KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
November 1, 2008
Photos By: KJ Jones

Horse Sense: If a survey was taken among all of our associates and colleagues in the Mustang media, many of whom share same passion for late-model Ponies that we have, poll results would probably show that maintaining a high level of objectivity about many of the parts and rides we evaluate can sometimes be the most difficult part of the gig.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, regardless of its nature. As members of the Mustang media, our job is to gather current 'Stang-related information that we think is interesting and communicate the results of our research in a compelling and objective manner.

Sure, there are times when stronger, more personal feelings are incorporated in a report, such as in your tech editor's recent feature story on Vinny Changet's twin-turbo'd Fox ("Mission Accomplished," June '08, p. 172), or during evaluations of cool, new 'Stang technology that just flat-out rocks.

Here's a stock S197 five-speed shifter assembly. Be sure to take a close look at the product images in this story. While this report is driven by the opinions of Mustang enthusiasts and the thoughts vary, one unanimous sentiment among our test group is that this flimsy unit should be replaced immediately.

However, unlike a 'Stang-focused message forum on the Web, the details found in our magazine as a norm are void of an author's personal sentiments about the product or manufacturer being discussed. The story is presented to you in an unbiased manner.

One thing to keep in mind is that despite our findings or feelings about new 'Stang gear, we understand our information isn't always interpreted the same way or taken as the end-all, be-all bottom line. There are occasions when enthusiasts' varying opinions on parts can have a stronger impact than anything we say, especially when they're the opinions of 'Stangbangers who actually own and drive Ponies equipped with parts that we review.

The OEM shifters in five-speed S197s have received unanimously poor ratings from the media and enthusiasts for as long as the latest-generation 'Stangs have been around-at least until the shifter was updated in the '08 model. The stock stick's design and function weaknesses are definitely more fact than opinion-a point supported by the abundance of aftermarket short-throw shifters available for '05-and-newer Ponies.

Each test participant was asked to complete this evaluation form once he had driven every Mustang other than his own.

Although we've reviewed almost all of the current bolt-on S197 shifters individually, we thought it would be cool-and manufacturers participating in this project agreed-to conduct an informal head-to-head, shootout-style survey on several popular upgrade shifters for five-speed Mustangs. A group of SoCal '05-'08 Mustang owners and their rides served as our control set for the evaluation.

On a sunny Saturday morning in April 2008, we convened four enthusiasts (Paul Gemellaro, 48; Jeremy Grossman, 33; Jeff Must, 59; and Steve Perry, 47) and their aftermarket-shifter-equipped 'Stangs at B&D Racing in Canoga Park, California, for a ride-and-drive test around a pre-established, 3.5-mile loop. The idea was to have participants take turns completing the course driving every Mustang except their own, and then give us their impressions of the different shifters.

While we acknowledge our test is not as scientific as one of those independent laboratory deals we often hear about, we did develop a simple-but-thorough evaluation sheet for our study that includes three pre-drive and four post-drive questions with a rating scale from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest). Participants completed and submitted a questionnaire after driving each Mustang and building impressions on the shifters. As we often say when it comes to choosing parts with a subjective feel (shifters, mufflers, and so on), it's best to ask around and, if possible, drive a so-equipped 'Stang to get an idea before making a purchase.

We asked testers for pre-drive and drive impressions; we also asked for their overall rating of each shifter (from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best).

Our test 'Stangs pack shifters by B&M Racing and Performance, Hurst, MGW, and Pro-5.0. These gear selectors represent what we believe is a diverse group of the most popular shifters available for S197s, and they're all competitively priced between $244 and $299. Unfortunately, we couldn't secure a Steeda Tri Ax- or Ford Racing-equipped S197 in time for our test.

The following sidebars contain photos and the all-important responses to our questions on the testers' impression of each shifter before and after driving the test Ponies. We also provide the cumulative averages of our participants' 1-to-10 ratings for the gear selectors used in our study.

While the opinions of our four volunteers certainly don't represent the feelings of the entire 'Stang Nation, the variances in comments-some are elaborate and some are not so elaborate-are interesting. We hope they leave you with a good idea of what your peers feel are the pros and cons associated with each shifter.