Evan J. Smith
July 1, 2008

Grabbing Gears has been a right of passage for Mustang owners since the '60s. With your right foot planted to the floor and a quick stab of the clutch, you pop off the perfect powershift and experience bountiful bliss-until the point when the transmission goes kerblam-o! While transmission breakage is rarer today, it was a problem for many 5.0 owners in the late '80s and through the '90s, partially due to the factory T5, which was outmatched after slapping on a set of slicks or adding a few horsepower.

Weak gears broke often (especially Third), and shifter forks regularly bent under the strain of serious gear jamming. Making matters worse was the vague factory shifter that had a tendency to fail when the small bolts holding the lever would simply break off. A shifty solution came first from Hurst, then from a new company called Pro-5.0, which introduced the billet Power Tower shifter.

We broke in this 50-mile GT500 by planting the gas and rowing through a series of powershifts to test out the Pro50.com Super Shifter. The unit was precise and gave us the confidence to keep the throttle matted during upshifts.

"I was racing a 5.0 and would ask other Mustang owners what their biggest problem was," says Joe Giaimo, owner of Pro-5.0, which is now Pro50.com. "The common answer was that racers were breaking shifter handles, so I came out with the gold steel handle. Then I decided to build a complete billet shifter for our own car. When people saw it, they had to have one, so we decided to go into production."

Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords got its hands on the first Power Tower in 1994, when Giaimo offered one to former tech editor Neil Van Oppre for testing. Van Oppre and your author were both racing 5.0 Stangs regularly at Englishtown, and he knew most of my free time was spent grabbing gears (this was just before I started at MM&FF), so he asked to use my car for the test. I agreed, and with that we installed the first Pro-5.0 shifter into my '87 5.0 LX. The story "Stick It to 'Em" ran in the Jan. '94 edition of MM&FF.

The billet design is sturdy and features a single stabilizer bar.

"When you powershift, other shifters would get hung up and you could miss a gear," Giaimo says. "During the Second-to-Third shift, the internal pivot and ball have to come past dead center (Neutral) and then move over to get into Third. That's where the problem is, so we figured out that offsetting the internal shifter ball would eliminate the hangup, and it was a significant improvement. We then applied for a U.S. patent and got it, so now we're the only company with a patent for a shift-improvement mechanism. You can only achieve this through precision machining-not with a casting, only a billet manufacturing process. I've incorporated this into all of our designs."

Van Oppre and I were impressed with the billet design, the shifter stop bolts, and the overall ease of installation. We had the shifter installed in just over an hour, and it worked flawlessly. Over time, it helped me to throw a dizzying amount of powershifts, ultimately culminating in a run of 13.55 at 101 mph with the famed 10-minute tune-up, 3.55s, and Gatorback tires.

This was our view looking up at the transmission and the shifter. Remove the clips at the front of the shifter (not shown) and the single nut holding the rod, as well as the two smaller nuts to the left, which secure the shifter to the floorboard.

Fast forward to 2008 and Pro50.com is still producing some of the best shifters money can buy. Of course, Ford's current factory transmissions are tougher than the ol' T5, but they still lack a spot-on, race-inspired shifter. With 300 hp on tap (and more in other models), a quality shifter is mandatory. With that, we recently installed and tested the new Super Shifter from Pro50.com in the hottest Pony ever, the 5.4L Shelby GT500.

"The Super Shifter is a billet design that incorporates the same patented offset shifter mechanism and ball for smooth, accurate shifts," Giaimo says. "You don't want to get hung up when shifting wide open at redline." The shifter also utilizes a single-arm design, so it can be installed without removing the transmission. It's void of adjustable stop bolts because, as Giaimo stated, the GT500 doesn't need them since the stock transmission has internal stops.

Installing an aftermarket shifter in an S197 Mustang is different from earlier Fox-body Stangs because much of the work is done underneath the car. Thankfully, installation isn't too difficult for the weekend warrior.

Here, Lacko removes the nut from the rod.

With the extra wheelbase of the S197 Mustangs (GT500 or otherwise), the engine and transmission sits further forward of the cockpit when compared to Fox, Fox-4, or New Edge Mustangs. The design requires that the shifter be set back off the transmission case in order to clear the dashboard and center stack.

To see what's involved in a complete installation, we traveled to JDM Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey. There, Jim D'Amore stood proudly with his new 50-mile, unmolested GT500, which we had plans for. Hey, Jim, can we have the keys? Of course the answer was yes, and with that, head tech Shaun Lacko began the wrench swinging. The job requires a lift or jackstands, but it's not difficult, and we had the Stang back on its feet in about an hour.

Despite the low mileage, we took it out for a spin that included some throttle-on upshifting. The Super Shifter did its job, and we nailed each gear with a chirp of the tires and smiles on our faces. The feel is firm and you can rip gears at will. We went with the stock knob, but Pro50.com has a complete assortment of billet and other knobs for performance and personalization.