Home » When Did We Get So Weird About Tall Shifters?

When Did We Get So Weird About Tall Shifters?

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Was it just last week that we all had Taco-mania? When the new 2024 Toyota Tacoma came out? Maybe two weeks ago? I think I was so flabbergasted by the wildly complicated, shock-absorber-enhanced seats that I forgot to talk to you about something else that caught my attention: the shifter. The manual shifter, the stick shift. It caught my attention because it was a perfect example of a strange phenomenon in the shifter zeitgeist right now: modesty. As in, like, the Puritanical sense. There seems to be a strange trend where, bafflingly, the actual stick of the stick shift has been deemed to be something that must be hidden at all costs, and, as a result, we get these strange, huge shift boots. Why? This looks weird? What the hell is going on?

Let’s have a look at this thing:

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Tacomashifter

That’s a tall shifter. That makes sense, it’s a pickup truck, and the geometry of it all means you’ll need a tall shifter if you want to be able to comfortably shift the transmission without having to have a set of gibbon arms grafted on in place of your stubby human arms. Tall shifters have been a staple of trucks for decades and decades, and somehow, we never used to mind seeing the, you know, shifter. Look at this Land Cruiser shifter, for example:

Landcruisershifter

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Long shift lever, nice rubber accordion’d boot (which I actually prefer to these scrotal leather ones everyone uses now) and that shifter shaft is just out there, loud and proud, and looking fine. The Tacoma has one, too, under that leather tent there, of course, it’s just all hidden:

Tacoshifter Shaft

I’m not the only one to notice this; over at The Drive they found the shifter to be awkward and weird looking, so they asked a Toyota engineer, which was a smart idea. Here’s what they were told:

“We had to change, of course, the bell housing and so the mechanical attachment to where that goes to the transmission is a little bit longer. We have just a little bit longer throw, so, therefore, we had a little bit longer shift lever and the boot is just there to match that.”

Really, all that means is that it’s a long shift lever, which we all knew. But it doesn’t explain why the whole damn lever has to be covered with the boot!

Why do we need the boot to go all the way up to the “neck” of the shifter? It looks weirder like this! It looks like the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter series, stuck there in between the seats, ready to tell you you’re a Slymeron or Ravenclams or whatever:

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Sortinghat

When I look at it, what I actually see is something strangely ecclesiastical, like the shifter is a medieval Jesuit monk or something like that:

Priestshifter

Want to shift from third to fourth? Just grab Brother Theodore there by the head and drag him down. Easy!

When did this happen, exactly? Does this image make anyone feel uncomfortable, really?:
Shifterlittleboot

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I’m just going to come out and say it: this total-boot/hide-the-stick business is not healthy. The strange, conical results of the shaft-modesty boots are bulky and clumsy things, and provide no real benefit to anyone. Let your shifter be a shifter. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Free the shaft! Free your mind! It’s called a stick shift, dammit, not a leathern-gown shift! Enough is enough! To the streets!

{Editor’s Note: I noticed this on the Jeep Wrangler JK, as well. Early JKs had shifters that looked great:

DV8 Offroad JP-180008-BL Shifter Bezel Trim for 07-10 Jeep Wrangler JK with Manual Transmission | Quadratec
Image: Quadratec

Then in 2011, the shifter turned into this:

Image: Redline Goods/Amazon

Come on. Clearly that’s a step backwards! -DT]

 

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E Petry
E Petry
1 year ago

Modern society has made it shameful to be proud of the shaft. So now it is hidden.

OptionXIII
OptionXIII
1 year ago

The manual trans shift lever change from JK to JL Wranglers has to be up there as one of the worst downgrades between vehicle generations out there.

The JK had a great shifting NSG370 transmission (at least in all the new ones I drove) with a long lever, terrific shift feel, and gear ratios that gave logical RPM drops. The wiggling the stick did with every bump in the road was an added bonus. The clutch was extremely linear and gave you great control.

The JL got a terrible cable shifter with awful ratios. I plotted them once, it looked like two distinct 3 speed transmissions. The drop between 3rd and 4th was massive and it destroyed the acceleration, the vehicle just completely fell on its face. No shifter feedback. No fun truck feel. Just a dead, lifeless shifter that was designed by a committee to make the shift throw distance more comparable to a sports car. Bonus points for a terrible “compound bow” clutch linkage that engaged the clutch plate right as the pedal effort changed. And the pedal box was so poorly supported that pushing in the clutch pedal created noticeable firewall flex.

I drove manual JKs every chance I got, it was so much better than the automatic 5 speed. I avoided manual JLs whenever I could, the ZF 8 speed was just too good to deal with a joyless manual that existed only to check a box on a spec sheet and lower the base MSRP.

I think they were so desperate to get away from a Mercedes designed (maybe even sourced) transmission that they didn’t care how much of a downgrade the new transmission was.

Dirk
Dirk
1 year ago

Great, now I’m trying to figure out what rubber accordion boot will fit my 2022 lol

Serial Thriller
Serial Thriller
1 year ago

Want to shift from third to fourth? Just grab Brother Theodore there by the head and drag him down.

That sounds dirty.

Last edited 1 year ago by Serial Thriller
Aspirant_Fool
Aspirant_Fool
1 year ago

Lot easier to clean that big floppy boot than dig crud out of the accordion pleats, but I’m fine with either.

J Money
J Money
1 year ago

I think the general thinking is that the early JK shifter shown, for example, is considered kind of industrial looking or less luxurious….more work truck-y. The more full, leather boot has long been an indicator of a sportier setup and people equate that with more cache or style. That’s my guess, anyway.

Scott May
Scott May
1 year ago

Chilton 3:16
All shifters shall be circumcised. Gated shifters are holy unto Torchinsky.

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