The 5 best column-shift muscle cars


I had a 1961 Chrysler Newport 4-door sedan with three speed manual on the floor. Only one I’ve ever seen. Nice, smooth, and had a very substantial feel.

'70 Gremlin came with three on the tree mated to the 199 cid six cylinder. But the optional 232 cid six came with a fully syncro three on the floor.


The driver’s ed car in my high school (Brookline, Mass.) was a 1966 Ford Fairlane with a 289 (A-code) and a three on the tree. Fun way to learn to drive.

Though it was not on the tree, the transmission in the base Corvette of the mid-60s was a three speed manual.

A bit later I bought a 1963 Pontiac LeMans convertible with a 326 and a three on the floor. Oddly it was non-synchro first. A friend taught me how to double clutch to get it into first without coming to a stop. I don’t know if they offered a 4-speed that year but I girl I knew had a 1964 LeMans convertible with a 4-speed and it was synchro in all four gears. And my roommate at the time had a 1963 Mercedes 190C with four on the column.

Later still I owned a 1972 Saab 95 V-4 station wagon with a four on the column.


Having learned to drive in the 1950s on a 47 Ford Deluxe Fordor, 3 on the Tree was a ‘normal’ feature to me. My first car, a 1963 Pontiac Catalina 2-dr hardtop, was equipped with 3 on the Tree. It had the 389E engine, which meant Economy and a tall ratio axle to support that, no power steering or brakes or A/C. I drove it until 1969 when the arrival of the second child suggested that I should own a 4-dr car.


Lol. My 67 442 has a 3 on the floor. Manual steering and brakes. Hard car to drive. Which makes it fun.


I had a '59 Gull Wing Chevrolet wagon with a six pot and three on the tree. It was a bit gutless, so I transplanted a 283 Small Block with a two speed Powerglide transmission (also column shifted). I sold it, but the buyer defaulted on the payments, then the Police seized it because the buyer hadn’t taxed it, and it was crushed. One of the best cars I have ever owned, and I wish I had hung on to it, it would be worth a lot of money now, besides being a real head-turner.


The “big block” Top Loader 3-speed actually had a 2.42:1 first gear ratio. The “3.03” designation refers to the distance between the mainshaft and countershaft centerlines, in inches.


66 Citroen ID19 wagon with four on the column.
If you want to talk engineering instead of muscle- that’s a car to talk about!
82 hp hemi, no chassis springs, 1 spoke steering wheel, 1 lug per wheel, 1/2 tennis ball size brake pedal stuck to the floor (loved to drive barefoot!), 5 driving height/load positions, and more novel features that were not available anywhere else at any time.
Smoothest ride ever- like riding on a cloud.
It could haul more than a V-8 Chevy wagon and perfectly level too, not bouncing off axle bumpers. Everything was hydraulic fed off one tank.
Did I mention it could drive on three wheels, and you didn’t have or need a jack to change a tire! It would lift it’s wheel off the ground for you.


In 1978 I was driving a 283 Powerglide 67 Parisienne 2+ 2 convertible, I was looking to steal hubcaps off one on the back of a VW used car lot, but my friend ended up buying it. Mine had a 283 tri-power, (self installed, wedge of wood to tension the fan belt) and his a 409 with a turbo 400, after we grenaded the 283 with a 650 Holley. But I digress. When the 409 went into the body shop for required northern rust bodywork, his father bought him a 1969 Beaumont four-door sedan with a 250 Chevy straight 6-3 on the tree. It was not optioned with a radio, and it’s not radio delete, only Corvettes and Cadillacs came standard with radios. It just wasn’t optioned with a radio, just a plain jane Beaumont, faded green sedan with a bench seat, probably not one single option on tha car, zero, nothing. He drove it to college in New Brunswick, and he kept the 409 Parisienne for many many years until the crappy rebuilt 409 finally blew, and I kept my 283 tripower TH350 3.36 posi Parisienne for years and years, but I only drove it that one summer, and sold it 15 years ago and somebody probably restored it and wonders how the hell It got optioned the way it did. But that was all my doing, and the Edelbrock tripower is prolly worth more than the whole car. I removed it before I sold it, and I sold the tripower to a guy with a 71 El Camino, and I still have a whole attic full of original cast iron tri-powers and stuff that I bought from the guys brothers junkyard. I will be driving by replacement for the 67 2 + 2 convertible to musclepalooza this weekend, 1965 Grand Prix, but no stick shift here, so weird on the column, which I’ve never ever ever seen on a muscle car, and how rare is a 3-speed standard floor shift? They must have done that just to boast about the cheapest car on the lot, but how many were produced? Only a handful. And don’t forget about those stupid three other trees locking up, so much extra linkage to bind, just pop the hood and tap on the leavers to get them to realign.


