Another way to do a left-hand Ruckstell shifter
by Tom Carnegie
Some of the folks in the Montana 500
have Ruckstell axles in their T's. Since they are not allowed
to be shifted during the run, the reason people have
them is open for speculation. Generally you'd
think that a lighter rearend such as the standard
Ford rearend would be preferable to the heavier
Ruckstell. The only possible advantage that I can
think of is the ball bearing in the Ruckstell. The
question is, "Does the ball bearing turn significantly
easier than either the bronze or less likely,
the roller bearing thrust washer?" Maybe it is for
touring purposes after the race. I don't know the
answer to this question, but I do know that several
people have Ruckstells in their car, and after the
run they need to be shifted occasionally. In the
original setup, the Ruckstell shifter handle was
pretty much right in the center of the floorboards.
For those with 1925 or older cars, this presents a
distinct inconvenience as the shifter is in the way
when you enter the car from the passenger side.
To a lesser degree this is true with all years and
body styles. To address this problem, left hand
shifters have been designed, and are increasingly
popular with the model T folks. These left hand
shifters generally lay atop the frame and are held
in place by two u-bolts, one on each side of the frame.
They are installed by drilling two holes per
u-bolt into the top of the frame. The lever then
shares the emergency brake hole. Over the years I
have developed a strong aversion to drilling extra
holes into the frame, or anywhere else on the T for
that matter. As such, I have devised a way to
mount a bolt-on left hand Ruckstell shifter that
doesn't require drilling any extra holes. I will attempt
to describe it forthwith.
What I started with was a normal emergency brake
handle and cross-shaft. I dug through my pile and
found one that was damaged and therefore of little
value. Damaged ones or truck ones are easily obtainable
either from club members or from swapmeets or T vendors.
Truck emergency brake assemblies are the same as passenger car ones,
except the neutral cam is taller to accommodate the
thicker frame. For our purposes a truck one will
work fine. This first step once you've obtained
your lever, is to de-rivet and remove the release
lever and pull rod. Next, cut off the neutral cam,
then drill the rivet and remove the right-hand
lever. This will eventually become the lever for actuating the Ruckstell.
A pair of support plates must be made for the
shifter lever. I made a couple of plates out of 1/4"
steel. (See figure 1) These plates are bolted to the
inside of the lower frame rail. They are held by
the bolts that also hold the emergency brake crossshaft supports.
Slightly longer bolts will be needed as they will be going through the plate in
addition to the frame and cross-shaft bracket.The center holes between the two mounting holes are for oil.
Right and left motion is restrained by the lever and set collar.
On the passenger side, the lever that originally actuated the right-hand
emergency brake is flipped around and put it back onto the shaft. This will be
the new Ruckstell actuating lever. (See picture 1) You will also need to build a
set collar (see figure 2) to stop the shaft from traveling side to side. The new
Ruckstell actuating lever is riveted onto the shaft in the position shown in picture 2.
This picture shows the lever when the Ruckstell is in high.
This shows the shifter rod heading to the front. The rod is custom made from a piece of conduit.
Once inside the car, the lever is bent out of the way of the emergency brake lever.
This is the position of the lever when the Ruckstell is in "high"
This is the position of the lever when the Ruckstell is in "low"