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Blast from the Past by William


This is kind of a special treat for everyone here. I figured everyone would enjoy a smart toy, and maybe it would fuel some comments from an older crowd. This is the Big Trak, a programmable toy from a long time ago. I’ll save the date for a while, but, this is when toys were made in the USA, not china.



See, right here, says “Made in the USA.”

Okay, so really, what is this thing? It’s a tank, simple as that. And this tank takes 4 D batteries and 1 9volt. It’s got motors, it’s got lights, it’s got sounds. I’m not sure what happened to toys for the next 40 years, but man, what gives toy manufactures? I never had anything like this when I was a kid, and this was made before I was made.

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My big track has the transport as well, an add on toy if you will. It is a fully functional dump bed that attaches to the Big Trak. It takes a D battery or 2.

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It just uses a 3.5mm jack to attach to the Big Trak. It receives its commands though here. The wheels just roll, and there is a motor and battery box in the bottom.

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Okay. I’ll stop the suspense now. This is the Big Trak. It’s basically a tank. Reminds me of something that would be in GI-Joe. It is a fully programmable unit. It accepts up too 16 steps in the programming. Forward, backwards, turns, fire the guns, and a few sounds as well as dump the bed.

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The transport even comes with a book telling you how to hook it up, and install the batteries.

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The book for the Big Track is very well planned out and detailed in the programming of the unit. There are a few programs in the book to help teach you how to program the unit as well. I know your wondering when this thing was made still. This looks like a newer toy! Come on, we haven't’ hit the computer age till just recently.

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the speaker is on the front under the “laser” which is a flashing bulb in the front, and it makes sounds when it “shoots.” The battery door is on the back of the unit. only 2 of the wheels are drive wheels, the rest of the wheels float and can travel up and down for different terrain.

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I put it together for a quick picture here with an example of goods to transport. Finally we get to the year this awesome toy was made. Wait, what, 1979? Your kidding right? Nope. This was my grandfathers toy that his 3 kids chipped in and bought for him a long time ago. I never even seen it until my grandmother remembered that I was supposed to get it 5 years ago.  Ooops. “Better late then never, right?” she says to me.

bigtrak_0005 It even included a few different programs he wrote with it, and the Smith and Wesson 7803 Halogen Spotlight packing slip on how to change the bulb and warranty information. Wonder how that got in there.

I hope you were able to enjoy this old toy. I haven’t even got to play with it yet. I don’t have any batteries for it, and for some reason that dump bed is screaming “put a battery pack in here so you can power the unit.” Maybe next time.

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MidWest Trans Short Throw Shifter Kit Install for ZF5 by William

mwtstk_3000Whoa that was a big title. This item arrived at my door stop a little unexpected. It’s a short throw shift kit. It makes the shifter throws, or distance of the shift lever movement, shorter. This kit was donated by an anonymous source on Ford Truck Enthusiasts. I have yet to find out who it is. Upon asking Clay over at Riffraff Diesel Performance, he informed me that this person wished to remain anonymous.  This would be the second donation to Midnight Mods! Thank you anonymous person. I am grateful for your donation and giving spirit.

The biggest bummer about this whole kit is there are no instructions! So, in the spirit of Midnight Mods, I set to work on this write up so others could successfully install their kit without any problems.

The kit is very basic CNC machined plate, a spacer, a few longer bolts and a longer gear selector. The kit is somewhat confusing at first if you have not taken the top end of a ZF5 transmission apart, as it was for me. I had to figure it out as I went, and it is much more simple than you think,

I’m going to try and keep this as simple as possible using pictures. I could probably type till my fingers hurt, but seeing as I took over 60 pictures, we will stick with that method!

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Here are pictures of all the tools that I used during this installation. Some you will probably not need, or maybe you’ll find something better. I used a few tools that most normally would not have, the white stick for instance. Where I used it, a screwdriver would work fine.  Loctite/Permatex gasket maker, 3/8’s ratchet and 1/4 inch ratchet. 1/2 inch socket and a 10mm socket. The ones on the trans are 1/2 inch though. The allen wrench is metric! 5mm. So if you don’t have the correct one, please go and buy it before you try and strip these out. I also used a swivel and a small extension, 1/2 inch wrench, magnet, and a screwdriver.  In the second picture, I had to make a jig to hammer the spring out, and a rod and a pin punch. I used the dead blow hammer to break the seal loose on the trans, and the balpien to hammer out the spring.

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Alright. Lets start. Take the shifter boot off first. Then put the truck in neutral. Don’t forget to set the parking brake, or block the tires.

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Here is a view at what your getting into. Use the metric allen to take off the gear selector cover, and pull it strait up.

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There are plastic tabs on the gear selector pivot. Don’t loose these. Take note also on how they come off, so you can install them on the new one the same way. At this point, fish out the socket headed cap screw that rolled back down the transmission somehow causing you bang your head on the dash trying to find it with a flashlight and a magnet. Then using the extension and the 3/8’s wrench 1/2 inch socket, take the next cover off. The ones towards the rear are a bit of a pain, but come out, you’ll have to take them out by hand in the end, the socket will hit the pan. Be sure to collect all the washers!

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I used a dead blow hammer to break it loose. If you were lucky like I was, the gasket will come off in one piece and can be reused during the reinstall. This thing is filthy! Better go clean it.

mwtstk_3009 Here is a look down the hole. All sorts of goodies down there. You can see oil moves around pretty good. There is oil in the ball-socket for the gear selector. I played with it a bit to see how it worked then returned it to the neutral position.

What we are doing with the kit is basically changing the pivot point giving us a shorter throw on the shifter due to that whole cool thing called leverage. Were just changing the point of leverage. It’s really simple, I swear! It will make total sense when you put it together.



