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Old 11-20-2012, 01:34 PM   #1
xluben
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Default 08+ WRX 5 Speed Short Shifter Comparison (Stock, SPT, Kartboy)

08+ WRX 5 Speed Short Shifter Comparison (Stock, SPT, Kartboy)



I was curious to try some different shifters, and I managed to get the stock, SPT, and Kartboy all together at the same time, so I decided to take some photos and measurements for anyone who is curious. I didn't see much like this online, so I hope they are interesting/useful to someone.

The first thing that I would like to point out is that these photos and measurements are for the 2008-2013 WRX / 2006-2009 Legacy GT / 2006-2008 Forester XT. Other models may have different dimensions. I also wanted to clarify that the SPT shifter is the OEM factory short shifter. It is often called the "STI Short Shifter" and is sold via SPT. I am calling it the SPT shifter to avoid confusion with the 6 Speed STI transmission. As confirmed by Tom at Kartboy, the shifter itself is what creates the shorter throws with the SPT setup. The linkages are exactly like stock. They are only sold as a package because that is how Subaru receives them.

Before going any further I'll give a quick rundown on how a short shifter works. It is not a difficult concept, but some people may not be fully aware. Some people think of a short shifter as being physically shorter. Others think of it as having shorter shifts. In most aftermarket shifters both of these things are true. Skip this part if you already understand what a short shifter does.

Quote:
There are two aspects that can be changed in regard to shifter throw. The first is the overall height of the shifter. This reduces the amount you have to move your hand in order to shift into gear, simply by placing your hand closer to the linkage. I will be referring to this as the "top" (distance between linkage connection and the top of the shifter). This obviously will also decrease the overall height of the shifter.

The second change is to increase the distance between the pivot ball and the linkage connection (I will refer to this as the "bottom"). This changes the length of the throw by reducing the leverage (and actually will marginally increase the overall height of the shifter if nothing else is changed). Either of these things can be done independently, but they are most often done at the same time to provide the best results.

If you understand this concept you may realize that a very short top section, and very long bottom section would result in the shortest throws (taken to the extreme, your hand would simply be holding onto the linkage to shift). This is true, but there are other constraints that must be considered. Reducing the overall height too much will be hard to reach and uncomfortable. Increasing the length of the bottom section can only be done so far within the given limits of the linkages going to the tranny. And doing either of these too much will reduce leverage and result in notchy, hard shifts.
With that out of the way, I'll start with some overall photos of the shifters side by side:





You can see that the stock and SPT shifters have the same overall height, but the position of the linkage connection on the SPT shifter is higher up, which creates the shorter shifts. The SPT and Kartboy shifters have similar distances between the pivot point and the linkage connection, but the overall height is much shorter on the Kartboy.

Next are some photos of the top and bottom sections (table of measurements below):

Stock:





SPT:





Kartboy:





The pictures aren't perfect, but here are the measurements I took:

Code:
Shifter	Bottom	Top	Ratio	Reduction
Stock	2.44"	8.50"	3.48	-
SPT	3.00"	8.00"	2.67	23% 
Kartboy	3.00"	7.00"	2.33	33%
The "Bottom" measurement is from the middle of the ball to the middle of the hole for the linkage connection. The "Top" measurement is from the middle of the hole for the linkage connection to the top of the threads. The distance to the bottom of the threads could also matter, depending on what knob you have (more on this later), but I didn't use this for the calculations. The measurements should be accurate to within 1/16" (and then converted to decimal) as long as my eyes weren't deceiving me.

After taking the measurements I calculated a ratio of top vs. bottom length. This can be seen to represent how long the throw will be. Because the linkage connection point has to move the same distance for all of the shifters (this is fixed by the transmission's internal design), you can simply use the ratio as a multiplier. Based on the ratio I also calculated the % reduction in throw (both %'s are in relation to the stock shifter).

First looking at the Stock vs SPT knob. The first photos showed that the overall height is nearly the same between the two (possibly off by about 1/16"). The measurements show that the difference is that the SPT shifter has a bottom section that is about 1/2" longer, and the top is 1/2" shorter (to maintain the same overall height). Doing the math, this says it will be a 23% reduction in throw (with no change in overall shifter height).

