Gallery: Smooth Shifting With American Powertrain’s White Lightning

We can not stress enough about the enjoyment we get out of rowing gears in our Tremec Magnum 6-speed from American Powertrain. Out of the box, the Tremec shifts smoother, quicker and will handle much more power than our stock A833 we had in the car before. Although the transmission was fine, there were a couple quirks with shifting. We called up American Powertrain and told us that their White Lightning shifter would fix everything.

Not only did it cure a couple quirks with the factory shifter but it enhanced our shifting experience completely. We spoke to American Powertrain’s Matt Graves about their line of White Lightning shifter mechanisms. “White Lightning is built from billet aluminum with a turned billet steel shifter core. It provides a true short throw action with adjustable shifter centering bias. The centering is done with two allen head adjuster screws in the shifter tower. This helps center the shifter for precise gate alignment. The patented Revolution shift position adjustment offers multiple offset “dog bones” for shifter positions offset from zero to 3-inches in 360-degrees of placement. This will put your shifter handle in the factory positions or custom to your liking. The White Lightning Shifters are bolt on for Tremec TKO, T5, T56 and Magnum transmissions.”

Top: Right off the bat you can see the quality difference in the shifter mechanisms. American Powertrain’s is all billet and machined for precision where the stock Tremec is cast. Bottom Left: Looking closer you can see the spring bias adjustments on the White Lightning shifter and there is none on the  Tremec. Bottom Right: You can see more machine marks in the White Lightning shifter vs. the stock cast Tremec.

When we installed American Powertrain’s Magnum 6-speed kit in our Project Orange Crush, American Powertrain did not offer their modified tunnel yet and we had to customize our’s to fit the Tremec transmission. We got lucky and the stock shifter location on the Magnum was OK. We were not concerned about the shifter being in the stock location. We were able to reach it from driving position but the more we drove the car we felt the position could be improved.

For other enthusiasts who would want the shifter in the stock location you had to use a different transmission or make some kind of crazy shift lever to put it where you needed it. If you could not have a shift lever fabricated then you were limited even more on positioning and what transmission you had to use. American Powertrain resolved this issue with the White Lightning Shifter in a couple different ways.

Above: The White Lightning shifter is available for both the Tremec Magnum (left) and the TKO (right). You can purchase either one through American Powertrain separately or in their Pro-Fit kits. 

The White Lightning changes the shifter location two different ways. The first is their Revolution shift position adjustment. It uses multiple offset “dog bones” that are offered from 0 to 3-inch. These “dog bones” are bolted onto the shifter mechanism and can be placed 360 degrees, providing you with the ability to dial in your shifters location exactly where you want it. Whether that is placing it directly in the same spot as factory or in our case closer to our side.

The second way the White Lightning helps dial in your shifter location is with their White Lightning Midshift kit. On the TKO and Magnum T-56 transmissions you will notice that they both have plates on top that look like another shifter location. The stock Tremec Shifter Mechanism can not be used in those spots. The White Lightning Midshift kits have all the same benefits as the other shifters but allow the use of a lot closer shifter location on the transmission. Due to the length of the TKOs and T-56s, many enthusiasts with trucks or bench seats need to move the shifter location further forward than just a couple of inches.  

Top Left: You can see the 2-inch dog bone adapter that allows for multiple shifter handle placement. Top Right: With a 1/8″ hex key we adjusted the spring bias to full stiffness. Bottom Left: The dog bone adapter is easily mounted with counter sunk hex screws. We placed the dog bone adapter to the left rear position to bring it closer to us and a little shorter reach. Bottom Right: You can see the final product with the dog bone adapter installed and ready for us to bolt out shifter handle to. 

With all the different options for shifter locations you can find the perfect location for any of the Tremec overdrive transmissions from American Powertrain. Utilizing the standard 2 bolt mounting flange on the shifter allows for use of a plethora of shift handles and even some stock handles. With so much adjustability, you have more choices of what transmission you want to use and potentially keep your factory console or shifter location.

Although the stock Tremec shfiter mechanism is better then the sloppy pot stirring 4 speeds, the White Lightning takes it to another level. After installing the shifter we felt like we were going to break the shifter handle due to the shorter throws between gears. Unlike other “short throw” shifters that just make the handle shorter, the White Lightning provides a true short throw action no matter what length of handle. The shorter throws allows us to save time shifting and keeps both hands on the wheel during track days. For drag racers it helps increase the amount of time the driveline is engaged. The fraction of a second that the shorter throw saves us multiplies over a 20 minute track session or could be the difference of getting that little bit of a jump off the line at the drag strip. 

Above: American Powertrain offers multiple length dog bone adapters for the perfect fit. Each one has the unique ability to be positioned N, S, E, W or flipped over for NE, SE, SW, NW positioning. 

The best part of the White Lightning shifter is the couple shifting quirks it fixes. The gates are so close on the T-56 and other overdrive transmissions that missing or skipping gears can be an issue. Some may argue that becoming a better driver would fix itself but it is not quite that easy. If you have not shifted one before, stop by any Tremec booth at the next show and try it out. The 2-3 shift can be and easy 2-5 shift. The same goes for the 5-4 shift, if you are not careful you might accidentally drop it into 6th instead of 4th. The White Lightning cures these common misshifts with its adjustable shifter centering bias.

The adjustment can be made using allen head screws on each side of the shifter. The shifter has a spring on both sides of the shifter that can be adjusted for how quickly the shifter returns to the middle of the 3-4 gate. Turning the allen head screw clockwise will stiffen the centering spring bias and turning each of them counter-clockwise will loosen the spring bias. With the spring bias stiffened, we can now easily make the 2-3 shift with no worry of jumping into 6th. The same goes with the down shifting into 4th. If the shifter feels too stiff for your liking you can easily turn the allen head screw and soften the rate.

Above: With White Lightning’s Revolution shifter positioning, we were able to adjust our Finch Performance shifter over and back about 1.5 inches. This location was much more comfortable shifting and did not feel like we were stretching for 5th, 6th and reverse.

You might find complaints online about drivers slipping into reverse on the T-56 transmissions. This is a whole different issue that we already addressed with American Powertrain in an article about their Reverse Lockout Module. The reverse issue has nothing to do with the shifters, if you are having that issue it is most likely because you took a short cut and did not wire in a proper solution like American Powertrain’s Reverse Lockout Module.

Upgrading to the White Lightning shifter felt like we installed a whole new transmission. Not only curing some of the little hiccups we had but also making the shifts smoother than before. There is no more worry about missing gears and the 2-3 shift is now our favorite and the quickest. If you own a TKO, T-5, T-56 or Magnum transmission you need to call American Powertrain and order yourself a White lightning shifter today.


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Gavin Wollenburg

Gavin grew up around Mopars in his lakeside home in Ohio, his father showing him nearly everything he needed to know about haulin' some serious rear in his '72 Dart Swinger. Since then, he's made his little A-Body a serious autocross contender and regularly shows the modern boys how an old Dart does it!

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