Lokar Automatic Electronic Sport Mode Transmission Shifter Installation

    Easy Modern Automatic Transmission Shifter

    The old-school lever on the steering column or simple aftermarket floor shift that says "PRNDL" just won't cut it when it comes to shifting these modern multi-overdrive automatic transmissions, which can be set up to hold a gear or shift when directed. Ranging from 6L80, 6L90E, 6R80, 4L80E, AODE, and 4R70W, shifting is down to you, whether you want to simply select "D" and let the transmission shift in full-auto monkey mode or you want to toggle the gears yourself. The days of the promised paddle-shifted automatic in the aftermarket is here.

    Our 1969 Bronco project has just such a transmission behind our BluePrint Bronco Edition 306ci V-8. The transmission is a 2011 Ford F-150 6R80W built and adapted to the engine by Performance Automatic. This transmission, like many newer auto units, requires an electronically shifted controller (we have one from US Shift, supplied by Performance Automatic, which we have yet to play with since the truck isn't running yet). It also requires a mechanical shifter to act as an interface between driver, electronics, and mechanical selections made within the transmission. So what do we do? We could repurpose some factory parts to serve as this interface, but with a truck, and one with a retro feel, a shifter from a late-model Mustang would seem out of place.

    With the Lokar shifter out of the packaging, we began getting a feel for where the unit would need to sit. This shifter is a modular unit intended for custom applications. That means that the mounting feet can be moved around for various mounting configurations. All along we've been planning to use a floor-mount shifter on top of the Bronco's transmission tunnel using some 1/4-20x3/4-inch Grade 8 bolts and some 1/4-20 nutserts mounted to the transmission tunnel cover. Any shifter will have to sit toward the passenger seat so the twin-stick Dana 20 shifters will have space to live. Unfortunately we are not absolutely sure where the T-case shifters will end up, so we are giving ourselves some extra space. If we need to move the shifter farther to the passenger side, we should be good. The pigtails will be wired up to tell the transmission how to shift when in sport mode.

    Our solution was to reach out to Lokar Performance Products for one of its Automatic Electronic Sport Mode shifters, specifically one designed to work with the mechanical and electronic aspects of the Ford 6R80W transmission. We installed the shifter and are very happy with it so far, but as the project comes to an end we will also report back on how the shifter and transmission work on- and off-road. For now, check out our installation of this tricky Lokar shifter with evergreen good looks.

    Next we mocked up the supplied shifter brackets and shift cable underneath the Bronco. It became apparent that the shifter is intended to be used on a two-wheel-drive 6R80 or at least a 6R80 attached to a passenger-drop transfer case. The issue is the cable and the mechanical shift output are on the driver side of the transmission, an area that will be very popular with a spinning driveshaft coming from our Early Bronco Dana 20. We realized that moving the cable to the inward side of the supplied Lokar shift bracket and modifying the cable bracket slightly would make everything work together. To start, we cut the cable bracket as shown.
    We then rotated the trimmed bit of the bracket 90 degrees and tacked it in place as shown (top). This allowed us to test-fit our parts to see if the modified parts would work. It turned out that the tab with the hole that holds the cable needed to be bent slightly (maybe 10 degrees) past 90 as shown (bottom). With the modified bracket TIG welded up, we climbed back under the Bronco and mounted the new tab to the transmission using the supplied hardware and spacers, and then we installed the cable.
    Here's the cable mounted to our modified cable bracket and bolted to the inside of the supplied Lokar gear shift lever using the supplied rod end. The new bracket allows the cable to duck around the driver drop front output of the Dana 20.
    From there, the cable runs around the transfer case, skirts to the side of the rear output, and goes through a hole drilled in the floor. You want to keep the cable as straight as possible on its run from the transmission to the shifter. We did the best we could, given the layout of the transmission and Early Bronco Dana 20.
    Up top, the cable then heads directly for the back of the shifter. It is retained on the leg sticking off the back of the shifter using a supplied bolt and bracket. We are not sure how much, if any, fine tuning we will have to do on the shifter to make sure that everything is where it should be, but for now the shifter moves through the gears wel, and the stops in the shifter seem to be right where they should be. The feel is as sturdy and firm as you'd want it. Once everything is wired up, we will be able to drop the shifter from "D" to "S" and then bump forward to upshift and backward to downshift. This should be helpful on the trail and on the road should we get involved in any friendly stoplight drag racing.
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