Clutch Linkage and a New Shift Handle for the T5 Tranny

By Gerry Burger – Photography by the Author

It all began when we adapted an S-10 Chevrolet, BorgWarner T5 to the back of our 59AB Flathead motor. The Speedway Motors kit worked perfectly and the T5 is a great improvement over the old toploader.

Let’s play a little catch-up. This project is based on building a very traditional hot rod in the form of a 1936 Ford phaeton. Underhood, a 59AB Flattie provides additional power thanks to Sharp heads, Sharp intake, and a pair of brand-new Stromberg 94 carbs. During our “top half rebuild” we found H&H Flatheads to be the perfect source for speed goodies and solid information.

The T5 transmission fits perfectly in the 1935-1940 chassis. Now we needed to connect the clutch linkage and deal with a shifter. The Speedway Motors kit recommends using the original clutch linkage, and we were pleased to see it fit just fine.
This is the stock, 84-year-old clutch linkage. A beefy connector, it was due for a little love after all these years of service in our 1936 Ford phaeton.
A closer look shows the pivot-pin hole on the pedal end of the linkage was worn into a short slot. This accounted for the sloppy feel of the clutch pedal as the slot makes “play” in the pedal.

Of course, with the engine dressed and more powerful that stock toploader tranny would never do, so after some research we ended up with a Speedway Motors Flathead to Chevy S-10, BorgWarner T5 adapter kit. Once again, the adapter, trans, and clutch fit like a glove and we were more than pleased to have five gears with that all-important Fifth highway gear spinning our John’s Industries 9-inch 4.11 gear, mounted to the Heidts parallel leaf spring rear suspension. So that gives you a feel for the project, just good basic hot rod building. Now we are busy with the myriad details of making final connections and to that end we must connect the clutch linkage and change the shifter handle.

While new pieces are available this seemed like an easy fix and it is fun to maintain some of the gennie stuff on your hot rod. We simply TIG-welded the hole shut from both sides.
We flattened the surface with a small air grinder, providing a smooth surface for drilling the fresh metal. Machinist blue always makes you mark like a pro. After marking we drilled the appropriate hole in the end of the pin.

There were two problems with the shift handle. First, the stock handle looked like something you’d find in a cheap truck, mostly because it was found in a cheap truck. Second, we could not comfortably reach the shifter while seated in the car. As it turns out Lokar has a very simple solution with a variety of cool shifter handles. They also make a simple adapter that replaces the shifter shaft protruding from the top of most S-10 T5 transmissions. I say most because, as usual, I have a story to tell—more on that later. The Lokar shifter boot will also provide the needed detail on the transmission tunnel, and while we were shopping the Lokar section we simply couldn’t resist a pair of pretty pedal pads and a dimmer switch cover.

We ran a tap through the threads on the clevis and a thread die over the male threads on the pin to ensure the parts would assemble with ease.
We added a little paint and our clutch linkage was as good as new. The piece made the perfect connection between the stock clutch pedal and the new Speedway Motors clutch.
Next up was putting a hot rod shift handle on our 1993 Chevy S-10, BorgWarner T5 transmission. The reasons were simple; we couldn’t reach the stock shifter and the stock shifter looked like something that came in a cheap truck.

Speaking of the clutch pedal, that required a connection from the pedal to the clutch fork. Supposedly the stock clutch linkage would bolt right in, and what do you know, it actually bolts right in place, connecting the clutch pedal to the clutch fork protruding from the Speedway Motors bellhousing. Of course, the 84-year-old linkage may need some love, and while these pieces are available new, that would be way too easy. Instead we opted for a quick-and-easy at-home freshening up.

Our tranny came out of a boneyard (they are available new and rebuilt too) and we were pleased to see the metal factory ID tag on the top left bolt of the tailshaft housing. Transmission tag decoder rings are available online.
Normally the top of the shifter housing unbolts and you simply install a Lokar shifter shaft and bolt on the new Lokar shift handle of your choice. Our unit was crimped together so we opted to fabricate an adapter for our new Lokar shift handle.
This is what the Lokar shifter shaft looks like and it is a straight-forward installation in most T5 shifters. This makes installing a Lokar handle a true bolt-in affair.

And so, without further ado, follow along as we get started on these relatively simple, fun jobs. We like to address some of the oft-overlooked small projects that go a long way to completing your project. With this work complete we will be modifying the stock floorpans and fitting factory original rubber mats (this East Coast tub is going to be topless, so carpet need not apply). We will then install all that Lokar pretty stuff, but first, let’s focus on getting this thing in gear. MR

Sources:

H&H Flatheads
(818) 248-2371
www.handhflatheads.com

Heidts Hot Rod & Muscle Car Parts
(800) 841-8188
www.heidts.com

John’s Industries
(906) 265-9999
www.johnsindustries.com

Lokar
(877) 469-7440
www.lokar.com

Miller Electric Manufacturing Company
www.millerwelds.com

Speedway Motors
(800) 979-0122
www.speedwaymotors.com

We opted for this 16-inch, single-bend shift handle by Lokar. We formed the small shift handle adapter piece from a piece of D-shaft commonly used in steering shaft connections. It proved to be the perfect shape.
We cut the upper bend/twist off the stock shifter handle and placed the small piece of D-shaft next to the shifter to check placement. Note we had drilled and tapped two holes in the shaft to mount the Lokar shifter handle.
Certain the adapter would work, we clamped the two pieces together before tack-welding. Once tacked you must install the shifter and check handle position as a couple of degrees makes a big difference on 16 inches. We had to reposition out adapter a second time to get it right.
Once satisfied with the location of the adapter it was time to fire up our Miller TIG welder. Before welding, we packed the shaft with a product called HTP Super Heat Sponge. This product dramatically slows the migration of heat down the shaft while welding. This protects the nylon cup within the shifter.
After welding, we spent some time cleaning the shifter up prior to painting it gold. Note the step on the Lokar shifter fits the top of our D-shaft adapter perfectly.
Here is the shifter ready to install. It is difficult to see but the adapter is slightly rotated toward the center of the car to locate the new Lokar shift handle in the desired location.
Carefully clean both the shifter surface and the transmission surface before applying a thin coat of silicone gasket sealant. Then, with the shifter in Neutral, simply bolt the shifter back in place, taking care to not over tighten the bolts.
And just like that we have a great-looking Lokar shift handle in perfect position. The Ivory-color Lokar shift knob adds the perfect vintage flavor to our hot rod, and note the shift handle fits perfectly atop our home-brewed adapter. Next up … reinstall the modified floorboards.
Subscribe to our Magazines