Shifting gears using a ridiculously long eight-ball topped stick, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s cartoon Rat Fink was the monstrous motoring mascot of the hot rod scene who best symbolized the crazy custom car culture of the 1950s and 60s.
Most manual shifters stick with the factory installed equipment these days, but there are still those who tailor their tranny toggles to suit their driving style, with a slew of accessories to modify factory installed shift levers.
“There are companies out there that just make accessories such as shift knobs and pedals and there are even companies making extensions that place the shifters closer to the steering wheel for a little more spirited driving,” said Bryan Argue, a sales rep with Performance Improvements, an automotive specialty store with several branches across southern Ontario and an outlet in Quebec.
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The family-owned Canadian high-performance auto speed shop has been in business since 1964 and carries just about everything imaginable to customize cars, trucks and hot rod engines, drive trains and bodies to perform and look their best from the asphalt up to the antenna.
“Most shift knobs screw on and off and some have a clip to hold them in place. With the shift leaver you can get an extension or you can put on a short shifter. With most vehicles you can put them on with basic hand tools, a little bit of knowledge, time and patience,” said Argue, who has been with the company for about eight years.
“We carry a lot of different types of shift knobs from a number of companies. They range in price from $10 up to about $130 and shifters range from about $50 and can go up to $300 depending on the application,” he added.
Shifting accessories come in various styles including the older retro types, oddball and goofy ones, and the modern elegant and arty leather wrapped kind — everything from bloodshot eyeballs, skulls and baseballs to inset digital gear displays and shiny chrome, acrylic and polished aluminum shift knobs.
There’s also a range of shift rod lengths from the short and stubby to the long and lean or angular. Various leather, plastic and cloth gaiters (or boots) are also available shift accessories.
From the tacky to trendy, there’s a knob out there for everyone. Momo, Razo and Sparco are just some of the many brands manufactured in places like California, Italy, China and India.