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Art & Inspiration Three on the tree

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by 56don, Jun 30, 2019.

  1. Somebody said that their theft deterrent was having a straight shift with "three on the tree" because nobody now days could drive it.
    It got me to thinking about it. The car I learned to drive on was a 55 Ford Ranch Wagon with "three on the tree".
    So, does any manufacturer STILL make one? If not, what was the last vehicle to have the infamous "Three on the tree"?
  2. irishsteve
    Joined: Jan 10, 2017
    Posts: 305


    Chevy PU"s offered it in the early 80"s.Dont recall seeing it much later than that.
  3. BamaMav
    Joined: Jun 19, 2011
    Posts: 3,135

    from Berry, AL

    I don't know of any still being made. Last car was probably a 77 Ford Maverick, pickups probably lasted a few years after that.
  4. H380
    Joined: Sep 20, 2015
    Posts: 398

    from Louisiana

    Google says
    "It seems that Chevrolet and GMC pickups and vans could be had with a 3-on-the-tree setup through the 1987 model year, while the final 3-on-the-tree Ford F-series pickups were sold in 1986; as for Dodge, the last year for this hallowed American tradition may have been 1985."
    classiccarjack, sunbeam and 56don like this.
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  5. aaggie
    Joined: Nov 21, 2009
    Posts: 2,525


    I don't know for sure but it was probably a pickup truck of some kind. There were a few European cars with four on the tree but the shift linkage was a nightmare to work on. About the same time that performance cars started becoming popular and needed a four speed trans the manufacturers also developed a reliable automatic and that pretty much negated any need for a three on the tree.
  6. I kind of figured it would be a pickup that either still had one or the last one to have one. Wasn't sure if some foreign cars still made them.
    H380, you are better at googling than I am.
    After a lifetime of driving "4 on the floor"cars, I kinda like my newly acquired 48 Ford with the column shift. It leaves the floorboard nice and uncluttered.
    Cosmo49 likes this.
  7. Don, Brenda and I were talking about 3 on the tree last night on our way home from the fireworks show in a neighboring town and how much the Ranch Wagon has changed since we drove it to this very show when the kids were little before the car was stashed in the barn.

    At that time the wagon had a 3 on the tree & a inline 6, it was just a old car at that time.

    The last column shift I drove was a 77 Chevy pickup. HRP
    56don likes this.
  8. I've always enjoyed driving a colomn shift 3 spd. They all seem to have their own quirks.
  9. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 4,208


    I relaced all of the bushings on my '51 Ford (the replacements are listed in the catalogs as for '40-'48 but they fit the '51 just fine). That, and an adjustment to factory specs made mine work a lot better.
    belair likes this.
  10. Oldioron
    Joined: Dec 12, 2018
    Posts: 788


    I had a 74 Pontiac Lemans sport coupe with a three on the tree.
  11. Mr48chev
    Joined: Dec 28, 2007
    Posts: 25,214


    Dang, you are getting old when you have to get out the calculator to figure out that anyone who is under 32 years old wasn't born yet when the last 3 on the tree left the factory.
    I lost track of how many cars I owned with one. The 59 ElCamino with a 235 was probably the most notable one. I changed my 51 Merc to a floor shift not long after I bought it in 1963 because the shift tube broke at the top where the shift lever went in it.
    I remember "older" guys having their column shift levers swapped to the left side so they didn't have to take their arm from around their girlfriend to shift in the 50's and early 60's. That was a simple pop the pin out, flip it over and put the pin back in and you could shift left handed. That was our form of distracted driving before bucket seats came into vogue. These guys miss out on a lot now growing up with bucket seats and a console.

    On the other hand my wife=then girlfriend got pretty good at shifting a 4 speed by sitting in the middle of the bench seat and me saying "now" when I hit the clutch.
  12. TrailerTrashToo
    Joined: Jun 20, 2018
    Posts: 353


    Summer of 1963, I was a delivery driver for Chicken Delight (long gone franchise chain). In those days, the store provided the cars. We had a couple of Rambler Americans, small 6 cylinder engine and 3-on-the-tree. Mostly driven by teenagers. The shift linkage bushings were worn, and occasionally the linkage would jam up. Coast to the side of the road and lift the hood. Jiggle the arms sticking out of the steering column until they were parallel (and horizontal). Slam hood and drive off (shifting with a little less enthusiasm...).
    belair and olscrounger like this.
  13. BuckeyeBuicks
    Joined: Jan 4, 2010
    Posts: 1,528

    from ohio

    My fondest memory of a 3 on the tree happened in the summer of 1968. I was coming up to a stop sign behind an old Dodge pick up. When it didn't go on I blew my horn, out jumps this big busted girl in a bikini! She said her and her girl friend were going to the lake when her gear shift broke. The other girl was not so stacked as the driver but still a knock out. Being the hero I was, I popped the hood and pulled the worn out shifter rods to get it in to neutral. I told the big busted chick to shift it really slow and take it easy. I then told them I should follow them to the lake to make sure they didn't have any more trouble. (I was a dumb kid, but not that dumb) Long story short, I spent a sunny summer day at the lake with two hot girls. Life was good:D
  14. Your story is much better than my 3 on the tree stories...;)
    lothiandon1940 and cactus1 like this.
  15. RmK57
    Joined: Dec 31, 2008
    Posts: 943