The Kartboy lever has a bottom section that is identical in length to the SPT. The top section of the Kartboy is 1" shorter than the SPT (and therefore it is 1" shorter overall). Because of the reduced overall height, the ratio changes, and therefore for the throw is shorter. Based on these measurements/calculations the throw is 33% shorter than stock (an additional 10% shorter than the SPT).

In case the ratios and percentages are not meaningful, I also converted them to physical distances:

Code:
Shifter	Linkage	Ratio	Shifter	Reduction
Stock	0.55"	3.48	1.91"	-
SPT	0.55"	2.67	1.47"	23% 
Kartboy	0.55"	2.33	1.28"	33%
To do this I estimated that the shifter linkage has to move 0.55". This is just an estimate, but it should be fairly close. This will be the same no matter what shifter you have (dictated by the transmission's internal design). Using 0.55" as the fixed distance, you can multiply by the ratio to find out how far the top of the shifter has to move. You can see that the stock shifter is close to 2", the SPT is about 1.5", and the Kartboy is close to 1.25".

I also wanted to mention that your choice in knobs can affect this as well. Here is an example.

Knob Comparison:



Due to how different knobs thread on (and bottom out) the effective "top" length can be changed. As you can see in this photo, when the the shorter Kartboy lever is paired with the taller stock knob it is basically the same height as the SPT shifter when paired with a round ball shift knob. Keep this in mind when comparing shifter setups with someone who has a different knob than you do.

What conclusions do I draw from this?

First is that 3" from the middle of the pivot ball to the middle of the linkage connection is likely the upper limit to how long you would want that section. You can go a little higher if you bend the bracket in the shifter area, but the shifts start to get very notchy beyond this length. The adjustable shifters (COBB/MODE) can definitely be extended longer than that, but you will get notchy shifts. I think SPT and Kartboy use this length because it's significantly shorter than stock, but still feels very good.

While I was a bit surprised that the lower section was the same length on the SPT vs. the Kartboy, I was not surprised that the Kartboy was shorter overall. The SPT is a really nice option for someone who does not want to reduce the overall height of the shifter, but for someone that wants the shifts to be a bit shorter and more crisp, the Kartboy is great. I think either can be a good option depending on your preference.

Unfortunately I didn't have any other shifters to measure. I have owned the MODE (ie. COBB) double adjustable shifter in the past. It was great quality, but I found that it could make the throws much shorter than I needed. You should be able to set it up identically to a Kartboy if you wanted, but I don't think you can make it as long as stock.

From my experience with both, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either, depending on what you want. The COBB is more flexible so you can dial it in exactly how you want (but you can actually set it up to feel pretty bad too). Versus the Kartboy that is just plug and play. No adjustments, but it's really nice out of the box.

On a semi-related note, the shifter bushings also make a huge difference. Doing a short shifter a long will make the shifts shorter, but they'll still be very sloppy. The bushings really change the feel of the shifts. For the small price you pay, they make a huge difference in how it feels to dive. I would recommend them to anyone.
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Last edited by xluben; 11-21-2012 at 12:07 PM.
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Old 11-20-2012, 01:34 PM   #2
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Kartboy Shifter Review

I was very happy with the quality of the Kartboy shifter. The finish is very nice compared to the OEM shifters. The build quality is excellent. Is a very solid piece that I would not expect to ever fail. It looks much more sleek than the chunky OEM shifters.

One construction difference from stock is the pivot ball is metal and welded on. I don't think the stock ones fail very often, but it does seem possible. The Kartboy one definitely isn't going anywhere and shouldn't wear out. It could create a little more NVH, but I haven't noticed it. I would gladly take that trade for more solid shifts (although the difference due to the metal ball is basically negligible from what I can tell).

The dimensions of the Kartboy make for a 33% reduction in throw vs. stock and I believe the throws and feel will be good for many people. The shifter is also 1" shorter than the stock shifter. Sometimes I like the taller shifter, so I might swap back and forth between the Kartboy and SPT, but I do like how the Kartboy feels when shifting.

Overall I really like it. I was actually a bit concerned that the throws would be too short and/or notchy for my liking, but it really is not the case. The shifts feel nice and crisp, and very short. When paired with the Kartboy shifter bushings it really transforms the feel of the car.

