According to You: The Best Shifter You’ve Experienced

Brian Makse

We are beyond grateful for the Hagerty Community: You folks heed the call to provide your unique perspectives to improve our content here on the automotive internet. This time we are sharing your thoughts on the best shifter. Some candidates are very much expected, but some are rather … shall we say, controversial? Check them out and tell us what you think in the comments. There’s a good chance some of these will compel you to try out a few new shifters, just to see what the fuss is about!

The Chevy Spark!

2015 Chevrolet Spark

@Andrea: I have a feeling I’m gonna get a lot of grief from many of you, but the best shifter I’ve ever experienced was on my 2015 Chevy Spark, the only new vehicle I’ve ever bought. Both up and downshifting were unbelievably smooth; no jerking or lugging. There was an indicator that would tell me when to shift, but I never paid attention to it because I prefer to shift according to speed, engine sound, and feel.

Mopar Pushbuttons


@Bob: The best shifter I ever experienced is the pushbutton shifter in the 1960 Chrysler. Nice mechanical feel to the buttons, just the right travel and effort. A quality piece.

Hurst on the Heartstrings?

Hurst Shifter Vintage Ad

@Dutch52: Best was the Hurst I put in a ’65 Corvette; I never missed a shift.

@DUB6: It’s hard to argue with those beefsteak Hurst sticks (either factory-provided or installed aftermarket) in the ’60s and ’70s muscle cars (and even topping an old B-W or Muncie dropped into a Tri-Five) back in my youth. Those things were dead-serious, and for a time, everything else was just an also-ran.

@mike: Best shifter has to be a Hurst, that’s what everyone has bought over the years, if you wanted firm, [and you did] not [to] hunt for the gear, especially under full acceleration. Some factory four-speeds you could set the factory shift throw to be shorter, [and] I did that with my new ’65 Vette. It made a big difference—less slop to go astray with high-speed shifting, commonly known as speed shifting.

@BDP123: I had a Hurst Competition/Plus shifter and Muncie in my ’68 Camaro and loved it. I have a TKO five-speed in it now with a Hurst Blackjack shifter. It’s good but the Comp/Plus was a better driving experience.

@Michael: Aftermarket Hurst four-speed in a ’65 VW Bug.

@Tom: I have a Hurst Short Throw in my Shelby GT. It is the shortest shift pattern I ever shifted. Drive like you want to break it.


Acura Integra Type R interior shifter detail
Sam Smith

@David: My first ever brand-new car: 1992 Honda Accord LX Coupe with the five-speed. It will forever be the yardstick by which I judge all other shifters.

@Andrew: My favorite was the shifter in the Acura Integra GS-R. It was, to me, just perfect. I compare all other shifters to that one.

@Golf: Second this comment. My ’94 GS-R was awesome, especially given that it is a front-drive with a cable actuation for gear changes!

@Shiven: Honda S2000, specifically the AP1, a proper bolt-action feel.

@Mike: I went from a 1987 Honda CRX Si with a perfect shifter and clutch to a 1993 Pontiac Sunbird—2.0 liter five-speed, with a clunky, notchy, imprecise shifter.

@Scott: My first new car was an ’86 Honda Accord four-door sedan [with a] five-speed. I owned two four-speed Mustangs, a VW Super Beetle, Honda Civic, and VW Dasher before, and the Accord’s smooth transmission was the gold standard for me. I had a 1992 Corvette six-speed and currently own a 2014 Corvette seven-speed, and they don’t compare.

@Walt: My favorite shifter has to be my 1996 Acura Integra GS-R.

Horseshoe Shifter

horseshoe shifter interior chevrolet

@Jim: Best automatic—the 1969 Camaro “horseshoe style” console shifter, because it was cool.


2023 Mazda Miata high angle interior driving action
Cameron Neveu

@Robert: All of my Mazdas—Miata, Mazdaspeed3, Mazda3 SGT—had wonderful manual shifters.

@JohnD: The first-gen Miata is nice and mechanical with a famously short throw. Going into second is a known issue and it kind of hangs up. Other than that it’s perfect. I just replaced the bushings in mine and it’s as stiff as ever. As it should be.

