Column-to-Floor Shifter Conversion - C5
For All 1983-86 Cougars/Thunderbirds with the 3.8L V6 and C5 Automatic Transmission
Page Revised: 10 May 2019
Thanks to Trevor (aka RavageWolf) for writing this article.
We estimate that probably 70 percent or more of all 1983-88 Cougars and Thunderbirds had a column shifter as standard equipment. The floor shifter was reserved for XR7's, Turbo Coupes, and those souls willing to pay the extra money for the console and floor shifter package if they were even offered that model year. Yet it's almost universally the one thing that most people want in their cars, and with good reason. It's convenient, allows things like the analog instrument cluster, lets you manually shift gears easier, and...well, it's just sportier. Of course, just because your car never came with a floor shifter doesn't mean you can't have one.
Before you go rooting through the local salvage yard for parts, you must know the mechanics behind doing such a conversion. The shifter and transmission must be in sync with each other or you're not going anywhere. With a column shifter, your trans is NOT ready for a floor shifter, so there is labor involved in that. Then you must work up the guts to cut a hole in the perfectly good floorpan. And you must also install a console in your car, if you don't already have one. This is a very involved project that is not for the weak. But if you're convinced you can do it (or are paying a mechanic to do it for you), read on. It is highly recommended that you consult with a professional, refer to a shop manual, or both before you proceed.
NOTE: This step-through is only for setting up the C5 to accept floor shifters. For installing the actual shifter into your console, please carefully read the information here.
There are two ways to do your column-to-floor shift conversion:
- Option 1: Use the factory 5.0L V8 floor shifter for the AOD (1987-88 Cougar/Thunderbird). Since this shifter was designed for the AOD trans, it won't make a direct fit onto your C5 trans but it does fit the console perfectly.
- Option 2: Use the Fox Mustang cable-operated floor shifter (V6 Mustangs/Capris). This will fit perfectly with your C5, since this Mustang floor shifter is for the C5. The only drawback is that it won't look too good in your center console unless you make modifications.
PARTS AND TOOLS NEEDED
NOTE: All parts needed will come off Fox Mustang/Capri's with cable shift (most V6 models) and 1987-88 Cougar/T-Bird with the 5.0L V8.
- 1 - 1987-88 Cougar/T-bird 5.0L floor shifter, or Fox Mustang cable operated floor shifter (found on V6 Mustangs/Capris with the C5 trans)
- 1 - Console cover plate
- 1 - Complete Mustang/C5 cable bracket *
- 1 - Shift lever (points down) from C5 transmission from a Mustang/Capri
- 1 - Kickdown bar (piece of metal connected from the carbeurator to the transmission) off the Fox Mustang with cable shift
1 - New transmission pan gasket and filter.
* If using the Cougar floor shifter, you must modify the lower portion of this bracket to fit the cable, meaning you must hack off the existing cable going through.
- 22mm metric open end wrench
- Torque wrench
FLOOR SHIFTER MODIFICATION
For the 5.0L floor shifter (if using the Mustang shifter, skip this)
Because this shifter is meant for the AOD, it will not work without modifications to make it compatible with the C5. Please read through if you want to keep that factory look by using this shifter.
- Since the AOD shift bracket won't work, you need to modify our own. Taking the shift bracket off the Mustang w/C5, remove the cable running through the bracket. Next, cut off the side metal, until it's level with the bracket.
- The hole you see before you (refer to Figure 1) is too small for the floor shift to fit. You must enlarge the hole by using a drill bit, and shaving the edges of the hole until it's big enough.
- Cut a horizontal slot to allow the cable to slide in.
- Drill a corresponding hole to the shift cable and bolt the cable on.
The result: a custom made bracket! But when you try to install the bracket, you'll notice the shift cable is about 1 1/2" short of the shift lever. The problem can be solved by doubling over a sheet of metal, and drilling corresponding holes to match the shift lever and shift cable end.
Note: This should be done by a professional; in other words, sending your transmission to a trans shop to flip the shift lever for you (unless you've got the guts to get down and dirty with transmission fluid!)
- Set up your car safely on jack stands, or on a lift (if you're so lucky).
- Remove the kickdown bar and column shift connection from the transmission, and remove the sensor. Place spare parts in safe area.
- Proceed to remove the transmission pan bolts. Be prepared for transmission fluid to come out.
- Once fluid starts to come out, quickly place a large bucket (able to hold more than 5L of fluid) underneath.
- Remove the transmission pan and old filter.
- Carefully remove the valve body, and store bolts in safe place.
- Find the nut that holds the shift lever, and remove the nut using the 22mm wrench (refer to Figure 2).
- Carefully remove the old shift lever. Note: you will have problems removing it since there is not much space to work with. If you become complete frustrated, hammer out the floor pan adjacent to the lever.
- Install the new/used shift lever off the Mustang, There should be no clearance problems when installing.
- Line up the shift gear with the lever and put the nut back on. Reinstall the valve body. Pay close attention that the shift gear lines up with the piston like thing.
- Test shift the new lever, making sure it can go P R N D 2 1. If you're missing some gears, realign the piston thing with the shift gear.
- Install the new filter and gasket, and bolt the pan back on. Torque to 11-16 ft/lbs.
PROPER INSTALLATION OF SHIFT CABLE AND ASSOCIATED PARTS
- Reinstall the sensor, and install the kickdown bar off the Mustang (you need this bar because the stock one with the column shift will interfere with the shift lever).
- Test the kickdown bar to make sure that it is able to move freely (if you push up too hard it will get stuck, and you will need to remove the valve body to get it unstuck!).
- Install the Mustang cable shift bracket.
- Hook up the shifter cable to shift lever.
- Calibrate the shifter.
- Add about 4L of new transmission fluid. Start you engine and let it run for about 10 minutes, then check transmission fluid level. Add more if needed.
- Enjoy your floor shifter!