Tom Wilson
June 1, 2005

Horse Sense:
Project car provider Rich Robello is the second '05 GT owner to submit his new 'Stang to our camera before making his first payment. Who says hot-rodding is dead?

Enjoyable as the new Mustang is, ask anyone who's driven one and they'll report the shifter is a rubbery disappointment. Finding gears is a reasonably accurate exercise assuming your adrenal glands aren't secreting sauce like a musk ox, but the feel is disconnected-mushy even.

So here is Steeda bursting through the opportunity door before you can get that new Mustang out of the dealer's driveway-Steeda engineers must hide in the bushes-with a snazzy billet shifter ready to go. The business end of the shifter, including the adjustable, positive stops and billet collar and pivot ball, are familiar stuff to late-model enthusiasts. The attachment hardware, braces, and other specifics to the '05 shifter are, of course, new to all of us.

Also new is the installation procedure. Whereas Mustang shifters have traditionally installed from inside the cockpit, the new shifter installs mainly from under the car. That's because the '05 shifter is remotely mounted from the transmission and it's necessary to access the bracketry from underneath. This entails disconnecting the driveshaft from the transmission to gain access to the shifter, but because the transmission/driveshaft interface is a flange, this is straightforward nut and bolt work. It is not necessary to remove the driveshaft from the car or disconnect the exhaust, and there is no transmission fluid mess to work around.

So, unlike before, changing the '05 shifter requires a floor jack and jackstands at the least, or if you've fallen off as many dirt bikes as we have, a hoist. For the first time, though, count on several hours-shops will have the task down to a couple of hours after a few run-throughs.

Aside from saying it's a heavy-duty, well-built piece here, we'll let the photos and captions handle the details of Steeda's Tri-Ax shifter and move on to our driving impressions. Car owner Rich Robello was kind enough to let us do the snick-snick thing with his achingly new car, although we followed his cue and didn't try any hammering heroics with the five-speed's new joy lever. The action was definitely improved, with the rubbery offensiveness replaced by a manly precision. We judged the muscle required fine for enthusiasts and approaching noticeable for those weaned on four-banger lightweights. The gap between the gates is tight, so it takes a handful of shifts to get the feel down, but it is rewarding in its performance personality.

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We noticed two characteristics worth mentioning. The first is a muted clack accompanying each shift. It's the lever smacking the stops, of course, and if you don't mind a hardcore demeanor from your daily driver, it's no big deal. If the '05's quiet interior and poised manners are a big attraction, however, you may find the metallic announcement of every gear change ultimately annoying. We tried deliberate shifts to see if the noise goes away and it really doesn't. It's also likely some fine-tuning of the adjustable stops could reduce or eliminate the sound, but at what cost to the positive stop function?

After pointing out the metal-to-metal personality of the Tri-Ax, it's ironic that the other mentionable is a soft, "Is it in there?" shift to reverse. Trying to back out of the work stall, Rich fished around with the shifter several times before testing the situation by slowly letting up the clutch to discover it really was in reverse. When we tried it, we were impressed by the way in which the lever went over there and sort of bound to a halt without a hint of a positive stop-much less so than stock. This could be the shift boot fouling the mechanism-there is a rubber boot inside the cosmetic boot you see from the driver seat-but we really don't know. The rest of the gears were hard mechanical engagements.

Again, once you learn the shifter's ways, the soft reverse engagement is no meaningful impediment, but we thought we should mention it lest it comes as a surprise when you install your own Tri-Ax.

Our installation was done at JBA Racing-Steeda West in San Diego, California. Besides doing the install, JBA Racing reports retail on the Steeda Tri-Ax shifter (PN 555-7305) is $249.95. Unlike many parts for the new Mustang, the shifters have been in production at Steeda and are definitely in stock.

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