Quick Tech – VW R32 Short-Shifter Install

By: Chris Neprasch

The Volkswagen R32 has an identity crisis. It has the numbers that come close if not exceed a host of Japanese performance car, yet the refinement inside the cockpit rivals that of most sub-60K high-end Euros. Yet besides the awkward pedal placement, one of the biggest things from keeping the R32 from completely bringing the performance feel into the luxurious interior of the VW is the long path between the six gears.

That could be easily solved with a short-shifter from one of many aftermarket companies. We recently had the chance to install one of HPA’s short-shifters into an R32. Oddly enough, though it changed the feel inside of the car the installation process required only opening the hood and about an hour’s worth of time. (It probably could have been done in half that time, but then there wouldn’t have been all of the pictures to accompany the article – OVB)

By changing the lever geometry and the mounting point for the cable, HPA has made an adjustable short-shifter that can reduce throws by 25 or 35 percent on the R32 gearbox. The same shifter also works for the Audi A3, S3 Quattro, TT Quattro and six-speed equipped MK4 Jettas.

Removing the stock airbox makes getting to the factory linkage easier. Squeeze the clamp that holds on the air ducting to the airbox and pull it away. Two screws hold on the lid and once it’s off it allows more room to maneuver the actual box. Two bolts secure the box in place and once those are loosened, tilt the box toward the front of the car and take it out.

The factory linkage now becomes visible. Securing the arm to the transmission is a bolt that needs to be removed. We also moved the cable closest to the driver’s side fender out of the way by taking off the retaining clip and sliding it out of the mounting arm. Be careful not to lose the clip as it will need to be reused and isn’t readily available at local auto part stores. We also took off the clip from the arm that the cable moves and slid it out of the way. An identical clip also holds on the other cable which attaches to the lever so it also needs to be taken off before removal of the stocker.

HPA says to pull up on the counterweight and wiggle back and forth to take off the factory linkage. That was easier said than done courtesy of a tight pressed fit and it took some persuasion from our good friend mini-crowbar to get it out. If yours seems stuck like this one and you decide to resort to leverage technology, be very careful not to use brute strength because it could easily cause some damage. All we used to break it free was a couple stiff pushes and then we wiggled it out the rest of the way.

As we said before, HPA gives two different reduction rates on their shifter. Of course the owner of this R32 wanted to full 35 percent so the stud where the cable mounts needed to be threaded on the inside hole. A little bit of grease inside the shifter’s valley and you’re ready to drop it in.

Make sure to flip the shifter over and notice where the dot is. The factory pinion has one flat bump which assures proper orientation. After seeing where the dot is, line that up with the flat spot and push it down into place. Reuse the factory hardware to hold the short-shifter down, secure the cables and the lever and you’re almost ready to hit the roads again.

We say almost because it’s a good idea to make a dry run through the gears a few times to make sure there aren’t any problems. On this particular R32, fourth gear came slightly rougher because the HPA shifter was making slight contact with the cable on the 3-4 shift. It seemed to be more of an inconvenience than a hazard, so we put the airbox back on and turned the owner loose on the highways. He was soon off enjoying his new shorter throws.

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