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Why Column gear shift

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Martin Kyte28/11/2017 08:58:10
1441 forum posts
17 photos

Hi Chaps

Question for the older of us and motor vehicle experts of all ages.

Nattering with my 2 mates last night, the conversation turned to 50's and 60's cars. The consensus was that many if not most had column gear shifts. The question arose as to why?. Surely the linkages would be more complex than a lever on the floor. From various memories (dodgy I know) it didn't seem to correlate to bench seats. The only real suggestion was that it was a hangover from the old vertical steering column on early cars which were often adorned with several levers including advance/retard and the car industry were wary of being accused of committing an "innovation" being a fairly conservative lot.

We would be interested in opinions.

regards Martin

clogs28/11/2017 09:14:32
474 forum posts
12 photos

Hi all,

always thought it was to get nearer to ur "Honey"........hahaha.......

Mk2 Consul's and Zephyer's.......they were the days.....

clogs...........

Peter G. Shaw28/11/2017 09:19:17
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966 forum posts
39 photos

Yes, I do remember column gear shifts, but only ever drove one, and that was an old van owned by my cousin. Forget the make, possibly a Jowett, but it was a 3 speed. Other than that all other vehicles I've driven were floor mounted - some direct to the gearbox, some so-called remote gear lever. Most vehicles were in the Morris Commercial range from the "Z" type, "J" type, Minivan, Morris Minor vans and occasionally the 30cwt & 1ton vans.

The "J" type was odd, the gear lever being behind you so in effect you couldn't see when changing gear.

Other than that, my parents had a "sit-up & beg" Ford Prefect dating from 1959, my uncle had a pre-war Ford Anglia and a Ford Popular dating from the mid-50's. All of these were floor mounted.

I've a sneaky suspicion that one of the larger Fords, Consul perhaps from either the late '50's or possibly very early '60's was column change.

As to why, as you say, probably more complex linkage. The Consul above had a bench seat, that I do remember, and I've a sneaky suspicion that the Jowett van might have been bench. All the other vehicles mentioned were individual seats.

A good topic to cogitate over during my mornings walk!

Regards,

Peter G. Shaw

Brian O'Connor28/11/2017 09:19:27
60 forum posts
13 photos

Column gear change went along with a bench front seat so that you could get three people in the front (pre-safety belt days!).

B

Michael Gilligan28/11/2017 09:21:53
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13298 forum posts
578 photos

Martin,

I think you may have been a little premature in dismissing the bench-seat connection.

Most of the cars in question would, I think, have had an option to specify bench seats; or would have had a closely related model which did.

Design standardisation was much more cost-effective in those days than it is on the current 'pick & mix' production lines.

MichaelG.

.

[quote]

From various memories (dodgy I know) it didn't seem to correlate to bench seats. 

[/quote]

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 28/11/2017 09:24:56

Clive Hartland28/11/2017 09:26:19
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2444 forum posts
40 photos

My Opel Kapitan had column shift and 3 forward gears, bench seats as well. The gear lever was a bit wobbly but was ok, the engine was a straight 6 cyl. quite economical at 33 mpg. Maybe the engines then were long stroke engines then? not over square like todays engines No electronics and very easy to repair. 6 volt electrics. The main fault was the clutch lever system, pivoted on plastic bushes they soon abraded being exposed to the road dust etc. Easily changed and cost pennies..

Unlike the Triumph herald I had for 9 months where I was able to push the gear lever through the extension over the gearbox leaving it dangling in space!

The 95/96 series of SAAB, again steering column change but, a freewheel lever which meant clutchless gear changes.(You definitely had to engage the free wheel in snow and ice) Would go happily through 12" of snow!

With the advent of 5 and 6 gearboxes I think the gearstick had to be more rigid and the power output of modern engines are in a narrower output curve so the gear shift needs to be precise!

Bear in mind todays cars are mostly now FWD and maybe transverse engines which creates a whole new configuration of layout for the controls. So gear levers need to be fitted as an extension from further forward in the engine compartment!

Clive

Edited By Clive Hartland on 28/11/2017 09:29:10

Edited By Clive Hartland on 28/11/2017 09:29:36

V8Eng28/11/2017 09:29:18
1280 forum posts
27 photos

Column changers were even more "fun" when the many bushes etc were worn, rather like a lottery as to which gear you actually got, especially on a four speed box!

Mind you bench seats had their advantages!smiley

Edited By V8Eng on 28/11/2017 09:31:01

martin perman28/11/2017 09:32:28
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1591 forum posts
66 photos

I owned a Bedford CA Dormobile camper for several years, It like the other Bedford CA was fitted with column gear changes, it was also fitted with a drivers seat and a double bench and half the engine was in the cab so there was no room for a floor mounted gear stick, even the handbrake was mounted on the right side of the drivers seat.

Martin P

Mick B128/11/2017 09:33:52
1082 forum posts
60 photos

My father's 1953 Hillman Minx had a bench front seat and column change - I remember from my childhood.

michael potts28/11/2017 09:34:41
33 forum posts

Or ! Once on my Austin Metropolitan I managed to select two gears at once. Luckily I noticed and managed to deselect the original gear and start again.

