Have you ever driven a car with a ‘three on the tree’ gearshift?

Here’s an example.

My family had a car like this, I never was allowed to drive it. It looked like fun. What’s been your experience?

When I was a teenager our neighbors had a worn out GMC truck with a manual column shifter. It may have been the first car I ever drove for all I can remember. I was well underage, but the thing never went on the road for more than 1000 feet between driveways of big rural yards of 10 acres or so. Just used it to carry fence posts and dirt , or bags of cement or whatever around a few yards where I was doing work in the neighborhood.

Everything was worn to hell though the clutch didn’t really work well at all, so it was a rev up and drop it in deal.

Driven a few, owned one. A '63 Mercedes with over 700,000 miles.

Yes. It basically becomes an automatic process (muscle memory) so you just don’t think about it.

Didn’t do a lot of it but yeah some (and I could if someone handed me the keys to one now). The main one was my grandfather’s Ford Galaxie 500. I got to drive it a few times as a teenager.

Yeah, Ford F150 from the 1970’s. Three forward gears but only two worked. First wasn’t one of them. The windows could not be rolled up, but no worries! as the heat could not be turned off either. Hard to believe now, but my husband and I built an entire house ourselves, using just that damn truck as our only work vehicle. We were so young.

My first car, a Chevy Nova, had that.

I used a driving simulator with one when I was taking driver education courses. I assume I was a miserable failure at it, though.

Montana, circa 1970: '65 Rambler Ambassador, 232 straight six*, three-on-the-tree and overdrive. Far from the best car I’ve ever owned, but the one I remember most fondly (most likely because of the time and place).

* Like the Chrysler slant-six, an engine you couldn’t kill with a bazooka.

Yep. I had a '67 Dodge Dart with the slant six. I bought it in '85, kept it about three years. I paid $650 for it. I wish I could find one just like it for that price today!

My answer has to be “yes” because when I first got my license, manual transmissions were still very common and the three-speed column-mounted gearshift was the standard on most American sedans. But I never owned a car with one, and today I have no recollection of the shift pattern. My first car was a VW Beetle which of course had a floor-mounted four-speed, and my subsequent cars were either sports cars or automatics. Back when I first got my license you were required to take your test in a manual, and it was probably in one of those three-speed column-mounted deals. You had to demonstrate proficiency with a manual transmission, including things like starting on an uphill incline without rolling back.

According to this author’s research, the 1979 Nova was probably the last car to offer a three on the tree. GM trucks offered one until circa 1987, but the Nova was the last car available with one.

As for me, no, I have never drive one. I’ve driven plenty of cars with manual transmissions, but none with a column shift, and none with fewer than five forward gears.

I did ride in a taxi with one in Cuba, though.

The column shift was a bit slower and a bit sloppier, and had these long links and corner links that sometimes got stuck out of position. So if you divided people between those who wanted easier driving and those who wanted more control of the transmission, you got Automatics and Stick, not column shift.

I got off the bus once to help a girl about my own age who had the hood open and was trying to work out how to get the gears to work. Reached in, grabbed the knuckles, and it all snapped back into position. Ask me how I knew… Unfortunately, I was too depressed and inoperative at the time to accept her invitation to meet her friends.

Mine was a 1969 model. It’s not all that different from a four-speed. Same H patten, though reverse is where 4th usually is.

My Nova, The Gangrene Machine, was my second car. Maybe a '71, with the infamous three on the tree. My college car and we abused it horribly. Good times.

Interesting. Does anybody know how common that option was? Our '75 Nova is an automatic.

Whoops. I just realized I forgot to post the link to the actual article I was referencing.

I don’t know for sure, but probably not all that common. It was likely something only real cheapskates bought, and most people opted for either the four speed or the automatic.

I’ve driven several.

Huh? I guess it depends on how you mentally move the shift pattern to the floor, maybe, but every column shift I’ve ever seen had reverse towards the driver and up, first towards the driver and down, second away and up, and third away and down. To me that means reverse is where 1st gear is on a four speed.

I learned to drive on such a one. I don’t remember the year of the car, but I remember it was a Plymouth Valiant.

Damn thing had the touchiest clutch I ever drove – and I’ve mostly driven manual-shift vehicles over my lifetime.