Project Subaru Justy: Sorting a Sloppy Shifter

Finding gears in my Justy was a guessing game. The shifter was sloppy and vague, with long throws between gears. There had to be some way to improve this. It was diagnostics time.

First, I went looking for a replacement stationary rod bushing for the rod-operated shifter. When I upgraded to a urethane bushing on the various Ford Escorts I’ve owned, I was always happy with the improved feel and precision. Performance upgrades are hard to come by for a Justy, but with a little ingenuity, you can find solutions. Mine came by way of a mistake.
I was reading an excellent thread on the Justy message board by a man who rallycrosses his Justy. He mentioned refreshing the subframes, all the bushings, and the shifter. I misunderstood the bushing spec he provided as being for the shifter, when actually they were suspension bushings.


So I ordered the pieces he suggested (for the control arms) from a website that makes urethane bushings in various sizes; I got item number 2045. All their bushings ship with a little tub of some very sticky, turquoise grease. When I tried to fit it on my car, it was immediately obvious the bushing was too big. Way too big. (By my measurements, Poly Bushings part No. 2107 should work if you cut the length down and use a washer on the ends.)
I tried various ways of trimming it down, but urethane is hard to whittle. I finally fired up my bench grinder to see what would happen. Surprisingly, the bushing didn’t melt. I trimmed it with my bench grinder until it would fit inside the stationary rod, then greased it, tightened it up and went for a test drive.

When I was having trouble fitting the bushing I bought, I took measurements.

The shifter was much less vague, but still very sloppy. This didn’t surprise me. While I was working on the stationary rod, I noticed the actual shift rod had lots of play in every joint. There are 3 joints with 2 bronze bushings in each. All the bushings were worn out.
I returned to the junkyard, prepared to yank the shift rod out of that 2WD Justy I saw there, but it had already been crushed. I knew from a previous visit that a Justy shifter doesn’t have to feel terrible, and isn’t terrible from the factory. There was hope, but unless I find another good, used shifter, the solution would require a bit more research.
I took some measurements, browsed some online catalogs and called several places that manufacture or distribute oil-impregnated (Oilube) bronze bushings. I found a local company that could get them for me. They’re Isostatic Bearing part No. 602067; my local distributor’s minimum order is 14 pieces, at $3.90 each piece. That’s practically $55 for 14 bushings, of which I will use six. Plus shipping.
As much as I try to support local business, I found the bushings on Amazon for $1.45 each, with free shipping. I’ll go that route when the time comes, but as you’ll see in an upcoming update, I’m not in a hurry for these parts. Lead time on getting them from Amazon is one to two months anyway.
Photos Copyright 2015 Hooniverse/Alan Cesar.

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  1. nanoop Avatar

    Slowly, by addressing one issue at a time you're eventually getting somewhere!
    How is the Justy with "while you are in there" tasks? I find my project car intimidating, especially when touching the engine, and it requires a strong moral fiber to say "no, I will only change the belt and not the water pump, front seals, oil cooler seals, refurbish the power steering lines" etc. etc., despite of everybody else saying so.

    1. Alan Cesar Avatar
      Alan Cesar

      There are a few qualities in the Justy that keep project creep at bay:
      1. It's a very simple car.
      2. A lot of parts are simply unavailable.
      3. Some parts that are unavailable are ridiculously expensive, because they're NOS, OEM Subaru parts that have sat in some warehouse for 20 years.

  2. Wildcat_445 Avatar

    If you haven't yet, try calling around to some of the various distributors in your area: Motion Industries, Applied Industrial, Kaman, etc. (Not knowing where you live, hard to pinpoint a single one.) Or even check a place like McMaster-Carr or Grainger. If you have the Isostatic number, someone can probably cross that over to another brand if it is not too uncommon a size. Bunting (Ohio) is one company that makes Oilite-type bushings. Used to sell them, and unless it was an odd special order size, we could usually combine orders with the vendor to meet our minimums.
    Just a thought!