This Day In Rotary Shifters


The Asperger’s Syndrome responses to today’s rotary-shifter piece in R&T make me think that I should have included a 5000-word preparatory document with this 900-word article. The preparatory document would have:

* Included the entire history of non-column-shifted automatics, because obviously if I didn’t mention all of them in order and devote three paragraphs to each of them, I didn’t know about them.

* Discussed all other features of the Chrysler 200, because that’s what the article is about.

* Comprehensively discussed the ZF patents on the Chrysler’s transmission.

* Reminded the readers that the modern console shifters usually don’t have a mechanical linkage. Well, remind them again, because I reminded them in the text, but a lot of people didn’t read it.

Oh well. Also, the editors removed the first paragraph of the story where I basically went on at length about how chunky a lot of the 30-somethings on Tinder are. That was probably a good idea.

20 Replies to “This Day In Rotary Shifters”

  1. David Winkler

    I read the R&T article and enjoyed it very much. Thank you. The news today that most college freshmen read at the 7th grade level comes as no surprise. The text messaging generation presents some special challenges for modern day writers, and combined with the almost overwhelming negativity displayed in most COMMENTS sections, makes it more difficult to gather legitimate feedback. In the immortal words of Chief Dan George in The Outlaw Josie Wales, “… endeavor to persevere.”

  2. Robert

    Can you post that removed paragraph here? I’m sure to get a laugh out of it. What I’m mostly noticing about Tinder, besides the bots and prostitutes, is an epidemic of forty-something year old women that have never been married or had children.

  3. Felis Concolor

    Sadly I fear it is too late for my favorite people mover in the form of Ford’s Flex, but I’d love to see the center console lose its space-wasting transmission shift lever and instead find a rotary, push button or multidirectional toggle switch on the dashboard, the better to install a forward mounted fridge/freezer as a complement to the liability- and idiot-proofed middle row cooler.

    And I prefer the theft-deterring hidden labyrinth of B&M’s Quicksilver automatic transmission gear selector; if you pull or push the lever at the wrong point during its travel, you’re hurtin’ for certain, and that’s if you know where you went wrong. Anyone not familiar with the layout for the minimalist ratchet shifter isn’t going anywhere.

    Kudos to Chrysler for resurrecting the cupholder storage tray; my beloved Omnis also featured a spiffy storage cubby with a rolling shutter cover, and a simple 3 hole slide out tray served to hold the occasional pair of soft drink cans or fast food drink cups. The 3rd hole served as a finger-hold to pull the tray out, and was also perfectly sized to temporarily store the cigarette lighter while the socket was being used by other plug-in electronics.

    • Robert

      I just downsized from a minivan to a Flex last November, and I’m having a hard time adjusting to the loss of storage space within the driver’s reach. I didn’t realize how much I used the coin tray until I didn’t have one! I just ordered an aftermarket one, but it will leave me with only one cup holder. The armrest console has decent capacity, but could really use a way to have separate compartments in it. The lack of anything under the dash to stash things in is disappointing, too.

    • Jack Post author

      Just read the directions for the Quicksilver and I’m still not sure I understand it. Is it ALWAYS in ratchet mode in Drive?

      As for the Flex, if people had any sense at all that would be the best-selling square vehicle in America and the Explorer wouldn’t exist. One of the few mortifying things about my divorce was that my ex-wife sold the Flex Limited that we had. If she’d kept it, it would be paid off now and have maybe 75k on it.

      • Robert

        I looked at an Explorer while shopping for the Flex. I was surprised at how much less room it had inside! It agree it is the best family hauler for the price that is not a minivan for sale today. However I like that I don’t see a ton of them on the road.

      • Felis Concolor

        The shifter should be in a Drive-Neutral format once you let it drop down on its own from the Reverse-Neutral hump, but you can then lock out Neutral and engage the ratcheting mechanism by pushing down on the shifter while in Drive. This is to prevent accidentally slapping the transmission into Neutral during a hard acceleration run. That should require a lift back into Neutral, with another lift to get back into the Reverse-Park arc of the shifter’s travel.

