This is something I’ve meant to get for a while – the MiataRoadster Short Shift Kit. It’s one of those kits that garners universal praise, especially from MSM owners. You’d be very hard pressed to find anything less than a rave review of this kit. According to the internet, it transforms the already-great Miata shifter into an instrument of sublime precision and grace. With rainbows. And perhaps ponies.
I’ll be very honest – I’ve always found the praise hard to believe. SO many gushing reviews on this thing… it seemed impossible that it could improve things that much. I mean seriously, the Miata shifter is really really good from the factory. Journalists constantly sing the praises of the OEM shifter. It’s widely regarded as a benchmark to measure all other shifters by. HOW could it be improved?
Not to spoil the ending or anything, but the shifter actually can be improved. Bill Wilner, owner of MiataRoadster, found a way.
The photos above show the shifter kit. Notice how incredibly complete it is. Scads of OEM parts are included; everything you need to completely replace your shifter. It would be a great kit just with the aftermarket parts (shifter, metal spacer, new bolts, and the two black delrin pieces), but Bill goes the extra mile and throws everything in. EVERYTHING.
A bit of info before I forget and start typing about the install – this is a true short shifter kit. The fulcrum is raised (note the extension collar), thus reducing the throw on the shifter. This means you can have an extended shifter that has roughly the same throw as the short OEM stick. And that’s pretty awesome. It also comes as you see above, with the shifter already pre-assembled (I think there are 6 pieces that make it up) to keep install errors at a minimum.
Sharka’s short shifter is the tall angled version. It has a thicker shaft just like the OEM shifter to hold the shift boot in place. There’s also an option with a standard height shifter and one with a 10mm shaft all the way down to work with a bootless console. I admit, even after having ordered and installed, I still want to try some of the other shifter options.
Instead of the standard 30 degree angle at 9:00 (toward the steering wheel), I asked Bill to make mine with a slight (10-15 degree) angle backwards (at 6:00) and away from the console. It was something he’d never done and he very kindly agreed to give it a try. The result is in the photo above.
Onto the install!
I’m very proud of Sharka’s interior. I’ve spent tons of time working on it and researching new stuff to try. Literally years worth of time. But there’s room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement.
After all, a shark has to keep moving or it will die.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was pleased that my shift boots were not all torn and ratty for these pix. I think I changed them 4 years ago.
These steps are probably nothing new to 90% of the readers, but I thought I’d include them anyway.
Draining is optional, but recommended. I mean, you COULD do this without draining the shifter… but why? I’m not into mine very often. I drain and refill mine every time I change shift boots, which is about every 4-5 years.
A note on the turrets: on NAs, the turret is a separate chamber from the transmission, but on NBs they are connected. So, NB owners- if you’re due for an transmission oil change, you can refill the transmission oil through the turret and avoid the hassle of pumping oil into the side of the transmission from under the car.
Check that the old tip bushing is still intact, attached to the end of the removed shifter. If not, see that no pieces of the bushing are left in the turret.
I honestly never knew there was a plastic spacer or spring washer down in the shifter turret hole. I’ve never dug into a transmission much. But they were quite easy to remove. Prying (GENTLY) directly back at the 6:00 position got mine out with no effort. I rotated the screwdriver a bit for the photo.
Bill explained to me that NB transmissions have two dowel pins trapping these parts beneath them. On NB transmissions, the best way to remove them is to tap a chisel or flat-blade screwdriver at 12:00 and 6:00 and split the plastic bushing into two pieces. New replacements for the bushing and spring washer are included in the kit. Be careful not to scratch the I.D. of the turret. Gouges on the walls of the bore could restrict the free up-down sprung movement of the Delrin slotted tube that supports the shifter as it goes through its motions.
Really nothing to it. The spring washer is very easy to install in the NA transmission. NB transmissions have two dowel pins (at 12:00 and 6:00) so the replacement spring washer has to be wedged in from the side, beneath both pins.
My assistant finally let me get her picture. She runs all over the garage when I work on Sharka. Usually, she works on Bucky while I fix/break/tinker with Sharka. Today, it was a daddy/daughter project.
And yes, I let my 2 year old have gear oil to pour inside Sharka. She didn’t spill a drop.
There’s really nothing to this. The parts only fit one way. These three photos show it better than I can type.
My torque wrench beats your torque wrench.
But seriously, you don’t wanna go crazy on those three bolts. Tight is fine. If you use a small wrench like my daughter is, you shouldn’t be able to produce too much torque. Leave the 3/4″ drive wrench in your box.
And that’s all there is to it. All that’s left to do is install the console and shift knob and go for a test drive.
How does it work!?!?
I’ve had this installed for about a week. I’ve been stuck in traffic, cruised back roads, and driven mountains in a spirited manner. I’ve also switched between Bucky (equipped with a stock shifter and the same knob) to give a good control subject. I’ve not had a long time to test it, but I have had a pretty good test.
This short shifter kit takes the Miata shifter and just elevates it. Any notchiness goes away. Shifts are precise. Shifts aren’t really that much shorter compared to a stock shifter, but the shifter is 3″ longer. I’m saying that poorly, but I’m not going to backspace over it. Shift throw is roughly equal to an OEM shifter even with the tall shaft.
And the tall shaft is fantastic. It’s actually easier to reach than the stock shifter, which isn’t at all in a far-off location. The slight reverse angle on the shaft is also nice. The shift knob never gets too close to the console and 2nd/4th isn’t too far back.
It is, in a word, sublime.
Build Quality: Wonderful. Every part is machined to perfection. Nothing fits too tight and nothing is loose. It is made equal to or better than the OEM part it replaces. A+
Kit Completeness: It is complete. Very complete. Nothing is left out. The sheer volume of OEM parts is quite surprising to me. I’ve never bought an aftermarket accessory that included so many OEM replacement parts. A+
Installation: Easy. A novice should have no problems. No tricks for any of it and no standing on your head required. A
Usability: THIS is the big point right here. Everything else could get A double-pluses, but if the kit sucks to use, the whole thing would fail. But it doesn’t suck. It deserves every bit of praise it has ever received. This kit takes the perfection of the Miata shifter and knocks it up a few notches. A++
Style: Completely subjective. Since you can order this kit with a plethora of different shifter sticks, style is what you make it. I’m totally in love with Sharka’s polished tall shifter, so I give it an A. And it didn’t get the plus because I’m thinking of adding a couple more shafts to the collection.
Overall: It could not get any better. This shifter kit lives up to and surpasses all the hype I’ve ever read. A+
Do yourself a favor and sign up for Bill’s next batch of shifters (batches are made each quarter). They’re more than worth the price. I really wish I’d bought one years ago. You can order a kit from MiataRoadster at http://MiataShifters.com.