Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
April 8, 2014

Personalization of one's classic Mustang or Ford is one way to make your ride entirely yours. From wheels and exterior trim to underhood wiring and the interior, there are literally dozens of ways to make a project or recent acquisition your own. Sometimes a previous bit of personalization, or perhaps the previous owner's idea of a certain upgrade or modification, doesn't jive with your current plans. That's cool too, and one reason why you can often find lightly used performance and styling parts all over eBay and Craigslist!

Case in point on this '65 Mustang is the automatic shifter someone added to control the AOD four-speed automatic overdrive in the tunnel. While it's a quality piece, it flat just doesn't go with the '65's interior theme. If the coupe was more drag car than cruiser, perhaps with some racing seats and a rollbar, it would work. But with a stock interior (save for the aftermarket gauges in the dash) the plastic shifter housing and bulky ratcheting race-style shifter just muddies the look the current owner is attempting to pull off and it has got to go.

In place of the ratcheting race-style shifter needs to go something classy, yet functional. We're big fans of Lokar's line of shifters, knobs, and transmission control accessories. We've lost track of how many Lokar TV cable kits and carb brackets we've installed with AOD conversions, not to mention their great cable throttle kits, which come in handy for engine swaps. Thankfully, the AOD is a very popular transmission in the street rod market (and uses a similar shift pattern and linkage setup as the venerable Mustang C4 three-speed automatic), and Lokar has everything you could think of to shift one of these overdrive transmissions in just about any Ford. Lokar even tooled up a custom universal/adjustable transmission manual lever, which solves all the problems associated with column-shift versus floor-shift AOD transmissions. Now it doesn't matter what your AOD came out of, Lokar can shift it!

1 Our ratcheting race shifter got the job done, but just didn’t fit the interior’s “vibe” and has to go. Once the plastic cover is removed just four bolts hold it to the floorpan. We’ll be replacing the carpet too, as the new Lokar shifter has a much smaller footprint.

2 The Lokar shifter comes in several styles and heights. We opted for Lokar’s floor-mount nostalgia-style shifter with an 8-inch long shifter handle.

3 To finish off the floor-mount installation, we’ll be using Lokar’s shift boot with billet rectangular boot ring with LED gear indicator. To create some contrast to the chrome shifter handle, we opted for the Midnight Series boot ring.

4 To control the LED gear indicator and to provide a safe and easy connection for backup lights and neutral safety interlock, we’ll be pairing Lokar’s billet LED gear indicator with this cable-operated shift indicator kit, which mounts on the side of the transmission.

5 Lokar’s AOD manual lever conversion kit requires cracking open your transmission for installation, which can be a bit daunting. However, the benefit of having the adjustable lever installed far outweighs the extra work and is a key part to a smooth and successful installation.

6 After loosely assembling the shifter’s mounting tabs, the shifter location is determined on the transmission tunnel. A silver Sharpie is used to mark the four bolt-hole locations to be drilled.

7 Once the holes are drilled, bolt the mounting ears down loosely to determine where to cut the floorpan for the shift lever bracket. You’ll need a slot long enough and wide enough for the lever to move freely through all gear positions.

8 Once the opening is marked, a cut-off wheel makes quick work of the new opening that is needed for the shift lever to pass through the floor sheetmetal. Bolt on the appropriate shift lever for your application and test fit the shifter until the hole is of the proper width and length.

9 Once the slot is cut, it’s time to return the shifter to the tunnel and secure the shifter (we used longer bolts than those supplied due to the floorpan’s stock shifter reinforcement lip). Verify the shifter is positioned straight and level and then tighten the horizontal Allen head bolts securing the shifter body to the mounting ears.

10 In order to install the AOD manual lever, the transmission pan must be removed and the fluid drained. After draining all excess fluid remove the AOD’s transmission filter and wipe down the area. A new filter and pan gasket will be required for re-installation of the pan.

11 Begin shaft removal by removing the retaining nut for the TV lever on the side of the case and disconnecting the TV lever and cable.

