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

I recall that the factory “three on the tree” shifters had what was called an “H” pattern. Shifting between first and second, the shift lever had to just move back and forth. Shifting from first or second into third or reverse, the shift lever had to move to the neutral middle, drop down, and then move forwards or backwards. And J.C. Whitney sold a part that changed the pattern from an “H” to an “N”, which made shifts between second and third quicker, but which also made “rocking” a car out of mud/snow just miserable.

Anyone ever install one of those “N” shift gates?

That is correct, but I’m confused about your description of where the various gears were located. As I sat behind the wheel, Reverse was towards me and then up. First gear was towards me and then down. Second was ‘away from’ me and up; third was away from me and down. Neutral was in the middle.

Google ‘three on the tree shift pattern’ and you’ll see a number of pictures, like this one:

My first car was a ‘69 Nova. It was a scrawny 6cyl but 1st gear could beat anything for the first 20feet off the line.
Sometimes the linkage would hang up so I carried a 2’ section of a broom handle and would use it to smack the linkage and unlock it. I’d do this for a few weeks and then I would finally find some time to adjust the linkage and it would work fine for about two months before it stuck again.
When I sold it I ceremoniously gifted the broom handle to the new owner. He was probably smarter than me and replaced the worn bolts on the linkage.

in the 30s great grandpa had a model A and T around for farm chores which grandma learned to drive on she said he had a plow and something like a scoop for the front he could bolt on either one for the fields he bought them out of a 1925 sears catalog …

grandma always said you could fix 95 percent of anything that went wrong on either car with chewing gum and bailing wire …

Thank you for posting the picture, my memory of the “H” pattern was faulty. So the “N” pattern makes more sense now.

I am surprised that the Model T entered this discussion. Shifting a stock Model T was done through pedals on the floor.

No, but I’ve always wanted to — it really is a bucket list item. I suspect I’m younger than the average age poster in this thread (40) but I’ve owned and driven as my daily driver… lessee… 6 manual transmission cars beginning with my first, a 1975 VW bus (my god how I miss that car). I’m sure I could get the hang of a column shifter.

One of my coworkers is considering buying the new Chevy Bolt, and it does not have an (obvious) gear selector at all:

I’ve heard that some late model pickups have a small knob on the dash as their gear selector. So while those Damn Kids Today may not be able to drive my Honda with the 6-speed (which is a 2020 but I had to look long and hard before finding a 3 pedal for sale), I may not be able to drive their generation’s cars without a tutorial as well.

My second car was a '67 Dart slant 6. I drove it from (IIRC) 1975-1978, then moved to a '66 Valiant slant 6 with automatic transmission. Then I joined the Navy in 1980, and didn’t own a car until 1981, when I bought a beater to drive from Idaho Falls to Los Angeles in July. Which I sold to my little brother when I flew to Pearl Harbor for my sea duty.

Yup, it’s in my garage right now. 1956 GMC 1/2 ton. Each of my kids drove it to high school (as I did) as recently as 2016. I’m sure they were the only of their peer group to know how to drive a 3-on-the-tree. Also has a pedal to manually push the starter gear into the flywheel. It was not going to get stolen in that high school parking lot.

No, I’ve never driven a column shifter but from the video’s description and demo, it doesn’t seem like it’d be that hard to get used to.

I have driven four, five, and six speed center mounted shifters in cars with a manual transmission (with the “H” shifting pattern), and also automatic tranmission cars with a column shifter (1980s era GM or Chrysler sedans), so this is kind of like a cross between the two except there are only three gears (I guess fuel was cheap and MPG was not important when these cars were around!).

I found this video on YouTube a year or two ago where someone demo’ed the (in)famous East German Trabant. It too had a column shifter… But in the REVERSE pattern of the “standard” one we’d be used to! (Among many other, ah, “oddities”)