I’ve had this question in the back of my mind for quite a long time. I finally came around to ask this question so here it goes. I’ve always been interested in old GM vehicles and what I’ve always noticed in GM vehicles before 1998 or so that the column shift stalks are different sizes such as in taller. I’ve noticed in stripped (basic) vehicles, the column shift stalk is taller as it stands prouder than the dashboard. If you picture what I mean? And in well equipped vehicles, the stalk is much shorter. So I’m curious why GM always did that? If you know why, I’d love to hear the reasoning behind it.
Without seeing an example, I can only guess that in better equipped cars there’re more controls in the steering wheel, creating a larger center area to encapsulate them.
I too wonder about your premise. Could it be the high end cars you were looking at were in drive, but the basic vehicles were in park?
With column shift largely disappearing in new cars, do any new GM cars still have column shifters?
The column shifter on the 1939-1948 Chevrolets was a short lever because there was a vacuum assist on to make shifting gears easier. In 1949, Chevrolet abandoned the vacuum assist and equipped the cars with a longer shift lever to make shifting easier. The Buicks equipped with the Dynaflow automatic transmission from 1948-52 had a short shift lever, presumably because Buick anticipated that once underway, the driver would leave the car in “Drive”. However, in “Drive” the transmission depended completely on the torque converter and those Buicks had pretty slow take-off. Many drivers would take off from a start in “Low” and then shift.into “Drive”. From. 1953 on, the shift lever for the manual and automatic Buicks.was.thr same length. The Chevrolet selector lever for the 1950-1954 PowerGlide models was actually longer than the manual shift lever. From 1950-52, the Chevrolet PowerGlide depended completely on the torque converter when starting off in “Drive” so maybe Chevrolet wanted to make it easier for drivers to start in “Low”. However, a better explanation is that the length of the shifter lever is probably a styling gimmick.