By Bryan Martin
Go ahead, admit it. We all had visions of steerin’ and gearin’ one of those awesome old school trucks with the twin shifters in them when we got started in trucking, didn’t we? How could we not after seeing them in rigs from the ’70s and ’80s and also after hearing all those old trucking stories of the rigs with the 5-and-4 trannies or the highly sought after 6-and-4.
For the younger fellas who may be reading, this is referring to a 5-speed front transmission with a 4-speed auxiliary transmission; thus the term “twin sticks.” The real outlaws made sure that both transmissions were an overdrive ratio in the top gear so they could scoot along at a high rate of speed when necessary.
These twin stick-equipped trucks faded away in the late ’80s and early ’90s. You seldom saw them after that unless a determined trucker had retrofitted some older transmissions in a late model truck.
Never fear, there is now a reasonably priced, reliable and easy to install kit to give your rig twin shifter sticks and make most passersby ask, “Hey man, your truck really got two transmissions?”
For well under $1,000, you can find an auxiliary shifter kit that can typically be installed in six to seven hours. The one we work with most consists of a shift stick assembly with an air splitter valve that is concealed and mounted under the floorboard as well as a rubber shift boot and retaining ring for the second shift stick.
This works well for just about all transmissions such as 9-, 10-, 13-, 15- or 18-speed transmissions. Simply cut a small hole in your floorboard to the curbside of your original shifter, mount the auxiliary shift stick assembly through the hole and bolt it to your floorboard. Next, pick out any pair of old-time shift knobs that you like as the OEM shift knob usually gets replaced. Lastly, do your air line plumbing and you are ready to roll.
The auxiliary shifter features one range of motion forward or backward, no side-to-side. It has only two positions – full forward or straight back.
Most guys install an air-operated toggle switch that can be mounted anywhere on the dashboard to control the low/direct split. Then, the auxiliary shifter can be used for the direct/overdrive split. In the case of a 9- or 10-speed application, no air toggle is needed because the auxiliary shifter can also be plumbed to perform the low/direct split if desired.
Some guys may say it’s bogus or fake. That may be true. But the other 90 percent of folks that comment on it will be saying “right on,” “how’s that work,” “no way,” or “Dude, that’s cool!”
You will have a ton of fun with it,
and it sure adds some old school flair to a newer ride.
There ain’t anything quite like pushing that second stick up against the dash and gassin’ on it as you slide on over to that left lane and prepare to come on around. Good stuff. LL