@Jim: Mazda Miata by far. I’ve had two, a 1991 and a 2006, and they are the best shifting experience on the planet.

@TingeofGinge: The NB Miata in my garage. Quite good.

DCT for me?

bmw interior full

TG: I am going to commit sacrilege and say my favorite is the auto-stick in my current 1 Series. I miss the feedback of having a clutch, but that autostick just plain shifts faster. It is in the right location where my hand wants to find a manual shifter, and in the rare occasions that I don’t want to bother it, I can pop it over to auto… hasn’t happened too often, though!

Column shifting

cadillac interior dash full

@Edward: 1966 Cadillac DeVille on the column: No effort needed.

British B somethings

MG interior steering wheel shifter

@Layne: My favorite shifter was in my 1971 MGB. It was a very short shifter with a very short throw. You could shift it with just wrist movement. No need to get your arm involved. If you want to bang shift it you could do that too, using arm and wrist movement.

@John: Undoubtedly it was a frame-off restored 1956 MG MGA. Well-oiled rifle bolt action starts to describe how delightfully engaging and direct the shifts were. Super short-throw for something of the vintage and very well placed. The rest of the car drove like a fast tractor, but the MGA shifter is the high point in feel that many people aspire to achieve with after-market parts.

@Brian: The six-speed Ricardo in the 2006 Ford GT, modified with a short shift kit. Magic.

@Paul: My 1969 Series II Jaguar E-Type OTS with a manual all-synchromesh four-gear limited slip Thorton “Powr-Lok” differential. Matched with the normally aspirated 4.2 litre in-line six-cylinder, triple HD.8 SU carbs, Borg and Beck 10-inch Hydraulic clutch, and 3.54:1 Ratio Hypoid Salisbury rear axle. It was smoother than my 1972 GTO [with the] 455.

@StressCraxx: 1967 Lotus Elan: Rifle bolt short throws. Gear lever pivots directly upon the shift forks. Snick, snick, snick, snick.

@keeton: My favorite would have to be a 1971 MGB that belonged to a roommate of mine in the late 1970s. It was precise and mechanical. You never missed a shift with that ‘box. I would have said the Miatas that I owned (NA and NB, five- and six-speed, respectively) but a weak second-gear synchro in both kept them from being perfect.

@Magnumcello: I remember the 1973 Jensen Healey as having the sweetest gearbox that I had ever driven up to that point. These days I’m getting similar enjoyment in my ’96 BMW Z3.

@Isaiah: The MGB transmission I put in my MGA shifts very well. I like the world-class T5 in my (fake) Lotus 7, with a Pro 5.0 short shifter kit, but the T5 is famous for not being the best at finding second and I’ve noticed that finding second is a little harder when it’s cold, so I’m not going to go with the T5, I like the feel of the MGB transmission more.

@MGRX13B: Caterham Super Seven SV. Two and one-half inches is a short throw. You shift with your wrist.

@G Lomas: The best shifter I remember driving is on a brand new Lotus Europa, but my favorite was the one I got to use when driving a genuine 427 Cobra, the one that is sort of backward.

European Movements

Sam Smith BMW 2002tii Weissrat Hagerty 2002
Sam Smith

@David: After years of ’50s and ’60s three-on-the-tree and four-on-the-floor gearboxes, my favorite was a BMW 2002. Like butter in a gearbox!

@Lawrence: 1979 Ford Escort Mk1 1600 GT.

@Arthur: Without a doubt, the smoothest manual shifter ever was the late ’60s through 2000 Alfa Romeo four- or five-speed. The only flaws were a somewhat long throw and early wear of the second-gear synchro, but when new and in good condition you just could not beat a synchro regardless of how fast you shifted, and not a notch in any gear. Just wonderful, especially for toe-heel up- and down-shifting on a winding road.

@Jere: I had a 2011 VW Golf with a five-speed. It was like butta!

@David: Anything Porsche beginning with the 944.

@Bigcat: 2002 Boxter S, like a bolt-action rifle. I’ve owned nine different manual shift vehicles, this was the best, bar none.

@Dale: Our 1983 Mercedes 240 D, four-speed: So smooth and quiet. The synchros could take anything thrown at them.