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Here is all the parts out of the kit and out of the truck. The detent that people talk about is in the right picture. You can see the spacer is the same height as the detent. It is critical that you remove this properly. The Aluminum piece is a spacer that goes behind it.

The following is an example of how not to remove it.

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DO NOT REMOVE THE SPRING HOUSING LIKE THIS!!!!! This will damage the part!

dont do this There is a collar around the edge, use a large bar on top of the edge. Using a jig like I did, made of wood, you cannot damage the aluminum unless you decide to set the bar on the aluminum and hit it. Don’t hit too hard, when you do hit this part correctly, it will slide down. Once I had it broke loose. I used the small pin punch to hammer it out.



You can see the spring pack has pushed out a bit. Some have referred to this pack at the “detent” I don’t know why you would call it that, but its just a spring and a ball bearing. Just be sure to hammer the collar, not the washer. There is a groove around the top that basically a washer is popped in, that holds the spring inside. Luckily, for me, the spacer will keep it from going anywhere.

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I got out the clamp and compressed it, used the spring to try and pop it back into place. I only got close. Better then nothing. I hope I save everyone else the grief with this info! Lets assemble the unit now!

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You can see all the parts here for the shift kit but the gear selector. My spacer was not cut well (rushed on the lathe) so I added grease.  The rough cutting will not hurt anything.

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I added a few drops of oil to the collar, because we would be pressing in the spring unit. Having no press. I wanted it to go in easily. I set the spacer on the gear selector holder (whatever this part is called) and then slid the spring pack down and clamped it together and felt it slide right in.

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You can see that the part has pushed its way in, and some grease came out. I cleaned this up and got the gasket maker out to mate the 2 pieces. I am using gasket maker cause, well, its better for this instead of RTV, less messy as well.

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mwtstk_3029 I had saved the gasket, so I decided to install this on the bottom. The gasket maker will mate the two pieces together basically making one when you pull it out. And the gasket maker on the bottom will hold the seal in place making any future removals very simple. (Changing transmissions.) As one unit, I installed this down in the hole and sat it on top of the transmission.


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I hope you got all the washers from earlier. Put them on the bolts that come with the kit and grab the Thread Locker.

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For some reason I have 2 of the same picture. (No idea really) The bolts towards the rear will have to be put in kind of sneaky like. Be sure to install all the bolts in the holes before threading any of them in to make sure you get the back two in. Another FTE member used the dremmel tool and ground the transmission floor pan back where you would put these in, making access to them easier with the ratchet. This is a good idea if you have the tool available to you. Do not forget to cover your transmission while you do this!!!

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This is where you use the 1/2 inch wrench. I have shallow sockets, and even I could not get mine on there. So I used the wrench and some creativity to tighten them down. You could torque them down, but I just made sure they were all snugg and the same amount using some techniques I was taught growing up. Common sense really. Alright, lets get the gear selector ready!


Here is all the parts. I used the abrasive pad to clean up the ball cup and the pivot points for the plastic bushings. This part was fresh sand blasted before it was sent out. You should probably clean it off with brake cleaner to be honest with you. I wiped mine down being without brake cleaner.

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Snug the boot over and grease it all up with some silicone grease! I used the white stick here to get the boot on all the way. You could use a screw driver, but the white stick wont damage the rubber unless I get brutal with it.

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Line it up and drop it down in the hole. Make sure the ball and cup come together, otherwise you’ll be in for some fun taking it all back apart. Put some thread lock on the socket headed cap screws and install them.

mwtstk_3040 Be sure to drop that same screw on the ground that you dropped on the transmission earlier. If you have not cuss yet this project, now would be the time to let it know who is boss.
Had to dust it off and put more thread lock on it. Remember, no matter how tasty thread lock is, do not eat it. I know it’s tasty, from experience, but it turns sour really quick! Uck!

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Install the shifter on the selector, and then spend the next hour putting the boot back in. If yours is anything like mine, the screws never line up, and you end up breaking something a few times. getting new screws, washers, whatever. It seriously took me a good hour to get this boot back on and secure to the floor. I hate this design, but oh well.

That’s It! Don’t forget to run the shifter though the gears before you spend an hour putting the boot back on the floor. You’ll regret it if you screwed up and didn’t do it. I made sure to do this. I didn’t think the case of beer in the fridge needed to suffer for my mistakes if I made any. This was a 0 beer project actually! The only frustrations with this project you will have is getting that spring pack out. That is the part that keeps it in gear and all that fancy jazz. It’s a really strong spring too.

Final results after the install produced a 20-28% decrease in shift length. Stock shift side to side is 5” and 5.5” up and down. The kit reduced both to 4 inches. Thanks to Neal for the stock measurements, because I forgot to measure before installing. I believe the kit claims 38% decrease, but my math is saying otherwise. This difference is very noticeable nonetheless. No throwing your shoulder out to put it into 5th gear anymore.

The Midwest Trans kit is a good product. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some shorter shifter throws with their ZF-5 Transmission, or any other transmission they make these kits for. The CNC work on the spacer was really good. The parts were all high quality. The parts that upset me was that it was poorly packaged. The parts could have been in baggies, and wrapped in bubble wrap instead of tossed in a box with some paper. I’m glad the Gear selector didn't’ destroy the spacer, or the bolts included didn’t destroy the spacer either. They were just all floating around in the box. My box had the snot beat out of it by the USPS as well. You’ll be happy with the product if you order it. If you would like to get one, head over to Riffraff Diesel Performance and call up Clay and tell him you want one. Be sure to tell him I sent ya!

Please comment with any questions or thoughts.

I would like to thank the donator for this part yet again. This article and my happiness with this product would not be possible with out you!

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