        It’s also possible to keep pulling up on the shift lever while clearing from Reverse to Neutral to Drive, and having it lock into Drive with a small catch preventing it from moving in either direction at that point. Reversing that position back into Neutral can be a PITA, which is where my “not going anywhere soon” line comes from.

        I’ve tried testing the various wrong methods of manipulating the mechanism in order to have experience with recovering from any ham-handed messing with the car should I ever experience the insanity of letting someone else drive it, but have since decided I really shouldn’t let such a high horsepower short wheelbase car fall into anyone else’s hands regardless of circumstances.

        I’m saddened to read of your Flex’s fate during the separation; I foresee it becoming a used car classic, and fully intend to make it a reward from my estate when I am gone. I’ll use the same phrase my friends coined regarding the early GAINAX animated movies and television shows; the Flex is one of Ford’s Brilliant Failures. I only wish they’d look at the smaller numbers and higher than average transaction price and move future versions upmarket, or at least allow buyers the option to load them up with all available bleeding edge technology – as well as perhaps poaching some of Fiat’s interior space designers to learn how to maximise interior storage options. I’m certain Johnson Controls would have a lot of fun folding space in a future Flex platform.

  4. Power6

    Not bad Jack, there you go hoping for worthwhile dialog in comments, you just aren’t going to get it LOL.

    You could have been a little less insulting though, what do you expect when you must take a stab at those who use cell phones or have a drink when they drive or use an automatic trans in the first place…gotaa keep your enthusiast cred up huh. It belies your typical self confidence, you dealt with those issues already in your 20s right 😉

    Can you operate the rotary in a positive way though or is there no button or interlock? That is why I like the shifter with the button, you always get the right gear you can’t pass D without pushing the button. That is the aim of the stupid euro-gates as well, just don’t work that well compared to a button gated shifter IMO.

    • Jack Post author

      The way I submitted the article made it a bit more plain I was also laughing at myself for carrying all that stuff around.

      • Power6

        Damn editors! Yeah it would have come off better more self deprecating, clearly you make a great point that the cup holder is more useful than the shifter.

  5. CGHill

    That knob would mess with my head. I drove nothing but sticks for twenty years, and to this date, when I’m getting ready to stop, I reach for the lever, even though I’m not going to do anything with it — and even though it’s been twenty years since I disposed of that last manual. (Generation 1-point-something Toyota Celica: probably not the greatest shifter on earth, but it felt right.)

  6. everybodyhatesscott

    Oh well. Also, the editors removed the first paragraph of the story where I basically went on at length about how chunky a lot of the 30-somethings on Tinder are. That was probably a good idea.

    A lot of the 20 somethings are too. Don’t even get me started on the dreck that is okcupid.

  7. Bill Malcolm

    Well, one could be disparaging about that rinky dink rotary controller on the 200, and the equally dumb buttons on the TLX V6, by stating that the paddles on the steering wheel of both cars are also totally useless. Connected to the same rubbish ZF 9 speed transmission, the paddle response is a big maybe – maybe it will do something if you flick one or maybe it won’t. Most of the time, they take a time out for a hot steaming cup of cocoa instead, and I’ve driven four of these things in abject wonderment at how astonishingly inept they are.

    I use the gearlever and left paddle on my own car all the time, the paddle for downshifts, where it offers instant response and blipping. The floor shifter slid over into the toggle position will then hold the selected gear, the paddles by themselves do not for more than a few seconds if you reapply throttle. Second nature after 7 years. It works admirably. Somebody actually spent more than a couple of hours designing the system and getting it to do something an owner might indeed appreciate.

    If on the other hand you design a piece of gear in such a way as to be totally useless, like these rotaries and buttons connected to a pitiful transmission, then of course nobody uses them because it’s so inconvenient to do anything more than merely select D and wobble off down the road, mind out of gear, phone vibrating, in touch with the “world”.

  8. Steve Renwick

    The wiggly shifter in W124 Mercs was good for slapping between third and fourth in the hills. That’s about it.

    It unfortunately induced a kind of cognitive dissonance, in that the wigglyness made my hindbrain think it was a manual shifter once or twice. I jerked it into Park once whilst backing out of the driveway. Not good.

    I am not sure which is better: the knob, like a Jag, or the Lincoln MKZ pushbuttons, like my grandpa’s 1964 New Yorker.


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