First Year for the Hurst Pistol Grip Shifter

1970 Hurst Pistol Grip Shifter
1970 Hurst Pistol Grip Shifter. Photo by Mark Gittelman

A manual transmission can add value to a classic car from the 60s and 70s. In fact, some believe that a real muscle car will always have three pedals. This is why a factory installed Hurst shifter can push the value even higher. When you poke your head in a classic Mopar muscle car, are you hoping to see a 4-speed?

If so, you probably wouldn't mind seeing a Hurst pistol grip shift handle. Here we'll dig into why you find the classic shifter in more cars than you should. We'll also search for a definitive answer on when the first pistol grip Hurst became an available option. Finally, discover some of the problems associated with installing an aftermarket handle on cars that didn't come with them from the factory.

Give Me a Stick

Have you ever been stuck in a 7 mile traffic jam in a 1970 Chevy Chevelle Super Sport with a 4-speed? After 6 hours of moving the car up 3 feet at a time, your clutch leg will ache. This could be why most modern automobiles, ship with an automatic transmission. However, when you're looking for a classic muscle car, chances are it will not be your daily driver.

In this situation a 4-speed car is considered more desirable from a collector’s point of view. Just like most cars today ship with automatic transmissions, cars from the 60s and 70s were the same way. When you look at the total production numbers of a particular model, manual transmission cars represent 20% or less of the total build. Owners of these clutch operated cars have the power of supply and demand on their side.

The First Pistol Grip

The first pistol grip shifters landed in showrooms on 1970 model cars. If you stopped by the dealership in late 1969 you could see 4-speed cars like the second generation Dodge Charger sporting the unique shift handle. Chrysler pony cars like the Plymouth Barracuda and the Dodge Challenger RT (Road Track) also used them.

Shift handles of the past came in all shapes and sizes. However, all of them had threaded holes and they screwed down onto the threaded rod of the shifter. The pistol grip is a completely different ballgame. The real wood handles mount to the sides of the shift lever just like they would on a real hand held firearm.

Recessed, heavy duty, stainless steel screws with a drop of thread locking compound assured a solid connection. They finished off the top of the handle with a stainless steel cap that included an easy to read map of the shift pattern. When you reached down and grabbed the pistol grip shift handle it felt like you were holding a 357 Magnum.

Why you see so Many Pistol Grip Shift Handles

You gain a tremendous sense of power and precision when you hold the handgun shaped handle. Although it probably has little to no effect on quarter-mile time, it feels good and it looks awesome.

For this reason Chrysler, muscle car owners have a tendency to install it on their automobiles. Aftermarket companies like Brewer's Performance make adapters and high-quality reproduction handles at reasonable price points. This makes it possible for people to add the popular accessory, even if it doesn't belong on the car.

Problems when Upgrading the Shift Handle

When Chrysler installed these on the factory assembly line, they used different shaped shift rods. If the car had a center console and bucket seats it got one style. If it had a bench seat with no console it received a different style. On top of that the way the handle integrates with the shift rod is a lot different. Chrysler products from 1969 and older came with an Inland shifter mechanism.

If you buy a threaded adapter and install a pistol grip shift handle on an Inland rod it will probably hit the dashboard or the bench seat when moving through the shift pattern. This can also cause the car to jump out of gear.

This is why you want to do it right. And this means replacing the shift lever along with the handle. Hurst shifters online offer convenient kits containing all the necessary parts. However, you have to make sure the upgrade kit is compatible with your interior configuration and body style.