Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Drivetrain
MGW Flat Stick Adjustable Short Shifter S197 Install
Smoother, Shorter Shifts: We improve shifter action with an MGW flat stick adjustable short shifter.
Few modifications improve performance without breaking the bank like a quality short shifter. Simply put, if you have a stick-equipped Mustang and you’re using either the stock shifter or anything less than a well-engineered modern short shifter, you’re missing out.
If you’ve ever lost a race because of a miss-shift, then you know the blood-boiling frustration of either a rubbery stock shifter or a notchy old short shifter. But more than just guaranteed shifts, a quality modern short shifter improves driving dynamics even during the daily commute.
“Every MGW shifter is engineered from the ground up to provide precise throws, smooth shifter action, and the right amount of spring back without the noise vibration harshness (NVH) that is associated with the short shifters of old,” explains George Ciamillo of MGW Limited.
Ever heard the term rock crusher when someone is referring to the transmission in an older muscle car? Well, that term came from the early short shifters of the 1970s. They not only felt like you were crushing rocks with each shift but sounded like it as well.
Ciamillo says, “Many of the older short shifters simply changed the fulcrum point to shorten the throws without considering the increased vibration, noise, and effort it took to change gears—the old short shifters were extremely difficult to shift.”
As many of you might already know, MGW has been making high-quality shifters for over two decades, but a lesser-known fact is that MGW got its start in high-precession military, aerospace, and artillery component engineering, manufacturing, and machining.
Ciamillo says, “My father started MGW in 1984 with the focus of manufacturing firearm components and custom competition pistols and revolvers. When our reputation for quality and tight manufacturing tolerances spread, we began manufacturing parts for the aerospace and microwave industries.”
OK, so they can engineer, machine, and manufacturer high-quality components for the aerospace industry and firearm manufacturers like Glock and SIG Sauer, but what about short shifters?
“I’d always been an avid road racer,” Ciamillo explains. “When I took over the company in 1992, I decided to start manufacturing short shifters because the factory units were horrible.”
Now several decades later, MGW is pumping out some of the highest-quality shifters on the market. They look unlike anything else available because, as mentioned, each application is a clean-sheet design created with the sole purpose of improving shifter performance.
Did we mention that all MGW shifters are designed and created in the company’s 12,000-square-foot facilities in Augusta, Georgia, and are made from 100 percent U.S. material?
The Flat Stick Short Shifter
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of rowing the gears with a quality short shifter, then you know that with each gear change you’re reminded of how nice it is to grab gears. But not all short shifters are created equal.
“Anyone can simply change the fulcrum point to shorten the shift, but it gets complicated when you shorten the shift-throw without increasing the effort or diminishing the smoothness,” says Ciamillo.
Beyond the aforementioned engineering parameters of the MGW shifters that keep the throws short and smooth, this unit for the Tremec TR-3650 transmission found in 2005-2010 Mustang GTs is unlike anything else on the market because it’s adjustable.
Ciamillo says, “We have a utility patent on the unique design of this shifter that allows users to shorten the throws by as little as 15 percent or as much as 50 percent to best fit their needs.”
If the adjustability isn’t cool enough, unlike raw CNC aluminum-spec short shifters, all MGW units come coated in a military-grade, hard-coat anodized finish that is as hard as glass.
“Every wondered why certain short shifters feel great at first and then degrade to loud, gritty shifts only a year later? That’s because the shifter pivot ball is often made from raw aluminum that wears with each shift, causing slop and notchy shift action,” Ciamillo explains.
To combat shifter wear, MGW shifters use the aforementioned mil-spec DuPont Thermal Plastic coating that keeps shifts as smoother as glass.
1. For those who don’t like the look of the Flat Stick, MGW offers a standard unit that utilizes the factory shift boot and either the factory knob or an aftermarket unit should you prefer more of an OEM style rather than the exposed metal lever of the Flat Stick.
2. The Flat Stick level is available in multiple anodized colors, including silver, black, red, or blue. Yep, even the silver is anodized, so it won’t blemish.
3. It’s easy to see why MGW shifters work so well. Look at the quality of the CNC-machined aluminum and 303 stainless steel construction—it’s topnotch.
