Shifter, e-brake, fabrication, seats and compromises

Today, a short illustrated essay on replica compromise. As is known, the Brandwood cable shifter is the go-to Spyder replica shifter.* It’s reportedly easier to set up and keep in tune than the Jamar linkage shifter that used to come standard. Both are pretty different from the exacting engineering in the original 550, but the cable box’s bulk makes for noticeable changes in the replica Spyder cockpit. Here’s the car I’m trying to copy.

You can see here how small the original shifter housing is. At about two inches off the deck, it tops out about even with the top of the front bulkhead.

Whereas my cable shifter…

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…big honking shoebox of a thing, couple inches wider than stock and probably crests 1.5 inches above the bulkhead—and that’s after I modded it to make it as short as it can be and still function. In most cars this makes no difference: the shift sticks through a hump between the seats where the transmission is. No so on a 550: no trans tunnel here, and everything is scaled about 7/8th a real car’s size. So the larger shift housing means the seats have to be about an inch and a half narrower, around three extra inches apart in the middle, in order to clear the extra height and width of it. Again 550-0051:

Versus:

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Ok, from that angle it’s not so noticeable.

Here’s a shot of 0056’s shift and hand brake lever from above:

And mine:

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Original:

My car:

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One interesting thing to me is that the difference in seat width looks to be mostly in the bolsters. The original ones look splayed out, whereas mine are more upright and shorter. Ah well. It is what it is.

One obvious fix here would be to relocate the parking brake to the passenger side. Most of the replicas have the brake handle to the right of the shifter, but on the original cars it was smack dab in the middle, left of the shifter. I’d suspected that putting it there would be something of a project, but I didn’t realize until this week that the replica hand brakes (at least the one I got with this car) are so very different from the originals—designed to be mounted much higher, and quite resistant to being mounted anywhere near as low as the originals. Months ago, I welded the e-brake mount to the shifter housing so it would approximate the height of the original cars. But when I installed the brake handle on it, the handle stood up almost 90 degrees.

 

Turns out that’s no good if the driver wants to use the gas pedal: a straight-up e-brake handle is right where his thigh needs to be. When I laid the handle down to get it out of the way of the driver’s leg, I had to reposition the mount upward to allow the cable-pull mechanism to clear the floor, then cut about an inch and a half off the handle’s front extension “leg” to get it to lay down. I’ve got mine about as low as it can practically go, and that’s still about two inches above where the originals’ cross tube went.

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Then I rebuilt my flip-up reverse lock-out tab.

The original cars had them, so I made something similar, but it interfered with the e-brake handle once installed. A little trimming, some re-welding and we’re done.

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I then remade the plate for my seat heater switches . . .

 

painted the shift box and switch plate frame black as original to try to make them less conspicuous . . .IMG_2097

then extended the shift lever about two inches to get the height correct. . .

 

And that’s that.

With the addition of a proper “mushroom cap” shift knob I think I’ll have these parts about as good as they can be made to be, from a “that-looks-like-an-actual-Spyder” perspective. Still, the gap between the seats will be another telltale to anyone really familiar with the 550.

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*That this stunning, one-off carbon fiber Vintech 550 tribute uses the same shifter should say something about the Brandwood’s quality and utility.

 

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