It seems that every time we hear about somebody picking up a GM truck with three-on-the-tree, that manual three-speed box is the first item to be tossed. While many simply cannot stand driving a truck with a clutch of any kind, we'll bet there are more than a handful of you who have removed that old three-speed in favor of the more common automatic because you: a) thought that replacement/performance parts were obsolete; b) figured that they weren't up to par with today's driving habits; or c) either couldn't fix or get used to shifting on the column.

Recently we came across a '69 Chevy that was in good running condition, except that the column shifter was so worn that we could not find any of the gears on the 343 Saginaw. Our first inclination was to toss the old three-on-the-tree, too. But then we decided to instead see just what the aftermarket and the local parts houses could offer to save the little sucker. After all, Third gear has a 1:1 ratio just like any non-overdrive automatic transmission does. And once we coerced the shifter into a gear, everything seemed fine with the transmission internally.

After some Internet searching, our initial call was to the Mr. Gasket Performance Group. Our first item was the Mastershift 3-Speed Manual Shifter from Hurst. It features a short throw that allows for more positive, precise shifts and also features the trademark stamped-steel stick and white knob that Hurst is famous for. The installation kit features all new linkage, mounting hardware, and a shifter boot with a chrome bezel. Hays Clutches is also part of the Mr. Gasket Family and offers its Super Truck Performance Clutch kit for the Saginaw. The kits are made from 100-percent new parts and includes its high-performance diaphragm pressure plate, sintered metallic button-style clutch disc, a superior-quality throwout bearing, and even a clutch alignment tool and pressure plate bolts. We should have ordered a new billet flywheel from Hays as well because we discovered ours to be severely cracked once we got it out. Usually flywheels can be resurfaced, but we managed to find a new one at the local mom-and-pop parts store. While we had the trans out, we also inspected the gears, resealed the side cover, and installed a new output shaft seal, not to mention cleaned off 36 years of grease and grime. Finally, we discovered the center support bearing to be junk, along with some of the U-joints. Inland Empire Drive Line Service came to the rescue and installed one of their super-trick billet/polyurethane center support bearings and three new Spicer U-joints.

The result of our efforts is a truck that went from totally undrivable to a truck that is a total blast to drive. The clutch hooks up fast and the trans shifts smooth, and as long as we keep a larger-diameter tire on the rear, the fact that it's still a three-speed should never even be a factor.

Follow along as Installation Jason Scudellari performs the R&R, and check with Hays, Hurst, and IEDLS for more information on how to save that ailing three-speed in your truck, or at least shake off that three-on-the-tree!

SOURCE
Hurst Shifters
a Mr. Gasket Company
Cleveland
OH  44144
Inland Empire Drive line
4035 E. Guasti Rd., #301, Dept. CT
Ontario
CA  91761
Hays Performance & Racing Clutches
A Mr. Gasket Company
Cleveland
OH  44144
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