4. The rear support bracket is another machined piece of art. It comes with a street-friendly insert preinstalled, but a firmer durometer track mount is also included should you want even more positive shifts at the expense of increased NVH (noise vibration harshness).
5. Unlike other short shifters on the market, the MGW units are adjustable. Turning the adjuster unit on the bottom of the shifter decreases the throws from 15 to 50 percent over the stock unit. Per MGW’s advice, we chose a midway setting (5 out of 10) for roughly a 30 percent decrease in shifter travel.
6. The stock shifter and knob look great with their retro style, but the shifter throws are as long as a dump truck’s and the factory knob is difficult to grasp during hard shifts, increasing the chance of a miss-shift.
7. Start the removal process by unthreading the factory knob counterclockwise. Follow by pulling the factory shift boot from the console. The rubber insulator (it looks like a plunger) will also need to be removed out along with the factory strip of insulation beneath.
8. After removing two screws at the back of the console, simply pull upward and the entire unit can be removed. Note that the e-brake should be pulled as high as possible. Take your time unsnapping the front of the console from the attachment tabs.
9. Now it’s time to move underneath the car. Start by lowering the transmission down to gain better access to the shifter assembly. Keep the four transmission crossmember bolts in place, but back the threads out roughly an inch.
10. Now that you have access to the shifter, simply disconnect the appropriate bolts. Here’s a shot of us removing the centermost bolt, which connects the shift linkage to the bottom of the OEM shifter. Space is tight, so be patient.
11. Here’s a shot of the rear mount. Remove the pair of bolts that secure the shifter and the bushing to the body. Be careful—the factory studs are made from soft metal and shouldn’t be overtorqued. With the last bolts removed, the shifter can be pulled up and out through the hole in the console.
12. The MGW unit, with its CNC-machined aluminum components and aerospace-quality tolerances, far outshines the stamped stock piece.
13. The MGW flat stick short throw shifter joins the party through the shifter hole in the tunnel and is installed in the reverse order of the factory unit’s removal. Again, take your time, and all will fall into place.
14. We apologize for the unflattering photo, but there was simply no way to snake a camera between the transmission, driveshaft, and tunnel for a better picture. But you get the idea. All that billet goodness looks great and works even better. Now it’s time to move inside the cabin to finish the install.
15. When the techs as MGW told us that installing the OEM rubber insulation boot over the shifter was the most difficult part of the install, they weren’t kidding. Thankfully, Jeremy Stanton of Stanton Performance had the right tools and expertise to get the boot stretched into place. The techs at MGW mentioned that momentarily pushing the shifter higher into the tunnel hole makes this process much easier. After the boot, reinstall the center console in the reverse of removal.
16. We opted for the silver Flat Stick lever and a white shift knob because it’s not only old-school cool but also much easier to grip. Shifter throws are ridiculously short, without the common notchiness associated with the short shifters of old. Miss-shifts are now a thing of the past.
Why we chose an MGW
Ultimately we opted to test the MGW for a multitude of reasons. Beyond the aforementioned quality aspects, the adjustability peaked our interest, as did the fact that when so spec’d, it can be ordered to work with the stock shift knob (or aftermarket ones as well) for a sleeper install. In the end, while we initially thought the sleeper status would be our favorite, the silver anodized Short Stick and Rally Style shift now looked too dang good to pass up.
As for the install, we turned to the Bay Area Mustang gurus at Stanton Performance for help spinning wrenches on our box-stock 2008 Mustang GT. In roughly two hours the stamped stock steel shifter had left the building and the MGW was mounted in place. The accompanying photos will give you an idea of the installation, which can be done with simple handtools, a jack, and jackstands. If you’re wondering why we used a rack, it was mainly for photographic purposes since bulky cameras are hard to squeeze under a car on jackstands.
As expected, shift action is buttery smooth and surprisingly short. We’d be lying if we said we were skeptical of the promised performance since most short shifters are as short as they are notchy, but as claimed, the MGW shifter featured shorter and smoother throws. It’s the real deal. Although some people might balk at the prices ($260 for the standard unit, which utilizes the stock shift knob or available aftermarket units; or $290 for the Flat Stick unit, which includes a white or black knob), if you ask us, it’s money well spent. After all, how many gear changes do you make every year? Now wouldn’t you want to make each one count?