Here are a few photos:









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Old 11-20-2012, 01:35 PM   #3
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Saved.
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Old 11-20-2012, 01:51 PM   #4
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Old 11-20-2012, 01:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xluben View Post
The shifts feel nice and crisp, and very short. When paired with the Kartboy shifter bushings it really transforms the feel of the car.
Agreed. After I got the Kartboy shifter and bushings installed (all in one go), the feeling changed drastically. Shifts were not as vague and just felt so crisp. I was very pleased with it compared to the stock shifter with stock bushings (which are seriously crappy).
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Old 11-20-2012, 01:59 PM   #6
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nice work
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Old 11-20-2012, 02:12 PM   #7
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Just ordered the kartboy shifter and bushings yesterday, can't wait to install them, hopefully this weekend.
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Old 11-20-2012, 02:40 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xluben View Post
Kartboy Shifter Review


The dimensions of the Kartboy make for a 33% reduction in throw vs. stock and I believe the throws and feel will be good for many people. The shifter is also 1" shorter than the stock shifter. Sometimes I like the taller shifter, so I might swap back and forth between the Kartboy and SPT, but I do like how the Kartboy feels when shifting.

Overall I really like it. I was actually a bit concerned that the throws would be too short and/or notchy for my liking, but it really is not the case. The shifts feel nice and crisp, and very short. When paired with the Kartboy shifter bushings it really transforms the feel of the car.

Here are a few photos:
I read your write-up about the comparison of the 3 shifters, very thorough. Did you have any thoughts on how any of those 3 compared to the MODE adjustable shifter, which I believe you had at one point? I'd be interested to know what your take is on MODE vs Kartboy.
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Old 11-20-2012, 02:50 PM   #9
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This saved me some money, thank you very much. I wanted to purchase the kartboy to replace my spt but it won't make a difference in my setup. I have a sparco knob that uses the set screws to mount it rather than threading on. the sparco knob allows me to mount it further down on the shift lever which makes it almost identical to the kartboy. Hope that makes sense. According to your write up, one could cut the spt one down a little bit and re-thread it and get the same result if I am understanding right.
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Old 11-20-2012, 03:21 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RM_2 View Post
Agreed. After I got the Kartboy shifter and bushings installed (all in one go), the feeling changed drastically. Shifts were not as vague and just felt so crisp. I was very pleased with it compared to the stock shifter with stock bushings (which are seriously crappy).
The bushings make a huge difference in feel. Well worth it even if you wanted to keep the stock shifter.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Celery GT-5 View Post
nice work
Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by brett192 View Post
Just ordered the kartboy shifter and bushings yesterday, can't wait to install them, hopefully this weekend.
You'll like them!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 44r0nm4n View Post
I read your write-up about the comparison of the 3 shifters, very thorough. Did you have any thoughts on how any of those 3 compared to the MODE adjustable shifter, which I believe you had at one point? I'd be interested to know what your take is on MODE vs Kartboy.
I forgot to post that part! I wrote it up, but didn't copy it into the post. I updated the first post to include some thoughts on that. If you have any specific questions, let me know. Here is the updated version:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RM_2 View Post
What conclusions do I draw from this?

First is that 3" from the middle of the pivot ball to the middle of the linkage connection is likely the upper limit to how long you would want that section. You can go a little higher if you bend the bracket in the shifter area, but the shifts start to get very notchy beyond this length. The adjustable shifters (COBB/MODE) can definitely be extended longer than that, but you will get notchy shifts. I think SPT and Kartboy use this length because it's significantly shorter than stock, but still feels very good.

While I was a bit surprised that the lower section was the same length on the SPT vs. the Kartboy, I was not surprised that the Kartboy was shorter overall. The SPT is a really nice option for someone who does not want to reduce the overall height of the shifter, but for someone that wants the shifts to be a bit shorter and more crisp, the Kartboy is great. I think either can be a good option depending on your preference.

Unfortunately I didn't have any other shifters to measure. I have owned the MODE (ie. COBB) double adjustable shifter in the past. It was great quality, but I found that it could make the throws much shorter than I needed. You should be able to set it up identically to a Kartboy if you wanted, but I don't think you can make it as long as stock.

