Restoring vintage Ford 4-speed gear shift knobs is a fairly simple project. To make the job easier, you’ll need a power drill, 1/2-20 tap, several grits of sandpaper, rubbing compound. Other supplies you will need are Armor All, Mink Oil, and White Appliance Touch-Up Paint.

To start you will need to check the condition of the knob, some of these knobs are old and have seen some abuse over the years and sadly some cannot be reset. What you want to look for on the knob is the shift pattern, determine if the shift pattern numbers and lines are in good shape with deep stamped lines and numbers. If they don’t look right, it’s going to be hard to get a clean look when you’re done with the project because you have to lightly sand the knob to get a fresh look and if you go overboard in the sanding process, you sand them down.

Once you’ve determined you have a good resettable knob, clean it with carb cleaner and wire brush the paint from the shift pattern and numbers. Install the knob on the 1/2-20 faucet and insert the faucet into the drill press. Turn on the power drill and start with 100 grit sandpaper first, if you have a Mustang or Galaxie shifter with a concave top start sanding the sides of the knob first. Sand down any chips or scratches, then move on to a finer grit sandpaper like 150 fine and finish with a fine saffron paper. Do the same for the concave area but start with 150 thin paper using your finger to apply pressure. Be careful not to go overboard, take your time to smooth it out. Also while sanding the paper can get hot so be careful, I don’t recommend wearing gloves because they can get caught in the drill press.

After sanding, check the knob, make sure there are no chips or scratches, if so leave it in the drill and use some rubbing compound to smooth it down even more. I use three types of compounds, first is a heavy duty cleaner and then a polishing compound and I finish with a clear plastic cleaner and polish and finally polish with a clean rag. Each compound may need to be applied for a couple of minutes to achieve a smooth, clean appearance. Be careful in this process with the rags because they can get caught in the drill.

Clean the knob, take a small dental type tool to remove the rubbing compound from the shift pattern and you are ready to paint the pattern and numbers. Use the white appliance touch-up paint to paint the gear pattern and numbers. You don’t have to paint just the pattern and numbers, it’s easier to apply the paint on the face of the pattern. Let dry and spray with a paper towel carb cleaner and wipe the top of the knob until the extra paint comes off and the shift pattern and numbers are clean and white.

Paint can stain the knob, so just clean it with carb cleaner. Then take Armor All spray some on a paper towel and wipe it on the goatee to bring out the black color. The last step is to apply some peppermint oil and rub the goatee to bring out the shine. If all goes well, you will have a beautifully restored goatee in about 15 to 30 minutes. I have done many of these restorations for resale and they have turned out very well. What I think makes it easy to do is the material of the knobs, which is Bakelite. You can sand this material down and leave the knobs pretty clean and looking good.

This process works well with Ford shift knobs for 1964 1/2 -66 small concave for Mustangs and 1962-67 Galaxie and early Falcons and Fairlane etc. and the standard interior Mustang from 1967-68 and 69. All other knobs, like wood grain for a luxury interior Mustang, are not good to restore if you have a good original, keep it or get a good quality reproduction.


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