Stitch spacing and all. Plus the black thread won't wear like contrasting stitching does.
 
Some of the things I like about what you have been doing since you got your car is that you are thinking completely differently than I would have. Not right or wrong. Just totally different. You've chosen several projects. decided a goal, made attempts and then finished them. You have ideas I never even considered. So whether I like or love your results your efforts have given me new thoughts about what might be possible. In 20 years on here and TSTSNBN most guys want to know what stuff they can buy and bolt on to get 400hp.
So it's nice to think that maybe there are some modifications some of us can do still that no one has done yet.
 
@supergordo
Kind words. Thank you!

For sure, with a car that has been out of production for 26 years, it feels good to know that one can still come up with original ideas.

I think in my case the source of my ideas is that I really embrace the "personal luxury car" character of the MN12.
I grew up admiring the ultimate personal luxury car, my friend's grandfather's Mercedes SEC. I always loved large two-doors, and I always wanted them to be comfortable and effortless.
The other source of inspiration is the fact that this is my daily driver and my only vehicle. So it has to be functional.

I can understand most people are interested in adding power. My driving just doesn't require it. Today I was on the expressway and had to slow down to 10 mph for an automated tollbooth. It read my EZpass, the gate opened, and I pulled away...and it felt so good to me. It pulled away with a sort of smooth authority. That's how I experience the V6.
 
I’m just going to say it though, the stock shift gate is the elephant in the room. My least favorite part aesthetically of the stock shifter was always that plasticy piece, I always wanted a boot to cover it but I didn’t want to lose the gear indicator
You have it a lot better than us AOD drivers, shifter on the left.
Screenshot 2022-09-14 030802.png

Center image is a Mark VIII shifter, notice it's a single piece slider. I've been working on adapting this type shifter to my AOD car. I acquired a shifter from a '95 SHO, the slider piece was scratched all to hell so I made a replacement from sheet ABS. Also a single piece.
0003.jpg

0004.jpg

Looks great. I sanded down all the sharp edges the slider rubs on, this makes it move much smoother and is not likely to scratch again.

I had to make a new indicator panel to match the AOD shift pattern, here's a mock up image of how it will look lit up. This is based on the Taurus SE shifter on the right in the first pic.
Screenshot 2024-04-28 211420.jpg
 
I actually had the single piece mark viii slider in mine at the end too, it was f definitely better but there’s something about that rough texture of the plate that always felt cheap, which both the early and late ones have. I painted it silver at one point and it turned out well but I still wasn’t in love with it

Retrofitting a different one from another car was my sort of desire, I actually like the look of the gen II Mark VIII one with the lettering not on a separate insert. They were always scratched up on the junkyard marks I found them in so never tried the retrofit before the manual swap

1714356296945.jpeg
 
I grew up admiring the ultimate personal luxury car, my friend's grandfather's Mercedes SEC. I always loved large two-doors, and I always wanted them to be comfortable and effortless.
Same here - When I was a kid my "cool" uncle had a late 80's 6 series. That was a great looking car; he used to really drive it too. I remember sitting in the back of it a few times when he had it at near Autobahn speeds lol. That car is definitely a big part of why I like coupes.
 
I actually had the single piece mark viii slider in mine at the end too, it was f definitely better but there’s something about that rough texture of the plate that always felt cheap, which both the early and late ones have. I painted it silver at one point and it turned out well but I still wasn’t in love with it

Retrofitting a different one from another car was my sort of desire, I actually like the look of the gen II Mark VIII one with the lettering not on a separate insert. They were always scratched up on the junkyard marks I found them in so never tried the retrofit before the manual swap

View attachment 5296
That looks cool, but would be tough to re-label for the AOD. The ABS sheet I used for the slider has a more pronounced texture than the original, but I really like how it looks.
 
@89 TBIRD
@XR7-4.6

Interesting ideas. I never attempted to use a single-piece slider. I just assumed that there was some spacing issue in there that prompted Ford to use three pieces (?).

