If there is any place where you don’t want to be doubtful of your car’s capability to function as intended, it’s at speed on a race course. And if Mike Heintz was going to get his Yellow Blaze 2012 Mustang Boss 302 to hit above its weight class, a wonky shifting situation wasn’t going to cut it.

MGW Race Spec Short Throw Shifter

Heintz-MGW-1002Race Spec Shifter Features

  • Updated design for 2016
  • More compact
  • Fully assembled
  • Solid mounts
  • Solid linkage rod
  • Available for all ’11-’14 Mustangs with MT-82 6-speed
So, to complement the Mustang’s new McLeod dual-plate clutch, he swapped out the stock shifter for a race spec short throw unit from MGW Shifters. MGW’s shifters are an ideal match for Mike’s car, as they’re specially engineered to handle the rigors of the road course while maintaining excellent street manners.

“My vision was to build the perfect daily driven car that can go to the track and take on cars out of its class,” Heintz said. “But after doing all these upgrades, when I would try to shift the car at anything over 7,500 rpm, I was scared the transmission was going to blow up. I went through two OEM six-speed manual transmissions due to the clutch not disengaging at high RPM.”

His Mustang might look like its ready for the starting grid at a Pirelli World Challenge event, but truth be told, it leads a double life. This pony spends plenty of time roaming the traffic-filled highways of Southern California in addition to its road course aspirations, so maintaining street-friendly behavior is one of the top priorities.

While there’s a number of benefits to upgrading your shifter from the stock piece, even on an otherwise unmodified car, for this situation it was genuinely pivotal. While many of Heintz’ Boss 302’s upgrades focused on improved handling and high speed stability, he also has done a few drive train upgrades, including an intake manifold, dual-blade throttle body, cold air intake, and intake/exhaust camshafts — all from the Ford Racing catalog — as well as Bassani longtime headers and three-inch cutback.

Mike's Mustang Boss 302 might look like its ready for the starting grid at a Pirelli World Challenge event, but truth be told, it spends plenty of time roaming the traffic-filled highways of Southern California in addition to its road course aspirations, so maintaining street-friendly behavior is one of the top priorities.

Mike Heintz’s 2012 Mustang Boss 302. (Photo courtesy of Eric Broadfoot)

While it may look a little bit daunting, swapping out the stock shifter for an aftermarket unit like this MGW piece, the job only takes a few hand tools and some patience. Truth be told, removing and re-installing the center console will likely be the most time-consuming part of the job. Check out the video below to see the step by step process.

All told, Heintz was able to bump up the redline of his Boss 302 from the stock 7,500 rpm limit up to 8,200. But as he soon learned, not all of the other stock components were up to the task.

“The factory shifter is a remote shifter, so there is additional linkage between the shifter and the transmission, and the shifter itself is mounted to the body of the car,” Heintz explained. “What I soon discovered was that under heavy load the engine and transmission would rotate while the shifter would not, and as a result the shift gates would not align. It was causing the syncros to go bad and I would get a horrible grind going into any gear.”

“Our design specifically removes the multiple joint design of the factory shifter, which in turn reduces the binding problem,” says George Ciamillo of MGW Shifters. “Also, the rigid transmission mount we use makes missing gears virtually impossible. This prevents the kinds of mis-shifts that can kill a motor and/or transmission.”

Our design specifically removes the multiple joint design of the factory shifter, which in turn reduces the binding problem. -George Ciamillo, MGW Shifters

For a car that sees regular road course flogging, this is an issue of primary concern, as missed shifts typically occur at high RPM and also when cornering hard, both of which are regular occurrences on an autocross course and at the race track.

In terms of construction, MGW’s shifter is machined from aluminum and stainless steel. All aluminum used in the shifter’s production is anodized, while bearing surfaces are made from military grade hard-coated Type 3 aluminum, giving the MGW shifter’s construction a level of robustness that goes well beyond what is required of a shifter. “The bearings in these shifters are thermal polymers designed to actually run bone dry for a million cycles,” Ciamillo pointed out.

Looking at the MGW shifter next to the stock piece, the difference in overall quality and design is obvious.

Looking at the MGW shifter next to the stock piece, the difference in overall quality and design is obvious.

But what about long term durability? While some aftermarket components seem like an upgrade initially, over time it can become more obvious why the OEM went with a particular design – usually because it can stand up to the abuse of tens of thousands of miles, whereas more performance-focused aftermarket counterparts might work well for a short while, but then require replacement or repair prematurely. Fortunately that’s not the case here.

“This shifter is designed to outlast the car itself. Over a very prolonged amount of abuse, the springs and bushings could be replaced, but honestly it’s a doubtful scenario,” Ciamillo says. “Regardless, our shifters are designed so that servicing these parts is easy and inexpensive.”

Aside from the material quality, the design of the MGW shifter eliminates the weak points in the OEM shifter where it can be literally bent out of shape during hard maneuvering, causing the shifter and the transmission to become misaligned with one another. That misalignment can lead to a missed shift at precisely the time when you really don’t want it to, and possibly damage to the drive train, or even a loss of control at speed.

Now that the gearbox is sorted and properly configured for the additional power and newfound revs of the modified 302, Mike can get back to the business of tearing up the race track without the constant concern of  sending another MT-82 gearbox to the boneyard. Image: Eric Bradbuns

Heinz back on the track again. (Photo courtesy of Eric Broadfoot)

As for how the shifter has fared in Heintz’s Mustang Boss 302, we’ll let him do the talking. “Since installing the new shifter I have been able to shift the car hard at 8,200 rpm and it just goes into gear like butter,” he says. “Having the shifter directly mounted to the transmission has eliminated the problem with the shift gates not aligning for me, and I haven’t missed a shift on or off track since the MGW shifter was installed.”

Now that the gearbox is properly sorted for the additional power and newfound revs of the modified 302, and it is paired up with a clutch that can keep up with the task at hand, Heintz should be spared the tragic loss of yet another Mustang six-speed gearbox and can get back to the business of tearing up the race track without the constant concern of sending another MT-82 to the boneyard.

In addition to being functional, the new shifter also looks pretty sharp with the 8-ball style shift knob.

In addition to being functional, the new MGW shifter also looks pretty sharp with its 8-ball style shift knob. Photo courtesy of Eric Broadfoot)

Before, I literally was scared to shift at anything over 7500 rpm. – Michael Heintz

Sometimes the most important modifications you can do to a vehicle – particularly one that sees a lot of high-performance use – doesn’t necessarily boost horsepower or increase lateral g’s on the skidpad, but it does help bolster your confidence behind the wheel, and provides more enjoyment.

“This is probably the best mod on the car to date as far as me feeling comfortable,” Heintz added. “Before, I literally was scared to shift at anything over 7500 rpm. Now I don’t give it a second thought.”