@Riz: 2018 Porsche Carrera T, best shifter ever!

Mostly Foxy Mustangs

fox body mustang interior and shifter

@Espo70: My 1984 Mustang GT …just a Borg-Warner T5 with a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, but it was very satisfying to move around.

@Toby: I have a stage two 2016 Mustang GT, with six-speed manual with the Ford racing shift kit. I do track events and the shifting is effortless (with the stock shifter I had a difficult time selecting the right gear at the higher gears).

@Rider79: Best was my in-laws’ 1977 Dodge Sportsman van, 318, three-on-the-tree. Or, maybe not … especially when it locked up on me! (Fortunately, my wife knew how to unlock it under the hood.) Actual best? My 1984 Mustang GT.


corvette interior shifter dash

@Woodland: The six-speed ZF in my 1996 Corvette Grand Sport and 1991 Corvette ZR1.

@Mark: Best Shifter: Stock C-4 Corvette six-speed.

@FLPolara: Best-ever was 1996 Corvette Grand Sport … smooth as silk! Most fun for me was a 1971 Mopar pistol grip…makes me smile every time!

@Cannonball: I’ve been shifting for over 70 years. Owned many, driven more: Ferrari, Alfa, Lotus, Maserati, Mustang. Hand down the best, smoothest shifter was my 1958 Corvette.

Japanese Gear Jammin’

japanese car interior short shifter

@Chris: Best (by far!) is my 1991 Toyota MR2 Turbo. The short throw of the shifter and the overall ergonomics of the driver’s side makes for an amazing experience.

@Shane: The best overall was a Mitsubishi Eclipse GS-T, for my taste.

@John: 1982 Toyota Corolla SR5 with a hydraulic clutch. Never missed a shift and when the clutch cylinder would eventually leak you could rev-match easily without grinding. Cheap O-ring replacement, and leak would stop. 200,000 trouble-free miles. Miss that rear-wheel-drive, five-speed manual-transmission hatchback.

Modern GM manuals

2013 CTS V Mecum shifter

@Classics Fan: The best shifter I’ve enjoyed was in my 2013 CTS-V. It felt firm and precise with short throws that inspired confidence running through the gears. I don’t recall ever missing a shift even under full throttle. Miss that car!

@Mark: The six-speed manual in the 2013 ZL1 Camaro convertible.

@Michael: The Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing six-speed manual is a super smooth shifter!

@Paul: Best shifter I’ve ever used is the six-speed Tremec I put in my 1965 GTO. Truly a one-finger, “give it a push and it’s there.” Nothing else comes close.

J C Whitney special?

Power glide shifter ad

@Morris: My first and favorite was my 1952 Chevy converted from Powerglide to a spring-loaded three-on-the-floor by J C Whitney. With a bench seat, my date(s) would slide over next to me, which made shifting a lot more fun! Fast forward 50+ years, my VW GTI was a real joy to shift. Fun—but in a different way.




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    Well some have never used a good shifter based on results.

    I am shocked no Edsel push button or Pre Selector Cord. LOL!

    How about a Rover 2000 TC. Absolutely flawless short throw shifter – especially when compared to a ‘60 Morris Mini 850 or a ‘67 204 Peugeot!!!! ( right hand drive 4 on the column)

    I had a 1967 Rover 2000SC. Action was crisp. Wonder why no one else mentioned any of the four-on-the-column (plus reverse) shifting common on European cars in the 50s and 60s. Odd, for sure. Maybe not the best, though.

    No mention of the Ferrari gated shifters? I’ll comment on the F355 in particular. I recall reading complaints in auto magazines about the Ferrari gated shifter, but I didn’t have problems with it. I found the lever seemed to just want to follow into the correct slot on upshifts and downshifts. Plus, there was that satisfying metal-to-metal clink with every shift. It certainly didn’t hurt that the flat-plane crank V8 behind made sonorous melodies.

