One Slick Stick: Barton’s 6-Speed Shifter for the Dodge Challenger

Some months back, I wrote a pair of columns that reviewed a variety of performance modifications for the 2008-2018 Challenger LC-body cars. The articles, 10 best low-cost, bang-for-your-buck mods for your Challenger  and 10 Best Performance Mods for your Challenger – Part II, appeared in Street Muscle Magazine, and proved very popular.

Out of the twenty modifications I covered in the articles, eight of them were modifications that I have actually installed on my own 2012 SRT8 392. In my opinion, the very best mod out of the bunch is the Barton 6-speed short throw shifter, as it had more of a positive impact on my car’s performance than anything else I’ve added. As such, I thought it would make sense to provide a stand-alone  installation guide and detailed look at this cream-of-the-crop shifter.

The Barton short throw shifter for the 2009-2018 Dodge Challenger as configured to work with the OEM pistol grip handle.

Barton Industries was founded in 2004 by Dave Moses. His venture initially functioned as a subcontractor to his father’s company, producing machined components for aerospace applications. When the economy took a dive in 2008 though, Dave astutely realized he had to diversify in order for the company to survive.

“We managed to barely hang on for a couple years,” Dave recalls. “Then the 2010 Camaro was released and we decided we would try to make some components for it, but we didn’t know what we wanted to produce. At the same time, I happened to install an aftermarket manual shifter in the car, and I knew I could make something better. I ended up fabricating a prototype shifter and posted what I made on a forum. By morning I had people lined up to buy it.”

Shortly after this, the 2011 Mustang GT made its debut with the notoriously poor Getrag-Ford MT82 manual transmission and Dave immediately recognized another huge market had opened up for Barton.

“Our solution for the Mustang shifter kept us so busy that we couldn’t even begin to think about expanding our product line,” he said. “I pretty much lived at the shop for a period of four years.”

In 2014, Hurst was the king of aftermarket shifters for the Challenger, which, like the Mustang, also came from the factory with a vague, imprecise and unusually long-throw stock shifter. The Hurst design was actually quite poor though and while it decreased throw considerably, it also transmitted a lot of noise and vibration into the cabin. At the time, a visit to any online Challenger forum would turn up countless threads on methods to combat these flaws, but most were only partially effective. There was also a considerable amount of consternation as to why a $500 aftermarket shifter should need any modifications to work as advertised.

Aware of the dissatisfaction within the community, Dave set Barton’s sights on making the best shifter available for Mopar’s premier muscle car. The Tremec transmission in the Challenger made vibration an inherent obstacle, but after a number of designs were developed and tested, Dave was finally satisfied. The shifter soon hit the market.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Rogers. The OEM, Hurst and Barton shifters together clearly shows the superior heft and build quality of the Barton.

Featuring beefy, machined 6061 T6 billet aluminum and 303 stainless steel construction, the shifter came with hand-poured urethane bushings and was truly a piece of automotive art; one that further decreased the length of throw beyond the Hurst yet was vibration and noise free in operation. Challenger owners snapped the Barton up and rejoiced at the unit’s brilliance. As a result, the Barton quickly overtook Hurst in sales.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Rogers. Another angle comparing the OEM, Hurst and Barton shifters.

I ordered my Barton in the summer of 2015, as I was never quite satisfied with my Hurst shifter either. The Barton came to me in a plain brown box, but after unsealing the packing tape, nothing in the unboxing experience was austere. As I removed each component, I was struck by their solidity and heft. Compared to the Hurst, the Barton was several magnitudes greater in build quality and finish. I also noted that even all of the ancillary parts were of superior manufacture, right down to the smallest components.

A sheet of paper in the box referred the owner to an online installation guide video which was straightforward and well produced. Armed with some basic tools and my Challenger’s front end up on a set of Race Ramps, I hunkered down in my garage and got to work.

Familiar with the floor console removal procedure, disassembly took me about 20 minutes followed by another five minutes to remove the Hurst during which I opted to remove both retaining pins at the front of the shifter from underneath the car, where it’s easier to see and remove the pins’ retaining clips.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Rogers. The Barton in place.

To install the Barton, I lined up the shifter’s front forks so that the holes for the retaining pins matched up with those on the flanges of the transmission case. Sometimes it’s tricky, so I procured a small dentist’s oral mirror and slipped it down into the transmission tunnel alongside the driver’s side of the tranny case.

From the passenger side, I shined a flashlight at the mirror, giving me a perfect view of the holes for the retaining pins. After a few slight adjustments to the Barton, I was able to line everything up on the driver’s side in seconds. Then, I inserted the retaining pin into the hole, pressed it in and locked the clip down on my first try. The ease of it felt very good, as my experience doing this while installing a Hurst had been a madding headache.

