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Why Column gear shift

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Fowlers Fury01/12/2017 09:20:10
323 forum posts
72 photos

à propos les voitures Français; their soft suspension may be explained by a comment attributed to a PSA executive:-
"When driving, if the French suffer a bad ride they will blame the car but the British will blame the road".

Clive India01/12/2017 10:44:36
181 forum posts

I thought the French never had a bad ride - or am I confusing this with something else!!

The first vehicle we had was a 1952 Austin A40 pick-up - really useful on a smallholding. Column change and bench seat really allowed us to seat 3 instead of 2.

Replaced by a Morris Oxford pick-up - bench seat but floor change. Meant a child like me had to hutch up a bit, or a lot really, particularly when selecting reverse! The A60 pick-up still retained column change at the time.

Additionally, I suppose column change allowed the driver to get in-out the other side more easily, should the need arise. I find this manoeuvre gets more difficult these days - as last week when a 4x4 parked very close to driver side! I could manage it quite well 50 years ago in my courting days. Suppose nobody remembers the term courting though?

Clive Hartland01/12/2017 11:08:12
2465 forum posts
40 photos

Perhaps them floor space was for sheep dogs etc to be carried?

Roger Provins 201/12/2017 11:39:33
341 forum posts

Back in the early '60s I had several Fords with column change and 3 seater bench seat- Zodiac, Zephyr, Consul. Slid around on every bend! smiley



Edited By Roger Provins 2 on 01/12/2017 11:39:55

Gordon W01/12/2017 12:00:31
2011 forum posts

I thought column change and bench seats was an idea by the government to increase the birth rate after the war. A friend of mine , who had a zephyr with a heater and radio, used to hire it out. Had to be careful tho' because the valve radio with a power pack under the passenger seat used a lot of power and could flatten the battery.

Steve Pavey01/12/2017 12:35:04
280 forum posts
32 photos

The Renault 4 and 6 were the only cars I remember from my youth which had a dash mounted gear lever, but it seems that most modern vans have them now. No-ones mentioned overdrive - my dads Rover 100 had overdrive on 3rd and 4th. I think it was an option on MGBs as well. Two ther nice cars my dad owned were the Rover 3 litre and the Vanden Plas Princess R with a 4 litre RR engine - both automatics and I think they both had full width bench seats but I may be wrong about that. Both these two cars were smooth as silk to ride in.

Alan Johnson 701/12/2017 14:19:53
70 forum posts
13 photos

I have a 1975 Citroen 2cv, with 4 on the dash; a 1951 Woleslely 6/80 with 4 on the column; and likewise a 1951 Austin Sheerline, with 4 on the column, a 1949 Humber Super Snipe - the same; a 1928 Austin 7 Chumy - 4 on the floor; and a 1939 Austin 8 tourer - the same; and two Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire Stars (1953 & 1958) with pre-selector gearboxes; a 1954 Morris Minor and 1963 Morris Major Elite.

Comparing them all, and the pleasure of driving them I find that the pre-selector is the most pleasant, followed by the column shift cars. I reckon that the marketing of the motor car - and the appeal to the potential customer - given the price range of the vehicle, and thus the buyer had more to do with what the manfacturer chose to produce than any engineering considerations.

Georgineer01/12/2017 14:23:30
246 forum posts
13 photos
Posted by V8Eng on 28/11/2017 17:15:53:

Moving upmarket.

Some Bentley cars used to have the gear stick on the right hand side of the drivers seat (my boss had one in 1973).

I think one particular Riley model featured that as well.

I can't speak for Rileys, but my brother's Triumph Roadster (about 1948 - the one with the dickey seat, as driven by Bergerac on the telly) had the gear lever on the right.


Georgineer01/12/2017 14:31:17
246 forum posts
13 photos
Posted by Roger Provins 2 on 01/12/2017 11:39:33:

Back in the early '60s I had several Fords with column change and 3 seater bench seat- Zodiac, Zephyr, Consul. Slid around on every bend! smiley


In the late seventies I had a 1966 Vauxhall Victor 101 estate with 'three up the tree' and a bench seat. My then girl friend used to call sharp bends COD corners - Come Over Darling!


Russell Eberhardt01/12/2017 15:08:43
2476 forum posts
85 photos
Posted by not done it yet on 29/11/2017 16:53:38:

Having to wait for a gear change, when starting to overtake is neither good for acceleration nor for it changing gear whilst changing lanes.

You should try driving with a modern dual clutch automatic gearbox. The gearbox in my Skoda can change gear in 8 mS, much quicker than a manual change. It also has manual up/down shift but after playing with it a few times I just let the computers get on with it.


Samsaranda01/12/2017 15:34:23
776 forum posts
5 photos

Russell, I have a Honda Jazz with CVT, it is a dream to drive with gear changes as you say happening in milliseconds, and the fuel economy is phenomenal, driving round town it is in the upper 40's but no sluggard when it comes to accelerating. I would hate to revert to a full manual gearbox now, my Honda has paddles so you can still indulge in gear hanging if the mood takes you.

Dave W

Dave Smith 1401/12/2017 16:14:59
76 forum posts
7 photos

I had a Nissan Altima in the US a couple of weeks ago. It was awful! Gutless, jerky gear changing, fuel economy was bad, I was quite disappointed with it. My father in law had a CVT Nissan micra about 10 years ago which was much nicer. Personal opinion, you still cannot beat a manual change for being in exactly the right gear when you need it or to hang on to a gear through a corner instead of unsettling the car midway through.

PS even though the Nissan in the states was gutless I still managed to out drag most things away from the lights without trying!


Alexander Smith 101/12/2017 17:09:15
12 forum posts
11 photos

Reading all these posts reminded me about our very first car - a mini van with rear seat conversion back in the late '70s. It had the very long, floor mounted gearstick and when we bought it (very, very second-hand) the seller told us that the ball joint where the bottom of the gearstick joined the gear linkage was worn so he had drilled a hole in the locating plate and added a bolt which located into a groove in the ball and kept everything located. Everything was fine for months until, one day when I went to change gear - no gear stick!!! Moment of panic until I looked down to see the gearstick lying flat on the mini floor. A quick bit of scrabbling around with one hand while driving with the other (yes, I know I was an idiot, but I was young in those days) and I managed to find the gearstick and it happily changed gear. That was fine until I let go when it promptly landed on the floor again. An interesting journey home ensued, where I tightened up the bolt and everything was fine for a few months until it happened again and needed another tighten. Given the panic these days when anything minor goes wrong with a car, it's amazing the bodges and quick fixes that we all seemed to have no issue with in the days when you could actually do things to a car. Now I just lift the bonnet, sigh heavily and put it down again.


Farmboy01/12/2017 17:33:42
116 forum posts
8 photos

I remember dad telling me he took his driving test in the farm van. The passenger seat was not fixed down so it could be easily removed for more carrying capacity.

The emergency stop was interesting teeth 2 . . . surprisingly, he passed. Maybe the examiner didn't fancy a re-run

Balljoint01/12/2017 20:07:53
29 forum posts
10 photos


I hope that your clutch never goes, the parts are dear enough but if you add on the labour and the price of the special tools to replace it, it definately makes your eyes water.

Clever bit of kit though


Adrian Giles03/12/2017 00:56:48
70 forum posts
26 photos

My early cars were all column change/bench seat models, Ford Consul, Zephyr &Zodiac. Best ones were the Vauxhall PA Cresta, 3 litre straight six, pulled from 15mph to blimey in top, beautiful cars. BMC J4 gearbox really was pot luck, “stirring the pudding” was just about right, plus having to keep a few cwt in the back to keep the wheels on the ground as well!

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