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

Learned on a dusty old Plymouth in driver’s ed, way bac k in the 60s. I remember the teacher telling of a student who got flustered and ripped off the turn signal.

My mom bought a used Rambler with that in the late 70s. I had a license so I drove it sometimes.

I think we are finding out how old many of us are.

Yep, I’m old too. First manual I ever drove was a friend’s Mom’s big ol’ Ford station wagon with 3 on the tree. (My current ride has a 6 speed manual. Floor-mounted, of course.)

When I was a kid we had a Citroen ID with 4 on the column, a Ford Cortina ditto, and a Bedford camper with three. I learnt to drive on the camper.
Once tried a Peugeot 403 with 4 on the column, but a ‘dog-leg’ pattern (3 planes: R-1, 2-3, 4). There was a certain logic to that: R-1 for starting and manoeuvring, 2-3 for town driving, 4 for the open road.
The Citroen 2CV and derivatives had a dog-leg 4-speed with the ‘umbrella handle’ lever sticking out of the dashboard. The Renault 4 was similar, but with a conventional pattern
Citroen also made a 5 gear column shift (on the ID/DS)

The only real memories I have of the column shifters is that, in retrospect, they didn’t seem to be as sturdy as the floor gear shifts.

Well that’s what scared me, I felt like if I forced it when it was sticky it might break off!

I bet that car could do some nasty burnouts with the right rear tire. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

In my learning to drive (legally) days mom had a '57 VW beetle 4 on the floor, with the little oval back window and dad had a '64 Rambler, 194 ci 6cyl 3 on the tree. Total POS car. That’s what I took my driver’s test on and managed to parallel park it perfectly, first try. Passed the test. :laughing:

I actually snapped the lever off once as an impatient yoot driving my dad’s old Dodge Dart.

I may or may not know anything about that…

First car I drove was my mother’s 1960 Rambler with a three gear shifter. I’ve also driven four-speed, five-speed, and a split transmission 10 speed manual.

I never drove my father’s '51 DeSoto FireDome semi-auto, but this brings back memories of my [step]grandfather’s '48 Plymouth, which I did drive a fair amount. About as heavy as a tank and maneuvered like a supertanker. It also had Fluid Drive, which meant that while you still had to use the clutch, you could leave it in third. Theoretically. If you didn’t mind being passed by snails when starting out.

Some other oddities, at least from today’s perspective:

  • Starting entailed turning the ignition key (in the middle of the instrument cluster) and pressing a button on the left side of the dash. One of the last years this system was used.
  • The clutch and brake mechanisms were mounted on the chassis rather than on the firewall, which meant that the pedals went through the floorboard. I recall this took a bit of getting used to.
  • The speedometer illumination varied from green (0-29) to amber (30-59) to red (60+). I have never seen this on any other car.

I have owned 3. The first was a 65 Chevy Biscayne station wagon with a 283 V8. My girlfriend’s father hated that car for some reason. The second was a 66 Pontiac Tempest with an OHC 6. The 6 banger broke so my step father and I stuffed a 400 from a 69 Grand Prix into it but kept the 3 speed stick. That car then became scary fast to drive. Sold it when the Navy sent me to San Diego, needed something a little more reliable. The third was a 67 Ford Galaxie with a 289. My brother borrowed the car and broke the shift linkage so I attempted to install a floor shifter. Screwed up something and it shifted backwards. Reverse was down and to the right, 1st up and to the right, 2nd down and to the left and 3rd was up and to the left. An uninsured drunk rear ended the car and I ended up parting it out.

In the late 80’s I had a 69 Nova, two door, straight 6 auto. Drove that car into the ground, ending with “3 whacks for a dollar. Don’t break the glass, I have to drive it home” at a rugby tournament.

Then my buddy who ran repo auctions called me down to his garage. There sat a beautiful 74 Nova, 4 door, straight 6 and 3-on-the-tree. Gave him $500 bucks and junked the 69. Loved that Nova. Dark maroon paint, so spray painted blue and white flames on the nose and called her “The Blue Flame”. After many years of treating that car like a tank (Nobody messed with me in Kelly Square) we put her in the Spencer Fair demolition derby.

One of my all time favorite memories is slamming that shifter up and down, 1st to reverse, reverse to first, over and over while knocking little 4 banger front wheel drive cars out of the contest.

I got my license (at 23) more-or-less specifically so I could drive my workplace’s ute (“truck”, I think, in American) which had this sort of gearshift. It was a little discombobulating since, though I’d done my test in a manual (you had to, in order to drive one legally at all) it wasn’t that kind of manual. Got used to it fairly quickly though.


I’ve also driven one with broken clutch linkage, so pressing the clutch pedal did absolutely nothing. It had three forward gears and I’d just try to line up engine speed with car speed for that gear, and let it gently drop into the gear when I had it close enough. But I had to turn the engine off, put it in gear, and start it while in gear, to start from a standstill that wasn’t pointed downhill. Fortunately this was before there were interlocks to prevent running the starter motor with the gears engaged.

I’m vert proud of my mom, who learned to drive in a Model T, withe crank-start, no gas pedal, and all the rest… Probably about a 1918 model owned by Rollo, the boy across the street. It was 1923, she was 15 and lied about her age to get a license. But she never learned to drive an automatic properly, resting her foot on the brake pedal.

My first new car was a Renault 16TS, it had 4 on the column.

I’ve been driving since 1966. Three On The Tree: too many to count. Nothing to it, even easier than Four On The Floor.