Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
April 1, 2002
Photos By: Steve Turner
This photo shows the four shifters Steeda markets. From left to right are the TR-3650, the 3550 and TKO, the T56, and the T5/T45 shifters. The Tri-Ax shifters are competitively priced at $189.95 and $199.95. All shifters carry the same lever design to make for comfortable use while at the same time providing years of shifting fun.

Horse Sense: Steeda's R&D Production Manager Dan Carlson recommends rechecking the stop bolts even if you're putting the same shifter back on the same transmission. The most minute mounting location change can have an adverse effect on how well the shifter works. Dan says start from scratch when you reinstall the shifter.

Performance shifters were part of the aftermarket long before the Mustang made it into production in April 1964. With the introduction of the T5 transmission in the Fox Mustang, the shifter market "shifted" into high gear, with just about every manufacturer bringing its own design to the table.

This time, we'll highlight the shifters available through Steeda Autosports, as the company offers a shifter for each unique Mustang manual tranny. All Steeda shifters go by the Tri-Ax name and are available for the T5, the T45, the T56, the new TR-3650, and the TTC Tremec 3550 and TKO transmissions. The T5 and T45 use the same Tri-Ax shifter, as do the TTC 3550 and TKO. That leaves the T56 and the new TR-3650 needing their own design. The shifters retail for $189.95 and $199.95, with the TTC 3550, TKO, and T56 shifters selling on the high side. Natch, all are readily available from Steeda.

Every Steeda shifter features a billet aluminum base, a billet steel shifter lever, two springs, two hardened steel shims, stop bolts and nuts, and a forged aluminum handle. Steeda's Dan Carlson says, "It's not a whole lot of parts, but getting them to work together is the tricky part."

All Steeda shifters feature the company's exclusive BootGuard and two-position height-adjustment capabilities. The BootGuard prevents damage to the factory inner boot, while the adjustable height enables you to "dial-in" a comfort level for your driving habits.

Obviously, the first shifter to consider is the tried-and-true Tri-Ax shifter for the T5 and T45 transmissions. Previously, we tested the Tri-Ax T5 shifter ("T5 Shifter Test Drive," Apr. 2000, p. 39) and found it to be one of the better offerings on the market at that time. We have found no reason up to this point to sway our opinion of them in the opposite direction. The handle position and height are basically perfect, even for reaching Fifth gear with ease. The same could not be said for all the shifters we tested. We felt the Tri-Ax T5 shifter bridged the gap between drag race action and street duty. As a matter of fact, the same Tri-Ax still serves us well under the boot of our '93 LX 5.0 coupe.

As for the Tri-Ax for the TTC 3550 and TKO transmissions, Steeda didn't just copy the T5 shifter onto a TTC-specific base. The TTC 3550 and TKO transmissions differ from a T5 in that the two have an internal spring that centers the shifter. With the T5, the spring is in the shifter base. If the TTC 3550 and TKO shifter featured the same springs as the T5, the shifter would be notchy. Furthermore, the 3550 and TKO feature different pivot ratios compared to the T5. A performance shifter is a natural on transmissions such as the TTC 3550 and TKO since they're most often put into action in racing situations where quick shifts are of the utmost importance.

Thankfully, when you order a Steeda shifter you don't have to put it together yourself. The shifter comes completely assembled and ready to install.

Until recently, the T56 transmission has been the carrot dangling just out of reach of most Mustang fanatics. However, with swap kits available from several manufacturers and the placement of this transmission in the 2000 Cobra R, the T56 is gaining momentum in the Mustang market. Steeda saw the demand potential for making a T56 shifter, which benefits from the same ergonomically correct handle and adjustable handle height as other Steeda shifters. The T56 shifter is similar to the T5 unit in that it has an internal spring to keep the shifter in the center of the gate. One aspect of the T56 to remember is the transmission's Reverse lockout mechanism. You can either to choose to simply overpower the lockout spring or install a momentary switch to make getting into Reverse easier.

Last, but definitely not least, is the TR-3650 shifter-a totally new transmission designed and built by TTC for '01 V-8 Mustangs. The TR-3650 was a midyear change to the '01 Mustang GT and standard on all '01 Cobras. For this reason, you must determine which transmission your GT has by looking at the data plate or the orientation of the drain plug on the transmission. Steeda's Dan Carlson tells us the 3650 carries a K-code on the data plate and a center drain plug on the bottom of the transmission. But don't just go by the K-code on the data plate. All '02-up GTs will carry a TR-3650 transmission. Double-check the orientation of the drain plug as well before ordering your new shifter.

Check the captions to see how-and why-the Steeda shifters are uniquely designed for their transmission applications.