    Your comment may be entirely valid, but in my often overly nerdy manner I have developed the following theory regarding this result. I googled the number of Ferrari owners in the world and saw a figure of 13,000. I was not really confident in that number, so I multiplied it by 3. To cover folks who have driven a Ferrari, I mulitplied it by 2. I then divided that by 8.5 billion and rough estimated that 0.0009% of the population has driven a Ferrari. Now I realize that the population is a bit denser in this forum, but I suspect it is a significant factor in the result. Now this theory breaks down when you look at some of the other less common automobiles referenced in the article, which leaves me to the final conclusion that I am bored

    😆 to the last line. What I believe I gathered from your seat-of-the-pants math is that there may only be a couple of other people on this forum who’ve driven said Ferrari gated shifter, and maybe they weren’t big enough fans to give it a mention. 🙂

    Probably my old 1957 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.

    Yeah, I know it was an automatic.
    A four-speed Hydramatic, to be precise; (I didn’t know it was a four-speed until acquiring an owner’s manual sometime later.)

    After it shifted into Second, you literally could not detect any further shifts.

    I have to go with my first car, a 69 Ford Cortina. Sweet shifting 4 speed. 3rd car, a 72 Opel GT. A nice short throw shifter. My first 5 speed, an 89 Dodge Daytona was always a pleasure to drive. I agree with previous comments on Mazda, my 2003 Mazdaspeed Protégé was my first turbo, mated to a short throw 5 speed. Until some ill-advised tech at the dealer thought it would be a good idea to put some kind of synthetic fluid in the tyranny. After a lot of missed shifts and grinding, I took it back and they replaced the fluid back to OEM. Currently, my clutch pedal shifting is done in a 71 Volvo 1800E. Perfect.

    I have owned many English Fords, including a 63 Lotus Cortina, and an Escort Mk1 Twin-cam. They shared the same “3 rail Rocket Box”. It was fitted to many other Ford products of the period right up to the Mk 2 Cortina’s.
    The later type fitted to the Mk3 Cortina and Capri etc., was the 2000E single rail gearbox.
    Both had a butter smooth gearchange and a capability of handling up to 180 Lb.Ft. torque.
    The only weak spot was the syncro on 2nd and 3rd gear, but it is one of the finest that Ford ever produced.
    I also had several Alfa’s and the earlier gearboxes fitted behind the engine where fabulous, but the later “transaxle types” fitted to the Alfetta cars where inclined to be notchy.

    Both Honda and Toyota shifters delivered a great tactile feel considering neither one of these entry-level cars I owned back in the mid 70’s (Honda Civic) and early 90’s (Corolla LE) cost much money to purchase and keep on the road.

    In the 80’s when I was 18, I had a ’71 Nova with Booth and Arons 350, 4.88 12 bolt, Muncie M21 and Hurst Supershifter. The rods were all straight. Dad was a Cutter Grinder at Pontiac and made me a custom short shift lever for it. I could hold the throttle to the floor and snap the clutch and shifter at the same time, just like Grumpy Jenkins.

    Muncie M21 with Hurst competition plus shifter. I installed this into a Penske 75 Camaro with an L82 under the hood. 308 gears not a lot of horsepower due to low compression but it was a sweet shifting great grand touring car & with those tall freeway gears I could kick down to third gear and run it to about 95 before I pull high gear. so my vote is an M21 with a hurst -I have two of them currently: 68 Firebird and a 68 Camaro. I’ll never change them for modern five or six speeds… dual clutch automatics are sweet for modern trannys; I have the 10 speed ZL1(not as good as a dual clutch)and it’s sweet too but a 3 pedal car is something to be had

    From my experience, it’s the Mazda Miata by far. My first was a ’94 5 speed. Absolutely silky smooth, direct and a pleasure to shift. My second was a ’07 6 speed. Still smooth, but I felt the gear spacing was too close together for daily driving.

    Without a single doubt the best shifter on a manual straight drive is the 2005-2006 Ford GT. Smooth as silk, great clutch, positive action. Zero slop.

    My ‘65 corvette had the hirst shifter – like one of the commenters in the article. Fantastic.

    For automatic – I’m surprised no one mentioned the Hurst Lightning Rods in the Husrt Olds of the 80’s. I love that shifter so much I have a complete setup sitting on the shelf for the next project with an automatic transmission. Unfortunately, I still keep building cars with manuals…

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