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356 C Shift Linkage Refurbishment

November 17, 2010 | Troubleshooting & Repair
By Ron LaDow


Shifter action in a 356 will never equal a car with has the lever sticking right out of the transmission, but it should be crisp and accurate in its selections. If your shifter seems vague, there are plastic bushings in three locations subject to wear which can make a great deal of difference in feel and accuracy. They are not expensive, a standard wrench set pretty much covers the tools required, but you should devote a weekend to the project if you've never done it before.

Parts

Cup Bushing - (1) - Stoddard's part # 911.424.139 (for B/C cars, original # was 695.424.110.00). This is a plastic cup at the base of the lever
Ring Bushing - (1) - 695.424.211.01
A plastic ring bushing just aft of the cup bushing
Coupler Bushings - (2) - no separate part numbers; ask by name
These are two plastic bushings in an aluminum coupling, similar to a u-joint mechanism, just forward of the transmission nose
Inner Boot - (1) - 695.424.922.00
Outer Boot - (1) - 695.424.921.03

Buy the bushings first from one of the Registry sources so you won't be delayed waiting for parts. It's tempting to do only one or two of the bushings, but replace all of them at one time and make it good for the next 10 years. Two other parts normally required are the boots which seals the nose of the transmission to the tunnel and the shift linkage to the inside of the tunnel. You can look first, but if in doubt, buy these also.

Disassembly

You'll need access to the shift linkage at both ends. Remove the floor and tunnel mats and the toe board from the driver's side at the front. Remove the half-round access cover at the rear of the tunnel. Jack and block (be safe, it is your butt) the rear of the car, remove one or both of the rear tires.

Put the transmission into 4th gear, just because it's gotta be someplace and this is the easiest I've found. Remove the shift lever housing, three Allen-head cap screws with oblong washers. Keep them separate; that's the only place for them and nothing else fits. Lift the housing with the lever. At the bottom, there should be a plastic cup snapped onto the bottom of the lever. If not, there's one of the problems.

Look at the tunnel toward the rear of the housing location. There are two smaller Allen head bolts capturing a bracket to the tunnel, which bracket used to have (or still does) a ring bushing to support the shift shaft at that point. Remove those, reaching inside the tunnel to catch the two channel-shaped nuts. Keep those separate also.

Still inside the car, at the rear of the tunnel, you have a choice. If you are going to replace the boot in there, cut it away. If not, slide it off the ring at the rear of the tunnel. You are now looking at a clamp arrangement which fastens the shift-shaft to the coupling. It will ease reassembly quite a bit if you mark the location of the shift shaft on the rod which forms the front of the coupling. Get some light in there, use Dykem and a scribe, White-Out, nail polish or whatever looks right to you, but mark both the axial (in-out) and radial (rotational) location for reassembly later. Done? Sure you'll be able to find that location for reassembly? Take the nut loose from the bolt and take the bolt out. Slide the shaft forward off the coupling and slide the clamp off the rear of the shaft.



Now, by dropping the rear of the shift shaft on the floor and lifting the front, it will remove toward the front of the car. It will have to end up all the way in the left corner of the toe space before the rear comes out and will have to be rotated just so, but it will come out. While you're doing this, the bracket with the ring bushing will want to stay in the tunnel. Leave it there for now.

OK, time to get under the car. At the front of the transmission, there's another boot and you can treat is as you did the one inside. Under the boot, you'll find the rear of the coupling; an aluminum casting fastened to the 'hockey stick' entering the front of the transmission. (the 'hockey stick' is so called because of the shape, but most is inside the transmission so it won't look that way to you). The fastening is a square-head set-screw (9mm?) in the coupling, secured by safety wire wrapped around the coupling. Cut the safety wire and remove the set-screw. The coupling should now slide off the end of the 'hockey stick'. Careful with the prying, but get it off.