Mike Potts

Martin Kyte28/11/2017 09:35:08
1441 forum posts
17 photos
Posted by Michael Gilligan on 28/11/2017 09:21:53:

Martin,

I think you may have been a little premature in dismissing the bench-seat connection.

Most of the cars in question would, I think, have had an option to specify bench seats; or would have had a closely related model which did.

Design standardisation was much more cost-effective in those days than it is on the current 'pick & mix' production lines.

MichaelG.

.

[quote]

From various memories (dodgy I know) it didn't seem to correlate to bench seats.

[/quote]

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 28/11/2017 09:24:56

Well not dismissed exactly. No apparent correlation doesn't mean that there isn't one, just means we couldn't see it by what we could remember. The suggestion that bench seats wouldbe retained as an option even if not fitted is sound logic and may or may not be pertinant. Maybe some examples of variants could be offered if anyone knows.

regards Martin

Edited By Martin Kyte on 28/11/2017 09:37:17

Ian Parkin28/11/2017 09:40:36
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617 forum posts
168 photos

With the advent of fly by wire systems they may be making a comeback my wife's B class mercedes has a stalk for the gear selection (P,R,N,D )as well as flappy paddles

SillyOldDuffer28/11/2017 09:42:04
4421 forum posts
957 photos

I've always assumed that column shifts are Americanisms. Don't know why. Possibly due to being given rides to school in a Zephyr (I think). Whatever it was, the styling came straight from Cape Canaveral and Fireball XL5! The other thing I remember from my childhood is most cars had holes in the floor.

Dave

KWIL28/11/2017 09:44:44
3088 forum posts
56 photos

Maybe it was just the USA influence which waxed and wained?

Mike Poole28/11/2017 09:45:26
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1968 forum posts
46 photos

The Austin A60 Cambridge and the Morris Oxford were the same basic car but the A60 had separate seats and floor change and the Morris had column change and bench seat. Both cars had the handbrake to the right of the drivers seat.

Mike

larry Phelan28/11/2017 09:52:24
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544 forum posts
17 photos

I had two Nissan vans in the 1980,s,both of them were column changers,never gave any bother,but then,I began with a Renault 4 The next van was also a Nissan,but with a floor gearstick,which unscrewed itself while I was driving home from the Dealer! so much for "Pre delivery inspection". The fact that I was in heavy traffic at the time did not help much. Since then,I have been driving Hi Aces with no problems. As some one said,the increase in the number of gears may have had a lot to do with it.

Michael Gilligan28/11/2017 10:00:39
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13298 forum posts
578 photos
Posted by Martin Kyte on 28/11/2017 09:35:08:
Posted by Michael Gilligan on 28/11/2017 09:21:53:

Martin,

I think you may have been a little premature in dismissing the bench-seat connection.

Well not dismissed exactly. No apparent correlation doesn't mean that there isn't one, just means we couldn't see it by what we could remember. The suggestion that bench seats wouldbe retained as an option even if not fitted is sound logic and may or may not be pertinant. Maybe some examples of variants could be offered if anyone knows.

.

Apologies, Martin ... there was no accusation intended blush

Regarding 'candidate' exemplars: From memory, you might want to consider variations on the Hillman Minx theme.

MichaelG.

.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillman_Minx#Audax_design_Hillman_Minx_.28Series_I_to_Series_VI.2C_1956.E2.80.9367.29

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunbeam_Rapier

Edited By Michael Gilligan on 28/11/2017 10:05:10

not done it yet28/11/2017 10:03:16
3030 forum posts
11 photos

You think it is only 50-60s? Some tractors in the 80-90s (and possibly later) had column gear changes. That would be eight, not three or four forward gears. We called them the 'Rubic Cube' gear change!

Moggie minors never had column change, neither did cortinas, amongst others, back in the day of the colum change. Bench seats and the idea imported from the US were likely the reasons.

Edit to add: forward control vans, etc., needed 4hem as the box was a bit remote and no real space for a floor stick - Ford Consul van was a pain, but it was warm to sit over the engine.

Edited By not done it yet on 28/11/2017 10:06:17

Hopper28/11/2017 10:10:51
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3651 forum posts
72 photos

I think column shift was considered more modern too. Just a fashion thing. It probably went along with the "new" automatic transmission models that had a column mounted selector. -- except the ones with the push buttons on the dash, remember them?

Also, the old stick shifts were great big long throw things that you really had to "stir the pot" with. ISTR our old Austin A40 had a monster long gear lever that Mum hated. The column shifts were less movement (when new!) and so maybe more user friendly, specially for the growing number of lady drivers?

When stick shifts became the more modern short levers, like the Triumph Herald's, they were back in fashion again as "sporty" and column shifts were old hat for family wagons. Mum loved her Herald.

V8Eng28/11/2017 10:16:31
1280 forum posts
27 photos

I seem to remember that some cars of the period had rather large transmision tunnels, maybe a floor shift would have been too close to the drivers left ear.wink

I am remembering 'Umbrella Handle' type Handbrakes as well now, often in the parcel tray area.

Edited By V8Eng on 28/11/2017 10:17:50

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