From my experience with both, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either, depending on what you want. The COBB is more flexible so you can dial it in exactly how you want (but you can actually set it up to feel pretty bad too). Versus the Kartboy that is just plug and play. No adjustments, but it's really nice out of the box.

On a semi-related note, the shifter bushings also make a huge difference. Doing a short shifter a long will make the shifts shorter, but they'll still be very sloppy. The bushings really change the feel of the shifts. For the small price you pay, they make a huge difference in how it feels to dive. I would recommend them to anyone.
Quote:
Originally Posted by PearlRex11 View Post
This saved me some money, thank you very much. I wanted to purchase the kartboy to replace my spt but it won't make a difference in my setup. I have a sparco knob that uses the set screws to mount it rather than threading on. the sparco knob allows me to mount it further down on the shift lever which makes it almost identical to the kartboy. Hope that makes sense. According to your write up, one could cut the spt one down a little bit and re-thread it and get the same result if I am understanding right.
Yep, you could do that. You'll eventually run into the lip around the shifter if you thread it down too far.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:18 PM   #11
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Good comparo. Way back when I bought my SPT everyone was saying the linkage geometry was different. In retrospect I should have just saved money and got the Kartboy. But good to see there isn't much reason for me to change it now. I still need to get the bushings. TiC has that great "holy shift kit" or something like that.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ecbmxer View Post
Good comparo. Way back when I bought my SPT everyone was saying the linkage geometry was different. In retrospect I should have just saved money and got the Kartboy. But good to see there isn't much reason for me to change it now. I still need to get the bushings. TiC has that great "holy shift kit" or something like that.
Yeah, if you're getting a new car, I would definitely opt for the Kartboy vs. the SPT. The cost of the SPT is quite high for what it is. The TiC bushing kit is great. Definitely go for that!
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:33 PM   #13
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excellent.

i'm rocking the cobb ss and bushings. the kartboy seems to do the job at a fraction of the cost... not by much.
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Old 11-20-2012, 06:51 PM   #14
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Yeah the price is quite close between the two. I think they're both good depending on what you're looking for.
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Old 11-20-2012, 08:50 PM   #15
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here is a more lame attempt to show the stock shifter next to cobb.





i like the throw on the cobb. it's um, short.

eta: looking at your pics, the cobb is the shortest of all and adjustable. not that i would know because i have it set a medium height and i'm happy with it.
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Old 11-20-2012, 09:28 PM   #16
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Nice. I'll have photos of the MODE/COBB next to the ruler in exactly one week.

Did you change the setting of the lower section? If you didn't then it is actually adjusted for longer throws! But if the overall height is short enough then the throws overall may be the same or shorter than stock.
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Old 11-20-2012, 11:39 PM   #17
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Yeah I didn't realize at first either, but the longer that bottom bit, the shorter the throw.

I kind of want to dremil out that metal plate above it so it can be shorter.

Also, **** snap rings...

I have the kartboy bushings and it is irritatingly notchy, my buddy's is stock and it feels like hot butter. Maybe I need new tranny fluid or something.

Last edited by _davin; 11-21-2012 at 12:16 AM.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:28 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _davin
Yeah I didn't realize at first either, but the longer that bottom bit, the shorter the throw.

I kind of want to dremil out that metal plate above it so it can be shorter.

Also, **** snap rings...

I have the kartboy bushings and it is irritatingly notchy, my buddy's is stock and it feels like hot butter. Maybe I need new tranny fluid or something.
Hold up...

Your shifter is notchy? I had KB bushings on my RS, but I thought that it was notchy in a good way...like each gear snicked in place perfectly. What are you experiencing? I was looking at adding KB bushings to my SPT until you made your comment.
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Old 11-21-2012, 05:09 AM   #19
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Lol, just ignore me, I don't know what my problem is. My car has over 53,000 miles on it and I'm not the original owner of this one, and I never experienced it with stock bushings. My first 2011 had stock bushings and the SPT STS but I honestly can't even remember how it felt in comparison.
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Old 11-21-2012, 08:48 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xluben View Post
Nice. I'll have photos of the MODE/COBB next to the ruler in exactly one week.

