FbodyWarehouse Technical Article - GM’s “Little Known” Special Option:
By Michael Tyler
(aka Hammer on 78ta.com)
I find it interesting that sometimes you can show someone something about their cars that they didn’t even know. Something they never knew their car had from the factory. This was the case at this year’s Trans Am Nationals that was held in Dayton, Ohio in August when I introduced this little known option to a friend of mine that owned a 1980 Turbo Trans Am. GM used this little known option and equipped Camaro’s, Special Edition Trans Am’s, Turbo Trans Am’s, and even Turbo Formula’s. It was an option called the “ratchet style shifter”. My friend had one in his car and never knew it.
The GM ratchet shifter actually was put into a few GM car brands from 1979 through 1981. I remember pointing this out to that friend that owns the 1980 Turbo Trans Am. The shifter looks, in general, like a stock shifter. The ratchet shifter on the outlook still sport the normal Trans Am or Camaro logo atop of the shifter knob, the shifter knob itself looks the same and the shifter bezels for each which can be order directly from Fbody Warehouse and look stock. But the mechanics of the ratchet shifter is far from the stock. It actually gives the driver options in shifting.
The ratchet shifter actually works as a regular shifter from Park to Low Gear 1. However, if you put this special shifter in Low Gear 1 you can push it to the right and forward for it to ratchet to the next gear, it would then stop at each gear as it is spring loaded. It even had a reverse/neutral lock out mechanism to keep any accidental shifts from happening. The GM factory ratchet shifter is far from a regular run of the mill stock shifter. It had a stealth presence of performance and excitement for the driver. Maybe GM overstocked the ratchet shifters over those years? Maybe GM planned to put them in all their high performance vehicles? One thing is for sure, many of the Camaro’s, Special Edition Trans Am’s, Turbo Trans Am’s, and Turbo Formula’s from 1979 to 1981 seemed to gain a special option from GM, a factory ratchet shifter.