The 5 best column-shift muscle cars


To Peter.
My first car was also a 65 chevy II, 283 but a powerglide. I have owned 6 classic cars over the last 35 years and currently love my 57 bel air, but I would love to find my 65. Not another one, the one I owned in the 80’s. I have searched and offered a reward but with no luck.


I still have a1950 Oldsmobile V8 coupe( the real first muscle car) with 3 on the tree, but am now putting in a Muncie 4 speed on the column with a lever under the dashboard for reverse. Who said you can’t go back?


I had a 1965 Olds F85 2-door post with a 330 2bbl and 3 on the tree. Manual steering, manual brakes. Factory 11 inch clutch. I don’t why anyone would order it that way–maybe towing–but it was a bear to drive.


My first car was a 66 Chevy II with 194 6cylinder and column shifted 3 speed. Shortly after that one came a 57 Chevy 4 door 235 6cyl three on tree. Did not own either very long but learned to like driving manual trans cars. Current three on tree vehicle is 67 Bronco 170 6cylinder wagon model. Sorry to see current trend of limited manual transmission availability on new models.


Three on the tree were all my family had when I learned to drive. None of the first three family cars had a syncro first gear, and all had a manual choke. My first car was big block with a four speed.

My memory tells me that all of the GM cars you have listed came with a Ford full syncro three speed. I know GTO’s had Ford 3 speed (MT news item prior to, due to torque outputs) transmissions due to a number of published complaint’s about the case cast markings when the rebuilds/ replacements started.


Had a mid 60’s Mercedes with a 4 on the tree, pretty neat arrangement really.


In 1967 I purchased a clean 1957, 6 cylinder, 3 on the tree, 2 door sedan from an older man in my home town. It was the most basic model of that particular year. Almost a military green in color…UGH,

However, in a short while with a 327 - 325 HP engine, H/0 4 speed on the floor and a new rear end, hiding dual exhausts - it was a real sleeper… We surprised many Vettes and GTO’s off the line.


A friend from high school had a '63 Impala SS with a 327, bucket seats, no console and 3 on the column. It had been ordered that way by a woman in town and was quite fast. This was back when we thought it was cool to jack a car up so he replaced the sedan coil springs with springs from a station wagon. Good running car.


My favorite was 1957 Chevy 150/2-dr “post car”, 283/270 HP, close-ratio three spd on column–what a rocket in-the-day! Took Driver’s Ed. in a “new” 55 Chevy 4-dr sedn (complements of local Chevy dealer)–265 V8, 3-spd on column.


My dad had a 1970 Ford F100 SWB, 302ci engine with 3 on da tree. He taught my brothers and I how to drive it so we could go do lawn service around our small town in MS to keep us busy. When I joined the Air Force in 1990, I tried to buy it from him since he upgraded to a 1990 F150 SWB truck. He told me the truck was too old and unreliable to take across the country to Montana. He ended up selling a few years later to some stranger. Since then, I’ve been looking for my own F100 and was lucky enough to find one a couple months ago. Mine is a 69 F100 SWB with a 360 ci engine and 3 on da tree. BACK IN THE SADDLE AGAIN!!! Its a blast to drive and I get nothing by compliments and personal stories from onlookers of their 3 on da tree experiences…


Great article! Personally I learned on a 4-speed, '64 VW Bug in a parking lot w/ my dad at the impressionable age of 10 years old. From there I drove all kinds of vehicles at various times, but mostly after he’d had a few too many, or to plow snow, or in the back 40 while cutting wood. Great memories; however, after getting my license, the first vehicle I drove on a regular basis was a '68 F-250 2WD std cab long box, straight six w/ a 3 on the tree. This truck taught me a lot about driving while jarring my teeth loose on the city streets.

Thanks for a trip down memory lane. Great article on terrific cars. Sadly, the term 3 on the tree is fading fast…


I had an early 1962 ford galaxie 500 with the 401hp, tri power 390 with 3 on the tree and overdrive. With 4:57 posi, atlas bucrons and open exhaust turned a best of 13.89 at 102.88 mph.


In 1963 I had a 58 Plymouth Belvedere with a flat head 6 with 3 on the tree that my dad and I replaced with a 58 Dodge Red Ram Hemi with a push button torqueflite. I drove it all thru high school and collage. In 1967 I order a 68 Camaro SS 396/350 HP TH 400, as my wife’s wedding gift. It came with a column shift. I still have them both. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary in May. We took it out for ice cream. The car has only 30K original miles. I sure enjoy taking it out for a ride with the grandkids.


Please don’t forget the 62 Nash metropolitan with the 64 horsepower Austin engine! I just bought one and have a blast driving it! Muscles come in all sizes! :laughing:


Learned to drive stick on 55 Chevy 3 on the tree straight six owned by my buddy while he was "submarine race watching " in the back seat. First real job with a W2 was driving a Ford Econoline with a Falcon six and 3 on the tree making deliveries for a florist after school. Talk about bare bones… Econoline had ONE SEAT, 144 cu. in. engine sitting in a box at your right elbow, no insulation, sound deadening, radio. Not exactly a muscle car!


And there was the 64 Chevelle 283, whose base gearbox was 3 on the tree.


You forgot the 1970 Buick GS455 stage 1. My convertible is a 400 turbo hydro matic column shift. Yes a stage 1 auto column shift.


Three on the tree cars and trucks are my favorites. I fell in love with the standard set up when I was a kid and my sister bought her first car in 1973 which was a one owner 1966 Nova 2 door hardtop that had a 230 6 cylinder and a 3 speed on the column. It was Cameo Beige with a Fawn interior. I’ve owned several 3 speeds; I currently own a 1959 Bel Air and a 1967 Nova 4 door sedan both with 3 speeds on the column.

A cool optional transmission back in the day was 3 speed with Overdrive. It was like having a 4 speed at your fingertips. I’ve only owned one car like that and it was a 1963 Impala station wagon with a 283V8. I have a complete OD set up including correct date coded 3:70 rear end that’s either going into my Bel Air or a 59 Impala coupe I’m going to build. There’s a YouTube video of an all original Highland Green/ Snowcrest White 1959 Bel Air 4 door that’s originally equipped with a 230HP 283 and 3 speed OD. It’s a fun video-check it out!

If anyone is interested I have my Nova 4 door for sale on eBay. It’s blue with the original

283 and excellent working fully synchronized 3 speed on the column.


This list is woefully incomplete without the 66-67 Mopar Hemi powered B-Bodies. Mine is a 66 Coronet with radio/heater delete, bench seat and a column shifted 426 Hemi. Not many street brawlers did it better than these brawny Elephant powered Dodges and Plymouths.


Just want to respond to the Camaro being the first company to answer the Mustang. Sorry to tell you but the Barracuda was on the market before the Mustang. Think it was a just a week or two but did was the first “sporty” front engine American compact. Also as late as '64 the entry level full size Chrysler and Dodge 880s came standard with a three on the floor. Remember a nice Chrysler Newport two door hardtop on a used car lot when I was in high school with a three speed stick shift. Was easier to tool up for that than engineer a three on the tree for the tiny number of standard shift cars that were sold in the big Chryslers or the similar big Dodge 880s. Would love to have that plain jane Chrysler now.