Like most parts installed on your late-model Mustang, the stock shifter mechanism is a combination of compromises that Ford had to come to grips with to create the part. From overall part cost to powertrain noise ingress to the cabin and even time to install on the assembly line, these are all factors that determine the type of part created for the assembly of a car—and there are thousands of them. These compromises are what help the performance aftermarket parts companies thrive, as they provide solutions with better products. These products usually take longer to install, cost more, or allow more noise into the cabin, but they do so in the name of performance.
Take the lowly shifter for example. Ford uses a rather thin steel mounting plate for a base with a plastic bushing for the shifter pivot, along with a positively huge soft rubber isolator for the shifter handle. All these "features” combine to make a basic shifter that gets the job done, but with no authority or solid feel. Many Mustang owners want just that—a solid feel when they row through the gears—and aren't against a little extra noise or cost to get it. The stock shifter in the late-model Mustang is not known for its precision and we'd hazard a guess that there have been more than a couple of million missed Third gear attempts over the last two decades of Mustang production!
Installing an aftermarket shifter in your late-model Mustang isn't terribly difficult. It's a simple and rewarding upgrade that you can perform in an hour or so in your driveway or garage. We're upgrading the original, and well worn, T-5 shifter in this '89 5.0L hatch for this tech story, but the upgrade is similar for later model T-45 and 3650-based transmissions as well, with the main difference being that with the '94 and up cars you don't have to remove the console for full access to the shifter housing.
We're installing a Steeda Tri-Ax billet aluminum shifter in our Fox from National Parts Depot's Fox Mustang catalog. The Tri-Ax is a proven design that can take a beating shift after shift.
Steeda Tri-Ax Shifter M-7210-15C $189.95
Shift Knob, Black 5-Speed M-7213-8E $49.95
Leather Shift Boot M-7277-19B $39.95
Lower Shifter Seal/Boot M-7277-20C $34.95
Lower Shifter Seal Bolts 605892-SA $1.33 each
Shifter Damper Bushing M-7K453-14 $9.26