12 Carefully grab the retaining pin that locks the manual lever into the case and pull it free with a pair of side-cutters or needle-nose locking pliers.

13 Using a box-end wrench to prevent the manual detent lever from moving, loosen the retaining nut that secures the detent lever from the manual lever. We’ve already removed the roller spring from the detent lever at this point as well.

14 Carefully slide the stock manual lever out of the case to remove it. Take a few photographs or make a drawing of how the manual lever, detent lever, TV lever linkage, and return spring all cohabitate within the trans in case something moves out of place (and it will).

15 Temporarily remove the Lokar manual lever’s adjustable end piece. Lubricate the new manual lever with some transmission fluid and slip the lever into the case, ensuring it engages the detent lever properly. Reassemble the detent lever’s retaining nut and then install the Lokar end piece straight up, as shown here.

16 This assembled shot can be used as a guide to ensure you have everything lined up and functioning properly. From the top, you can see the new Lokar manual lever installed and tight against the detent lever, the detent lever spring back in place with its roller tip, and the detent lever engaged with the manual valve in the valve body. Behind that, toward the bottom of the photo, are the TV lever in its proper place against the tip of the TV piston (not behind it!) and the TV return spring engaging the metal spring retainer.

17 Install a fresh transmission filter and bolt the transmission pan to the transmission using a new gasket. The Lokar LED shift indicator sensor is mounted at this time as well on the passenger side of the transmission.

18 The LED shift indicator sensor’s cable is routed around the rear of the AOD to the driver side where the sensor’s cable mount is attached to the pan rail for the cable to pass through on its way to the manual lever.

19 Once the cable is connected to the manual lever, the final cable and cable housing length can be determined for proper centering/operation of the LED indicator’s sensor. The cable and housing trimming happens at the sensor end, as seen here.

20 While this ’65 already used a Lokar AOD TV cable kit to control the transmission, it was installed with the cable shifter in a forward pull/upright lever configuration. A new TV cable kit had to be installed along with the new shifter, as the Lokar floor mount shifter requires a rear pull/downward facing lever configuration.

21 When looking for a suitable mounting location for the LED indicator sensor’s electronics, remember you will need access to it for wiring, programming, and to verify operation. It is fairly small and we felt it would hide nicely under the carpet at the base of the transmission tunnel.

22 Wiring the sensor’s electronic module is straight forward. The three wires from the sensor attach at the far right, while the wiring from the LED display attach in the middle. At the far left are the connections for power, ground, backup lights, and neutral safety.

23 Powered up and ready for calibration the LED indicator shows Park illuminated. The programming steps are simple—place the gear shift in the appropriate gear, verify the indicator is in the same gear, and press the “set” button on the electronic module. Repeat for each gear and this will also setup the backup light and neutral safety functions.

24 With a fresh carpet set in place (the owner opted for cut pile carpeting for a modern look this time around) the LED boot ring is set into place and the mounting holes drilled.

25 To install the included vinyl shift boot, the shift knob requires removal. Simply loosen the shift knob’s lock nut and unscrew the shift knob followed by the lock nut. Slip the boot down the shifter assembly and ensure it is seated under the LED boot ring before installing the included Phillips head screws to secure the LED boot ring and boot.

26 Reinstall the shift knob’s lock nut first and then thread the shift knob back onto the shifter handle until the center push button is flush with the shift knob body, as shown here, and then thread the lock nut back up to the shift knob and tighten.

Lokar Premium Shift Knobs

Just as we were wrapping up our shifter install, Lokar announced its new line of premium automatic shift knobs. Available in a 2-inch diameter as a Deco, Solid, and Venetian design, we chose the Solid in black with no shift pattern to add a little contrast to the chrome shifter stick.

Thankfully, the AOD is a very popular transmission in the street rod market (and uses similar shift pattern and linkage setup as the venerable Mustang C4 three-speed automatic), and Lokar has everything you could think of to shift one of these overdrive transmissions in just about any Ford

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