I just bought a 67 Impala Convertible. Factory 283, 3 on the tree with OD. I think the 3 on the tree was popular with older buyers in the mid 1960s because in the late 1950’s, a muscle car had a 3 speed and OD.


My wife and I purchased a 55 Chevy 150 with three on the tree from my wife’s family. This is the car that my young wife of 71 years of age and her sister of a young 69 years of age learned to drive on. When we first got married 42 years ago, I tried to get my wife to downshift. She said,“If we were supposed downshift, my dad would have taught me to downshift.” When we got the 55 and I took it for a drive, I realized the three-on-the tree had an overdrive and you could downshift all you wanted and nothing happened. I am now OK with her not downshifting.


I once owned a 1966 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Coupe style.
It was loaded buckets, console, gauges, leather, pw, etc. vinyl top…had a 283 engine with 3 on the tree… I imagine quite rare for that car.


The 1967 Camaro was the first pony car outside of FoMoCo to answer the Mustang’s calling.
Really? What about the Barracuda that actually came before the Mustang?


I owned 1970 Duster 340 with a TorqueFlite on the column and 3.91 rear gearing. Practically unbeatable.


When I was 15 years old and working at Burger Chef for $1.25, I walked home past a local Chrysler-Plymouth dealer. They had 2 Plymouth Superbirds, 440 V8s, one white one red, with bench seats and COLUMN shifters! They sat out front for over two years, who wants a column shift muscle car?
On their used car lot, they also had a 1970 Pontiac Firebird Trans AM with a column shift, same result. I scoured auctions and listings for years for these vehicles and they or their twins popped up every once in a while with the “extremely rare column shift” tagline, and an insane price. LOL


My 1962 Ford Galaxy 500 (not an XL) with the 406/405 engine had 3 on the tree with overdrive and 4:11 gears.

The trans was a Borg Warner Heavy duty, of which I cannot remember the number. It was a great combination of the 4:11 gears and overdrive. I drove it across the country twice and averaged about 15 MPG. It couldn’t keep up with a 409 in a drag race but would leave them in the dust on top end. Wonder I did’t get killed with those lousy bias ply tires.


Had a friend who bought a new 1963 1/2 galaxie with the 390/300hp with 3 on the tree. his brother had a new pontiac convertible with 421 tri-power with three on the tree. Back in the day when you could drive one for a year and put $500-1000 with it and have another new one!


I got my license in 1963. Back then “regular cars” all had column shifters; floor shifters were something you only saw occasionally, usually on a heavy duty pick-up, foreign car or Corvette. Sports cars excepted, floor shifters were something associated more with farm and utility vehicles. In those days American cars had bench seats and it was common for three people to ride in front, leaving the back seat empty. A floor shifter would have gotten in the way of the center passenger. When I learned to drive California still had a law that said it was illegal to exit a parallel parked car from the left side; you were suppose to slide across the (bench) seat and exit from the right (curbside) door, which a floor shifter would have made difficult if not impossible. It wasn’t until bucket seats became more common that floor shifters came into common use.


In 1965 I bought a new 65 Impala 2dr ht. w/ a economy 327. It was a 250 HP w/ a 4bbl carter. I ordered it w/ a 3 sp on the column. It was a saginaw fully syncro trans, which could be shifted to first without any grinding … Just like a 4 sp. WHAT AN ANIMAL IT WAS… Loved that car!!!


Got my license in 1968 at 17 years old.Cars with 3 on the tree were the cheapest rides around. One of the best was a 1963 Ford Galaxie 2 door post.Was a former state trooper unmarked pursuit car.390 4 barrel,fully synchro T 85 on the column.Kept up with GTO,s &396 SS’s.
Another odd ball I had was a 1962 Chrysler Newport 4 door sedan.
361 2 barrel,but was a factory 3 speed stick on the floor.Had loads of other 3 on the tree “bombs” bought in the cheap.


When stationed in Germany in '71 I owned a '60 Pontiac Catalina bubble top with a 389 4 barrel and three on the tree which tore up the autobahns. As a GI with my pay I thought of it as my mussel car!