Once I had the driver’s side pin in, the holes on the passenger side were automatically lined-up for me as well. Once again, I got underneath the car and popped the passenger side pin in and locked the clip down also on the first try.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Rogers. Getting the front retaining pins in was refreshingly easy.

And that, my friends, is when the install came to a screeching halt for me. I could not for the life of me get the bolt that secures the shifter linkage to the Barton shifter shaft inserted properly. As suggested in the installation video, I depressed the clutch and pulled the linkage as far towards the rear of the car as I could and slipped the Barton shifter shaft in between the linkage flanges, but no matter how I adjusted things I could not get the holes lined up exactly, even while utilizing my mirror/flashlight trick to see into the holes. After over an hour spent trying to get the bolt through, it would only make it in halfway and get stuck.

This became very frustrating and I got close to giving up, but a voice in the back of my head told me to call Barton’s customer support number. It was after 3 pm on a Friday in Los Angeles, which made it after 5 pm Eastern time, where Barton is located. I was expecting to get Barton’s voicemail, but to my surprise someone picked up.

I explained to the man who answered exactly what my problem was. He immediately knew what I was going through and reassuringly told me that he would give me the proverbial keys to the kingdom in the form of a quick tip. He told me to line the holes up as best I could, get the bolt halfway through, and while sitting in the driver’s seat with the clutch depressed and my right thumb applying pressure on the bolt head towards the passenger side, vigorously and repeatedly shift back and forth from 3rd to 4th until the bolt slipped all the way through.

I told the man I would try it and asked him if he would still be at his desk to help me again if this procedure failed. He said that he was leaving for the weekend, but offered to give me his personal cell phone number so I could call him back. Not wanting to bother the poor guy after a long week’s work, I declined the offer.

I thought to myself, even if his tip doesn’t work, I will always remember the level of customer support I had just been offered. When’s the last time someone at ANY business offered you their personal information to make sure you were able to get help? Amazing.

I set everything up with the bolt in position, my thumb pressing against it, and halfway expected the tip not to work, but to my delight, on my third shift the pin suddenly went through! It took mere seconds! I actually let out a rebel yell I was so relieved.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Rogers. I accidentally over-torqued the nut on the bolt at he upper left coming up through the shifter cover plate, resulting in snapping off the bolt. Take care not to make the same mistake.

Having accomplished this step, I began the reassembly of the console with ease except for one hitch — while reattaching the metal shift cover plate, I had over-torqued the bolt that was sticking through the cover and accidentally broke it off. I examined my torque wrench and realized that I had it set way too high. Bummer. However, after torquing down the rest of the nuts correctly, it was obvious to me that the cover was screwed on with enough snugness that my mistake wasn’t going to pose any vibration problems.

The rest of the reassembly went off without nary a hitch, and I screwed my stock shift lever into the Barton and adjusted the Barton mechanism so that the stick was standing perfectly vertical. If you prefer the shifter to lean towards or away from you, this too can be easily performed.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Rogers. With the OEM shifter handle reinstalled, you’d never know what lurks beneath until you try it. Barton manufactures their own line of flat stick and pistol grip shifter levers.

Having completed the installation, I couldn’t wait to back my 392 off the ramps and take it for a spin with the Barton upgrade. When I put the tranny into reverse I couldn’t help but smile broadly. The throw was so precise and short that I knew I was going to love, and I mean love, this shifter. I backed out of the garage and hit the street.

I’m actually at a loss for words to describe exactly how amazing the Barton shifter is. The lack of play in the stick, the tactile feeling of solidity transmitted from the shifter to my hand, the minuscule length of the throws, the utter silence emitted from the linkage, the positivity of the shifts themselves, all beyond anything else I have ever felt.

Take it from me, the Barton is literally a racing quality shifter. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the shifter is so solid and precise that it strangely feels as if it’s too good for the car. It feels like it belongs in a Bugatti Veyron or a Ferrari LaFerrari, if either of those cars even had a manual shift option in lieu of the paddle-shifting automatics they use.

From someone who has owned manual BMWs and Mercedes and the like, I can tell you that the Barton is the finest shifter I have ever felt in a street car. The Barton is night and day better than the Hurst shifter and its utter silence makes me feel bad for all of the guys using endless washers, Dynomat, expensive “Larry” mods, and replacement stock shifter bushings in an effort to get their Hurst to shut up and behave. No comparison can even be drawn between the Barton and the OEM stock shifter. We’re talking two different space and time dimensions there.

The shifter equipped with a Barton flat stick and ball handle.

If you ask me, the Barton is worth every penny of its $400 price, or $596.00 when equipped with Barton’s flat stick and pistol grip shifter handles. Barton’s commitment to making superior products and their exemplary customer service are beyond anything else out there.I simply can’t recommend the Barton enough. You should definitely check one out.

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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