Shift from 1st to neutral - but car still in 1st. Will not go to 2 or 3rd



My 56 Nash Metropolitan had been running fine till last week, when I shifted out of 1st, into neutral, and the shift will NOT go into 2nd or 3rd. What’s even more puzzling, even tho the shifter on the dash is in the “neutral” position, the car still thinks it is in 1st gear. It will run like it’s in 1st, but I cannot get the arm up into 2nd or down into 3rd. If I stop and take my foot off of the clutch, it will learch and stall, so it IS in 1st, even to it would appear to be in neutral.

I took the car to a Mr. Transmission who said the “transmission is fine,” but suggested the problem is in the “rod linkages” behind the dash board.

can you help?? It is very frustrating to have to drive around only in 1st gear.

thank you.

Ed Gerson


I concur with Mr Transmission, it’s either rod linkages need adjustment or a failed bush or a broken selector fork in the gearbox. You’ll need to inspect the linkage from underneath the car while someone tries to shift to determine which.


Hate to sound dumb, but is a “failed bush or a broken selector fork in the gearbox” things that are INSIDE the transmission or part of the linkage from the shifter down to the transmission???


If you have a three on the tree, this is the most likely situation. If you open the hood and look at the steering column coming out of the firewall, you will see two ears with rods stuck through them. One of the ears will not be in line with the other. Line the two up and everything should go back to usual. Only one will move which will probably be the first/reverse ear.

This problem is caused by a little too much clearance in the shifter selector which allows the pin to slip out the first/reverse slot before the second/high pin is in the nuetral position. Now that the second/high pin is in the second/high slot, it cannot be lifted out to get back to the first/reverse slot. The internal interlock inside the transmission is working correctly by not allowing you to go into two gears at once which would lock the transmission.

There were some three speed transmissions that had the selection done inside the transmission but I think most manufacturers had moved away from these by 1959.

Until you get the worn parts replaced, don’t hurry the first to second shift. Keep the shift arm up until in the neutral position. Make the shift move a ‘Z’ rather than an ‘S’. The parts that may need to be replaced or rebuilt are the selector pins; the first/reverse slot; and any worn thrust washers. Things just get sloppy after many years of shifting. Where the rods go through the ears on the steering column and the ears on the side of the transmission, there are rubber bushings capped on both sides by washers. If any of these are broken or excessively loose, that can lead to shifting problems as previously mentioned. So renew those if you can find the parts. They are all external so it just requires taking the rods apart; installing the new rubber bushings; and reassembling everything as you found it.

Hope that helps. Keep this neat old car running.


I tried the new shifting pattern, and the gears have not locked up since changing to a ‘Z’ motion !!!
That’s the good news. The bad news is that now that I can drive the car, my enthusiasm for getting to the root of the problem has lessened. I would assume that the problem exists because of 50 year old worn parts, and I am sure someday it will fail completely, but if the ‘Z’ has temporarily solved the problem, does that point to some SPECIFIC parts I should be on the lookout for, and start replacing???
thanks again.


your car predates my experience, but… the shift lever has two rods which follow down the steering column. on the engine side of the firewall they have U shaped connectors. these connectors fit together in such a way that the H pattern you shift in lets them push, pull, or twist the rods into the transmission.

alternately if your car has the lever on the dash, it works the same basic way. the rods connect under the body, beside the transmission.

as you pointed out, this is 50 years old. it will work until you wear out the connections a little more, then you will be stuck again. a good mechanic with patience would be able to figure out how to fabricate new linkage ends, or whole rods as necessary. actually this is the sort of thing a retired machinist would be good at. know of any?

you may get away with the new Z pattern for a while, but if the linakge is worn this much, it will be a matter of time before it wears out new patterns again.

after some digging: your car came with two types of shifters. one mechanical, and one hydraulic.

you will need to see which one it has. i beleive it depends on what year and month your car was manufactured. they switched some time in september of '57.

i would suspect the mechanical linkage has worn out, but if it is the hydraulic system it may just need the fluid checked/filled.


look at this page. and book mark it too.


Apologies for not following up on this, I didn’t see your response until now and Researcher has answered comprehensively your questions, I won’t therefore reiterate.

However from your other responses it looks like linkage bush wear and adjustment are the culprits, replacing those bushes and correctly adjusting the linkage is very cheap if you DIY it and will greatly improve your shift quality, it won’t get better without attention.

Good luck.


Happy Days!! I doubt you are going to find new replacement parts for the worn components. The parts that wear are the selector pins and the slots in the ears which become rounded allowing the pin to slip out before it has to drop into the other slot and the loose clearances that allow the two ears to separate too far. If you look closely you can probably spot the wear and notice how much the ears move. Any parts you get from a recycler may be just as worn as the ones you have. Spacer washers can probably be fashioned from generic washers ground and filed to the correct diminisions. The best solution for the selector pins and ear slots is to rework the present parts by welding on new metal and grinding and filing to get the correct shape. If you go the machine shop route, the shop might be able to push in a new pin; mill out the slots oversize; and set you up with a stack of clearance washers. It will be your option who does the disassembly and reassembly.

This sort of work is what makes keeping an classic car running a head ache and a joy. A head ache when you can’t get it fixed – a joy when your ministrations are fruitful.

Let us know what you do and how it comes out i.e. “I can speed shift this Nash again!”