Ford Performance engineers worked over nearly every aspect of the latest Mustang in creating the corner-carving Shelby GT350 and GT350R. Those changes included the move to a Tremec TR-3160 six-speed manual transmission sporting road-course-friendly ratios. While the engineers built the best shifter that noise, vibration and harshness standards would allow, there is always room to improve something that you use every time you drive.
Want better shifting performance in your 2015+ Shelby GT350? MGW Shifters’ upgrade (PN MGW-RACESPEC15GT350; $450) is said to hold the shift linkage and transmission in “perfect alignment at all times to deliver unmatched shifting precision.” This work of billet art is compatible with the factory shift knob (via an adapter) or one of MGW’s own knobs, like the VMP-emblazoned Gripper knob (PN MGW-SHIFTKNOB; $50) shown here.
While the transmission in the Shelby utilizes a remote shifter just like the standard Mustang, the 3160 uses a pendulum-style shifting mechanism that challenged MGW to really get creative in developing a compatible mechanism, as the Shelby linkage actuates to the reverse of the Mustang GT linkage.
The 3160 was a great challenge from a design aspect because the gear pattern inside is actually reverse of the MT-82 trans. — George Ciamillo, MGW
“…The 3160 was a great challenge from a design aspect because the gear pattern inside is actually reverse of the MT-82 trans,” said George Ciamillo, president of MGW. “I had to come up with a ‘dual-pivot’ mechanism to reverse the direction of the linkage. Also, the inherent vibrations and NVH in the GT350 has been a tough problem to deal with while maintaining the level of rigidity of the shifter as my customer base expects.”
And the MGW customer base is a discerning one. If you aren’t familiar with the company, the automotive division is an offshoot of MGW Precision Inc., which creates high-end components and upgrades for competition pistols and revolvers. The company also makes aerospace parts, so there is no question that it manufactures precision products and that definitely carries over to the company’s shifters.
MGW estimates that 75 percent of its customers install the GT350 shifters on their own, while the rest turn to a professional. In the case of VMP Performance’s Justin Starkey, it was both. He is a pro who installed it on his personal Shelby. He got started by unscrewing the factory shift knob, removing the console side panels, unbolting the console and popping it free. Unplugging the wiring is the last step to freeing the console.
It was George’s passion for automobiles that led the company to venture into automotive upgrades, particularly shifters.
“I started road course track days back in the late ’90s and was really into smaller lightweight British cars like Lotus, Caterham, etc. They handled great, but I always would get killed on the straights by V8 American muscle,” George explained. “So I decided to get a Viper. The car was great but the stock shifter was terrible, so I decided to design my own. That led to the Corvette shifter when I bought a C5 Z06. Then moved onto Mustangs and Camaros.”
He fed the shift boot through the console, but it must be removed from the factory shift handle using a flat-head screwdriver.
MGW GT350 Shifter Features
• Fits 2015–2018 Shelby GT350
• Patent-pending design aligns shift linkage and transmission
• Retains factory body mount location
• Short, precise shifting
• Uses stock knob (with OEM adapter) or aftermarket knob
That hands-on experience with the vehicles allows George to analyze the feel of the stock shifters and devise a way to improve them. That’s just what he did when he picked up a Shelby GT350.
“We always purchase a test vehicle and drive it bone stock for a few months so that I can thoroughly address the OEM setup’s deficiencies. As a user of the product and living with it, I am able to make improvements where they need but leave the positive aspects alone,” George explained. “The main weakness with the stock remote shifters is the soft support setup which is mainly designed for NVH purposes. It allows too much flex and twisting of the shifter and transmission.”
Next it is necessary to remove the factory reverse lockout mechanism. Using the punch supplied by MGW, Justin pushes out the roll pin that retains the spring and collar and frees those parts.
Having driven plenty of 2005-and-newer Mustangs with remote shifters, we can definitely attest to that flex and twist. All that movement can certainly making shifting in a performance environment more difficult, which is just what George looked to improve.
“The main focus is on beefing up the support structure and engineering vibration dampening that uses mass and durometer instead of small O-rings or gaskets,” George explained.
With those parts free, he removes them along with the insulation and weather boot before putting the trans in neutral, hopping out and raising the car on the shop lift. Once underneath, he supported the transmission with a jack and loosened the transmission crossmember. This will offer a bit more room to remove and replace the shifter. Justin embarks on the removal by removing the security clip on the linkage pin and pulling the pin, then unbolting the rear shifter support. Then he unbolts the top and linkage arms.
After driving his Shelby for a while, VMP Performance’s Justin Starkey shared his thoughts on the MGW Shifter upgrade.
“Factory shifters these days are pretty decent, you can live with them, but the MGW takes it up several notches,” Justin said. “The throw is much shorter and more precise. I did not notice any increase in noise or vibration whatsoever with the MGW unit. It is very well made. If you are looking for a fairly easy and low-cost mod for your ’350, this is a good one to do.”
Depending on the model and the application, the stock shifter can cause issues. In our experience, we once tried to power shift a Cobra Jet with a stock-style remote shifter and it didn’t go well. If you drive your car hard and you want precision shifts, the MGW units are designed to deliver that, which is whyVMP Performance’s Justin Starkey opted to upgrade his personal GT350 project car with one of these shifters. We made the trip over to VMP’s headquarters in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to document the installation of the MGW Race Spec shifter for the Shelby GT350 as Justin Starkey spun the wrenches.
For more on these shifters, you can visit the MGW site here.
If you want to remove the shifter without dropping the driveshaft, you’ll need to remove the 10mm fasteners and retaining ring and remove the shift lever. With this out of the way, you can snake the rest of the shifter mechanism up and out through the hole in the transmission tunnel. Then you can lower the car and remove the last traces of the imprecise factory shifter.
Next Justin loosely installed the shifter’s side arms to leave some wiggle room, and then bolted the linkage to the transmission after applying thread locker to the bolts. It’s hard to see the linkage, so he demonstrated it here on the bench to give us a clear view. The last shot in this sequence shows what the shifter will look like when it’s bolted in. Justin disassembled it, and continued with the installation.
Justin installed the linkage on the transmission, dropped in the shifter body from the top and installed the shifter arms. You want to bolt everything up loosely before tightening everything to hold. Once fitment was confirmed, Justin applied the MGW gasket to the rear support bracket and bolted it up, allowing him to tighten the transmission crossmember fasteners to 76 lb-ft before lowering the vehicle. For an in-depth look at every last installation detail, you can watch the how-to video below.
Here’s the shifter in place. Justin then reinstalled the weather boot and replaced the factory insulation. Before installing the shift boot it is necessary to trim the bezel off the boot. It was needed for the factory pull-up reverse lockout out, but the MGW shifter uses a traditional pushdown reverse actuation.
If you are retaining the stock shift knob, you will need to utilize the optional OEM Knob Adapter ($20). Since VMP offers its own MGW Gripper knob, Justin obviously selected that knob, which just screws right on with no adapter.