Preparation

There are two ways to replace the phenolic bushing that fits into the shifter ring. Here is the short-cut way to do it without having to remove the shaft:

Cut the bushing at a 45 degree angle (one cut)...use lots of grease and a little "muscle power" and just "scootch" it around the shift tube and metal ring...till both ends meet and are also still in the phenolic "groove". Works everytime without taking everthing apart. I hope this makes sense. (Submitted by Robert Rauscher)

Here's the way to do it by removing the shaft:

Retrieve the bracket from the tunnel. Clean the shifter housing/lever, the bracket and the coupling as you wish, but BE CAREFUL with the location marks you put on the shaft of the coupling. You can take the 6m bolts from under the housing to clean the lever if you wish, just note orientation for refitting. The two parts of the coupling are connected by a cross-pin; support one side of the aluminum casting and knock the pin out. If it doesn't want to move in one direction, try the other, It will come out. Remove all remaining plastic pieces from the three locations.

Now, push the new cup onto the bottom of the shift lever. Heat the ring slightly (SLIGHTLY!) with a hair dryer or heat gun, maneuver it into the hole in that bracket. Look at the bushings for the coupling; they have a 'wing' around half of their circumference. Position one inside the aluminum coupling such that the 'wing' is inside and toward the front (away from the transmission when mounted). Support the side of the aluminum, put something on top of the bushing and knock it into place. Do the same with the other side. Now slide the front part of the coupling between the new plastic bushings and knock the cross pin back into place.

Reassembly

Reverse of disassembly, but: Use some blue Loctite on the set-screw and make sure you safety-wire it to prevent loosening. There is a spring leaf under the front bracket which bears on the top of the shift shaft; lube that with a bit of grease during reassembly. If, for some reason, you have lost the adjustment at the coupling/shift shaft, see below...

From Vic Skirmants:
Put the trans in second gear.  Loosen the shift coupler clamp.  Move  the gearshift lever against the reverse detent.  Tighten the clamp.   When in neutral, the lower part of the shift lever shaft should be  vertical.  A misadjustment here is the most common cause of shifting  difficulties into first or second gear.

5 Comments

Profile missing thumb
Parry Brown
January 01, 2011 at 9:12 PM
A photo or two would really be helpful.
Aa493c9f9299cdb0d51a6d201e2b655c 5331
John Pratt
January 07, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Incredibly helpful and accurate posting :-)!<br />I can offer a great [u]THANK YOU[/u] for your effort in making this job easier for everyone. On my '63 356B T6 the shifter was very, very loose. After dis-assembly I found out why. I was missing a cup bushing from the shifter, plus both bushings in the coupler were not there! The phenolic ring was a bit tough to install using the 45 degree cut technique but it worked. Now the shifting is like new. Great help, thanks!
Profile missing thumb
Parry Brown
January 01, 2011 at 9:12 PM
A photo or two would really be helpful.
Aa493c9f9299cdb0d51a6d201e2b655c 5331
John Pratt
January 07, 2011 at 11:10 PM
Incredibly helpful and accurate posting :-)!<br />I can offer a great [u]THANK YOU[/u] for your effort in making this job easier for everyone. On my '63 356B T6 the shifter was very, very loose. After dis-assembly I found out why. I was missing a cup bushing from the shifter, plus both bushings in the coupler were not there! The phenolic ring was a bit tough to install using the 45 degree cut technique but it worked. Now the shifting is like new. Great help, thanks!
Profile missing thumb
Sherman Schlar
June 15, 2015 at 2:50 AM
In my opinion, this is one of the best investments you can make for your 356. When I disassembled my shift linkage, I found the rear coupling bushings had completely disintegrated. There was more than 1/2" of slop in the coupling. Huge improvement after rebuilding the entire linkage. Don't forget to replace the steel "reverse" lockout plate under the shift lever if it looks worn. Mine was pretty worn, making going into reverse sloppy and imprecise. With the new reverse lockout plate in place, I had to push down on the lever more to get into reverse, but that was just fine. On the main shaft, there is a slip on machined ring for the shift lever lock. You probably should replace the rolled pin holding this onto the shaft. The car really shifts like new now.