Did you change the setting of the lower section? If you didn't then it is actually adjusted for longer throws! But if the overall height is short enough then the throws overall may be the same or shorter than stock.
Yeah, i couldn't shift into 2nd, 4th and reverse initially until i adjusted it. I have it between 1/3 and 1/2 out, IIRC and the throws are crisp - maybe 25-30 % shorter.
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:03 AM   #21
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[/quote]
Anybody else notice that the SPT lever isn't quite parallel above and below the pivot point? I just installed a Kartboy, and when I had them side by side, I noticed that the Kartboy is straight as an arrow, and the SPT bends slightly at the pivot point. You can kind of see it in the second pic of xluben's OP. Any thoughts?
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Old 11-21-2012, 09:18 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _davin View Post
Yeah I didn't realize at first either, but the longer that bottom bit, the shorter the throw.

I kind of want to dremil out that metal plate above it so it can be shorter.

Also, **** snap rings...

I have the kartboy bushings and it is irritatingly notchy, my buddy's is stock and it feels like hot butter. Maybe I need new tranny fluid or something.
I would be willing to bet that if you had the stock shifter in with the bushings it wouldn't be notchy. That is one of the problems with the adjustable ones. If you adjust it too far it starts to feel pretty bad. I wish they came with some kind of suggested settings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stikboy View Post
Hold up...

Your shifter is notchy? I had KB bushings on my RS, but I thought that it was notchy in a good way...like each gear snicked in place perfectly. What are you experiencing? I was looking at adding KB bushings to my SPT until you made your comment.
You will love the bushings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by _davin View Post
Lol, just ignore me, I don't know what my problem is. My car has over 53,000 miles on it and I'm not the original owner of this one, and I never experienced it with stock bushings. My first 2011 had stock bushings and the SPT STS but I honestly can't even remember how it felt in comparison.
It is very hard to compare by memory.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChesterWRX View Post
Yeah, i couldn't shift into 2nd, 4th and reverse initially until i adjusted it. I have it between 1/3 and 1/2 out, IIRC and the throws are crisp - maybe 25-30 % shorter.
That's probably pretty good. Again, it would be nice if the adjustable ones had suggested settings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by sprocket_rocket View Post
http://www.benjohnsonphotography.com/photos/i-TFPdHbn/0/L/i-TFPdHbn-L.jpg

Anybody else notice that the SPT lever isn't quite parallel above and below the pivot point? I just installed a Kartboy, and when I had them side by side, I noticed that the Kartboy is straight as an arrow, and the SPT bends slightly at the pivot point. You can kind of see it in the second pic of xluben's OP. Any thoughts?
Yes. I did notice that. Both of the Subaru shifters seem to handle away from the driver and the Kartboy angles towards the driver. This may be manufacturing variation (welding a rod to a cylinder) or possibly because the angle on the stock ones makes the shifter straight up and the Kartboy angles slightly towards the driver to make it easier to reach.
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Old 11-21-2012, 10:51 AM   #23
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Excellent post xluben. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11-21-2012, 11:06 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by _davin
Lol, just ignore me, I don't know what my problem is. My car has over 53,000 miles on it and I'm not the original owner of this one, and I never experienced it with stock bushings. My first 2011 had stock bushings and the SPT STS but I honestly can't even remember how it felt in comparison.
Well, in the past, you have been dead on in your other comments so your opinion carries some weight...even if it is from a faulty memory.

xluben,

Just ordered the bushings. Thanks for the write-up and the advice.
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Old 11-21-2012, 04:06 PM   #25
_davin
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Join Date: Oct 2010
Chapter/Region: AKIC
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Vehicle:
2011 WRX 5dr SWP Ltd

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Quote:
Originally Posted by xluben
I would be willing to bet that if you had the stock shifter in with the bushings it wouldn't be notchy. That is one of the problems with the adjustable ones. If you adjust it too far it starts to feel pretty bad. I wish they came with some kind of suggested settings.
Well I had the kartboy and just traded with my friend for the Cobb, I set it for shortest throw/tallest height. I can't really tell much of a difference, perhaps I'll try setting it the opposite - longest throw/shortest height, see how that feels.
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