    My 66 Bronco is a 3 on the tree and with the little 105 hp 170 six it could really use a 4 speed, even with the 4.11 gears it came with. Any kind of a steeper grade and your in second gear at 25-30 mph.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  16. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 17,261

    from California

    I learnt myself how to drive in a 3 on the tree in a 1949 Chevrolet, since then I had 3 on the tree and a six in a 65 Falcon, and currently my 61 Dodge is 3 on the tree.... had a 4 on the tree in a 1965 Datsun pick up back in the 80's. bought it for $500.00 brakes went to the floor one day and sold it for $300.00. now that little piece of shit is worth $4,000.00 on up.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2019
    Irish Mike likes this.
  17. dan c
    Joined: Jan 30, 2012
    Posts: 1,876

    dan c

    my wife's first time seeing a column shift was my shoebox ford in 1977. to this day, she still can't figure them out!
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  18. I learned on my '60 El Camino (which is still have), even in the 80's and 90's not too many people wanted a manual vehicle around here (new cars anyways). I remember seeing a later 70's GMC truck with a 3 on the tree in the early 90's in a shop I worked at. Right now I have 3 vehicles with 3 on the tree still.
  19. Jay71
    Joined: Sep 15, 2007
    Posts: 789


    My wagon still has the 3 on the tree hooked to the original 265. The thing is bullet proof. Have the same set up in my garage, only with the overdrive, out of another 55. Can’t wait to get it in there.
  20. 41 coupe
    Joined: Nov 29, 2009
    Posts: 240

    41 coupe
    from bristol pa

    My 55 is a stick 6,It is a 69,000 mile survivor. It still has the original clutch in it. All I had to do was replace the bushings for the shifter linkage and it shifts like new again.
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  21. rudestude
    Joined: Mar 23, 2016
    Posts: 2,091


    I've had more 3 on the tree cars than I can remember, everything from 55 Chevys to old Ramblers and everything in between ,currently I have 3 Studebakers and 1 50 Chevy Bel-Air Ht that are 3trees , the Bel-Air is going to get its shifter flipped to the opposite side of the column, my dads old custom Bel- Air was done that way , I guess it makes the first to second shift a downward instead of a upward shift for drag racing faster shifting?
    The strangest column shift car I have ever had was a 4 on the tree, I backed that car up by hand ,pushing it,for 2 weeks before I found out how you put it in reverse.

    Sent from my SM-T387V using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    williebill and 49ratfink like this.
  22. Sky Six
    Joined: Mar 15, 2018
    Posts: 1,152

    Sky Six
    from Arizona

    I learned in a '52 Nash Station wagon.:)
    I took my'57 to the tire store to have the tires replaced and as I was sitting in the waiting room, a very courteous youngster came and asked for the keys so he could put it in a bay to have the work done. I thought to myself: this should be entertaining. I gave him the keys and off he went to the car. After a few minutes he was still there so I went out and asked if he needed help. He said that he didn't know if it was in park or not. I explained it was a standard shift, that's why it had a clutch pedal. I explained the pattern to him in very simple terms. He then asked what the little button on the floor was and so I explained what a headlight dimmer switch was. He started the car, depressed the clutch pedal and found reverse. After killing it a couple of times, I told him the emergency brake was on and it was the far left handle under the dash on the left side.
    At that point I nicely said that I would pull the car into the bay.
    You all know the old H.A.M.B. rule... no picture, 20171023_110626.jpg it doesn't exist. Here is proof my car is a stock 3 on the tree,
    lothiandon1940 and 49ratfink like this.
  23. The last vehicle made here (Australia) with a column-shift manual box was in 1984, WB Holden (GM).
    I have a LHD & RHD cars with 3-on-the-trees, I lose track of which side of the column I have to row them gears!
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  24. My first car had 3 0n the tree and a fifth under the seat!..:D;) 03222016.jpg
  25. tiredford
    Joined: Apr 6, 2009
    Posts: 447


    When I started driving in the 60's, The very first modification that any car guy would make was to get rid of the so called three in the tree. That was a sure sign you were driving an old mans car. I laugh when I hear young guys brag about having 3 in the tree...geeeeez
    studebaker eric and jimgoetz like this.
  26. 49ratfink
    Joined: Feb 8, 2004
    Posts: 17,261

    from California

    ^^^^^ 3 on the tree at the tire store. when I got tires on my 61 Dodge I just brought the wheels down to the tire store by themselves. between the 3 on the tree, reverse lug nuts on one side, then add in that the farthest point you can see on the front fender while seated still has about a foot and a half of fender and bumper in front of it I figured this would be the best way.
  27. BuckeyeBuicks
    Joined: Jan 4, 2010
    Posts: 1,528

    from ohio

    That is by far the best three o the tree luck I ever had. Most of time it involved getting greasy and or dirty crawling under some worn out pos , or tearing out gears trying to speed shift while being a wise ass:eek:
    lothiandon1940 likes this.
  28. And how many of us still have sore knuckles on our right hand from speed shifting from first to second only to have our hand slip off the knob and hit the windshield or the mirror.!!:eek:
  29. My aunts car was in the shop so she took the uncle’s pickup somewhere. She’s a fast driving/tire squealing Sunday School teacher type. Was not impressed when she got the shifter stuck in two gears in the middle of an intersection. Called home to get help. Grandpa told her how to align the linkage to get her going. Uncle was in hot water when she got grease on her dress..
    Uncle told her not to speed shift- “hum a waltz and shift to the tempo— da da da dot!”

    Edit- I currently have two running vehicles with 3ott

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  30. 18n57
    Joined: Jun 29, 2007
    Posts: 556


    I taught Drivers Education, '67 Biscayne six cylinder, column shift..,everyone learned to shift sooner or later! Lots of stalling, lurching, sometimes a chirp. I had an extra set of pedals to override, if necessary. Interesting...

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    blowby, Sky Six and lothiandon1940 like this.

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