The 2nd gen Mark VIII shifter assembly is entirely different, so I wonder if you could use that top plate without also swapping in the entire assembly. It does look nicer with the flush surface PRND21.
 
I seem to have very few pics of it but did find one of it smoothed and painted silver with the one piece slider in my google drive

006.jpeg
 
I seem to have very few pics of it but did find one of it smoothed and painted silver with the one piece slider in my google drive

View attachment 5297

:unsure: very interesting. For my application, chrome would obviously be ideal (to match my other chrome touches); but satin silver could work.

So the single-piece slider doesn't hit anything inside the console when fully extended one way or the other? (I'm just trying to understand why Ford went to the 3-piece design if the single-piece worked just fine.) I could cover the slider with leather with a decorative seam along the center.
 
Nope, actually I think I recall the solid slider only hitting the internal stops of the shift plate itself, which I think I just cut off. I think Ford went with the 3 piece just for a more complex look, where the mark went for cleaner and understated

This could be a possibility if you want chrome (crown Vic lx), I’m just not sure the console would cover it fully

1714413237811.jpeg
 
Lazarus would be FINE on the Autobahn. even the big mercedes are only doing 200 kph. 220 max, usually. My boss mentioned during our morning meeting one morning, that he had driven to France the weekend before, and part of the trip was at 220 kph. One of the other guys spoke up"That's about what Greg passed me at this morning on Pelisippi parkway!" :rofl:
 
XR7-4.6, where do I find one of those chrome consoles? What years did they make them? I have never liked our consoles that are always catching crap. Considered a leather boot but it isn't a stick so that won't cut it. Not that I want chrome but the opening needs to be flush or domed to look proper.
 
You can get polished stick on stainless sheets at the hobby store; it makes nice panels and trim, without being heavy. You can trim it with metal shears.For thicker metal, I go to Mcmaster or MSC direct.
 
For those wanting a boot, could you do something like this leaving the panel visible?
Screenshot 2024-04-30 022512.jpg
 
Lazarus would be FINE on the Autobahn. even the big mercedes are only doing 200 kph. 220 max, usually. My boss mentioned during our morning meeting one morning, that he had driven to France the weekend before, and part of the trip was at 220 kph. One of the other guys spoke up"That's about what Greg passed me at this morning on Pelisippi parkway!" :rofl:
To be honest I haven't had the Cougar much past about 110, it got there no problem though...
Part of me doesn't want to push the Cougar too much, I really want to see what it would top out at. I know if I did it would probably result in me ending up in the news for some really bad reasons. Maybe someday if I take it to the desert or something.
:LOL:
 
The factory limiter shuts down the fuel at 110, due to the stock tires.
 
Going that fast is more stressful to me than it is fun, I either see ahead to potentially deadly obstacles or my license being instantly revoked. Plus anyone in any generic car can go 100+ mph these days, in fact while I’ve gone faster in the Cougar I’ve had the shitty little Focus over 100 more times for more sustained periods since I’ve had it in less time. With the stick and 4.30s handling/brake upgrades the Cougar’s more fun at lower speeds, it feels like a death trap at 100 lol
 
@Grog6, "That's about what Greg passed me at this morning on Pelisippi parkway!"
One day last week I tested my limiter ( mines about 105 but it does start dropping cylinders) when a bone head in a little turbo job decided he could finally make 75 after poking at 65 for miles on the 4-lane. Well coming out of a sharp curve I simply kept accelerating out of the curve until triple digits were stoked. Damn I really like that aluminum DS. I wish I had done that like 20 years ago.
 
The factory limiter shuts down the fuel at 110
I was checking to see if it was disabled with the chip it's running, it defiantly is.

As much as these cars can run at high speeds when set up well, they defiantly were not designed for it like German cars. With the long driveshaft and windows that won't even close properly at 90+ from what I assume is a pressure imbalance.... I'm never going to find out when the couger can top out at lol
 

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