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Driving the New Fiat 124 Spider and Abarth!

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Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio Debut

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fiat 500 Abarth Short Shifter Install


The Fiat 500 Abarth just hit US streets and already there is a growing list of aftermarket parts available to personalize the the car to one's individual tastes. One popular modification is installing a short shifter. The shifter on the 500 Abarth is the same as the one used in Europe and has a good reputation, however there are aftermarket shifters available that offer an enhanced feel. These typically provide shorter shift lever travel or throw and a more robust feel by the elimination of plastic componentry in the stock shifter.

One of the more popular short shifters sold for the Fiat 500 Abarth is by Craven Speed out of Portland, Oregon. The Craven Speed short shifter for the Fiat 500 Abarth is manufactured with a stainless steel shaft and pivot ball along with machined anodized aircraft aluminum. I recently purchased the Craven Short shifter from 500 Madness and here is how I installed it.


The stock shift knob on the Fiat 500 Abarth is a nice, leather covered piece.  It is possible to reuse it, but because the Craven Speed short shifter's shaft is physically not as long as the stock one, the shift boot will be too tall and not look correct.


To remove the 500 Abarth's shift knob, pry the cap off of the top with something not sharp like a credit card, etc.


The cap is held down with tabs unlike the one used in the regular Fiat 500. That car's cap is held on with double sided tape.


The 500 Abarth's knob is held on with a 10 mm hex head bolt. Remove the bolt.


You need to pry up the shift boot from the center console. You are working with plastic so use something that won't gouge it. Work the pry tool underneath the boot. Getting a good grip on the boot and pry tool,  give them a wiggle and a tug.  The boot assembly will pop free from its mounts. There is a zip tie at the top that connects the shift boot to the shift knob at the top.  You shouldn't have to remove it, but if you do, it is covered by a piece of electrical tape.

You can see two of the silver tabs in the console that held the boot down.


Grab the bottom part of the console like this and give it a yank.  It will pivot up.

To remove the top part of the console, you will have to disconnect the power window switches. Use a thumb nail to depress the tab on the connector.

Using a wrench placed between the shift cable and the shifter, pry off the cable ends.  This is easy, so don't sweat it.


Work a screw driver between the tabs holding the shift ball socket to the car.  This is a little tedious and the plastic is soft so take your time and wear your glasses to see if you need them!

This is what you want to do.  Pop the tabs free all the way around the shift ball.  It helps if you pull up on the shift lever as you pry the tabs free.  I did this, pried on the tabs and took pictures at the same time.  Pretty talented, huh! LOL

Don't give up! Trust me, it will come out. This is the only pain in the whole process.

It felt so good getting the shifter out I had to take another picture!

The difference between the stock Fiat 500 Abarth shifter on the left and the Craven Speed Abarth short shifter on the right.  The term short shifter is not used because the shift lever is short, but refers to the short throw of the shift travel.  There is a slight altering of the geometry of the shifter and that effects the throw. Also note the typical plastic ball socket on the stock Abarth piece and the stainless steel one used in the Craven Speed shifter. The machined aircraft aluminum shift bracket is also more robust than the stock Abarth's stamped steel one.

Details of the 500 Abarth's OE shifter and the Craven Speed's shifter.



Snap the plastic shift ball socket cup onto the the new shifter.  The Fiat factory uses a white lithium grease to lube the shift ball socket, which is perfectly acceptable.  I used a silicon grease after I cleaned out the old grease. On the cable ends I used a smear of moly grease (typically used in CV joints).


Offer up (I'm part Scottish / English) the Abarth's shifter assembly. Get it into the correct position and then start securing the tabs. To get it to seat, you will have to give the shifter a solid whack from a soft face (rubber) hammer. Don't just grab the first BFH you find!

Go all around the shift ball socket and make sure all the tabs are securely seated and snapped back into place. I used a screw driver and a hammer to carefully tap each tab down. Take the time and do it right.


Snap the shifter cables back onto the ball ends of the new shifter assembly.  This was easy, and I did it by hand, but it is possible you will need a pliers to squeeze the cables back on. From this point, you can start assembling everything back.  Don't forget to connect the power window switches!

You can use the stock 500 Abarth shift boot and knob, but the boot will look a little funky because it will be too tall for the new shift lever.  Here is how to change the boot.

The Fiat 500 Abarth uses a trim ring to secure the shift boot to the shift boot mount. This has keyed tabs and only goes together one way.  Do yourself a favor and get some whiteout, etc. and mark one of the tabs so you know how to assembly the two pieces.  Don't do it if you like to put puzzles together!

The two pieces pop apart. Here is a detail shot on the tabs.

The tabs on the shift boot mount fit through slits cut into the leather of the shift boot. The stock shift boot on the Fiat 500 Abarth is genuine leather and smells great...


I picked up a Magneti Marelli shift boot and fit it to the shift boot mount.  Important: The tabs that fit into the shift boot are asymmetrical, so you will have to carefully line them up. This is easy, but you can see why an upholsterer gets paid a lot of money.


Like the factory, I used a zip tie at the top of the shift boot to gather the material and hold it close to the shift lever.  This is optional and is up to you how to handle this. Make sure you align the shift boot mounting tabs in the console (they only go one way) and snap the boot down onto the counsole.

Completed.  The Fiat 500 Abarth short shifter by Craven Speed with Magnetti Marelli suede shift boot and carbon fiber shift knob by the Italian company Black. The end results are a noticeable improvement in rigidity, less shifter travel and a more positive shift feel. Effort is slightly increased, but not an issue.

Note: the Fiat 500 uses a similar shifter set up as the Abarth, so this may help those installing a shifter and / or shift boot in that car.


Disclaimer: This documents how I did my install and is provided for entertainment purposes. If you have any doubts on you ability to do this work or have any issues, I recommend having it done by a professional.  I am not responsible for any issues arriving from you reading this post. Use at your own risk.

Fiat 500 parts by Craven Speed

6 comments:

John G. said...

Very helpful. Thanks!

Doug said...

Chris - your doors look to have leather inserts, where / how did you do that?

Chris said...

The door panels were taken apart an upholstered in a suede like material. I'll post a story on how I did it in the near future.

Anonymous said...

The doors look awesome, Chris!
Can't wait to see your post about it.
The one thing I despise about the 500 are the door plastics. They look cheap, and scratch way too easily.

Guy said...

Chris. The Alcantara gaiter looks great with the Black gearknob. Could you say where you got it please? Was it made bespoke?

Chris said...

Thanks Guy! That shift boot is similar to the one used on the Venom show car and I got it from 500 Madness.